Sunday, March 24, 2013

Finding Oneself

This sign is at a really beautiful park I visited over Spring Break called Bok Tower Gardens. When I read its message, I stopped and smiled because that was exactly why I had driven over 2 hours to visit this place. 

Why do we go through bouts of worldly busyness then have a massive urge to withdraw from the entire world? Oddly enough, I think I'm beginning to understand the more I read and write fiction.

As part of my learning process, I've been reading Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey (which is inspired by Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces). Part of the Hero/Writer's Journey is Refusing the Call to Adventure. Vogler writes specifically about the Artist as Hero, saying this:

We writers, poets, painters, and musicians face difficult
contradictory Calls. We must fully immerse ourselves in the 
world to find the material for our art. But we must also at times 
withdraw from the world, going alone to actually make the art. 
Like many heroes of story, we receive conflicting Calls - 
one from the outer world, and one from our own insides, and
we must choose to make compromises...

When you are getting ready to undertake a great adventure, 
the Ordinary World knows somehow and clings to you. 
It sings its sweetest, most insistent song, like the Sirens trying 
to draw Odysseus and his crew onto the rocks. 
Countless distractions tempt you off track as you begin to work. 
Oysseus had to stop up the ears of his men with wax so that 
they wouldn't be lured onto the rocks by the Siren's bewitching song. 

However, Odysseus first had his men tie him to the mast, so he 
could hear the Sirens but would be unable to steer the ship into danger.
 Artists sometimes ride through life like Odysseus lashed to the mast, 
with all senses deeply experiencing the song of life, but also voluntarily 
bound to the ship of their art. They are refusing the powerful Call of 
the world, in order to follow the wider Call of artistic expression. 

That explains a lot! 

Below are a few pictures of the Bok Tower Garden. I'm pretty sure these pictures will appear in my stories somewhere. :)

Writing Workshop

To tell a to create a world, adopt an attitude, suggest a behavior.
- John Shea

There's something weird happening. I'm starting to see little clues everywhere - my antennae are picking up signals that I am supposed to be writing stories....

For example, fellow writer/illustrator Fred Koehler (who has a picture book coming out soon!) recently gave me his ticket to go to the Joyce Sweeney "Plot Clock" writing workshop in Tampa because something came up and he was unable to attend. So, there you have it, a "drop in your lap" opportunity to learn about writing and get better at storytelling. I met so many amazing authors this weekend, people who have written 200+ books, and others who have worked for 20 years to just debut their first book. Really inspiring!

Joyce Sweeney is an accomplished author, writing coach, and poet. She taught us all about the Plot Clock, which is similar to The Writer's Journey & Hero's Journey outline of how a story progresses.

We did several exercises together, such as brainstorming an entire story from scratch. That was so much fun! And the story turned out to be great, too! I think that was a big eye-opener for me, to see how you can develop a tale by making sure things progress and you hit the emotional highs and lows that the audience wants to feel. We analyzed a few picture books to see if we could find the Plot Clock elements, and they were in there!! (though, not all of the points, but the stories still worked).

Then we had some time to fit our own story ideas into the plot clock, and that was challenging but fun. I realized I had most of the points, but needed to still figure out many details. One of the great questions Joyce asked us was, "How bad can it get for the hero?" Try to answer that, and then think of something even worse. The hero has to struggle (age-appropriately, of course).

Writing is so mysterious to me, like art, and that is why I am drawn to it. I love that Joyce pointed out how our subconscious is way ahead of us, plotting long before we even realize what we wrote. As I read other testimonials from authors, that really seems to be the case.

The focus comes at random moments which no one can understand, least of all the author. For me, they usually follow great effort. To me, these illuminations are the grace of labor...After months of confusion and labor, when the idea has flowered, the collusion is Divine. It always comes from the subconscious and cannot be controlled. For a whole year I worked on The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter without understanding it at all. 
- Carson McCullers

Also, this excerpt from C.S. Lewis on creating Narnia:

All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fiction books, 
began with seeing pictures in my head. At fist they were not a story, 
just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying
an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in 
my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about
forty, I said to myself: "Let's try to make a story about it."

I find it incredibly interesting that Lewis didn't have the story first, but rather the pictures without any form. How reassuring! My head is full of pictures. I'm wondering if this is the most common process for creatives? It probably varies a little each time, but pictures do have the power to incite a narrative. With this in mind, I've started collaging magazine, newspaper, prints, flyer clippings into my giant moleskine sketchbook and use them to dream up ideas. Someone once said that innovation is simply combining old things into something new. It will be exciting to see what kind of interesting stories grow out of the randomness. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Wizards Re-envisioned

A few years ago, the wonderful illustrator William Stout had a show at Laguna College of Art & Design. I remember being totally stunnded by his work! He's like a modern day Arthur Rackham, the way he draws with pen and color washes. I also remember right in front of the entrance to the gallery show, there was a drawing of a weird robot riding a funny looking bird-horse. That image always stayed with me for some reason.

Fast forward to a few months ago: I was invited to be in a show called Double Feature, where old midnight movie posters are to be re-interpreted. The curator gave me a list of old films to choose from, and behold! on the list was Ralph Bakshi's Wizards 1977 - the film that William Stout had created that unforgettable poster for, the one I had seen at the gallery. So I claimed it, and decided to create my own version for the film.

In a nutshell, the film is about twin wizards, one good, the other evil. They vie for power over technology, symbolically represented by a futuristic robot named Necron 99, later known as Peace. I wanted to show the wizard characters trying to influence the robot, each hoping to win him to their side. I also wanted to add a softer appeal...less comic book and more children's book aesthetic.

Below are a few process pictures. I used a red sheet of Canson paper and worked with pastel pencils. Final artwork is 13.5 x 20.5, half the original poster size (27x41).

The Hive Gallery presents...

Well this is pretty artwork was selected to be on the Hive flyer! Wish I could attend this show but it's in Los Angeles. Those of you who are local, please go check it out!