Tag Archives: art

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

Nightmare Art

 The world is but a canvas to our imagination. ~Henry David Thoreau

Woo hoo! It’s art time again! Not mine, because no one needs to be subjected to that, but the art of one who knows his stuff. And by stuff, I mean the things that live in the shadows, the monster under your bed.

Greg Chapman is one of those artists who likes to play in the darkness where monsters live. I first came across Greg’s work a few years back when he illustrated a comic – Allure of the Ancients (Midnight Echo) – written by a friend of mine, Mark Farrugia. I’d seen the comic in its short-story form, but it was one of those tales I knew would transfer mediums beautifully.

The success of such an undertaking falls on the artist, and the writer choosing the right artist for their work. Mark chose right. Allure of the Ancients is the story of Rahkh, a vampire (not one of those sparkly pieces of crap) who has been around since biblical times, and follows his journey through the ages.

It’s a fantastic story, and Greg brought Rahkh to life in spectacular fashion, so much so one of his prints sits on my wall (above one of my bookcases, no less – high praise indeed!). Rahkh is a powerful, blood-thirsty vampire who goes through people like I do chocolate – ravenous and not at all apologetic. Just as a vampire should be.

Rahkh by Greg Chapman
Rahkh by Greg Chapman

 

Greg covers all spectrums of the horror genre, from his famous Halloween jack-o-lanterns, to Poe, Stephen King, Nosferatu, zombies, and all manner of ghosts and ghouls. Every nightmare you can imagine, he can bring to life on a canvas. So much so, he didn’t win a Bram Stoker. Let me explain…

Greg illustrated the highly-acclaimed, Bram-Stoker winning graphic novel, Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, by Lisa Morton and Rocky Wood. The man knows his stuff, but it’s unfortunate that while the writers of the graphic novel received Stoker awards, Greg did not. Which shows me how underrated illustrators are in a medium that relies so damn heavily on art.

witch hunts

Like writers, illustrators aren’t paid anywhere near enough for what they do. It’s been that way through the ages, but that doesn’t make it right. Go into any home and you’ll see artwork on the walls, sure, mine’s a little darker in nature, but barren walls don’t a home make. And I’ve Greg to thank for adding some colour and personality to my walls.

I’ve also had a piece of Greg’s art accompany my short story ‘The Road’ in Midnight Echo #9. It’s a small piece of inner art, but it’s beautiful, matched perfectly, and gave the story that little extra to show the power of the words. Words Greg understands very well.

Persephone by Greg Chapman
Persephone by Greg Chapman

 

You see, Greg’s not only an illustrator, he writes as well. He currently has his debut story collection out: Vaudeville and Other Nightmares (Black Beacon Books), which is another book I need to add to my ‘to read’ pile (which grows ever mountainous). The cover art is all Greg’s, so not only do you get a tonne of great stories, you get awesome art as well.

Greg’s artwork is available for purchase here (he does tees and hoodies as well), and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with some art that will look amazing on your wall. Go on, bring the nightmares home. I dare you.

vaudeville

Story Art, and the Art of the Story

Yes, yes, even I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get back to my blog, but work has taken precedence (what with me wanting to eat and pay bills), but as the saying goes: too much work makes AJ something-something bitchy bitch, so I’ve taken a small break from editing, and will now fill this post with art.

I mentioned in an earlier post that apart from my family and my cats, I have two loves: books and art. I can’t get enough of either. And sometimes, the two cross over in an awesomely good and awesomely personal way.

So I’d like to talk to you about that art – story art – and in particular, the art of Andrew J McKiernan.

My first introduction to Andrew was via his short stories, which are bloody brilliant (check out his collection here), but it was my short story Nightmare’s Cradle published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) #46, which was my introduction to Andrew the Illustrator, who also produced the cover of ASIM#46.

ASIM461

I’ve written previously about writing being a visual process, and this was never more true than with Nightmare’s Cradle. The story is set at my father’s farm – 300 acres of rolling hills with nary a neighbour in sight. It’s isolated, hard country with no internet or cell-service, and runs on solar power. It’s writer heaven. Visually, it was the perfect setting for the story, and clear as all get-out in my mind – I could see Hannah moving through the rooms of the cabin, could see Eli roaming the hills and skirting the dams of the property.

So when the publisher told me my story would be illustrated, I was both excited and a little wary, truth be told. Would Andrew’s artistic vision hold true to my vision? I shouldn’t have worried. Andrew perfectly captured the heart of the story, and I have been in love with the illustration ever since. Andrew has a shit-tonne of talent, and I’d even go as far as to say he’s hogging the talent pool a wee bit.

http://www.andrewmckiernan.com/mediagallery/mediaobjects/disp/7/7_nightmare_s_cradle.jpg
Nightmare’s Cradle by Andrew J McKiernan
Excerpt from Nightmare’s Cradle:

The windowpane is cold beneath my forehead, my breath warm against the glass. Thunderheads stalk the sky as lightning sears. Winds howl and rain pours from the heavens. God’s fury is unyielding and absolute.
A bird snared in a fence wire hangs, leg twisted, feathers mangled. I wonder how long it struggled before finally accepting its fate.
How long will I?
The bird sways in the wind, one wing raised in accusation. The rain unleashes its next barrage, dropping a thick, grey curtain around the cabin. My childhood home, sequestered amid rugged hills and hostile terrain has become the prison my father intended. Escape isn’t an option. It never has been.

Andrew saw what I did, and brought it to life in forlornly beautiful fashion, and I will always be thankful and grateful for that.

If that wasn’t enough, when I first met Andrew in person (at another horror writer’s birthday weekend), he had a copy of the illustration with him. For me. FOR ME. And which now sits proudly on the wall above my desk.

Andrew is one of those special individuals who can both write and draw, and if he wasn’t such a hell of a nice guy, I’d kinda hate him a little. But as we meet for drinks on a regular basis with a bunch of other horror writers (big shout out to the Sydney SHADOWS), that would be a little awkward.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned Andrew’s short story collection – he also illustrated the book, so if you’re looking for great stories and some kick-arse art, you really can’t go past it.

perf6.000x9.000.indd

As for me, when I’m sitting at my desk writing a story and hit a road-block, I can look up, see my Nightmare’s Cradle illustration, and know that my words and my worlds really are alive in more than just my imagination.

Art My World

I’m a writer, a creative. And while it’s words I weave it’s also a very visual process – most writers will tell you the same. In our mind’s eye, we can see our characters manoeuvring through our created landscape, we envisage them interacting with each other and with their surrounds. Clear as day we see them walking down the street, being chased through the wilds by a monster, piloting a spaceship or riding a train.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve wanted my worlds brought to life, and while I love to draw, I don’t have anywhere near the talent of some of my contemporaries. Talent is a bit of an understatement, though, as you’ll soon see.

In my last post, I spoke about Montgomery Borror’s, art, and how much of a damn fine artist he is. As his Kickstarter is so close to being realised, I’m going to show you why the man’s work needs to be out in the world.

Lovecraft

First, a little background…

A few years ago, I wrote a steampunk horror short – Shovel-Man Joe – that won the Australian Shadows Award for short fiction. It was my first stab at steampunk, and I fell in love with the genre. The story is set on a train, but it’s a train like no other. I could see it clearly in all its sinister glory, but with a very limited word count I had to write tight. I’m not a poet, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a love of Coleridge and his words, so I took a chance to tell part of the backstory of the tale with… yep, you guessed it, a poem… of sorts.

The poem is regaled by one destined to tell and retell the story of the train and those who choose to ride it (think Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner). It’s told within the workings of the story, and while penning it, I saw the train screaming down the tracks toward the exiled depot, and I hoped the poem would work well enough to pass that visual on to the reader.

It wasn’t until last year that I saw ‘my train’ brought to life. Only it wasn’t for ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, but rather ‘Black Train Blues’ by James A Moore (I’m a huge fan – check out his stuff) for Midnight Echo Issue 9. The illustration is phenomenal, and perfectly captured both James’ train, and the vision I had of Shovel-Man Joe’s train. When I first saw it, I said: “That’s my train!”

This was my introduction to Monty, the master-illustrator and it wouldn’t be long until we were working together on a comic based on one of my stories. That project is a while away yet, and Monty being the workaholic he is, has another project on the go – one where he’s both writer and illustrator, and where he tackles two of the masters of horror: HP Lovecraft vs Aleister Crowley.

With just five days to go and just $140 to get to fund the project, he’s so close to getting his dream comic off the ground. So, for those who are a little unsure as to whether they’d like to kick in, just take a look at Monty’s work, and trust me when I say you won’t find a harder-working, more dedicated illustrator.

I now own a copy of ‘Train in Vain’, and though it was drawn for another’s story, take a look at it below and read the poem I’ve pulled from ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, and if you can, think of backing Monty so he can get his artwork out in the world.

train in vain 1

Crack! The whip struck Shovel-Man Joe!

Back slashed red, blood and sweat flowed.

Piled high at his feet were limbs and entrails.

The shovel scraped loudly; the fire inhaled!

 

The throttle released with a hiss and a groan;

The engine chugged forward on pistons of bone.

First class hurrah’d and raised glasses high;

The whore settled back, spread wide with a sigh.

 

All aboard! All aboard!

Fresh meat, the fire roared!

Ride the train it was writ; be the first to The Pit!

But who has returned and spoken of it?

 

He comes, can you hear?

Who’s the first to disappear?

Whispers in the halls; scratching in the walls.

One by one you will surely fall.

 

Beware the Shovel Man’s ire!

Feed the fire! Feed the fire!

Ride the train if you dare…

You must all pay the fare.

 

Paying Art Forward

Those who know me know how much I love books. My bookcases are overflowing, my bedside table is stacked high, and my desk is a library of novels and comics and reference books. And let’s be honest, the book and comic-buying isn’t going to stop.

My other love is art; be it paintings, illustrations, sculptures, carvings… anything that ‘speaks’ to me (and by speaks, I mean screams: buy me! Now!).

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been slowly buying more art, a lot of which is associated with my love of the darker stuff, and my writing. I’ve been gifted a short story illustration from Andrew J McKiernan, and have artwork from Greg Chapman and David Schembri (I also have one of Dave’s designs inked on my skin, but that’s a post for another day).

Today I want to talk about the beauty of comic art; more specifically, the art of Montgomery Borror. Not only is Monty one helluva nice guy, his artwork is amazing. I know this is fact as he’s illustrating my comic ‘The Road’, and I’ve been blown away by his interpretations, which far exceed anything I imagined (check out one of the pages below).

road page 17(page from comic ‘The Road’)

Monty, from what I’ve seen, is a workaholic—I’m not sure he sleeps at all—and is working on his own pet project (as writer/illustrator) of HP Lovecraft vs Aleister Crowley. Now artists (like writers) aren’t paid anywhere near enough for what they do, and Monty is no exception. So to get his project off the ground, he’s enlisted Kickstarter to help fund his comic. Check it out here.

There are some great pledge tiers available — starting at just $1! My favourite, though, is the chance to be drawn into the comic – yes, you read that right. There are two different tiers for this: a more prominent character, or a background character. I, of course, have taken Monty up on the first tier, then coupled that with a copy of one of the internal pages (I get to see comic-me!).

Lovecraft

This is a project I’m backing as best I can – I’ve taken on two pledges to help get this project off the ground. So here’s where you, dear reader, come in. Check out Monty’s Kickstarter, and if you can, pledge – as little as $1 will help toward Monty reaching his goal. If you can’t pledge, then please take the time to share this on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram… any of the social media places you like to hang your hat. With only $500 left to reach his goal, the more people who know about this project, the closer we can get to having this fantastic comic funded.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting a bit more about art and my love of the medium, and the interconnectivity between illustrations and writing, but for now, if you can help spread the word and the love for Monty’s project, that’d be awesome!