By Whiney Writer
Whiney stars in her own reality show!
As the magic camera zooms in on Whiney Writer’s computer desk, we see Whiney staring at her monitor. A few words show at the top of the screen. There is no sound in the room except the soft snores of her cat, Princess Fuzzy Butt.
Whiney’s keyboard rattles briefly then falls silent as she presses the backspace key. She turns from her monitor to stare out the window, and sighs.
“It’s a beautiful sunny day out there. Where’s a cold gray March day when you need one? If I go out for a walk to clear my brain, I won’t come back for hours. It’s be a shame to miss my neighbor’s crocus, though.”
She squares her shoulders. “No, I will write. Umm…what? I’ve got plenty of ideas. Maybe I’ll finish the story about the mutant blue hippopotami. No, I still can’t figure out how they could talk. How about the romance novel about a young duke who runs away to become an aeronaut and is shot down as a spy by his gamekeeper’s daughter? I could go kind of steampunk. I’d just have to find out how hot air balloons actually work. Why do all those articles have to be so technical? Or I could work on my mystery novel about the French princess who’s murdered her brother-in-law for trying to seduce her to provide an heir. I think it would have to be alternate history, though.”
Whiney squints at the sunshine and swivels to stare at the walls instead. “Ugh. Look at all those cobwebs! This isn’t a writing room, it’s the creepy library on a late night movie. I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a handsome brooding hero happening by? Didn’t think so.”
She climbs up on a low cabinet and spends a few highly aerobic minutes swiping at cobwebs with a tissue. Whiney bounces off the wall. Princess Fuzzy Butt flees.
“Oof!” Whiney hops down and goes back to her computer.
“Why can’t editors take uncompleted manuscripts from unknowns? We’re the ones who need the encouragement! I’d feel a lot more motivated to finish something if somebody had actually said they want it.” She twirls her chair a full 360 degrees. “And it would help me make up my mind.”
She frowns at the list of recent files. “Those ideas are all boring. They’re not worth my wasting any more time. Hmm. Thrillers sell really well, don’t they?”
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By Shawn Shea
Following my last blog which talked about one of my favorite artists/ illustrators, James Gurney, I’ll further explore favorite artists / illustrators whose “Art Practices” I admire and respect.
This immediately brings to mind Nicholas Wilton. His work as an editorial and children’s book illustrator has been an inspiration for years. The expressive, striking way he layers color over color and the textures created as he builds his final art create a deeply rich, engrossing and inviting piece of art.
One of my favorite children’s books he graced with his paintings is Mem Fox’s “Feathers and Fools”. In this glorious take down of WAR she points out the blind hatred and ugliness that moves people- or in this case BIRDS to take up arms against a perceived enemy. Wilton’s breath-taking paintings add such richness and power to the story.
Book interior illustrations and covers and both advertising and editorial illustrations occupied Wilton’s time for a few years after he graduated Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA in 1986. However by 2000 he was participating in group shows in fine art galleries and fine art painting is where his energies have been focused since then.
Beyond his astounding work, however, is his thought process about how his “art practice” arises from his philosophies about living and being in the world. About how one discerns whom “they are” and allows for accepting there is creativity and art and beauty in us all. We simply need allow it. Accept it. Investigate it. Explore it.
To that end he offers “ArtLife Workshops” where students/ attendees can do exactly all of the above. Not only is there time and space to create and explore what that might mean for the students but they are usually held in gloriously beautiful surroundings, e.g. Hawaii, Mexico, Eselan Institute, or Sonoma Valley. In these workshops he teaches his six ArtLife Principles – Value, Color, Design, Texture, Risk and Soul. Those last two are certainly not ones many art schools devote much time to. We however would be well advised to work that into our repertoire.
It seems there is so much more to bring to our creative endeavors beyond simple (not really SIMPLE ) skills of applying paint or understanding light and shadow or “visual approaches”. There is the beauty of our humanity and what our life is about outside of our art. When we strive to enrich THAT we can’t help but improve and make vastly deeper and richer our Art AND our Life.
To further explore Nicholas Wilton’s ArtLife Practice and view his work go to
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By Shawn Shea
A few weeks ago the Internet world was buzzing over the burning question… “Is the dress white and gold or is it blue and black?” And the world was pretty evenly split, (and often vociferously adamant!) about their respective perceptions / conclusions.
The white/blue dress
The woman who originally posted the picture settled the discussion; the dress is indeed blue and black. So indeed all of us who saw blue and black were validated and all those in the white and gold camp are scratching their heads as they make their appointments to visit their ophthalmologist.
Our perceptions of color are remarkably perplexing and as varied as we are diverse. Increasing our awareness of these perceptions makes our job of communicating as painters and illustrators easier, more exciting and always more adventurous.
One illustrator / painter who I ALWAYS look to for inspiration and guidance is the Renaissance Man himself, James Gurney, the creator of “DINOTOPIA”. The BIBLE he has written for understanding the way we see is “COLOR AND LIGHT – A Guide For The Realist Painter”. Armed with that knowledge we can then execute work that engages and excites.
In his treatise on “Separation of Light and Shadow” he speaks to the tricks our eyes and minds play on us, much like the question of the dress’s color. One mind-jarring example he points out is the checkerboard illusion. Using what he refers to as “context cues” we fail to correctly discern that the light square in the shadow area is equal in value to the dark square in the light. Since we “observe” light and dark checkerboard squares we assume that breakdown of light and dark is relatively constant even as it moves from light into a cast shadow. So unless we were VERY observant and in turn painted ONLY what we SAW not what we falsely KNEW the values we painted would in all likelihood be wrong.
The following chapters ask us in one instance to reconsider how we see and use the traditional color wheel. Using a new combination of the RGB colors (the primary colors of light) and the CYM primaries (of pigments for printing which add Black or K). So we end up with Yellow-Blue, Red-Cyan, and Magenta-Green as the complementary colors.
Or in another to approach a new way of thinking about how we create color schemes in what he calls “Gamut Mapping”. In additional chapters he expounds on Color Relationships; Visual Perception; Surfaces and Effects; and an especially thorough, enlightening and LONG chapter on Atmospheric Effects.
The main take away from all of this, for me at least, is no matter how long one has been at this creating art practice, there is always so much more to learn. Which at times can be quite daunting, frustrating and a bit overwhelming. But it is also genuinely energizing, exciting and makes me want to get right back to the easel and start to paint.
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