Tag Archives: creativity

Thursday Morning Ramblings

My goal is to get back to work on book three tonight.  Last summer, I had so much good momentum before school started back, and then, duel enrollment completely derailed me.  I only have about 4 1/2 chapters to write, so the manuscript will be completed by the end of June.  Then, I’ll get to work on editing and polishing.  With any luck, the book will still be launched by Labor Day.

To my friends and readers, my apologies for taking so long with this book.  It seems as if life has gotten in the way of this one at every turn.  The story is pretty good, and a lot of the central plot points of the series begin to come into focus, so hopefully, the wait will be worth it.  For now, please believe that I’m as disappointed as anyone that this book has taken so long to complete.  I had hoped to be well into book four by now, but like I said, life has gotten in the way.

On a positive note, I will be releasing a few previews over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on the blog for that.

www.thirdaxe.com

Stephen Zimmer Ramblings

The following is an interview with author, filmmaker, and all-around good person, Stephen Zimmer.  He is the author of The Rising Dawn Saga and Fires in Eden series and contributor for Seventh Star Blog.

D. A. Adams:  What first got you into storytelling? What was the allure?

STEPHEN ZIMMER:  Storytelling has been with me since my mom first read me The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy aloud, a chapter or so a night, when I was about 7. I’ve always tilted towards fantasy, in the movies and television that I’ve gravitated towards, as well as the books I have been drawn to.

The allure is to immerse myself in fantastical worlds, and to depart Mundania (with a nod to Piers Anthony on that word!). I’ve never thought that the world that we live in is “it”, and loads of mystics and theoretical physicists agree with me on that notion! Fantasy gives me the best chance to explore wild and wonderful worlds in this life, and storytelling provides a medium to craft some of these adventures into something that I can share with others. What are we waiting for? Let’s go!

DA: Outside of literary or film influences, what has shaped your artistic vision more than anything?

ZIMMER:  Dreams. Literally. I am fortunate to have very vivid, powerful dreams on a very regular basis, some incredibly life-like. The things that I experience and see in them often inspires me artistically, and really has had an impact on me. I look forward to adventures when I sleep, believe it or not! I’m fascinated by consciousness, and feel that it is a true unexplored frontier!

DA: Where would you like to be in five years in terms of your career?

ZIMMER:   I would like to have a nice timber A-frame high on a mountain close to the mountain where D.A. Adams’ woodland retreat is located, so we can hang out more often, go fishing, discuss the finer points of rock music, etc.!

Seriously, I would like to have the first 4 or 5 titles out in both The Rising Dawn Saga and Fires in Eden series, continuing a year-round appearance schedule. I would also like to have a release or two out in the horror genre, and perhaps some short stories in some quality anthologies, or maybe even a themed collection of short stories that I’ve done.

On the film side of things, I would like to be making modestly budgeted independent features, most hopefully in the fantasy genre. 1 feature a year would be great.  Between film and books, I hope to do just well enough that I can make a living just from my endeavors in these areas.

DA: When I was a naïve college student, my friends and I would discuss creating the literary movement of our generation. Now, as small-press and independent writers, you and I are part of a movement away from the New York epicenter. How do you see this movement evolving over the next generation or two?

ZIMMER:  It is a brave new world in many respects. The barriers are falling down in some ways, especially with eBooks. However, as with music, it could result in a deluge of releases, and make it a little more difficult to get your work noticed, reviewed, or seen. I take it one day at a time, as there are so many unpredictable factors that have yet to play out fully. Will eBooks really overtake print, or will they co-exist? What effect will piracy have on eBooks? Without bookstores, who is going to be hosting reading clubs, advocating new authors, exposing new authors via readings, etc.  in a digital world? The word of mouth that occurs between people at bookstores, browsing the fantasy sections, etc. can’t be underestimated.

Overall, I would have to say that there is going to be an upswing in credibility regarding small press and independent authors, and the accessibility is going to increase in a digital world, but exposure and promotion are going to be very, very difficult if the music and film worlds indicate anything. My heart goes out to talented, seriously-minded independent rock bands that are in an ocean of bands putting out mp3’s everywhere, who have declining options for live clubs, radio, independent music stores etc. It is harder than ever to be heard and talked about, and I hope that it doesn’t become similarly difficult for authors to be read/reviewed/exposed.

DA: What would like your readers to know about you?

ZIMMER:  I wish they could see just how immensely dedicated I am to my work and to them. From the time spent writing and researching, to setting up as active of an appearance schedule as possible, so that the folks that enjoy my work can visit with me in person easier, I really value my readers and want to give them the best work and support that I possibly can. They are my friends, as they enable me to do what I love to do. If they commit to reading my series, I must return that commitment 10 fold on my end to give every aspect of being an author a 150% effort, as they deserve nothing less. Without readers, authors are pretty useless!

DA: We’ve discussed in private conversations the financial strain of being a “new” writer.  Do feel like this struggle has had a positive or a negative effect on your creativity?

ZIMMER:  I have to say that financial strain is mostly not a positive thing, but it does have its uses. Having to pull a late night drive after an event so that you can save on a hotel room is something that I wish I didn’t have to do, for one example of a negative. I wish I could take advantage of every promotional opportunity I encounter. But having thin resources does discipline you and makes you a better planner, I believe. I can see improvement in my planning in just the past couple of years, and am getting more out of the money I allocate out of my pocket to sustain my activities, appearances, etc.

DA: You and I met on the Con-circuit. Do you enjoy Con weekends?  If so, what do you find most fascinating about fandom?

ZIMMER:  I really do enjoy Con weekends! It’s my kind of crowd for sure! I love everything about it, the atmosphere, the new friends you meet (like you), the unpredictability, the learning (even when you are on a panel, you learn from the audience!), and so much more. I always hate that melancholy feeling that hits at the end of a con, when dealers are breaking their tables down, and attendees are rolling their luggage out.  It is really its own world, and it’s a wonderful one. The thing that fascinates me the most is that there is a real sense of community and “we’re in this together” mentality that resonates through fantasy/sci-fi/horror related Cons.

Also, I do not see the provincialism that plagues other writing circles, in other genres. The fantasy/sci-fi/horror writers really do help each other out and pull for each other, at least from what I’ve seen. (and in doing so, they push everyone higher, as JFK said, “a rising tide lifts all ships”)

DA: Any parting thoughts?

ZIMMER:  I really encourage people to give small press/independent authors and publishers a chance. Obviously, I’m a little biased, being a small press author myself, but there is a very logical and objective reason as well. The major publishers are shrinking and paring down their rosters, a trend that has resulted in many mid-list authors that are now working with small press outlets. Additionally, as the big publisher’s rosters are smaller and their schedules tighten, they are not as likely to take big chances with releases unless they can really project some success according to an established model. This means that small press is where a lot of the risk-taking and ground-breaking in the genre is truly occurring nowadays. The quality of writing is most certainly there in the small press world, as anyone who has read, to name just a few examples, Jackie Gamber, Lettie Prell, Elizabeth Donald, H. David Blalock, TammyJo Eckart, or D.A. Adams can attest!

Christopher Rico Ramblings

The following is an interview with the artist Christopher Rico.  His works stirs something deep inside me and engages me on both primal and etherial levels.  He’s also a very dear friend:

D. A. Adams – You began your career as a sculptor. Can you describe how you evolved into becoming a painter?

CHRISTOPHER RICO – In those early years, I was using a lot of found materials and playing with all kinds of mediums; copper, aluminum, cloth and driftwood from the [Mississippi] river, because my studio was so close and I would take long walks with my dog down there. I mean, I made things that hung out in space, but they were still essentially paintings. At that time, I skated the line between painting and sculpture. I wasn’t really interested in making things that were freestanding in space, – I wanted to make the space. I didn’t know what I was doing to be perfectly honest, but I have always been attracted to industrial materials and their connotations when used by artists.

I got a few gigs as a set designer; -I had spent time in the theatre in high school and college so it was a natural world for me. I guess I’ve always learned best by doing, and the more I worked in space, -you know, the more I made things to inhabit space, I realized that my concerns were just so much more about playing with surface and people’s perception of the two-dimensional. I felt as though I could say what I wanted to say, or at least explore more fully what was interesting to me through painting. It really just evolved organically.

I think my paintings are somewhat sculptural. I generally use deep stretcher bars, so the paintings come off the wall more than usual. Also, I really try to see the painting from all points in a room and not just head-on. I think we can’t always make the kind of art we think we should make, only the kind that we are meant to. So with that in mind, I think I was always a painter.

DA – Can you explain your process of painting with your hands? How did you come to use this technique?

RICO – When I decided to start painting I tried using artists’ brushes. It just felt so forced. I had been embracing this world of industrial /trade materials and techniques and somehow using these small little brushes just seemed so precious. The first attempts were disasters. So I went out and bought a bunch of house painter brushes; angles and flats and 4” wide brushes and just went crazy. The feeling of gesture was so much more immediate and real to me with the larger brushes.

I decided to go to graduate school and after many failed attempts to get in I took a couple of years of undergraduate art classes. When all that was over I experimented with the artists’ brushes again, -bought myself some really nice ones. I had obviously developed technique and had some formal training but I still felt stiff using those brushes.

I remember I read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, and as a new parent it just freaked me the hell out. I walked into the studio the day I finished the book and grabbed a painting I had been working on for some time and just started flinging black paint at it. Hurling it really. Then I threw the empty can at it, then jars full of terp and finally I just rushed the thing and started smearing the surface with my hands. That painting now reminds me Gerhard Richter’s work, but it was really important for me developmentally. The evolution was slow, it came in ebbs and flows, but by the time I got to the St. Teresa Suite earlier this year, I was already just pouring and rubbing with rags.

I was also painting a lot with my daughters and of course using finger-paints. I would just sit back and watch them and how they approached picture making. I just kept thinking how free they seemed. I tried it on some little post card sized canvas boards in the studio and things just sort of took off.

I feel really intimate with the materials, like how I felt all those years ago when I spent days burnishing my copper surfaces with a wire brush attached to a drill. Watching things react and occur, it’s really magical.

DA – What is your definition of “abstract” art?

RICO – I really dislike that term. The only thing worse is “non-representational.” I am really influenced by jazz music. I like it because it’s essentially a non-narrative form of music; each note is largely based on the previous one. The artists of the 50’s and early 60’s in New York were there when all this music was being made, and they saw it and heard it and were out in it. I think if there is an American-type painting, something really created here, then that is Abstract Expressionism.

I guess I distinguish abstraction in painting from abstract painting. Picasso certainly was abstracting his figures and forms, so was Cezanne for that matter. All painting is to a certain degree abstract. The more one tries to create the illusion of verisimilitude the more technical and abstract it really is, – the more it is really about the materials and not the subject. If you look at somebody like Vermeer for example, if you take his work in stages and look at a painting in its initial phase, he’s just laying down abstract forms that suggest the eventual composition. If you get the chance to see someone paint in the “Old Master’s style”, their paintings look like nothing for so long before the final skeins of detail and depth appear.

I’m steeped in JMW Turner. A lot of people consider that abstract painting, I don’t know, I don’t think he did. I respond to what is going on in the moment on the surface with the materials. I’m not trying to represent a subject or describe a situation or person through fashioning its likeness. Rather, I’m exploring conditions and perceptions and attempting to dip into a collective ethos, -explore mythological imagery. The Forest and the Sea paintings really blew that wide open for me and I think so much of that is scale.

DA – You came to parenthood relatively late in life. How have your daughters changed you, not only as a person, but as an artist?

RICO – Absolutely they have and continue to change me. For one thing, there is the connection to the world and to society that I’ve never really felt. That’s a broad feeling and a big change. But they teach me and I think they keep me honest in my art. I respect their freedom, their abandon in making pictures. I mean, they are obviously not trained, so they don’t possess the ability to discern and then take action based on those perceptions. (That’s why, -no, your kid couldn’t paint what I paint, and neither could mine for that matter, even though it may appear child-like). I feel like I have to preserve the confidence and freedom they feel now. That’s part of my job.

Also, and you know this because we’ve so often spoke of it. Also, looking into their eyes for the first time just made my resolve to not only continue to be an artist but to become successful at it, all that much stronger. It’s scary, wondering about paying for college and weddings and life, but I understood in that moment that this is what I am. This is my Way and I have to be true to that no matter how hard the road is. I want them to see my life as having integrity. I want to show them that they can follow their true path in life once they find it.

I was 40 years old when I became a daddy. So I hit middle age and new parenthood at the same time. It was intense.

DA – Speaking of age, you and I share the experience of being so-called late-bloomers. How have age and experience contributed to your artistic vision?

RICO – People love to talk about Mozart. It’s a compelling narrative, especially in our culture when young people make it really big. Some do. Some have meteoric rises to fame and fortune and their genius is easily seen and summarily exploited. But for every story of someone under 30 changing the world or achieving historical status, there are as many if not more stories of people who find themselves at a crossroads later in life and take the path less traveled.

I could site a bunch of examples: Barnett Newman, Rothko, Louise Nevelson. But I feel like that would be justifying something that doesn’t need to be justified. By art world standards, I’m actually still fairly young. I’m not worried about it.

I think one difference in being older is simply that I’ve lived. I don’t hang on approval, nor am I crushed by rejection. I’ve gone out and gone crazy and been in trouble and won and lost and loved and hurt and so nobody can take anything from me. My work is mature, even though I haven’t been doing it very long. I think maturity can produce mature work. I see that in your writing now as opposed to the writing you were doing when we met in college. That was good writing, but what you’re doing now is really on a whole different level. We both took time off, in a way we’re just starting. But now the whole of our lives is behind our art. So yes, I guess that contributes quite a bit.

DA – You were raised an Air Force brat. Can you explain how living in numerous states contributes to your art?

RICO – Air Force and then Army. I don’t know, it’s like being part of a tribe. Military kids can spot each other in crowds. Most people grow up in one or two places, -at least they used to. My life was uncommon at that time in this country. I kept having to adapt: every 2 or 3 years a new place, a new school, always the new kid. I think I built a very rich internal life and that still manifests itself in my work.

I spent a lot of time in my room, drawing and reading. I found Dali very early on in life; -he was very accessible to me as a young boy. Art was also a way to navigate constantly changing social situations. I could draw pictures for people in class and then they would like me or not beat me up or give me pot or whatever. I could whip out a copy of an album cover or comic book character in a couple of minutes, so people thought I was cool and talented. But it was boring; I always felt there was something else.

My parents and I didn’t know about fancy art schools. I ended up at a big state university and failed 2-D because the first time I had to get up and present a project I just freaked out and left class and never went back. I was really shy and couldn’t stand being in front of people. I was so used to being alone. I still like the studio because of its solitude.

DA – We’ve had conversations about your disappointment at not being accepted into an MFA program when you made the decision to pursue art seriously. Now that you’ve been productive for many years and are building a solid reputation, has that disappointment dissipated or morphed into something else?

RICO – It will always sting I guess. That feeling of not being “good enough” and feeling rejected by what I perceived as my peers. But I have developed by leaps and bounds on my own. My work doesn’t suffer for lack of that paper. Nobody cares at this point. Sure, I think I get passed over sometimes for not having a degree, but I can’t say it has hurt my career as an artist. I’m selling work, I have a great studio, and I balance work and family. I don’t have tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt cutting into my sales and in truth I never wanted to be a professor. It all worked out just fine.

People sometimes see my work for the first time and ask where I went to school, like it’s a given. So that tells me that I’m on a professional level. Some day I’ll pick up an honorary degree and that will be just as good if not better.

DA – As a “self-educated” artist, can you share some of your artistic influences?

RICO – Modrian, who by the way was also “self-educated.” Turner, as I said. Pollock, we’re all influenced by Pollock; he’s our Picasso, -you have to overcome him. Rothko, Still, Blake, the Spaniards like Velázquez, Goya, I love the painterly-ness of those surfaces. New stuff all the time, Schnabel is actually a big one.

I also read a lot of artists’ writings. So there are artists whose writings influence me, you know, their ideas, even if the work doesn’t thrill me. Frank Stella, for sure. Motherwell, -though I like his work very much, his writing is out of this world. Recently Tworkov.

DA – Outside of visual art, who are your other major influences?

RICO – I’m a fanatic about quotes. I consume movies. I read a lot of history. You could say that I am a student of greatness. So anyone who has been great, that’s an influence. Lots of people for very different reasons but the common thread is greatness. Not always fame or monetary success either. I am really interested in people who changed things.

DA – When we were young students, painfully naive and full of ourselves, we used to discuss creating our own literary movement. Now that we are older, somewhat wiser, and a little more humble, what do you see as our opportunity to leave behind as our artistic movement?

RICO – I want to make significant work that future artists will respond to, perhaps even contend with. Honestly, that’s it. Truly significant work. If other things come with that, fine. Those things are not what drive me. The world of painting is changing right now. I think I am really a part of that tide because I’ve stuck to my guns and followed my vision through the past decade. I just happen to be in that space right now because I never left it. I think we make our own luck. But who knows, right?

DA – Any final thoughts you want to share?

RICO – Trust your visions. Work like hell. Treat other people like you would like to be treated. Don’t deny yourself success because of false modesty or the misguided belief that poverty is noble. Go to the studio. Inspiration is great, but highly overrated. Lots of people have great ideas, but few realize them. Never be afraid to ask; sometimes the answer will be “no” but it will certainly be that if you don’t ask. I’ve been surprised at how much people have been wiling to do for me, -often for free, simply because I asked.