Show and Tell Friday: Interview with Jade Blackwater by Perry Norton

March 19, 2010

In January this year I was interviewed by my friend Perry Norton, owner and voice talent at PanRight Productions.  If you’ll indulge me here today, I’d like to share five minutes from our interview during which I read my poem Forest Song and chat with Perry about my love for poetry.

Click here to download an interview with Jade Blackwater by Perry Norton – MP3 (5.4 MB)

You can read the full text of Forest Song here on Arboreality.

[Note: our interview experiment was conducted via phone conference.  You’ll want to turn the volume up for best results.]

Follow @PanRight on Twitter if you’re interested or engaged in voiceover work, music production, and other audio media.

Next in line at Brainripples: a review of GUD Magazine.


Feature Artist Interview: Ayleen Stellhorn

February 1, 2010

This interview also appears at the Pennwriters Area 6 HQ blog.

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Ayleen Stellhorn, freelance writer and editor, Pennwriters Member, and 2010 Pennwriters Conference Coordinator.  Ayleen works hard, balances multiple projects, and still greets everyone with a smile (you can even “see” her smile in her friendly emails).

You can contact Ayleen via email with questions about this year’s Pennwriters Conference at this address: conference2010[at]pennwriters[dot]com.

[Additional details are available at the end of this interview.]

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JB: Greetings Ayleen!  Thanks for joining us for an interview at the Pennwriters Area 6 HQ blog.

AS: Nice to be invited, Jade. Thank you.

JB: First, tell us a little about yourself.  What do you write?  When did you first join Pennwriters?

AS: I write newspaper and magazine articles mostly. My articles have appeared in the Hanover Evening Sun, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, and the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. Right now I’m writing regularly for Lancaster Farming Journal and Adams Electric’s corporate magazine PennLines, and I just signed a contract to author a book featuring contemporary hooked rugs. I also do a lot of freelance editing for publishers of craft and hobby books. I’ve been a member of Pennwriters for about 10 years.

JB: I understand that this isn’t your first time volunteering as the Pennwriters Conference Coordinator.  Could you tell us a little about your experiences, and what brings you back to organize the 2010 Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania?

AS: I coordinated the 2008 conference in Lancaster. We had an amazing turnout, and overall, everything went really well. Award-winning literary writer and Princeton University professor Joyce Carol Oates was our keynote speaker; Susan Meier, Mary Jo Rulnick, Brian Butko, and Valerie Malmont were a few of our workshop presenters; and a record 236 people attended. We had a lot of firsts that year, including the preconference intensive classes, an author as a Friday keynote, and the networking lunch. I decided to volunteer one more year because I wanted to do a couple things differently: the first was a new hotel and the second was a commercial fiction writer as a keynote. So in 2010, we’re at the Eden Resort in Lancaster and we have adventure-thriller writer James Rollins as our Friday night keynote.

JB: This year I’ll be joining everyone in Lancaster for my first writers’ conference ever.  Can you tell a newbie like me what to expect?  What would be the *top three* things a writer could do to make the most of the Pennwriters Conference experience?

AS: Top three things for a newbie… Let’s see…

Be prepared to be overwhelmed is one. A lot goes on in a very short time, and your brain will reach overload quickly. I’ve been to five conferences, and I always walk out of each workshop with my head spinning with ideas. Even if you think you’ll remember something, write it down anyways. Odds are you’ll get another great idea — or piece of advice or link to follow — at the next workshop, and that first idea will be long gone.

Be ready to talk is two. If you’re generally the person who sits back and listens to conversations flowing around you, make a conscious decision to not be that type of person at the conference. Introduce yourself to the folks sitting at your breakfast table; find out what the person sitting next to you in a workshop likes to write; join a group of people hanging out in the hospitality room or at the bar; volunteer for one of the little jobs like moderator or Penn Pal. And along those same lines, be prepared to answer the question, “What do you write?/What are you writing?” in one or two sentences. You’ll get asked that more times than you can count.

Latch on to the positive is three. Getting published in any form takes a lot of skill, but it also takes a lot of persistence: you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right manuscript. You’ll hear lots of gloom-and-doom statistics at a writers conference dealing with how many queries an agent receives and how few they accept, or how many rejection letters an author received before he or she got published, or how many writers write but quit before their manuscript is even completed. Don’t get discouraged. Focus on the encouraging personal stories and listen to the advice of the agents and editors we’ve invited.

JB: Event planning is a huge undertaking – especially for something like this.  Can you tell us about some of the joys and trials of volunteering as the Conference Coordinator?  What advice would you give to other volunteers who organize events for nonprofits?

AS: The joys far outweigh the trials. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be back for my second shot at this! I love seeing a writer make a connection with an editor or agent. I love to sit at dinner and hear people talk about how their characters are running their lives. I love providing an opportunity for writers to learn and grow and just be writers in whatever genre, whether that’s nonfiction, thrillers, comics, magazines, poetry, corporate communications…. The trials (and they are sometimes devils) are in the details. Putting together a quality three-day program that will appeal to a broad range of writers is a real challenge. Lining up everything the editors, agents, and presenters need — from travel arrangements to special room set-ups — can fall through the cracks with one missed e-mail. And making sure all the little things are covered, like codes to book rooms online and full coffee pots 24/7, is sometimes overwhelming. My advice to other volunteers who organize events like ours would be to believe in what you’re doing, and be a list-maker!

JB: I know that readers can get the scoop if they follow Pennwriters on Twitter, join the Pennwriters Group on Facebook, or visit the Official Pennwriters website, but please tell us again: What are the highlights for the 2010 Pennwriters Conference?

AS: Highlights:

Keynote James Rollins, author of adventure thrillers, the movie novelization for the most recent Indiana Jones movie, and a new series of young adult thrillers. Watch his videos at www.jamesrollins.com to see why we think he’s going to be an excellent keynote.

Eight agents and editors: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Agency; Jenny Bent, The Bent Agency; Miriam Kriss, Irene Goodman Agency; Alex Glass, Trident Media; Janet Reid, Fine Print Literary; Barbara Lalicki, senior vice president and editorial director at HarperCollins Children; David Pomerico, assistant editor at Del Rey Spectra; and Leis Pederson, associate editor at Berkley. They’ll be hearing pitches, teaching classes, and critiquing first pages.

Preconference classes. Attend in-depth and interactive full-day and half-day seminars with Tim Esaias (fiction), Jonathan Maberry (nonfiction), Loree Lough (plotting), and CJ Lyons (fiction queries).

Three days of workshops. The conference fee includes more than 40 to choose from, and all the instructors are published authors or industry professionals.

JB: We’ve held the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster before.  For visitors who’ve never been to Lancaster (or perhaps even Pennsylvania), what are some of the other local perks you might suggest they check out?

AS: Take an extra day to wander through Amish country. (The city is filled with tourist attractions, which give you a good overview of the culture, but there’s nothing like checking out the roadside stands and sharing the byways with buggies.) Go shopping at the outlets. Play golf at the Host. Eat at a smorgasbord. See a play at the Dutch apple. Check out Central Market. Visit Landis Valley Farm Museum.

JB: How can writers, editors, agents, publishers, book sellers, readers, etc. help to get the word out about the Pennwriters conference?

AS: I’d like to ask folks to simply drop our name and website into whatever social media they’re using. Mention us in your Facebook status, twitter about a favorite author who will be teaching, write about us in your blog, list the event info on your own website. I’ve also got fliers that you can hang up at local coffee shops, bookstores, libraries, etc. Every little bit will help. We’ve got an amazing program, and I want to share that with as many writers as possible.

JB: Where and how can writers register for the 2010 Pennwriters Conference?

AS: Online, go to www.pennwriters.com, click on Conference and then Register. If you prefer to send a check by mail, download and print a registration form at the Pennwriters website, or call or email me so I can send you one. Registration forms will also be printed in January-February 2010 issue of The Penn Writer newsletter. (Remember to book your room early. The Eden [1-866-801-6430] is a gorgeous facility but much smaller than the Host.)

JB: Finally, as a writer and journalist (and all-around awesome person), what words of wisdom or inspiration would like to share for writers and artists?

AS: Always end an interview with a question that strokes your source’s ego and makes her feel appreciated. 🙂 Nicely done, Jade.

Ayleen, we thank you again for joining us and sharing some behind-the-scenes insight.  See you at the Pennwriters Conference in May 2010!


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2010 Pennwriters Conference – The Writer’s Craft

When: May 14 – 16, 2010

(May 13, Preconference Seminars)

Where: Eden Resort, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA

POC: Ayleen Stellhorn, Pennwriters 2010 Conference Coordinator

Web: www.pennwriters.com

Email: conference2010[at]pennwriters[dot]com

Facebook: Be a Fan of the Pennwriters Annual Writers Conference

Twitter: Follow Pennwriters on Twitter

LinkedIn: Join Pennwriters on LinkedIn

Listserve: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PennwritersConference/


Feature Artist Interview – Linda Lovisa

October 28, 2009

Linda Lovisa, West Coast Trail, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioIn October 2008 I featured the forest-inspired paintings of Linda Lovisa as a part of The Festival of the Trees 28 – Art and Arboreality.  This year it is my pleasure to present this Feature Artist Interview with Linda Lovisa just a few short weeks after her recent trek on the West Coast Trail.  You can learn more about Linda’s work at the Natural Transitions Art Studio website.

JB: Greetings Linda!  Thanks for joining us for an interview at Brainripples.  I’m a tremendous fan of your artwork.  I understand you are a self-taught artist.  To start us off, could you provide a glimpse into what first put the paintbrush in your hand, and how you’ve approached your artistic self-education?

 

LL: Thank you Jade for the opportunity to share…..I have been exploring from a young age. I used to draw all the time, for as long as I can remember. The first time I painted with oils I was ten years old. It all started with paint by number set that I had received as a Christmas gift. I remember it was horses. I loved drawing horses so I decided to do my own on the backside of the board. Much to the dismay of my mother who thought I should have done the paint by numbers! I kept asking her to buy the sets so I could have the paint then one day in the mail I received from my grandfather my first real oil paints in the primary colors. I have to say I was a bit disappointed that I only got 5 colors! Where were the purple, brown and green and some of the other blues I liked! Then my grandfather explained that I could mix all those colors with the ones he gave me. It was then I embarked on a journey exploring color! I’ve been hooked ever since……

My artistic education has been one of exploration and admiring other artist’s work that I’ve been exposed to. I had to do a lot of reading about painting because I did not live near galleries growing up so this was my only way of learning. I had a great art teacher named Mr. Leger who used to let me stay inside at lunch to draw. My grandfather was a huge influence as well. He always challenged me to explore different media. The Group of Seven and the Impressionists are present in my work, sometimes they are all there in one painting!

Linda Lovisa, Roots and Trees, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioJB: I know that you work with watercolor, acrylic, oil, pastel, and mixed media, to name a few.  What other media do you like, or use, or would like to try in the future?

LL: I have done some soapstone carving. I’ve carved 6 pieces to date and I’d love to find more time to do some more. I’ve also been planning a show that will have three dimensional sculptures reflecting 12 paintings. It will be some time before I can get to this venture but when I do it will come together quickly as I’ve done it so many times in my dreams! There are some days I wake up exhausted because I’ve worked all night! There may be nothing to show for it in the morning but the process is all there in my head!

JB: You’ve lived and painted in many parts of Canada.  Could you tell us about the different landscapes/environments that have fed and inspired your craft?

LL: My father was in the Canadian air force so that explains the many places I’ve lived. Everywhere I have lived it’s always been the light on landscape that’s drawn me to my subject. The Canadian Shield, the prairies, the valleys and mountains with forests, grasses, rivers and lakes, they’ve all been there challenging me to paint them.

JB: What places/ecosystems would you like to visit (and paint)?

LL: I’d like to go up north into the tundra. The autumn colors would be incredible to paint. It would be an ecosystem I haven’t explored yet. I’d like to experience the northern lights up there. I’ve seen pictures and they look spectacular!

JB: For me, one of the most engaging aspects of your art is its focus on trees and forests.  I like to imagine the places you’ve seen when I gaze at your paintings.  If you’ll indulge us, tell us a little about your process: do you scout out trails and make notes of the spots you want to paint?  Do you just hike on in with your easel and set up shop when something catches your eye?  Do you take photographs and sketches and paint from memory after you explore?

LL: The forest is my favorite place to be so the answer is Yes I scout out trails. I do a lot of thinking things through when I’m there. When I don’t get there for a while I feel something is missing so I make a point of hiking often. Even if it’s not a long trail it fills that void till I can go for a longer hike. I take photographs and my sketch book along. In the past there have been numerous outings for plein-air painting and I love it! I don’t seem to do as much of it these days. I must change that!

JB: I often feel shade and cloud when I view your paintings (this may be a personal bias since I like shade and overcast skies… and rain…).  What are your favorite “lights” to work with when creating images?  Sunrise, mid-winter, overcast, full-moon?

LL: I have to say mid afternoon and morning light are my favorites. I love painting clouds. It does seem that the days that I’ve been out on a hike, the clouds roll in at some point of another. I’m very conscious of them. I love cloud formations they say so much about the day.

Linda Lovisa, Trees, Rocks and Water, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioJB: Your paintings are, in a word, vivid.  Tell us about color choice and purpose when you create your work.

LL: I didn’t always paint with such strong color in my work though I did start out that way only having the primaries to work with. It took some practice to tone things down. That’s what’s expected of you when you start out. It has to look realistic to be good. So like everyone who starts out painting you fall into this mold of painting everything exactly how it looks. I see the color in nature and I exaggerate it. There were no red trees in my work back then. They reappeared in my work 5 years ago and have since been noticed by many as some sort of trade mark, although it’s not meant to be. Red represents strength and life to me. So there’s always red in my paintings these days.

The urge to paint with just the primaries came to me on a blue day. I took out a fresh canvas and put together a fresh palette of primary colors and regressed into my past. In a matter of hours I knew this is what was missing in my work, Color! I guess I’ve come full circle and still learning!

JB: You recently hiked the West Coast Trail.  Tell us about your adventures – what made you pick this trail?

LL: The West Coast Trail had been something I had wanted to do for quite some time. I had heard about how challenging of a hike it was. 77km of west coast rain forest, I imagined it to be mystical and daunting. The trees were a huge attraction to me. The whole essence of the forest I wanted to experience. It took two years to find the right hiking partners, to get mentally and physically in shape for this hike.

The hike was as challenging as said by the material when you read about it. It took us six and a half days to complete. At times the trail pushed you physically to the limit of your endurance and mentally as well. Every step was potentially an injury if you were not careful. Allow me to describe the trail ~ mud, slippery moss covered balance beams made from downed trees that stretched over marshy areas and ravines for 35ft or more, more mud, up and down into ravines on a glazed clay trail, straight up series of ladders, some more than 200 rungs, ladders climbing cliffs up to 3 stories high! I have never thanked God so often for roots! They were your handles and foot holds throughout difficult parts of the trail. Suspension bridges and cable cars crossing rivers and ravines were also part of the trail. Then there were the beach crossings that had to be done while the tide was out. The beaches consisted of silky sand, sandstone shelves, boulders, serge channels, loose pebble and high log jams that needed to be lumbered over. When you couldn’t get down to the beach to travel you were faced with more mud, ladders and board walks. The boardwalks sound like they might be a dream but they were moss covered and slippery and many were in dire need of repair. Mother nature had taken over rotting the braces to the boardwalks making them very dangerous. The daunting aspect of the hike was reality for 77km! Mystical it was, every bit as I expected and more. Other than the ocean roaring it was the quietest forest I’d ever been in. I have to say it was eerie at times, dark and when the streams of light would pierce through the dense forest it was heavenly. It was breathtaking in so many ways it’s hard to describe.

Linda Lovisa, West Coast Trail, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioI can add my name to the list of many who’ve endured the trail. Some hikers we met had hiked it several times. The incredible beauty and the challenges bring them back here time and time again. After the hike I said “I’ve completed it and have no desire to do it again”….. but as the weeks have gone by the idea has revisited me. It’s pulling me back there like a magnet as if to say “you are not done here yet”. It will be sometime before I return to the West Coast Trail. What a journey! There are two more trips to the Monashee Mountains waiting for me before I go back.

JB: Speaking as a fellow artist who relies on solitude and forest surroundings for clarity, could you share a little about your artistic vision?  Your bio talks about “intensifying a fragile moment in nature or everyday vignette so that the busy people may pause for a moment to reflect.”  Tell us about what brings you to this goal as an artist.

LL: I find today’s society is so caught up in go, go, go. It’s a chance for me to pull them back and get them look at the simplest of things. I will often paint things that most people would just walk by and perhaps never notice. It could be the complexity of a plant or a tiny mushroom, a moment of light on the landscape or the colors and shapes in the sky that are so often taken for granted. My goal is to bring it to their attention through my paintings, opening their eyes to seeing.

JB: What’s new in the Natural Transitions Art Studio? Could you tell us about some of your current and upcoming art projects and exhibitions?  Where can people find your work online and in-person?

LL: What’s new? Well, I have several paintings at different stages that I’m working on. It was a busy fall with several exhibitions and a day at the Kokanee salmon festival demonstrating. It’s always lots of fun chatting with people about what you are doing and of course answering the questions about color!  People can find my work in Kelowna, BC at my studio on Jennens rd. or on my website: http://www.linda-lovisa-canada-art.com.

JB: I see that you teach workshops.  When and where can artists find you teaching?

LL: I teach workshops in my home, outdoors and in recreation centers. I usually have workshops scheduled different times of the year. I’ve taught for different art groups in other communities. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned over the years. If anyone is interested in having a workshop for their group they call me at 1-250-768-9679 for more details.

Linda Lovisa, West Coast Trail, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioJB: You recently worked with Learning Through the Arts (LTTA).  Would you tell us about this program and your projects?

LL: I’m happy to say that I’m back with the LTTA program! It’s an exciting way of teaching the core subjects such as math, science, social studies and language. It’s a program that was developed by the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. It’s proven students have different learning styles. It involves all the art forms music, visual arts, dance and theater. That’s what’s so fantastic for the students and the teachers. I’ll be working with the students in elementary schools in Kelowna this fall. It’s so exciting to be back in the classroom! For more information on LTTA visit their website at: http://www.ltta.ca.

JB: Who are your favorite artists, and/or which artists/styles do you like to look to for inspiration?

LL: This is a difficult question………..I have many favorites, too many to name. As I mentioned earlier my inspirations are the Group of Seven and the Impressionists. It’s the loose brush work and spirit that shines through that attracted me to their work. I was taken with the Group of Seven when my grandfather took me to the National Art Gallery in Ottawa when I was 14. I couldn’t believe how big some of the paintings were and the brush strokes didn’t mean anything till you stepped back! I remember thinking I could never paint that big!
In my work it is just that I strive to achieve, a sense of spirit, without losing the freshness in creating my own interpretation of the landscape.

JB: Are there other artistic media (besides visual) which you enjoy, or would like to try?

LL: I love all the art forms. I have to say if I were to choose, it would be music. I love to listen and paint to music. To be honest, there is no time for me to focus on another art form so I’ll let my two sons do that for me. I have a son in Vancouver who’s a professional drummer, composer and another son who plays guitar beautifully. So I’ll just sit back and enjoy!

JB:  What are some of your favorite successes as an artist?

LL: There are so many! Success can be measured in so many different ways but the fact that I’m still doing what I love is a huge success!

Linda Lovisa, Epiphytes, Mosses, Ferns, Copyright © 2009 Natural Transitions Art StudioJB:  What advice would you give other independent artists?

LL: If being an artist is your passion then go whole heartedly. It will show through in your work. It’s a tough road no matter the art form and it’s worth all the bumps. Your successes may come in small packages or big bundles don’t lose sight of what’s in your soul. There’s a reason things happen the way they do, be patient. Above all never stop learning and be yourself!

Linda, we thank you again for joining us.  I’ll be looking forward to seeing more of your creations inspired from your travels on the West Coast Trail!


Feature Artist Interview – Lisa D. Kastner

February 22, 2008

Lisa D. Kastner, © Copyright 2008

Today it is my pleasure to introduce writer Lisa D. Kastner of the Humna Humna blog for this week’s Feature Artist Interview.

Greetings Lisa, and thank you for joining us at Brainripples for an interview. I’ve been admiring your writing since joining the Philadelphia Writers’ Critique Group in 2006. To give our readers some background, could you tell us about your own beginnings as a writer?

Jade, thank you for inviting me to Brainripples.  When you first mentioned the interview, I was quite flattered (and still am).  The cliché answer is that when I was a pre-teen and teen I maintained a journal.  At the time, I focused on writing music lyrics (I am a music junky).  My writing interests expanded to include poetry (albeit rather bad poetry).  I later dabbled in short stories and wrote for my own enjoyment. 
 
My senior year of high school, my father asked that I pursue a degree useable in a corporate or business setting (Of course, I wanted to pursue a theatrical degree.)  Needless to say, I obtained a Communications degree and for more than ten years provided business writing consultative services to Fortune 500 companies.  
 
A few years after graduation, I realized that writing for business assisted in honing my self editing skills but I was losing my creative expression.  One Saturday I awoke with an image that I had to put on paper.  That afternoon I wrote the first rendition of the short story A Half (which you so kindly provided great feedback).  I stepped away from my computer knowing I needed to write fiction.  
 
Unsure of my skills, I attended the Philadelphia Writers Conference and submitted the short story.  Believe me, I was quite fearful that my workshop leader, Chris Bowman, would turn to me, point and say “WHY are YOU here?  You think you can write?” 
 
Of course this scenario never occurred.  Instead he pulled me aside and said that I had to write.  He said I had the gift and I should actively pursue writing.  This feedback was exactly what I needed.  The conference was six years ago and I  have been writing prose ever since.

Lisa Kastner is the Vice President of Pennwriters. Lisa, would you like to tell us a little about the organization and your goals as VP?

Pennwriters’ mission is to help writers of all levels, from the novice to the award-winning and multi-published, improve and succeed in their craft.  My official role as the VP is basically to do whatever our President asks me to do.  Luckily, Barbara Lockwood is a very kind and generous President.  Much of what I do is shadow her and act as a sounding board for her, our board, and members of the organization.
 
On a personal level, I took the role of VP because I always valued the encouragement provided by Chris Bowman and then later on by many workshop leaders, teachers, editors, and peers. Whenever I doubted my ability, a kind soul pulled me from my slump and reinforced that I am a writer and that I have talent.  I wanted to be in a position to do the same for other new writers.  What better way than to be on the board of an organization dedicated to helping writers?
 
The worst feeling in the world when you first pursue writing, as either a hobby or a profession, and wonder “Should I do this?  Am I a truly talented writer or are the words I put on the page something only a family member would appreciate?” 
 
Brainripples readers can find your blog Humna Humna in the sidebar. Will you be blogging about the upcoming 2008 Annual Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster PA?

During the conference, I would love to see attendees blog about it.  I think reading about it from the perspective of attendees is much more interesting.  This enables us to see the varying perspectives and thereby obtain a fuller and more interesting picture of the events.
 
Prior to the actual conference, I will post updates regarding the activities on Humna Humna.   
 
Your fiction is often set in the Pennsylvania / New Jersey region. What aspect(s) of the local culture do you find most inspiring for your work?
 
Excellent question.  Admittedly, I don’t write about Pennsylvania and New Jersey intentionally. I often begin writing a piece based on an image or a sentence or an idea and then follow that stream of conciousness.  After time, I review what’s on the page to find prominent themes and how I can develop them. 
 
When I was the Features Editor of the Picolata Review, one of my favorite questions was, “Do you think environment plays a major role in your writing?”  Emphatically the answers were yes.  I agree but I think the reason I write about the cultures in PA and NJ is because I grew up in the area surrounded by quirky and interesting people. 
 
I’m attracted to those who are a touch outside the norm or on the fringe.  I like to figure out why they do what they do … in essence, how they think. (Probably because I am a self-proclaimed “person on the fringe”.)  Usually these same people exist in environments as complex as themselves.  Believe me, there are some areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey that are the typical USA neighborhoods, I just don’t write about them.

Your fiction also often includes themes of urban life and the human experience, as well as – shall we say – the darker shades of life and mind. Could you describe some of your successes (or challenges) with writing accessible, compelling characters from such chilling perspectives?

Even those in the depths of darkness have light.  A yin and a yang.  But their yin and yang are out of balance.  The key is finding that bit of light and allow the reader to see it and to experience it.  In A Half a woman who lost her twin sister is in a panic and races through her childhood home.  She hallucinates or imagines that she is reexperiencing her sister’s drowning.  At the end of the piece, the reader discovers why this trek was so important to her – she needed to uncover the one picture she had of her and her twin – a tangible piece of a happier time with the person who completed her.  We have all lost someone we loved, whether a romantic interest or a friend or a member of the family.  My challenge was to tap those emotions of love and loss via imagery and scene so that the reader could experience it and therefore empathize with the heroine.

What writing genres and elements do you prefer as a writer (or a reader)?

I read multiple styles of fiction writing and nonfiction.  My favorite novel is Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.  I also read bestsellers like the Kite Runner and the Harry Potter series.  I enjoy writers from Nick Hornby (About A Boy) to Percival Everett (The Water Cure) to classic Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire) to Tolkein (Lord of the Rings) to Salman Rushdie (The Moor’s Last Sigh).  I believe we learn from all writing.  We learn what we like and don’t like, then alter our selections based on these discoveries. 
 
I read as a reader and as a writer.  I loved About A Boy.  Some writers do not enjoy Nick Hornby because much of what occurs is internal dialogue and telling the reader what the character is thinking instead of showing it.  For his writing style, I think it works beautifully.  In contrast, I thoroughly enjoyed Metal Shredders by Nancy Zafris.  Nancy focuses on the top story and then teases out the inner workings of the characters from that top story. 
 
The bottom line for me is, if it works (for me) then I like it. 
 
Are you currently experimenting with anything new in your writing?
 
When I write novel length prose, I tend to create a very rough outline and then use it as a writing prompt.  Right now I’m experimenting with writing via stream of consciousness, which is my standard method to craft short stories.  So far the process has been incredibly interesting.  I have 113 pages of a very rough draft and I really enjoy the process.  My goal is to have a readable rough draft by the 2008 Pennwriters Conference in May.

You’ve attended a variety of workshops, seminars, and conferences for writers. Would you tell us about a few of your favorites?

In all honesty, I have enjoyed each one.  I have been priviledged to attend Bread Loaf Writers Conference and workshops by Percival Everett and Danzy Senna.  I learned as much from the workshop leaders as my peers (Many of my ‘peers’ are much more accomplished than me, so I don’t feel the term “peer” is accurate.  They are absolutely brilliant writers who I am honored to have encountered.)  At Bread Loaf much of the experience is simply being in a focused creative environment among like minded people.   Michael Collier, the Director of Bread Loaf says in his opening remarks that lifelong friends are made there.  I still email, talk, and are MySpace and Facebook friends with fellow attendees.  It is a magical experience.
 
I have also attended Kenyon Review Writers Workshop which is an intensive week of writing, workshopping, writing, workshopping and … oh right … writing.  I had the privilege of attending Nancy Zafris and Geeta Kothari’s class.  Let me say that Nancy Zafris is such an excellent teacher and guide that she frightened me.  And Geeta looked at drafts and asked the right questions which forced me to think and bring the piece to an entirely new level.  Our workshop became a family after the first day and for that, I am forever grateful.  Again, I believe lifelong friendships were formed with incredibly talented attendees.  I am still amazed at the phenomenal writing that was produced on a daily (in reality, nightly) basis.
 
Another key guide in my writing has been James Rahn, the founder and leader of Rittenhouse Writers Group.  I attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Conference for Writers and signed up for James’s advanced workshop.  The previous day, I attended another fabulous intensive workshop conducted by Robin Black.  When James walked into the workshop he sat down, looked around the room, got up, walked right up to me and said, “You were in Robin Black’s class yesterday right? You’re Lisa?” I squeaked, “Yes.”  Then he pointed at me, grinned, and said, “Good!”  Later he invited me to join Rittenhouse Writers Group.  Another amazing experience with great readers and great writers.
 
And of course, I frequent the Pennwriters Annual Writers Conference.  The first time I attended the conference, I was amazed at the openness and encourangement of everyone.  We have writers that represent all genres and all walks of life, yet when we get together it’s about the writing.  We focus on encouraging both the established and the new writer.  Definitely another family I cherish.
 
I know you do more than write. Would you like to share some of your performing arts projects?

My last performance was a benefit for Women Against Rape.  We presented a staged reading of The Rape Poem.  A woman who had been raped wrote a series of poems based on her emotions and their evolution while she healed from the emotional and physical trauma. A playright read the poems and converted them into an experimental one act play.  I played the role of Wine (anger).  I have a feeling I was cast due to my firey red hair.  Sometimes type casting can be positive. 
 
At this point in my life, I audition for roles if my friends recommend them to me or if I’m asked to audition.  Performing consumes a lot of time (I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and right now I would rather focus on the writing craft.

What about your day job? (How) has consulting benefited your growth as a writer?

Consulting has been invaluable in my development.  Each company has a distinct voice to its writing, so the initial challenge is to understand the company’s culture to best represent that voice. 
 
As I had mentioned earlier, corporate writing has taught me how to step back and assess my own writing.  Most corporate editors do not want to see a piece until the writer is 99% sure it is complete.  If anything is presented before that time it’s considered amateurish. 
 
Consulting has also taught me to research, research, research – understand what already exists and how to leverage it.  Don’t take anything for granted because the more knowledge you have, the better the work. 
 
It has also taught me that work is always better when it is done in collaboration.  The trick in fiction is to find readers who provide feedback in a way that is in alignment with your goals as a writer and to find a stellar critiquer who states the feeback in a way that is easily implemented.

What are your goals as a writer and artist?

My ultimate goal is to be a full time fiction writer. The reality is that very few writers are lucky enough to write full time, so I may be in my 50s before this occurs, but I will enjoy the ride.  In terms of writing as an artist, I’m finding the evolution of my prose to be really interesting.  When I started this journey, I never thought I would write a novel written from the perspective of a woman who is devolving emotionally and mentally to become a celebrity stalker.  I can’t wait to see what I come up with next.
 
As an artist, I want to delve into other forms such as painting and sculpting.  In high school, I had an art major and I miss those creative outlets.  Now it’s just a matter of finding the time.
 
Could you tell us about some of your current and upcoming writing projects?

I am currently shopping Jersey Diner, a psychological thriller which engages readers in the twisted realities of heroine Nadia Scott, a waitress at the Athens Diner in Oaklyn, New Jersey.  When Nadia’s father commits suicide she rapidly disconnects from rationality and reality.
 
As I mentioned previously I am in the midst of crafting another manuscript but I’m not comfortable sharing what it is about since it seems to be evolving.  I am also sending out multiple short stories, including A Half, to publications.  I must admit, I tend to send my writing out in spurts.  I need to be more disciplined with submissions.

What are some of your favorite successes as a writer?

Acceptance to Bread Loaf and Kenyon.  The day I received my acceptance letters, my mouth flew open, surprised that I had been accepted. When someone reads my prose and says it meant something to them on a personal level or made them think or somehow changed how they viewed the world, I am euphoric. 
 
Some of my favorite successes are also as a reader of prose and poetry.  When I read a fellow writer’s piece and am able to provide constructive, positive feedback that encourages the person to continue writing … well, the knowledge that I helped that writer, in the smallest tangential way means the world.

What advice would you give other independent writers?

Read often.  Write often.  Never give up.  Find your stellar critiquer.  When someone says you’re good, listen.  They are telling you this for a reason.

Lisa, thank you again for joining us at Brainripples – we wish you the best in your future endeavors.
 
Thank you, Jade.  By the way, I need to mention that Jade is one of my stellar critiquers.  She provides amazing and insightful feedback that forces me to look at the piece with an entirely different eye.  Thank you for that gift.

[Insert Jade’s blush here.]   


Feature Artist Interview – Warren Rice

January 25, 2007

Please join me in welcoming classical artist Warren Rice to Brainripples for this week’s return of the Feature Artist Interview!

[***NOTE: Since I’m having a bit of trouble with WordPress this evening, I will be adding pictures in the future.  Until then, hop over to Warren’s blog, and take a look at his sample work!]

Greetings Warren!  Thank for joining us for an interview.  I’m excited for a chance to learn more about your work.

Thank you for the honor of being interviewed on your site.

To start off, could you tell us what originally drew you to your art?

That’s easy. My mother. She was a single parent after her divorce when I was 2yrs old. She used to say I was a real handful and bouncing off the walls constantly. Being a naturally talented artist herself, she thought that showing me a few cartoons and animals to draw (I was about 5 years old at the time) that this would keep me focused and calm me down.

What made you decide to pursue classical training?  Could you tell us a little about what defines a classical painter/sculptor versus other artistic disciplines?

I chose to try to learn classical methods of painting and sculpting because my first impressive influence that was motivating to me as an aspiring artist was in grammar school and a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The field trip blew me away. Later, I saw that my mother and grandfather had art books on the old masters that I did not even know we had. I imagined what it would be like to create those amazing pieces that I would see in those books, but also thought it was impossible, probably to do so today.

What I think defines a classical painter/sculptor differently as opposed to other artistic disciplines is a passionate appreciation for work done by the ancient Greek/Romans, the Renaissance attempts at the rebirth of that artistic mastery and the Pre- Raphaelite movement of the 19th century.

My greatest painting influence, the late Arthur DeCosta of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia once said to me, “Warren there are many categories of art : there is Primitive or Folk Art (which often defines a society especially in the most simplest terms), there is art in general (ie: computer art, illustration, the modern art movements etc.), then Fine  or Classical Art- which  looks at the masterpieces of,” as I said before, “the Greeks/Romans, Renaissance and Pre-Raphaelites as what to aspire to,” then finally he said “Then there is High Art, which refers to the greatest fine arts masterpieces of all time. These pieces not only define those times, but will always be immortalized and what every fine/classical artist should always aspire to achieve at least once in his/her life if they are so fortunate and talented.”

I know that you’re a big Caravaggio fan.  What about his work do you find most attractive?

His chiaroscuro. Dramatic portrayal of light and dark. He was the first to portray drama in art. He was the Shakespeare of painting influencing so many including Rembrandt, Velasquez, Jesepe di Ribera to modern day.

What other artists do you admire, and why?

Oh, so many! Those I’ve mentioned. Of course the great Renaissance masters da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael. Primarily for their virtuosity in various genius pursuits in different genres. Turner, Contable, Bierstadt, for their mastery and innovativeness in landscapes. David and Ingres as masters of discipline and perfection. Sir Lawrence Alma Tedema, Rossetti, Alphonse Mucha (Art Nouveaux). For what they created in the 19th century. Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Eakins, Maxfield Parrish, Salvador Dali- for their imaginations and contributions to art. Bernini (Sculpture), Evangelos Frudakis + Tony Visco (both sculpture masters whom I’ve had the pleasure to learn something from). Arthur De Costa, Bo Bartlett, Nelson Shanks – the first man I studied with the other two I merely admire.

As a painter-sculptor, do you prefer one medium over the other?  Have you found other artistic media that you enjoy?

I wish to be able to sculpt more but it can become pricey to begin a uncommissioned project. I inevitably end up painting more, though I always see things very texturally and physically more than in 2 dimensions.

Are there any media on your wish list that you want to try in the future?

Marble, try egg tempera in a very serious manner. Maybe ceramics for fun.

 I understand you’ve been working with other artists on some Philadelphia murals in recent months with the Mural Art Project.  Tell us a little about those projects.

Over the past 4 years I have had the honor of working on projects, assisting on projects and teaching children with the Murals Arts Program of Philadelphia. Right after graduating from art school I began doing portrait commissions and entering competitions for art awards as well as teaching some portrait painting classes for adults in a local art center. To supplement my income I worked in restaurants and in hotels. This was helpful and occasionally allowed me benefits. The problem occurred as I continued to get promoted and eventually was transferred to Los Angeles with a hotel company. I spent too many years away from my art. Shortly after 9/11, I discovered that the Murals arts Program of Philly was something I could try to pursue and return to my first passion, art. I was apprehensive at first and felt that I’d be showing some older work to represent myself, but the administrators liked my work and I was invited to join a 7-week muralist training program. I jumped at the opportunity. From that moment, I was exposed to some of the city’s most creative minds.Later, I was invited to teach inner city children in a couple of their sister programs (Big Picture and their Anti-Truancy art programs). I can’t speak highly enough about how my life has been enriched by Mural Arts of Philadelphia. I was able to work with some great talents like John Lewis (we worked on the “Anti-Smoking” mural at Temple University and the  “Chick Davis” Murals together).John and I work well together because of some of our styles of painting tend to be similar. In both of those murals a strong mono-chromatic underpainting was necessary for the translucent color effects. Italians call it Chiaroscuro (a monochromed dramatic light and dark effect that Caravaggio mastered). I have always enjoyed employing that in my oil paintings. It took John Lewis to help me transfer that knowledge to acrylic paint and enlarge the scale too.

This past year I was able to also work with a mural master, Josh Sarantitis. I helped him work on a piece that was about freedom and inspiration that is in North Philadelphia. The project had to be done at a breakneck fast pace (3 weeks, as opposed to 2-3months). It was partially sponsored by the “Pay it Forward Program,” from the movie of the same name.

Murals Arts has helped me develop my skills on a much larger scale and allowed me to get the experience/confidence to take on private mural commissions on the Main Line Philadelphia suburbs.

As a freelance artist, what sort of artistic services do you offer your clients?

Portraiture individual or family, murals within the home (Large or Small projects), landscape paintings of their home or home environment, Bas- relief sculptures, Faux work as well, ex:marbleling a wall, do a wood finish, create a beautiful sky on the ceiling of a bedroom.

I know you like to teach, and that you’ve worked with individuals and classes.  How does teaching art affect your own work?

I have loved teaching! I’ve done it recently for private students as well as in structured environments set up via Murals Arts Program where I have had as many as 50 students in a class that I would teach solely. All those minds interacting together has greatly opened my mind towards creativity and new teaching techniques.

What are some of your goals as an artist?

To be the best I can be. To make a steady, comfortable living and to be remembered fondly as an artist. 

What are some of your upcoming projects?

I plan to work on some landscape pieces to eventually get in some local gallery shows. Also, i think I may be picking up a new project with Murals Arts of Philadelphia and a private home commission as we speak.  

If you could visit any one museum in the world tomorrow, which would it be?

The Hermitage in Budapest, Hungary. I have a book on the works and don’t know if I would ever get the chance any time soon.

What advice would you give to other independent artists?

Find something you want to pursue artistically and passionately seek it out like your life depends on it, because the quality of your life truly does.


Feature Artist Interview – Gil Rondan

December 19, 2006

CelebrationToday I am pleased to share an interview with visual artist Gil Rondan, creator of the Native Eye blog.

Greetings Gil!  Thank you for joining me for an interview at Brainripples.  It’s been so much fun to watch your photography evolve over the past year.Could you tell us what got you started with photography?

I started photography in the late 70’s. I was in school studying chemistry when I photographed my first image of a mixed liquid chemicals. I was so startled by what I saw. It was new to me. The colors are so striking. I have my attraction to colors ever since. My first film camera was a gift from my older brother. This was the time when I became more serious about learning the technical aspect of photography. I didn’t have any resources like books to teach me the ABC of photography.

I just have to teach myself I said. It was really a great learning experience. I learned so many simple tricks that even today I still use it in my work. In the mid 80’s I moved to Michigan and enrolled in photography class. My idea was to learn this art in a proper way if such a description applies. I started to read photography books and learn its history. I visited photo shows in galleries and museum. I analyzed the works of the masters. I gave myself a formal education in photography. To this day I still continue to learn the new tools of digital photography.

I have yet to travel to New York City myself, but your photography offers so many unique perspectives on NYC and its inhabitants that it’s really changed the preconceptions I had in mind a year ago.  How do you find all the unique places, people, and events of NYC that are so common in your photography?

 NYC By NightNYC is really a small place area wise but it’s a huge canvas for artist like me working on street photography. It is comprised of 5 boroughs separated by waterways. These places are accessible by foot and by subways. There are millions of people of unimaginable backgrounds. There are events every minute. Some of the photographs I took are purely accidental. I was there at the right time. Some events like the Halloween and Mermaid Parades are big shows. I am attracted to images that are imperfect and edgy. I find solace and reality on this form.

You seem to balance your work between people, places, and things – what subjects do you most enjoy working with for your photography?

Street PortraitI like to photograph all. When I see something unique and interesting I won’t allow it to pass my vision. My camera is ready. With people I tend to anticipate their next step. I like the instantaneous approach. Like the so called “candid shot”. It takes a quick second to take the shot. That way the motion is so unplanned and hence more real.

What goes through your mind as you capture an image?  Do you spend a lot of time composing a shot, or do you just snap the shutter and wait to see what you have at the end of the day?  Perhaps a little of both?

Mermaid ParadePerhaps a little of both. As a photographer I give myself a lot of freedom to be flexible. My motto is I am the driver here. I am in control of everything. This is my canvas. I will accept everything that appears into this canvas provided each one occupies its own intended space. Some of this adjustment could be done during the post production process in Photoshop or in the darkroom.

Do you have a preference of color photography or greyscale/black-and-white?

 MusicianIt is a tough query. I like to work on both. My emotions however are so linked to different colors that colors are integral part of my photography. I am so attracted to it. I use the intensity or hues to create spatial form. I find it so effective.

I know you also enjoy abstract painting.  What attracts you to abstract?  Do you work with any other artistic media?

Abstract painting is so unique to create. It is the working process that I relish most. It’s an absolute joy. I have no maps or sketches to start with however with every brush stroke I apply to the canvas I find myself discovering a new form a new shape a new direction. Abstract painting allows me to show multiple perspectives that I think anyone can relate to.

What inspired you to create the Native Eye blog and share your photographic work online?  How has publishing Native Eye affected your work?

HopeI believe it was the trend of blogging for sharing that made me create the Native Eye. I find blogging to be such a dynamic and useful tool in showing and sharing ideas. It’s concise and very easy to maintain.

Apart from your subjects, from where do you draw your inspiration?

My profound background and experience have taught me so much that it is indeed a well of inspiration and sensitivity for my work. My siblings and I were raised by financially inadequate but very responsible parents. As a kid I had to be creative to survive an arduous life.

Are there other artists, photographic or otherwise, who have influenced your art?

I like to consider Bunuel as influential to my work. He has a pedigree for the theme I find very appealing.

What are your goals as an artist?

Central Park BridgeMy obligation is to share my craft. I plan to go back to Asia in a couple of years and intend to teach digital photography. I acquired a good amount knowledge in digital photography workflow that is a shame not to share it with others.

Are there any places on your “wish list” that you’d like to visit (and photograph)?

My number one on the list would be Bolivia in South America. The Bolivian’s exotic and beautiful look is so extraordinary. It is such an awesome place in the Andes.

Could you tell us a little about some of your current and upcoming artistic projects?

I am currently working on a new series of abstract paintings on paper. I have been working on this project for about a month now.

I know you’re a museum-goer – if you could visit any one museum in the world tomorrow, which would it be?

Halloween, NYCI like to see the monstrous- looking Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. I think it’s about the museum’s architecture that attracts me moreso than its collections.

What advice would you give to other independent artists?

Be generous.

Gil, thank you again for joining us at Brainripples.  We wish you the best with your art and your adventures!

All images used in this post are copyright © 2006 Gil Rondan.


Feature Artist Interview – Eric Keast

November 21, 2006

Today I have invited visual artist and writer Eric Keast of the Bingorage blog to speak with us about his craft.

Hello Eric, thanks for joining us for this interview.  I’ve been a fan of your work and Bingorage for over a year now, and it’s a pleasure to have a chance to ask you more about your art.  

CampThanx, Jade. I’ve really appreciated your feedback and appreciate the opportunity to write to you about my work.  I had taken a hard copy of your questions with me to the studio and deer camp. 

I’m a regular visitor at Bingorage, but you spread the wealth across a few different blogs.  Care to tell us a little about your different blogging avenues? 

When I first started blogging; I kinda went nuts with setting up blogs. I was convinced that I was going to have a separate website for different places that I lived, different websites for different interests, media, etc. It was out of hand and unnecessary. 

Since I’ve learned about ways to “tag”/categorise my written postings and externally-hosted materials (pics, vid clips, audiocasts, photo galleries, etc.), I’ve been reducing the number of blogs that I choose to run and write for, myself. 

My main site is the Bingorage blog, but I’ve tried to maintain a couple blogs for creative writing (Drip and Spew, The Shitbag Opera), a blog for fishing, camping and hunting stuff (Newly renamed: Deer, Fish, Cards… Cheap Cigars, Bullets and Beer) plus a couple things I’ve set up for other people – like my bronze-foundry guys (Anurag Art Online). 

By trimming the number of online projects that I contribute to and focus on, I hope to increase the regularity of my blog contributions, improve the appearance/useability/utility of my pages and work on the discipline of writing; with fewer options to procrastinate about. 

Your blog often includes articles and news about events affecting First Nations / Native American peoples.  What change would you most like to see in the lives of First Nations / Native American peoples?  

Successfull businesses, consistent long-term employment and a wealth of cultural activities on and within First Nation/Native American communities. All too often, businesses start up and fizzle out after seed money gets used up, even with significant financial backing. Reasons for failure range from the banal to the suspicious; from gradual neglect to missing resources. 

The so-called “Urban Indians” have access to so much more cultural stimuli and job opportunities than the average rez; especially the most isolated ones. In Northern Ontario, First Nation communities that ‘hug the highway’ have more businesses than the ones just off the beaten path, but, often, business is limited to smokes, gas and munchies. 

Similarly, you often include news affecting artists locally and regionally.  What would you most like to see change for independent artists in Canada and elsewhere around the world?  

I would love to see more societal recognition that artists and “art-for-art’s-sake” has real world application in society and people’s lives. We create, educate, criticise, inspire and expand the greater society through our work. It deserves community support, but we often scrape by on shavings, 3’rd rate paint and used lint. I have an artist friend in Finland who has just moved into a studio space, specifically subsidised for practising artists. How civilised and cool is that? 

When I was going to university, my Philosophy and Anthropology studies overlapped around the idea of “leisure as the basis of culture” (Josef Pieper). Northwest Coast cultures like the Haida encouraged and developed an artisan resource for their society, because they gained a measure of food and settlement security. Current North-American society is in an infinitely more enriched condition, but chooses to spend its resources on guns, enriching the wealthy and oil. I think that there is room for changing our priorities and “ways of finding the future”.

As it is; arts funding in Canada and the States is set up as a competition for favour and a piece of shrinking pies. I’m not sure if favouritism and “old-boy” networks really dominate grant funding, but it doesn’t hurt to have friends in high, far-off places.

What first inspired you to start sharing your art at your Bingorage blog?

I wanted my work to be seen, to be heard, with as wide a reach as possible. Traditional art venues like galleries, exhibitions, art-crawls, craft shows and retail outlets have relatively small traffic and are geographically-limited.

I know that you like to work across a variety of media, and that you also enjoy mixing media.  Could you tell about some of your favorites?

My current favourite areas of work and exporation are papier-mache sculpture and acrylic on canvas painting. Both media continue to yield new possibilities in size, multiple media inclusion and subject matter. I am self-taught, so, continue to learn with each piece. I do not feel that I am constantly reinventing the wheel, though, I’m trying to see things in ways which haven’t been seen, before.

Are there any media that you have yet to try, waiting on your “wish list?”

I’ve started talking to people who work with fibreglass, to start considering “cheaper than metal”, easily-copyable large public art placement.

There are some common themes and influences I find in your work such as animals, nature, and story-telling.  What are some of your favorite themes to play with?

I think that every piece that I do has a basis in Conflict. The act of exploring and finding the visual image is a series of problem-solvings, between dualities: light and shadow, complementary colours, character motivations, cause and effect, motion and stillness, man and nature, foreground and background, spirit and matter, up and down, male and female. The number of visual and idealistic dualities that can be found in a related set of images is almost unlimited.

What are some of your favorite artistic creations in your portfolio? 

Obey the Bass I think that the large papier-mache bass that I made for the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship is a hugely important piece for me. The size of the work, the process of creating the styrofoam form and its basis for a possible bronze sculpture have kept it in the forefront of project development. I have three blank paper copies of the bass that I will be working on this winter, as well.Bass under construction

I’ve heard you talk about Norval Morrisseau recently.  What artists or other individuals do you feel have most influenced your work?

Before addressing other influnces, I would like to say a bit about Norval Morrisseau. Norval is the man. he spawned a great creative blossoming amongst the Cree, Ojibway, Chippewa, Menominee, Odawa, etc. The central North American Algonkian peoples (the Eastern Woodlands School of Art) and his influence was felt by the entire Native Art community. By breaking taboo that needed breaking, he may have rescued meaning and cultural heritage derived from transient birchbark scrolls, disappearing songs and barely-known ancient paintings on the rocks of the Canadian Shield.  That being said; many artists continue to follow a narrow visual interpretation that he set down.

My “visual alphabet” has its basis in that tradition; but the surrealists, cubists and even pop artists have informed the direction of my visual exploration. The “beats”, magical-realists and ‘outsider’ writers -native and non-native-  have been the voices which appealed to me. These people worked to break the tyrannies of single-perspective, linearity, fixed-time, “correct approach” and realistic representation.

Some names: Charles Bukowski, Dali, Ginsberg, Warhol, Picasso, W.S. Burroughs, Jean Arp, Hunter S. Thimpson.

A couple of contemporary Native artists who are playing with “traditional” motifs, materials and visual representation: Paul Yuxweluptun, Ed Archie Noisecat (whom I had a short apprenticeship with in MN, before he went back to NW Coast), Brian Jurgen and Sunny Assu.

Do you have any specific goals as an artist and craftsman?

To achieve the capabilities of tools, skills, materials and venues to produce and finish pieces in ways that I consider fully realised. Right now, I am making do and “jerry-rigging” my efforts; which is a valid way to learn the bones, but not to polish the work.

Tell us about some of your current projects.

  Krustayn vs. Mecha-Sasquatch

First off; a painting is never done, while I can see and touch it. I have several large canvases in my studio that I tweak whenever possible. The Krustayn vs. Mecha-Sasquatch piece has undergone some particularly extensive tweaking, lately. I’m also writing some project proposals foe large bronze sculpture. That is where I would like to focus my energies for a couple years… getting some big public artwork installed.

Earlier this year you were involved with the Learning Through The Arts program, would you like to tell us a little about that experience?

LTTA has been both challenging and rewarding for me. The challenge arises from incorporating standardised provincial curriculum into an art lesson and transmitting ways for the teacher to use art in future teaching. It’s hard to see an art activity with kids as really being for the teacher’s benefit. The kids are the rewarding bit, of course. There’s nothing like seeing real brilliance coming from excited happy kids.

Any upcoming project ideas or sneak peeks you would like to share?

I have been doing a whole buncha writing for the past couple years. Stuff that sits in drafts on my computer, drafts in journals or online drafts. I hope to have some of these done, soon.

-I’m working on an illustrated essay about Larry Mitchell’s book, Potowatomi Tracks, which is his story of surviving the Vietnam War, only to continue batling it for the next 20+ years.

Bass under construction-I’m working on an interpretation of The Lampi Oracle; a set of crazed religious whiskey-babble that was posted in stencilled signs, painted handmade billboards and free form sculpture on a roadside property up near where we deerhunt. Apparently, the guy’s reltives had him sent to the loony-bin and they bulldozed his signs and logged the property. Not sure of the whole story, but the pictures I have are quite… interesting.

If you could visit any one museum in the world tomorrow, which would it be?

Smithsonian Museum of The American Indian. It’s brand new and I bet it’s got stuff that would make my head spin. On the same note, I recommend the Canadian Museum of Civilisation in Ottawa-Hull, for anyone who’s considering a trip to Eastern Canadia.

What advice would you give to other independent artists?

– Talent isn’t always enough. Persistence.

– Learn from everything you do and see. You (I) don’t know everything and we should be aware enough to seek the lessons and insights in every encounter, setback, conflict, etc.

– Become disciplined in what you do. I do not believe that anyone is born disciplined.

– Do something pertinent to your work, every day.

 

Eric, thank you again for joining us at Brainripples.  It’s been a pleasure, and we wish you all the best with your projects!

 

 

All images used in this post are Copyright © 2006 Eric Keast.