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Archive for the ‘art’ Category

This little heart-knitting gnome is pretty famous on the internet, I think. I have seen him used in knitting and non-knitting contexts, and pretty much never with credit to the artist responsible for the kntting and the animation.

The other day I learned that Anna Hrachovec is the artist behind this little gem and so many others. Her website is mochimochiland.com. She has patterns and tutorials and a blog and links to more animation and all of her social media accounts.

She is teaching a class in the fall as part of a program called KnitStars (there is a link on her website), so you can check it out, too.

Me, I am going to watch the little gnome knit hearts a while longer.

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Hello and welcome, new followers! (I am so never going to get tired of being able to say that from time to time.)

Also (and I realize that this is a random aside), I just learned that if you start a post one day and don’t finish and post it for a few days, the post shows up dated the day you started it rather than the day you posted it. That behavior irks me somewhat as it makes it looks like I broke my streak, and I didn’t. Harumph. Should you wish to read a few thoughts about Lego blocks being used in curses, just scroll back to April 16th.

With those housekeeping items out of the way, let’s talk about Paris, shall we?

I finished reading Lost and Found in Paris by Lian Dolan, and it was for the most part delightful. It is not as frothy as I think that the cover and title suggest. There are certainly lighthearted moments and nice variety of romantic relationships, but there is serious appreciation of Paris, art, Joan of Arc, the genius and demons of artists, and the complexities of blood and chosen family in this novel. It is worth reading for all of those things.

Once again, I found the third act a little bit disappointing. The plot twist which brought things together wasn’t too far-fetched, convenient, or unbelievable. There were a few surprising revelations, but they were fitting. What did not work so well for me was how and why the theft had been planned. I read the explanation, and I watched the characters go along with it after varying degrees of suspicion, anger, and resistance, but I wasn’t completely sold. And then the story got tied up in a bow pretty quickly as if the author had run out of words or had to meet a deadline. When that happens, stories fall a little flat for me and sometimes feel rushed. Now, I am writing this post less than an hour after finishing the book. I may feel differently after I sit with it for a while.

Maybe it’s me because conclusions and endings are something with which I struggle. Even writing these posts, I tend to get to the end or run out of things to say and click publish. Most of the time I know that I could have done better, that it could be smoother. It is one of the parts of my writing which I hope improves with practice (and revision). I figure that at some point, I will have a post that ends with a real conclusion that is not abrupt. The process will click, and I will have an example that I can reapply and reproduce.

Until then, I will keep reading more third act examples, learning from them, and critiquing them.

If anyone has and recommendations of books with third acts that really do justice to all of the prep work done in acts one and two, I would love to hear them.

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Many writers, myself included, are drawn to writing tools, advice, and inspiration. Do they have to potential to make us better, more productive, and happier writers? Yes. Is at least half their appeal the opportunity for distraction and procrastination? Assuredly.

(Knitters have the same sort of relationship with the website ravelry.com. Is it a fabulous resource for patterns, techniques, and support? Yes. Do we fall down rabbit holes looking at patterns and posting in discussion groups and admiring projects when we could be spending that time actually knitting? Without a doubt.)

Today’s distraction, er, tool comes to you courtesy of the amazing story collective The Moth. Stories shared during Moth events are told by a person standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people. It is not recitation or speechmaking. There are no notes, and there is no memorization. It is an organic, ancient, and undoubtedly nerve-wracking process, but it is not without preparation. These spoken stories involve as much craft and revision as anything written.

Over the last 25 years, The Moth has developed a program to help people tell their stories, to take an idea and learn how to not only share it but bring the audience into it. On April 26th, aspiring storytellers will be able to get their hands on How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from The Moth.

Have I read the online excerpt on the Random Penguin website? Yes, I have. Have I read the sample on the website of the largest online bookseller? Yes, I have. Am I tempted to preorder it from my local independent bookseller so that I can get a pre-order bonus? Most certainly. (Do I have unread books about the craft and skill of writing on my bookshelves? Indeed, I do. Is that an impediment or a deterrent? No, not really.)

Based on what I have read so far, this book is not only for writers and performers. It is for anyone who wants to share a story with anyone else, to build connection and community. Isn’t that connection something we need in these wild and crazy times? I think so.

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The fine folks at NaNoWriMo are forever suggesting fun and interesting tools for writers, and I think that the Hero’s Journal is my favorite, perhaps because I have been doing more journaling lately. (I have to say that I am not a big fan of journal as a verb, although in this case it is a gerund, so the verb gets to work as a noun. I am not sure if that usage is better or worse.) The phrase “the exhaustion of toxic productivity” resonated with me.

I will note that if you have serious issues with either Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, these journals might not be for you. If you enjoy epic fantasy, quests, and magic, then these journals look like a fun writing exercise to help you build your writing confidence, cultivating a daily practice, or working through a writing slump — to name just a few options. It is designed for anyone — from kids to adults — who has a goal, and the goal doesn’t even have to be writing related. The journals turn that goal into an adventure.

The physical journals are a bit pricey, but there is a PDF version which you can use on a computer or print to paper. Even better, you can try before you buy with a generous 71-page free sample of each journal. Just enter your e-mail address.

If you like extras, there are side quest decks to enhance your experience, and according to the Instagram feed there have and will be other goodies like stickers and pins. There is a newsletter, too, which I would image also provides announcements about such things, but the Instagram feed has news as well as pretty pictures. The FAQ page has more details and tips for using the journals.

I have downloaded both samples and look forward to trying them, although I will probably wait until after Camp NaNoWriMo is finished. Watch this space for a report on my findings.

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Ten years ago Neil Gaiman gave a brilliant commencement speech which became knows as the “Make good art” speech. It’s on YouTube. It is thoughtful and funny and wise and not just for artists. Go watch it.

But he was talking to graduating art students who are presumably already good at making art. They just need to go forth into the world and keep doing what they already do and get better.

What about those who are just starting out and who are not at the point of making good or even consistent art?

Last night I watched livestream of the countdown to the end of the Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter.  For a good part of the two hour live stream, the artist Steve Argyle was the special guest.  He is the artist for one of the books included in the Kickstarter, and he spent a fair amount of time talking about process, and much of what he said doesn’t apply only to drawing and painting.

Someone asked for advice about learning to draw when you can’t even draw a straight line.  I was not surprised when his recommendation was to just draw.  Accept that it will be frustrating, but just start drawing.  Do a little bit each day.  If you try to do some big marathon session, you will only be discouraged and quit.  He also recommended drawing the same subject – person, object, pet, landscape, whatever – over and over and over.  If you do, you will keep discovering new things about that subject, which I thought sounded really cool (as well as making a lot of sense).

Someone asked about reference, and he mentioned that insects were some of his reference for armor drawings.  He wanted something more organic.

Then he talked about about figuring out how to draw something in the first place — how to even get started transforming the idea in your head into lines and shapes on the page.  He referenced the artist Iain McCaig as the source of this approach.  McCaig has some YouTube videos but also interviews and classes.  His particular art isn’t quite my thing, but his enthusiasm definitely appeals to me.  He reminds me a little bit of knitting designer Stephen West as far as making challenging undertakings fun and accessible to anyone and everyone who is willing to take the chance and put in the effort.

Argyle recommended breaking down what you want to draw into components.  Write all of those down.  Then look around the room (or wherever you are) and pick out random objects.  Write those down.  Take elements of those objects and apply them to the thing that you want to draw.

For example, say you want to draw a dragon.  What does your dragon need?  Horns?  Wings?  A breath power (which I am assuming means fire but I am sure could mean other things)? Tail? Scales? Four legs?

Great.  So you look around the room at random things – a fish sculpture, a can of energy drink, a lamp, a coffee mug.  Then you take elements from each thing and use those to make a part of the dragon.

The fish sculpture is curved and smooth but kind of scaly and iridescent, so you use those elements for the horns.  The horns don’t look like fish, but they are iridescent, smooth, and curved, with a bit of scaled texture.  Maybe the scales are only at the base of the horns where they meet the head of the dragon.

Then the textured looking graphic design on the can looks like shark skin, and the font looks kind of torn, so maybe the wings are a little worse for wear and have more of a thick, heavy skin than any scales.

And so on.

I think there are lessons in there for writing stories.

It was all fascinating. I would have happily listened to Steve Argyle for two hours.

Click this link to visit his web site.

Be inspired. Start drawing. Even if you can’t draw a straight line. ESPECIALLY if you can’t draw a straight line.

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