Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Few Thoughts On Goals, Both Realistic And Otherwise

Got a new technique that's thrilling me no end. The inkblot pieces I've been doing for Swill for the last while didn't respond as well to my use of dithering in Photoshop as the photo/scan-based pieces did. So I tried something I've been reluctant to do, which is use the Live Trace feature in Illustrator. It tends to be a bit of a processing hog, produces great big files. Well, given that I'm doing high-resolution multiple-level Photoshop images at four feet on a side, great big files are not my issue. So I went for it.

If you don't know Live Trace, and why should you, it's a function that takes raster input and renders it as a vector file, one that prints with exceptional clarity at any desired size. I'd mess with the Live Trace settings and get quite varied results, none of them entirely satisfactory. So I tried layering different tracings on top of one another, then I used the Expand command to let me manipulate the tracings, saving some sections while erasing others. I found that I was able to build satisfying results this way. I particularly enjoy the extremely varied visual qualities of the results, which you'll be seeing over the next while. It's fun -- unlike line drawings, the inkblots produce extremely unpredictable results, so it's more a matter of producing a new and separate piece of art than simply processing the original for reproduction. The big color prints based on these should be fun -- I've got some cute tricks in mind.

Been ignoring the blog this week while I threw myself headfirst down the next issue of Swill. 's coming along nicely, but it's more work than previous issue. That's because the number of interior illustrations has been upped twice and I've decided to include tailpiece illustrations as well as the full-page versions. Hell, there's even going to be a centerfold. Rob figured out a very felicitous page configuration and the end result is looking to have the strongest visual identity of any issue so far.

Since ol' Craig and Glendon have posted recently on their goals, I'm gonna do the same as well. Goals have been on my mind lately, as my last post can testify.

Here are the short-term goals creative goals. Finish illustrating Swill. Finish and submit my stories and application for the Viable Paradise writer's workshop. Finish the current line-edits on The Ghost Rockers. Do a pterosaur illustration and have fun with it, for chrissakes.

(As an aside, the feedback I'm getting from the writer's groups has made something clear. What I'm thinking of as a relatively easy and minor part of the work -- just sanding a few parts down, putting on a couple of coats of varnish and some wax -- is really, really important to the reader and I was really smart to decide to wait until this is over to send it to an agent.)

If you've been following the blog, here's a pattern you may have noticed. I produce a lot of work; I do it somewhat sporadically; I have a tendency to announce grand ambitions and more of them sputter in the dust than sail to the stars.

So here's my number one big goal for the near future -- focus on improving my work skills. My big breakthrough in this arena was learning how to induce compulsions -- four years on the fucking novel, two art shows in the past year, these are compulsive activities.

But what I'd like is to learn how to put in the hours on projects that are not compulsions. I may have to settle for learning how to induce more than one compulsive behavior at a time.

Next year I have some specific learning goals. I'm going to take Photography and 3-D construction in the fall, then life drawing and Digital Painting in the spring. The next set of Swillistrations will draw from those -- I want to construct my compositions out of a mix of hand-drawn sketches, photographs and scans, and 3-D models, then use digital painting to rework all those references into a finished composition.

I think the end results will be viable commercial illustration; I will be pimping them as such.

And I'll have the next volume of the novel in the works as soon as I'm done with the current line edits, which should only take a few weeks.

So those are all solid, achievable goals which I can legitimately expect to meet, barring fate. In the longer run? Allowing for pipe dreams?

As a writer, I see myself eventually writing a big fat fantasy series alternating with stand-alone projects. The fantasy series is one that's been evolving since childhood; it may well be illustrated.

But before I get to it, I want to write a few crap novels just to have the experience of working quickly. The number of possible book projects I've got in the works is, I'd guess, somewhere in the low teens. I'd like to get to the point where I can can reliably knock out a novel every year or two. It's not the writing that slows me down; it's the planning and conceptual work, and that should be improvable.

I also want to write screenplays. Got the second draft of one finished, currently (and terribly) titled Morrison Blues. When the whole novel is done, a better draft of this script is the first thing I'm going to do. Yes, Mesozoic fans, it's the Morrison you think it is. But wanting to write screenplays is a very different thing than wanting to work in/with Hollywood.

But of course, this is all just the tip of the iceberg.