Tag Archives: art

writing is music is art

I usually write in silence, but sometimes I get a certain song looping in my head, connected, often, to a certain character or scene I’m working on, and I play it over and over and over.  I am always intrigued by this, by the interaction between different kinds of art, music to writing, movies to music, dance to art to comics, whatever the mix.  Steampunk, for example is cool in the way the visual art is fed by the books, which are fed by the music, which are fed by the sculptures, all in a loosely unified movement (maybe?) or possibly you call it an aesthetic.

Sidebar: There is a steampunk cafe in our tiny town, a fact which I adore.  It has a series of nesting room sporting a decidedly steampunk (if under capitalized) ambiance and sells steampunk art, jewelry, books, pastries and absinthe, no kidding, I’ve had some.  You pour it (it’s pale green) over a sugar cube and it tastes delightful.  Did you know that absinthe is not the toxic substance it is commonly thought to be, but, rather, all that wormwood-makes-you-crazy-stuff is just bad PR spread by the French wine industry in the early 1900s?  Seriously!  There is a fun documentary about the history of this mysterious beverage called, what else, Absinthe, and here is a link to a preview of it.

Anyway.  I have mentioned my love of of the anime Samurai Champloo, and now I’ve seen all the eps (sadness! finding something that delights is so bittersweet because once you’ve finished, its gone) so, in mourning, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack.  Shinichiro Watanabe, Champloo‘s director and creator, is famous for the powerful use of music in his work, and even for writing scenes for specific songs.  Champloo is no exception, lots of great songs in the mix.

My favorite, hands down, is the song played during this amazing scene in ep #14  where a character is having a life-flashes-before-his-eyes moment, plus some possible afterlife with weird crow-men gods-of-death sort of dudes—a WAY more remarkable scene than this little description lets on—and I’d say a large part of the scene’s impact comes from the song, an eerie Okinawan folk song about sadness and death.  Indeed, Watanabe has said that he was so moved by that song when he first heard it (before he started working on Champloo) that it would NOT be an exaggeration to say that he had created the entire series just to be able to write that scene for that song.

Here it is, “Obokuri Eeumi,” and it’s gorgeous, go ahead, click play listen.  The video itself is just a few pictures from the show, ignore that, just listen to the music.  And no, I’m not giving you the scene itself because that would SPOIL you for this great episode.  Plus Funimation doesn’t want to share the copyrights, boo.

Did you listen?

I’ve done this, too, this song-to-story transfer. I’ve had songs that moved me, sometimes on their own, sometimes because they were connected in my head to a certain moment in a movie or show, and I’ve written that mix into a scene of my own.  I remember at one point I had latched onto part of a song by Tori Amos, “Siren,” and another small part of “I Wish You Were Here” by Incubus (I think there was another one, but I can’t think of it now, god, what was it?  maybe “Opening” by Philip Glass?) while I was writing the Jeremy section of Children of the Fallen and playing these three bits over and over on a loop—“Iiiiiiii wish you were here, Iiiiiiiiii wish you were here!”—my poor family!—until Paul came in one day and said, “You wish she was there, yeah, you say that now, but wait till she gets there.”

I bet Watanabe played “Obokuri Eeumi” over and over. I just bet.

On the other hand, a writer friend of mine says that writing from your own life, rather than writing from other people’s art, is more potent, more real. I find this an intriguing differentiation. Is writing from other people’s art derivative and therefore less valuable? Certainly there are less digested (and therefore, more easily recognizable) versions of retelling someone else’s story. Copies of copies. (Which makes me think of that Star Trek: New Generation episode where an entire culture’s language consisted of references to mythic stories. “Shaka! When the walls fell!” I loved that ep. Could that culture tell new stories, I wonder?)

Is it cheating somehow to write from other people’s writing or music or visual art?  Or, possibly, are these three separate things….

Similar to the the music-loop phenomena, there are paintings and photographs I’m looking at a lot for Lucidity Effect, probably because my main character, Liv, is a photographer. For example, I love these, images I found at the Etsy shop, Eye Poetry.  This is in Italy:

or this one from England,

These pictures help me know something about my character, for some reason.  Art influencing art.  Media hopping?

I wonder how all these tracks work in the brain, how separate they really are?

As for soundtracks, I’m also listening to the music from The Secret World of Arietty which I love, and writing a scene between two characters that shares an emotional quality with a scene in that movie—something about the way Miyazaki creates such meaning and importance in the exchange of a couple of insignificant objects, how he builds that up in the way the story is told.  The music is reminding me of all that, so I listen and listen and try to channel that feeling into the words I’m typing.  He is such a master at tiny moments that contain great emotion.  May I touch the hem of his kimono.

Pro tip: Good headphones are very important to this process, or one’s family gives one no end of flack.

Deep thoughts for a late night blog post, eh?  Anyway, I should probably get back to it and quit blathering on.

beautiful, inspiring, mysterious book sculptures

Ten gorgeous, whimsical, surprising sculptures made out of books and words were given this year to various libraries in Scotland, all anonymously. The beautiful pieces were left in nooks and windows and corners, to be found by librarians sometimes days later. Here are some teaser images….

This one has all kinds of tiny details, from the words floating in the cup of tea, “Nothing beats a nice cup of tea (or coffee) and a really good BOOK”, to the words in the teabag, “by leaves we live,” and more.

Part of a larger piece, a wing made of thousands of exquisitely crafted feathers.

A baby dragon, hatching out of a book egg!

I just love this whole story, the generosity of spirit, the playfulness. In a world full of self-promotion and “look at me!” to give such lovelies anonymously seems, well, kind of wonderful.  At the same time I sort of hope the artist comes to light. I’d like to know more about this person, see more of her work, give her some joy back. I guess she’s getting that, though, privately, with all the press the pieces have gotten.

Read the whole story with lots and lots of photos of all ten pieces.  Really, go read it!  We read it this morning over breakfast and it made us all happy.  What a gift.

fantasy art by ida larsen

When I started looking for a cover artist for Conjuring Raine, I searched all over, looking for covers I liked to find artists, surfing the deviant art site, asking other writers…it was a long process.  Fees went anywhere from free to $1000 for a cover, wait times anywhere from twenty-four hours, to six months.  I really, really want as gorgeous a cover as I can afford, so it was important to me to find someone I thought could really tell a story with their images.  And then I found Ida Larsen.

Here she is in one of her pieces, “Airship Captain.”

Ida lives in Denmark and does fantasy art for magazines, covers, commission, and for direct sale at her etsy shop. I contacted her and, although she had a couple of months of wait-time until she was available, I eventually hired her to do the cover for Raine.  I’m so excited about what she’ll come up with.

Here are a few more of her digital paintings.  This one, “Mermaid Isle,” is one of my very favorites:

Here is “The Collector”…

I love the light in this one.  It looks so real, I can smell the ocean and hear the little sounds the dragons are making.

This next one doesn’t have any obvious fantasy elements, except there is this hyper-reality feeling to it.  I love how each of Ida’s images tells a story, invites questions…who are these people?  What story are they living?  They could be movie stills, mid-action.  My writer’s mind starts concocting answers to a dozen questions for each of these characters.

Two more with Ida herself…

What is happening here?  I’m dying to know.

If Raine’s cover can be as evocative as these, I’ll be thrilled.

artarama extravaganza

I received a Jerry’s Artarama catalog in the mail the other day, not the little flyer ones but the real deal, the 3/4 inch thick one, the one that has every art supply product known to man and woman, and then some.  You may have heard me say that Sophie and I have been making clothes with the idea of opening a small Etsy shop.  Well, as I spent several hours turning the pages of Jerry’s catalog, oogling the endless arrays of paints, screenprinting supplies, fancy papers, brushes—GAH it was total art supply porn and I had to regularly wipe the pages down to clean off my drool—I realized there is some old visual-artist part of me that I thought I had long ago buried or lost, but there she is, stirring in her sleep.  Sophie’s little Etsy shop plan has, apparently, disturbed the slumber of said buried artist person.

Watch out.

Did I mention that I was a studio art major my first time around in college?  It was about a million years ago.  I was doing studio art because I was looking for something on the short list of ‘majors’ (as if life, or even professional life, could be summed up by that absurd list), looking for something  I liked enough to spend several years studying in college (because everyone went to college), but something that wasn’t writing.  Because writing was impractical and therefore I had given up on it as a path for me.

So I chose studio art because that, obviously, is so much more feasible a career choice. [face/palm]

I dropped out of that round of college when I realized how absurd this replacement-strategy was.  But never-the-less, I loved my art classes, drawing, painting, design…

The most frustratingly painful thing about art school, however, was the incredibly expensive art supplies.  There may have been some hypothetical shoplifting, just to get the raw basics to attend class.  Hypothetically. Hey, I was living on about $500 a month back then.  Paint was impossibly alluring and impossibly PRICEY.  I was desperate.  All the cool kids were doing it.  I didn’t inhale.

Anyway, there’s about a quarter-inch worth of Jerry’s catalog devoted to various brands of paints, acrylics, oils, pigment powders, sticks, mediums, oh my god.  My old addiction to office supplies, I now comprehend, was really a sublimated desire for art supplies, demoted to a more practical, less expensive incarnation of itself.  Ball points instead of hand-rolled pastels.  Printer paper instead of sumi-e.  Post-its instead of pallet knives.

I’ve always bought the kids good quality art supplies—not that crap they pass off to kids under such brands as Roseart or Crayola.  Crayola does a decent crayon, but that’s it, the rest of it is shite.  If you ask me. Sophie and Luc have stacks of very nice colored pencils, papers, pastels, paints, scissors, supplies, whatever.  I replace as piles get low and they know not the pain of running out.  I do this in part for my own inner kid—I used to hoard my supplies, never using them because they were so rare.  I felt unable to produce something fine enough to warrant their actual use, so they stayed pristine, like a shrine to possibility.  It’s too sad!  So I buy Sophie and Luc supplies by the box load, which they use freely, and it makes me happy.

But never for myself, I realize, turning the pages of Jerry’s catalog.

The reason I received the catalog is because we’ve been buying stamping supplies.  I’ve made lino prints before, but the stuff they have now for carving stamps is just lovely, super soft rubbery blocks that don’t crumble, and the inks for fabric are endless!  Sophie and I have been carving away, designing little images and carving them up, learning as we go, making pages of prints of each, fine-tuning.  It’s so fun to enter her mind because she has none of my hang-ups about Art.  She just wants to make stuff and she dives in.  And I’ve got a slightly bigger art supply budget then I did when I was nineteen and in college, so we get to indulge a bit.  We’ve tried a couple types of carving blocks, gotten a brayer and two sets of carving tools, fabric paints in several colors.  Some gel retarder. (Why do I feel so guilty?)

I know, I know, I’m coat-tailing on Sophie’s art.  It’s not for me, it’s for her.

Okay, it’s for us.

If you find me naked, rolling around on catalog pages all torn free and scattered about the yurt, you’ll know I’ve gone over the deep end.

leaps and bounds

Sophie, 5, just took a leap in her brain somewhere. You can see it in her drawings, which suddenly, within the space of a week, have developed foreshortening. Look at this one, she calls it Angel Kitten:

It’s so cool when their brains take a jump in ability, in conversational complexity, or getting more complex jokes, or telling more complex jokes. Suddenly things in Sophie’s drawings can be behind other things. Stuff can be 3-D What does that mean in her psyche, I wonder?

Luc, just turned 4, has had a similar leap at the same time. Suddenly I can recognize what he is drawing—that is, his drawings now look something like what he means for them to look like. Here is his version of a cat:

Last week, he couldn’t have done that. His ‘cat’ would only be cat in his eyes.

(I love how he makes one ear orange and one ear black, just like our Mochi.)

Little brains make leaps and bounds according to their own, mysterious, inner timing.

found art

Sometimes, going about my day, I run across remains of the play. (I’ve talked about one kind of play remains before.) In a household of creative people, it’s a lot like found art.

Sometimes it’s an actual arty project, left behind.


But sometimes it’s the marks left by the flow of the day…


Other times I find a still life that I think might been left for me, on purpose.

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Or someone’s whimsical experiment, this one a subtle play on color.

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I often find things on the camera I’m not expecting, like this close up of a skirt I wear to milk goats.

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I wonder when it was taken?

Or this amazing spider. Where the heck was this web??? Is it still there???

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And I can just imagine Sophie taking this one, the two of them giggling….

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Art and play are so close.

If I watch for it, art is everywhere.


in which we cross a bridge many, many times

We’re all about attending local events. With little kids, doing the local scene is so much better, imo, than big trips or expensive vacations, (1) because everything is new to them, so they love it, even if it’s low key, (2) no long car rides (nightmarish with small kids) and (3) you can go home before everyone gets totally tired, so no giant exhaustion-inspired meltdowns. Bite size, small-person-scaled adventures, half-day, and within an hour of home, that’s the way to go, if you ask me.

Besides, a short journey can seem so much longer by simply retreading the same short distance, back and forth. Like Sisyphus, only with a party atmosphere. And no big-ass rock.

As an example, recently we attended a local festival to raise money and awareness for the preservation of a river that runs not far from the yurt.

This river right here:

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Purdy ain’t it? They have the festival every year, and it’s an artsy, funky, fun get together of all the local hippy, green, creative folk. Woo hoo! People doing strange things in the name of Art and Rivers, what more could anyone need?

To get to it, you walk across the old bridge, no longer open to traffic.

This bridge right here:

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It’s long and hot, but pretty and they put out tons of sidewalk chalk, so the kids are totally into it, which makes everything fun, right? Well, you know, usually.

We’ll be visiting this bridge again, later in the post.

Okay. By the time you’ve crossed the bridge and arrived at the festival proper, you need emergency corn dogs and shade. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, just get the corn dogs. Trust me.

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Phew. That’s better. Now time to paint a plywood critter! This is Luc’s favorite part. He talked about it the whole way over.

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You can see a bunch of critters waiting to dry in the sun, with the plywood blanks spread out on the left. Lots of colors, silly shapes, and a convenient place to wash your hands afterward.

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Here is Sophie painting hers. Dump on the glitter! I did a snake.

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Critters drying in the sun, we were all hot again, so time to cross the bridge again, this time in order to go under the bridge and Get In The Water! There go the shoes…

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Here I am, about to soak my feet as I watch the kids go nuts clambering on the rocks and getting soaked. OMG the cold water felt so good.


Luc, King of the river rock, I mean, Mountain!


Next we crossed the bridge again, back to the stage, to watch some dancers, hear a story teller do some tales, and dance to a bit of fiddle playing. How did I miss getting pictures of any of this? Dunno. Sophie did an awesome impersonation of the storyteller later that night. I was shocked at how well she got the intonations and gestures. She’s such a ham.

But then the parade! THIS is Sophie’s favorite part, hands down, no exceptions, not even the corn dogs.

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A local puppet theater brings tons of giant puppets and invites the crowd to join in, carrying the puppets and drumming, to the middle of the old bridge and back. Here is a three person spooky black bird thing…


and some cool tree faces….

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Last year, Sophie carried a flame puppet all by herself, with grim determination—it was heavy, and she was small, but she refused, absolutely, all offers of help. This year, however, she and another little girl put hands on the same puppet at the same time—and decided to carry it together. Whew. Conflict avoided. Can you see them in the foreground with their toad and fox puppet?


Onto the bridge! Again!

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And back! Again!

I didn’t know if I was going to make it back, to be honest, but we did. Sophie wouldn’t have heard of abandoning her puppet mid-parade anyway, what was I thinking?

Things were winding down, for us anyway, once the puppet component had been successfully completed. Which meant one last time across the bridge to return to the car. Remember the mantra: I think I can, I think I can…

It was a very, very slow walk this pass, partly because of sore feet, partly because of the heavy plywood critters we were carrying, and partly because it was finally shady enough for some serious chalk drawing.

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It’s probably just as well, because I think all I could manage was a slow stagger in the direction of the car. Thank goodness we were only a short drive from the yurt. Time to collapse!

Because, sometimes, no matter how fun the adventure, getting home is so good.

seeing through Luc’s eyes

It’s only very recently in the history of the world that a three year old might have the freedom to take as many photos as he likes. Digital cameras are awesome. I love seeing the images Luc snaps—the world is different when everything is new to you and you are only three feet tall.

Portrait of an artist as a little guy.

garden people

We went to a garden art show last weekend at a local artist’s home/garden/studio. Her beautiful land was filled with outdoor art pieces from a variety of local artists. The combination of the gorgeous grounds and the art was evocative and interesting for all of us.

Here is Pirate Luc by the entrance. “Mom, there’s a girl in the water!”

There was a fair amount of abstract work, like this marble piece…

But I have to admit that I struggle to connect with abstract sculpture. I have Sensibility Guilt about this, like, I should be more sophisticated and enjoy non-representational, twisty-metal things, dammit. I try, but I just…don’t. My artist aunt, who went with us, was drawn to many of these pieces, and saw things like bones and animals and sail boats and wind inside them. I would nod and try not to look stupid while she said these intelligent things, and she graciously didn’t shame me for my ignorance. She’s cool like that.

But there were lots of animals and people that looked like animals and people for me to enjoy without faking, woo hoo! And phew. Here are two that I liked…

As you can see, the art was almost overshadowed by the gorgeous setting. The gardens were extensive and beautiful enough to make even the abstract pieces seem interesting to me. Kind of.

This one was Sophie’s favorite.

Second to the mini-cupcakes at the snack table, of course.

And here is Luc with one of the few pieces he made a fuss over.

OMG, and this piece comes with a story…

Luc was pissed that Paul had wandered off to take a few pictures and as we walked by this little person, he just reached out and bopped it on the back of it’s expensive, ceramic head and KNOCKED IT OVER. I could have died! I put it back on it’s little feet, and thank the goddess of yard art, it was unharmed. The artist came barreling over to us and I bowed and scraped and apologized and grabbed Luc and ran the hell away in shame. Oh well. The moral is: don’t let three year olds get pissed at art shows. Or maybe bolt your art to the ground? One of those.

Here is a piece we were all impressed with…

It’s one of the few I noticed the name of, “Icarus.” Here, look at the detail work…


But the pieces I liked the most were these ceramic people of grace and beauty, people I would love to meet. Take a look…

This person seemed to be emerging right out of the tree, covered, as he (she?) is by leaves and twined vines.

This gal looks so relaxed and at ease, it made me feel the same way.

I love the small birds on this gal’s lap. Who is she? I like her because she communes with wild things but doesn’t burst into song. Not to mention her sexy, off the shoulder, peasant look. I’ve always wanted a shirt like this.

Another resting figure. I want to lay down beside him and take a nap…

These two are like many others, people standing in the sun, seeming so content to soak up the sunlight.

A gate guardian. Cool gate, too, leading to a lovely forest trail.

You can’t see it well in this photo, but this fellow is kneeling. A monk? To what, or whom, does he pray?

The columbines beside this one were a big part of the appeal.

I just love this gal’s face and and her feet, so casually kicking the air behind her. And look at that giant hosta!

I imagine these people were at a show of Human Creatures, and they watched us and spoke of art, just as we watched them. I long to overhear their conversations!

I think some of these people have moved into my brain and are building homes in my next story….