Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

I will start writing again next month. I’ve found myself some time by stopping counselling young people and running drug and alcohol group work. All really fulfilling activities and worthwhile in terms of outcomes, which I’ve done for the last 13 years. But I don’t believe in an afterlife and there are only so many hours in this one! So I really want to spend more time writing and illustrating and that is what I shall be doing with the time I’ve freed up.

I’ve sold many articles, stories, novels (and puzzles and brochures) over the years. It’s something I can do. It just got pushed out by the editing and proofreading, both of which bring in a more reliable income. So, encouraged by last year’s win in a short story competition and the knowledge that I know how to write and sell, I’m embarking on bringing together some threads. I shall write about or for children and young people – perhaps articles to pitch to magazines and newspapers, as before (but specialising in my more recent experiences professionally) or stories that are either real or fantastic but contain an emotional or mental health truth. As indeed all stories must. These will also be inspired by the needs of young people I’ve met over the years.

It feels like a plan. But in this month of ‘not working much’ (by intention – some people have foreign holidays!), I’ve designed two book covers for two slightly updated fairy tales. One goat is a girl, so no “Billy” in the title! And the Pied Piper is a girl – plus the person refusing to pay her is a business man. I enjoyed drawing and painting the components in watercolour, and also used Procreate App and Photoshop to assemble them. Maybe I’ll write the stories too!

two fairy tale covers

 

Putting grief to words is really a private affair. But after a while, after some months of mourning, with the dark and cold encroaching and  dragging me down, sometimes putting words out there is a help. This poem is no masterpiece. Hopefully, at some point in the future, it may change and morph into something less raw, more complete, more past. Until then, it is this: words and images, unedited, unfinished.

Yesterday a garden

Today a goat

Yesterday you lived

Still – a beautiful, funny, wise, caring dad.

Today you no longer are

Here – a searing absence, an absent presence.

You would have liked my painting

had the marauding goat not come.

wc flower garden wc goat copy

I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t a whole lot of difference between painting a picture and writing a story. I find I veer away from making just any old image. I want to make it tell about something that is happening, may happen or has happened. And I think, too, that that’s not a very original thought haha! But sometimes you have to realise something right inside yourself before it can happen in your work.

So – just as we try to paint a word picture when writing, so we try to make an illustration tell a story in itself. Perhaps the link goes back to cave-dwelling times…

Anyway, I saw someone online paint an image in a leaf shape. Fine. It looked good but that was the end of the matter – unless you made it into a greetings card, of course. I did one just for fun, and suddenly found myself compelled to add a figure (picking the berries in the first one). This kind of grew like an addiction and I did five more within different kinds of leaves. I decided to keep the figures in mono (soluble pen actually) but make a link into the leaf-shaped landscape/cityscape.

Strangely the images took over from me and they all became trees. Now that’s pure magic! I hope you find a story in them – whatever it inspires in you. There isn’t a pre-planned one.

wc leaf images

My mother always said I was a fairground child. She had reason – I used to like trying my hand at all the stalls. Not that we went to many fairs, but the Girl Guides and the Scouts had them and occasionally one came to town from further afield.

I think I frustrated her because she could see that I had some talent of sorts but that I squandered it (her words!) on getting to grips with many things instead of mastering just one.

Actually, I think this enriches my life. I love learning all sorts of things and getting fun from doing all sorts of activities. But – and it’s a big but – it does mean that while I’m illustrating (and in the zone), I’m fine. Same with writing. But if I’m casually doing one or the other (not in the zone) then I can get seriously distracted . For instance, I had just finished an article illustration done digitally, about the financial sickness of a particular country’s banks, when I decided to do some watercolour! Not for any reason in particular; just some vegetables and fruit for fun. Miniature ones. I’ve assembled them here for you.

wc-fruit-and-veg

White Nights watercolours on Khadi handmade paper

It’s not that they’re bad (for my lowly ability, they’re quite reasonable – and each is only two inches tall) but I know I won’t continue to practise watercolour: my oil pastels are winking at me. And my alcohol inks… So – fairground child indeed!

What I’m thinking of doing is rationing some of my time. Work is work and I must concentrate, then allocate myself some hours or days to simply do whatever takes my fancy among the fairground stalls. For that, I shall call myself Wandering Ellie.

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 am delighted to have won a writing competition that I entered in August. I have very little time for fiction writing these days and am perhaps a little fed up that it’s almost impossible to get certain novels published. No, they’re not horrendous; they’re just not the “in” thing.

And although I have self-published really successfully in 2008-9, twice, I’m not sure that the one I have completed would be welcome in secondary schools, which is mostly where I would need to take it to do workshops and sell copies. (Oh for the return of Borders, the book chain that went into administration!) Schools are still very reluctant to deal with any issues of LGBTQ sexuality, even though the plot doesn’t hinge on it, but on the need to find out why a brother has suicided.

So to have written a successful, carefully constructed 1,000 word short story with a theme I know a lot about as a part-time young people’s therapist, and a dollop of emotion in the story, well… I’m pleased! It reminds me of my long-standing love of writing to move people. Currently I write for a very different audience in my editorials or the occasional article.

The new (January) issue of Writing Magazine will be out on December 1st, complete with my winning story. How nice is that! It’s their most popular competition of the year, so it feels extra good to have won it.

It’s a bit of a change from drawing a loo in Promarkers for World Toilet Day last Saturday! I was pretty pleased with this result too, although the reflection is a bit off and should be lighter. Mine is nothing like as posh 😦

promarkers-loo

I spent yesterday upgrading (ruining?) my illustration portfolio site. I think it works now. At one point it had no home page and now it probably has two of every page, but if I delete one, the other goes too. Since I first started with WordPress, they have upped their offerings, complexity, usefulness and instructions so much that I find it hard to manage my way through to do what I want.

I had two aims in mind:

  1. Limit what was on the site so that art directors could immediately find relevant, good stuff.
  2. Make the landing page be the portfolio itself. In other words ‘About’ could be less obvious at first.

You know how they say, with editing your novel, ‘kill your darlings’? Well, I’ve removed my fine art and my sketches and my photo artistry images. I’ll decide what to do with those later. They are not going to aid my illustration aims, so they had to go. Focus, focus!

What is left is a portfolio of editorial illustration and a portfolio of children’s illustration. I shall regularly add new work and remove older stuff. There’s a lot of competition out there and I need to make it easier to be seen, and to develop my style in each discipline to be recognisable. Hopefully desirable too.

The two portfolios that now remain sit side by side (by some miracle at midnight!) and my next aim is to make the images within them sit in a block too. I have no idea how, but it can be done, they say.

If you want to look and offer feedback, that would be great. If you understand how the Qua theme works, even better. I’m all ears 🙂 You can find me at eleanorpatrickillustration.com.

Here is my latest biro girl with background. Exam results came out last week.

certificate girl