Thursday, October 29, 2015

More Art - Landscape and Inverse Lanscape

Still playing with the same technique I used on the trees, but this time playing with abstracted backgrounds.  I say "Landscape" but really, it is pure abstract that just suggests landscapes: layers that lay horizontally across the page.  It's a great concept for covers because it leaves nice spaces for text.

In this case, I planned to create a dark hill and a dark sky, with a lightening strike, however, because this technique is not very editable -- each brush stroke interacts with previous ones, and you kinda get what you get -- I don't know that there is room for a small building or object and the lightening.  But we'll see later on.

You see that experiment on the left. 

On the right, you see an inverted version of the image.  The colors are a "negative" of the first image, and then I flipped it around. This one also suggests a landscape, but with a different feel.

I actually like that second one better, even though it has a very mainstream/literary look (or nonfiction).  So I played with adding text.  That sky looks snowy, even if the foreground areas are brownish gold.  Like cold mountains.

So I put in a faux title ("The Pass") and made up a random author name.  Originally "Greenwin Valdez," which I like a lot, but I've decided that I want to use something like it for a pen name someday, and I don't like masquerading as another ethnic group, or using letters late in the alphabet for a last name.

I might use it myself, if I decide to write some book of Zen koans or something.  Or it might be adaptable to an ocean scape -- might work for a sea chase.

It's likely to end up in my "premade" stock for sale.

I've also done some figurative work on this (i.e. with people) but I haven't got control of the technique well enough for that yet.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Art - Spooky Trees for Halloween

Practicing some watercolor brushes in Painter.  This wasn't actually what I planned to do tonight. I was playing with abstracts for backgrounds -- fiddling with blue-on-blue, actually -- and I started following what the brush gave me, and ended up with these decidedly not background trees.

I didn't work the tree on the left as long as on the right. The right one has more layers and more subtlety, especially in the middle/lower trunk.

Not sure what I'm going to do with it, but it's definitely another technique and "look" I want to work with.  I'm wondering if some of the subtler bits of this could be used for text?  There was an interesting period of irregular, hand drawn title text in mid-century pulp covers that this might work for.

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Not Doing Nano - Doing History

I have decided not to do Nano. 

This is partly because I realized something about Nano -- it promises a fun and fulfilling time - the joy of Just Writing, and the Fulfillment of Finishing... but the rules take all the fun out of both things by mashing them together.  The joy of finishing has to do with pulling a great and satisfying plan together - to see it come to fruition.  Requiring that the novel be started and finished in the same time frame undercuts that satisfaction completely. (Even with a novel that happens to write itself in a couple weeks.)  In the meantime, they also ruin the zen joy of just writing without thought to that ending.

So I have come to the realization that I will likely never do Nano.  It's the wrong time of year, and it hinders more than helps and for all that it sounds like fun, it really isn't.

In the meantime, I really am too wrapped up in this nonfiction project.  I just needed a couple of weeks of break from it.

Genealogy is so often a recitation of facts.  So-and-so begat So-and-so.  Or So-and-so was born on a certain date in a certain place.   Maybe he was in the army or she attended a certain school.

Sometimes you can make a story out of it by learning about the time and the place, but it still seems pretty dry....

Unless you can get _enough_ of those dry facts.  When you do get enough of them, a story emerges.  Often a fascinating or heart-breaking or exciting story.  If you are lucky enough to be able to connect those dry facts with bits of oral history, or newspaper accounts, the story really takes off.  Every new little fact adds to the picture.

And it's hard to stop digging, once you hit that point.

It's a puzzle, really, and I love puzzles.

I first found my great great grandmother, Nancy Ann York, in the 1870 census for Richland Township, Michigan. She was living with an unidentified pair of relatives, not her parents, and her older brother Luther was living around the corner with an unrelated family, the Raymonds.  Two years later she would be married to Frank Vinson, a Canadian, who in 1870, was 100 and some miles away, working in a lumber camp in an even less settled area.

How did she get where she was? How did she get together with Frank?

Well, her father died in the Civil War, and her mother remarried a few years later, so that's why she was living with relatives, right?

That's what you assume when you have the simple genealogical facts, but when I dug further, and further -- going into the other relatives, into the neighbors and their history -- I discovered another story.  Nancy was living with her Uncle Elias York, who had invalided out of the army in the Civil War soon after joining with a bad heart. (And maybe he had a figurative bad heart, too, because he had at least five wives in his lifetime, and only one child I can find. Both of whom might have died or might have left him and changed their names back to maiden name.)

But one of these wives was a cousin, Irene Brown -- who had family who moved to Michigan early on.  The Brown family and the Raymond family had a bit of a child exchange going in earlier generations, so it was perfectly natural for them to take in Irene's step-nephew Luther in this new settlement in Michigan.

But here is the kicker: By 1863, Elias and his new wife and in-laws had moved to the wilds of Michigan, and Nancy had disappeared from the family of her mother and siblings in the New York census of 1865.  So...

Nancy moved when was only seven or eight years old, not the budding teen she would be in 1870.

And she and her brother left home before their father died, and long before her mother remarried.  They were already living with their uncle and cousins and neighbors to the wilds of Saginaw County.

So she didn't move because her father died and her family broke up.

And when you look deeper at the community and the generations that preceded her, it appears she was sent along because that was standard operating procedure in a multi-generational "frontier or bust" sort of family.  A seven-year-old is old enough to apprentice out, and is old enough to go along in the first wave of migration to a new wilderness.

Hey, Nancy's oldest daughter (my great grandmother "Great") was washing dishes in a lumber camp at 3 years old. You start life as soon as you can grasp it.

Sure, there may have been more drama going on in the family, that caused her to be sent or to want to go.  Things that didn't make it into the record. (For a while, due to errors in the transcription of the faded, handwritten census, it seemed like there must have been a lot of drama in that family... but most of it was just a mistake. Someday I'll write up the story that didn't really happen.)   There are maybe some hints of it in the very small amount of oral tradition that I heard from Gramma, but not enough to draw conclusions.

And interesting as Nancy's life is, the generations before her are even more so. And you can't tell her story without knowing theirs.

So I'm off to nail down a little more information on her grandmother, and also see if I can get a handle on Elias' mysterious second wife, who is said to have come from the Cheezman family. (What an interesting name!)

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Some Art - Loretta Young and a Cover

So I did do some of my artwork.  The Loretta Young picture came out splendid, but I should tell you that this is a photo replication: that is, I pin down certain key features with an overlay before I begin my drawing.  (On paper, I'd use a grid.) I don't do this well completely free hand.  (On the other hand, this is also how Vermeer worked, so I don't feel bad about it.)

When I do try to do a portrait completely freehand, it comes out not looking like the person at all.  Which is frustrating when I'm trying to draw a picture for a blog post about someone specific. 

But here's the thing:

If I don't try to make it look like the person -- and more importantly, if I don't rush it -- it can come out looking like a good picture of someone else.

Which is a good way to do character illustrations.

Furthermore, I have this theory that if I were to NOT give up and either draw someone else, or go for the photo replication, I might actually bring the picture back to resembling the original person.  That is, I might be able to do one of those oddly detailed caricatures that I so admire.

I might play more with Loretta Young on that, but first I think I might give it a try with the current actor, Nick Blood, who plays Hunter on Agents of SHIELD.  He has interesting bone structure.  I think my failed attempts to draw him will lead to images that are still interesting.

In the meantime I did a different background for the possible book cover.  So far the story doesn't actually involve stairs, but it involves a woman laid up after an accident in her spooky old house, and she can't climb stairs -- so stairs probably should play a part.  Not sure if that figure at the top of the stairs is going to be her looking down, or if it's a menacing shadow upstairs.

I haven't found the title, or the fonts I want yet. (The title here was chosen because it fits.)  And I still would like a more flat, abstracted background, a la 1950s pulp and thrillers, however I haven't found the textures I want, and, okay, I have WAY too much fun playing with smeary tools.

And no, I didn't really do any plotting today. 

See you in the funny papers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Thinking of Doing NaNo This Year

Usually I find it impossible to do NaNoWriMo. The restrictive rules and timing make it impossible to integrate into an existing writing plan -- you have to start something "new," you can't start ahead of time, etc.

However, this year some things have happened that have completely knocked me out of writing (and pretty much every other project) for a while.  So most of my creative work is on the shelf. I have been concentrating lately on nonfiction -- writing a history of my great great grandmother and her family -- but this requires long, slow, meticulous research and I could use a break from that.

In the meantime -- just as something to break up the long sessions of combing through page after page of census forms -- I rolled a "game story" and had an interesting result.

Actually, it was interesting because it was supremely uninteresting. That is, I rolled elements that, when put together, they were an old cliché.  First I groaned and considered re-rolling.... but as I sat there looking at what came up, I thought;

This looks like an old, lesser-known (and deservedly so) Loretta Young movie.

But to be honest, I kinda like old lesser-known Loretta Young movies, and often wish I could revise the stupid-factor on some of them.

I'm not really writing a Space Thriller.
So, I have decided that I will write this.  I'm just not sure if I'll do it now.In October, I'm doing two things, well, three.  (Okay four, if you count the continued reading through of the Census rolls for Steuben County New York from 1840-1865.)

1.) A cover for proposed book. I have a concept, shown here. It is actually likely to be significantly different.  The title, whether the broken stair fits the story, and I was just noodling with the background there - I'd like something more angular and Mid-Century Modern-ish. (And less Space Opera-ish.)

2.) A drawing of Loretta Young and maybe some others. This is to get my drawing skills back in gear, and to get my mind thinking on the kind of story I'm writing, but also because I want to start drawing "character cards" for another game.  Which means I'll probably do more than one -- a "realistic" one and then some more stylized and caricature things.

3.) An Xtreme Outline for this story.

When the time comes to put up or shut up, I'll decide if I want to do NaNo, or if I have diverted myself enough and I want to get back to the biography of Nancy Ann Vinson, née York, and the Steuben County (and various Michigan) censuses.

See you in the funny papers.