Friday 17 October 2014


(the current state of my desk.)

I've just made a discovery about myself: I love revising long work. I've revised many short stories and poems, though I must admit to not really enjoying it. It always seems a chore. A drudgery. This is the first time I've revised a novel length work, due to the fact that it's only the third time that I've actually finished the first draft of a novel, and that this is the first time one's been worthy of revising.
On my shelf, along with the two crappy first drafts, there are also numerous false starts, most of them dead-ending around the 45,000 word mark. At that jinxed spot, I would either run into serious doubts about the story and decide to put it away for a bit; or I'd get really, really excited about a new idea and start the story all over again; or I would simply have run into too many plot-holes, get frustrated, and give up entirely.

"Write, and finish what you start to write." This has been ringing in my ears lately, coming from the mouths / pens of many professional writers. So, a few months ago, I took the very, very rough outline of a story I wanted to tell and I wrote the first draft. The whole blasted thing.
Then I put it away. Since that's also what published writers tell you to do. I wasn't sure how long to leave it there, but when I realized that I was actually dreading revising it and avoiding it for that reason, I knew it was time to bring it out.

(I'm having to use part of my painting wall for the revision process.)

And now, I'm knee deep in the process of revising, and - to my surprise - I'm loving it. I'm excited about the story again. About how things are now starting to set, to become more fully formed, about how the story's internal logic is gelling. It's no longer the amorphous 'first draft'; it's becoming a coherent, revised, competent 'second draft.'
After hearing so many writers talk about how the story really starts to tell itself during the revising process, about how that's the really exciting part of writing a long work, I'm finally starting to get it. I'm sure it's not like this for all writers, but I'm certainly in the camp for whom it is the case. That might change with experience, I don't know. But for the time being, it is the way it is.
Now, having said all of that, I'm still hoping that it won't take too, too many drafts till this puppy's done.

Monday 29 September 2014

From collage to books and back again.

A few months ago, my step daughter asked me if I would make a guest book for her upcoming wedding.  I very happily took on the project, though it had been a while since I'd made a book of any sort.  

About a dozen years ago, I took some courses through CBBAG: Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild.  In the last few years, I'd done very little binding and didn't realize how much I'd missed it.  

To get back into it, I decided to make some smaller journals.  Just to refresh my skills and to become reacquainted with my tools and supplies.

For the past few years, rather than make books, I've been making collages.  They include antique photographs and letter fragments, flowers that I pick and press, shells and pebbles I collect, hand painted papers, skeleton keys, porcelain doll parts.  When the collage is at a certain stage, I write a line or more of text, print it out, stain it integrate it into the collage.  

When I made the first journal then, it was no surprise when I found myself including a collage on its cover.  I use this one now for jotting down ideas and images which will eventually become the lines that I use on my collages.  

I have some gorgeous leather scraps which I've been carting around with me for years, and finally decided to use one of my favourites for a full leather binding.  Which meant bringing out my leather-paring knife.  I also wanted some variety, so decided to stain the pages.

The collage on the cover of this one includes a porcelain doll's arm, fragment of an antique letter, and a couple of matt glass beads.

As I went on, I had some paper cut offs.  As I've traditionally done with these, I made a smaller journal.  I decided to use another arm from an antique porcelain doll as well as a fragment of an antique letter, and hand painted papers to decorate this one.  

There were paper scraps left over from this one too.  So...wash, rinse, repeat...

The journals got smaller and smaller, until I finally reached the limit of what my eyes and fingers were capable of in this ca. 2 x 2 cm journal.   

By this time, I started to think about my collages again and wondered how I could incorporate these mini journals into them.  While Molly looked on.

This is how it turned out.  Full circle.  
Her text is: 

'She collected things; some forgotten, discarded, stolen:
fragments of a love letter, dead flowers from a locket, a child's first dreams,
and sang them into her book of shadows, to become songs for her own subtle magic.'

Saturday 20 September 2014

The evolution of a painting.

A brief, one night stay in Skerries, Ireland on the Irish Sea last month has led to a new series of oil and cold wax paintings.  


The finished painting
Skerries 2
Oil and cold wax on wood panel
100 x 70 cm

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Return to the studio.

After weeks away, it's good to be back in the studio.  

I'm always struck by how important travel is to my artistic self.  Forcing me away from routine, from the familiar, from habit, and putting myself in the way of new input always shakes things up in a productive way.  Especially if I've been in a creative rut, which I have been for a while.  

But, I managed to finish a collage last night and I'm quite happy with it.  I've returned to bookbinding and wanted to find a way to incorporate miniature books into my collages.  Still so many possibilities there.  

This new collage has these words on it:  

"She collected things; some forgotten, discarded, stolen:
fragments of a love letter, dead flowers from a locket, a child's first dreams;
and sang them into her book of shadows, to become songs for her own subtle magic."

(She'll be going up in my Etsy shop tomorrow.)   

With my abstract oil paintings, I've come to realize that the paintings which I've been most pleased with are often the direct result of  exposure to a different environment, whether it's the North Sea or Dartmoor or a village not far from where I live.  

On my travels, I spent a night in Skerries, a fishing village on the Irish Sea.  The photos I took there are inspiring thoughts and visual imagery which are going to make their way into my next series of paintings in oil and cold wax.  I'm finding that I was as inspired by the old fishing vessels as I was by the natural environment.   I started on an underpainting last night.  

In November I'll be returning to Ireland to participate in a workshop taught by artist Rebecca Crowell.  I've admired her work for some years, and she's a bit of a pioneer in the cold wax medium.  I'm looking forward to the classes and to finally meeting Rebecca.  

And, I've begun to revise the first draft of my middle grade / young adult novel.  It's set in Eighteenth century London and it's been a blast to work on.  I can't wait to see where it goes with this first round of revisions.  

I've been pretty silent on this blog for...erm...some time, but I hope to return to regular posts.  The autumn is always a good time to get started on things again.  

Thursday 10 April 2014

Impressions of Spring

The land awakening.  Fields thrumming green.

The waters warming.  Ducks foraging.  

A walker who had gone before, playing with stones in the wood.  

In my studio, Molly will have absolutely no interest in my things, 
until I go to work with them. 

'In return for her letters to them, the faeries left her gifts, 
assorted trinkets, tokens, and treasures 
they would find on their restless wanderings.'

'The faeries would come to listen to her tell the stories she wrote just for them.'

That was a long, dark Winter.  
I'm so ready for the sun.