Tag Archives: relationships

Secret Project: The Backstage Story – Part Four

You’ve seen the published stories and their illustrations in the September Slam at Fictive Dream, an online magazine focusing on the short story.  Now, in a series of posts, I travel through the project from my perspective as an artist, covering the creative process, physical and mental – from the tools I used to the way I approached the various stories.

For other posts in this series, search under the term “September Slam”.

The next story I worked on in the series was “Dear Damien”, by Dave Wakely. Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black sent me the two versions of the story, unmarked and marked, and we both chose the same sections as illustration material. To me, the story was about relationships, how they grow and how they are cultivated over time. The characters are loving and not afraid to show it. I wanted to depict these feelings and the challenge for me was that I had to figure out a way to make emotions visible.

Drawing #1

The first drawing I worked on came from the beginning of the story.  George, the writer, introduces the premise of the story – saying to Damien:

…I write to you now that you’ve left home, ready to start University…

I decided to illustrate the writer in the act of writing. I used a quiet mostly blue background to emphasize the nature of the writing process. I drew on my own house, my imagination, and some photos of objects I’ve taken as part of my visual inventory to make this illustration.

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Once the drawing was done, I scanned it, as I did all the drawings. Let me take a quick aside to describe this process. My scanner only handles items approximately the size of an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet, so I scanned the drawing in two pieces:


I then combined them in PhotoShop Elements 15, using the Guided Menu, Photomerge selection, then Panorama, then Reposition. Click, and the pieces are magically turned into one image, which I cropped, flattened, and saved.

I have been scanning and merging images for decades using various PhotoShop versions, and doing it manually is tedious and difficult. This feature made it possible for me to give Laura good images every time.

Once done, I had the final image of George sitting at a desk, writing. I wanted to depict the quiet, the thoughtfulness, and the emotion of a person communicating with another on paper; in a letter, there is time to reflect and choose words. I felt that this story epitomized the nature of letter-writing at its best.

Fictive Dream Dear Damien full size 8-18 #1 small

Notice that the “September Slam” is in a non-safe-zone position – this illustration was done before we discovered the need to keep text more centrally located.

Drawing #2:

The next drawing, the one Laura chose,  featured the two men and the boy at the moment they met:

And then you thrust forward your hand and shook first mine and then Frank’s. Except you didn’t let go of his.

I chose a pre-painted paper in pink and yellow colors because it was light, gentle, and reminded me of a garden. I did some preliminary sketches of how the three people should be positioned. Once I came up with that, I filled in the rest of the illustration around them, from my imagination and from various garden and house photos I had in my image inventory.


The garden was particularly important to me – I felt it symbolized not only the growth of the relationship and its cultivation but also the fact that plants and people die and yet live on in the lives and memories of others.

As George said:

A garden not only gives you fresh herbs and vegetables: it teaches you patience. Even if the only thing you plant for the next few years are kisses, don’t expect a harvest overnight. Everything valuable in this world needs time, care and attention, so learn how to provide them: if you find love, nurture it.

Here is the illustration I ended up with (as it appeared with “September Slam” in its original position):

Fictive Dream Dear Damien full size 8-18 #2 small


and as it appeared in final form:

Fictive Dream Dear Damien full size 8-18 #2 adjusted text small


From the Editor:

Here’s what Laura Black said about her thought process in choosing the image for the story:

Either of your images would have worked very well with Dear Damian. It’s a gentle and charming story and I thought both images charming also.

There was no reason not to use the image of the older man imparting his years of wisdom in a letter. None at all. I chose, however, the image of George, Frank and Damian as a young boy because, by the final paragraph, they have all grown in significance. Without Frank, George’s experiences and perhaps his scope of wisdom would have been different. Without Damian knocking on their door he wouldn’t have had the memory he describes. And Damian would not have become a friend in later years.

The final paragraph is the point at which the characters connect and your image reflects this. At this moment all three are happy, the garden is lovely and as you said yourself, it’s about the cultivation of relationships.

So that is how this story received its illustration. If you haven’t read it, take a look: Dear Damian, by Dave Wakely.

Eggs Outside

This painting, “Eggs Outside”, was done in June, 2018. I started off with the white shapes and the painting grew from the middle out.

I took the painting to one show and it sold right there. To a lady who has bought from me before, and, having done so, she asked me and I agreed – I did a collage workshop for her Girl Scout troop some years back.

The art world is made of all kinds of connections, isn’t it?

Acrylics on board, 12″ x 16″.

Eggs Outside 6-18 12 x 16001

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending May 18

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Always time for art…

Saturday, May 12 – This week, I warn you, will be a bumpy ride for getting some art time. I have several appointments and will be out of the house; and on Friday, I will be setting up for the Tile Festival next weekend. So I’m thinking this will be a week of little bits here and there. In fact, I think the next few weeks will follow this pattern – I have a show over Memorial Day weekend and then another smaller one the next weekend, plus more appointments and obligations. Well, it goes like that sometimes.

Back to art. On Friday afternoon, I went over to the high school across the street to watch a softball game in the beautiful weather. I sat away from the crowd along the first base  outfield line. It was Senior Day and a lot of cheering family and friends were in attendance.

I took my sketchbook with me. I am trying to sketch wherever I am, just catch gestures, outlines, etc. I’m not trying to make anything finished; I need a lot of practice and so…here is what I came up with.

I love how trying to draw something really makes you look at it.

Now, on Saturday, I was busy with home chores, but I worked a little on those tiny paintings I started last week. Where are these going? I don’t know. Maybe they are finished. I’ll check on them later in the week.

Sunday, May 13 – My husband and I went to a play at a local art center – I’ve mentioned this place before. It’s a cafe style theater, small, and really pleasant. See those two tiles? They are staying here when I go home, an art trinket drop-off.

Before the show, I looked around the small gallery – ceramics are on exhibit and I know a couple of the artists.

As I did the last time we were here, I sketched the people around me before the play started (and one actress on stage sitting on the sofa). I am a fan of the technique where you look at your subject and let your pen go along on its own as much as you can. I love drawing in this manner, and it seems to suit me style-wise and results-wise.

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Monday, May 14 – I went into the studio and gathered up some odds and ends. Collage materials, black gesso, India ink, acrylics – then I threw it all into a big pot, heated it on the stove, and drank it right down. Yum!

No, not really.

What I actually did on this afternoon was to move along some small things. I got out my plastic box of bits and pieces and spread things out.

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I painted postcard backs in black gesso – I want to glue some art on top of these and I thought the background would set them off.

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I spent a good bit of time creating people portraits, using an ink and Chinese brush technique I learned a while back from this book:

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using India ink and Chinese brush. The theme here is people in the rain and I mean for them to go on this page in my current Large Artist Sketchbook. Somehow. I’ll be working on this some more.

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I added people to cards – all components already made some time ago. Some things just have to evolve and these have more stages to go through…

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I had some painted ATC’s that I took India ink to – drawing around what I saw in the swirls of paint. Some finished, some will be added to.

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The point here is, if you have odds and ends at the ready, you can sit down and begin arranging, and soon the ideas flow. So my advice here is – build up this kind of stash and see how your fingers start to itch to make something with it.

Oh, and I stepped on my smallest Chinese brush. Crunch, it said.

I said, go to the hospital and get fixed up, and you can come back to work when you feel better.

Thank you, masking tape.

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Tuesday, May 15 – More small stuff. I finished up the tiny ATC-sized paintings. Some are abstracts:

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and these are abstract portraits. I decided not to add any ink-in features or any detail at all. I’ll let the paint do all the work. These photos are not great, and I promise to post better quality images pretty soon.

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Sometimes less is more. I think these small ATC paintings, all of them that I have been doing over the last few weeks, have given me more confidence to try this kind of thing on a larger scale. Simplifying, and abstractifying. I feel a pull in this direction. We will see what happens as time goes on.

Anyway, these tiny boards are all used up. Now I’ll figure out something to do with them, no sense in them just sitting around.

Wednesday, May 16 – Today is our 31st wedding anniversary. Just wanted to mention that!

Art-wise, the recent  phase of the intense work of the last five months or so is coming to a close. I will be doing shows the next three weekends and I have a packed schedule of outside activities in the intervening weeks. I do not plan to start any projects that require deeper thought or mental peacefulness right now. There is a natural flow to my work – I go all out, and then I rest a bit (the run-walk theory of doing a marathon!).

I decided to clear up some remaining bits and pieces. These will give me something to work on, being small and easy to do in short bits of time.

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I pasted “rain figures” on the rain page in my Large Artist Sketchbook – the one I was working on earlier this week. I am not sure where this is going. I think now it needs some pen and ink.

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I pasted these semi-Miro scribbles on to the black postcard backgrounds I had prepared. These darn Miro things have sure been through the wringer. They started off as salvage from the paper covering my art table some time back, were a folded book, were book pages, were de-bookified and became individuals, and finally they are this. And this is where it ends, I hope.

And then I cleaned up the studio. It will be waiting for me when I want to work, if I have some time next week or whenever – it makes it easier to step right in when the surface is clear and empty.

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Now I plan to spend some time getting things ready for this weekend’s show. I need to make some price signs and review my info as to set-up. Tomorrow I will be at Poetry Marathon, and on Friday afternoon my husband and I go up to the location for early set-up and can put the display together. Don’t worry, this art week still has plenty going on. I will show you!

Friday, May 18 – This afternoon my husband and I went out to the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown, PA, site of the show we’re doing this weekend. I won’t go into the details of this show, because you can read a summary and background here from 2017’s show.

Instead, I’ll show you what we did to get ready for tomorrow. On Thursday night, we brought the boxes of stored items out of the basement (the cat is lying where they usually are)

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and put them plus other supplies into the garage.

I checked other items – I found I needed to replenish hangers. When I sell a tile I also offer a hanger the buyer can glue to the back if they so desire. I have different styles to suit different tiles.

Today, we drove to the location and pulled up near our tent to unload. It’s very easy to work this show and set up is one of the reasons – see how close we are able to bring the car. Shout-out to my husband who is wrangling the boxes.

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Inside, it’s pretty empty. We’re not early set up people but we are not the last ones, either.

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We gathered our items inside the tent. They stood waiting expectantly for instructions.

Now, I do very few clay shows and my display is minimalist, to say the least. I have tables and I have covers I made for them, and I go for the rustic wrinkled look. Clay for me is very low-key, but for others here, it’s the way they make their living. Our neighbors have a fantastic display and a lot of equipment, and they drove here from New York state in a motor home pulling a trailer.

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I’m telling you this so that you know – this is a really nice show and I am lucky to be able to be in it, and that such a thing exists so close to my home.

OK, back to set up. We have a site with no neighbors – four open sides. We set the tables in a hollow square and sit in the middle.

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I open up the boxes and unload the tiles. I try to group them in theme groups as I unpack them.

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That theme idea gets me only so far and then I just let the tiles go where they look nice. I tend to crowd my display. I have decided that I’ll overlook good merchandising principles in favor of having my whole selection out and available. People at this show seem to cope; they are all tile-lovers and take their time. In a regular show with a mix of items, I would pay more attention to the visual impact of my booth.

I am sure you recognize some of these tiles from various past blog posts.

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A quick look around. You can see the first tent from inside ours; and also here is a view of the interior courtyard of the Moravian Tile Works, with the dining tent set up.

Here is a view from inside our space. We have no “backstage” here, so people will see the blue price stickers from various directions, and well, that is fine with me, if it is a little cluttered. Because having three sides for sales space, well, that is really a prize.

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The weather is threatening stormy tonight and I know from experience that these large tents sometimes have drips – so we slapped a little plastic over the wood-framed items. Everything else will be fine if it rains.

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We talked to a few friends, catching up a little – in this business you know a lot of people who you see only once a year and yet – the relationship is bonded by our shared activity, making art and selling it. I was chatting with a couple from Michigan and after checking up on each other’s general situations, we fell into a familiar and always-pleasant theme: shows, bad shows, good shows, shows with rain, shows where the tent blew over, shows where a lot of people bought a lot, shows where the food was really good, shows…you get the drift. Shop talk!

We will be at this show all weekend. Looking forward to it.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.