Sunday, February 12, 2012

Choosing Form for Function

I've come to realize, as I've worked on this book project, that it's been writing itself for years. I know the subject matter well. It flows. The difficult work has been in choosing the form. I've always been a storyteller. You've likely been with me long enough to know a story can be just two inches tall. My 'go to' form is sculpture. I can draw with pencils, or paint with brushes. I can even sing a little. Still, if you can believe it, I can sculpt a poppet faster than I can draw one. It's simply a matter of experience and practice. Could I sculpt a poppet with my eyes closed? I don't know. Hmmm.....

I'll think about that tomorrow.

I can write a few words or a lot of words. In writing, the tool I reach for most often is an image with a few words, e.g. just last week.

Or I can write a lot of words about the experience that brought me to there. (I'm working on it.)

The former can be very effective and even lasting. These stories are iconic. The latter sort is more immersive. We can snuggle into it. Either can stick with us. Either can deliver the message.

The question is, what kind of a book do I want to make? We know already that it will be some combination of words and images. Drawings, paintings, photographic images of sculptures? Verse, anecdote, fiction?

I'm looking through the work I've done so far and honestly, the best answer seems to be not to choose one form, but to mix it up. That would create a new challenge - how to take what could look like a garage sale and make it visually cohesive. Already this seems a reasonable challenge, even if only because I haven't beaten my head against it for three months.

It seems to me that I've danced long enough with the old challenge. I've chosen over and over and just can't stick with my choices. It seems the best way to go is to try another approach. It works in sailing and herding cats, why not for creating a book?

I'm having this conversation with you before I have it with the publisher. Which, in my mind, makes a great deal of sense. After all, I'm your artist and this will be your book.

Tell me what you think. It matters to me.

It's Sunday. I'm in my ratty old robe, there's a lukewarm cup of forgotten coffee on my desk and I'm surrounded by cats. I laugh at myself. Stereotypes aren't created out of thin air.

Hope your Sunday is good.


Melissa P said...

I'm in favor of this new challenge, the mixing-it-up format. I think the various forms work together in the same way our bodies do with all of the intricate and complicated systems. An anatomist views a body and begins a dissective evaluation, seeing all the oddities and barely glancing at the regularities. An artist views a body and sees something greater than the sum of its parts. Each bit, whether strange or common, is appreciated for its contribution to the work.

You have the advantage, which is often burdensome, of seeing it from both points of view. The Artist is wrestling with the Anatomist. They are both right. The hard part is mediating their dispute.

I'm wishing you peace today. (My poppets arrived and they are far more intriguing than I had hoped. Thank you!)

Syd said...

To be honest, Lisa, I'm still trying to figure out what this book project is all about. It isn't that I don't read your blog--I do, and I check pretty much daily for updates--but for some reason, every time I reach into my head for project details you've mentioned, I come up empty-handed, even as to whether it's intended to be fiction or nonfiction or both. So, that being said, take the following remarks for whatever they're worth. :)

You are, truly, a multimedia artist, so it makes sense that the book would reflect that. If there's been one overriding "theme" in your life during the last several years (and based on your blogs, I can think of a couple that might apply), the book might trace the development of that theme both in your life and your work, and yes, with a blend of words in various forms and photos of sculptures (and other photos, because you do take some wonderful shots) and sketches/drawings/paintings, whether already in existence or created for the book.

Wow, that was a sentence.

What it seems to come down to, for me, is: What would you like to tell us? Feel free to repurpose blog entries, for example, if they fit the conversation you want to have with us. Or use an old one as a starting point, then tell us what's changed--or why something hasn't changed--and whether you wanted it to or not.

Poppets are stories in themselves, but can some of those stories be opened up with words or other art? Is there a story that doesn't yet have a Poppet, and does it need/want one? Do the stories generally precede the Poppets, or vice versa, or is it kind of split between the two?

I don't know if this makes any sense or is in any way helpful...but it's what's in my head this morning.

lisa said...

MelissaP: That's a description I can relate to. It would fit that I could be trying to balance two distinct approaches - left brain and right. Definitely worth thinking on. Thank you.

lisa said...

Syd: It's on me, not you. It's been difficult these months, to even try to get a blog entry in before I fall asleep. Sometimes I feel like a character in a Lemony Snicket knockoff.
I've mentioned(in a feable attempt to stay connected) that I'm working on a book project, but I can see that I haven't actually defined the project because that's the part I'm still working on.
It's a lot like the theme of my art, it's a bit like my blog and hopefully, it will be both helpful and interesting. And, there will be poppets, because how could there not be?

Does that help?

J.W.B. said...

I like the idea. Making it flow will certainly be a challenge. I imagine it being easier though if it were separate stories, standing on their own with their unique art to go with as opposed to a single plot. Both doable.

I look forward to reading about the Poppets very much.

I see them on my desk every day and daydream about where they've been in their world and the mystery behind it.

Elysha said...

I write. In writing I've realized you start with an idea and it goes on its own journey and evolution. I am sure it is the same with art. I just recently discovered you, and I've been looking for your images of angels, so as a new fan, I'd just like a book of all your creations with commentary.

But as a writer, my advice (?) to you is to just create and see what happens. As the creator, you create the form, and in today's glorious age, form can take many shapes.

But don't worry. Don't think. Just do. Write. The form will find itself as it is being created, and later as you edit.

I think the hardest thing to do is to remove the critics in your head--the idea of what the fans expect and want. FORGET THEM and dive. Dive deep and don't come up for air until you've created what it is that is percolating in your brain.

Its all very metaphysical, and in reality, the only faith we display is by doing the work.

As a new fan, I wish you well, and I admire your courage for venturing into it.

Jess said...

Each part of a story usually can tell you in what form it wants to be told - perhaps your book won't want to just be a book by the end, but an experience, or an installation, or a combination of things with different pieces-parts. That would speak not only to who you are as an artist, but also to the many different ways people experience art and ideas. How cool could that be? :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm in favor of mixing it up but the actual form(s) probably depends somewhat on the subject (which we don't know really know yet). I think the trick is to set a goal and keeping working toward it until you get somewhere, not neccessarily where you intended. Don't keep starting over or you will never wind up with much. But you are a master of repurposing and mixed media/ found object collage so I would be interested to see what you could do with mashups of false starts.

I'll read anything you write and I'm very excited about the idea!


Drinne said...

Maybe you mix things up and then convert them to another form - some of the story is sculpture,some is words , some is fabric - when the story is done then it finds the common form it can be told in - and perhaps then photographed and laid out in a traditional book and expanded on and made interactive for a multimedia book and experienced in a room installation for an experienced visual/oral story. It would still be only one story but experienced/shared many ways - reaching each person differently or the same person differently each time. That's how stories really are anyway.

It's still it's own story - made once, then sent out to tell itself.

Kathy said...

Hi Lisa, I always feel that if you do what feels right to you and would be something you enjoy then it's bound to appeal to other people as well - especially the people that are already sharing your journey.
I'm all for mixing it up - makes it a lot more interesting and challenging as a reader too. Treat it as a collage - gather all the bits you want to go in it regardless of the format and then arrange them and re-arrange them til they 'fit' each other.

Arwenn said...

I'm not sure why but the first thought that jumped into my head was Shaun Tan's "The Arrival". Such a wonderful experience but not something I can describe which almost makes it better. Mixing it up seems right somehow, however the story comes out.

lisa said...

Thank you all for your thoughts. Good advice in there. I thought I might be on the right track, but it's incredibly useful to get some insight into your creative experience.

I'll keep you posted.