What’ve you missed? Eh. The normal crazy, more or less. Is it funny or sad when one can use the phrase “normal crazy” and have it apply to a variety of situations without raising an eyebrow? Ah, never mind. It’s a waste of brain power trying to figure some things out. Far better to push on, bringing dreams into reality. Or perhaps that’s my problem… whatever.
Getting back into the swing of things in the wake of the 2015 New York City Teen Authors’ Festival wasn’t as tricky as I imagined. I think I have a healthier perspective on what I’m doing than in previous years, which meant my time trotting around the city, participating in various events, was more or less a vacation than a full-stop break in my creative action. If anything, it gave me too much time to entertain too many ideas. The last week was spent reining in my thoughts rather than jumpstarting them.
I really need to make a sign to put over my desk that says, “Tim, you are not a multi-tasker! Love, MGT. ” I keep finding myself trying to do too many things. When I first got into this book thing, that was not a problem because I didn’t know anything and hadn’t succumb to the foolishness of believing I could have a career out of making books. Things were pretty simple: think of a cool idea, research said idea, write about said idea, draw said idea. I would do those things, it would take 18 months and I would pat myself on the back and say good job. But then, as happens, I found myself with more options and more daydreams which led to a dilution of my focus. At first it was small, just two projects, one being more or less a side project. Then the side projects started taking up more and more space on my desk and in my mind. Now, there are tons of silly things going on. I spent the better part of the week clearing space to work on one thing or something like that.
So, right now, here are the things at the forefront of my brain: daily writing of 200 words or so for a novel I’ve been messing with since 2012, an illustrated Box Book about Rapa Nui for July, a collection of short stories for my April Box Book and last but not least, all the crap involved with trying to create a Civil War graphic novel with my nephew. As if that nonsense wasn’t enough, I kind of had a break through dealing with the reproduction of my black and white acrylic paintings, which brought all that stuff back into the mix. Therefore, my desk and brain are equally crammed with crap.
Clearly, that’s too much for me to handle. Or I can handle it but I want to have a life as well. And the truth is that I work better when I compartmentalize and complete one task at a time. That was the reason I took up the painting in the first place, to buy me more time to tackle projects with speed, the idea being that I could complete each one quickly and move on.
Mental triage was required. The 200 word daily writing doesn’t really mess me up much. It takes maybe ten minutes and quickly accumulates into a good bit of writing. I don’t really have to worry about it but I do need to make sure it doesn’t expand much beyond those 200 words. That means stopping, mid-sentence if necessary and moving on with my day. Oddly, it’s kind of hard to stop when things are flowing, but it can be done.
The Rapa Nui book needs to go on the backburner. Given that I intend to paint the images, I have a ton of time to hit my July deadline.
The short stories are another story. Most of them need some tweaking, which takes time. But like the 200 word writing, the trick is not bingeing on the editing but to take it in small doses, maybe thirty minutes at a time and move on. The sooner I can do that, the sooner that whole project is completed.
Which leaves the bulk of my time to work on the Civil War book, which as it turns out, is where I should be putting my time and effort. The Civil War book is the largest undertaking and the one which requires the most interaction with others and since the others tend to work a lot slower than I do, means I need to give them more attention rather than less, so the whole ball of wax keeps trundling forward.
With that explained, to you and myself, I’m pushing on. So… what does that mean? Mostly it means developing a painting style and experimenting with it while slowly and steadily sketching things which will become the finished images for the Civil War book. First, I had to set up a system for painting. It’s strange to be working with paint, on a homemade paint box as an easel, under the glare of a single bulb. It’s like I’ve gone back in time and am in my 3rd floor bedroom in Camp Hill, PA, in 1990. Add a jerry-rigged stereo that converts all cassette tapes to mono and the dulcet tones of _ and Garfunkel (remember, it’s a mono playing stereo which means the music is going to lose something) and all is right in the universe.
With my new studio set up accomplished, on to the painting. In my early black and white acrylic painting on toned paper work, I worked with a three phase system: gray washes for depth, black paint for detail, white paint for highlights. The paintings worked well, the reproductions, not so much. The gray washes flattened into broad areas of boring crap. Hence me complaining about the epic fail and my unexcited return to ink. Of course, I’ve been tinkering with paint for months and until such time as I use all of it or get it out of my apartment, I’ll continue to tinker. Usually, that’s a bad thing. However, it dawned on me if I could make my paintings with a two phase system: paint with black for depth and detail, add white for highlights, I could remove the part of the equation that didn’t work. And that’s what I did. I sat down on Saturday to experiment. I made five paintings in two hours using straight black and white paint. Then I scanned the paintings and messed with them. Everything looked good. But then I tried something new, I photocopied them. The quality of a photocopy isn’t far off the quality of low-fi printing. Lo and behold, it worked. The trick, it seems, is to use pure black in such a manner as to give the illusion of gray. Hell, I can do that. And so, painting is back in the mix.
With the need to hone my skilz and add stuff to my website and twitter, I’ve started a series of small paintings. The first one goes up on timothydecker.com today. Yeah, I know this is yet more stuff on my plate and what happened to my single-tasking… but really, more painting means better painting so get off my back, old man! You don’t know what it’s like to be me! I’m a rebel, I tell ya, a rebel!
Or something like that.