FAQ - Art and Creativity
How do you narrow the character descriptions that took a whole book of modeling and development and explain them to the illustrator?

You'd have to describe your character in terms of outer looks, yes, but also - inner landscape - thoughts, feelings, convictions and beliefs. Foibles.... the emotional "mood" of the character's driving motivations....then, maybe with the above profile in hand, you could excerpt certain key scenes of a few pages - which may not be too much for your artist to handle. Many visual artists read very slowly - or very little - their gifts are other. So investing in reading a book might take them far MORE time and effort than you realize. Therefore you need to make the gist of the character's individuality accessible. This means a DETAILED profile on four levels: physical, emotional, mental/intellectual, and spiritual. Do this with as much passion and enthusiasm as you can muster. This must be the "spark" to fire your artist's visual creativity....so roll up your sleeves, drop your defenses, and sweat over it...or for sure, what you'll have is your artist's own dream, and nothing sparked by your character.

What do you do to attract the viewer's eye and how do you create images to cause them to pick up the book?

Mystery makes the cover....and the impact of the design that delivers the sense of "what next." The best book covers are those that ask questions - that leave the viewer Wondering - wanting more, wanting to see into the mood, unravel the action, stare around the bend in the landscape - that drive the urge to step inside and SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Mystery = the unanswered question - the moment before impact....the picture that impels you, demands you, get INTO that story to see where it is going. The picture that states "What if" "What next" What Happens....this, on the mental level. The better covers also deliver an emotional "mood" and perspective - that sort of "tone" as a backdrop says if your journey is going to be scary, funny, arduous, introspective, broody - what is the mood of the question - what area are we going to explore. The last - specific attention to detail - that will delineate CHARACTER - OK here is the sword bearing hero, but What about him is unique? His clothes, his choice of bearing, his ornament - what do they SAY about the person he is...the "cool" boots he wears what do they say - is he the dandy or the hardbitten adventurer, the downtrodden or the aristocrat...attention to Specific detail, where even the choice of which buttons speaks, and adds to the flavor of the journey. Next to mystery, Beauty - good art will have an elegance and a rhythm and a quality of visual embellishment that inspires, uplifts, exalts - that thrills. Even the ugly stuff, or the scary stuff, being beautiful and expressive....where the ugliness jars or seduces or induces that gasp of wonder....the beauty of discord or the beauty of harmony - that quality is important as well, because it makes us keep on coming back....trying to read what is behind the line....the message that line impresses within us that sings like a siren's song...the unseen grace that is itself a window into another dimension.

As an artist, I'm wondering what should I be shooting for in terms of turning around a finished cover?

It takes ME about a month to six weeks - if you can work faster than that, all to the good - computer art is tending to speed up the tolerance on deadlines. I have worked as short as 2 weeks, but not on anything of mine. Concept sketches: depends. One to as many as you want. For me: I don't do these, they spoil the final...all the good stuff happens in the sketch - but my case is not the usual one; it required close rapport with the art directors to establish this. Not a privilege you are likely to get on your first job...

Can you tell us more about the Paravia Sketchbook and how it relate to the story?
For the questions - Asandir's bulk in the shoulders is the clothing, combined with the wind. This piece was never truly designed as a finish - or to be seen outside the studio - hence, it was on tracing, and crammed in a file, and bits of it are ragged and damaged from "rough handling" - there were areas on either side that had to be cropped off because the paper had too many crinkles to scan.

Yes, also, the Paravian built structures are largely done in harmony with the landscape and the lane forces and flux lines.

Likewise the charcoal of Arithon's face - done crooked on the page at the bottom of a sheet of gray paper - was doodling, not doing anything "serious" (that way I didn't freeze) and it got run over by the wheels of my art chair, once - so it too was never meant to be formally presented... these things were dug up by request, and Don took fits in the scanning because the wrinkles in the paper of course were caught up...

I have since awakened to the value of these sorts of drawings - and am handling them with far more respectful intent (and that Gorgeous sketchbook Don made for me!) has shifted my view. Yes, there was a lot of love in that gift - it is the most wondrous of things. He gave it in hope I'd record what I saw - so one day, perhaps - some of those views could be done in oil for an art project or used in an illustrated edition. Why have somebody else's view when mine are recorded? That's what he was trying to encourage, and you all - thanks for your nice notes, it really warmed my heart.
Can you tell us something about the symbolism on the US cover of Curse of the Mistwraith?
Diagonally crossed lines (X) in the central composition of the figures, formed by the Lysaer's sword and Arithon's lyranthe - the crossed fate, both of the brothers, and, Arithon's inner conflict between the forced necessity of war, and his music.

Unstrung laces on Arithon's sleeve (recurrent theme for the earlier volumes) - his unstrung dreams and hopes.

Two characters are shown under threat: Arithon is protecting the inner self (the music) cradling the lyranthe - Lysaer is reaching to encounter and dominate by force (hand going for the sword).

You've probably caught the drift: that the one character is looking dead on at the viewer (facing his fate) the other is turned away (avoiding the viewer).

The knots on the wall are interlaced, FACING serpents - power of wisdom, healing, and rebirth, shown entangled.

The briars - entrapment and pain.

The gateway into the Paravian ruin shows two Seardluin, facing head on - gateway into a headlong conflict. These are also Seardluin - which were unmalleable killers. I chose these to symbolize the Curse of Desh-thiere

There is more stuff embedded in the Paravian patterns - the ones based on four points have one meaning, and those based on three (the interlooped triads in the circles) mean another. These have mystical meaning, endemic to Paravian culture, and not contradictory to energetic symbolism found elsewhere.

Arithon is shown wearing unadorned green, which is a harmonic of the frequency of vibration for the heart center. (Compassion).

Lysaer wears blue, yellow, violet. (blue - expression through communication; yellow, relationship; violet, connection to the divine.) The sun symbol on his back - masculine energy, with the arrow points, set in a crossed X - all symbols of skewed balance and domination. He uses, therefore, his skills as communicator, statesman (relationship) and "false connection to the divine" to control and raise a grand cause - note his left hand, the receiving hand, is closed into a fist. The right, the doing hand, is reaching for the sword.

If you look at the patterns in the Mistwraith itself - Lysaer's is shown haloed, or encircled- there is a "break" in the mist halo at the level of the 3rd eye that feeds into the darker area, and a turning vortex - an interchange, active, with Lysaer at this moment. He is shown looking into that area - attentive to something the viewer cannot see. Arithon is on the peripheral edge, touched, but not hooked into active contact. His expression is guarded, wary, aware - as though he was just "tapped" on the shoulder, but has yet to identify what's come knocking. The poignancy in his expression is the crossing that happens as his inner thought - and his music is interrupted.

These are by no means all that's there.

Can you tell us why you chose the imagery you did for the re-release of Curse of the Mistwraith in Britain?
I chose the rose because of the RED rose Asandir fabricates, and hands to Maenalle - when Lysaer is presented to her....remember that? So the symbols of sword and rose includes both lineages' kingships. I realize there could be a romance suggestion - I didn't mind -- two great loves are seeded here, Arithon's for Elaira of course, but also Lysaer's for Talith - very significant.

Because Britain liked the idea to incorporate the instantly recognizable design element of the Seardluin gargoyles, and because (due to the title - Curse of the Mistwraith) I had several readers say they'd not picked up the book because they thought it was HORROR, I wanted something strong to say otherwise.

Framing the book in the seardluin - drakespawn - well, without the Dragon's error, there would BE no story...so all of the Third Age events are "framed" by that past backdrop. With humanity's doings caught between.

It is Althain Tower, and I used existing drawings because I had to do all these paintings so blasted FAST there was no hope of meeting deadlines, otherwise. I chose the Tower - because Scene I of Warhost takes PLACE there, and it IS there, that Sethvir defends Athera from a wraith invasion. His title: Warden of Althain...seemed to "fit" framing the first scene's location, against Vastmark and the Shale Corries for the last location...
Have you published any pictures of the characters from the Wars of Light and Shadow series?
No pix of Asandir published, ever. Sethvir and Traithe appeared in the trading card set; no joy for you, sorry - you'll have to do what I did - make up your own character.

It's been much on my mind that I would like to paint this portrait, with my current skills and vision; the image is in mental inventory - just hafta take the time. I have painted Asandir twice before, but, whew, very early attempts and they were gawdawful. As in, bury these! The trash got em long since, and thank goodness!

Early pix of Arithon - those you'd recognize as him, right off. There IS one, an early pastel sketch, in the trading cards on the back of a more recent cover image; and one of him and Lysaer (early early) fighting the Mistwraith on the back side, too; I can't pinpoint which numbers, but those two early efforts were on the back sides, right there for you.

The very very earliest ever is a pen and ink drawing of the Five Centuries Fountain, and Arithon. You'd recognize the face, right out. The anatomy was rotten; (I hadn't studied the figure yet) and the fountain itself showed a lot to be desired concerning understanding the proper perspective when drawing stonework - however...I'll consider this request. I also have a monster old oil painting - that's still kicking about. Don keeps bugging me to pull it out and repaint bits of it to "bring it up" since there are aspects to it that are very alive - the surf and storm background, and a certain look in the character's eye - but it would take such a massive amount of "redrawing" the anatomy over what was a pretty inept effort at doing the neck and torso...hah! Why not just do another painting - each time I try to discard the old thing, the breaking wave and that "look" in the eye just won't toss...

Somebody begged, and got the early portrait of Elaira, which was unfinished, but had some nice aspects to it. Two other somebody elses really really REALLY made pests, and pleaded, and got the two paintings I did of the Riathan Paravians... one of which I regret. But the person, an acquaintance, just would not shut up! At me, at me, at me. I imagine it's still on the wall, somewhere. In those days I lived in a garret over an old, old farmhouse carriage shed, and storing 36 by 40 inch canvases was rough. Stuff was given away or archived out by the box load. Those oils, by the way, were done while I was in college.

You have to realize - most of the "vision" of this character, and the rest of the cast, happened in my head, then and now. Now I can replicate that, drawing and erasing what's "not" then drawing some more until the character "is" what's in my mind's eye; it still takes a long time to get it "there." Back then, it was just too frustrating, watching the drawing skills fall so far short of what I envisioned.

Do you have any sketches of anyone apart from Arithon and Lysaer, in particular I'm thinking Elaira?
Yes I have done images of Elaira. Can't let you see the most major of them - it would be a Major spoiler. Be patient....
Must a creator be self-absorbed?

Creating anything, solo, is pulling it out of the void on guts, grit, and inspiration - you are basically amusing yourself, so I imagine, yes, while creating, this would be true. The rest of the time - I interact with people, home, husband, and friends. While creating, if a friend had a crisis, no question which way I'd turn. The real world person over the virtual one, every time. Some creators immerse into their talent to escape life, some do so to explore life. The former immerse deeper the thicker it gets, express their angst on paper so to speak - the latter just can't. Life's actual stuff looms too large, and they work when things are peaceful. I happen to be the latter type. (or so I experience so far, anyway)

What makes a piece of creative effort "good"?

This question has stages and layers - FIRST, you have to know what goal you have in creating it. Was it for beauty, suspense, humor, emotion, idea - the list goes on. Some works have only one point. Some have many. If you want to write something just for the beauty of it, and a person who reads as critic expects profound suspense, they will have a not so hot opinion....they weren't looking for beauty, so, they were disappointed - as an example. Know what ASPECT you want to share with others, and make sure that is your founding drive, and the yardstick by which that drive is to be measured. Next: WAS what you created well crafted? THIS is craft. Learning to state what you wanted with elegance and panache and individuality. Practice, learning, more practice, refining the CRAFT gives your delivery its clarity. Complexity is not to be mixed up with clarity.

Next on the list to be considered is style. How do you STYLE your craft - some things are crafted very simply - some are crafted with great complexity. Make sure you understand your individual voice - and where in the spectrum of choice you fall, with that. If your critic beats the "kiss" drum (keep it simple, sweetheart) - they will obviously get VERY self righteous if you go for complexity in either concept or design. AFTER you understand your drive, your idea, AFTER you have refined your craft - then you have to know that your critic may have a bias in THEIR wants that does not match yours....not every work serves every person.

You know you have succeeded - 1) because you can look back and SEE where your improvement in craft has risen. 2) You will know by feedback - with the caveat: you need to check your "critic's" expectations - and be sure the bias matches to at least a reasonable degree. 3) You will know because more and more, what you INTENDED gets through, even where a skewed bias is present. You will not reach everyone. That's a given.

The trick is in finding the balance -- you have to hold enough of your individual voice to maintain your enthusiasm and passion. If you have a good support group - put your stuff out there. Then ask, "What did you get from reading this?" Not, is it good - rather, what did your taste tester feel or see or experience? Now look at what they DID get - if it was, say, beauty you were after, and they didn't get that, ask why - You went for beauty, they wound up with (?) - their opinion on how you Missed may be they have another concept of beauty OR - it may come out that your craft was inept, still, and the wrong points received unwarranted emphasis. If your focus wasn't apparent, you may be able to fix that - hone your craft. "Good or bad" is a rotten way to approach the question of "did this work succeed" - in my opinion anyway....you're going to fall into a muddle of people's likes and dislikes and personal taste. A work succeeding or not, requires a certain degree of dissection, question and answer to perceive a common snapshot - did you create the shared moment you aimed for, or not. Understand also - some works are made for a small, esoteric audience, some are made for the mass audience. Know your intended audience, and don't confuse the two, they are not necessarily interchangeable options.

What advice would you give someone about making choices in life?

True courage is to learn to follow your heart. YOUR heart. Not somebody else's. YOUR choice, not what other people or any "rule" in the book tells you that your choice "should" be. That is both the hardest and the easiest thing to finding the wonder that is uniquely yours. True genius springs from that. And you know if you are in that sweet spot - because you will be ineffably happy.

If the admission you made gives you peace - if you can say in your heart you ARE totally happy and you know it - then you are right where you will find your heart singing. But - If your heart is empty, it feels void, and does not sing, then maybe the choice feels "OK" because it is actually somebody else's - your parents, your teachers, your "idea" of what life "ought" to be... and that void will not answer to your life.

So often I find people who have dissociated from what they truly WANT - feel nothing at all... because at some point, when they pursued what WAS them, they got punished, or told, they could not. It was bad, wrong, against somebody's expectations - and that voice of outside authority won out and overrode an inner awareness. If you feel nothing - nothing at all - I might suggest that void could well be silenced anger, in layers... and you can tap it and find what is missing.

I recommend Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way for anyone who wants to get in touch with their creativity. Also, her follow up book, Vein of Gold.

If you ARE where you want to be and it is not the "consensus view" of what is brilliant - then it feels brilliant to YOU - then bravo! You have my applause. Courage is following your heart. No matter where. If you have that suffocated sense that maybe you are not - I could hope you might give yourself the permission to explore another time.

There are times when the first steps on this path can FEEL threatening - because as a child, when you dared them, you WERE threatened. Your world shook, literally. So it may take some shaking of those foundational beliefs to see where the map actually leads. Never settle for less! Worker bees HAVE imagination. This gift is not reserved for painters or storytellers - it is for healers, and nurturers and teachers and every walk of life will be the richer for those who use the tools and unveil the treasures.

To anyone who is pursuing an expectation that is not theirs - it can feel very much like some "authority" will "punish" you if you even try to hope differently. Dump that. I'd encourage... dig into the fog of "nothing" and find the anger and GET ANGRY - punch a pillow until you cry it out and feel empty. Then look what piece of your heart you gave away - what part of you "accepted second best" - that you numbed out so you could feel "safe."

Hope differently. We'd all have the gift of a richer, safer world with your true voice.

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