Tag Archives: art

Pay the Creative

There are two things I have no qualms about spending money on: books and art. As a pen-monkey, I believe books are art in and of themselves – from the cover to the artistry of words within. I smile every time I walk past one of my over-flowing bookcases, or the pile of books on my bedside table.  All of which complement the art on my walls. And the nine pieces I’ve yet to frame and hang… oh, they call out to me to find their place.

a-mindful-installation

Yes, I’m running out of wall space, but that’s okay, we’re in the process of finding another place to call home, and while a new house has to hit the right marks with bedroom numbers, office space, backyard, for me it’s wall-space and bookshelf positioning I see. But I digress.

Of late, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts regarding consumers not willing to pay for books for all manner of ridiculous reasons. Here’s one such post that goes into detail about one author rallying against some readers who feel they shouldn’t have to pay for a writer’s work, that the art of storytelling and providing a reader with a product should be given away for free. (I rolled my eyes so hard they fell out of my head, and I had to retrieve them from my cats.)

Pisces

But it’s not just authors who are expected to work for ‘exposure’. Artists, too, are often targeted to provide their work for free (or exposure). You can’t pay bills with exposure; you can’t eat a reader’s ‘good will’, and ‘word of mouth’ doesn’t pay your kids’ school fees.  The fact there are those out there who expect you to work for free, to help them achieve a product that will make them money but not you… damn, that’s hard to get my head around.

Like the books I read, I buy my art. Never would I consider asking an artist to forgo the hours of work and their inspiration just because I like something and want it to adorn my wall. I don’t ask my tattooist to ink my skin for free either. But there are others out there – parasites I call them – who believe artists should just give their work away. The Brave Little Illustrator captures it perfectly here. There have been times when I’ve found a piece of artwork I just have to have, and to own it meant putting my pennies away until I could afford it. That’s just what you do.

train in vain 1

I don’t set out to find art, it finds me. I’ll see a post on social media, someone will share an artist’s work they’ve come across. I’ve found artists at conventions, expos, bookstores… so many different places, and these pieces, I know, belong with me. So I have no compunction for paying for the art, because this allows the artist to live to create more.

And that’s what it’s all about. Here in Australia, our current government has cut arts funding and scholarships, and they’re looking at allowing parallel importation that will grossly undermine the earning ability of writers in this country, and dropping copyright to fifteen years from publication before it becomes public domain. There’s this growing belief that the cultural contribution artists and writers provide isn’t worth the time or paper it’s created on. Art and books create escapism, they take you to places that ignite your imagination, give you respite from the ugliness that intrudes upon our lives, and if that isn’t worth something, what is?

Raniermos

So if there’s a book you want to read, or artwork you want for your home, or perhaps some external or internal art for a book you’ve written… pay the artist!

A big shout-out to those artists whose work adorns (or soon will) my walls: Monty Borror, Jeannie Lynn Paske (Obsolete World), Damon Hellandbrand (owe you an email, dude), Greg Chapman, and Mel Schwarz. Check out their work, and that of Dean Samed and Caroline O’Neal. As for saving for art, it’s a Chris Mars piece I’m looking at next adding to my collection.

Oh, and a big-up to Andrew J McKiernan, who gave me the illustration he did for my story, ‘Nightmare’s Cradle’, which sits proudly above my desk.

7_nightmare_s_cradle

* All pieces shown within this post I have bought from the artists (apart from Andrew’s piece, which was paid for by Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine).

Art of the Cover

Covers matter. They do. That old adage: Don’t judge a book by its cover, if taken in its absolute literal sense, is utter bullshit. Covers are your visual selling point; it’s the first thing a potential reader (and buyer) sees. And if it’s terrible and/or amateurish… Behold, I will judge with all my judgey judginess! I will slam down my imaginary gavel, and I won’t buy your book.

But wait, I hear you say, what if the story is brilliant? Then invest in good cover art, dammit. Invest in it like you invested in your story. All those hours you agonised over words and plot and characters, of the sleep you sacrificed, eating at your desk, of wondering whether you showered today… or was it yesterday… (No? Just me then…), invest that same excellence in your cover art. Don’t just slap any cover on your work (and for the love of all things holy and unholy, unless you’re an artist, don’t do it yourself!), ’cause I will judge your book by its cover, and so will a lot of others.

I read a lot, and as a buyer of print books, a beautiful and/or interesting cover will draw me in as much as a shitty one will repel. And with the amount of both print and electronic books on the market, a good cover is half the battle won. I’ll pick it up, and if your blurb is good (that’s fodder for another post), then that’s a sale. When it comes to my hard-earned cash, I’m particular on how I spend it, and I’m more likely to spend on a book with a beautiful cover, than I am on one with a shite one.

For someone with a mountain of ‘to read’ books who also can’t walk past a bookstore without venturing into its delicious depths, I’m always looking for new authors to read. A cover is where it all begins. It led me to Mark Lawrence and his Broken Empire and Red Queen series, and now I’ll read anything the man writes. Seriously, go to his website and buy the man’s books. Go. Now. I’ll wait.

prince-of-thorns

<insert Muzak here>

Back? Excellent.

Another thing I often hear is that bad covers are the domain of the author-publisher. Again, I call bullshit. The advent of author-publishing and the (now-diminishing) stigma attached to it, has shown authors know the value of a great cover. There are self-published authors whose books have gorgeous covers – this tells me they’ve thought long and hard about their finished product, about their reader. And covers should reflect the content, the world and atmosphere of a book. Take a look at Devin Madson’s The Blood of Whisperers – the story inside is as beautiful as the cover. Another author whose work I will now always read.

BoW

As an editor, I understand the importance of covers, how they work to sell the story/stories inside. If you can excite a potential reader by the cover art alone, then you’re looking at sales. Sales are good. Sales mean the author (or authors, when an anthology) will be read, and those authors may begin to get a fan-base – and there’s not a lot better than that. As an editor for Cohesion Press (an Australian small press), their mantra is to always source kick-ass cover art. Great cover art gets readers excited, it builds interest, it builds sales. But more than that, it’s the finished product. Readers will appreciate the effort you put in, and they’ll remember your name.

Into-the-Mist-194x300

I know there’ll be those out there who will bemoan the cost of cover art. That good cover art is unaffordable. Well before you do that, how would you feel if someone bitched about the price of your book? Good cover art costs, just as good editing and proofreading – all essential parts of the publishing process. You want to put your best work out into the world, right? Right?

The reason I decided to write this post was the cover artist for Cohesion’s books, Dean Samed (check out his work) just yesterday had his site go live, and his cover-work is just astounding. Each piece grabs you, it takes you places, and it defines what’s on the inside pages. The last thing any author wants is a horror book (for instance) with a decidedly romance cover. That’s a betrayal no reader will tolerate.

There are amazing artists out there who love creating cover art for the books you love creating. Check out Deviantart, get onto artists’ sites, and if you like the style of a book cover, the artist is usually mentioned in the front-matter. Social media is a great way to get recommendations for artists, for those who specialise in covers, who can put the best ‘coat’ on your baby.

Do a little research, chat to artists, find great art. Your book will thank you for it.

Tusk

Festivus Book Pimping – Jason Franks

Ah, the decision to choose which book to pimp first for your festive-season consideration was far more difficult than I thought it would be. So many great books, and I’m the worst decision-maker when it comes to selecting which book to read next, let alone which book to pimp next. So, as an Aussie, I’m going to start with an Australian author. You really should be reading Aussie authors – we’re awesome.

So, today I’m going to reintroduce you to Melbourne-based author, Jason Franks. Jason is a novelist and comic book/graphic novel author and illustrator, and this year I read his novel Bloody Waters (reviewed here), and the first in the comic series, Left Hand Path (reviewed here).

Bloody Waters

Bloody Waters is an action-packed, supernatural black-comedy that follows the life and times of guitar virtuoso Clarice Marnier. Clarice is a singularly-focused, no-nonsense, quick-witted protagonist you can’t help but love – she does what needs to be done to achieve her goals. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who has a bent for supernatural horror with more than a sprinkling of dark comedy, witty repartee, and a hell of a twist at the end. I read well into the wee-morning hours to finish this book.

Left Hand Path is also quite a dark comic – we’re talking horror here. I picked up my signed copy at Melbourne ComicCon this year, and this is one seriously cool comic, with fantastic (and explicit – yay!) artwork. In book one (the only issue out at the moment) we’re introduced to the Unconventional Incidents Unit (UIU), who are called to a bloody massacre perpetrated by a demon that’s now loose on the streets of Los Angeles. Very much looking forward to the next issue.

Left Hand Path

While those are the two books of Franks I’ve read, there’s so much more on offer at his website, including the comic series McBlack (think Noir) and The Sixsmiths ­– a family of suburban Satanists who’ve fallen prey to the recession.

What I’ve found with Franks’ work is a delightfully dark satire that makes him stand out from the wonderfully diverse range of books, comics and graphic novels on the market. If you haven’t given his stories a read, then it’s something you really must change. Go. Now. And fill a Christmas stocking with some deliciously dark work. Dare ya.

Recommended for horror lovers, comic connoisseurs, adult audience.

bloody bauble

Review: Left Hand Path by Jason Franks, Paul Abstruse & Eddy Swan

You bet I’m on a roll with posting, but as tomorrow I’m heading away to the country for a week, I thought I’d get this review done. That’s right; it’s review time again!  Today I’m looking at a one of the horror comics from the super-talented Jason FranksLeft Hand Path. I picked this copy up at ComicCon Melbourne – and the last copy at that! Both Jason and artist, Paul Abstruse happily signed it for me, and there really isn’t a lot better than having signed comics and books, I gotta say.

For those who have even a passing association with anything horror-related will have an understanding that the ‘left hand path’ refers to dark magic and Satanism – the path toward evil (yes, that’s a rather simplistic explanation, but I’m not writing a dissertation here). And from page one, we’re thrown right into the mix with a summoning of the Horned One himself.

Left Hand Path

As with any first book in a series, there’s a lot of setting up and introduction of characters (no introduction really needed for Satan, but I can see the same black humour and wit Franks used in his novel Bloody Waters, come through here), and the beginning of plots and sub-plots between said characters.

You can probably guess that Satan gets his kicks on right from the get-go, which pulls in other characters ­– cops Livia and Danik – who have a snarky, gritty dynamic that fits perfectly with the almost noir feel of this side of the comic.

Like I said, this is comic #1 in the series, so here we’re exploring the building of plot and characters, but Franks doesn’t over-dwell on backstory – you can’t with a comic; it has to come through via dialogue and captions, and Left Hand Path shows us Franks is a master at what he does. It’s little wonder this comic was an Aurealis Award finalist.

aurealis

Artwork… ah, artwork, how I love thee! Here, both Paul Abstruse (pencils & inks) and Eddy Swan (colours) really bring this comic to life. The illustrations are beautifully detailed from background to foreground, and Swan has used a perfect dichotomy between muted and vivid colour to really draw the eye. This is especially good when it comes to the gruesome scenes – very visceral in their display, which always makes me smile (hey, each to their own, right?).

Published by Winter City Productions, this is going to be a very cool series to get into, and I’m itching to see what Satan gets up now he’s been unleashed upon the unsuspecting citizens of the city. And more snark from the cops and intolerant (and totally cool) ‘specialist’ sent to stop the big guy tells me this is going to be a lot of fun!

I’ll also make a note here for language and gruesome horror – some of my favourite things, but for others… mebbe not. J

On a Goodreads scale (even though it’s not up on Goodreads – get on that Jason!), I’m giving it 4 stars.

4 stars

Art of the Tattoo

This post is about art. There are some who’ll believe this isn’t the case, but tattoos just have a different canvass, is all. I’ve heard all the arguments against putting ink into your skin: it’s stupid, a desecration, it labels you, is the latest fashion statement, you’ll regret it… I could go on but I don’t want to. For me and a whole lot of other people, tattoos are little (or big) pieces of art we wear that have special meaning and mark a particular time of our lives. It’s a choice we’ve made, and to have those choices derided by others (and it oft is), is not only rude and offensive – as most commentary is definitely not asked for – it’s also none of your damn business.

Am I angry? Damn straight I am. Tattoos were always going to be a part of my ‘art series’ posts (with a special shout out to my tattoo artist), but I’ve brought this forward because of some mainstream media coverage that specifically and unfairly targeted women and tattoos. This was brought to my attention by the lovely Maria Lewis via a Facebook post, and yes, she was just as pissed as I am about the gender disparity when it came to the reports. You can read Maria’s article here – I’ll wait why you do that….

Are you riled up yet? If not, you should be. As Maria rightly points out, at no stage did the mainstream media mention any stats with regard to men and their tattoos; at no stage was there a follow-up piece regarding men regretting their ink. But hey, that’s cool, right? Women and tattoos are a society no-no, aren’t they? Wrong, on both counts and on so many levels.

tattoo art

As much as I’d like to put on my ranty-pants, I think Maria has covered this issue really well, and my thoughts are pretty much going to be a mirror of her words, but I will add this: I’m under no illusions that I’m sometimes judged on my tattoos, but that speaks more to the person making those judgements than to me. What I find amusing (and yes, frustrating) is other’s belief that their opinion and words are going to make an impact on any decision I make with regard to MY body. When I’m asked ‘How will my tattoos look when I’m eighty?’ Awesome, is my answer. My tattoos will bring with them memories of that time and what they represent. They’ll grow older with me, my pieces of art.

So, now onto the art of tattooing, because it is an art-form; anyone who tells you different is kidding themselves. I currently have five tattoos – three very visible and two not. And yes, I said ‘currently’, I will be adding to my collection. Like the art I hang on my walls, I like art on my skin, too. Each has meaning to me; they’re a representation of who I am.

I’m extraordinarily lucky to have found an amazingly-talented artist in Ben O’Grady from Lighthouse Tattoo in Sydney (he’s inked my last three). When I went to see him with my last design idea he sat me down and said no, we’re not doing that – he was seeing too much of a particular section of the design around. So out comes the pencil and within moments, he’s sketched out something so outrageously good, and so very much me, I could have kissed him. It’s that kind of skill and understanding of your client that makes a tattoo artist, and why I wouldn’t go to anyone else except Ben.

tattoo 1

I’ve often heard it said that tattoos are the latest fashion trend, that ‘everyone has them’, but while there is a growing amount of society sporting ink, there’s nothing ‘universal’ about them – this generalisation never rings true. Tattoos are a personal thing, each with its own special meaning to the wearer, each tells a story. Each is as individual as the person who’s inked.

Ben’s artwork appears on my forearms, and I’ve had more people tell me they’re beautiful than I’ve had people mock, and I will pimp Ben anytime someone asks. You see, my tattoos have opened conversations with complete strangers who’ve appreciated the skill and artistry of my ink and me theirs. There’s a community within the tattooed that a lot of people don’t see; we appreciate good art, we understand there’s an addictiveness to them, and we discuss old tattoos and the ones to come. We share an experience, we share the unfair scorn and derision oft thrown our way, and we understand that no matter what others think or believe, more art will come.

So the next time you’re out and see someone walking around with artwork on their skin, don’t judge, appreciate the thought, time and skill that’s gone into producing something they’re proud to wear for all to see. And maybe, just maybe, strike up a conversation and discover the story behind the art.

 wing tattoo

 

Note: the featured image, designed by David Schembri, is another piece of art Ben has inked on my skin. 

Art of the beautiful monster

“Good and evil and beauty and ugliness are only ornamental fruits of perspective…” ~ HP Lovecraft

The above quote resonates with me on a number of levels. As a horror writer, I often encounter attitudes of incredulity and confusion when it comes to my choice of genre. Why would I want to write horror when there are “nicer” things to write about? It’s all about perspective. To me, there’s an authenticity to horror I find beautiful. When we’re at our most vulnerable, fighting to survive, to make it to the next moment then the next – it’s gut-wrenchingly honest. How is that not beautiful?

Like I said, it’s all about perspective. What I find intriguing, beautiful and resonant, others may find ugly, disturbing and frightening.  Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. And art is the epitome of perspective, of subjectivity.

As I’ve said in a previous post, I don’t actively seek out art, it tends to find me, and this time it was via my Facebook newsfeed. It’s where I came across the artwork of Damon Hellandbrand. He’d re-envisioned the twelve Zodiac signs – all with a monster spin. They were gorgeous, and after wallowing in the artistry of each, I knew I had to at least inquire as to whether I could own some.

Pisces
Pisces

You know that awful moment when you fall in love with a piece of art and you pray to whatever deities will listen that you can afford it? Yeah. That. So I searched and found contact details (it wasn’t stalking, I swear), and sent a rather awkward-sounding email to Damon. With him being in the States and me in Australia, there’s that crappy time-difference thing that meant he was asleep while I was awake and vice versa – it makes all emailing a waiting game.

Damon, of course, was lovely and totally ignored the artlessness of my email (see what I did there?). Not only was his work beautiful, it – if I can say this – is under-priced considering the man’s talent. I promptly bought three pieces: my star sign, and those of my daughter and son (there’s a whole ‘fat octopus’ joke in our home re my husband’s sign).

Scorpio
Scorpio

More art. That’s right. More art, and something that resonates with me and fits perfectly into the pieces that adorn our walls – a little different to most, but art that evokes thought and contemplation. It stirs the imagination, and as a writer, that’s what I want surrounding me.

There was much excitement when the art arrived, and Damon, gracious and generous, had included some postcard-sized prints as well. It was like Christmas, only better…’cause, you know, it wasn’t Christmas… and art.

I’d never heard of Damon before his art hit my newsfeed, but that’s something I hope I can change with this post. His work should be sitting on the walls of more than just my home. Go take a look at his work. Go on. I do know he’s working on another series that’s currently under embargo, and if his Zodiac set is anything to by, I know it’s going to be kick-arse work.

What are you still doing here? Go. Click that link. Dare ya.

 Capricorn

Capricorn

Artful Conservation of the Imaginarium

Art, how I love thee! Like my collection of books, my collection of art is getting to a point where I’m running out of wall space. But I’ll not stop buying either, ‘cause that’s just crazy talk. Crazy talk!

The difference between my buying of books and my buying of art is that I don’t actively seek out art. It kinda finds me. In my previous post here, I mentioned that should I meet the deadline for the Black Friday Wager (the completion of the eleventy-first draft of my novel), I would win by not only having a completed novel-draft but get the bonus of some art as well. And it was a bet I won. That’s right – draft complete! That was the bet I had with the wonderfully-crazy Elizabeth Wayne.

It was Elizabeth who put me onto the artist from whom I get to choose two pieces. I already have two artworks (below) from Jeannie Lynn Paske’s ‘Obsolete Worldthat sit perfectly on the walls of my hallway. There’s a melancholy about each piece that really struck a chord, and her use of colour, light and shadow reinforces the solemnity she creates in her work.

Flight of the Recently Departed
Flight of the Recently Departed

In Paske’s own words: ‘Obsolete World is a name that was originally taken from the 1961 Twilight Zone episode “The Obsolete Man” where in a future totalitarian state, Burgess Meredith’s character (a librarian) is a man put on trial for the crime of being obsolete. I had always loved that episode and I pictured a similar scenario in which the make-believe creatures of childhood suffer a similar “crime” as one grows old. I took to the task of conserving these victims of consequence, and created Obsolete World as a place where my own creations could safely while away the hours.’

As a writer, I live in make-believe worlds with make-believe creatures –creatures of my own creation. I breathe life into them; give them purpose and reason, lives and loves – both beautiful and terrible. I laugh with them, rage with them, bleed with them when I must. I’m connected to them in ways that might seem a tad odd to non-writerly folk, but a little piece of you goes into each creation.

Once the story is done, I leave them to their world, their lives (or their deaths) and move to the next creation. While they are never truly forgotten, do they venture into the realm of obsolete?  Like the imaginary friends we have as children. Or the teddy bear that knew all our secrets and gave us unconditional succour. What happens to them? Where do they go?

Lovely Intangibles
Lovely Intangibles

There are those ‘creatures’ we can’t let go – we all have them. Mine is a teddy bear I’ve had since my second Christmas – Pink Teddy, her name is (cut me some slack; she’s pink and I was two when I named her).  She hasn’t always been with me.  I put her atop my cupboard when I was a teenager where she stayed for a long time; she didn’t come with me when I moved out of home, and she was soon consigned to memory…until my parents returned her to me when I was 35. I remember opening that shoebox at Christmas not at all expecting Pink Teddy to be inside. My parents had a bet: my father said I’d cry, my mother said I’d smell her. I cried as I put my nose to her tummy and breathed in deep. I’d reconnected with my past and all the memories that came with Pink Teddy’s return.

It’s this part of Paske’s work that resonates – the memories of what once was – and why there’ll be more of her art on my walls.

Pink Teddy
Pink Teddy