Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last night I took my first continuing education class in Fiction Writing 1. It was a pretty daunting experience, not because I was surrounded by a classroom of writers, but rather that I was trying something entirely different from what I have been used to. It's important for me as an illustrator, artist, and educator to continue to place myself in environments where I feel challenged (oftentimes it's very uncomfortable) both physically and mentally, because I believe that overall, these experiences will inform my visual work in various ways.
Having gone to art college and learned the vocabulary and some history assigned to a visual arts and design discipline, it's become almost second nature to me to be able to articulate my opinions about a certain drawing, painting, sculpture, video, or installation. But when it comes to creative writing, workshopping a piece, critiquing it feels very different.
I felt like I was on a game show with contestants who all understood the rules besides me.
The feeling was not so far off from performance anxiety.
Although I have not done much creative writing since I was 13 years old, it seems like a very different way of expressing myself. With visual art, I think the message can oftentimes be more convoluted, in that the images become symbols to which we as viewers must venture to recognize, or assign significance. The objects, colours, and/or the arrangement of both helps us to understand the message that is being communicated, whether linear, or experiential.
My main insecurity when it comes to sharing myself in the form of written or oral story (telling) spawns from the notion that more of myself will be revealed immediately because I am using a mode of expression which many of us use in our daily lives... words.
(which is contradictory since that's what I'm doing now... ala blogging... go figure...)
I'm sure that this is not necessarily the case, and that my perspective will certainly change along the way - I mean, it's only my first day of class, and so there's still a lot of learning to do.
Below is my first homework assignment. I chose to use the first two sentences from Amanda Davis' story "Fat Ladies Floated in the Sky Like Balloons" as a spring board for a free writing assignment.

Fat ladies floated in the sky like balloons.
That was the year we forgot our dreams and work, bewildered, muttering. (1) It had been years since either or them had gone back to the pond. Too much time had passed without having exchanged even a word, or a text, an email, or a phone call that it had become too awkward to be the first one to reach out through this silence. What could be said? They were kids back then; kids talk about stupid things... kids do stupid things... kids hope for stupid things.

The days at the pond were always magical. They would search for tadpoles, bare-footed, along the pond's edge; the large ones with malformed and bulbous heads where you could barely make out a face, not the tiny black ones that looked like dirty shadows in the water. The mud that squished out between their toes felt cool and gritty underneath the hot sun. They searched for twigs and branches to usher some of these tadpoles closer to them. It was fascinating to think that these creatures would transform into something completely different in just a matter of days.

Cam picked up the empty glass jar that they brought with them, filled it with some of the pond water, rocks, and mud and handed it over to Glen.
"Is this enough? They still need to swim around. How many can we put in there?" Cam asked.
"This stick's not working. They just keep on swimming away."
Glen grabbed the jar and poured out its contents and plunged it quickly beneath the surface of the pond. The tadpoles near his feet scattered, all except for one, which swam directly into the jar.
"Here, put some of this inside of it. We have to make it think that it's still in the pond, or else it's going to die." Cam scooped up some mud, rocks, and water and dumped it into the jar.
They both looked at the tadpole moving lazily in the water; back and forth and around as though it had always know this space
"Can I keep it tonight?" Glen asked. "Then maybe I can give it to you tomorrow. We should find stuff for it to eat... what do tadpoles eat?"
A few water striders glided along the surface of the water. Cam nodded and point to them. The boys entered further into the pond, Glen cupping one hand and skimming it along the surface.

* The above illustration is not pertinent to this entry - I just felt like posting it. It's a piece about autism that I did for MIT's Technology Review. Initially, I wanted the woods that the boy was facing towards to be dense and blurry, but then during the process of working on the final, that part of the image began to appear too heavy. Consequently, I decided to separate the trees and arrange them such that they still suggested a dense environment. The image following that rough sketch shows how the figure was rendered. I partially rendered him digitally and then added some shadow and pattern with watercolour and gouache. My attempt was to combine a graphic quality with an organic one. Finally, I scanned that the figure in and placed it onto the picture as a separate layer.

1 Davis, Amanda. "Fat Ladies Floated in the Sky Like Balloons." Circling The Drain. Harper Collins, 2009.


Steve said...

I love the allusions to time, and time passing/growing in this story. very interested in reading more!

Marcos Chin said...

thanks for the post steve! yeah, writing's cool... as i mentioned i haven't be formally taught in over 15 years... but it's a wild experience. will probably keep on posting more (writing) over time.