Archive for the ‘process’ Category

While getting my journal through design and to press at the end of a cycle, I am usually wanting a bit of down time. Time without a screen and time without a deadline or responsibilities.

This time I threw some watercolour around on a 12×16″ piece of Cason XL paper. I allowed both hard and soft edges and used a bit of Indian ink too.

loose wc background

Seeing as how nothing jumped out at me to turn it into via negative painting, I then decided I would sketch a lady and flower and cut a stencil from it. I managed to preserve my fingers (I’m useless with a scalpel!) and placed the stencil over the background three times, moving it around and taking a photo each time, and this is the result.

three wc ladies

I rather liked all of them for different reasons. But not wanting to waste the bits I’d cut out, I traced round them onto the watercolour paper, and stuck them on black paper.

collaged lady and flower

And finally, before chucking the stencil out, I placed it on some mid-grey Strathmore paper and pressed white pastel through it.

pastel stencil lady

This proved somewhat messier, but there you go – I had completely unwound and satisfied the itch to create something!

 

Every now and then I remember to practise drawing the same character from different viewpoints doing different things. You may remember this attempt. I was at it again in the last couple of days, only this time I gave him (or is it a her with shortish hair?) some huge objects to manhandle. I was just being whimsical. But then some ideas came to mind.

Maybe:

He feels little in his family. Maybe he has a skill no one really notices. Maybe there is some incident when he knows he could help but no one even glances at him.

So what happens? *shrugs* Well, maybe he has to surreptitiously assemble the things he needs, in order to do whatever he needs to do to sort it out! So, stretching my brain a bit… he, um, steals the sharpener to sharpen the pencil, then draws the image and finally paints it.

That latter image was meant to be pastel sticks but looks more like watercolour paints – except for the lack of a mixing lid! He struggles to lug this one to his bedroom…

So yes, I don’t have time right now because a 400-page book has to be proofread this week for a publisher. But this is how a story could grow in my head, needing many revisions obviously, but perhaps it could be made to work if I really wanted to.

Nice to have conjured up a spark on a cold, icy day 🙂 Happy new year to you all.

dragongirl-pen-zigbrush-boy

As promised yesterday. How does this work for a pair of writings? Any comments welcome 🙂 Criticism welcome too!

An open book (2)

Knowing the library manager was out till tea time, I made straight for my favourite place down one of the aisles and started picking out all the books in that section that needed mending. I didn’t have to think about it. I’d mentally clocked them up when they came back in less-than-perfect condition. Numbers, facts, photographic memory… If only I didn’t have to work in a library. But it would have to do till something better came along.

Then I heard the main door open with a sough of chilly air, and my heart sank. This dark shut-in building was my womb – and wombs are best left in peace while things develop inside them.

I reluctantly stood up, picked up the damaged books and staggered with them over to the entrance. ‘Can I help?’ I called to the girl. ‘You look lost.’

There. She’d feel as if someone cared. The exact phrase was on page 25 of the training manual, bullet point 3. I could see it in my mind.

She handed me a list. I stared at it in amazement. What sort of person goes into a library with a list? And worse than that, a doctor’s scribbly handwritten list, naming self-help books for the weedy. I now recognise every doctor’s handwriting in this town – they’re all at it, this bibliotherapy thing. What we should do is charge them! And then replace these stuffy old shelves with neat lines of matching, pine-coloured shelving with desks at exact intervals so that people can sit near to where they’re browsing. I could make a proper go of running this place, given a chance.

I offered to fetch the first book on the list, and then, following rule 2, page 30, kept eye contact while asking her for identification. I did start to lose track when she rambled on about eBay and charity shops. Obviously out of work. Probably no good at anything. Anyway, if she was broke, I wasn’t interested in her.

‘Sorry?’ I murmured dutifully. (Rule 10: Keep your complete attention on the client from the moment they ask for help.) ‘Oh yes, I buy my books, too,’ I told her, hoping I’d got it right, and handing her the somewhat dog-eared copy of Managing your Moods. I’d need to add that to the mending pile when she returned it. ‘Yes, much better to own books than borrow them. Though I shouldn’t say that, should I? Not working here!’ (Rule 12: Maintain a sense of humour at all times.)

Of course, I wouldn’t be working here if I could find another job. It’s those stupid interviewers out there who can’t cope with suggestions for improving their businesses. You’d think they’d be grateful to employ someone who could think widely as well as remember all the existing protocols.

‘Have fun with this one, Lucy,’ I added as she turned away. I’m not sure why she looked so pleased – I mean, that book’s dumb.

You never know what will set you off writing. This morning’s combination of triggers was a surprise.

I had sketch-painted a conker in its shell last night while drinking my last coffee before bed. It was only a quick one and could be improved if that were my main aim, whereas it’s only for relaxation and mind-emptying ready for sleep.

But I got up this morning and thought: ‘Must look up the disease that’s killing our conker trees.’

This gave me information just before I finished off reading about the Mad-Song Stanza that rhymes x a b b a. This info was in an article in Writing Magazine – and the only reason I had a copy of Writing Magazine was on account of having noticed a very cheap year’s subscription from iTunes on the PocketMags platform. [Wow – hasn’t this e-platform become brilliant since I last used it. Thoroughly recommended, for WM at least.]

And the only reason I noticed the subs offer was that I had won a competition WM runs (as I mentioned in an earlier post) and wanted to read the judge’s crit of my story! Strange how life happens 🙂

Anyway, the end result of this trigger chain is a little experimental image with a little experimental stanza underneath it. Food for thought too – nature trying to right itself.

conker

TREE SKIRMISHING

The conker tree’s at war

with moths that mine its leaves.

But friendly mites

take killing bites

inside the pupa thieves.

Over the last year or so I have only written articles, children’s picture books and some (many!) editorials. I do a lot of editing of sentence structure for a variety of reasons. Sometimes to refocus on the main point, sometimes to clarify the point I thought I had already made clear(!), and sometimes to fit the need for brevity.

It occurs to me that this year alone I have got letters published in the Daily Telegraph many times. Not long-winded, knowledgeable, informative ones. I leave that for the experts. Mine have been succinct, salient nuggets destined to cause a grin, a reaction or a very precise point. I claim this openly without pride. The reason is that you don’t get published unless your letter arrives exactly how they like it. It’s a salutary lesson in focus and crafting to editorial need.

Edit and re-edit

What no one knows is just how many iterations I scribe compared to how many I do for an editorial (three routinely) or a short story (a few). The ratio of revisions to word count is astronomical! I cut and move and alter and exchange until the shortness, succinctness and rhythm of the read (sometimes only two sentences) is as perfect as I can make it. And it’s written one day for publication the next, because relevance and fit move on rapidly in the news world.

Here are three of my successes (the first will not make sense without the trigger but that’s how you join in a conversation in Letters. That and starting with SIR!):

SIR: “Somewhat quaintly; not too sentimentally” (Letters, 6 March) is the most likely result, in my experience, if the piece is played on an old harmonium with bellows operated by foot pedals. “Somewhat breathlessly” will certainly apply.

SIR: On reading Shane Watson’s piece on what makes us posh or not (Features, September 6), I vividly recalled being at a small gathering of parents from the local private school. Suddenly a voice boomed: ‘Who cut the stilton like this?’ I glanced at my husband, who raised his eyebrows slightly and shrugged. To this day, I have no idea about stilton etiquette. And don’t care. If that’s classed as not posh, I’d rather be normal.

SIR: Keith Taylor’s simple solution of installing a call blocker (Letters, October 25) is unworkable. The firms involved regularly change their number and I have no wish to stand by the button rejecting each one.

I hope this inspires you to try writing a letter to the editor of your favoured newspaper or magazine. The year has been good to me in my writing world and I’m looking forward to Christmas and a few days’ break 🙂

I really love reading articles. I just so wish I still had time to write and submit. I used to really enjoy the challenges and the successes – and learn from the defeats. Now I am bogged down in editing and proofreading. I enjoy that in a different way. It probably appeals to the little bit of OCD in me 🙂

Anyway, I’ve read a lot this year about the organisation called Birthrights. They seem to have been featured in may publications, probably because there is always a story about a woman who has been poorly treated in pregnancy. (You do seem to lose a lot of control and a lot of basic human rights when pregnant.) And perhaps also because their CEO, Rebecca Schiller, is a good writer and passionate about the cause.

Anyway, I was inspired to create an image that for me sums up the facts of often being sidelined or even completely shut out of the decision-making process when pregnant.

I sketched my own pregnant lady, stylising her and patterning her in both pink and blue (how trad!) in Illustrator including indicating the baby. I imagined the relevant human rights being showered down – so for this I used one of my own photos of a fountain at a famous garden I had visited.  I then drew a maze in graphite and coloured it digitally, and added some sea for it to float on, from another of my own photos. The chain is one of the brushes in Clip Studio Paint. Add a common or garden padlock and that bit was done. (I passed the image into CSP for the chain, but otherwise worked in Photoshop.) I hope you like it.

human-rights-matter-for-pregnant-women

 

I often try to draw the same character doing different things. Keeping the style, keeping the character recognisable: it’s all grist to the mill in children’s illustration.

I thought of these two kids last week and drew the first image out in ink. I used permanent ink for the characters and soluble ink for the background – I wanted to keep the focus on the characters, who would be coloured, and leave the background as monotone after some moving around of the soluble ink for shading. The digital work was done in Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint – I just love the blending brush in CSP and often choose to colour there too, leaving any initial cleaning up of scanned line work and the post-processing manipulation for PS.

When I had done both images, as an afterthought, I made the background of the first one look cooler as it was outside, and the background of the other look warmer as it was inside. And I double-checked they were dressed in the same clothes here – although in the course of a book this might not be so.

I think probably they go better in reverse order actually – they have a lovely shared natter and then he bids her farewell on the doorstep and goes home! The third image shows the sequence all together: ringing to ask to come round, sharing together in the warmth, and saying goodbye.

friends

friends-sequence