Text, fonts, ink on paper, and marks on a screen are irresistible. As a kid I ruined phone books and napkins with scribbles, seeing if the ink would bleed all the way through the paper. It’s an addiction, I think, needing to mar white space with my own hand.
I love stories too. I used to sit in class, ignore the teacher, and read books. Reading saved me from the reality of my childhood. Isn’t that true of many avid readers?
I don’t know why we have to choose one path in life. Yes, some choices are rather absolute—to have a child, let’s say. But I wanted to be an artist and a writer, and while for a long time I thought I could pursue only one dream, eventually I dared to pursue two.
Words used in art long appealed to me, but using someone else’s words veered too close to plagiarism. I’m obsessive and possessive—every part of what I create must belong to me. So I never used words in my art.
But one afternoon I came across an artist who used newspaper in her art. She drew images over the newsprint, and then it struck me—I could draw images over my own printed pages! I grabbed a printed draft of my novel and began to sketch…but I didn’t like it. The feel of the paper between my fingers gave me my next idea. I could cut up the paper. Make a collage. And so I cut out buildings, pasted them, and stared at them. They needed something…more ink.
The Imagination Question
People love to ask: where do you get your ideas? I don’t know if they ask because they really want to know or because they’re seeking this magical place for themselves. But I don’t know the answer. It’s the weight of paper, it’s the image of other art, and it’s the feeling at the end of a brilliant book. The idea springs from what is before me and lands in my head as something new, something that only I can do. I believe that there are no new ideas under the sun, but every person has his or her own way to see that idea. Trust that gem of an idea in your own mind and you’ll have something.
The Imagination in the World
I’ve been writing and using my writing in my art ever since. I’ve had a bit more success with the art. People respond to art more immediately than to words. My art has appeared in the online journal Onomatopoeia Magazine and featured on the blog of 7 Impossible Things before Breakfast. My art has been displayed at several local places in Austin, Texas and been accepted twice in the festival Art City Austin. For a while my art was available at a lovely, local, high-end décor shop in downtown Austin, IF+D, until the shop fell victim to these economic times.
Few professional moments have been as surprising as the moment a stranger handed me money for my art. I hadn’t even thought something like that was possible for someone like me.
An especially fun project was for musician John Zainea and the Mania. John found me through the magic of the Internet. I used his lyrics in the art for his CD cover and the CD itself. In fact, on several occasions I’ve cut up other people’s words in my work—at their request. See John Zainea’s CD at John Zainea and the Mania, Summer of One Thousand Seeds.
One of the most compelling things about slicing up text—whether mine or someone else’s—is that choosing a phrase, removing the words from the context, and juxtaposing those words along side other lifted phrases gives a new twist to what one has written.
Coming Soon and Other Dreams
From January 20th to February 19th my art will be back up on the walls of Genuine Joe’s Coffee House in Austin, Texas. This will be my fourth year showing my work there.
Genuine Joe’s is also where I do most of my writing. I’ve written six novels drinking their lattes (and two other novels besides). I’m still trying to find an agent and hope that my work will reach readers. I take great inspiration from other writer/artists types like Audrey Neffinger and Erin Morgenstern. With luck and determination I want to combine my art and my writing into a long creative career. We shall see.
I can be found in cyberspace in these places:
My blog: The Fairy Tale Asylum