Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Quinton Hoover Died???

The homework for the first week of drawing class was to pick a favorite artist and draw a replica of something of theirs. Now, I’m a reader/writer and gaming nerd, not an art history buff, so my favorite artists are all book cover artist and Magic: The Gathering card artists. So, it’s no surprise that Michael Whelan, Quinton Hoover and Rebecca Guay.

I decided against Michael Whelan b/c, while he might be my favorite, what I love most about his book covers is his use of color. For instance, look at this gorgeous cover series for Tad William’s Otherland.

Quinton Hoover was probably an easy first choice because he illustrated one of my all-time favorite MTG cards, Archangel:

That had waaaaaay too much going on for me to draw though, so I looked at some of Rebecca Guay’s stuff. I love her style, it’s very flowy and feminine, but I feel like the power of the image is so color-based that drawing it really wouldn’t look like much.

Quinton Hoover’s style is more graphic, imo. So while I was looking at some of my favorite cards of his, I learned that he had died!!! I had no idea!! He was only 49 when he died. Here’s a great article about Quinton Hoover.

I was heartbroken, and decided that of course I had to draw one of Hoover’s cards! I debated between many, but in the end I settled on Pixie Queen.

Quinton Hoover’s Pixie Queen

My pencil drawing of it, week 1 of class.

Obviously, my Pixie Queen eats a little better than Hoover’s does ;-) She likes her sweetmeats! But overall, for having zero training, I’m pretty happy with it. It’s not 100% done, but I think I’m calling it “done.”

Writing Without Words - Week 2

Had my second Drawing class today, and it was awesome. I’m pretty sure I had a ridiculously happy smile on my face the entire time. We got gigantic drawing pads and a bunch of materials: different charcoals, graphite pencils, pastels and even some conte crayons, plus 3 different erasers. Then we spent the rest of class busting everything out and using it all to get to how it works. It was so much fun to get dirty, to draw huge swathes of black charcoal across a page, then smudge it all. No rules, no nothing, just getting to know the materials.

That’s it.

For a girl who went to college the first time around for Geology, this is frickin’ amazing. You know what I worked on my second week in Chemistry I? Molarity. Yep. And my first week’s homework assignment? Memorize the first 3 levels of the periodic table - element names, numbers (protons) and weights out to 2 decimal places. I kid you not.

So, to spend the class hours drawing was like being at recess :)

Side note: If you are a chem, bio, or earth science major, I HIGHLY recommend memorizing the first 3 levels of the periodic table. It saves you a ridiculous about of time versus looking things up. It was one of the best things I ever did.

Fun with conte crayons and pastels

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Writing Without Words - Day 3

The professor of my Drawing I class at FGCU is all about keeping things simple. Toward that end, he stipulated that all we needed for course materials this semester (beyond the text book) was a ream of copy paper and a regular #2 pencil. (For the most part. At some point we need a cheap-o portfolio, mid-terms/finals) I admit that I was a little disappointed, because I was really looking forward to getting into texture. I wanted to use fancy "art" paper and special "art" pencils, charcoal, pastels, yaddie yaddie. But, I get the sense that, to my teacher, these things are a bit superfluous for Drawing I. And considering that out of 22 people, only 3 are actually art majors, he's probably right.

The urge to buy fancy supplies for drawing mirrors that urge I get when I see new "writing/plotting programs" being advertised. I always think, "this is the magic bullet! This will help me write books in no time!" But the truth for writing is as simple as my drawing instructor's choice of copy paper and a #2 pencil: For writing, all you need is a blank MS Word page and your own mind. No one can write the book for you. And, no matter how fancy the materials, no one can create the drawing for you.

That said, I still burned some creative energy by decorating my "portfolio" (AKA a white pocket folder holding copy paper) with sparkle glitter tape. Am I too mature, at 35, to go into class wielding this?




Awkward Freshmen, behold what 15 more years of life experience will bring you to. ;-)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Writing Without Words - Day 1

This little writer is going back to school!

Today I had my first day of class at Florida Gulf Coast University. I have enrolled as an ... wait for it ... ART MAJOR!! (enter disbelieving laughter here)

It’s true!

Those of you who have known me all my life will likely find this hilarious. And if you haven't known me that long, trust me, hilarity is about to ensue. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. I can't hit the broad side of a barn with a ... uh ... a ruler. Drat. I botched that one.

Anyway, I am officially an Art student at FGCU, and my first class is "Drawing I." Before you start with the "WTF is going on here??" let me rewind it.

If I'm happy as a clam to be a full-time writer, living my dream, what sent me back to school as an art major?


Yup, I'm going to study the visual arts as a means to further my writing. It might be better to say that I am studying the visual arts in order to broaden and foster my well of creativity, which will in turn increase the emotional depth of my writing.

What brought this on? The dreaded "SOPHOMORE SLUMP," otherwise known as "I AM LIVING IN FEAR OF MY SECOND PUBLISHED NOVEL BEING A FLOP."

2015 was a dream year for me. My debut scifi novel TheEmpress Game was well-received by critiques and fans. The positive response was so far past what I'd hoped for that I spent the second half of 2015 feeling like a princess in a fairytale. But with success comes expectations, and suddenly I'm staring at a second book and thinking, "Have I upped my game with this one? Have I grown as an author?"

It didn't hit me until just now, but what I've really been adjusting to since October is the idea that I am a full-time writer now. Writing is no longer the side job. It's no longer the pastime. It's no longer the "fit it in when you can, but don't jeopardize your day job" thing. For the last 4 years, even though I've been writing books, I've spent the majority of my self-improvement efforts on becoming better at my day job. Being a better editor for Nasdaq, learning to edit more carefully, more quickly, and multi-tasking like a fiend. I've been developing the editorial role at Nasdaq on the whole, researching the job, identifying weaknesses in training, working with management on changes, yaddie yaddie.

Now, (and it took me 3 months to really embrace this fully) ALLLLLLLL of that intense effort should be, and can be, turned toward my writing career. I am no longer content to just write the stories that come to me. I want to be More. Better. Deeper. Wiser. Craftier. Subtler. I want to be raw and pain and sophistication and art. I want to GROW. And this is a freedom. This is an amazing freedom, to be able to focus on my writing as my career. It also makes me think, "HOLY SHIT. THERE IS SO MUCH TO DOOOOO!"

Since finishing the draft of Book 2 of the Empress Game (which I think will be titled Cloak of War) I've become obsessed with improving myself as a writer. I've amassed a pile of craft books that I've been working my way through. (Slowly) I've been reading more critically. I've been searching for inspiration outside of my comfort zone.

I now have the time to fully become the writer I want to be.  That's in bold because it is so profound and so important to me.

And that will be a major focus of my 2016 year. Not just to write, but to work at becoming the writer I want to be.

It's a journey that will take the rest of my life, and I am looking forward to it. :)

Part of that journey means expanding my creativity. If you know me, you know I am an analytical person. I was born to be a scientist. I followed that path all my life until grad school, when the writing fever ambushed me. (And I've never regretted that for one second!)  But I love logic. And efficiency. I love to plan, to think things out, to discover all the angles and possibilities and outcomes before making a move. I am deliberate and calculating. It rules my life.

I wouldn't have it any other way. For me, I find a sense of security in obsessing about details and logistics, knowing I've set myself up for success as best as possible. This is even helpful in my writing. I'm going back to my roots as a plotter (after pantsing the last 1.5 novels I wrote). However, all the outlining and plotting in the world will not make for a great read UNLESS there is emotion behind it. Real, painful, dirty, gritty, beautiful, sacrificing, sublime emotion. I want my books to make logical, rational sense, but I want them to breathe. I want their hearts to beat. I want them to bleed.

And that is where Drawing I comes in.

I'm going to crack open my head and see what pours out when words are forbidden and only creativity remains. I'm going to see what happens when it's just me, a blank page, and a pencil. When I don't have to worry about questions like, "Am I using the passive voice here?" "Is this motivation plausible?" "Will this satisfy my readers' expectations for Kayla?" "Will the critics like it?" "Will this novel be labeled as stereotypical and trite?" "Am I being cliche?" "Is this too obvious?" "Did I foreshadow this enough?" and on and on and on and on and on and on......

In this class I am looking forward to creating art for an audience of one: Me. I'm going to please myself. I'm going to work hard and have fun with it. I'm going to free myself to fail. My career does not depend on my mastering the art of drawing. This class is just for me and my soul.

And I couldn't be more excited about that. :)