I walked around the house humming. It wasn’t a song known to anyone, just something I was improvising without thinking. I turned to the dog.
“Are you ready to go out, is that why you do shout? With gnarly little woof, you need to get out, from under the roof?” I sang this improvised ditty and the dog got excited. It knew “Out” and that’s all he cared about. It didn’t matter how awful the words or melody or voice were, there was a walk to be had.
I had been humming and singing for days. At work I had to force myself to talk to coworkers instead of sing. My tendency when I opened my mouth was to sing, so I was very careful. I mean, even if it wasn’t weird, I realize I don’t have the greatest singing voice around.
At last, Friday came. I sat down and started playing the piano as soon as I could. Later, I turned on my electronics and music computer. All of those improvised songs were gone, but it didn’t matter. A new one soon came up. I worked the entire weekend on it and had a finished recording on Sunday evening.
Back at work on Monday, I didn’t even have to think about talking. Singing an answer would have felt so wrong. Right? Continue reading
(Originally posted December 27, 2013 – One of my first posts it received only one “like”…)
The stereotypical author is often pictured hunched over a beat-up old typewriter creating his or her magic on the spot, pounding ideas furiously onto the keys. Of course today the “typewriter” has a softly glowing flat screen. Well, this picture isn’t me. I do most of my writing during my frequent walks. Time banging on the computer is needed mostly to transfer the already written story from my brain onto the page. Sure, I do a lot editing on the PC, but for a major revision I once again put on a comfortable pair of shoes and head out the door. Storyline, major plot points and even the nitty-gritty of word choice are worked out on foot.
During my strolls I tend to think beyond the finished product, particularly when it comes to short fiction. I often create a much larger, more detailed story and then whittle it down. A lot of what gets cut might be called “backstory”. Although deleted, it’s always kept in mind, influencing the final work. Continue reading
Climbing the ladder to Balcony House in Mesa Verde National Park, mid 1970’s
(Originally posted 20 November 2013 – almost exactly 2 years ago)
Back in the murky time BC (Before (personal) Computers) my family made the obligatory pilgrimage to “Discover America”. Just like the Brady Bunch we all piled into the car and headed west. Of course we piled into a Chrysler “that’s as big as a whale” instead of a station wagon, but it was the same concept.
We hit all of the important spots like Yellowstone, the Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood. I had the time of my young life. What could be better than going from watching the filming of a game show one day to standing barefoot in the snow on a high mountain pass just a few days later? Desserts, beaches, huge trees, soaring mountains, waterfalls, geysers and more: everything was just enchanting. Ah, the best of times. Not a problem or care in the world.
Well, almost. You see, I forgot to leave my fear at home. Continue reading
(Note – This was originally posted on January 15, 2014 and has been reposted twice before. Yes, it is an old standby, but I like it ;) I’m sorry if you’ve read it too many times. If you haven’t read it before, I hope you enjoy!)
I’ve participated in many of the arts and have had formal instruction in a few. I’ll admit that I’ve discovered a problem with trying to be a Jack of All Artistic Trades: it’s very easy to fall into the trap of Being a Master at None. Continue reading
Years ago I took a Renaissance Painting class. What do I mean by “Renaissance Painting”? First, it has nothing to do with subject matter, it was purely a class about technique.
I’ll give a brief rundown on this technique. First, the artist needs a very smooth surface. Many Renaissance paintings are done on panel for this reason. For the canvas paintings we put layer after layer of gesso on and sanded between layers. Then the picture is painted in black and white. Well, it is greyscale, like a black and white photo. We could add a little blue or red (not much!) to the paint to make the final warmer or cooler. The last step is to put a color glaze over the black and white under painting. If something is green, you use a green glaze and the underpainting will take care of the different shades and highlights.
When you look at a Renaissance era painting it almost seems to glow from an inner light. Well, in ways it does – you are seeing the shapes and shading through a layer of colored glaze. Continue reading
(Note – This was first publish in January of 2014. Something reminded me of it so I decided to bring it back)
“OK, I’m finished.”
The painting instructor came over to look at my work. He studied it intently, his brow furrowing. After a few minutes he asked, “You’re done? Is this a study? I think this looks pretty good so you should continue working with it.” He left to check someone else’s work. Continue reading
(Note I posted this about a year ago. Truthfully, I’m in the middle of a large scale topic switch – I am writing and playing music and have no time to write. So, another summer rerun.)
My last post was on the subject of topic switching. A person who topic switches will change the subject of a conversion repeatedly and seemingly randomly. It is as if her mind is racing so far ahead she doesn’t realize she’s skipped big chunks of the conversation. Or that he is so impulsive he spits out anything as soon as it comes to mind.
This post is about something completely different yet, in a strange way, related. I will call it “Large Scale Topic Switching”. Continue reading
An ancient bad joke: “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Sure: Practice, practice, practice.” And then there is the even older saying, “Practice makes Perfect,” which is clearly untrue since there is no such thing as perfection in the arts. But the point has to be taken – no matter how much natural talent you have, you need to practice to gain skill. And not just have to practice, you need to practice a lot. For instance, a professional musician often puts in far more than the normal work week of 40 hours in practice alone. That is not including rehearsals, performances and recording sessions.
I put a lot of emphasis on my blog about my new studio setup. I’m finding I had reason to make a big deal about it as I’m now beginning to reap the benefits of the new setup. I have been practicing more and better. I have continued to do my scales, finger exercises and classical songs, but now I often just rock out. I’ve been learning new material and creating new music.
Of course practice goes far beyond music. I have written over 70 new short stories for this blog in the last year and a half. To me this is fantastic practice for when I want to write longer forms. I’m also about to reach my 500th post on the blog, again great writing practice. I sometimes cringe when I reread some of my earliest short stories, but I’m sure I’d cringe just as much if I listened in to some of my early music practice sessions. My work is getting better.
I’ve been skimping on my visual arts practice lately, but in the past I’ve spent hours drawing studies of mundane objects. Before I make a painting I might do a dozen drawings and studies. I’m now out of practice so it would take me a while to get back into it, but if and when I return to the visual arts you can be sure I’ll put a huge amount of practice in before I post anything.
I am far from perfect in any art and will never come close even if I quit my job and practice full time. Still, I can see the benefits; the results are tangible. I really notice the results when I stop practicing. My writing becomes sloppy and my playing is no longer crisp and clear.
How seriously do you take your practice?
(Originally posted January 7, 2014 – slightly edited – Also note – you have to be on my site to play the music)
A few years ago I followed a music forum. One cool thing about this forum was the recurring composition challenges. Participants would anonymously post a piece of music on a given theme. We would then be given the opportunity to vote on our favorite. The winner had the honor of creating the theme for the next challenge. Continue reading
About 2 weeks ago I put up a post about my “studio” reorganization. I post a picture of the old layout (see below), with it’s Rick Wakeman influenced circle of keyboards. Of course most of those keyboards weren’t being used, but who cares? It looked impressive. Just look at the photo below this paragraph. Continue reading