“Work When Others Are Resting”

This is one of 9 pieces of advice from artist David Jon Kassan, posted by a former professor on a Facebook Group for Illustration Students along with a link to Kassan’s website. The list also includes, “Do more than what you are told to do,” “Take lots of breaks,” and “Love what you do or just don’t do it.”

Work when others are resting.

I love this maxim, because it’s not saying, “Do not rest.” It’s also not saying, “Do not go out when the air is bright and your friends are calling and the time has come to raise a glass and shout because you’re alive and the world is beautiful.” Rather, it is a gentle invitation from your work, from your vocation. It is a soft whisper from that which you love, saying, Find me in the liminal spaces. Come to me when the house is quiet, and we can be alone.

Figure drawing January 30th, 2011. Adobe Photshop. Copyright © Grace Makley (me).

 

Advertisements

Writing, and How to Call the Storm

I keep reading it over and over, and I can’t quite believe the paragraph I wrote a few hours ago. It makes me shiver with excitement; it makes me shake with disbelief. This wasn’t supposed to happen, not here (Taniel! Why are you saying that?). Suddenly the story is blowing up here, in Chapter 4, in a way I never meant to happen. It’s scary, but it makes sense and it’s raw and it’s beautiful and it hurts, and it deals with that bit of mythology I just realized I’d neglected and  it adds more of that achey, real-life kind of pain just when I was worrying that the story didn’t have enough. In short, this was one of those magical writing moments. This was a crash of thunder, a spark of golden light, when my shaking hands were merely the vehicle for the story’s transferral to my screen. When a character had thoughts that deeply surprised me, thoughts I never meant for him to have. We all write for moments like these.

But I’m not here to brag.

Because this lightning strike? This flash of genius? I think I know how I got it, and I want to share. In fact, I think I’ve known this before, but it’s the sort of thing we forget, rather like the intro to a crazy dream. You’re gonna remember that bit right before you wake up, when you’re rallying the peasants with their pitchforks because you are the Queen of Jupiter and it’s time to take back the planet, but you’ve already forgotten how you got there, because it was so much less exciting. I mean, do you remember the last time you had to write an essay? How you hemmed and hawed and worked on your notecards and watched an entire season of How I Met Your Mother and did some research and thought about how cool your argument was, and didn’t really start writing the thing until 2 AM the night before it was due? How you’d been sitting there feeling uninspired and typing some occasional drivel for hours before that inspiration really struck? Well, here’s what I’m proposing, and I think it’s something we all know, despite how hard we try to forget: Those hours add up to something. Those hours of plugging away, of fixing a sentence here, a line there, when it feels like we’re barely working—these are what make the lighting possible. Today, for instance, I got a late start. I spent a really long time tightening a few paragraphs, I jumbled some things in that sort of worked but I knew I’d have to fix later, I grumbled at the inarticulateness of my notes and clumsily found some work-arounds for the sentences I’d been too lazy to fix before. I sat and grumbled and worked for one hour, for two hours, when it would have been easy to quit for the day, or to not even start in the first place. Yet I sat there, with my manuscript up on my computer and open on the table beside me. I put in my time. And then, right before dinner, when I should have been closing the computer and setting the table…

Lightning struck.

But only because I’d earned it.

 

 

More Sketches

Source photo from Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah Simblet. Drawn from observation entirely in Adobe photoshop on Tuesday (23 October 2012).

I didn’t draw on Wednesday (I did hike five miles and write some things!) but as a warm-up on Tuesday I worked on a sketch of Taniel to go with the glam sketch of Vanya I posted last week. I even fixed it up a bit today; if you think the eyes are funky now you should have seen them before!Several things wrong here; mostly it’s an example of why I’m doing more work from observation.

Happy Thursday!

David Triumphant

I found a boy with a harp, so I drew him.

It’s a David, of course, from the David and Goliath story. I didn’t have as much time to draw as I should have liked, but what can you do? Here’s a photo of the sculpture:

Thomas Crawford (artist)
American, 1814 – 1857
David Triumphant, model 1845/1846, carved 1848
marble and bronze
height: 114.3 cm (45 in.)

Source: http://www.nga.gov/

I arrived back in Maine at 8 am this morning after traveling through the night via Greyhound Bus. I have so much enjoyed my trip to North Carolina and DC, and I’ve had so many diverse experiences in the last two weeks. With any luck I’ll get to writing about them in the next few days, on the off chance you’re getting tired of all these pictures. 🙂

-G

Woman at a Window

 

 

Sketch from yesterday, at the National Gallery of Art. It’s of a woman in a Spanish painting.

 The Original:

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (artist)
Spanish, 1617 – 1682
Two Women at a Window, c. 1655/1660
oil on canvas

Image Source: http://www.nga.gov

 

As I worked, I had a sudden, shocking moment where I looked at my sketch and thought I was looking in a mirror. I didn’t realize when I started, but I this woman looks a lot like me!

Vanya Sketch Day

There weren’t any cool buildings or trees around the Raleigh Amtrak station, so I spent my drawing time today drawing this:

It took an embarrassingly long time to get his nose even close to accurate, even though I’ve already drawn his nose from that exact angle like only a gazillion times. Things like this are why I’m trying to do more drawing from observation. Also, what is up with that sultry smile?

 

UNC Sketch 2

Yesterday, I spent about 40 minutes on this sketch of Murphey Hall on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Campus.

Right now, I am on an Amtrak train bound for Washington DC, where I will be staying two nights in a hostel and running around taking reference photos for Wanderlust illustrations. It’s all so exciting!

Sketch

I went to an art museum today (the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a rather nice one) and came away thinking about how I haven’t done much art since I graduated, and haven’t made much of an effort to improve my abilities. Yeah, I can pretty much keep making Wanderlust illustrations at the same level I have been, but there are so many things I have yet to learn about color and anatomy and composition. So many ways to improve! My art teachers were always telling me to draw from life, and to draw a lot—very good advice, though I haven’t followed it very well. Maybe I haven’t been “inspired” lately because I’ve been sitting down and staring at a blank photoshop document and trying to create something from nothing, when I should have been looking around me for inspiration. Today, I sat down and made this sketch of the UNC campus.

 

© me. Photoshop, about 30 minutes.

Bookstore Treasures

Store: The Bookshop of Chapel Hill, North Carolina

http://www.bookshopofchapelhill.com/shop/chapelhill/index.html

Purchases:


Treason
by Orson Scott Card

Used, paperback, $2.99

A stand-alone Card book that I haven’t read yet. One of his earlier works. This is a version he went through and revised, post-Ender’s Game. I’m at about page 30, and so far it is a compelling read with some fascinating concepts, which is exactly what I look for in a Card novel.

Digression: I am aware that Orson Scott Card has been politically vocal in ways that myself and many of my colleagues find incompatible with our perception of the world. I still read his books, however, because I admired his writing long before I knew anything about his politics, and I have been both lifted and broken by his words too many times to cast them out of my life. Even when we disagree with people, isn’t it okay to still love them for the beautiful things that they are? Shouldn’t we try?

High Wizardry: The Young Wizards Series, Book 3 by Diane Duane

Used, Paperback, $3.25

I’m reading through this series very, very slowly—I began them in middle school, and read book 4 last spring. Book 2 (Deep Wizardry) is my favorite; the themes run powerful and deep. Book 4 (A Wizard Abroad) really lagged near the end. I’ve actually already read book 3, but I am collecting specifically this edition of the series, and it’s a little hard to find because they’ve recently been re-released with new cover illustrations. This purchase completes my collection through book 4.

Cover Talk: I feel like I really should prefer the new covers, as they are much more painterly and illustration-y, which is supposed to be my thing. With covers, though, it really comes down to what you read first. Also, something about the photographic quality of my favorite edition of covers really works to enhance the seriousness and real-world aspects of the series, whereas the new covers are just too cutesy and stylized to take themselves seriously (http://bowjamesbow.ca/images/young-wizards-1-3.jpg). Also, I just want all the books on my shelf to match.

The FinderFinder by Emma Bull

Used, Paperback, $2:50

Emma Bull does urban fantasy. I really enjoyed War for the Oaks. I couldn’t get into Territory, but maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance. I’ve been meaning to read more of her stuff, and I’m hoping this will be a good one. Already, the first few pages were exciting.

Irish Myth and Legend: The Names Upon The Harp written by Marie Heaney and illustrated by P.J. Lynch

Large size paperback (8.5×11), used, $3.50

It’s about Ireland and it has the word “harp” in the title. Need I say more? Also, the illustrations are incredible, and Heaney re-tells several of the Irish tales that I am struggling to re-tell in Wanderlust. I didn’t bring any of the scholarly source materiel for these stories with me on my trip, and I’m hoping that reading someone else’s retelling will help me figure out how I want to do it, or at least give me some inspiration to get started again (I don’t have my marked-up manuscript with me either, but I recall that most of the story sections just had a big note next to them saying something along the lines of TELL THIS BETTER).

_________________________________

North Carolina is lovely, and in a few days I hope to tell you about the trip south and driving through mountains and getting to know family members I haven’t met in years and how much fun it is to say “y’all” un-ironically. Some other time, soon. Sometimes I get caught up in what this blog thing should be and forget that all it can be is what I have to give, at any given moment. Today, this is it.

-Grace out

P.S. Have you bought anything exciting at a bookstore lately? Feel free to share in the comments.

Open Mic and Hard Times for Writing

Hello Blog readers.

I am sitting at a desk.

And you are watching me crawl out of a writing slump.

I likely brought it down on myself by being too gosh-darn optimistic the last time I posted about writing. You can read that one here. It’s a good one, and it’s still true. That’s still where I’m at. It’s still time to get to it, and there’s no time for writing lazy.

Still, I haven’t even responded to comments on that post, or really followed any of your blogs in the past few weeks. I haven’t updated the Wanderlust facebook page, or even responded to some facebook messages on my own wall from good friends of mine. What’s that all about? I don’t know, but I’ve always operated in cycles. Sometimes I can be the extraverted person, who not only wants to interact with the world but is capable of doing so. Other times, I fall into to an introverted place where any form of communication or putting myself out there is… not impossible, but really hard. Also, writing slump. I’ve been lazy, and I haven’t had anything to tell you.

I could have told you about singing at an open mic last Friday. Brother was visiting for the weekend and played keyboard with us. It’s been years since I’ve worked with a voice teacher or anything and I could probably use some help polishing those high notes, but overall we didn’t sound too bad. Check it out on the facebook page (because apparently I can’t post videos here without giving wordpress.com more money):

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=374371732642080&notif_t=video_processed

Some big news: on Tuesday, I’m hitting the road. My Aunt and Uncle are packing up their house in Maine and moving all their stuff to North Carolina, and they need an extra driver on the way South (two people + 2 loaded vehicles = no one to trade off with/ keep drivers awake. 3 people + 2 vehicles gives you some more leeway). They’re sending me back on the Greyhound, and of course I’m planning a few more stops on the way North. Of most interest to you folks, you potential Wanderlust fans you, is that I’m hoping to spend a few nights in Washington D.C. Maybe you don’t know, but Wanderlust Chapters 3, 4, 5, and some of 6 all take place in Washington DC—Washington DC in October. I’m excited to get some more reference photos for the illustrations in this section of the book. Also, how much easier will it be to write about a place I’ve just visited, instead of a place I’m remembering from, what, Spring 2010? I’m hoping the trip will help inspire a few scenes in the city that are falling a little flat right now.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted, and I will keep working, and get back to maintaining that regular internet presence as soon as I can.

-Grace out