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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Footnotes (2)

March 24, 2009 at 9:11 pm (Art, Authors, Books, How, Science Fiction and Fantasy) (, , , )

Related only so much as David Foster Wallace –> endnotes, endnotes –> footnotes, and footnotes –> Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (though also House of Leaves, and now I think I need to buy all these books and begin a section of my bookshelves devoted entirely to narrative with footnotes and endnotes):

Susanna Clarke Seminar on Crooked Timber

“For me it’s not so much that authors don’t always know best. It’s more, “Sorry guys, I’m not actually the author.” The author couldn’t come. The author has left the building. She left when the book was finished. I’m just the person who remains now she is gone. I may be able to help you because I seem to have a pile of her memories over here—also lots of her notes and stuff. But, while some of the memories are crystal sharp, others are fuzzy and quite a lot are missing. Ditto the notes and stuff. As for what she intended by writing this or that, in many cases she wouldn’t have been able to answer anyway. She never gave it any thought.”

Susanna Clarke

“Or, to put it another way, the novel is a sort of collision between two kinds of story. On the one hand, we have Austen’s brilliant, sometimes bitter, but fundamentally constrained stories of an England in which women especially are bound by their class and station to play certain roles…On the other hand, we have the stories of E.P. Thompson, Douglas Hay and other social historians, who write about the people who didn’t really feature in Jane Austen’s novels (the social historians got some stick too from feminist historians for not writing more about women, but at least made a start).”

Maria

“Anyway, the point is: there are ever so many ways to manage a sort of stable irony of understatement in which nothing about the teller’s tone seems to telegraph sufficient awareness of astonishing content. In the case of Clarke, there is a sort of additional, subtle calibration, in that the renaissance of English practical magic is astonishing to these Christian gentlemen; yet – being magic Christians from the start, merely lapsed ones – they are not astonished in the way we are. Twain might have appreciated it: one way to tell a humorous story is to tell it like a comic story, but make sure to collect applause and glance eagerly from face to face at ever so slightly the wrong moment.

It is tricky to say why this sort of stable irony is so satisfying. I certainly find it to be so. It isn’t because it is ‘realistic’, I think. Because it often isn’t.”

John Holbo

“It’s a story of the King of the Cats. The point of the tale isn’t what it seems to be. The very title of the book is misleading: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell aren’t nearly as important as they think they are. There’s a hidden story there, which is whispered through the gaps between the actions of the main protagonists.”

Henry

“At times the footnotes come to dominate the page with a crabbed blackness all down the lower 7/8, leaving the main text to meander above in a thin stream only a few lines wide; the reader must then decide whether she will actually finish any of the sentences in the main text, or will turn aside to learn, say, the fascinating story of the Master of Nottingham’s daughter, and how her wickedness was eventually repaid (pp. 240-243), and risk forgetting what the main text is on about.”

Belle Waring

“Instead of Giving Importance to People, [Science Fiction and Fantasy] can Humble People. It can be about turning our view, however briefly, away from ourselves; it can be about glimpsing that human beings are not always, forever, and irrevocably, the centre of the universe. If you are C.S. Lewis, writing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, you turn our view away from ourselves to God. (The children become kings and queens —which looks a bit like giving power to the weak, but as they are self-confident, middle-class English children, they never seem that weak or small.) If you are Alan Garner, writing Thursbitch, you turn our view away from ourselves to an actual, historical valley in northern England which stands for all the places in northern England resonating with their own, not-human placeness. I’m with Alan Garner: the landscape of England (particularly Northern England) is the bit of magic we can actually see and touch for ourselves.”

Susanna Clarke

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