Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Craftmanship and Art

The spawning salmon painting is an example from a student's work at the November 4, Fall Creek Art Festival  Watercolor Class at the Oregon State Fish Hatchery and Research Center. The primary focus is the salmon with four secondary subjects.

Some say class work is probably instructor influenced and cannot be considered as original art. However, I believe this student came late and had her own ideas. I like her painting so much, I wish it were my own. She has a main focus but many secondary objects. My idea was to limit the number of secondary things within the painting. So this is an exception to what I was teaching. I am humbled. 

While anyone can learn to make an artistic, creative painting with a few basic technical skills, a general belief is that not everyone who paints pictures are artists. Not all well made paintings are art.  Certainly there should be some word to recognize extraordinary commitment and continued practice and deep involvement in using materials or ideas creatively to express their own original story. Everyone has their own individual story, some are more committed to self-expression.  There must be, also, a word for the people whose art has informed all aspects of their decisions of how they live.

Art can also be made without technical craft like when Picasso made a Bull's head from handelbars and a seat of a bicycle.  Two unrelated things put together in new context is creative art.
from page 10 of H. W. Janson, History of Art,

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Christmas from the Heart

by Rain Trueax

After writing about inspiration, this post seemed apropos, although I hadn’t planned it this way.  One of the advantages of being an indie writer, is being able to change directions when the Muse comes up with an idea.

With this being the Christmas season, I began regretting that I had not planned a Christmas novella or short story.  Since I began publishing my books, I’ve written four novellas and two short stories, centered around Christmas.  The short stories were for anthologies, one of which no longer exists.  The novellas have three connected to longer books in the Arizona and Oregon historical series.  They all stand alone, as in can be read just as what they are. 

Although I have put Christmas in a few of my longer books, it is not something I casually do.  Christmas is a huge deal in our culture for many people.  There are a lot of expectations woven into it.  Putting it into a book presents the possibility of it being a disappointment to the reader, for how the characters celebrate it or their attitude toward it.  I only use it in a book if it fits the theme.  Yes, most books have an overall theme.  There is a lesson the characters are going to learn.

My themes for Christmas books tend to be around the expectations embedded in the season.  That means love, giving, disappointment, hope, joy, fun, religion, and mystery.  None are paranormal, as such, but the very idea of the season, about giving without the expectation of receiving, is a mystery itself.  When expectations also involve religion, they can be so high that whatever happens it is a disappointment.

Last week, what I began to think about was that I would like seeing these Christmas books together.  They don’t exactly belong together because two are contemporary and four historic.  The characters range from young to old.  Their common link is Christmas and its many messages. All but one can be purchased separately-- well, the other short story is in an anthology that is still available so far as I know.

This is where being an indie writer comes into play.  I had the option of stopping temporarily on the work in progress and begin what it would take to bring out a Christmas anthology.  The Muse was telling me I should do this.  This is never about how much money something will bring in.  It is about following the creative voice.  I am fortunate on several levels, that I can do this.  One of those levels is having a husband who can do the techie part of the project.

Because one of the short stories, Connie’s Gift, was written some time ago and is no longer available, I put time into editing it for this new project.  I particularly liked having it in the anthology, because it takes three characters into a time between longer books and explains what they were doing.  One of the characters does have a mystical gift.  Connie's story is about her use of that gift and what it means - -not just at Christmas but anytime.

Besides editing that book, I needed to create a cover for it and one of the short stories where I hadn't had one. Then there was the need for a banner. 

I consider this anthology to be potpourri.  If someone is in the mood for Christmas stories, these, while not all connected to each other, offer different aspects of Christmas and what it means to individuals.

Again, as a benefit of being an indie writer, I could set the price for the book at 99¢ and make it only available for the season.  Sometime in January, it will be pulled, maybe to come out again next holiday season, with hopefully a new story.  The creative journey tells me this may or may not happen.  I think to be an indie writer, or an indie artist of any sort, it is important to be able to go with the flow.  That is more fun sometimes than others.  This was one of the fun times.

So if Christmas stories, short ones, interest you, give Christmas from the Heart a try. It will disappear sometime in January to reappear maybe next year if it seems right for the time. If you have read Tucson Moon and Arizona Dawn, this book slides between them. It has a secondary character where his story began in Arizona Sunset and is expanded in Echoes from the Past. That's the other fun part of being an indie writer, discovering all these connections and being able to use them.  

Available through December and maybe some of January at these sites exclusively and for 99¢:


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Admiring Edward Hooper's Moodiness Created Through Composition

"Lewis Barn", 1931, a watercolor by American artist Edward Hooper can be analyzed as to how he created the mood.
        Is the main subject the barn with the dark side facing left but the roof points the eye upward?  The upward movement doesn't uplift my spirit.  The dark lines and areas behind zigzag me back to the unseen back of the barn.  From the the wide dark band does your eye skip through the barn to the small window? When do you see the dark fence posts pointing  the eye toward the small square window,  plus the dark earth zigzagging toward the base of the front of the barn underlining the window? The fence posts might be seen secondarly.  The small static square window sets a mood of forlorned mystery for me.  Does your eye continue to circle in a figure eight or does it stop at the window?

Below is a later1955 painting, "South Carolina Morning." Is the main subject the woman in red or the woman grouping with the doorway? She stands out by color hue of red against white and not so much from the color values of darks and lights. The mystery is why she is standing in a doorway. The emptiness of the blue sky and light ground draws me into her.

(The pictures by Hooper are taken from the book, Silent Places, A Tribute to Edward Hooper, Fiction Collected and Introduced by Gail Levin)

What I admire is every part of his paintings is essential for creating the mood and mystery with no distracting extra information in the negative spaces. Hooper has no fear of cutting the composition with a horizontal right in the middle of the painting pointing to the main focal point. It is no wonder he is widely admired.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Inspiration, Craft, Tools Part III

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. 
Art is knowing which ones to keep. Scott Adams

Although I've written about tools and craft first, I think for me creativity and inspiration did come first-- long before I had the means to share what I was feeling and thinking. I believe we are all born creative beings.  The natural instinct, even for a small child, is to make things.  

From those first impulses there can be those who encourage and uplift us. This might be friends, teachers, parents, etc. Inspiration also is encouraged from within. It is the small, still voice that says we can do it. It does more than that though as it leads us to see coincidences, serendipitous experiences, and recognize what that can mean. I call it the Muse. Is it a real spiritual entity, it might be or simply be part of our DNA, our ancestry, our brain.  What it is I cannot explain logically.  I just know that the more I listen to the Muse, the more it is accessible.

There is another strong influencer from within. While parents, friends and society can help or stifle our development of creativity, it is what comes from within that is most effective in shutting us down with doubts.  At our first creative impulse, the Inner Critic begins with-- worthless idea.  You can never do anything with it.  

This negativity is even stronger when it's an original idea - -something that has never been done before.  The Inner Critic has some impact on our use of tools and craft but far less.  It might suggest spending money on a new tool is foolishness.  It might try to argue us out of taking a self-improvement class.  The attacks, however, are not at our own worth so much as limiting our effectiveness. It can do far more damage where it comes to inspiration.

These two inner voices compete where it comes to using our creativity. The Muse encourages us, while the Inner Critic blocks.  How well these two can work together probably determines the likelihood that we will involve ourselves in creative endeavors like writing, painting, or so many other places where inspiration lives.

Interestingly, my earlier concern over the changing technologies hurting my creativity may have some grounds. A story goes with this.  

There is a painter whose work I have admired.  She had great success as a wildlife artist with fairly realistic paintings of wild animals.  A car accident led to a broken arm.  She could not paint with her dominant hand.  When she painted with the other hand, her work became more colorful and abstract.  She had not expected this to happen.  Was it right brain/left brain?  It is hard to say, but it is interesting in how inspiration and creativity work. 

Now, I won't say this would happen to a writer, but I think when I use voice recognition I write in shorter sentences.  Some of that might change when editing, using a keyboard, happens.  The thing that I have come to believe is that we can be impacted by the tools we use.  This is probably why some writers still write their rough drafts in longhand.

Many people, and I have been one, keep their creative work to themselves.  They do this out of a sense of self-preservation.  There is a price, however, that they may not know. To not put your creations out into the world, not to offer them for sale, and not to open yourself to reviews by others, can be a major block to having more creativity, i.e. inspiration, come into your life.  

This might seem hard to believe if you haven't been engaged in creative work, but as I have said, the more you write the better you get at writing, this is also true of inspiration. 

Get past the Inner Critic, close off listening to anything that is not intended to improve your work, take your work to the world-- or as much of it as the world wants.  Using your inspirations will lead you to seeing them everywhere. The more you open yourself up, the more there will be. Learning to think outside the box.

This is part of the philosophy of abundance and understanding what that means. We live in a bountiful world where we need to look for how we can use what is there, which sometimes means sharing it with others. This doesn't mean necessarily material riches. It means a creative lifestyle with an openness to all that is-- within and without. An abundant lifestyle is not about taking everything, it's about using wisely what we are given, knowing that the more we do this, the more there will be.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Scott Adams
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/scottadams104102.html?src=t_creativity

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I Have Painter’s Block - What I Am Doing To Get In The Flow

I have not painted for several weeks resulting in being restless, worried, and out of sorts. I need some creative excitement like painting. But I kept finding something to do other than painting. Realizing I had painter's block, I took the following steps for preparing to paint again.
1) Checked my photos for my favorites of this year like the sky with clouds before the storm.
2) Took a few minutes to organize and make space to paint in my studio.
3) Borrowed  “From Generation to Generation” an acrylic and oil painting from Barbara Levine who has similar interests as mine but has an entirely distinctive style of her own. In the past we borrowed each other's paintings before exhibiting together. Last time we got together we both didn't know what we would do with our new art work. Like Barbara I have reproduced my grandchildren's art in my paintings, I have not done one with the sense that my creative journey is passing as my heirs are about to blossom and take flight.
4) Checked where I was running low on supplies and ordered some on line. Took advantage of Michaiel's Black Friday 70% off all canvases and purchased a 4 foot by 6 foot canvas and three 3 foot by 2 foot ones.
I hope soon I will be in the swing of painting something meaningful to me. Whammy! OH Oh! I am putting a terribly difficult demand on myself. I don't need to make every painting meaningful. That pressure is part of why I have painter's block.

So a couple of days later I had a whole day free to do the underpainting. I loved mixing the colors and how drum tight the canvases are.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Inspiration, Craft, Tools Part II

 by Rain Trueax

No matter how fantastic your idea and inspiration might be, if you cannot convey them to someone else, they remain yours. Basically, a need for craft is true for most of the arts.  Of course, there are natural born talents who create a new way of presenting their ideas.  They are rare.  Most who write, for example, have either taken classes or studied extensively with manuals that teach basic grammar.  Only when you know the rules can you break them with purpose. The big thing in writing is the need to convey the idea in a way someone else can understand.

The case has been made that sites like Twitter are creating a whole new way of communicating, using initials and symbols.  My personal belief is the only ideas that may be communicated that way, are shallow. Yes, the first humans used pictures and then hieroglyphics. In many cases, we are still guessing what they meant.

For those who want to write a book, it is important to take time mastering punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure.  There is a lot to learn to write in a way that does not takes the reader out of the story.

Of course, this is tougher the more educated the reader might be.  An English teacher will have higher standards and is more apt to be bothered by misuse of words, commas, and sentence structure.  Issues like split infinitives will likely pass right by many readers-- if the sentence still makes sense.  Dangling prepositions bother some readers, while others may find avoiding them more disturbing to flow of the story.

For me, writing dialogue is the most fun-- with the least rules-- other than make sure each character speaks in a way that is consistent.  To give readers a sense of character by how the person speaks can be a challenge but even more is stimulating.  Even there, craft plays a role that goes beyond inspiration.  Writing a scene where the word said appears too many times will break the flow.  Craft is really all about maintaining the flow.  Learning to make a scene project the qualities desired in the characters is a mix of rules and inspiration.

Besides grammar rules, there has to be an understanding of the requirements for each genre.  I think this is best done by reading a lot of books in that genre.  What readers of science fiction or mystery will accept will not be the same as those reading serious novels or romances.  Since a lot of writing today involves a mix of genres, some standards will not be consistent.  This is where inspiration comes in.  New standards for successful writing evolve as does the culture.  That does not mean that I believe LOL belongs in any novel unless the character is typing an e-mail.

One of the cool things about computers is how many articles can be found on requirements for successful writing.  When in doubt about something like the Oxford comma, I can tell you, with confidence, that you can quickly find articles that contradict each other.  In the end, you may know the rules and still break them IF you have a good reason - -one that benefits the flow of your story.  You will still not please that English teacher.

So learn the craft, read articles like this one, [10 Rules of Writing].  Craft may seem less interesting than inspiration, but it is the bridge to anyone else reading your work.  There are many ways to learn it. I worked one year with a consulting writer, who I had been advised by an agent would improve my romances.  This was in the Nineties and even then, it cost about $1500.  I would mail her typed pages of my work in progress.  She would mail them back, highlighted, with extensive notes in the margins.  That work with her was like a class in writing romances, where there are important expectations.

What I advise to any wanting to write--write, I will add to that-- read books on writing.  Read articles on writing technique.  When you get reviews on that book, your craft will often be remarked upon-- negatively is most apt to show up.  It may not seem as important as the inspiration behind your book but without it, nobody else will know because reading it will be a struggle they are not willing to endure.

I think some of this is going to be harder for the generations growing up in a time where learning proper English is not part of a full education.  When I was a girl, we learned to diagram sentences.  It taught us the parts of a sentence to make it work. We learned to [correctly use tenses].  I keep a cheat sheet by the computer to remind me of the rules. A comma in the wrong spot completely changes the meaning of a sentence.

All of this matters a lot to a writer but also, to someone writing a resume.  My hope is that some educational shortcuts will be reconsidered.  Yes, a computer can correct your spelling-- if you are anywhere close to the right one. It does nothing when you have to write something in longhand. Yes, craft doesn't seem as exciting to read about or take the time to learn-- especially for those who have come to believe a tweet can say it all.  I have two words for that-- it cannot.

Finally, there is the form the story will take.  While this might seem to be under the heading of inspiration, there really is a form that is classic, that satisfies a reader, and which takes some experience to master. In my early learning about how to write a scene or chapter, I heard about the W.  What this means, is that (this is true for paintings also) when you have a time of excitement, you need a time of rest-- hence, the W.  The characters go toward a negative time and then have a respite.  Romantic moments are followed by stressful ones.

Joseph Campbell (a link to his work below) spoke of the hero's journey.  This is the structure of mythologies which have survived time. In terms of basic adventures, there are only a few that can be used over and over and in different ways.  The hero's journey will have certain key points, which writers can learn, using what most applies to their work and what they are trying to create.

It is true today that some so-called literary novels seem pointless as they meander whither and yon with no real seeming ending or purpose. They are sometimes even called classics. The thing is what a culture decides is a classic lasts until a new generation takes over. Our own generation does not get to define a classic for more than itself. I think those who learn forms that carry forth universal themes, their work is most likely to hang around.

A few recommended books on craft:

Next Saturday, inspiration. :)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Thank You for the Support I Enjoy as an Artist

“East Indian Dancers”, my mother, Margaret Widler's egg tempera.

I am thankful for my family for many reasons. Their support of my creative journey whether thay understand my art or not is very valuable to me. An art teacher in high school and various other rejections through out the years makes me even more appreciative. My family support started with my parents who shared their creative interests with me. They took me to the the San Francisco Art Museum and lifted me up to adult eye level so I could see too. Then after I graduated from Portland State College with a degree in Drawing and Painting, mother helped to market my art for a number of years. My sweetheart husband, Don, volunteered as he always does to engineer aspects of making and exhibiting my work. Just this week we were considering yet another box, travel easel. My daughters also value my work and hang it in their homes as do my brother and sister-in-laws.

I feel the past 60 years was a charmed time period inwhich I had the leisure to develop my creative path.