I walked around the house humming. It wasn’t a song known to anyone, just something I was improvising without thinking. I turned to the dog.
“Are you ready to go out, is that why you do shout? With gnarly little woof, you need to get out, from under the roof?” I sang this improvised ditty and the dog got excited. It knew “Out” and that’s all he cared about. It didn’t matter how awful the words or melody or voice were, there was a walk to be had.
I had been humming and singing for days. At work I had to force myself to talk to coworkers instead of sing. My tendency when I opened my mouth was to sing, so I was very careful. I mean, even if it wasn’t weird, I realize I don’t have the greatest singing voice around.
At last, Friday came. I sat down and started playing the piano as soon as I could. Later, I turned on my electronics and music computer. All of those improvised songs were gone, but it didn’t matter. A new one soon came up. I worked the entire weekend on it and had a finished recording on Sunday evening.
Back at work on Monday, I didn’t even have to think about talking. Singing an answer would have felt so wrong. Right? Continue reading →
A few years back I wrote a handful of strange prog-rock tunes. I had been composing classical music for years and was doing a switch-over to more popular music. I played some tunes for a friend. She gave me a weird look and asked, “Who’s your target audience?” What? I wrote the music I wanted to hear.
“Fine,” she said. “If you want to go on writing music for yourself and playing it for friends and family the rest of your life, OK. If you want to go beyond that you need to define a target audience. You need to study the music they listen to and write something like that.”
The same thing happened when I started cranking out more fiction. Who is the target audience? What genre are you in? OK, after writing The Fireborn, which is an urban fantasy, I read a lot of urban fantasy. Hmm. I like some, some I don’t and some is OK, but none of it is anything like The Fireborn. The Fireborn is sort of like if Douglas Adams decided to write an Indiana Jones story in Dirk Gently’s universe and then had it rewritten by Stephen King. I’m not saying it’s of the caliber of their stories, I’m saying that is where it would fit in the Universe of books. So what is that called and who writes like that? Continue reading →
Years ago I took a Renaissance Painting class. What do I mean by “Renaissance Painting”? First, it has nothing to do with subject matter, it was purely a class about technique.
I’ll give a brief rundown on this technique. First, the artist needs a very smooth surface. Many Renaissance paintings are done on panel for this reason. For the canvas paintings we put layer after layer of gesso on and sanded between layers. Then the picture is painted in black and white. Well, it is greyscale, like a black and white photo. We could add a little blue or red (not much!) to the paint to make the final warmer or cooler. The last step is to put a color glaze over the black and white under painting. If something is green, you use a green glaze and the underpainting will take care of the different shades and highlights.
When you look at a Renaissance era painting it almost seems to glow from an inner light. Well, in ways it does – you are seeing the shapes and shading through a layer of colored glaze. Continue reading →
(Note – This was first publish in January of 2014. Something reminded me of it so I decided to bring it back)
“OK, I’m finished.”
The painting instructor came over to look at my work. He studied it intently, his brow furrowing. After a few minutes he asked, “You’re done? Is this a study? I think this looks pretty good so you should continue working with it.” He left to check someone else’s work. Continue reading →
(Note I posted this about a year ago. Truthfully, I’m in the middle of a large scale topic switch – I am writing and playing music and have no time to write. So, another summer rerun.)
My last post was on the subject of topic switching. A person who topic switches will change the subject of a conversion repeatedly and seemingly randomly. It is as if her mind is racing so far ahead she doesn’t realize she’s skipped big chunks of the conversation. Or that he is so impulsive he spits out anything as soon as it comes to mind.
This post is about something completely different yet, in a strange way, related. I will call it “Large Scale Topic Switching”. Continue reading →
(This is another summer rerun. Actually, I’ve posted this twice. This time, however, I’m going to add a few more pictures to the gallery, almost doubling it.)
It began innocently enough.
Last December (well, December 2013!) I wrotea story about a hiker caught by a blizzard at the top of a New Hampshire mountain. I wanted an illustration. I was away from home and didn’t have any resources beyond a bland version of Windows paint. I spent a few minutes to make a quick B&W computer sketch and put it up.
An ancient bad joke: “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Sure: Practice, practice, practice.” And then there is the even older saying, “Practice makes Perfect,” which is clearly untrue since there is no such thing as perfection in the arts. But the point has to be taken – no matter how much natural talent you have, you need to practice to gain skill. And not just have to practice, you need to practice a lot. For instance, a professional musician often puts in far more than the normal work week of 40 hours in practice alone. That is not including rehearsals, performances and recording sessions.
I put a lot of emphasis on my blog about my new studio setup. I’m finding I had reason to make a big deal about it as I’m now beginning to reap the benefits of the new setup. I have been practicing more and better. I have continued to do my scales, finger exercises and classical songs, but now I often just rock out. I’ve been learning new material and creating new music.
Of course practice goes far beyond music. I have written over 70 new short stories for this blog in the last year and a half. To me this is fantastic practice for when I want to write longer forms. I’m also about to reach my 500th post on the blog, again great writing practice. I sometimes cringe when I reread some of my earliest short stories, but I’m sure I’d cringe just as much if I listened in to some of my early music practice sessions. My work is getting better.
I’ve been skimping on my visual arts practice lately, but in the past I’ve spent hours drawing studies of mundane objects. Before I make a painting I might do a dozen drawings and studies. I’m now out of practice so it would take me a while to get back into it, but if and when I return to the visual arts you can be sure I’ll put a huge amount of practice in before I post anything.
I am far from perfect in any art and will never come close even if I quit my job and practice full time. Still, I can see the benefits; the results are tangible. I really notice the results when I stop practicing. My writing becomes sloppy and my playing is no longer crisp and clear.
Almost exactly a year ago I started work on a picture story, the magic wand. I posted it May 2, 2014. However, in ways I like the colorized version better. If you have time, look at both and let me know what you think.
1. “Where have you been, Edward? We haven’t seen you in days.”
“I’ve been too busy to come out and play. Last week I received a magic wand for my fifth birthday and I’ve been practicing.” Continue reading →
human (noun) – A sentient being that sees and appreciates patterns. OK, so I just made up that definition and I do admit that it’s full of prejudice. Maybe instead of being a definition of “human” it should be a definition of “Trent”. You see, I love patterns. Continue reading →