Wednesday, April 24, 2013

National Poetry Month and "30 Days of Kimono"

April is National Poetry Month, and this year I'm celebrating the season with a small poetry/art journal project with a Japanese-inspired theme I'm calling "30 Days of Kimono." The idea came to me when I visited the Albuquerque Art and History Museum with my writer's group several weeks ago. The museum was hosting a special exhibition on Japanese Art Deco, and because I've always been a huge fan of Japanese style, culture, and literature, it seemed like a good time to do something with all that inspiration!

Rather than restricting myself to just poetry, I'm using a variety of methods, mediums, and digital sites where I made the kimono pictured above, as well as a Pinterest board. To keep all my ideas in one place, I've chosen to use a Moleskine Cahier Kraft blank notebook, which means I can decorate the cover too (still a bit of a work-in-progress...):

On the inside I'm writing down my poetry thoughts,  found poetry snippets, and sketch ideas for larger paintings:

I'm also pasting in drawings made on other types of paper. For instance, the sketch below is made on a Japanese paper I can't describe very well other than to say it's slick on one side, rough on the other (I don't know if it's rice paper--sorry!). I used a pen cut from a piece of bamboo, Black Magic ink, and a little watercolor, then cut it into a kimono-ish shape. The pattern was based on my recent visit to New York and Central Park.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this project has been my research; any excuse to go to the library and immerse myself in good books is fine with me. Besides losing myself in several gardening books covering Zen gardens and tea houses, my favorite find was a classic, The Book of Kimono by Norio Yamanaka. Everything you'd ever want to know about the history, making, and wearing of kimono is in this comprehensive little book. And believe me, there is a lot to know about wearing a kimono--about 36 actions just to get into "the thing," (which is all the word "kimono" really means: "a thing to wear") and half of those include hand-sewing, my most detested task on earth. Then of course there's the good behavior required to not crush or ruin the kimono, including never letting your back touch the back of a chair or car seat. Reminds me of when my mother forced me to wear scratchy nylon dotted Swiss on Sundays--don't move! Don't eat! Don't breathe! Which was perfectly expressed in this bit of found poetry I took from various lines of my magazine cut-outs:

Starched linen,
quiet wealth.
Piety, memory, cleanliness,
and stories.
Tip of the Day: Whether it's National Poetry Month or National Novel Writing Month, why not choose a theme or subject you've always wanted to know more about but never really had the time to explore? Not only could it start an entire new direction for your creativity, but it could also help give you that special edge to stand out from the crowd.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Trip to Mood (and other NYC Sites Along the Way)

Yes, I really went to MOOD last week! And in New York too! Which I guess is only momentous if you are, like me, a total Project Runway fan. In case you're not a fan or have no idea what I'm talking about, I promise that I did take advantage of touring other New York sites, too.

At the moment, though, I'm still a little breathless, and not just from wheeling my suitcase through the airport. It all happened so fast, and there was so much to take in, and there's so much I want to say about the trip . . .  where to start?

How about at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I saw the Egyptian collection:

This was particularly special for me as Egyptian antiquities were the inspiration for my book The Great Scarab Scam. Added bonus: some great ideas for future pottery and ceramic work:

It was also a thrill to see the samurai collection at the museum because it's the basis of my current National Poetry Month project on Japan. (Samurai armor has always intrigued me; so much so that I used it in a section of Overtaken):

And it felt very elegant (if not a little dangerous) to be served a Metropolitan Martini on the museum balcony while a string quartet played in the background:

Unforgettable: walking through Greenwich Village and bumping into Pillow Fight Day. (Or that's what I thought it was. I could be wrong; maybe Rizzoli's ran out of signed copies of Overtaken?)

Seeing the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center was a big highlight too; especially as when I went back there the next day the maintenance crew was a) closing the rink for the spring/summer season, and b) retrieving the biggest, goldest, bling-iest bracelet ever from a flower pot as I watched with great surprise and interest. I did my best to refrain from insisting it was MINE: "Yes, Officer, I was right here on this very spot only yesterday. Honest."

And of course there was the totally unexpected river taxi ride that just happened to go to my hotel while passing the local statuary:

But on the very last day of all, after the Guggenheim (Solomon R. in the guidebook), Central Park, Fifth Avenue, and more pasta than I'm sure is legal, all my dreams came true and I went to MOOD! I played with Swatch! I pulled his ears! (I don't think you're really supposed to pull his ears, but he didn't seem to mind.)

Swatch refusing a signed copy of Overtaken:

In case you're interested, that's the inside of my coat on the chair along with the Mood bag holding the fabric I bought (see top photo again) as well as an amazing sketchbook called a Fashionary. Each page of this nifty little book has 3 templates of "models" you can draw the clothes on whenever you're seized by the muse: A dress just like the Empire State Building! A cape made from faux Central Park squirrels! The possibilities are endless and might even land you on Project Runway one day.

So, yes, I had a really, really good time. And I finally understand all those I-heart-New York souvenirs because you can't not love New York. Now all I need is a nap and time to design some pants for Swatch in my Fashionary. Catch you all later.

Tip of the Day: Be spontaneous--take a risk. I hadn't made serious plans to go to New York; it just sort of happened. Which also means I had no itinerary whatsoever, and it couldn't have worked out better. Just like writing and artwork, once you dive into a project, you can work out the details later. The important thing is to go there. Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Get to Know Your Character(s): Let's Pretend

When I was little, I could play "let's pretend" all day. I mean, like, all day. I could start the morning as a secret agent, switch to being a marine biologist by lunchtime, live on the 1840's American prairie by dinner, and go to bed as a Moomintroll. You could say I lived to play.

As an adult, I'm pretty much into being my own character of me: writer, artist, friend, not to mention Head of the Laundry Department, Chief of Grocery Shopping, and Executive House Cleaner. But recently during a trip to Trader Joe's and wondering why I always buy the same old things, it occurred to me how much fun it would be to play at being someone else for the day--somebody who bought champagne and Gorgonzola instead of milk and vegetarian chili. And the best person I could think of being was my latest character in my new screenplay, especially as she is NOTHING like me.

For starters, she's 18, LOL, and she's a former child prodigy (I may have been imaginative, but I was a long way from being top of the class). As I stood there in the store, I began to wonder what she would buy, and that's when it struck me: pretending to be your character, at least for a little while, would be a great way to know that character on a level way beyond filling out the usual character bio. Talk about research! For instance, you could:
  • Shop for your character in a grocery store--even Trader Joe's! Buy items he or she would choose (or at least make a list of those items if you find them inedible or too expensive).
  • Using these or other ingredients you have at home, prepare your character's favorite meal. Then eat it and describe your feelings after dining.
  • Go to the kind of department or clothing store your character frequents. Pick out several new outfits, complete with accessories. Take notes (because you may not really want to buy a new tiara or desert kaftan) and use as the basis of your character's fictional wardrobe.
  • Buy your character a present. What is it? Can you use it in the plot somewhere? (Note: if the item is beyond a reasonable budget or something you can't actually use yourself, you can always resort to "let's pretend." Just go to the shop where the item would be sold, and imagine you are buying it, similar to the way you "bought" their new clothes. A fun and inexpensive extra would be to purchase a card, wrapping paper, and ribbons to place in your WIP binder or journal as a visual reminder.)
  • Re-create your character's last vacation. Again, if you can't really travel to the destination, at least get some travel brochures, maps, and pack a real or imaginary suitcase. A day spent pretending you are in Paris or Toledo could have a charm all its own, too! The imagination is a powerful tool.
  • Dream for your character--it's not as difficult as it might sound. Before you go to sleep, think of your character's main story goal or problem. Ask your subconscious to solve it. The answer could surprise you.
  • Go to your character's least favorite or most feared place. Absorb the reasons why he or she dislikes it so much.
  • Next time you find yourself waiting in a long line, become your character. Why is he or she so anxious for the line to move? Where does she have to be before it's too late?
  • Visit a nursery or garden center. Pick out 5-10 plants your character loves or hates. What has generated these strong feelings? If possible, purchase and plant the flowers or bushes in your own garden. Use the plants' characteristics and growth cycles as metaphors.
  • Go to the library. Choose your character's 12 favorite books. Now choose one they have never read. Read it through new eyes.
  • Watch your character's favorite movie. Write about a scene that has the most emotional impact for your character, and why.
  • Using magazine cut-outs or other print material, assemble an album of "family photos" for your character. How does your character feel about each of these people--and why? Be sure to include some bad'uns! 
Tip of the Day: The next time you take an Artist's Date, try taking one for your character. Where would he or she want to go? Why? When you arrive at the chosen place, experience as much as you can through your character's viewpoint. Write up your findings either on site or as soon as you return home.