The last two weeks were difficult for me and for those I love. Two deaths to commemorate. And another loss for someone I love. My soul felt clogged up by the mud of grief. I needed a reprieve, a solace, a nourishing…
So I went to an art exhibit that has currently been showing in Auckland.
The Body Laid Bare| Masterpieces from Tate [On view March 18 through July 16, 2017]
Encounter the human form—in all its complexity—in “The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from Tate,” Auckland Art Gallery’s major exhibition for 2017. Beautiful, sensual and at times provocative, more than 100 artworks from Tate, London, tell the story of the nude and trace artists’s captivation with the human body over the last two centuries. Journeying through time, from the classical, biblical and literary subjects of the 1800s to the body politics of contemporary art, “The Body Laid Bare” brings together masterpieces by renowned artists including JMW Turner, Auguste Rodin, Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, Sarah Lucas and many more. At the heart of the show is Auguste Rodin’s marble sculpture The Kiss which—although celebrated worldwide—is travelling beyond Europe for the first time. Other renowned works include Picasso’s Nude woman in a red chair (1932) and Bonnard’s The bath (1925).
This was both an exquisite and confronting exhibit. There were pieces that were raw and erotic, pieces that were heart-breakingly beautiful, pieces that were confronting and pieces that simply awed me. But each piece had its own place in this one of a kind exhibit. I went for Rodin’s “The Kiss” but I was transported on a visual journey that filled the hollow parts of me. The exhibit was everything and nothing that I anticipated.
So let me share with you the three pieces that absolutely entranced me and for a moment filled the dark hollow spaces with a hopeful light.
Daily rituals and habits have always fascinated me. You barely notice your own rituals and habits until you either don’t/can’t do them for some reason or if someone points them out to you.
What are your daily creative rituals? What kickstarts your day?
I am not a morning person. Partly because as an insomniac I often only manage to finally get to sleep in the early hours around dawn. Partly because waking to me is a form of cruelty because I always feel like I am being cheated from getting a proper rest.
“We all have morning rituals that give us the comfort of familiarity even if our days are unknowns.”
― Maria Alexandra Vettese, A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart
Mornings are one of the times of day when most of us enact certain rituals to kick start our day. We have a certain ritualistic schedule of mundane tasks that ready us for whatever the day may bring.
From waking up and having a mug of coffee – although sometimes I feel like an intravenous injection is needed – to having a shower, to choosing your outfit for the day and making yourself presentable and finally to eating breakfast.
The order you do these things in may be different and you may not be a morning breakfast type of person.
““When you wake up in the morning, Pooh”, said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?” “What’s for Breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?” “I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing” he said.”
– Winnie The Pooh
But you do eat breakfast. It doesn’t matter whether you do it in the morning after waking up or later on in the day. That first meal, that first refueling of your body, is your wake up moment.
A few years ago I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It resonated with me in so many ways. But one of the most important tools I learnt through that was the Morning Pages.
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.
*There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow. ~ Julia Cameron
Until recently I was only doing the morning pages when I was stuck creatively and feeling uninspired. This wasn’t happening every day. I found I was journaling more at the end of my day rather than the start.
But recently this has started changing. My “morning pages” have changed. They have turned into “Morning Motivation” – little pep talks I write to myself to begin – but even more recently I have added another “morning” ritual to my day.
Just as my body needs a breakfast to break the fast of the night, I felt like my mind needed a creative breakfast to awaken my brain cells. For me, the initial morning pages and then followed by the motivation pages just weren’t cutting it. For some reason it wasn’t unlocking my creativity in my sluggish morning-insomniac-induced-hungover brain.
But things have been changing and all because I am now getting the right creative break-fast for my brain.
A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep. ~ Salman Rushdie
I have started eating poetry for breakfast.
I am making it a habit to start the day with poetry. First, I write down a poem or two. (I always “write” my poetry. I need that cathartic, physical process of putting pen to paper.) Then I put aside those raw pieces of poetry and spend some time reading others’ poetry. Often this state of reading will have me putting pen to paper in some more poetry of my own. Before long, my brain’s creative side zings into wakefulness and suddenly I am not feeling so sluggish.
The courage of the poet is to keep ajar the door that leads into madness. ― Christopher Morley
For me poetry is the purest form of art. Poetry is the one that truly moves me to feel those down-deep emotions we all feel: the emotions that don’t have a name. Poetry is also the most creative form of art for me. I love playing with images, words, moods, sounds, the surreal and emotions; poetry is the one space I get to do all this.
Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers. – Yevgeny Yevtushenko
So starting my day with a daily ritual of “eating” poetry for break-fast allows me to enter that creative space immediately. It is a key to that fearless place in me. I need to get into that fearless space each day because then I can face my prose without doubt and filled up with the fearlessness that is poetry for me.
What is your break-fast ritual to kick start your creativity?
Have you tried morning pages or your own version?
Do you refuel with any other art – mine is poetry, yours might be; music, dance, sketching, painting, pottery, sculpture – every morning?
What’s your “poetry” to break-the-creativity-fast?
There are only 3 weeks left until the annual Horror BlogHop that is CoffinHop launches.
This is my favourite blogging time of the year because not only is it dripping in chills, terror and horror but it is the time of year when I get to hang out in the blogosphere with my favourite people: the Bone-Chilling CoffinHop Crew. The best thing is because it is a hop – You my readers get to hang out with these Masters and Mistresses of the Horror genre too.
So people, mark your calendars and kill off the next 21 days as we wait with baited breath and chills running up and down our spine for the Annual CoffinHop.
24th – 31st October
7 days of bone-paralysing terror
7 days of spine-tingling fear
7 days of blood-chilling horror
+100 Masters and Mistresses of Horror
Tick, tock, tick, tock…the time is almost near. Don’t close your eyes. You don’t know who is waiting around the dark corners…
This last weekend I had the rare pleasure of attending an art exhibition of the Modern Masters “Degas to Dali” that called my city a temporary home on loan from The National Galleries of Scotland. With 79 works by over 60 Modern Masters from Renoir to Monet, Degas to Dali, Picasso to Warhol and Van Gogh to Matisse it was a feast for the creative senses.
You are probably wondering what an art exhibition of The Modern Masters has to do with writing and Wrestling the Muse. Everything. Writing is just another form of art. Where the great Masters of the art world used exquisite brushstrokes to create pictures and stir the senses, writers use ink blotches and words to create worlds that a reader can step into. Writing, Painting, Sculpture, Music are all forms of Art. If you are a writer, you are a creator of worlds and an artist of words.
What struck me during my tour of the exhibition was how alike a painter wrestling with his creation is to a writer wrestling with his. We both have a very specific vision of the completed work but at times the journey to get to that point of writing The End or framing that completed canvas is fraught with struggle. There was a room where the quotes of these great Modern Masters had been displayed on a wall. These are some of the quotes that stood out to me. These same quotes could directly be used for us writers.
I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. – Pablo Picasso
I have a horror of people who speak about the beautiful. What is the beautiful? One must speak of problems in paintinga story! – Pablo Picasso
If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paintwrite a hundred canvasesstories on the same theme. – Pablo Picasso
Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working. – Pablo Picasso
It took me four years to paint write like Raphael (insert a Master of Literature here), but a lifetime to paintwrite like a child. – Pablo Picasso
Action is the foundational key to all success. – Pablo Picasso
An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought. – Pablo Picasso
Are we to paintwrite what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it? – Pablo Picasso
Art is the elimination of the unnecessary. – Pablo Picasso
Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. – Pablo Picaso
Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. – Pablo Picasso
Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.– Pablo Picasso
PaintingWriting is a blind man’s profession. He paintswrites not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.- Pablo Picasso
The hidden harmony is better than the obvious. – Pablo Picasso
The more technique you have, the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is,the less there is. – Pablo Picasso
Just like the great artists, us writers have to get messy with our creations. We have to be willing to be ink-splattered. We have to be bold and unafraid. We have to let the story take control over the technique. We have to disappear so our characters can talk to the reader. We need to remember to tell stories like a child does. We need to let loose our passions into the story. We need to remember that up close we the artists may see only brushstrokes and mess but from a distance our audience the reader needs to see the full picture. We need to step back and look at our work with the eye of a reader to truly see if we are consistent in the path our story has taken. Remember to not only read but to look at beautiful art, listen to beautiful music, touch a beautiful sculpture. Seek out inspiration and it will show itself to you.
My muse has been distracting me this week. I have been teased with images of exotic locales that want to be settings in new stories. This happens to me every time I open my mind up to creating, which is what I have been doing this week. Suddenly I am teased by random pieces of inspiration whether they be, images, words, articles, media – you name it but the doors to inspiration are wide open.
I read an article today that says the average brain has 12 000 thoughts every day and it can run to having up to 60 000 thoughts a day. This does not come as a surprise. Our brains are always off on tangents even when and especially when we are supposed to be concentrating and working. I know mine is.
People always want to know where story ideas come from. It is the no. 1 question that readers like to ask writers and even writers like to ask other writers. My ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, the ordinary, the mundane, the strange and the extraordinary. I have had ideas come to me in vivid dreams. I have heard something on the radio, watched something on television or read something and it has sparked an idea. But the main thing that always starts me on the scent of a new story is: What if? I love teasing out the answers to that mysterious question.
I am lucky enough that I am never short of story ideas. I have two huge lever arch files of story ideas and story inspirations. But the annoying part is that my story ideas come to me while I am working on another current story idea. They never wait their turn politely. Unfortunately too I have a low patience meter so the minute a new idea comes to me I really, really want to drop everything and play with the new idea.
Is this wrong? Should I rather ignore it?
No, ignoring it does not make it go away instead just the opposite. If I actively try to ignore the new story idea, I can think of nothing else. Believe me I know this from experience. Even if I fill my waking hours with work and distraction, the idea will enter my sleep. It tugs at me constantly.
So I have now learnt that the most effective way to deal with new story ideas, to quieten their cries of need just long enough to hear myself think is to write them down and then file them. This way they feel acknowledged and don’t take their creative anger out on me or my sleep. Instead after writing the idea down, I can get to work on the story I am meant to be working on and that new idea has a chance to percolate in the to-be-done file of my imagination.
Pinterest is a fantastic tool to accomplish this. I can pin an image from the post that caught my attention and that way I can go back to that article when I am ready to play with it. Pinterest is also fantastic if you are more a visual thinker than a verbal thinker.
Evernote is fantastic for quick note taking/idea filing. I have the application downloaded onto both my laptop and my iPod so that even if I get an idea from a dram I can roll over, pick up my iPod and without turning on the light type in the note.
Then I also have my trusty Moleskine notebooks: I have a bright green version for my new story ideas and a deep blue one for my current WIPs. (Any excuse to buy more stationery 😉 )
I am truly thankful for an abundance of story ideas but I need to teach my muse to be more disciplined and to wait his turn in bringing me the ideas. But it is a catch-22 because I would hate to get to the spot that I don’t get ideas any more. So for this week, I have shelved the new story idea (it is a very tantalizing one) to percolate and see what comes of it.
Now it is back to work on the stories that need to be written and worked on.
Do you find you have too many ideas clamoring for attention?
How do you handle the new ideas that you just don’t have the time for?
There is a saying: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Of course in the world of publishing we know how incorrect that statement is. Publishers judge books by their covers. Publicists and reviewers judge books by their covers. Buyers and retailers judge books by their covers. Most importantly, readers judge books by their covers. So the oft unnamed cover artist is a vital and integral part of the publishing and marketing process. This is one of the reasons why I love the world of Indie or Independent Publishing. In the land of gatekeepers, the BIG6, very rarely do the cover artist/s and author ever meet or have any contact with each other. However in the INDIE world to find a cover artist you can connect with and foster a relationship with is like finding a nugget of gold in a mound of rock and sand.
I have found that nugget of gold. For me the cover of a book is almost as important as writing the book is. I am a very visual person so for me to have a visual symbol of my imaginings is very powerful. But though there are many cover artists out there, it is a harder task to find a cover artist who can see what your words should like in a picture format. So I have been searching for over a year, trawling through various art communities but more often than not trawling through the artists on Deviant Art. Until one day I came across an image from one of the deviant artists that just took my breath away. This was the image that hooked me: Enslaved by her song. I knew I had found my cover artist. I emailed her to find out if she was available for commissioned work and whether she would be interested in working with me on my manuscript. Within 3 emails I had her eager agreement and I had met a twin-soul in her love for dark emotional subjects and a love of the paranormal. So as much as I would love to keep this artiste’s talent all to myself, I realised that I needed to introduce her to those I know. I am very excited to feature this emerging cover artist on this blog. I am thrilled she agreed to sit down and have a chat with me about what got her into art, why cover love, and the inspiration behind some of her most popular images.
So as much as I would love to keep this artiste’s talent all to myself, I realised that I needed to introduce her to those I know. So here she is.
Meet my Cover Artist and Artiste Extraordinaire…Silviya Yordanova.
1) Introduce us to Silviya Yordanova. Who is she?
My name is Silviya Yordanova and I am a 21-year-old self-taught digital artist from a very small country called Bulgaria. I’ve always wanted to find a way to create beauty and letting the world know my story and this is where digital art came! I have been into it for a few years now, started in the early 2008. Since then I can honestly say that I believe I’ve found my own style – depicting the reality through a twist of imagination. My works are always a mixture of concept, emotion and a drop of darkness. Photo manipulation has since then become a very important part of me and since I began doing it I’ve been trying to evolve my skills as much as I can. At first it all started as a hobby but in time it became much more. I found that through it many doors of opportunities were opened for me when I was first contacted for a commission, then for another one and with time it became my own little business and I hope for all the best in the future. I am currently a student in the University of Economics in my home city – Varna but being an economist is not what I want to be, there is no beauty in it …My passion lies in making art, trying to make the world a better and beautiful place, into expressing myself through it. My dream is to keep doing what I love for a living. I wish that someday I could be able to share the knowledge, experience and passion I have to others and help them discover their hidden talents as digital art was for me!
2) What type of art inspires you?
I love all kinds of art but mostly art pieces with an interesting concept, beautifully made with a lot of skill that has amazing impact on the viewer!
3)You have been featured in many interviews lately, which one were you most thrilled for?
I’ve been most excited about the features in big magazines like Photoshop Creative and Advanced Photoshop. Also at the end of February and March I am expecting 2 more features in such magazines but won’t reveal anything yet! If you’d like to be updated with news about me and my work feel free to like my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/MyBeautifulDarkness
4)What awards, if any, have you won for your work?
Well I haven’t won many awards but the one I am most proud of is getting a “Daily Deviation” award at deviantART.com that I received for my interpretation of the story about Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs – “Snow White Strikes Back”. For me this is a huge deal and to be chosen is a great honor! Another award that I was very thrilled about is getting a “Featured Portfolio” award at Shadowness.com and also receiving 2nd place at the “Digital Artist of The Year” competition at ModelMayhem.com
5) Tell us a little about your background in art. How did you get into it?
I’ve always loved art since I can remember. I admire people who have the talent to create beauty and I’ve always wanted to be like them. I really like the traditional art of pen and paper but digital art is where my passion lies. I can’t define exactly where my love of art itself came from, I guess it was something I’ve always carried within me.
6) You have said before that you want to make a living designing book covers. What about designing book covers appeals to you?
I was actually talking to my friends the other day about that. The thing that most appeals to me is being able to recreate the author’s vision for the cover that would best fit their story! I can’t imagine something more rewarding than making their wish come true. I see how important this is because despite the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” people actually do it. No matter how good the story is, for those who choose a book just by how good the cover looks, it is the only way to grab the viewer’s attention sometimes. What appeals to me also is someday to be able to look at my bookshelf and to see books whose covers I created – this would mean I actually left a trace in the world, even a small and maybe insignificant one, but it’s there and I did it! 🙂
7)Do you have a favourite genre you like to design for and why?
My favorite genres are those that have something to do with darkness, the paranormal, emotions and such, I love stories about the creatures of the night – vampires, werewolves, witches etc. I also really like love stories, mysteries.. I think you get the picture Which is another reason Silviya’s images stood out to me above other cover artists.
8) How many book covers have you designed?
Well I have only designed covers for e-books and so far I’ve designed 5 for author Joely Sue Burkhart, she is fantastic, we correlate so well! You can check them on my Facebook page. Plus my book cover which we are in the process of designing. Ebook version complete and now working on the print version…. watch the space on this blog for the teaser reveal of my cover later on today.
9)What is your favourite art image you have designed and why?
Actually yes, there is one piece that is exceptionally important to me and it’s called “Reborn”. As you see, the title clearly reveals the concept of this piece. I wanted to portray the feeling of letting go of the past and embracing the bright future. You may be wondering why I chose to portray this exact feeling. Ever heard the saying “Let go of the past and embrace the bright future?” Well that about sums it all. This is what inspired me to create this image and why I chose this title. This work of mine is very important to me because of its meaning. What a beautiful inspiration for a haunting image. Another winning image from you Silviya.
10)You work mostly in photo-manipulation. Is there a reason why you prefer this medium to any other?
I guess it is because photo-manipulation offers you more control over the image, you can easily fix any mistakes, try different things and if you’re not happy just remove the element that bothers you and try again Besides I’m really into technology so these are two passions fused together! An artist after my own heart. I love art in all its forms but digital art is the way of the times.
11)How would you describe your art style?
My works are always a mixture of concept, emotion and a drop of darkness. This is what stood out to me in Silviya’s images when I first came across her profile on deviantART. This rare combination of darkness and emotion was something that I wanted to capture for my covers as this echoes the premise of all my mss. Her images will haunt you and the longer you stare at them the more they draw you into their depths. Talented is an understatement here. Artiste is a more appropriate description.
12) If an author wanted to commission you, how would they go about this?
If anyone is interested in having me design a cover for their book the first thing they need to do is contact me at my e-mail email@example.com, let me know whether you’ll need only a cover design or a whole book layout, your budget for the book cover and then we’ll be able to discuss a price and continue further Don’t fear a long wait either when contacting Silviya. I emailed her one day and that evening I had an answer in my inbox and from there the ball got rolling very quickly.
13) What sort of working relationship do you like to foster with the clients who commission your art?
I’d really like to keep in touch with them, to be aware of their accomplishments, to see whether they are happy with my work for them. I can definitely vouch for her keeping in touch. Not only is she my cover artist but she has become a hugely collaborative part of this ms. She has also become a good friend.
14) How long does it take you to complete a commissioned image?
Each time it is completely different, for example with sometimes the working process goes on very smoothly and easily, I manage to do exactly what they want without the need of many corrections and changes but there are times when probably because the image the client requests is very different from what I’m used to do or because the client doesn’t really know what they actually want and keeps changing their mind about it, the working process can be very difficult, time-consuming and even frustrating at times.
15) What is your process, in short, from start to finish when you have been commissioned?
The process is as follows: first you tell me a little bit about the image you want me to create, what you will be using it for, then we should discuss the price, discuss and find the right stock images so that I can get an overall image of what I should create and after this I can start working. Then I keep you updated regularly with screenshots of the working process. At the end when you are satisfied with the final image I put the finishing touches and after receiving full payment via PayPal I send you the high-resolution image and we’re done! Talking as one of Silviya’s clients – she does indeed keep you regularly updated. I saw every single shot and edit that was added to my ms’ cover. At no point did I have to chase her up. In fact I was bowled over with her speed in both creating the cover and communicating every detail of the process to me.
16) What are your tips on creating a strong book cover image?
My only tip is to know how to or to find someone who knows how to create an image that will catch the viewer’s attention, books are just any other products when it comes to selling – the packaging is very important! Very good advice Silviya – books are a product. As much as to us writers they are our babies, once written and sent out into the big bad world they become a marketable product. This is when the cover becomes so vital to a well written book.
17) Writers get very attached to their stories and nowadays with the rise of ebooks we all realise how strong a good cover is. How do you work with a writer when designing the cover?
Process is the same as I described above in the question about commissions, the difference is that we need to talk a little bit more about how the image will look like, what story it should be able to tell and the impact you’d like it to have. I can say that Silviya is exceptionally prompt and professional. It is very important for her to work closely with the author.
18) Are there any book cover designers you consider your mentors or coaches and why?
No, not really, I am all self-taught concerning photo-manipulations and everything related with that so I guess I am self-taught cover artist as well, I guess I have an eye for the beautiful things Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say.
Actually yes, I am thrilled to say that currently I am working on my first ever cover for a printed book for a publishing company in my countryand I am so excited because this could be my big chance at breaking through in this business! The cover I am working on is for book 8 of The Vampire Diaries! Wow! Can’t wait to see the finished cover.
“Black Widow” – Here I wanted to express my idea about dolls – for me they are both beautiful and scary at the same time. You stare at their beautiful faces and then realize that although they look perfect they are hollow and dead inside. I have always thought there is something frozen and chilling about doll’s faces. Silviya captured this sentiment beautifully in this image.
“Awaiting the Night” – For this particular image my inspiration came from my love of the dark mystical creatures that walk in the night and my love of wolves. I love the sense of fear and power in this image. Then girl should be afraid but she has a power in her that comes across in her stance and her eyes. Who does not love wolves?
“Equilibrium” – Have you ever felt the warm summer rain on your skin? This is actually the feeling I wanted to portray in this image. I am always drawn in by images with water. This image feels so real you think you can feel the water on your own hand and feel the raindrops on your skin.
“Snow White Strikes Back” – This is my take on twisting a fairy tale – what if Show White wasn’t awaken by the kiss of the prince… but by his bite! And now she will have her revenge… I’d love to have such a tale. Wow – what an original spin on such a well-known tale. Snow White has never quite looked like this. Very original.
“The Quiet Place” – Everyone has their own special place, their happy place – this is mine. This is another favourite of mine of all your images. It is absolutely ethereal and haunting. An image that stays in the mind for a long time.
“Reborn” – As you see, the title clearly reveals the concept of this piece. I wanted to portray the feeling of letting go of the past and embracing the bright future. Beautiful.
“Take My Pain Away” – When your soul and heart hurt and you’d give anything to make the pain go away…You can feel this girl’s sorrow and broken heart almost as if it was your own.
“Enslaved by Her Song” – A beautiful girl with a wicked gift of a beautiful song that enslaves the soul of every person who has ever heard it…This was the image that first hooked me. Look closely at the violin. Incredible image Silviya.
“Death, come near me” – Inspired by the beautiful sad song by Draconian – Death, come near me..You have made death look beautiful. Very haunting Silviya.
Thank you Silviya for taking the time to answer some of my questions. It has been a pleasure and my honour to have you featured on my blog. I am also very proud and honoured to say that such an incredible ARTISTE is my cover artist.
Talking of my cover art…Watch this blog for a posting later today where I will tease you with a small reveal of part of the amazing cover that Silviya has created for me.
This is a gorgeous site dedicated to celebrating colours and sights all around us through the lens of StrawberryIndigo’s camera. If you have not come across her site yet, go check it out now and let your sights be lifted by the beautiful images. Thank you StrawberryIndigo 🙂
So I am passing on the award and sharing some love to the following bloggers…
I am going to copy her latest post to give you a taste of what you will find in this blog…
Art is anything that you create with a passion. No matter if your lines are not straight, if your circles look like eclipses or your portraits of human being look like an alien who just landed on the earth. As long as you see beauty in it, others find it interesting/absolute nonsense and/or as long as its been talked about, trust me you have created an art. Art needs no justification, let them judge if they want to…
This is a woman who celebrates creativity and balances it with her family, her faith and life itself. I always enjoy MaryBeth’s posts because they are tinged with a simple honesty that strips away any pretenses. Check out her site and show her some love by following her blog.
Peter Weis is a composer, a dabbler in short stories and prose, a reader and an observer of life. His posts are filled with thought and always leave me with a smile. He interjects all the posts with a great sense of humor and honesty that always have me coming back for more of a read. Check him out and let him inspire you.
He is a husband, father and writer. He shares his posts, his photographs and his thoughts in a black and white blog. Adam does not hold back on anything he may be thinking at the time. His dry British humor infuses the blog with bursts of colour. Check him out. This blog will not disappoint.
This lady will astound you with her focus on creativity and blending it into her daily world to create an artistic life. Her posts are filled with raw beauty and honesty. Check her site out. Be inspired to live an artistic life.
I met all 5 bloggers above through the WordPress PostaDay2011/PostaWeek2011 project… this is where you sign up to post every day or at least once a week on your WordPress blog. I am thrilled that by signing up to this challenge, not only did I set myself a blogging schedule but I met fellow bloggers from all walks of life and all corners of the world that have only added to my 2011. So thank you to each blogger but a special love and thanks to the five bloggers I have mentioned in this post.
I was browsing in a bookshop on Saturday which of course can have me lost for hours. People have been known to send out search parties for me or to send in survival packs of food and water. But it struck me how much my book buying habits have changed since I bought my Kindle. I have a library full of books in my house and those are just the ones that I could fit into my office. Books spill out of every drawer and on top every table in my house. I bought an extra bedside table just so that I could have one bedside table for my books that I am currently reading and another bedside table for bedroom things. There is not a place in my house where you will not find a pile of books.
On top of always being a book buyer I also have that most old-fashioned of things: a well used library card. So there is also a special place designated in each room just for the library books so that they don’t get confused with my own books. I love borrowing books from the library. There is something about the smell of the pages as I open the covers that is like an aphrodisiac to my senses. I love imagining who has read the book I am reading. Reading a library book is like a reading two stories: there is the story in the book and then there is the story of the book’s travels and whose hearts and minds it touched.
When the Kindle first came out I was determined that I was not going to get one. I could see the advantage of less packing space for books when traveling but I could not imagine curling up with an electronic device. But eventually I succumbed and bought a Kindle. I bought it mainly because I was doing a lot of traveling in my job and also as a confirmed travel-junkie I thought it would be an intelligent purchase.
I used it very sparingly in the beginning as my mind had to get used to reading on this device. But it did not take long and I was addicted. Now my Kindle has pride of place alongside my books on my bedside table. But owning this Kindle has changed my book buying habits. Before the Kindle I spent a lot of money on all books of all genres and styles, whether fiction or non-fiction. (Um…you did get the fact that I am book junkie from the beginning of this post, didn’t you?) But after the Kindle I am still buying books but the type of books I am buying on the Kindle and the type of books I am buying from bookshops has changed.
Now I am turning my library and bookshelves into my own personal art gallery. I am buying beautifully illustrated hardcover books. I am perusing second-hand book shops and hunting out leather-bound early editions. I am searching out books by my favourite authors and building collections of their published works. I am buying more art books and “coffee table” books. This is all thanks to my Kindle.
For the Kindle naysayers (I was one of them not too long ago) the Kindle has not stopped my book buying. The Kindle has refined and cultivated my book buying to book art now. I am hunting out expensive one of a kind editions and buying the more expensive hardcover books now. Before the Kindle I bought indiscriminately like a junkie would. Now I consider myself a connoisseur.
The books that are turning up on my book shelf now are no less artworks than a framed Picasso or Monet. But unlike those artworks, these artworks of mine are interactive and invite perusal. You have to pick them up and open the covers to appreciate them even further. The indiscriminate book buying is still there but it is now reserved for Kindle purchases. But those books that I can read over and over again and the ones I love looking at are still bought for my bookshelf. My personal library has now become my own art gallery. But in this art gallery you must touch the art, feel the art and explore the art.
Owning a Kindle or other ebook reading device does not need to mean you have to choose between ebooks and books. Instead buy a Kindle to refine your book buying tastes. Become a book connoisseur. Build up a treasure trove of limited editions and beautifully illustrated hardcover books. Buy illustrated leather-bound books. Turn your library into a book art gallery. You can have the best of both worlds when you own a Kindle. Owning a Kindle does not mean the death of printed and bound books. Now your books can become collectors items.
How has your book buying changed with the advent of ebooks?
All images (except the Kindle image) are borrowed courtesy of Fuck Yeah, Book Arts on tumblr…Do yourself a favour and visit this site for beautiful and unusual posts on Book Arts.
Vincent Cassel and Natalie Portman, Black Swan 2010 Thomas Leroy: Really? In 4 years every time you dance I see you obsessed getting each and every move perfectly right but I never see you lose yourself. Ever! All that discipline for what? Nina: [whispers] I just want to be perfect. Thomas Leroy: What? Nina: I want to be perfect. Thomas Leroy: [scoffs] Perfection is not just about control. It’s also about letting go. Surprise yourself so you can surprise the audience. Transcendence! Very few have it in them. Nina: I think I do have it in me.
Today I watched Black Swan. It had me transfixed. Within minutes of the movie I was lost in this world of hallucination and ballet. But for me the whole crux of this movie’s message is contained in the above conversation between Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) and Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman). Nina (a ballerina auditioning for the principal part in Swan Lake) wants to be perfect. For her,perfection is all about keeping tight control of herself and being technically flawless in her dance. Thomas instead tells her that perfection in art is the opposite. It is all about losing control, letting go, losing yourself and letting the character in the dance transcend the dancer.
This is a movie and a script that polarized movie audiences. People come away from this film, either loving it or hating it. Yes there is no denying there are many disturbing scenes in this film. But are any of them unnecessary. No, in my opinion every single scene was necessary.
But today I want to use this film as a symbolism for writing. When we write fiction, we are creating something that is not true. It comes from our imagination. The characters are the writers’ creations unless they are based on someone in real life. In just the same way Ballet is a form of artistic creation in dance. The audience is expected to be transported to a fantastical world where art transcends reality. In the movie, the Ballet of Swan Lake is the subject. The dancers are supposed to be swans. They do not wear swan costumes but through the movements of the dancers the audience sees swans on the stage. As writers we use our words and our skills to create an image of a character. Sometimes the character is literally described in their physical appearance. But a lot of times we allow the image of the character to come about through sensory language and dialogue. If the writer is skilled the reader (our audience) believes it.
Writers are creatures of imagination one would say. But most writers I know are also creatures of control. We like creating a world that we can mold and control. We like knowing the direction our story is going in. None of this is wrong. In fact at the editing stage this characteristic of controlled perfection can come in very handy. But can a writer be too controlled? Can a writer be too focused in technique and skill? Do we want the reader (audience) to see us (the writer) or do we want them to see the characters?
I think that if I want a reader to be lost in my created world of fiction and to believe the characters I have created are real and make them feel emotions then I need to lose myself. I need to let go. I need to lose control. It is only then when I start truly living,thinking and feeling the character that I find the character. That is when I can breathe life into an ink and paper character and flesh them out into someone living, feeling, breathing and real. I must allow the story to take over. I must let the character speak through my writing. My words and my tone should not be in their mouth. If my character is a forty-year old gypsy man, he needs to talk, move and think like a forty-year old gypsy man. I have to make him real in order for a reader to believe they are listening to a forty-year old gypsy man.
The best art transcends the artist. Story is a writer’s art. In Black Swan, Natalie Portman’s character only starts embracing the role she wants when she starts letting go of herself and she loses all her control. You watch as she battles to tell the real from the make-believe. So the question I have been asking myself with my current WIP is: Have I lost control yet? Have I let my characters transcend me on the page? Some stories are easy to write especially if they are close to your own reality. But what happens when you are writing a story that is completely removed from your reality? This weekend I had an epiphany about my story. I realised I was over-thinking it and over-analyzing it. I was rewriting scenes over and over, striving for some elusive form of perfection. That is when I realised I needed to step away from the story to allow the story to breathe. I have been so focused on editing this final draft that I was losing the story. I was holding too tightly onto my control. I kept on thinking what would my cps or betas think about me when they were reading this story. But it is not about that. Or it should not be. I need to think about what they will think of my character’s story.
So I have decided to take a few days break away from this story. Although it is frustrating that I know that I could finish the final draft in a day, I also know that in the state my mind is in I would have butchered my story and killed my characters. I know that in a few days time when I go back to this final draft it will have been worth the enforced vacation. I love my story and I love my characters. Sometimes when you love something you have to walk away. I know that is a terribly over used cliché but as clichés go it works in this case. I want a reader to get lost in my story. I, as a writer, don’t want to enter their thoughts. Perfection is over-rated and unachievable. As a perfectionist it is incredibly difficult to write that sentence let alone say it out aloud. That is why I have a little troll with bright pink hair who holds a sign saying : Nobody’s Perfect. This little troll sits on my desk within constant sight to remind me that to get to the heart of my story I need to stop striving to be the perfect writer and instead let go and let my characters be “perfectly” believable. What is a story without characters? It is like an office building at night with all the workers sleeping. It loses its purpose. It stops becoming a story.
As a writer, have you ever let your ego get in the way of your characters? What did you do to stop yourself?
As a reader, have you ever read a story and although you know it is technically brilliant, it just feels dead? Would you rather read a story that is technically perfect but has flat and unbelievable characters or would you want to read a story that may not follow all the technical rules but the characters are so alive you believe you know them as real people?
I know which one I would choose.
“Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.” ~ unknown
If you have not watched Black Swan, do yourself a favour and watch it. If you have watched it, watch it again. Watch how Natalie Portman in her role as Nina becomes the role of the Swan Queen. I dare you to watch a movie like Black Swan and walk away unmoved. Love it or hate it, it will make you feel something. If ever I have a book that polarizes readers I will feel I have succeeded. I don’t want readers to think, I want them to feel. I am not writing a thesis. I am not a professor. I am just a story-teller. That’s when I know that as a writer I will have done my job sufficiently. Until then I will keep stepping back and taking stock if ego starts getting in the way. If that means my drafts take a little longer than I want, then so be it. In the end it is only the characters and their story that counts.
Are you ready to lose yourself to find the characters?
Today I interview a lady who brings a triple threat of creativity: writer, artist and illustrator. It never fails to amaze me at the endless talent and creativity of the warriors that I interview on this blog every week. Tina Hoggatt is another of these super-talented ladies. She has not allowed bias or criticism to encroach on her dreams, instead she forges on ahead. Having had a successful career in Art she has recently gotten back to her original creative dream: writing. She has also managed to meld together these two creative pursuits in the guise of an illustrator. She has kindly allowed me to include a few illustrations here in this interview for your enjoyment. Without giving too much away, I will allow Tina to do the talking for herself. So pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable as Tina and I sit down for a one-on-one chat.
Welcome Tina Hoggatt….
girl with a quill: Ernest Hemingway famously wrote a six-word story. Tell us a bit about yourself in 6 words. Who is Tina Hoggatt?
Tina: Seriously fun, loves words and pictures.
girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?
Tina: Early on – I didn’t make novels as a child but I did write stories and was fairly clear about it as an identity by the time I was eleven or so.
girl with a quill:How long have you been writing for?
Tina: I was committed as a writer in middle school and had a writing group with a few girlfriends but was discouraged by a mentor at thirteen. This had sexist overtones (‘there are no truly famous women writers; only men are serious writers’ etc ) which I knew were both wrong and incorrect but at the time I lived in between two happily married women painters so I thought I’d pursue art. Who needed the grief? I wrote in my twenties and then committed to an art career, which actually worked, but I have come back to writing in the last five years or so and have been very focused for the past few years.
girl with a quill: Besides writing, what are your other passions / hobbies?
Tina: I make paintings and prints and have been working in porcelain enamel on steel recently, which I adore. I have a letterpress shop in my studio and don’t use it enough.
girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?
Tina: The greatest influence on me as a writer were my parents being who read to their children twice a day for the whole of my youth. From this I learned that there needed to be music in the language and that story was king.
girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?
Tina: Contemporary fiction. Late bloomer finds husband and confidence, experiences setbacks and family turmoil, emerges in midlife with clarity and urgency to kick some serious ass.
girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?
Tina: I have two office spaces and a studio and mostly sit at the kitchen table when I write so I can watch the birds at the feeders and see the garden. I also write every day on the bus during my commute.
girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?
Tina: I often see a scene, a character in a place with some very simple action. I may write a page or so that becomes the nut of a story. I’ll write a huge hunk of it, then finesse the plot.
girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?
Tina: I come from an honest pantser background and have been dragged into plotting, at which I frankly suck. But I’m working on it. Plotting is a time saver and time is what I don’t have enough of.
girl with a quill: What genre do you write in and why?
Tina: I write YA and MG and have created illustrated books. In adolescence crossroads are reached that force a choice about both action and character – defining moments. These happen with much more frequency than in adulthood, at a time when emotions run high. I’m interested in exploring those points and in speaking to them for the reader.
girl with a quill: We all have little habits and quirks that make us individual.
What are your bad habits in writing? What are your strengths in writing?
I have a tendency toward complication and complexity that can get in the way of fluid storytelling.
My visual training and art practice make me a good observer. I think this comes out in the writing. Also I’m pretty good with dialogue and its integration.
girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?
girl with a quill: Can you tell us a bit about the book/s you have written?
Tina: I have contributed essays to two books edited and published by fine letterpress printer Jules Remedios Faye, The Ladies Printing Bee and Fallen Angels. What is the Panda to You? an artists’ book in a tiny edition was a collaboration with artist Jeffry Mitchell. I wrote the text, printed the book and collaborated on illustration. I’ve made several other similar editions as well.
I’ve illustrated several books for mainstream publishers, My Jim by Nancy Rawles and Home Field, a collection of essays on baseball edited by John Marshall. I also have some manuscripts moldering in virtual space.
girl with a quill: What is your best sentence you have written?
Tina: Gray and quick and flipper slick, here and gone – yoohoo!
Is it the best? Maybe not, but fun.
girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Tina: I’m working on Clickstream, a YA book I’m calling contemporary para-scifi. Boy recovering from the death of his brother is visited by the ghost of his dead dog and a shimmering particle stream of a naked girl from the future, discovering that his brother’s essence has been preserved in an experimental chip developed by his dad, who is working to retrieve him. Complications ensue. It’s about bringing back the dead, bicycles, friendship, comic books and love. Also it’s funny.
girl with a quill: First drafts are for the writers themselves. Who reads your work after you?
Tina: I work on my first drafts with two writing groups in real life and one online group. These are my beta readers for finished work. Also, my mom is an invaluable reader.
girl with a quill: Why do you write?
Tina: At this point it’s a practice, and without a creative practice I turn into a real creep.
girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?
Tina: Despite life’s emotional hardships there is friendship, unexpected wonder and joy to be had in this life.
girl with a quill: Do you believe in Muses? If you do, who/what is your Muse?
Tina: My muse is a donkey whose tail I hold as it leads me through a darkened room. Sometimes I bump into the furniture. Sometimes I get a glimpse into another room.
girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?
Tina: It has to be a character in another author’s book, to spend time with people I have come to know and love, and see their places.
girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?
Tina: My writing is character driven, but without story there is no sustained engagement. I’ve proven this, actually, to my chagrin.
girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?
Tina: Right now I’m very fond of the ghost of a dog named Gus who is taking time out from a pleasant afterlife to help out a messed up boy here on earth.
girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?
Tina: Mary Russell, from the genius mind of Laurie R. King. Scholar, sleuth and wife to Sherlock Holmes – who is no slouch himself.
girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?
Tina: It’s a dinner party, right? There has to be synergy. Mark Twain for sure – he was funny, told fabulous stories and always wore a white suit – at least in his later years. So right there you have a keystone. He’s going to have to smoke outside though. I’ve been in love with Myrna Loy my whole life and Twain would love her brains and sass, as well as her legs – so Myrna’s next to Twain. I’d invite Dorothy Parker but she was a mean drunk and you know there will be drinking. Julia Child’s in the kitchen. She makes great conversation and she’ll sit at that end of the table so she can check the miracle sauce at regular intervals. This dinner will need a poet and a fabulist. Pablo Neruda may feel a little shy at first but he’ll warm to the northerners, and he can recite for us in Spanish. And I think Joan Baez would round out the table nicely. She’ll put everyone at ease and tell surprisingly funny anecdotes, imitate Bob Dylan and lead the singing after dessert.
girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?
Tina: All sleuth dinner: Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew (I wanted to be her), Yashim the eunuch and Maisie Dobbs.
girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?
Tina: Don’t quit, it’s a waste of time and talent.
girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?
Tina: Don’t quit, it’s a waste of time and talent.
girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?
Tina: The first book you reach for on the bookshelf of a summer cabin.
girl with a quill: Where can we find your book/s for sale?
Tina: You’ll have to wait for a year or two.
girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?
So you would know from a few posts this year that I am on a Short Story roll right now. I am loving turning an idea into a short story. At the moment I have so many ideas flying around in the Aether of my imagination that I am hard pressed to capture them all. So instead of turning all of them into potential full length fiction, I am turning some of them into short stories.
Above is the link to a wonderful short story competition about Magic. The contest will start from today, and run until May 31st, which should give you plenty of time to plan and get your submissions in.
Contest Part 1 – Create a magic system, using roughly the format outlined here. 2,000 words is the goal. Contest Part 2 – Use that magic system to write a 5,000 to 10,000 word short story, and submit both it and the magic system to L.M. Stull. She’ll blind them and pass them on to the judges, and we’ll pick which ones are the winners. Prizes – And the part I’m sure you’re all wondering about. We’ve got a $50 Amazon gift card for the first place winner, and a $25 card for second place.
So not only do you get a chance to practice your short story writing skills but you get to play with a new magic system that you have created. On the original contest link you will find a series of posts on magic systems and what they can consist of.
So let’s weave some story magic and tell a tale that is short, magical and entertaining. Win yourself an Amazon gift voucher.