Birth-Death

So I’ve not had the greatest of starts to the year, but I don’t really want to go into detail that much right now (if ever on here). My great uncle died earlier in the year and we also lost a very close family pet. Naturally I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing for a while and a poem came out of it.

Birth-Death

The hyphen reminds us of humanity.

Without it there would be no conclusion.
We would be stuck
in a loop, forever
replaying
ad infinitum.

An open ending, perhaps
where the characters leave
with their problem unresolved
when the reader designs their own finale.

Or a song, a skipping track
caused by a scratch
on the mirrored plastic
of a CD.

But there is a hyphen
sandwiched
between those two dates,
cozied by them,
protected by them.

Eight digits.
One hyphen.

1939-2013
1907-1973
1888-1965
1840-1928

ad infinitum.

Cloud Cover at Pen Dinas

What if the fog descended through the earth?
The crest of the monument atop the hill
(black, green, backdrop of white)
disappeared and no one noticed.

A murder of crows
circles the turbulence,
surfing on waves
78% Nitrogen
20% Oxygen
2% All Else
Mostly water.

The monument, still fading, thick
with cloud looks thin.
Even the crows are concealed.

The sea, indomitable
erases the limestone
cliffs which jut
out into open water.
The waves cleave
the stone like meat from a bone.
A thousand years pass and the empty
space where stone used to be stands firm.
The widening arch crumbles
(Another door closed)
Becomes a stack
(Standing tall, proud)
Becomes a stump
(Rock bottom)

The monument is invisible.

The erased page covers all by the trees.
The crows are just sounds.

There will be rain soon.

‘Plans for the year to come’ – review and recap!

I’d like to be the first to say that it’s probably that no one really cares what happens on this blog, but I’d like to put some more coal in the proverbial furnace and address some of the things I said I’d be doing but subsequently didn’t do. So here is my post review!

This isn’t so much a post of New Year’s Resolutions, it’s more an info post about what I would like this blog to become over the next year, maybe with a few things I’ve got planned hobby wise thrown in which could count as resolutions.

Well yes, the year is far from over but I’m starting this all rather late. Regardless I more or less failed at my attempt at resolutions this year. I can assure you a lot of the hobbies have been carrying on blogless. It’s just that I’ve honestly not had the time what with reading for a surprisingly intensive module and working on my dissertation for university. But that module is over with now and how else can I procrastinate but feel like I’ve accomplished something but ramble on about watercolours and stuff like that?

First and foremost is watercolour painting.

Well now, this is the one part which hasn’t been carrying on. My room at university is dark as Mordor and painting without any kind of natural light is really not fun. As such I’ve kept my stuff nice and plan to continue when I get home in a month or so. Then I can set up the painting stuff in my room with its big bay window and never have to worry about lighting ever again!

Next up is my writing. I’d like to ideally do more of it. Both in terms of blogging and writing. Of course I have my university writing project to do, but not a lot else in terms of uni writing this semster, so really I have no excuse. Oh, and I’ll be doing a ghost story module, so HOPEFULLY I can get some of the ideas which have been itching away at the back of my head for ages on paper, or on-screen whichever the case may be. Other than those, my university has a magazine publication which I’d like to enter into, but I have no ideas right now. I’ll be looking for other magazines though, and trying to squeeze in some writing prompts to keep it fresh. It’ll be lovely being able to write what I want to for a change!

Well as it turned out that ghost story module was extremely time intensive and an awful lot of energy has gone into my writing project as well. I also started a Minecraft server with my girlfriend shortly after Christmas and that took up an excessive amount of time too. But two out of thee of those are out-of-the-way now so I can go back to being productive!

Poetry is another thing I’d rather not let go of now the course writing has largely stopped.

Relax, there’s one coming right after this post.

Also, No Name Place. Assignments killed my momentum somewhat, but I’m determined to get back into it. Even if it’s just a small amount of words per day, I’d still like to keep the NaNo mentality throughout January and the rest of the months it takes for the first draft to be finished.

I’ve at least been thinking about this off and on. Let me tell you there’ll be a major overhaul including a complete axing of one of the main characters (whom I couldn’t stand and hated the prospect of him being with my protagonist).

My writing project for university, a 6000 word assessed piece with a 2000 word critical commentary is Hand of Fire, a story about a boy whose emotions cause flames to break out on and around him. When he’s experiencing extremely positive or extremely negative emotions he feels physical, pyrolytic effects of it. It’s heavily influenced by The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I review on my other blog last year.

Well I’ve done plenty of this, but I best not post any of it until it’s handed in 😛

On the reading front, I’m getting through Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong at the moment, and I’ll review it and the other books I read this year as and when I finish them. Same as last yeah, and of course those will be over on Alexicon Reviews. -points at blogroll-

I gave up on Birdsong because it wasn’t relevant to my writing project and then took up Stephen King’s Firestarter. Unfortunately after that I went into a bit of a reading slump as I was still searching for relevant things but couldn’t find any. I got back into it recently though with The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. So I am two blogs behind on AR but I’ll catch up soon!

Finally, I have bought myself a cross stitch. It’s not very big, only about two square inches, it’s of a bright blue seahorse, but seeing my girlfriend do them all the time got me the itch to try one again. One which I got to choose myself. I’ll not the progress of that as it comes as well!

The cross stitch is complete and on my girlfriend’s notice board! I didn’t put up pictures of it because I haven’t been blogging 😛

One thing I didn’t mention was that Aimee and I took up Geocaching. An activity which gets us out of the house and wandering over hills and through forests in the search of Tupperware containers and film canisters people have put pieces of paper in! It’s a world-wide GPS treasure hunt and I’ll do a full blog about the next big outing we go on, I promise!

Anyway, hopefully this actually motivates me to carry on blogging for longer. I’ll post up my poem soon.

Bye!

Sky Washes!

Okay, give me a break, I wanted to post this blog a week ago but I needed a new camera. Unfortunately the guys over at Amazon decided to send me a broken one! So this post is happening later than I wanted it to, after my replacement arrived, but at least it’s happening. The camera in question will get its own post soon, hopefully within the next couple of days.

Anyway! This post isn’t about cameras, it’s about my ventures into watercolours. I have discovered something. Watercolours are hard. Fun, but hard. I’ve been following tutorials in my book and just doing quick little sky washes in the art book my girlfriend bought me last year. The problems I am having are that firstly, the brush I was using held too much water and basically downed my page. That was this guy:

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Doesn’t the art book make a good photo backdrop? Anyway, it’s a Daler-Rowney Graduate 3/4″ Oval Wash brush, but it soaks up water like a sponge (literally, I had to squeeze it out). It’s replacement was…

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A Daler-Rowney Graduate 1″ Flat Wash brush! With a pretty funky handle I think you’ll all agree. I find it works better at any rate. So, the first two skies I painted were with the oval wash brush and the third was with the flat one. Honestly, I am still a total and complete beginner here and I know they are pretty awful. But I’ve got to get through this stage if I want to get better at it!

The paints I have been using are cheapy WHSmiths watercolours, I have to admit, but they serve my purpose at the moment. I’d rather not make a huge investment on expensive paints unless I actually decide I am going to continue this in the long term. WHSmith watercolours or not, they still have decent colours. There is a nice shade of aquamarine I have been using, and the cerulean blue is good for picking out highlights (I am not good at picking out highlights, but I can see the paint would be useful for it!) payne’s grey is also really handy for shadows and then I bought myself alizarin crimson hue and raw sienna as if you look at most skies there is a vague yellow/red tinge around where the sun is!

Anyway, I’d rambled on long enough. In the first picture, I think I loaded up the brush too much and the painting looked too heavy. The blurred edges are okay, but overall it looks messy. Turbulent but unrealistically so.

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It is; however the only picture I didn’t have to photoshop to get it to be visible on a computer screen. So maybe the heavier colours aren’t a bad thing! The clouds were dabbed out using a piece of kitchen roll. I need to work on that too. Maybe I should avoid clouds for now, just try and get the basic colours down and then work on the clouds after I cam make a cloudless sky look right.

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I was pretty happy with this guy, but it’s so faint you can barely see it. In the book it says that if it looks right when it’s wet, it’s wrong as watercolour paint loses 30% of its tonal value when it dries. So yeah, I feel I need to make the washes a little stronger. The clouds look nice though, even if you have to lean into the screen and squint to see them.

The third one was bigger than the other two, around double the size. I think it helped a bit but again I made it far too faint.

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Don’t be fooled by the bright colours. Those are courtesy of photoshop’s saturation setting. I tried to make highlights under the clouds but they look odd on this picture in my opinion. Still a good effort and I’ll do some more this week and post them hopefully next weekend!

It’s been interesting, anyway. I find myself trying to work out which paints I’d use for the skies that I see. I think I need to find some more technical tutorials though. The book really helps, but the issue I’m having is the guy seems to assume I already know the basics. I need to know how to brush onto the page, how much water to mix in with the paint. The real basic basics.

Side note! Aimz took a really nice picture of the sea front here at Aberystywth with some jacobs ladders shining through the clouds. I may try and sketch this! I have no idea how it’ll go though, so wish me luck!

Two drawings!

So, my last post on here was a collection of new years things I want to aim for. This post is proof that one of those things is happening! It’s only a start, but it’s in the watercolours area. Obviously when watercolour painting the most important part is to recreate a subject. So, I need to brush up on landscape sketching. The other thing I have discovered is that watercolour painting isn’t about detail, it’s about the impression of detail. If you try to paint in every detail it’ll look wrong, too cluttered. Also, it’ll take too long. My impressions of watercolour painting give me the idea that it shouldn’t take an age to do as certain parts must be done while paint is still wet.

With this in mind, I did some simple pencil sketches. But I wanted to give the impression of detail rather than actual drawn details. So I made ample use of a B6 pencil, shading with the side of it. I wasn’t aiming for photorealism in pencil sketch form. Here’s what I came up with first. An exercise in getting me back into the feel of drawing. It took me about 20-25 minutes.

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I didn’t concentrate much on the hedges in the background. I was focussing mostly on the tree, which I think turned out pretty well. It’s based on this image here!

Next, I decided to do a bit more of a scene, there’s still a tree in it, but it was fer close and blurry in the image, so I didn’t put that much detail on it either. The picture is of a signpost in Cumbria and can be found here. The signpost was the main point of the picture, so I concentrated on that. I’m happy with it, though I think it could be better (I’ll always think that, though).

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The hills and clouds in the background don’t have much depth, I feel, and look a little weird. But overall, it’s not bad for a first scene drawing.

Hopefully within the next couple of weeks I can get to doing some sky washes in paints. I’m also looking to get myself my own camera, so I’ll be able to take pictures of things at uni!

Plans for the year to come!

So, it’s been a rather long time since I last posted. Not the longest time ever but still longer than I’d really wish to admit. It’s been Christmas though, so I think that is a decent enough excuse for my lack of posting. Anyway, I’m sure everyone has done a new years post by now, so I am late to jump on the bandwagon, but oh well.

This isn’t so much a post of New Year’s Resolutions, it’s more an info post about what I would like this blog to become over the next year, maybe with a few things I’ve got planned hobby wise thrown in which could count as resolutions. First and foremost is watercolour painting. It’s been one of those peripheral hobbies for me which I’ve never really managed to get into properly. I am decent at sketching landscapes though, and surely that’s half the battle? Well, maybe a quarter, but it’s a start. I suppose that’s my first port of call. My wonderful girlfriend Aimee got me a watercolour tutorials book for my recent 21st birthday and I would really like to try and work my way through some of the techniques shown in that, and maybe eventually I’ll get a full painting done. But before I get too far ahead of myself I plan to get to grips with landscape drawing. I’ve been drawing manga characters off and on for a while now; I’m not the best at it but nor am I the worst. Anyway hopefully that’s given me enough skill with a pencil to get me into the sketching part. After that I’ll try some basic skies, moving on to trees, hills, water and buildings. It may take a while before I’m up to any kind of standard, but I’ll post about it here either way!

Next up is my writing. I’d like to ideally do more of it. Both in terms of blogging and writing. Of course I have my university writing project to do, but not a lot else in terms of uni writing this semster, so really I have no excuse. Oh, and I’ll be doing a ghost story module, so HOPEFULLY I can get some of the ideas which have been itching away at the back of my head for ages on paper, or on screen whichever the case may be. Other than those, my university has a magazine publication which I’d like to enter into, but I have no ideas right now. I’ll be looking for other magazines though, and trying to squeeze in some writing prompts to keep it fresh. It’ll be lovely being able to write what I want to for a change!

Poetry is another thing I’d rather not let go of now the course writing has largely stopped. I’ve had a few ideas and I’m gathering together a portfolio of poems. I’m unsure whether or not they’ll wind up on here. If they do, they’ll be shadily removed one dark evening if I ever send them off to an agent. In particular, I did an experiment with minimalist poems about winter last year. So when spring comes about, I’ll do six about that, Little dashes of poems, no more than 50 words each and each encapsulating a small event or moment, all through the year. Seasonings, I’ll call them.

Also, No Name Place. Assignments killed my momentum somewhat, but I’m determined to get back into it. Even if it’s just a small amount of words per day, I’d still like to keep the NaNo mentality throughout January and the rest of the months it takes for the first draft to be finished.

My writing project for university, a 6000 word assessed piece with a 2000 word critical commentary is Hand of Fire, a story about a boy whose emotions cause flames to break out on and around him. When he’s experiencing extremely positive or extremely negative emotions he feels physical, pyrolytic effects of it. It’s heavily influenced by The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I review on my other blog last year.

On the reading front, I’m getting through Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong at the moment, and I’ll review it and the other books I read this year as and when I finish them. Same as last yeah, and of course those will be over on Alexicon Reviews. -points at blogroll-

Finally, I have bought myself a cross stitch. It’s not very big, only about two square inches, it’s of a bright blue seahorse, but seeing my girlfriend do them all the time got me the itch to try one again. One which I got to chose myself. I’ll not the progress of that as it comes as well!

I’m considering getting a cheapish digital camera as well, so I can pictorially depict my efforts as well as write about them. Well, I have some birthday money left over at least!

Anyway, I’ll sign off here, I think I’d give enough of an insight into my plans for the year. Hopefully some of them will be able to be carried out.

Writing (why I dislike assignments)

I’m tired.

The past couple of days (and from what I can see now, the next couple of days) have been spent in the university library. This is mostly because my department has scheduled two three thousand word portfolios of creative writing and critical commentaries to be handed in on the same day/the last day of term. They always leave the work right until the very last moment we can possibly do it.

Of course, I hear you say: 6000 words is pitiful in comparison to NaNo! What are you worried about? Well it’s not so much worry, but boredom. This leads me nicely into the main subject of this post.

I am a creative writer, I have been for a while now. And creative writing is something I find a lot of fun to do. I like creating characters, causing problems for them, making them feel better, or worse. I like putting them in danger. Killing them off, sometimes, I guess I like playing the god of my own created worlds. I came to university to try to learn more about writing. What I have learned is that there are two types of writing.

1. Writing for fun

Yay! this is the good one. This is the one which NaNo falls under, this is the one where I can come up with basically anything that I want to write and just write it. Then I can go back to it, edit it and improve it. It makes the whole experience a process which I can moderate. Take No Name Place, my as of yet unfinished but I am getting there novel. My progress has been halted by these assignments I’ve got to do. My first draft is very badly written. I know it is. I didn’t care about the standard of writing, I just cared about getting words on the page. I am looking forward to going back to it, picking up the proverbial quill and carrying on, pushing my way to 75k by January. When I eventually finish the first draft I’ll put it down again, work on other things and then hopefully go back to it for draft number 2, then three, four, however many it takes for me to be satisfied with how it’s turned out. Then I can send it to agents and publishers and hey this probably won’t happen until I’m thirty.

It sounds enjoyable, though, doesn’t it? Well for me it does. Just watching it grow and change, tweaking it once it’s done.

2. Writing for university

Boo. Lets not get me wrong here, I still enjoy the actual writing. I just wish it wasn’t so blinkered. Its like writing on rails. I find there is very little room to express myself. And that is physical room I refer to – we have to keep each story to a maximum of 2000 words. 2000 words barely equates the minimum word count of what published short stories tend to hold. And of course, we have a module to fit our short stories to. We have to display what we have learned in the modules, portray techniques, show aspects of genre. It’s a lot to put into such a low word count.

Secondly, I dislike deadlines. I know that deadlines are something all writers have to deal with, but there are deadlines and then there are university deadlines. A writer’s deadline usually appears when the publisher wants the book. Before a publisher gets involved, the writer is responsible for his or her own deadlines. I like this. I can set myself targets. If I feel I need to do an emergency redraft then I can. But with university deadlines I can get one draft in, with a quick proof read and then it’s hand in time. Bye bye creative piece, hope the tutor likes you.

Thirdly, I’m sorry but subjectivity is a thing. You have to write for your marks. Experiment too much and you fall flat on your face – in my experience at least. I can’t get past the idea that these tutors have to mark loads of these pieces of writing and if the topic is broad then how on earth can they keep it completely fair? I suppose that’s what moderation is for, but even so. Everyone has writing they like and writing they don’t, if you had to mark something you hated completely I reckon it would be harder to see the merits of it.

Having said all of this, I have enjoyed some of the writing I’ve been doing for these portfolios. I just wish I could keep it for myself and edit it further and make it something I could be really proud of, without it having to be judged before even I am truly happy with it.