thinking on getting back into Creative Writing

Hey, there.

I just finished my second full day of work in a row.  Next, it’s a half-day tomorrow, and then work work work on the Drawing portfolio, which I only have until Wednesday night to really complete.  Considering I only had two weeks to work after I decided what I’d be doing…I’m guessing that it isn’t so bad.

I’m still undecided as to what to do about this blog.  It’s fairly clear at this point that it’s open to the general public, including people who would take issue with me for whatever reason, and including people who would actually appreciate what I post.  It’s also fairly clear that I actually can make some posts password-protected and then share the password elsewhere, along with the notification of my entry.  I didn’t see how it would be appropriate before, but now I do.

Earlier, I was speaking with a co-worker about how a Creative Writing degree really doesn’t lead directly to a job.  It kind of parallels a Studio Art degree, in that it teaches one how to express oneself through a given medium (language, or visual communications), but it doesn’t teach one the base of what it would be that one would be communicating.

So, in my case, I have pretty good Critical Thinking skills; I have extremely good English Comprehension.  I can start out with a blank page and draft out a record of my thoughts, then develop that into something that is high enough quality to be acceptable…though I’ve found from my experience in the Library Science program and in my Communications and Art History classes that sometimes — especially with nonfiction writing — notes (and separate versions) are essential.  In that case, I’d be starting with a blank notebook page and jotting down ideas, then attempting organization through outline form, then composing them.

It’s actually a very different process than fiction writing, I’ve found.

In fiction writing, we’re (I’m) starting with a feeling or mood or sensation that we’re (I’m) trying to get across, and attempting to elicit that in the reader by a trail of language that synthesizes a meaningful experience in the reader’s mind.

Or at least, that is how I seem to think I work, at this moment.

It calls to mind the impact of an organizing principle uniting the work, which is different from artwork only in that an artwork…can communicate this more or less at once; one does not have to crawl over the lines and forms like an ant, as is essential in contour drawing, to receive the message.  But often, without studying the visual work, as in a critique situation, we know it makes us feel something, but we don’t know how or why.

As I’ve said before, at least in person, Creative Writing parallels Studio Art in that it teaches one how to express oneself.  It doesn’t teach one what to express.  An English degree parallels an Art History degree in that it teaches one how to pick apart the work of others for meaning and context, however, it does not give the other side — being a creator of that work — nearly as much training, in my experience.  In fact, in my experience, it would seem to discourage it, through showing excellent examples of writing which people then think they aren’t good enough to compete with.  And/or, it shows writing which appears so twisted at its core that it causes people like me to be hesitant to put anything out there because of what I may unintentionally say about myself, which can be decoded by a skilled enough reader.

Maybe it would have been different if I’d gone to Stanford or something, instead of a State University.  I’m not sure.

So the gist of what I’m trying to say is that I do think that I have a good grounding as to how to do what I want to do; I just am not sure exactly what it is I want to do, yet.

At work today, I was scanning the reading guides of my Library system, because it was freakin’ dead.  I mean, I had pretty much nothing to do, for an hour, and I was stuck on desk.  I eventually ended up repopulating the already populous Welcome pamphlets because I felt bad that I wasn’t doing anything.  But anyway, I was browsing the Library website, and looking — particularly — into the Graphic Novel synopses.  I feel like I could be powerful in this area, if I committed to it.  However, Graphic Novels, like regular novels, generally don’t pay the bills.  Like Fine Art, generally, doesn’t pay the bills.

I suppose it speaks to how much creativity is valued in this society, but I digress.

It’s possible that I need to throw out that bit of information where my teachers were saying you have to be a prolific reader to be a good writer, because right now, all that bit of information is doing, is stopping me from writing.  I think I’m getting back onto the train of doing something with my writing skills — more than writing corporate communications.  I just have to find out what it is that I actually want to write about.

I’m very sure that I have a wealth of information to draw upon; it’s just that most of the interesting stuff could get me in trouble.  😉  Which, then, puts up another block, right?

Maybe I should write with the aim of getting in trouble, or at least knowing that no matter what I say, if I say something, there are going to be people who take issue with it?  It’s not a problem I had as a kid, because as a kid, I was mostly silent.  Which is, in fact, the reason I started writing — I had things to say that I felt I couldn’t say, but I could write them.

And so, when I was a kid, and I was writing for myself, with no one but me reading my manuscripts, writing was this kind of beautiful release of life energy that I’d been bottling up.  And now, I realize that in formats like you see in this blog, I’m indeed confronting the very specter of what I’d been avoiding when I was silent.  That is to say, disapprobation by people who may be hostile to me, for whatever reason — even if they have no clue who I am.

It’s different to write for yourself, than it is to write for a reader.  How do I get the reader to see what I’m seeing?  How do I get the reader to feel what I feel?  As versus…a need to vent and spill all of this I’ve been carrying, which no one knows about.  Purely because I cannot contain it any longer, and it is burdening me with its weight.

What I need to do, maybe?  Do I need to start back from Square One and read books on how to write?  Do I need to just write?  In painting and drawing, the most essential part of the process is just sitting down with committed time to do the work.  Not just research — but actual painting.  Actual drawing.  Without that, nothing gets done.

That could be the reason I still have this blog.  I need a place to vent, and as I’m venting, I’m getting better at communicating.  The better I get at communicating, the more others know exactly what and how I feel, and why.

It’s something I’m not so skilled at, in speech.

I need to practice my writing.  Whatever I end up writing, be that fiction or nonfiction…I feel like it has to be grounded in my reality, or at least in my psychic space.  That means, at least eventually, exposing myself to the world.  Exposing myself to the world means, sometimes, being judged.  But to avoid judgment is to be voiceless.

I just need to work on standing up for myself…and writing about things that matter to me.

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Wanting to continue on with the Art (crazily enough)

Ah, hey.

Something I didn’t mention in my last post is that, should I not go back to the Master’s program I was in…it will probably be at least a year until I’m sure to qualify as a Clerk.  I should be getting my Art AA in Spring, which leaves Summer, Fall, Spring semesters to level out and readjust.

It’s…kind of weird…speaking from experience.  I’ve read that making art is very different from viewing art.

At this point in my academic career…I’m looking more into Fine Arts than I am intending to pursue the creation of Graphic Novels, simply because making stories based on my own experience tends to be really intense for me.  (There’s the entire focus on conflict as the driving force of the engine in Fiction, which…puts my mind into a space it doesn’t want to be in.)  Making art, itself, is really intense for me, too, but it’s more…I don’t know — healing?

I’ve just grown to the point where I know that not everything that matters can be rationally explained using linear thought processes and commonly-recognized definitions.

But yeah — on some level, making art is a little terrifying for me.  I’ve been told from multiple directions that I have “talent;” the thing is that I don’t understand how that “talent” works.  Like what happened earlier in my Drawing class:

I sit down, go through my reference photos.  I decide on something that speaks to me, and place and start drawing my main subject as best I can.  I make a few errors in my approach and learn to block out the large shapes first before drawing in details, then block in medium shapes before going for the tiny ones.  I work lightly with a sharp 2B pencil and get heavier with my lines as things become more defined.  As things reach that final stage, where they are becoming defined, I don’t know how I’m doing what I’m doing; I know that I’m doing it, though, and I know it looks good.

Sometime around here I begin to get a little uncomfortable because I realize that what I’m making has never been made, before.  I’m creating something that would not have existed without me.  This is my power:  to bring things into reality which have not existed prior.  This is the reason I gave myself to continue to exist.

Watching the project grow from nothing but a photo, a blank page, a pencil, and a couple of erasers…into a visual statement…it’s fascinating, but it isn’t a power I’m comfortable yet with using.  Because, I’m thinking, I have not fully analyzed the meaning behind my images.  What speaks to me, and why?  I have a better idea now that I’ve revamped my project proposal…but I wouldn’t have caught my underlying theme without that prior unnoticed clue in my scrapped proposal to back me up.

My underlying theme is Life.  Washing over that are the waves of Creation, Love, Hope.  This is what I see, in what I’m drawing.  I don’t have to make it overtly political.  I can just, simply, affirm Life.

And how beautiful is that?

With this in mind…I have been working today.  I drew for about two hours straight, then came home, ate something, took a nap.  I probably shouldn’t have done the nap, but I had been awake since 7:30 AM, and lay down at about 2 PM, meaning I had been awake and active, and working, and relatively uncomfortable (haha commute haha classroom bugs), for about six hours straight.  I suppose that, given that the art is really doing something deep in me…maybe it’s somehow logical that I would take a break.  If the sun were up after 9 PM, it probably wouldn’t be an issue… 😉 …but it does go down sooner rather than later when you fall asleep after noon.

Art isn’t really a moneymaker, but…it can be really important to quality of life.  I did see a flash of a post that some scientists had seen that coloring was the next best thing to meditation.  I didn’t read the article, let me just state that, but I know that meditation can be used to balance out brain states and improve prognosis in depression and related disorders.  I’ve utilized meditation before, and it makes a world of difference as regards my feelings of well-being.  The problem is that it’s boring.

What would be really nice, would be if I could use creating artwork as my meditation.  I’m not sure if it will work, because there are a lot more decisions to be made when you’re making your own compositions, as versus when you’re coloring in someone else’s.  But maybe full-on art making was just not studied because most people are really hard on themselves about their artwork?

(Like I’m not.)

In any case…I am really glad that I went for the straight Art degree, rather than going for the Digital Imaging series, first.  There’s just something different about getting out into nature and into galleries, and holding an actual soft pastel in one’s hand, and rubbing charcoal into a ground, and seeing the effects of ink plus bamboo, as versus duplicating the results of Art materials on a machine.  Since I have the Fine Arts skills now and am developing them further, it is a really good basis, at this point, to actually get into Digital Imaging and use the computer for assistance, rather than as a main medium of creation.

And if I don’t do the Master’s program in Library Science, there is a chance I could have the time to really get into the classes I’d need to make a concrete difference in what is produced.  I’m really not sure that I’m aiming for Graphic Design at this point…but my Drawing prof. has said that success in Art comes by in circuitous paths.  There is no straight line from Art School to success.  Success depends on putting in the energy and effort to work, and continuously becoming better by learning from the process, itself.

Right now, especially with my Special Projects class…I am very much learning from the process, and learning what I have to do to keep my process going.  Writing about this is part of it.  However — I have seen that there is the chance I might not want to make all of this as public as it is, now.  In drafting my last Portfolio proposal, I realized that I still have substantial skills in using MS Word.  It’s possible for me to take my images and insert them into Word files, so that I have written and printed documentation of where I’ve been — then, maybe, I can keep a running Table of Contents to the hard copy, in Excel — or link to my images and entries on my machine, with Access (if Access actually works the way I remember it working).

That, in turn, should give me enough work to be able to show employers my skill in integrating the programs as regards desktop publishing or clerical work.  Though InDesign might be nicer from a layout perspective, I’m not certain most employers even know what it is.  I certainly wouldn’t have known, except for the fact that I took those one or two Graphic Design courses, years ago.

I can and should get on top of planning my courses, if I’m not going to go to Library School.  There’s a chance I can take some classes — like Access — through an Adult School, which should probably be less of a hassle than adding more credits to my community college record.

I did say, a while back, that I was kind of wanting not to go back to Library School, so that I could take the Art classes in community college.  I’m actually getting good.  Really, surprisingly good.  But I suppose that I’m almost at the end of my AA; I should have learned something.  All of that isn’t worth anything, though, unless I keep practicing.  Talent isn’t worth a thing without dedication and commitment.  With the entire life mission thing bending into this, I think I’ll be able to hold on.

It’s just a little scary to trust myself that much.

But it’s scary to trust myself in drawing and painting, too.  And I can see that maybe it doesn’t need to be, if my work turns out so well.  My life is like my artwork; maybe I don’t need to follow an established path to make something beautiful out of it.

Leaning against MLIS.

I’ve had some time to think this over.  Should I think it over some more?  I don’t know.  When is the decision final enough — when I’ve compared pay scales?  When I’ve decided that there are better routes to get to the same point?

I’m leaning against going back for the Master’s in Library Science.  What I need is just a job and career which will allow me to live comfortably, while financing my Art.  I would have been aiming for Digital Archives, but it doesn’t really seem that this position pays enough in the short term to offset the cost of additional education.  I’m at the point of thinking that, like a co-worker was telling me, the program I was in was really expensive for what I’d get.

Plus, being a Digital Archivist…isn’t something I appear to need the degree I was looking at, to do.  It might be better to look outside of library studies to get the education I’d need, there — if I decide I still want to do it, years down the line.  What I’ve found at this point is that I don’t want to remain in a physical, public library as a Librarian.  I’d rather work in the tech industry — and if that’s the case, I have way more options than what I was doing.

Ah, anxiety…

I need to work on a rough draft on my painting for class, but it seems too unpleasant.

I’ve been mostly asleep, today…I fell asleep by accident last night and when I woke, I didn’t want to get out of bed and work.  It’s the first full day off I’ve had for at least a week; maybe two.

Caffeine has been helping (green tea ice cream, brownie, jasmine tea), but I am not sure if sedation or fatigue is the problem.  Or, if it’s just aversion that’s the problem.  My anxiety has been acting up recently and leading me not to want to work with non-toxic paints because of fears that there are toxins in them that haven’t been recognized or studied, yet.

The painting I’m working on, itself…it’s fairly apocalyptic.  It’s possible that what I need to do is jump right to canvas instead of trying to work this stuff out in a full-page watercolor version, because transparent watercolors can be a pain where it comes to light-over-dark areas.  I do have masking fluid, but I’ve never used it before, and apparently fumes from liquid latex can cause people to develop latex allergies (though mine is supposed to be “hypoallergenic”).

Anyhow, I did do an update, which I don’t think anyone saw because of WordPress’s default to backdate items in the reader to the time at which they were started.  I changed it into a page and posted it here.  It gives information about the context of my positionality and of this blog, because I realize I’ve been holding my cards pretty close and it’s been handicapping me where it comes to talking about anything important at all.

Right now…I either need to clean myself up or lie down or paint…there aren’t many other choices.  I’ve considered staying up late tonight to work on the painting, though I know that’s a bad move where it comes to my sleep schedule…

Random #1

And here I sit, another twelve minutes to write.

I’ve got to do something about making time for this…
…but I’m at work right now,
and it took me half an hour to finish eating lunch.

you care?

Is this a poem?  It’s looking like a poem right about now

It’s nice not to have to worry about anything bigger
than college applications
I know where my next meal is coming from
which is more than a lot of people can say.

To keep on going…is harder than stopping
But stopping implies giving up
Giving up implies death
or at least stagnation
(or hibernation)

There is always fear of change, I suppose.

The next four years should be filled with the final aspects
I’ll need to learn to take care of myself.
It’s hard to do that when just functioning
on a daily basis
takes effort

I don’t know if it’s as difficult for others
but the last ten years have showed me that
death is the easy way out
Just surviving
takes effort

and the Humanities apparently do not prepare one
for the job market

This economy is tiresome.
I only have two minutes left right now
so I’ll get on back to work.

Second museum visit, same museum

Not much time to post; I’m helping out at work, and start my job in about 12 minutes.

Earlier today was the second trip to the museum I visited a week or two ago.  This time, there was no docent to lead us around, but on the bright side — I got to read the text next to the images, and really closely examine the images, for the first time.  On my last visit (the one before today), the time with the docent really took up most of the time I had available to stay.

There was one piece, at the very least, which is really different when seen from close up than from a reproduction.  This …was a Kehinde Wiley piece, I believe the title was Alexander the Great.  This artist takes famous historical paintings (like Napoleon Crossing the Alps) and reworks them with people of African ancestry whom he picks off the street, in the place of the main subject.

It’s impossible to see the sheer levels of detail, like the brushstrokes in the background, and the vividness of the colors used, in a reproduction.  I think this was the piece which I said was really very large, and has a different effect when seen in person.  I might have estimated it was 10′ tall, before — it’s more like 8′, in reality.  In any case, it is larger than life size, and really powerful when seen in person.

I may be back later, but need to go, about now…

Mandala timestream

This is the mandala design I was talking about earlier, on this blog — the one I wanted to show you, but was waiting until after Critique to post?  (Critique was today.)  The other mandala I turned in isn’t quite as…successful as I feel this one is.  It also feels less finished, so I’ll hold onto it for now.

Basic blueprint. Click any photo to enlarge.
Basic blueprint. Click any photo to enlarge.

I’ve been careful to keep something of a visual log of what has been going on with this mandala, because as I said today in critique, this thing changed in character and feeling, every time I touched it.  This happened from the beginning of the linework, through laying in the background in watercolor, and through adding more color with colored pencils.

That is not even to mention all the iterations I ended up going through to get the above blueprint.  What you’re seeing there is a tracing I made onto heavy paper, through greaseless carbon paper (Saral paper), with my master copy (guidelines and all) on top.  I then went over the lines with Micron, ranging from a 005 to 05 in size.  The thing that I really love about Microns is that, at least with the black ink, the lines don’t budge under watercolor washes!

What I’m not showing here, because I can’t get a good scan and it’s too dim for good camera lighting, is my computer printout of the photo I took of the original image.  On top of that, I shaded in areas of deeper value (low value is closer to black; high value is closer to white) with graphite, where I could visualize these areas.  I did this because I’m not used to working so intensely with color (or maybe I actually am, and I underestimate myself), and I needed some way to start delving into it, without freaking myself out by working on the final copy with no road map or vision.

Value (or relative amount of light absorption) is one component of color, separate from but related to hue (or “which color” something predominantly is — keeping in mind that apart from pure prismatic colors [as in rainbows], all colors that we see are interpretations of combinations of specific frequencies.  Value is, “how much light is absorbed?” whereas hue is “which frequencies of light are absorbed?”).  The key I found here is that areas of similar value reference each other.

So I made a value map, and on another copy of the same image, I then started to notate which colors I wanted to go where, at a time when I wasn’t very stressed (I was in bed, actually, about to fall asleep).

After watercolor (Prang and Cotman)
After watercolor (Prang and Cotman)

I think it’s a bit apparent here what I was talking about earlier with the Cotman Alizarin (?) Crimson (that violet-leaning red tone that looks like fuschia in the big “X”), though it’s visible in the aqua blue, as well — that is, there’s an unevenness to the way the color settled into the paper.  This is probably due in large part to my technique.  I was using a medium-sized brush, and working wet-on-dry with the watercolor and paper.  (I think I was using Canson Wet Media paper.)

I think that if I had wet the entire area to be colored first, and then moved in with my color, the color would have bloomed and had an entirely different effect.  As it is, there is unevenness because some of my brush strokes dried as I was still laying in the same color.  Some in Critique, though, said that the unevenness/randomness contrasted nicely with the highly precise nature of the colored pencils and the design.  I really agree, at this point.  There is an organic quality to the mottled tone which adds interest.

The reason I didn’t work into this with a heavy amount of water (as I wanted to) is that it is Wet Media paper, not Watercolor paper.  I’ve heard that it can start to fall apart if too much water is applied to it at once, whereas Watercolor paper is sturdier.  I had taken the precaution of taking this out of the pad and taping it down to a piece of Hardbord (Hardbord is just a particular brand of Hardboard which is missing some fumes), but even so…it warped enough, at one point, to un-tape itself.  It freaking untaped itself.  Right.

Starting with colored pencil.
Starting with colored pencil.

At the above point, I had settled with the watercolor, but I felt it looked a bit “girly”, for lack of a better word.  I’m not sure if it’s being jaded by my Marketing class or not, to say that I suspected the color assortment with the Prangs to be intentionally gendered toward a target market which I didn’t entirely fit into.

However, I really still do love that red-violet in the center petals.  I…am unsure whether those will fade, though.  I have a feeling that the vibrant color is due to the help of a dye, as versus a pigment.  When the red-violet paint is wetted and allowed to stand in its little pan, the colors actually separate…so I’m not sure what’s up, but the paint does have an AP Nontoxic label.  That basically means that it’s missing all of the most well-known harmful chemicals — but it doesn’t mean there aren’t less-well-studied harmful chemicals.

At that point, anyhow, I started to go in with multiple red-violets, orange (actually Orange Glaze by Faber-Castell in their Polychromos line; I love that color), and yellow colored pencils in the pink sections, and with some blue-greens in the surrounding …capitals?  I don’t know what those are, exactly, but to me they look like abstracted typographic brackets (which inspired the interrupted parentheticals within them).  I especially started to darken the areas around what I wished to stand out — the halo in the center and the petals expanding around them.

At this point, I’d also begun to darken the brackets themselves.

I should mention that the reason I started out with a base of watercolor and then moved in with colored pencil, is that this drawing demanded the preciseness of colored pencil, but I’ve grown to dislike all the white space behind the texture of the pencil itself which is left behind.  In the future, I’d like to experiment with some more unusual combinations in hue of underpainting + dry media.

Finished.
Finished.

Here, it’s evident to my eye, at least, that I had worked some yellow and more blue into the areas around the pink petals…with deeper cyan tones around the edges of the composition.  I also darkened the blue-violet and yellow at the corners of the mandala, and the yellow parenthesis.  What was going on at the corners ended up throwing off the center reds, to my eye (making them look paler), but I didn’t want to risk messing this up to try and account for that.

And, right — I deepened the tones in the green parts of the seeds (the layered blue, yellow, and green tones were missing something), and in the center orange and yellow flower.

After I’d done a bit of experimentation with the red-violet petals…I decided, as well, to leave most of the rest of the watercolor alone, with the exception of some dimension on the stylized leaves.  There’s something about the purity of the wash that contrasts really nicely with the texture of the colored pencil.  Though, there is a place for very flat and pure washes, and texture in the watercolor washes, as well.

This paper also has really good tooth for colored pencil, and I was able to buy it at a large size.  The mandala above is 12″x12″; my pad was, I think, 14″x17″?  There was enough white space for my Artists’ Tape (it’s a special low-tack, removable tape), which was nice, though I wasn’t sure (and still am not sure) whether to finish or cut down the edges.

My initial design was done on Scrapbooking paper, because I found that it was almost as square as origami paper, when folded and trimmed.  And, it’s cheap and more durable than origami paper, with one white side to draw on.  Where I live also, origami paper comes in really bizarre sizes which I can’t make much sense out of (I don’t think they even make sense in Metric), except for the fact that the diagonal of a square is nearly (if not actually) equal to the length of one long edge of the next size up.  So, they kind of nest together.  Like, if you stack two consecutive sizes on top of each other and then turn the little one 45º, it will touch both edges of the bigger one.

I don’t know if that matters, in origami.  I do know I should have gotten solid-color squares instead of patterned ones now, though — the paper is somewhat translucent, and the pattern shows through the back side.  But the stuff I’m talking about, which I purchased, is really inexpensive.  I’ve used much sturdier and nicer papers in the past, for origami, so the quality issue is likely a “you get what you pay for” thing.