Lost Art: What Happens to the Unread? And Why Does It Make Me Feel So Sad?

July 3, 2009 at 1:07 am (Art, Authors, Books, Failure, Obsession, Processes, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Success, The Fantastic, Uncategorized, Why) (, , , )

Darger’s private world centered around seven little blond moppets called the Vivian Girls, whose adventures include … But it’s a 23,000-page story, and while of course I always read every relevant source in the course of writing a review — and boy, was this one a doozy — it’s a bit involuted to go into in much detail. Actually, not even MacGregor has read more than a representative fraction of Darger’s writing, and it’s safe to say that nobody ever will.

-Gavin McNett, Salon.com review of “Henry Darger: In the Realms of the Unreal” by John M. MacGregor

Darger’s main project was a book called “The Story of the Vivian Girls, In What is Known as the Realms of the
Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, as caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.” At 15,000 pages, it is by far the longest novel ever written. (The paintings are illustrations of scenes from the novel.) The book is chaotic, repetitive, and totally insane, but there are many astonishingly beautiful passages. A few years ago I had the crazy idea of editing Darger’s novel into a cohesive series of novels — modeled after, say, Frank Baum’s “Oz” series. I say editing, but it would be more like translating, since Darger’s text is extraordinarily knotty and difficult. With enough work, I felt that his writing would have huge popular appeal. Unfortunately the Darger estate didn’t like the idea[…]

-Nathaniel Rich, questions from Blake Wilson

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Is It Horrible? or What Is Failure Anyway?

April 1, 2009 at 4:22 pm (Art, Failure, How, Obsession, Processes, Success, The Fantastic, Why) (, , , )

“I remember a distinct moment when I was about fifteen or sixteen when I made a decision. This is an awful thing to say, but I realized, Friends are taking up too much of my time, let’s put that on the back burner. My parents were a little weirded out. I was the opposite of most teenagers, and the opposite of my brother, where they had to try to keep him inside because he was always wanting to go out. But I made this really distinct choice where I had to be selfish, that was the only way I could see this, being an artist, working out for me. And I think, from that moment until this month, seriously, I’ve been going like a maniac. By the time I got to a point in my career where I could quit my job and focus only on making these drawings, it killed me to even take one night off. I mean, it would drive me insane, which is horrible, it’s a horrible way to be.”

Robin O’Neil, interviewed by Hillery Hugg

“The only thing that comes to mind is that I’m really interested in why things fail, or why I’m not happy with my work. It seems to make interviewers uncomfortable, or maybe feel that they will come across as arrogant, or that I will be offended. Of course, I’d be a little defensive if someone asked, “why is all your stuff so bad?”, but somewhere in the middle there are very interesting conversations to be had about what goes wrong.”

David McKean, interviewed at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

“It felt lazy, and I didn’t like that, so I guess I enjoy the sort of punishment I give myself. Making mechanical-pencil drawings that are of this scale is completely ridiculous, and when people find out that’s how I make them, they don’t know what to think-I mean, I look at this [points to a photo of one of her larger drawings] and I know it took me maybe three months of solid work, and I always think people looking at it won’t know-they’ll think it took me a couple of weeks or something. There are two sides to that, though, since I don’t want it to be all about how much time it takes me. Whenever I give a talk or a lecture, people are really obsessed with talking only about my process and I usually put a stop to that early on because I want to make a point. I don’t want people just to go, “Wow, you’re really a slave to your work,” because that’s not all it’s about-the image is what it’s really about, even though the process is obviously a part of it, too.”

Robin O’Neil

“And then the actual battle begins. Usually, I spend a few days feeling that I’ve forgotten how to draw – and eating and going out for coffee and reading and playing the drums or the piano or watching a film until I just can’t put it off any more. Then I get into a routine, as soon as the first few images are done that are genuinely good and seem to have the right tone of voice; then I can see the whole book done, and it’s a gallop, or at least a determined canter, to the finishing line.”

David McKean

“But really, this floating world is based on the legendary tales of Magonia. The word originally came from a series of events in France around 800 AD, with folklore about ships navigating the clouds, and it was used to describe the place in the sky from which things-animals, objects-mysteriously fall. People really did believe in this story, that there were people who lived in the skies and had these cloud-ships, some people claimed they fell from these ships onto Earth. And there are thousands of reports all over the world about organic materials raining down: ants, blood, eels.”

Robin O’Neil

“To be sure, this aspect is critical and [O’Neil] often gets together to talk about invented stories with her friend Trenton Doyle Hancock, an artist who has developed an extraordinary cast of characters of his own. As undergraduates at East Texas State University, they both studied with Lee Baxter Davis who taught them “the labyrinth” approach to narrative drawing-starting with an idea and letting each new work dictate the path of the twisting plot.”

Michelle White

“There are usually two starting points, the text and what I’m interested in at the time. Sometimes they are irreconcilable, in which case I will exclusively concentrate on what the story demands, but usually it meets me half-way. I’ll make lots of notes all over the manuscript and make doodles in my sketchbooks, any ideas that come to mind. I will research appropriate references, if necessary, and start to draw main characters over and over again, until they start to feel right. I’ll usually plan out the whole book (if it’s a graphic novel) or the illustrated sections of the book thoroughly before starting finished work.”

Dave McKean

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