Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Brand New Oaf

This looks awful on the screen, but in print it is dee-licious. I'll be talking up the Phantasm plug-in for Illustrator big time in the near future, but let me just say it produces the best halftones since those dudes that worked on Dore's stuff. I am not going to color for the large versions of these any more -- the black and white now has all the color the work needs, and more would be detrimental.

The Oaf: I dunno, I've got this horrible streak of competitive Alpha-male in me.

The Missus: I know. That's what keeps me interested. You're not a wimp.

The Oaf: WHAT?! They told me I was supposed to be a wimp! I thought masculine power was inherently loathsome!

The Missus: Well, I'm awfully hard on you, and it wouldn't be any fun if I destroyed you.

So. It's been a while since I posted. I've been focused on Swill and taking care of personal business.

I've also been undergoing a bit of a sea change. The process of growth I've been coping with recently came to a head, and I'm breaking in a new pair of metaphorical boots. I mentioned in my last post that I've recognized the fact that I am a literary rather than a commercial writer, and how that realization was empowering and liberating.

It was reinforced a few days later when -- I ain't giving details til it's set in stone -- but I may be participating in an NPR-level public reading, and I'd be alongside people who's work I've genuinely admired. The stuff the dude running the thing said about my writing? I'm still glowing.

Well, that kinda reinforced things for me, illuminated a few interesting corners of my life. What is true of my writing is also true of other aspects of my creative life. While I still have an infinite amount of learning and study ahead of me, I am now a mature artist and writer capable of operating both in fine art and commercial arenas.

It is time for me to leave school. It is time for me to fully engage the world. I do what I do well, and it is time to find a place for myself.

Part of this means taking care of myself. And part of that means creating an environment and life that is healthy and appropriate for me, rather than awkwardly fail to live the kind of life that 'normal' people live.

Right now I am, and have been, in a uniquely fortunate position for an artist. I have a small amount of cash, and a supportive spouse. I am making the choice to begin living the life of a professional artist, and if I hit the skids before things work out? I'll worry about that then.

Right now? My life, on my terms. Which are extremely flexible, it must be confessed...

So there are two big steps I'm going to take. First, the monetization of my natural, habitual creative acts. Writing is already firmly on the tracks. All I have to do is keep doing the next thing.

The prints from Swill -- sample above -- will be coming out about once a year. I need to find them a gallery, or possibly find an art agent, and this year I'll submit them to the Spectrum competition, and do a POD calender of the images.

Paleo art. A gallery outlet would be nice, but I think the natural place for my work in this area would be either working with paleontologists or doing children's books. And again, submit to Spectrum and do a POD calender.

Swill itself is starting to itch at me. I need to sit down with ol' Rob (You seen his new blog? I think he swiped the title from me -- I once referred to him as 'Rob Pierce, the man with two verbs for a name.'), but I have recently been spending a lot of time moaning about how there aren't any real gatekeepers for self-published fiction, and I want to do book design, and I want to do readings, and Swill has, over the years, developed an eerie credibility that might be of some use in...

Gotta talk to Rob. But I'm dreaming big.

So what this means, is that I'm getting to work on my big projects in a systematic fashion, and at the same time I will be actively seeking work as a copywriter or commercial artist. I will finish my scientific literature class, because it is providing me with a lot of topsoil -- it makes me feel smart and gives me good ideas and teaches me useful stuff. It is adding energy to my life, rather than draining it. But when that's done, classes will be taken in order to achieve specific projects.

Basically, given the response my work has received thus far, it is obviously time to take all the half-finished projects and send them out into the fucking world. This means I will be spending my time doing things I like to do, and do well. This is one reason I've been delaying getting my shit together for so long -- I shun pleasure instinctively, and the life I'm shaping for myself could be sweet if it works out.

Here is the immediate future.

1. Swillistrations. I've got a class in tabletop photography on Saturday, and I've got a work table for my studio on order. I will do fifteen pieces, and seven of them will go into Swill. When finished, I will submit them in a batch to Spectrum, and produce a POD calender based on the best of the old Bonelands series.

I will also do a tutorial based on one of the prints. I will try and make it as complete and professional as possible. When it's done, I'll send out a request for career information to as many different graphic software companies as I can find, and include the tutorial as a portfolio piece.

Then I will put together a portfolio, and look for galleries and art agents. Once I get a sizeable batch of portfolios circulating, I forget about it for a while.

2. Write a resume for my writing, and change my personal site --, it's primitive but enthusiastic -- to a business site, advertising my services as writer, artist, editor, and designer.

3. Then I write the novel. Straight through, by myself, write it, read it, revise it, then it's line edits and off. No dicking around. I have a fucking plot, I've written it nine times already. It is time to be a pro.

4. Then I put together a round of portfolios to send out to ad agencies and so on.

5. Then I finish the script and get it off to agents, and possibly self-publish it as a book. Because I'm like nine kinds of crazy.

6. Then I find out about doing dinosaur books for children.

At that point, it's vague and fuzzy, which is fine. I'll be changing this as it goes along.

But I need to be focused on effective productivity. Part of that is recognizing that if I get too scattered, too worried, too unhappy, too stressed, etc. I stop functioning. So I need to eliminate sources of stress from my life to a degree that, yes, is not normal. Is not something that would be acceptable in most people.

I have the option of doing that. And I'm taking it. I think that the combination of focusing the bulk of my time on the large, ambitious, self-expressive work, while searching for commercial work in-between bouts, will produce some kind of positive result in the long run, even if it's something I can only keep up for a while.

I will be trying to find the balance between my obsessive need to do one project at a time, and my desire for a more systematic and predictable life, especially the money part. If I'm going to function, I need to respect and work with my obsessions.

I told the missus that I might make some decisions that will be wrong or crazy over the next six months or a year, and that we were going to have to live with that. Because it's time to do something different.

It's time to do it -- not Frank's way, not Sid's way -- my way. Folks, if you haven't tried it? Put yourself in a position to rub your hands together and cackle. It is scary as shit but it's hell of fun.


Julia Dvorin said...

Awesome and inspiring. Go you! :)

Sean Craven said...

Thanks, Julia. I can pinpoint the moment when this all started -- it was when John Scalzi was giving the lecture on finances, and he said, "Don't be the bass player on the couch!"

Well, the novel's about a bass player. I'm a bass player. And when he said that, I realized that I saw myself as The Bass Player On The Couch -- and I realized I was wrong.

Everything followed from that moment. Funny. Scalzi and I didn't quite hit it off, but I owe him a lot. Ain't the kind of thing you forget.

EFKelley said...

I approve this message.

I think I see where you're going with Swill, because I had a similar notion just the other day. That could be an interesting experiment.

Glendon Mellow said...

Great stuff Sean. I'm running almost in parallel with you.

Sean Craven said...

Eric, this weekend I saw a bookseller I've known since I was thirteen or so. I mentioned I'd been published, and he reacted with mildly scornful confusion -- was he supposed to think an on-line thing was like, real? I mean, come on. I thought you said professionally published!

We're on a threshold, and folks ain't getting it. This is a time and place, dude, and here we are.

Glendon, got to say -- I hear you, and you've been a source of support and inspiration for a while now.

EFKelley said...

Is it time for some Monster Magnet?

Yeah, probably. Assuming you don't get an ad. If so, hit F5. It'll fix it.

Right there with you on the threshold. I mean, they've put editing on us for such a long time, why shouldn't we shoulder a little marketing and take that cow for all the cash? Makes sense to me.

Sean Craven said...

Dude, I so hear you. I am happy to pay for editing, happy to pay for promotion, happy to pay for printing.

But if I am going to pay a cut to a bunch of goddamned investors, contributing to corporate expense accounts, or find myself regarded as an employee, I need to hear some good and specific reasons first.

Here is my big thought on the subject -- who is going to perform the functions for writers that publishers used to perform?

I mean, financial support is officially off the board for writers. Now there's an investment -- "Yeah, the first one is weak, but give him four, five novels and we're talking fucking Ulysses."

But development, editing, packaging, that oh-so-important insignia that says, "This may or may not be crap, but at least the goddamn commas are in the right places." That kind of stuff you do not need a corporation to do.

I'm gonna be studying PDFs and digital book design in the foreseeable future, you betcha.

Now to go listen to some Monster Magnet. I've heard good things about them for dog's years.