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.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Inspiration, Craft, Tools Part I

by Rain Trueax

Creation begins with an idea, a concept-- inspiration.  Something is required to get from idea to reality, whether that is a book, an invention, a painting, or any physical manifestation. What carries that idea forth is a combination of craft and tools.  Idea ---> tools---> craft/rules---> Product. I know some don't want to think of a book or painting as products but whether you sell it or not, it is when it takes on reality.

Years back, when I began writing, I thought the tools I used, pen or pencil, encouraged my creativity.  Some writers never change their mind on that and always write their rough draft in longhand.  For me, I have changed tools as I've found something that lets me take the ideas formulating in my head to a first draft of a book.

A Royal typewriter was my first step beyond handwriting.  I still have it.  To me, it is quite pretty. It was a kind of thrill to see the neat type appear on the paper. It took strong fingers to make the letters equally dark. After taking typing classes, it was much faster than a pen.  Mistakes were covered up by small jars of white and a brush. Later, it was little sheets of white paper where you typed the mistake to cover it up-- mostly. Big mistakes led to wadded up paper in a trash can.

When the opportunity arose to buy an electric typewriter, I had no doubts that I could work with it.  No more worry about uneven letters. A different sort of tool, it was in the same family with which I was familiar. Electric typewriters took me through many rough drafts with boxes of manuscripts under my bed, a few sent off to editors only to be rejected. I loved the satisfaction of seeing the stacks of paper and knowing my books were saved for possibly a future time when editors would look with more favor on them.

When my husband suggested my using an Atari to write, I resisted as it seemed a step into something different.  Where it comes to new technologies, I am a Luddite. I was concerned that it would block my creativity. The typewriter was familiar and comfortable.

Then, I tried it.  Oh my gosh, it allowed me to move whole paragraphs when they were not in the right place.  I could erase whole scenes, with no paper and no white-out.  As for my creativity, this technology only made it better and faster.

The arrival of new and improved computers constantly lead to faster and better ways to write my books.  My Luddite side didn't protest and saw only advantages to a Thesaurus, spellcheck, punctuation checks and best of all allowing me to save the document multiple places. Word processing changed the process so much that it's hard to imagine thinking anything was better. I began typing all my existing manuscripts into it. That was a lot of work but better than boxes under the bed. I had no idea how much innovation lay ahead when eventually a book could be sent to a publisher and soon people could buy it.

One might think, that there would be nothing new beyond improved computers.  Or perhaps, I might have thought, except, I started hearing about those who were using voice technology instead of a keyboard.  They were able to see their words appear on the screen and in their document by speaking them into reality.

Luddite mentality kicked in.  How would my creativity, my inspiration work when I wasn't typing?  Would speaking scenes become a limitation?  I decided , while it sounded interesting another amazing step forward in technology, it was not for me.

When I noticed some early symptoms of carpal tunnel.  I posted my interest and questions in Facebook.  One of the other authors, Jacquie Rogers, told me she would be happy to talk to me about it in a phone conversation.  We had an enjoyable talk, and I learned more about the potential of voice recognition.  I learned I already had it on my computer with Word. She felt it worked better than some of the other programs that were for sale. She told me she writes about half of her books with it.  It also allows her to stand up while writing and even walk around-- that last is a biggie.

Part of my weight gain over the last six years has been sitting too much.  If a writer considers what she is doing as a career, it takes hours sitting.  They now say that for health, that is as bad as smoking.  It certainly hasn't done much for how I see my body.  I am fat, where most of my life, I had either been about right for weight or overweight.  Being fat is hard to take.  I wasn't sure that having voice recognition would get me enough exercise to change weight, but it would be healthier.

The question was, of course, the one I had worried about with each technology advance.  Could I think using voice instead of a keyboard?  In the beginning of November, I determined that I would find out.

The microphone Jacquie Rogers suggested was a Sennheiser.  I had doubts about it fitting over my head, but it had the advantage of keeping the mic close and in the same place for my voice. I ordered it and began going through the tutorial, reading suggested text. You are supposedly training the computer to recognize you, but it also helped me see when I had to slow down and which words were likely to not be recognized. I printed off that terms I'd have to use. You can't say quote. You say open quote. There are pages of instructions-- for now I don't need most.

That still left the question-- how would it impact the creativity I'd always felt concerned about. I didn't want anything to become a distraction for that inspired scene... I hoped. As might be expected, I started into it with the usual trepidation.  And then, the story began to flow.  Answer to whether I could tap into my inspiration was - -yes.

Some suggest, that you do not edit as you go.  I mostly do and correct when I cannot say the word in a way that the computer recognizes.  Surprisingly, the bigger issue turns out to be small words not the bigger ones that I would have expected.  To teach my computer to learn my voice with those words, I highlight and repeat them, eventually choosing from a list of possible words. The computer is helped by my taking the time to do that. It learns my vocabulary.

I still type, but this was written with speech recognition and a keyboard edit to follow-- especially in places where there was no way the computer would be able to learn a word.  Overall, it has been fun to learn something new and save my hands for other tasks. I am a fast typist; so it's not faster. It saves my fingers and wrists, and it works.

Next Saturday, I will write about craft as it impacts writing a book, a blog, a poem, etc..  That will take me to the following Saturday and what is the more exciting part of writing-- inspiration.

Craft and tools are part of the writers arsenal.  Without both, whether that involves a pencil or electronic device, inspiration is going to stay just within the creator.  I never dreamed that I could write a book with dictation.  But then, I never dreamed of all a computer might be to a writer. The beauty of where we are today is we can still use that pencil. We have the choice.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Master Artist Klimt Used Negative Space and Placement of the figure for Expressive Impact



In Gustav Klimt's portrait II of Adele Bloch-Bauer the colors and style of  painting likely refers to
early 20th century Chinese Mille Fleures Imperial type porcelains.


(The Adele portrait is from Wikipedia. The detail from a porcelain is from my personal photograph by son-in-law Samuel Edge.  The vase is now on loan to The Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, Oregon)




The Golden Girl, The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Anne-Marie O'Conner is a scholarly book by a journalist.  From my painter's perspective and my Jewish grandfather's knowledge of the Silk Road influences to European art the esoteric symbolism was missed by O'Conner. 

  The second Adele Bloch-Bauer portrait (1912) is a special piece of historic symbolism. The background colors are the same as on Chinese porcelain Adele was known to collect.  Some colors were developed in the Levant and Europe carried to Asia by Arab and Jewish traders. In the 19th Century improvement in color s was assisted by the Jesuits. The Chinese figures and flowers in the background are in the style of Chinese porcelain painters making the portrait painting symbolic of the back and forth exchange of technology and artistic inspiration between East and West. With China's current interest in the Silk Road perhaps the painting will become part of the tourist experience.
 
Probably the gold leaf in both Adele portraits has special significance as on the porcelain vase. According to my grandfather the gold in the negative area is like the gold thread that connects life past, present and future. Gold leaf on the edge of pages in a book makes each page precious page symbolic of a day of life.

Am I going too far to see Adel likened to a porcelain vessel?  Her skin as luminously white as china? The rim of her hat - the abundantly flaring lip of a vase edged in white? White symbolizes mourning. The red is symbolic of virtue and truth.  Black symbolizes bruising and evil according to the book,  Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives by C.A.S. Williams, first edition 1931. The stylization of  her body - the body of the vase with arm and hands the handle?  The tiny feet the base of the vase?

To see more of Klimt's paintings and see a bio look at this web site:
http://klimtgallery.org

Future posts will cover how other master artists have employed negative space.




 







 


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Diane Widler Wenzel's Negative Space Demo

Last Wednesday's blog was my lesson plan for a November 4 class at ODFW Fish Hatchery and Research Center.  I explained one approach selected from many ways to watercolor paint.
 In Summary:  Consider beginning by choosing what object or living thing is most important.  Decide what size it will be in relation to the entire surface area. Decide where it will be on the paper.  Be mindful that the surrounding shape helps to make the painting expressive.




 Lesson on technique of putting down watercolor paint on paper: Once you have a rough idea of size and placement of the most important thing,  make an outline of the subject with wet watercolors. While the puddle in the line is wet, load the brush with a little more paint. Touching the wet line with the loaded brush pull the paint outward to the edges of the picture filling the space around your subject.
Or use a masking technique like brushing outward from the center of a leaf.

 

Absolute control is not necessarily desirable. Watercolor painting has a way of doing what it likes and it's rewards are happy, accidental effects that can suggest a fun carefree ride to new imaginings. Watercolors have character in uneven coverage that often surprises the painter. Some surprises are happy accidents while others are not acceptable even after considering changing some of your goals for the painting.
Tip: In case of a loss of white paper blot with damp towel and paint over with Golden absorbent ground. It is an opaque acrylic primer for water media that looks like and accepts paint like paper when it dries.  In the illustration the head of the girl was too small until several layers of opaque, absorbent ground formed a hard edge. The profile of her face was further developed by carving into the white with more background color making a smaller more delicate cameo profile.
The leg was enlarged by just blotting the paint to make a larger light area. Then I added a very wet paint in the newly formed negative area.  The extra wet area will form a line on the edge as it dries.



Below is a sample of my landscape painting: Landscapes tend to be more complex with a dominate subject and one or more supportive subjects. In very strong landscapes a group of subjects can be the focal point that draws the eye first. Secondary objects group together and will group with the space surrounding the dominate group or object.
This is cropped from a much larger painting. It was the part of the painting most expressive of springtime.
 
 
A student's landscape with a dominate tree is a focal point because of the great dark light contrast. The road is a secondary focal point grouping with the dark grasses, trees and sky.
 
 
 
During these two classes I was reminded that my students have some different needs and desires when they start to paint. Some come with an idea in their head but they don't have the skill set to paint. Some want to be entertained and expect to find painting relaxing. Some want their children to have the experience. The youngest child just is excited about the experience without any interest in the end product. Snatching their fun away before they are done is like taking away a toy.
 The class reminds me of a painter who loved an evening ritual of turning on her favorite music, lighting candles then making a puddle of water on her paper in which she drops several different colors and watches as it dries. Very relaxing!










 
There are two different directions for watercolor painting. The best book for the traditional path  is The Complete Watercolorist's Essential Notebook, by Gordon MacKenzie, North Light Books, ISBN-13: 978-1-4403-0905  The other direction is like the one in  my exercise. For this  more fluid approach using the character of paint an excellent guide is A Passion for Water Color, Painting the Inner Experience, by Stefan Draughon. Watson Guptilll publisher, ISBN 0-8230-0102-4
 
My next blog post will have links to artists who have used the principles in my painting exercise to advantage. They include Edward Hooper and Gustav Klimt.
 
 
 
 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sweethearts of the West

by Rain Trueax


When I made the decision to become an indie author, I was 68 years old. I had been writing books since I was in my teens. I've often joked that when I wrote the first draft of what became Round the Bend, I was the age of the heroine. When I made the decision to publish it, I was the age of what would have been her grandmother. The book went through as many metamorphoses in the intervening nearly fifty years as I had. During that time I never quit writing love stories with the Western ethos, set in the land I love and know best. Writing and what came later with publishing has led me down many paths.

This fall, when I was invited to join a group blog called Sweethearts of the West, I had to consider whether I had anything to offer. I read the articles by its other authors, liked the mix of history, Western Americana, and travel through the land west of the Mississippi River. With a diverse group of authors, you never know what will turn up, and every two days, it is something new.

In joining it, I left another group blog, Smart Girls Read Romance. I liked it also but had less feeling for what I could offer. Sweethearts is easier for me due to my love of western history, traveling Western states, and my own books. The big thing about joining a blog, for me, is feeling I have something to contribute.

One thing, if you are a writer, you learn that you have to write what comes to you. Okay, there are some writers, who write to the market, many because it's the support of their family, but for most, they try to blend that with what they love. A writer feels joy when writing to their core beliefs and loves-- as well as what they know best. This works for blogs as well as books. 



For my first piece there, I wrote a bit about my childhood and how that influences what I write. Where I've written more about my life today, I've written less about those growing and learning years. Some of that is because of what I wrote last week-- I don't think on those years much. Seeing how it mattered, how it was still a factor in who I am, I made myself go back there. Even more, I came to see how it still influences my books. Here is a snippet from that blog.
 A WWII baby, as I became a child, the United States was coming off a major war, and we were under the threat of a nuclear holocaust. If we could forget that, our schools had bomb shelters where we were supposed to go in the event of an attack (exactly what those were supposed to benefit us, I'm not sure as we all knew about the dangers of radiation).  Despite the Cold War and a soon to be hot one in Korea, I consider it a rich time in which to grow up.
So, head on over to the link where I did what I rarely do-- looked back at what influenced the woman I am today, the life I lead, and what I write. If you are interested in Western Americana, I think you'll like this group blog and learn something or have your memories refreshed by the articles.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Watercolor Class at Oregon State University with Oregon Fish and Wildlife Hatchery and Research Center Fall Creek Arts Festival

Saturday, November 4, at the OSFW Fish Hatchery and Research Center Arts Festival I enjoyed a morning and an aftenoon class of enthusiastic painters. Adult sisters assisted me and painted too. There were children accompanied by parents and one family included a grandparent, also some individuals with their caregivers. Everyone became engaged. 

Only have pictures of  a few of the paintings from the class.


  Attempting to be inclusive of painters in every stage of development including children and adults who knew what they wanted to paint. They were encouraged to go for their vision. For those who wanted a challenge or idea to start, I had an assignment for them.

My teaching exercise was on the techniques of  laying down a general compositional plan while being open to allowing the character of the paint to suggest new directions. Of course the creative process includes being free during the course of painting to reject somethings that are not desired. My goal was to disprove the widely held belief that watercolor is difficult because once a mistake is made the painting is ruined.  One reason watercolor is a workable medium is that the white of the paper can be restored by applying opaque, acrylic absorbent ground.
  
Lesson plan: With just two hours to paint, the assignment must be quickly explained leaving most of the time for the hands on exploring of watercolors. My challenge is great because students are four years old to ninty. Some had limited English language skills.  The basic need is to be simple and clear but still have enough meat to hook the most experienced painters.

Lesson: Very important! The placement of your subject within the picture is very, very important!   Deciding how much space surrounds the subject is your first step in making your painting expressive.   Whether tiny or popping out, whether placed to right or left top, middle or bottom determines the shape of the surrounding areas.  Whether the subject is small or large, the main subject and surrounding space project feelings and stories.



The size of the bird is significant as well as the central location. Top bird shows dominance, to be feared. the middle bird smallest with wings up in surrender. The bottom bird relatively big but is perceived as small because it is intimately close.

Student example of work using the technique of first painting negative area around subject while being mindful of allowing enough surrounding space to contribute to telling a story with emotion;

 
Whether the subject is recognizable or more abstract, the placement in the picture space is important to expressiveness.  My sample I cropped to make it more expressive:
 
A student's watercolor painting is  a  good example of the paint doing what it likes. Allowing paint to move and dry as it likes leads to happy accidental effects that if not fought can suggest a fun carefree ride to new imaginings. Watercolors have character in uneven coverage that painters can come to happily accept it's surprises.
 
In the next blog Wednesday, November 15, a demo will be illustrated and explained.
 
 
 



Saturday, November 04, 2017

sharing or not

by Rain Trueax

Writing about writing is one of those things I only began to do in what could be called my elder years. Heck, I didn't even talk about my writing much to anybody for many years. A few friends knew I wrote, but sharing my work was even rarer. To be honest, I didn't think most of my friends would have had any interest in it. 

Because I will be joining a new group blog, which requires writing some sort of introduction for those there who don't know me, and because recently I was asked to do an interview about my writing, I've been thinking about questions I rarely do-- who am I? From where did I come? How can I describe myself to others? What parts of my life are important and which are things maybe I should have already discarded? 

Pretty much, I am a live in the moment kind of person and generally spend little time considering those kinds of questions. I am sure I did more of that when younger or maybe just off and on. It's not part of my average day. I don't often stop to think-- am I happy? What if I didn't like the answer!

Fiona Mcvie, the interviewer, surprised me with some author questions. It took some thinking to come up with answers. I have no idea how many people read her blog, but I do know Rainy Day had more hits after that piece ran-- which may or may not be related. As with sales of my books, I mostly have no idea what causes people to come here or stay to read more posts. I write about what interests me and just hope it interests others. Here by the way is that interview:



One thing I took away from these questions was that I am a more private person than I had been thinking. Some of my long time friends said they learned things they hadn't known about me.

If you do a blog for over ten years, you'd think you'd be out there-- and in a way, I am. But not much about my private life. I don't use this blog as a personal journal. While, I always have known that I am a good secret keeper, I hadn't thought all that meant in regards my own secrets. 

If you and I were having coffee somewhere, and you asked me a question about myself, I'd tell you the truth or smile and change the subject. I don't have time for game playing. If it was a question about someone else, expressing something negative, unless the two of us were part of the solution or problem, I would smile and change the subject. I am not into gossip. Fortunately, I don't have friends into it either.

If you didn't ask me a question about me, I'd be unlikely to offer much. I would be way more interested in your life, your motivations for your work-- if you were into sharing that. If two of us got together, who weren't much for sharing our personal lives, there might not be much conversation happening beyond the shallow-- my gosh, can you believe the abundance/lack of rain.

Despite the risks of talking politics, I am pretty well versed on many issues and might talk that with trusted friends. These days, I don't share it here. Despite enjoying a good debate, I don't like getting mad or making someone else angry. Once in a while, a political idea, appropriate to its times, makes it into my books. It can be fun for the hero and heroine to argue about it as they learn more about each other. This works better for historical books than contemporary where views can prove more hot button than funny. 

Another thing I don't think I've ever shared here is-- I am a repository of silly and unneeded information on celebrities. I grew up on movie star magazines that my aunt would pass down to our family. I'm not fond of the mean stuff but like seeing their homes, vacations, who they are dating, who broke up with whom, what they wore to a big party. I like learning about people from all walks of life, which leads to watching documentaries about creative people of different sorts.

Does any of that seem important enough to put in a bio? If it doesn't, what does? Although the interview is now done, I still have that introductory thing for the new blog (I'll share its link before it goes up November 12th).

Before I close this down, what do you like to read in a blog? I'd love hearing from you in a comment or email as to subjects you'd like to see here. I am open to having a place where others can give opinions on issues they find important, you know over that cup of coffee...
 

All images from Stencil

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Samhain

by Rain Trueax

Most know that Halloween is October 31st, a holiday that some consider All Hallow's Eve, but it has Celtic and pagan roots where it is known as Samhain. Pagan holidays like Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain follow a yearly tradition of seasons with spiritual connotations. 

Samhain is the day when the 'other' side is closer to human life than usual, where some put up altars to their relatives who have departed because they feel the veil is most easily pierced. It's not surprising why costumes like ghosts or witches have been popular for the parties or trick-or-treating.

In my books, I've sometimes used these celebrations. Samhain is in one of my Oregon historicals, [Love Waits], and I plan it will be (with more of its spiritual meaning) in the work in progress. 

In the historical, it was for fun and showed the family's growing strength where marriages happened and children began to grow up. Jed (hero from Going Home) wanted to share with his Oregon family the Scottish and Southern traditions with which he'd grown up.

Here's a bit from the fourth in the Oregon series-- a teaser for the family as well as readers for what might be coming. 

from Love Waits:



Belle headed back down the hall and looked in on Rand before she went to the children’s rooms. The girls were already whispering and so she opened the door without knocking. Jessica seemed enamored of whatever Laura was telling her. She looked up at Belle. “Samhain,” she said. “That’s what it is next week. Did you know that?”

“No, I did not. What does it mean?”

“It’s when we play games and bob for apples, and something Uncle Jed called Puicini. It’s kind of fortune telling. Do you think that’s bad?”
Belle smiled. “Not at all. How do you play it?”
“You are blindfolded and then there are four saucers in front of you. They are moved around. The one you choose is what your next year will be full of.”
“And the saucers are each?
“Earth, water, beans, and money. I guess we all want money as not sure what the others would mean.” Laura grinned. “Uncle Jed said they do this from where he came. It’s a nighttime game. He said sometimes even with fireworks. I haven’t yet gotten to do it but they said we will tomorrow night.”
“It sounds like great fun especially the bobbing for apples.”
“It might be pagan.” Laura’s face took on a worried expression.
“It doesn’t sound like that,” Belle said as she helped Jessica out of her nightgown and into a dress. “It sounds like it is nature oriented. Working the earth and it yielding all you wanted, would be like a garden. The water would be maybe a trip.” She smiled as she considered other options. “Or enough rain to keep the land good. “Beans would be food, and of course, we know what money is, don’t we.”
“He said they sometimes decorate for it too. It’s also about the ones who... went before us. Kind of, I think.”
“Then even better.”
“Except, he said sometimes there are ghost stories,” Laura said. “That might be scary.”
Now Elizabeth and Jessica looked worried. “What’s a ghost?” Jessica asked.
Laura looked at Belle for help.
“Well ghost stories are just for fun. They are supposed to scare us but in a way that we know it’s not real. So you get tingles up your spine.” She reached over and tickled up Elizabeth’s back. “And they can be about mysteries where nobody knows what really happened, and they tell stories to try and figure it out. Does your Uncle Jed have some ghost stories that he shares?” she asked trying to turn this back to Laura. She hoped she had said nothing to interfere with what Amy had been teaching.
“Uncle Jed said he would tell us one. One he had been told when he was a little boy. It has to be in the dark though. He said anyone could tell a ghost
story if they wanted. Do you know any?”
Belle smiled remembering how she had admired her older sisters and wanted them to show interest in her. Now she had a niece. She had not thought how important a responsibility that was.
“Well, if I think of one, I’ll definitely share it.”
Laura, Elizabeth and Jessica smiled broadly.
“And I forgot,” Belle said, “head to the kitchen. Breakfast is ready.”