Sunday, 5 October 2014

Now With Added Art

A grumpy turtle.
It's fair to say I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but that doesn't mean it's always been the only - or indeed the main - thing that I wanted to do with my life.  In my teens, if you'd asked me then I would have mentioned writing definitely, but I'd have probably talked more about wanting to be an artist.  For that was my dream when I was growing up, and if it hadn't been for our glorious educational system - whereby, thanks to some bafflingly half-assed non-teaching, my strongest subject managed to be the only one I failed - it's probably what I'd be doing now.

Still, I'm not bitter.  Well, I am a bit, I failed goddamn GCSE Art because my school couldn't provide a teacher and it affected the entire trajectory of my future, but I'm not that bitter.  Because I love being a writer, and if you asked me to choose between the two - which I guess life sort of did - then I'd choose writing hands down.  However what would have been really neat would have been not to have to choose, and it soon became apparent that that wasn't a realistic possibility.  For the last few years, writing has been a full-time hobby performed around full-time jobs, and it barely left room for things like eating and sleeping, let alone picking up my art again.

A creepy child and creepy standing stones.
But I was always determined that I would.  In fact, looking back, that it was one of the many reasons I was so desperate to get to this point of writing full time: with writing a job rather than a sideline I could go back to being able to have actual hobbies, I could pick up art where I'd left off, and maybe in the long term I could see what might have been.

Only when the time came it was kind of scary ... because what if I'd lost whatever bit of talent I'd had?  I literally hadn't done more than doodle in ten years, and though people would occasionally point out that those doodles were quite nice, my own feeling was that I was struggling to draw a straight line, let alone anything that actually looked like anything.  Obviously then, the logical thing to do was to start with something really difficult.  Like a turtle, say.  Like the one up in the top right.   But, while it took me about two whole months, it did work out better than I'd dared hope.  And since then I've had a picture on the go pretty much constantly; it's staying as a hobby because, hey, that was pretty much the whole point, but it's been one I'm getting an awful lot out of.

Anyway, my existing impetus got a healthy push when I got talking to Mhairi Simpson at Fantasycon and was forced into playing her work-in-progress storytelling card game Be the Bard, despite my protests that telling stories is my day job and I was supposed to be on a break from all that, and also that I was pretty damn drunk.  And lo and behold, it was rather fun - but mainly I got distracted by the cards and the pictures on the cards and the possibility of getting to draw some of those pictures and how fun that would be.  And then I bugged Mhairi to let me do just that, which it turned out she was okay with, enough so that she promptly set me a few to work on ... like that scene with the standing stones up there.  I'm up to four designs right now, and it's great having someone actually asking me to draw things, so that I'd don't just stick with what I know or feel comfortable with.  (Which, by the way, also explains the unicorn.)
A penguin.  No, wait!  A bad-ass unicorn.

Now normally the blog is about writing and this post hasn't been at all, but there are some writing points to be made here, so let's finish up with those.  Or I could just point you to a recent blog post by Andrew Knighton, which says most of what I'd want to say.  But the gist is this: writing, if you put aside the manual dexterity required to hit keys / manipulate a pen / burn words onto a page with only the searing power of your mutant brain, is basically head work, and you can live in your head too much.  Every writer should have a hobby that isn't writing, and it's probably a good move to go for something that requires entirely different parts of your body and mind.  Which works for me, because what I'm discovering is that drawing compliments writing tremendously well, in that it's training me to look harder and in different ways at things I thought I understood - to literally see things anew, using whole other parts of my brain.  This, surely, is a good thing. 

And maybe, just maybe, if I work hard enough for long enough, one day I will be good enough to pass GCSE Art!  Hey, anyone can dream...

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