Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Oldest Enemy

It waits just outside your field of vision, lurking in the fetid jungles of your mind, waiting for the slightest sign of doubt. It stalks you day and night and never leaves a trace of its passing, just a whisper of something in the air, maybe a shaking hand or a speck of dust in your eye and it’s gone before you can shake your head, but in the deep dark, most primitive part of you, you know it’s there, growing stronger, more dangerous, more aggressive all the time.

Ya just can’t see fear. Yes, I know, you are experienced artists, not to be stifled by a ghost on the night air, not shaken by the wail of something out in the dark, not spooked by the rustling in the woods, so prove it.

If you have matured so much why don’t you do something different?

Fear comes in many forms. It likes to make you think you are doing the right thing by working on the inthiest landscape for the inthiest time cause after all practice makes prefect and that’s what you want to be perfect, in every way, in every thing, in all that you do, not a mistake in sight just perfection all around.

Do you know the deadliest trap a writer can fall into? I ask because I am not a very good artist and should limit my comments to things I know about, and while I am not much better at writing than I am at arting I have been doing it a really long time and have had a chance to do most things wrong and if I couldn’t do it wrong the first time I was always willing to come back the next day and have another go at it to see if I could get it wrong this time and so I know a lot about what a writer should avoid like the plague and that means I can speak about it because I have done it and probably do it in my art as well and since I know what a waste of time it is and why it is so wrong I can warn you about it and not have to worry about you starting to do it wrong too.

Oh yes, the deadliest trap, writing a perfect character/invulnerable character. Yeppers I am talking Superman, Wonder Woman, The Lone Ranger and all of the other really good guys. Why? I am so glad you ask cause that will let me in get in another paragraph before I have to justify my opinions, perfect is boring.

Stupidman, the guy in the blue tights was always boring, cause if you thought about it any you realized if he was super then what could he possibly fight? Sure Lex Luthor and Brainiac gave him some storylines, but in the end you knew he was going to win, cause he was super, right?

If the plot is like opening a new door, the writer’s job is to make that door squeak. No I didn’t think that one up for myself, I stole it from a seminar given by Heather Vogel-Fredrick and I’m sure I miss quoted her original so don’t tattle and maybe Heather will be too busy to read this and I can get away with bungling her line but that’s the good part of the quote, I did it wrong so it isn’t perfect and that makes for a much more interesting story than if all I had done was to get it right the first time.

Sure there are things you want to get right the first time, disarming a bomb, talking a person off a ledge and adding the right amount of salt to what you are cooking. But so far no one has written a novel about any of those things unless they figured out a way to have a second reel which you can’t do if you don’t screw it up cause the answer is if you do it right, the bomb didn’t go off, the guy didn’t jump and the food wasn’t ruined. You follow me?

And to get a second reel you have to do something wrong. The bomb went off, insert flashback. You have to make things happen. Even small children get wise to “they lived happily ever after.” If they didn’t they’d never grow up to watch soap operas and then where would daytime TV be?

So not getting it right is an important thing to do, especially if you want things to happen but how can you do that if you give in to fear?

You have to get out and try new things.

Chalk It Up was risky from the moment a certain ambitious, talented, driven, organized dynamo tricked me into doing it. Okay, all she did was ask and that was so disarming and subtle that I said yes before I thought about it. And then the fear set in. What in the hell would I do with all of those talented, gifted, REAL artists?

And I lived with the fear for a week, gut clenched, panic-sweats, nerves and headaches, but in the end I did it and got the nastiest surprise of all, they really did mean for me to use chalk.

I sort of expected to be able to cheat in and use some other tool. I haven’t held a stick of chalk in my hand since grade school and you don’t want to know how long ago that was. And even then all I did was write the wrong answers on the board and get send back to my desk as quickly as possible so that I could hide in the back of the room and write while the good students did the rest of the whatever.

So there I was, in a public place, surrounded by real artists, with a stick of chalk in my hand and nothing to hide behind and not even a handy wrong answer to quickly write and be sent down for it, no, I had to do something.

And once I started doing it, I liked it and enjoyed it and forgot all about the rest of the folks in the room and started trying to master the chalk and the weak idea I had cooking in my feeble mind.

I still wasn’t the best artist in the room, in fact turns out Susan Lehman and Joy Bradford pretty much took that title for the professional division. And in fairness, S.L. Donaldson didn’t get her work really started being as how she was the Big Enchilada and had to take time to run the show and liaise with the Portland Bagel Company folks and keep and eye on the artists and make the customers feel welcome and with all of that to do you can't make real art and so all she got to do was lay down the background for what was to be a wonderful landscape but then we’ll never know unless you whine and cry and beg and make her finish what she started and do it on something more permanent than the top of  table at Portland Bagel Company.

And it turns out I wasn’t as good as the Coquille Kid who cranked out a complete scene with palm trees, sunsets and balmy zephyrs, but I didn’t care.

Once past the fear I liked working with the chalk and found that the texture was wonderful and plastic and the dimensionality of the image was fun to work with and while I can’t claim to have made Degas or Letrec weep I did get some actual depth to the image and raked up forgotten data about foreshortening and declining size as the object moves farther away from the viewer and well…I had fun.

So much fun I went out and bought a set of pastels. No, I don’t plan on being any threat to the local kingpins, but I do want to play around and see if I can get a better grip on the stuff and maybe one of these days I’ll even buy a can of spray fix…

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