Michaeline: DIY Art

A baby looking into the mirror, much like a famous picture of Alice kneeling on the mantlepiece looking into Wonderland.

Everyone is an artist of some kind. Art is definitely something you should try at home, kids! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

All of us blogging here are DIY artists. We write, therefore we are. I suspect a great many of our readers also recognize themselves as creators. Last week, I talked a little bit about how all of us are creating art in our daily lives – whether it be expanding bread and water into herbal iced tea and pretty crackers with cheese and cucumber slices, or taking sackcloth and sandals up a notch to a sundress with really cute sandals. Or maybe you are taking some basic fictional elements, adding a few nuggets from the news or history, and coming up with your very own, do-it-yourself story, specially tailored to fit your tastes.

Jeanne in the comments last week linked to a very interesting piece from The Atlantic about bucket list art exhibits.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/yayoi-kusamas-existential-circus/528669/

The biggest thing that struck me after reading the article was how so many of these experiences sound like something we could re-create ourselves, should we wish to go through the time and effort. The article talks about an art installation where Rirkrit Tiravanija made Thai curry at a Chelsea gallery . . . and the Museum of Modern Art. (From the MoMA blog.) https://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2012/02/03/rirkrit-tiravanija-cooking-up-an-art-experience/ I once missed the chance to watch a man make curry for Lois McMaster Bujold. This man does this in different venues, and while I don’t think he’d call it art, it sounds like it could be.

Yayoi Kusama’s mirrors remind me of childhood dressing rooms with three mirrors providing a glimpse into infinity. An infinity of grey carpet and slightly soiled beige walls, but there I was, right in the middle, multiplied over and over again. It wasn’t as beautiful as Kusama’s work, but it left a vivid memory.

A woodcut from 1857 showing Tanabata willows covered with wishing strips and summer decorations. A light wind is blowing and making them flutter above the rooftops.

The wishing trees of Tanabata are a very old tradition in Japan, and as you can see, they make striking art that also is suitable for other artists to recreate. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Yoko Ono’s Wish Trees are very much like the Tanabata wishing trees of the summer season in Japan. The difference is that people don’t fold up their papers like they might for Ono’s Wish Tree, but write their wish on a piece of thick paper, and hang it up on the bamboo or willow branch for the world to see. I’ve done this many times, and it’s so interesting to see the elementary scrawl of school children wishing for games and toys, or sometimes good grades and once in a while, something even more poignant. Peace for the soul of a family dog, or Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – Now With a Thesaurus

The contemporary romance that I’m currently plotting involves a news reporter, sent to cover a contentious political campaign somewhere in Kansas, or maybe it’s Missouri or Nebraska.  Wherever it is, there are a number of things I need to learn in order to figure this story out.  First and foremost, I need a good idea about the life and activities of a news reporter.

Luckily for me, I just so happen to work for a former journalist who has been (and I hope will continue to be) a great resource.  Supplementing that, I’ve been watching local and network news with an extra level of attention.  It has been quite educational, as well as a little disturbing   In a way it’s been kind of like pulling back the curtain to see how a magic trick works.

One point that has come out of all of this “research” is the power of individual words.  The slant of a story can be spun in completely different ways, just with a few changes in words.  The challenge is in finding the “right” words and to avoid using the same ones over and over again.  One newscaster recently commented, something along the lines of, “with all the investigation and scandal talk, we’ve really have to break out the thesaurus to avoid repeating ourselves.”

I can picture a scene where my news reporting heroine is working on a story and trying to find a fresh new word to avoid that “repeating.”  I’m thinking maybe the potential hero could help her with that; since they are adversaries that might be fun.  I’ll have to cogitate on that a bit, right after I indulge in a little Random Word Improv.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Revising Made Easy (Thanks, Cover Design!)

What do you think? Too much type? Script too hard to read? Would you check it out?

This cover seems to have all the elements, but it looks pretty amateurish. Would you pick it up?

This week I temporarily set aside the revisions on my WIP to focus on another aspect of my “self-publishing journey”— creating covers for the three completed novellas languishing on my hard drive. In other, more accurate, words, my life force has been sucked out of me by the heinous graphics software program InDesign because I’m too cheap to hire a cover designer.

My word, how I hate that program, which is entirely because I’m so ignorant about it. I had to use it at my last day job seven years ago, and then only in a very limited capacity. Seven years and who knows how many updates later, InDesign might as well be string theory, genome analysis, and astronomical map projections rolled into one. It is very complicated.

I decided to tackle it again because the revisions on my WIP have slowed to a crawl. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Old Book Squee!

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, thanks in part to a number of recommendations from Argh Ink’s weekly Good Book Thursday posts.  While my intent was to whittle down my existing TBR pile, that hasn’t quite happened.  It seems like for every book I read, I wind up adding two more to the pile.  On the plus side, I won’t have to paint anytime soon – the walls are pretty much hidden from view – and I’m unlikely to ever run out of reading material.

Most of the books I’ve read this month have been mysteries and ten of them have been by Georgette Heyer.  While Heyer is probably best known for her Regency stories, I had not known until recently that she also wrote mysteries.  Fortunately for me, they are my favorite kind of mysteries:  interesting characters, witty dialogue, and 1940s Britain, all in a cozy / country house style without any of the grit or high-drama of today’s CSI type mysteries.

Really, what more could you ask for? Continue reading

Jilly: Tips for Creative Problem Solving

What do you do when you’re chewing on a problem, any problem, and you can’t seem to find your way to an answer?

I’m just back from a routine trip to visit my mum in Derbyshire. The return journey involves a minimum of six hours driving, closer to eight hours this weekend. It almost always results in some brainwave, useful insight about my WIP, or some other problem if Real Life is getting in the way of my writing.

I don’t consciously use my driving time to problem solve—I try to keep my eyes on the road and my wits about me—but somehow when my surface concentration is fully occupied watching the traffic, the deeper levels of my mind feel free to work on knottier problems.

I write sequentially, which means that I use each scene I write to provide the impetus for the next one. The good thing about my process is that the story grows organically. The downside is that when I hit a problem, I grind to a halt and spin my wheels. I can’t move forward until I resolve it.

Over the last few years I’ve tried various tactics to rescue myself when I get stuck. Here are a selection of the ones which work best for me, though your mileage may vary. Continue reading

Michaeline: What does art do for us?

A man holding a giant sprig of dill seed while flying on a griffin that is carrying some sort of prey, and there's another man-sized bird on the dill.

What does art do for us? (Detail from “The Garden of Earthly Delights” via Wikimedia Commons)

Last week I came across a transcript of a lecture that Brian Eno gave. http://speakola.com/arts/brian-eno-john-peel-lecture-2015

Eno says (well, I read between the lines of Eno’s speech and understand) that people spend a lot of time embellishing the basics of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You know, the one where the base of our need pyramid is largely physiological. Air, food, water, clothing, shelter and sometimes sexual competition.

I can see it all around me. It’s not just food – it’s avocado toast or the miracle of technology that is a tuna casserole in the middle of Nebraska. It’s not just shelter – it’s Versailles, or a tiny hermitage. (YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXpDPekGB3Q3:25 Crow’s Hermitage, by Tiny House Lover) It’s not just clothing, it’s a Bob Mackie gown, or it’s a store-bought pair of jeans that have been repurposed into a waistcoat (and bespangled with recycled buttons). And it’s not just sex, it’s rule 34 of the internet: if you can imagine it, there’s porn of it online. Anyway, I whole-heartedly concur with Eno that we spend a lot of our lives making and consuming art daily, even if we don’t consider ourselves artists.

What does art do for us? Well, Eno points out four things, and I embellish on them. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – Now With Goats!

Summer is blazing right along, which of course means it’s time for the goats.

What?

I don’t know if it happens where you live, but out here trailers full of goats are periodically brought in to clear the dry brush from the hills and roadsides.  This week there were hundreds of them munching their way along a nearby drainage canal and the surrounding incline.   Two days of steady eating and the area is bare and no longer a fire risk.  That’s a good thing, since even though the 4th of July is well past, enterprising individuals continue setting off celebratory incendiary devices.

I’m not sure why I get a kick out of seeing the goats in action, but I’m not the only one.  There were several cars pulled over yesterday as their owners took pictures, as well as a couple of families attempting to get an up close look.    I wish I could have seen how they loaded the goats up when they were done though.  How many trailers does it take to transport a couple of hundred (very full) goats?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Since I’m not likely to get an answer to the goat/trailer question any time soon, I better find something to distract my attention.  I think I’ll try a little Random Word Improv.

Care to join me? Continue reading