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All Squared Up or Out of Square?

Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 0 comments

All Squared Up or Out of Square?

In painting as in writing, boredom is the one factor that can kill a piece. To finish and have it bore an audience is bad enough. To finish and find yourself too bored to bother hanging it is worse.

And yes, it’s true that boredom is in the eye of the beholder. Another truth is that we should never judge a piece too soon.

When we’ve been striving for a particular outcome, concentration can give us tunnel vision. Put it aside for a while, look at it with fresh eyes and perhaps the outcome we achieved is even better than expected, better than the outcome we’d hoped for. But sometimes I get to the end and set the work aside and even with fresh eyes I’m underwhelmed.

That was the case with “All Squared Up.”

So I attacked the painting again.  

I’m still not certain which I prefer. I like the simplicity of the original, but I find more energy in the new one.

Fortunately, in this era of digital capture, the original version is still available for prints.

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So Few Colors, So Many Options

Posted by on Jun 8, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 0 comments

So Few Colors, So Many Options

Where I live in Central Texas, old houses are plentiful, especially on land that has been repurposed for oil or gas production. A well-built house made of wood will stand empty for many years before it succumbs to weather erosion.

First it loses its paint. Then the wood begins to age in the hot Texas sun to a lovely brown or gray patina. It may lose sections of its roof, windows break, boards may tear loose in the wind. Eventually the house starts to sag on its moorings.
Like many artists, I have a fondness for old houses, and while I rarely paint landscapes, I decided to paint one in abstract, using my primary color palette – pyrole red, primary yellow, ultramarine blue and thalo blue, plus black and white. I found an old house that had not begun to lose its roof or siding and set it on a lake much like where I live on Lake Tonkawa. Yes, it’s there on the left but only roughly defined. (more…)

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How Does History Inform Your Hero?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 0 comments

How Does History Inform Your Hero?

Nobody springs into the world fully grown – at least not since Athena, who sprang from her father’s skull, and Pandora, a bride created by the gods. No matter at what age or point in life your characters enter your story, they have history.

Family, friends, lovers, familiar places, educational trials and triumphs, former occupations, a first pet, a first kiss, a favorite experience, a horrifying experience – these things have left imprints on your characters’ attitudes and behaviors.

The imprints of a character’s history inform their actions. I’m constantly amazed at how many writers think of this as “boring back story.” Yes, in big mouth-boggling gulps, it can detract. But when woven in fluently, every character’s history can add substance to the tapestry of your story.

A character we know little or nothing about is like a cardboard cutout of that person. Flat, uninteresting, two-dimensional. Give your story people depth.

  • What is his most inspiring memory?
  • What event most impacted her early life?
  • Who taught him everything he knows about the job he does now?
  • Where did she acquire her current expertise?
  • Why and of what is he afraid?
  • How and where was she most embarrassed?
  • Which friend or sibling has s/he remained closest to? Why?
  • What was his saddest moment?
  • When did she feel most triumphant?
  • Where did s/he go on vacation that left an indelible memory (good or bad)?

These are only a few of the questions that can elicit historical information and strengthen your plot. What would you add?

Flesh out your characters and you’ll lift your story from eh to exciting.

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I’ve thought and thought, but …

Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 0 comments

I’ve thought and thought, but …

… I don’t know a better way to say this:

The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children. – William Havard

And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. – Lee Greenwood

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3 Plus 1 – Abstract with a Hint of Realism

Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 0 comments

3 Plus 1 – Abstract with a Hint of Realism

So enthralled was I with the Liquitex Muted Violet palette that I decided to do a larger version in yet a different abstract style. As a reminder, the colors, in addition to Muted Violet, are Naples Yellow, Burgundy, Raspberry, Twilight, and Swedish Blue plus black and white.

This time I started with a new stencil I was dying to try, Faber-Castell Ice Layers. Normally, if I use a stencil at all it is a mere afterthought and well integrated into the design. But this one was so much fun that I let it run wild all over the canvas. In the first pass, I started with nondescript black blotches, applied thinly with a palette knife, then I stenciled on Muted Violet and, since the stencil reminded me of lattice fencing, I added some Raspberry splotches to resemble abstract flowers.

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7 Different Ways to Start Emissary 2 – Which is Best?

Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 0 comments

7 Different Ways to Start Emissary 2 – Which is Best?

Every book about writing has a different take on how to start a novel, including mine – Goosing the Write Brain: A Storyteller’s Toolkit. When possible, in the first 50 to 150 words, I like to divulge the 3 P’s – Place, Problem, Protagonist. We can accomplish that fairly easily, but what we most want is a hook that tugs a reader into the story.

I’ve staged seven different openings, each focusing on slightly different angles.  Tell me which, if any of these, grabs you.

  1. Ruell discovered his host’s true nature in their second year together. It happened slowly as he explored Kirk Longshadow’s various personality quirks. A human word, quirk, meaning trait, whim, idiosyncrasy–Longshadow had them all. Where Ruell resided now, in his host’s corpus collasum, he had plenty of opportunity to examine Longshadow’s personality and to begin to understand. Humans needed a large amount of understanding.
  2. From where Longshadow lay, sprawled prone on asphalt pavement, the nighttime sounds and smells of the alley resonated repulsively in his muddled brain. He wondered how long he’d been out.
    Four minutes, fifty-nine seconds, Ruell informed him.
    Hosting an alien energy in your body often proved useful. Longshadow opened his eyes a slit.
    Voices approached. He recognized the high-pitched nasal squawk of Skinner Reed, wielder of the pipe that had clubbed him.
  3. For eight consecutive Mondays Longshadow got a phone call from her. If he turned his phone off it didn’t matter, because they had nothing to say to each other. She’d leave a text message, which he would read later and discard.
    Then on the third Friday in January, no call, no message. He’d spent the evening at the gym, working off a grumpy mood while watching a tanned and muscled personal trainer fail to impress a couple of yoga students wearing curve-cuddling Spandex. Toweling off from a shower, he checked his phone again. Still no message.
  4. Longshadow knocked on the hotel door knowing that in the next few minutes he’d have his answer, or he’d be dead. The woman opened the door just as he raised his fist for a second, louder and more thoroughly pissed off knock. She did not look like a woman who could turn a blind eye to killing over a hundred thousand people. Barefoot, she wore a blue silk dressing gown splashed with shades of green, and a notable air of impatience. Her short brown hair stuck out in places, her lips were glossy with butter from a half-eaten slice of toast she held. From deeper in the room, a strong odor of coffee scented the air.
  5. Hearing footsteps enter the alley behind them, Ruell, like Longshadow, expected the sheriff’s deputy was joining their stakeout. The corporate analyst under investigation was silently exchanging envelopes with a short scruffy-looking man. As was her habit on alternating Tuesdays, she had entered the bakery, ordered coffee and a toasted bagel with cream cheese, then headed toward the restrooms. Until now, no one had suspected a hidden door to the alley or that anything important could occur during the three minutes she was gone.
    And now, if not for his intense concentration, Ruell might have sensed the footsteps were not the deputy’s, and have avoided the heavy pipe before it struck.
  6. They buried Holly Marie Simpson three days after her murder. Polly Simpson wore black, as befitted a grieving sister. Sunlight angled through the trees and glinted off of every reflective surface, including the huge diamond on her left hand as she patted a stray lock of hair in place. The lightly wooded cemetery reminded Longshadow of his neighborhood beat in Houston, where trees grew in profusion. He didn’t miss the beat, but he sometimes missed his friends on the force.
    Polly’s eyes, he noticed, were not focused on the funeral. Not on the coffin, the mourners or the minister delivering his elegy. Instead, Polly seemed to be watching for someone to arrive.
  7. After a brief discussion with the pest control man, who had arrived in a red pickup truck, Polly Simpson strolled away from her home along a sidewalk bordering two massive houses on her side of the block. Longshadow, parked across the street in the heavy shade of a live oak, wondered if she was sensitive to the chemicals the man used or merely averse to being at hand while he worked.
    In snug black shorts, black athletic shoes and a white t-shirt, she ambled distractedly with no apparent destination. Five minutes later, she returned. Edging slowly alongside the pickup, she glanced around then lifted the lid of a storage box in the truck bed and removed a red quart-sized jug.

One through seven – which hooks you best?

 

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Finish in a Flurry?

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 2 comments

Finish in a Flurry?

From the beginning, this abstract painting reminded me of a coastal shoreline, possibly a foggy bay area. Usually I avoid attaching any sort of realism to the abstract images that appear, because I tend to start leaning toward that hint of realism. This time, I held off working on the painting at all, moving instead to the other two canvases in this Liquitex Muted Violet palette. Eventually, I had to decide what to do next, and the shoreline image continued to tug at me, so I went with it.

    But where to go from here? I could picture ships docked at what appear to be piers – yet I wanted to pull it back to abstract. One move that often works for me in this situation is to finish with a flurry of gestural strokes that I call graffiti. Since the painting was quite low key, I added white. Okay, that brightened it, yetthe stark white was too much, so I toned it down with a medley of colors from the palette. Better, but a few white highlights now were needed. In my Muted Violet trio, here’s how “Even a Foggy Workday Can Be Fun” stacks up against its two sisters, “All Squared Up” and “Where Clouds Go to Rest”…   (more…)

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Again, Emissary? By Popular Demand

Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 1 comment

Again, Emissary? By Popular Demand

I had the experience recently, as I suppose many authors do, of losing my motivation to write. I confess, I was dismayed, recalling explicitly that upon finishing my first (unpublished) novel in 1989, I made the statement, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, even if I never make a nickel.”

At the time, I was president of the National Association of Women Business Owners – Houston Chapter, Secretary of the Greater Houston Speakers Association, and served on the board of a business incubator. Nevertheless, I folded my own business that year  – it was business burnout that had started me start writing – took an administrative position at a bank and began honing my craft of novel writing.

Seven years, five novels later my fifth book, Bitch Factor, was sold by PMA Literary Agents in a three-book contract to Bantam Books for publication. Life was good. I wrote the next two books in that series, Bantam published them, and readers responded with cheers. Then Amazon came along and changed the publishing world forever.

For the next 14 years, I continued writing fiction while also ghostwriting nonfiction books. During that time I started Emissary, a scifi/mystery crossover novel, which never seemed to quite fit the market yet continued to implore me to keep laying down words. Market be damned, there was something in it I wanted to say.
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When Is a Painting Finished?

Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 2 comments

When Is a Painting Finished?

When I’m painting a realistic subject, there’s a level of “finish” I aim for – not photo-realism, because I want a painterly quality, and with portrait work, I also want it to look like the person I’m painting. When I reach that stage, it’s done.

Abstract paintings have an energy all their own. At various stages in the work I often feel that if I add another stroke I’ll ruin it. And sometimes I do.

A friend recently asked me how a painting I posted in steps got from A to C looking as if it had not progressed sequentially but had completely changed in places. That happens when I don’t like what I’ve done. I white it out in those areas and start again but forget to take the “whited-out” photo – probably because I’m a little miffed at having messed up.

The 3-on-a-palette theme I’ve been working with has turned out to be great fun, and for this painting I took quite a few in-progress photos. After the first pass, it looked like a fried egg on a ledge. (more…)

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Fresh Paint – Trying On Yellow

Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 in Unboggle Your Mind | 0 comments

Fresh Paint – Trying On Yellow

When I approach the finish of a painting, I often vacillate between adding a spot of new color or not, or maybe adding a different color. One of my signatures on abstract paintings is a small square or a thin line of a bright new color at the sweet spot.

This week I’ve been working with a new palette. The colors are Liquitex Muted Violet, Liquitex Twilight, Liquitex Raspberry, and Liquitex Naples Yellow, and I’ve reached the place on “All Squared Up” where I need to decide. So far, I haven’t used yellow at all, except possibly a tad mixed with the Raspberry. So I’ve painted small pieces of paper with Naples Yellow and attached them with tape. (more…)

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