Monday, September 3, 2018

The Writing Fire Blossoms


I finished the first draft of Chapter 15 on Saturday. It's still feeling blah, but, hey, I'm getting through the first draft and that's exciting. Now there's just the last day -- Niagara Falls and the dash for home.

Couch/meditation time is often when I get those revelations and the words just pour. Saturday evening, I wanted to organize all those notes I’d written during the inflow of words flowed the past couple of nights, but I couldn't figure out how to start. Somehow this type of organization messes up my brain and sets me to spinning. What categories/headings do I need? 

I keep thinking about the question "Who am I on the leaving and who am I on the return" I used on the first book. Somehow it feels important. Maybe this is that recurring theme I need ... but if there's a question, shouldn't I there be an answer? I'm not sure I have one even after the three long trips. Perhaps the changes are so subtle I don't recognize them. Maybe there needs to be more trips before I can put it into words. Like learning by repetition. I have to keep challenging myself with the traveling until I "get it." I dunno. Maybe there's no real answer ... yet. But, like I said, it feels important. I'm missing something here. It will come.

The hardest part right now about the chapters is my faulty memory and lack of fully writing while traveling. Heck, it's been over 3 1/2 years since the 2015 trip and 2 years to this week since the Wichita trip. And if I'm having trouble remembering Wichita ... still, I'll get these done and feel good about it.

As for some of the repetition, I can use that as a learning experience/education in becoming more comfortable driving through cities and in heavy traffic. I can talk about how repetition helps us learn. The more I get to do it, the more comfortable I will be ... maybe, ha-ha. I don't know, maybe I really don't ever want to get over my fear of big cities. Perhaps that's something to admit, too. Maybe.

I'm still struggling with the outline concept, especially at this time. The first draft is done on the 2015 trip, and one more chapter and the epilogue will finish the first draft for Wichita. I do want some semblance and organization of all the side notes so I know where and how to put in that info. Those thoughts/ideas coming through and are important. 

Yesterday, when I settled down to work on the book, I found a bit of an outline in a template folder listing the parts of a book and some general notes of how to put a book together. I took all those "revelations" and thoughts from the past couple days about writing travel memoirs and I put many of those in that outline format. Ones that didn't seem to fit there, I made a page in outline form for general notes. 

Most of all this are reminders of what I need to be aware of when traveling and writing. And yes, I do need reminders. Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment that I forget to fully observe. Or I think I can research the details later. However, researching later doesn't capture the emotion of the moment and I need both.

I printed the pages. I'm back to feeling the need to have hard copies. I'm more apt to open a binder and read over the notes, then peruse a myriad of documents on the computer for info. If I put together a binder of how and what to write, to remind myself what to look for and pay attention to ... this could help me when I settle into a hotel room at night to write about the day (when I do the next trip).

I had a blog writing on the last travel day, but then I found that was only the run home and not about Niagara Falls. Day 16 will be in two parts; the tour of the falls and that petrifying dash for home. So, I had to start the beginning of that day from scratch. My journal isn't as detailed as I'd like. And I have sooo many pictures of the falls to go through!

The excitement continues on getting the current book done. There's still so much to do, though. I want to go on another trip, but I won't until these two books are done and ready for publishing.

Today I plan on gathering info online about the falls and the actual places I visited for the "just-the-facts" history sections. There's a lot to cover about the falls. I don't know if I'll finish the full chapter today.



Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Writing Muse Has Me by the Throat


The Muse has me by the throat. She is on top of my head with octopus-like arms wrapping around me head trying to keep my focus on the writing. Her voice is a constant whisper in my ear about what to write about, how I can make the next move with the books and how to write better descriptions and developing the story-telling.

Coming up into Indianapolis on a storm-filled day
I continue making headway with the Wichita book (my third travel writing memoir book). Talking about it helps me focus and gives me the drive to work through the obstacles and self-doubts.

Yesterday, I figured out where I am with that first draft. I thought I was ready to do the last chapter, chapter 16, but I didn't have any photos printed of chapters 14-16, and I discovered chapter 15 was never finished. Photos help me remember situations and find words to describe the landscape and such. It still bothers me that there are things I have no words for -- descriptions of architecture, even things in landscape like land formations, types of rocks, etc. I’m always amazed and fascinated that things in the next state or states can be so different.

This morning I was wondering if I should spend time on a Writers Helping Writers FB page. They talk about everything and anything to do with writing. I've not paid that much attention because how and what I write is not usually discussed. But maybe if I ask, there are people on there who write travel memoirs.

Self-doubt soars when I'm floundering. I need some feedback as to what and how I'm writing. I need that push of encouragement and when others don't write the way I do ... It's not about being told what to do, it's more of a sharing of what we are working on. See, I can't even describe it. Hmmm, so how can I turn this "obstacle" into a learning experience to help me move forward?

I finished re-reading my last book “Too Cold for Alligators” (TCfA) last night. (I hope I can come up with such good titles for these next two books.) Anyway, I realized TCfA does have what it takes for a travel memoir, and the end IS very emotional, and I DID talk about what I learned and all. From what I can tell, it falls in all the parameters of travel writing memoirs. Yes, there are mistakes and repetitions, and I would love to rewrite it ... but as that's already been published, I should move on.

Another question I have is: Is it wrong to talk about the previous book in the next book? A friend who read the first part of the second book (I still haven’t come up with a title yet), because I went to some of the same places I did in the first. But I don't see why I can't talk about those places again. After all, I'm not saying exactly the same thing. The circumstances are different, my mind frame is different. Why can't I be saying, "The last time I was here, the beautiful camellias were in bloom and this year, although I'm traveling the same time of year, they've already turned brown and dropped to the ground. Still, this place is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. I love the ..." Plus, I also went to other places so it's not all exactly the same.

I’m in a different place mentally and physically now. The reason/excuse for travel has its differences. Yes, there are some similarities and I’m still dealing with traveling alone, learning to recognize what I want and to speak up. Similar, yet still different. I meet different people, circumstances are different. And it’s sharing – the amazing aspects of life and what’s around me and overcoming the obstacles and challenges that get in the way.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Books are Calling



I’ve a few book ideas (and actual books in process) for a few years. I started strong the end of last year after taking a hiatus, but I got distracted when gardening time came, and I was spending time in the studio at the easels. The writing call is back and it’s strong. How can I do any other writing until I finish these? I feel a part of me is incomplete.

I’m not finding fault with myself. I chose to work on other projects: around the house, gardening, and pastel painting. Plus, the whole getting older and slowing down process is teaching me to be OK to do projects in smaller increments. I can’t spend all day on one project, and, regular life gets in the way. So, I am learning to do what I can do at any given time and accept that I work slower, need to take more breaks to clear my head, and even take an occasional nap.

First and foremost, I am a writer. Now as summer is waning down, I’m ready to get back to the writing. I have a new outlook on it all and I’m eager to do better. Maybe this in-between time was giving me time to figure out how I want to be writing the travel memoirs, deciding that’s it’s not just a story about me, but one to hopefully give others insights on traveling

One stumbling block was I had the first draft of a 2015 trip complete, then came moving to Hillsborough (along with a house renovation), and a trip in 2016. I haven’t even completed that first draft yet, and now that the writing muse is calling, I’m stuck deciding whether to finish writing the first draft on 2016 (two chapters to go) or do I go back to finish 2015.

I’m feeling the need to finish the 2016 first draft, however I’m really being pulled to do updates and finish 2015. Both are important to me. The first drafts were pretty much recording everything about the trip. Now I have to delete mundane comments and repetition of driving days. The hardest thing about book writing is stopping or being interrupted. I don’t want to stop to eat (and heaven forbid I have to prepare, cook, and clean up!) There’s housework, chores, gardening, socializing … and my work as an editor. Oh, yeah, and painting in the studio.

Stay tuned. I have some reading and note taking to do tonight in planning these two books.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Putting Two Photos Together to Create a Better Scene


The gardening projects wane – not that I accomplished everything on my projects list. This year I took a detour from developing new gardens and finishing last year’s paint job on the porch and deck. I like what I accomplished, but I feel I’ve done enough for this year. (At least for now.) The pastel painting muse has returned (maybe with help from all the rain lately), and I’ve been spending time in the studio.

I finished a pastel painting I’d started in March and one I started in June. Every time at the easel is a learning experience and I go from feeling guilty I’ve not “trained” like other artists to being strong in my conviction to do it my way.

It’s not only about the painting but the adventure and discovery. I find it interesting how I might read or hear something a few times, then one day that same comment or tip flashes the light bulb on. Ha, ha, I finally get it!

Maybe it’s because I have to be mentally ready to hear the message. Maybe it’s about repetition finally sinking in. Suddenly the need to paint ignites and I am at it again.

Does that mean it goes easy? No. There is always something to learn, some aspect to experience. I go from the excitement of doing a new piece, to not-liking how it’s going, to feeling discouraged and self-doubting my abilities.

This is why I have multiple easels and paintings in various stages of progress. When I get too frustrated with one, I can work on one of the others. I eventually get back to the one giving me grief and I tackle it with a fresh set of eyes.

So, I finished the two and they are ready to go to the framer. I cleaned up both areas and set new BFK Rives paper on the two easels. I looked through my photos I put aside as possible paintings. The one of a sand-dune was calling, but the more I looked at it, the more I felt the composition wasn’t right. Now what?

The photo was from an area I’d visited before – a spot where my mum had spent her early childhood and where her ashes were released. What if I looked back through previous photos? Maybe there would be something I could put with this sand-dune to make a more complete composition.

Preliminary layout of "Between the Dunes"
working with two photos.
I researched dozens of photos and during a visit in 2016, I had taken a photo of the scene right next to that dune. Wow, how amazing is that! I can “stitch,” or rather, tape, the two photos together to make a beautiful scene. The horizons don’t quite line up as my position wasn’t the same in taking the two photos, but I can make it all work for the painting.

Also, in that same series of photos, I came across four more photos that I can stitch together to make two more wonderful paintings. I printed the photos and made notes. Then I chose two scenes, went in the studio, and soon had the preliminary drawing/layout done in charcoal for two new paintings. I am so excited!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Being Strong in Who I Am as an Artist



I am reading “Painting Brilliant Skies and Water in Pastel” by Liz Haywood-Sullivan. She describes the preliminary steps: cropping, multiple thumbnail sketches, blocking in shapes, figuring out values, and choosing colors, among other comments and tips.

I also researched online (again) articles on types of paper and board for pastel artists. Most prefer surfaces with textures to hold the pastel. I prefer a smooth surface. I do not like the sanded surfaces, either.

Making progress on "Path to the River."
My mind jumped into self-doubt mode. I don’t/can’t work like that! Is this how “real” artists work and if I admit how I work, will those “real” artists look down their noses at me? How can I call myself an artist when I don’t work like that? Maybe … if I was 30 years younger … I could go back to the very basics and start all over again.

Should I force myself to paint on surfaces I don’t like? Do I have to conform? And if I admit how I work, will other artists and art viewers not like me or not see me as a serious artist?

But wait! Haven’t I been working a long time developing my own style of painting? Haven’t I always been proud of myself for not following the norm and discovering my own way of doing things? What makes me think I’m wrong just because I don’t do it like most others? I’m not wrong. I just do it MY way.

My very-good friend, Nan McCarthy, is an amazing photorealist, and her style and technique is totally different than mine. About the only thing we have in common is that we both work with photographs and we like similar subjects. But, she follows all those preliminary steps and spends a lot of time planning her painting even before she picks up her paintbrush. Part of how she works, even after all these years, is to study other artists’ techniques to try better perfect her own style.
Our techniques may be opposite, yet we have the most amazing conversations on art and style. We support each other and have even done shows together.

As for changing how I do things? Part of my painting is about the journey. Each piece offers a unique, challenging adventure (even when doing similar scenes). Every time I think I’ve mastered an aspect, the next painting throws a curve ball. It’s a backwards treasure hunt. Instead of digging through rubble to find the treasure, I build layers to find the gold in the finished painting.


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Growing older, changing, adapting in life and art

I don't mind thunder storms from a distance. It's those loud booms and cracks that make you jump (don't like adrenaline rushes) that bother me. It's like I like the deep sound of a Harley (though not when the guy sits there revving), but the sharper sounds from the "rice rockets" are annoying. I still like the old rock ‘n’ roll music, but no longer cranked loud. I don't like loud voices, especially angry voices or those false, loud, excited, pumped-up-trying-to-sell-you-something voices.
"The Hill" still in process; getting close to being finished.

Quieter, softer ... hmmm ... that's even coming through in my painting. Instead of pushing for those sharp photorealistic lines (when I’ve never strived to be a full photorealist), I'm learning that it's OK to have softer lines, more impressionistic backgrounds ... which is something I wasn't conscious of before because I don't really like impressionism. I wanted sharp, clean lines … like my photography.

It’s funny, too, how my art is turning to be more like me. I’ve described myself as being soft, and fuzzy around the edges, and now as my art gets looser, it too, takes on more fuzziness. (Though I still want some sharper lines.)

Maybe I am closer to an impressionist painter instead of a realist, and yet, even those lines blur. I don’t quite have my finger on it, yet. But I’m coming into a greater understanding of life and art.
I still have to do things my way; figure things out my way. I don’t, and never have, fit totally into one category and probably never will.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Treasure Hunt in Painting


I didn’t get in the studio this week. Instead of painting, Nan McCarthy and I went to the Jaffrey Civic Center to see their latest art exhibit. I’m always amazed that artists can work in the same media, and yet, because of different styles and techniques, the paintings can have a totally different feel. Even if another’s style doesn’t appeal to me, I’m still fascinated by the process. I enjoy hearing artists talk about what they do and how they do it.

Peaceful Autumn Waters -- in process
What amazed me was that I didn’t feel any of the paintings were similar to mine. Does that mean my paintings aren’t good enough? Don’t think that! That’s the old, low self-esteem thinking. My paintings are good enough and I’m very pleased with them. (Oh, OK, I can always find fault, but I can’t allow myself to do that.) No, not every one is perfect, and many remain unfinished, but the ones I do finish, mat, and frame fill my heart with joy.

However, I am adamant in not doing things the way others do. I want to find my own way and have my own style. And, as I told someone the other day when she remarked how she can’t wait for the end result, I am fascinated by the process. Don’t get me wrong, I love the finished piece, but there’s something intriguing in the experiences between beginning and end. I learn something new with each painting and that’s exciting! 

I do similar scenes most the time, but each painting has its own obstacles. There are challenges in every picture because not all scenes are exactly the same. Light, shadow, reflections affect leaves, bark, grasses, sky, water … everything! I constantly ask myself questions. Why isn’t it working the same as it did last time? How do I do …? How did I get the perspective off? Why didn’t I notice that aspect before? Why isn’t that shading right or shadow or reflection? Am I leading the viewer in? And it goes on.

I am not a photorealist. I don’t want it to be perfect. I allow changes, and I want to do it all free-hand. That’s not saying there’s anything wrong with using projectors, rulers, T-squares or other means of transferring the exact image. I just choose to be more open to creating something new, something not exact. Plus, I believe the painting itself will lead me to make changes.
It is a discovery, almost a treasure hunt in a way, as I figure out how to recreate the picture from the photograph. The photo is just a guideline and I often use more than one photo to create a scene. I add trees, rocks, and bushes, and I also have to figure out lighting as I usually take photos at the height of the day or on days when the sky is dull.
Another exciting aspect is when I take a photo to post progress. The new photo almost always shows me something else, something I missed, or something I should add. No matter how many times I study the original photo, a progress photo will tell me more. It can be like finding a gold nugget … a sometimes it’s fool’s gold. Still, I love it, even during the ugly stages.