Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Here's to Bassackwards Thinking

First of all let me say that if you are reading this there has been a minor technological miracle. I wrote this last week and told Blogger to post it for me on this date. I’m not convinced it is going to happen.

This post goes out to every professor and high school teacher who ever made me hand in an essay plan. I always created the plan after I wrote the essay. I learned nothing from doing that exercise.

I started writing a novel some years ago. I have no plan and the story comes to me with no warning and asks to be written down. In fact I now have three novels going, all part of the same trilogy and indeed there is no plan written down. There will have to be some day, when all the major bits are roughed in, and I need to check that all the pieces work together but by then it will be like writing out an essay plan after the bulk of the work is done. But I digress because this post is about all the other things that have started to happen because I am writing these novels.

One of the things that I have been delighted by are the legends and myths that have flowed out of my pen. Like any world full of humans (and others) a foundation of common understanding and story is important. Not content to let this background be simply implied my imagination has served up some rich mythology. And not to be outdone my artistic child has cajoled me into creating artifacts and imagery to go along with the stories. Which brings me to The Tale of Fendrich the Three Feathered and the current bassackwards mess I have gotten myself into.

In truth I started out with the best of intentions. I wrote and rewrote the tale. I had my writing group read it and comment and I worked out the rough bits. I let it sit for a while and went back to it and decided that I was happy with it. In deed I was better than happy and how often does that happen with anything we create? I decided that the tale deserved to become an illuminated manuscript. I started to audition scripts and hit a wall. Nothing felt right. I needed a script that looked a little foreign and other worldly but it couldn’t be so unusual as to make it difficult to read because I want this tome to be read. It couldn’t be too large or too fiddley because the story is long (7200 words). The quest began to feel like the story of the three bears and nothing was just right. So I did what any slightly crazy artist would do - I went sideways.

I knew the book was going to be very large. I envisioned a huge tome like The Lindisfarne Gospels or the Book of Kells. It would need a magnificent jewelled cover. And I needed a bird for that cover. I dove into my files of collected imagery and googled countless words. In my mind the bird would be a combination of Haida art, Celtic knotwork and Russian jewel work. I didn’t know how to do the beadwork that I would need so I took courses in bead embroidery and soutache. I drew and drew and redrew ideas. And then I gathered up the right crystals and beads and cording and spent weeks creating the cover decoration for a book that isn’t written out yet. Yes, the cart was now very much in front of the horse but I was having fun.

Unfortunately the calligraphic problem has not solved itself. I have some ideas but no clear direction. I have some samples of writing that show promise especially for the decorated initials. I’m still not sure what I will use for the bulk of the text but I’m thinking it will be have some of the characteristics of Bone blended with some Uncialesque forms and a style of writing I designed that I call Arezzo.

And speaking of Arezzo, I took a photo of a text book that a Russian calligrapher had with her when we studied with Monica Dengo. I’ve been looking at it a fair bit these last few months and using as a jumping off point for those decorated initials. And here is where synchronicity starts to play into all this. My husband went to Russia on a high school trip back in the 70’s and he has always wanted to return. Spur of the moment a couple of weeks ago he booked us on a Baltic trip that takes us to St. Petersburg for two days. As you read this we should be heading off on our first shore excursion. I've never really wanted to see Russia and with all the events of this summer it certainly wasn't on my travel agenda. But now that I'm headed there I'm pretty sure I am going to find what I need to bring the Fendrich project to completion. Keep your fingers crossed for me today. I’m hunting for the right lettering inspiration to jump out at me. I know it has to be here somewhere!

Here’s to the bassackwards joys of the hunt - you never know where they will lead you.

1 comment:

  1. Cherryl, your soutache piece is stunning! I bought some cord a while back, to see if I could incorporate it into my bead embroidery. One of these days . . . (So many art forms, so little time.)


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