Morning Pages and Magic

The Spell Card2
Dragon, 2018 Digital An, illustration of a scene in The Spell

Years ago, while going through a tough patch, I picked up Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I began to write Morning Pages. This, in case you don’t know, consists of writing three full pages, in cursive, about anything that comes to mind. The idea is, I think, to help you introspect, to figure out what you think, and believe, and if those beliefs and thoughts are true to you. They are meant to give you a voice, when you’re voice has shrivelled up and gone away.

Morning Pages are what started me writing fiction. Two things happened. I got very tired of my whiney daily litany of misery. The repeat, repeat, repeat pathos made me dispair. One morning I wrote three whole pages of Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

One day, I ended up writing in third person, and made my first attempt at writing fiction.  Here is the first chapter of The Spell, if you’d like to see what happened. The Spell is young adult fantasy fiction. An dark plague has come to Erdry, and young Averil, third daughter of Doft the Mender, must create the spell that will destroy the darkness.

You know how, sometimes, there seems to be more than one person in your head? There is the smart wise person, the endless nag, the I know better than you guy, and the mouse that is the daily you? Sometimes, in the drivel that showed up under my pen, someone else spoke. Someone who was like my dad, wise and caring, but not my dad.  Bit by bit I found out “D” was a dragon. Uh, huh, my own personal dragon. Not the indiscriminate terrorizor you read about in some books and comics, more like John Hurt in the TV series Merlin.

I still talk to “D”. Here’s what happened this morning after a whine about how a medication I’m taking isn’t doing enough:

D: I would roll my eyes, dear, but dragons don’t trouble themselves with eye rolling.
Me: [sticking tongue out at D] You’re a right bastard today. Go breath somewhere else.

A little conversation, not nearly as wise as some, but it reminded me not to take myself so seriously.

 

Judging Improvement

celmissia_coriacea
Celmissia coriacea, 2002 Digital Drawing

One of the hardest things in the making of art is judging improvement in your skills. We talk about the necessary 10,000 hours of practice that make you good at something. We think about that and decide maybe it isn’t 10,000 hours of practice that is needed, but instead, you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to make you a master.

I’m old. I’ve had tens of thousands of hours of practice in all manner of things, and I don’t think I’m a master of anything. There are things other than practice that make you a better artist. An intimate familiarity with the things of music are a necessary tool but that knowledge alone doesn’t make art. What is necessary is an openness to experience, and an understanding that experience in one domain has an echo in another. That somehow, curiously, everything is fractal and this is that. This is a hard thing to practice.

So how do you judge? Sometimes you know you’ve reached a point of excellence by the reactions of others in your creative domain. Sometimes you know because one day you find that you, yourself, know that this thing you made is good. And sometimes you have no clue at all. You just keep doing it because there is something more to be said and something more to be proven, or understood.

My son enables my passion for new technologys. In 2001 he gave me a Wacom Graphire II. One of Wacom’s tiny digital drawing tablets. With the use of the included pen and a software that supported the hardware, you could make a painting direct to digital.

I made the painting above with this little Wacom tablet, in a software called GIMP. (I was all about Linux in 2001, and still have one Linux only computer). The lines are wobbly, but, art-wise, this painting is no worse than many I make today.  In this case, I have no clue as to whether I’ve improved, so I’ll keep on keeping on until I do. Hmmm, how did I get that watercolour like look…

 

Huion: A New Tool

For a long time now I’ve wanted a digital graphics tablet, in particular, a screen tablet designed especially for artists. Last week I received a lovely gift of birthday money from my son, that he earmarked for a, someday, drawing tablet. You see these tablets, especially the ones developed by Wacom,the giant in graphic tablets, are very expensive.

But, but, but…

New manufacturers are catching up, and after I did a whole lot of research on graphic digital tablets, I found that companies like Huion, Ugee and others are producing excellent products at a fraction of the cost. A Wacom 13″ HD tablet on Ebay is still over a thousand dollars (CDN) whereas this lovely Huion 15.6″ HD tablet was about half that price. I pulled the trigger, as is obvious from the photos above.

So this brings me to a little philosophy about tools for artists. All credit to the wonderfulness of Wacom’s tablets, or Apples various devices, or any of those tools people rate as top of the line in paints, or inks, and papers. I’m glad these wonderful things are out there. But if you think you make art because you can’t afford these amazing things, think again. I hear that Shakespeare didn’t have a MacBook Pro and Scrivener. He managed to do a pretty good job of writing nonetheless.

I think artists are by their nature adapters. If they can’t afford one tool they’ll learn to use another. I haven’t tried a Wacom Cintiq, I can’t make a comparison between it and the Huion tablets.

Is the Huion tablet an excellent digital drawing tool?

I think so. The setup was easy. Krita, my preferred drawing application works well on it. Does it have problems? A couple. I hear it has more paralax (difference between where you put down your pen and where it draws) than some tablets. If it does, it hasn’t been a problem for me. One thing that annoys me a little is that the bottom right corner doesn’t respond as well to my pen touch as I’d like. I’ll figure a work around by moving my brush pallette to another  area of the screen.

So, yes, it’s a tool, but its also a toy and I love it!