Character Development

No doubt in any work of fiction beside the plot and the setting, the characters are most important. What would a story be without characters to care for, identify with or challenge us for some reason. In any writing course, workshop or at writers’ conferences you learn about character development, meaning you invent your main character – the protagonist, – but also their nemesis or antagonist, and all the other secondary characters you could ever need. You flesh them out: give them names and a physical appearances, decide on the age and ethnic  background, give them certain behaviours and follies, likes and dislikes, families, friends, pets, books, you name it. You are their creator. You invent them so perfectly, that you know about their most secret dreams and their phobias although you will never need to know that for the actual story. The secret is to not only do that for your main character, but for every single character in your story no matter how small a role they play. Well, maybe not for the guy who passes you in traffic you noticed only for his cool car… But everyone else. Yes. That’s a lot of work. Especially when down the road you decide to cut this character out because she doesn’t move the story forward and even though you were so much in love with her, she has no real purpose in your story…

I imagine this is pretty much what our Creator does with (the story of) us …

So you fleshed out all your characters, give them a role to play, lines to say, things to act on, respond to, grow at, cheer about, age on …  whatever you want. And then comes the point when you get stuck in your story… because you don’t know what your character is going to do next. He has developed a life of his own. He can surprise you, do things you never thought he would do. Honestly, even though you are his and her and its creator, you had not a clue he would say that eventually. So you have to be quiet at times and ask him, what would you like to do next? Why did you act like that? Because all of a sudden the story you plotted so perfectly changes with just one sentence. Well, yes. You could delete this sentence. Pretend he never said that and his friend or this girl or his dog didn’t respond like they did. You are their creator after all… But it’s kind of intriguing to listen to them. Watch how they get a life of their own. Come up with lines so brilliant you never thought of it. It’s fun…

I imagine this is how our Creator responds to us… 

So all of a sudden you have to come up with Plan B because A is not working anymore, because of this fight the characters had and you tolerated it and now they go separate ways and you have to give them new playmates or colleagues or partners or pets or travel companions or whatever your story is about. Perhaps your story gets much better… Or, because you are their creator, you listen to them for sometime and then you say, NO! That is NOT what I intended for you. Either I delete everything you did and said, because really, I can do that, or you are willing to apologize, and reach out and come back together so that MY story can finally happen. Is that understood?

  I imagine this is how our Creator gives us second chances, but often we don’t take them. And usually He doesn’t make us obey him, but grants us free will. Therefore he created the alphabet in all languages to come up with Plan B,C,D,E,F,… you get the picture…

Well, I know the drill in writing. I admit I all too often listen to my characters and come up with different plans and again I don’t submit to the editor and another month is passing because I rewrite instead because I do respect other people even though some of them are only invented …

Aren’t we all…?

And if writing wasn’t challenging enough, I do the same for illustrating. Well, now I do – I should add… because previously I only illustrated what I needed for a certain scene, but never bothered to flesh out my characters. I never knew that the owl that likes to serenade, also holds a grudge deep down and the cat who likes adventures, easily gets scared… How does that fit together? I don’t know. It is what it is, unless I change the characters… or their attitudes… or their sensibility… But I can only do that when I get to know them inside and out. I like them to surprise me with their inner life, ideas and emotions. And if I can’t stand them that way anymore… well, then I can change them, delete what they said… or erase them altogether. I’m their creator after all!

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INKtober

31 Days 31 Drawings. Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. Jake Parker created InkTober in 2009 as a challenge to improve his inking skills and develop positive drawing habits.

Day 1st: My first ink sketch. I should have stopped adding to it a long time ago, but I was listening to the amazing presentations at the second ever online Picture Book Summit. I mean how can you think/draw straight when listening to e.g. Jane Yolen?

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I used Sennelier ink and two water colour brushes size 0 and size 10 on Canson Mixed Media Paper

What about you? Are you up for the challenge? Or do you rather resonate with Jane Yolen’s “A poem a day”?

During this inspiring month of October when nature surprises us with an ever changing palette, I guess we can afford to be creative as well. No pressure. Just be spontaneous. Or at the very least, how about you find something you are grateful for each day?  – I invite you to share in the comment section.

Competition

Whatever field of work or interest you might be in, I think competition is healthy. It prevents us – as a person, athlete, artist, entrepreneur or business – from becoming lazy or indifferent and instead inspires us to become more. More creative, more resourceful, more innovative, more interesting, more attentive, and ideally it brings out the best in us.

I frequently participate in art or writing competitions, usually not necessarily for the prizes – although they add to the appeal – but for the challenge. I love to challenge myself and competitions force me to be creative under pressure, wich often results in new ideas to be explored even beyond the competition guidelines and pushes me out of my comfort zone. Comfort zones are lovely to bask in, but life most always gets exciting only after we’ve left the comfy couch.

Recently I participated in a few writing competitions and even got “long listed” which I assume I should mention, because of the fact that our family decided to give ourselves credit for even the little achievements that come our way this year. I submitted artwork to the “Nonsuch Art On Paper Awards” Competition because the name made me smile and the idea behind it intrigued me. And when the other day I got the online catalogue of all the entries, I was stunned by the variety and brilliance of all the submitted artwork. I love my competition! But take a look for yourself by clicking on the link.

NAOPA Catalogue of Entries | Main & Station

While I wish every participating artist good luck and congratulate them on their artwork and guts to show it, I wouldn’t mind if you! crossed your fingers for me to be under the finalists with my painting(s) travelling first to Nova Scotia and after to Montreal… 🙂 But if not, oh well, I’ll submit to another competition

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“Save the Whales,” was juried in and sold at the international 2014 Painting on the Edge Exhibition in Vancouver, BC

What about you? How do you push yourself out of your comfort zone?

Work in Progress

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Not far from where I live is the Bruce Peninsula with a tiny village at it’s very tip called Tobermory. From Tobermory goes a ferry to Manitoulin Island, the biggest fresh water island in the world. The water around Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula – shallow towards the east and deep with steep cliffs on the west toward the Georgian Bay – is pristine and cold and refreshes the body and the spirit for its amazing clarity and beauty. It is an artists’ and divers’ paradise for the landscape and many well preserved shipwrecks that lay off the shores and can be spotted from the land and discovered up close while diving around. On the rocks of the Bruce Peninsula  grow some of the oldest trees in the world, growing only a few inches each year and its forests are home to various wild life including the rattle snake and the brown bear.

My artwork above is inspired by the beautiful and challenging landscape found on the Bruce Peninsula. So far I’m pleased with the roughs. Now I need to add some colour to give justice to its beauty …

Creating while Waiting for the Pleasure of it

I don’t know about you, but I have to wait – a lot … for the paint to dry for instance. Or the potatoes to boil. Or for the tractor to finish its row and I can pass the driver some food, or tools, or I don’t know what… I have to wait for the milk to cool to feed to the lamb, for the school bus to arrive, for the seedlings to grow, for the chicken to come in at night, for the acceptance or the rejection letter to appear in my inbox, for good news and most of all for my muse. You’d think with all that waiting I’d be good at it by now, but no, I’m not. I can’t even sit still for a movie to watch unless someone watches with me like a babysitter of some sort. So I doodle. Or drum a beat with my fingers and toes. I start dancing out of the blue, or furrow my forehead in deep thought. Sometimes I draw lines in the sand or arrange objects I find …

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I look at them from all sites…

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not even feeling the mosquito bites.

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I paint the leaves,

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arrange unusual treats

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integrate everything I find

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until work calls me back, do you mind?

A Look into My “Wild” Sketchbook

The other day I found this little guy standing in the middle of the road:

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Driving in my car I slowed down, slowed down, until I almost stopped. I swear this fellow was laughing before he finally turned and shuffled off the road back into the field.

Since I was almost home, I tried to capture his face expression in my sketchbook as soon as possible. He still makes me smile whenever I look at this sketch. So… did he have something to tell me, besides “slow down!”?

As so often I looked up his meaning and found it quite interesting. Among other meanings, listen to that: Groundhog: “Lessons associated with death, dying and revelations about its processes will begin to surface.”  – “Mystery of Death without Dying.” Isn’t that suitable considering the book manuscript I’m working on?! — I like his smile now even better, because even tough I think I have a message worth sharing, I’ve never taken myself too seriously. Since Adam and Eve nobody really has something entirely new to say, and “near-death-experience” – hasn’t this almost become something like a household name?

But since I believe we are here in physical form to help and teach each other and also learn from each other, and since I like to contemplate life and death and God and the world, I believe I owe it to the reader to put my  grain of insight at least into a good story. – So I’d like to ask you to be patient with me… just like the groundhog asked of me. If I don’t die over it, I promise you a good story in the end 😉

P.s.: The groundhog can hold an entirely different meaning for you. If you spot one and you think he “was talking to you,” look up its meaning, or see how he goes through life and learn from it or be fascinated. The meaning I mentioned above resonated to me in this particular time. And as I said, although I think everything has a meaning, don’t take anything too seriously. Most of all yourself or the opinion of others.

Have a lovely day! 🙂

The Fear of Moving Forward

 

Sometimes I start a new piece of art, whether it’s a drawing or painting or a sculpture and I stop because I have to wait for it to dry or need to think how I proceed and then I look closer and sometimes I fall in love with just the stage it is in right then. Sometimes I just have to walk away and leave it the way it is, from fear I might mess up with every move or stroke I’d do from then on.

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It’s silly, I know. My old friend and teacher, the painter Lothar Schulz-Goldap who taught me painting in oil and who started his art school at the age of 75 when I (his first ever student) left the city and later opened his own gallery when he was 78, would scold me.

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“If you want to know how to draw an animal, draw it a hundred times,” he would say. He never was afraid of making mistakes. He was afraid of sitting idle and painted every single day but Sunday, supporting his three children through university only by painting and selling his paintings… Hats off.

So before I move forward, messing up and making lots of creative mistakes, … I wanted to say, how much I loved this stage…

How about you? Are you ever afraid of moving forward? In’t there just something cozy about comfort zones?

By the way, the deadline of registering for my three-day course “Everyone Can Draw,” June 1-3, is fast approaching. To register please go to www.southamptonartschool.com.

I look forward to seeing you there!