It’s About Time for Gareth L Powell

Continuing my series of blog posts about finding time to be creative, it’s now the turn of Gareth L Powell. Gareth is the award-winning author of the Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy and three other novels. He is currently working on a new trilogy of novels for Titan Books, the first of which will be published in the UK and US in February 2018. NewCon Press will publish his second short fiction collection The New Ships in April 2017.

With so many fantastic novels under his belt, as well as undertaking freelance work, giving guest lectures on creative writing at Aberystwyth and Bath Spa universities and occasionally on the radio, how does he make the time to write?

GB:  Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

GP: My day usually begins around 6:30 am, when I get up to help my wife and kids get ready for work and school. Then, when I’ve seen them off, I’ll take a shower and make a cup of tea, and settle down at the keyboard, where I’ll usually remain until the kids get home around 3:45, and I start to think about cooking an evening meal.

GB: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

GP: As I work alone during the day, Twitter and Facebook are like my water coolers; they are places where I can go to chat with other colleagues and friends. And while a certain presence on those sites does help with promotion, it needs to be carefully balanced with the need to actually get down and do some writing.

GB: Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

GP: I haven’t tried them. I find it handy to instantly be able to Google information when writing. For instance, if I suddenly need to know how long a radio signal would take to travel from Earth to Jupiter, it’s useful to have that information at my fingertips.

GB: How has your craft evolved since becoming a parent? 

GP: The author and critic, Cyril Connolly, once wrote that, “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.” And there’s no question about it: bringing up children is hard work. It takes love, devotion and lots and lots of time. As a writer, it can put a serious dent in the number of daily hours you have in which to write, and reduce your lifetime output from a hundred books to ten – especially if you also need a full-time day job in order to support your family. But listen to this: Before I became a father, I didn’t really understand what people meant when they talked of unconditional love. Now I know. Being a father’s changed everything. It’s made me vulnerable again. It’s given me moments of true happiness, fear, helplessness, and pride. It’s put me in touch with my emotions and given me new perspectives and empathy, and insights into my own childhood. And while it means I have to sacrifice sleep in order to find the time to write, it’s unquestionably been worth it.

GB: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

GP: You have to look at your daily schedule with a cold eye, and decide what’s more important to you, what you’re doing or what you want to do. For instance, how many hours of TV do you watch in an evening? Could you limit yourself to a single hour, and spend the rest of the time working on your art? Would concentrating all the housework into Saturday morning free up time during the week? Would a part-time job give you more time to pursue your art, even if you have to tighten your belt? I can’t supply answers to any of those questions, as everybody has to decide their own priorities.

Knowing what I’m going to write before I sit down at the keyboard is a big help. If you’re subconsciously mulling over the plot of your story while washing the dishes, walking the dog, or doing the shopping, you’ll find yourself coming up with all sorts of connections and ideas that you just can’t wait to get down on paper. Some of my best story ideas have come while I was in the shower, driving long distance, or walking to the pub. Keep a notebook with you, and you can jot down notes that will have you ready and raring to go when the time finally comes for you to write.

GB: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft 

GP: Sometimes, I’ll write out all the dialogue in a scene before going back and filling in the descriptions.

GB: Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?

GP: While both my daughters are enthusiastic about my books, I haven’t really involved them. They have their own hobbies and creative outlets, and I prefer not to place them in the public eye until they’re old enough to decide how they want to present themselves online.

GB: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day? 

GP: Large mugs of decaff tea keep me hydrated, and ambient noise helps me concentrate. I use websites such as https://coffitivity.com and http://rainycafe.com to screen out external noise and keep me focussed.

GB: Final words of wisdom?

GP: Compromise where you must, but bear in mind that the work won’t get done unless you sit down and do it.

Massive thanks to Gareth for taking the time to answer my questions, share advice and giving us all a lovely insight into his creative process. You can find him at www.garethlpowell.com or on Twitter @garethlpowell. Gareth has recently taken the plunge and joined Patreon – if you would like to support him (every little bit helps) and bag yourself some cool exclusive rewards too, then check out his Patreon Page Here. There’s also a sneak preview video of Gareth reading from his forthcoming novel on there for everyone to enjoy!

If you missed my previous interviews on finding creative time, you can find them here:
Andy Bigwood
Joanne Hall

As ever, feel free to leave comments and ask more questions below. At the end of the month you will be able to find me at BristolCon where I will be exhibiting some of my paintings, selling prints, postcards and original paintings in the Art Show.

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The High Rise Faerie

It’s been a long time coming, but the first painting in my Urban Faeries series is finished!

Please welcome…..(drum roll)…..

 

THE HIGH RISE FAERIE

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20″ x 30″ Acrylic on canvas

What do you think?

I can now reveal that there will be a total of five urban faeries (not all female), set in the city of Bristol and that each painting will be set at a different time of day, highlighting a different facet of urban living. As you can (hopefully) see from the High Rise Faerie, her time of day is sunset.

The complete series looks something like this:

The Litter Faerie (Sunrise)
The Graffiti Faerie (Midday)
The Diesel Faerie (Afternoon)
The High Rise Faerie (Sunset)
The Neon Faerie (Night)

I am now frantically painting The Graffiti Faerie and hope to be able to reveal her to the world at BristolCon on the 29th October. Also at BristolCon, my husband Neil will be speaking at one of the panels, followed by a reading from a very special book of his – check out his website for more details.

Until then, please do ask me anything about this painting or leave me a comment – I’d love to know what you think!

 

 

It’s About Time for Joanne Hall

In another blog post about finding creative time, I’m thrilled to share with you the advice and tips from writer Joanne Hall.You may know her as the author of The Art Of Forgetting series, Spark and Carousel and the forthcoming book The Summer Goddess.

Jo is not only a full time author, but also the chairperson of BristolCon and is Acquisitions Editor for Kristell Ink. So with at least three jobs that we know of, how does she find the time?

G: Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

JH: I wake up, walk the dog for half an hour or so while I think about what I’m going to do for the day, grab a cup of tea and some breakfast and go to my office where I check emails and social media to see if I have anything pressing to do. I usually have several projects on the go on different computers, so, for example, I might spend the morning editing a book on my desktop. I break for lunch at one, walk the dog again watch the news, then I get out my laptop and work on whatever I’m working on on there from two until about 5.30, when Dog and I have another walk. I usually stop then, but if I’m particularly enjoying whatever it is I’m working on I’ll carry on until about eight and walk no 4. I don’t usually work after 8.30 at night because it makes me too wired and I can’t sleep.

G: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

JH: Just having too much stuff on the go at any one time, and I find things slip through the cracks unless I write myself strict To-Do lists and do them. I’m not in the position where I can turn down work that might pay now at the expense of work that might pay in the future, so paid work has to take priority and I find other projects fall to the bottom of the heap.

G: Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

JH: I sometimes use MACfreedom – that’s a good one. It costs around $10 and it shuts off access to the internet for a certain period of time. And if you want to go online in that time period, you have to reboot! It helps me get a lot done in a short space of time, but it’s a pain if I need to stop and look something up.

G: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

JH: Just do little bits at a time. If you can sit down and really apply yourself for, say, 20 minutes, you’d be surprised how much you can actually get done. Carve out 20 minutes when you get up, or before you go to bed, or in your lunch break and just apply Bum Glue and put pen to paper (or whatever your preferred medium is. ) And don’t be shy about asking for the time you need – ask a friend to take the dog out, shut the kids out of the room and just do it!

G: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft.

JH: I often work out very complicated scenes in my head while I’m walking the dog, and sometimes I come back to the present and realise I have no idea where we are…

G: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?

JH: Tea. And breaks for walking. Since we got the dog, who you would think would be a distraction, it’s actually really helped me to get outside and just have periods of uninterrupted thinking time while walking around. Often by the time we get home I’ve completely worked out the next scene in my head and all I have to do is write it! (This also works if you don’t have a dog, but if you’re going to roam the neighbourhood muttering to yourself, a dog makes you look a bit less bonkers!

G: Final words of wisdom?

JH: Enjoy your craft, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not doing as much as you hoped or working as fast as you hoped. But don’t be afraid to let your creative work take priority when you need it to – value your work!

Spark cover

Massive thanks to Jo for her answers. If you’re lucky enough to be going to FantasyCon this weekend, be sure to check out the launch of the The Summer Goddess – more details about the launch can be found here.

If, like me, you’re only attending FantasyCon virtually, you can also find Jo on Facebook, Twitter (@hierath77) and her own website.

To catch up with the previous blog post in this series about creative time, just follow the link below:
Andy Bigwood

As ever, if you have tips to share about finding the time to be creative or would like to ask me any of the questions just leave me a comment. Stay tuned for more creative time questions and answers over the next few weeks.

yltnereffiD kooL

Don’t Panic – I haven’t suddenly lapsed into Welsh for this blog post!

I just wanted to highlight a few tips that could help you with your latest work in progress, and that is to stop and look differently at what you are doing. As artists, we often spend hours and hours focussed on the same canvas, or even the same small section of canvas, and so it’s easy to lose perspective on the ‘bigger picture’ and complete image we are trying to attain.

I have been guilty of this on my latest piece in the Urban Faeries series that I am creating. It contains a lot of detail of distant buildings and has been too easy to lose myself in the scenery without checking the coherence of the entire work. To step back and look at your wip from a distance is one thing, but there are three other ways of looking too.

  1. REVERSE – Try holding your painting up to a mirror. This will instantly refresh your view of it. It also will help to identify areas of negative space that you may not have noticed before.
  2. UPSIDE DOWN – In the same way that reversing helps, holding your painting upside down will be like looking at an entirely new picture for the first time, and areas that don’t quite work will jump out at you.
  3. BLACK AND WHITE – Taking a quick photo of your wip and then converting it to black and white is a fantastic way of examining the tones that you’ve achieved so far. You will see where the lightest highlights are no matter what the colour was, and the areas of most contrast. Remember that areas of highest contrast between light and dark is where your viewers gaze will naturally be drawn to first.
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Me in my messy ‘studio’ looking at my current wip reversed and upside down

As I completely love optical illusions, hidden images/messages and often try to incorporate these into my work, looking at things differently also gives me ideas of where to ‘hide’ these little extras. In fact, the header image for this post is not just of the northern lights above pine covered hills and a pretty starscape.
She’s called ‘Stargazer’.

It’s About Time

One of the things that I’m sure you struggle with is finding enough time.

Like most creative people who are passionate about their craft, I want to spend all of my spare time on it, and I know most of my friends feel the same. I seem to have a natural affinity for writers (after all – I married one!), and so quite a few of my friends are writers. I think it’s even harder to find time for writing than painting, and so I thought I’d ask some of my creative friends for their advice on how they find time for their craft.

This is the first in a series of blogs featuring the answers to finding creative time that my friends have given me. I hope you will find them as useful and enlightening as I have and that they help you to think more deeply about finding the time for your art.

So, this week, it’s about time for the talented artist Andy Bigwood! Andy is an Artist, Draughtsman, Bookbinder, Cartographer, and Illustrator from Trowbridge, Wiltshire. Trained in technical illustration, in Bath (shortly before the evolution of computer aided art), Andy has provided artwork, cartography and cover designs for a variety of Fantasy, Horror, and Science fiction novels, twice winning the British Science Fiction Association Award for best artwork.

 G: Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

AB: Up at 6AM, train journey, in work for 8AM work until 4:30, train journey until 17:45, 45mins cycling, microwave meal, then doing art or whatever until midnight – three days a week
The other two days I work from home gaining me an hour’s extra sleep and 2 hours extra free time!

G: What is your biggest time challenge at the moment, and how are you dealing with it?

AB: Weight loss, achieved by cycling 5 miles at least 3 times a week.

G:Do you make use of internet limiting tools? Do they work?

AB: NO, One can never have too much internet!
You just have to recognise how much time a thing will take and how much you want to invest in it. I find that the hardest thing on the internet is an MMO where you end up leading a group/guild/team… you likely have kids/teens relying on your leadership, and thats a really tough thing to walk away from. Facebook is easy to walk away from.

G: What tip would you give someone struggling to find time to create?

AB: Try to maximise your day. The government has laid down an obligation to employers to allow working from home wherever practical. Not spending 2 or 3 hours travelling a day is a big bonus. If you have to travel to work, try to use public transport, use the time on public transport. On a train you can write, read, look at your mail/email. In the morning I get an extra 40mins sleep on the train and set my phone alarm for two stops before get off.  

G: Tell us a little secret about your art/writing/craft.

AB: I am an author and an artist, creatively I can’t do both in the same week..the creative energy always goes one way or the other. If you are creative EXHIBIT IT, there is no better ego boost than the unsolicited praise of the public.

G: Do you have any recommended reading/resources that have helped you with your artistic time management?

AB: NO. buying a book on time management is a waste of time. Every person is an individual and will have unique circumstances. In the same way that personal trainers and Gyms work for some people they won’t for others (that’s why I cycle for exercise).

G: Do you ever involve your child(ren) in your craft, or is it a no go area?

AB: I don’t have a child. But if I did, then he/she would be the main focus..consider a child as an art project, teach your child to draw and paint, read and write… the young ones thrive on the attention and are (probably) less trouble when focused on creativity. Clearly what sort of art you can let a child do really depends on age.  

G: What couldn’t you do without to get you through the day?

AB: Internet access and an ebook to read.

G: Final words of wisdom?

AB: Creativity can’t always be set aside, sometimes an artistic concept will DEMAND to be put on paper. When you absolutely NEED to do a piece of art, then you should try to make the time to let it out. And thats what Annual Leave is for.

auth_andy_bigwood_web

Many thanks to Andy for these answers and insights into his creative process. If you’d like to discover Andy’s fantastic art, you can check out his website and DeviantArt page. Andy is also the organiser of the BristolCon Art Show, so if you are coming along to BristolCon be sure to say hello and check out his work.

Do you have any advice about finding time to be creative, or do you want to ask me any of the questions above? If so, please leave me a comment!

The Mask She Wears

If you cast your mind back to October last year, you may remember a painting I did for a Wet Canvas Challenge all about Masks.

Well the fascination with women and masks has stayed with me and is fast developing into a series of paintings that I envisage adding to in the future. Here are the three in the series so far. Let me know what you think! Prints and postcards of these three (and more) will be available to buy soon. In the meantime, I am working hard in the studio and hope to have more paintings to share with you all soon.

 

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Mask – Yellow

mask

Mask – Blue

mask red

Mask – Red

In Pieces

4 minutes.

As I dashed across the road with my canvas held carefully, the paint was still wet and it was almost the 5 o’clock deadline. It had been a long, hot day that had started with the luxury of time and ended in a panicked rush and dash to the finish. Was I the only artist that had brought a T-square to the competition?

Naively, I had thought that painting from 9:30am to 5pm would be ample time to complete my vision, that painting outdoors would be pleasant and I would return home refreshed and relaxed from a peaceful days painting. In reality I managed my time badly, the sun and wind dried my paints, blew my paper palettes all over the place and continually shook my canvas. This is why it’s called a challenge. At the end of it I was exhausted, felt like I’d run a marathon physically and emotionally and was far from happy with the result. I was in such a panic by the end of it that I actually forgot to take a photo of the finished painting!!

The most unexpected and wonderful thing for me though, was the people. Now, I’m happy to have a bit of banter, and quickly tried to ignore people standing directly behind me all the time, but the lovely people of Porthcawl surprised me. As well as the usual comments and jokes that you get from sitting on the pavement doing something strange, there were the wonderful overheard snippets from people (especially children) as they were passing. The occasional gasp of wonder or ‘wow’ from a kid can really lift your spirits and make you smile while you struggle to keep your canvas upright in the breeze. One girl told her mum as she walked by that she thought my painting was a puzzle. Another chap who took the time to chat to me at length commented that it was like a broken stained glass window. Instant feedback like this is fantastic and never happens in the studio.

Here is a photo of me at the competition and very early on into the process:

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Happily thinking I have loads of time left!

So, in case you are thinking of having a go at an outdoor painting challenge yourself, here is a photo of my entire kit before I started:

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Things I packed I wish I hadn’t:

  • So many paints – I think using a limited palette, or pre-mixing some colours to take with me would have saved me lots of time.
  • Such a big canvas – I wanted to push myself on my first ever timed challenge, but perhaps a 24″ by 30″ canvas was a little on the ambitious side…..
  • Sketchbook and pencils – preliminary sketches are great practice and usually the way I work, but I wasted far too much time sketching my surroundings instead of just getting the paint on the canvas!
  • Small brushes – the temptation to get lost in the details was my undoing.

Things I didn’t pack I wish I had:

  • More water – I ended up using all my drinking water to wash my brushes and renew my painting water as it muddied.
  • Another jam jar – I paint with at least 2 containers of water (usually 3) – one for resting my brushes in while in use so they don’t dry out and one for adding clean water to my paint to get the right consistency.
  • A rounded brush – with so many pointy bits in my design, it was a rookie error to forget this type of brush and have to rely on a filbert instead.
  • Sunscreen – being out in the direct sun from 9:30am to 5pm without any sunscreen meant that I burnt.
  • A hat – see above!
  • A bigger cushion, or a chair/foam mat – after sitting on the floor for 7 and a half hours, when I tried to stand up and walk I couldn’t! 
  • A flask of tea – enough said.

Ultimately, the real thing I needed was more time, or a more disciplined way of working to make the most of the time I had. It was a tough lesson, but I really learnt a lot from doing the challenge. To check out the rest of the entries, see my finished “Pieces of Porthcawl” painting and find out who wins the competition, follow Art Challenge Wales on their facebook page, website or on twitter @artinwales.

So – would I like to do it again next year?
YOU BET!!

Will I see you there?

Happy summer lovely people! (What do you mean it’s raining again?!)

July looks set to be a wonderfully arty time – I’m hoping to go to a couple of life drawing classes this month at Carnegie House. It’s ages since I went and I could really do with the practice.

Then on the 23rd July I will be taking part in the Art Challenge Wales competition. Based in Porthcawl, this is the second year the event has taken place, where artists of all media and skill levels are invited to create a piece of art from scratch in just one day! I’m really excited about the challenge and looking forward to some serious consecutive hours of painting too. I’ve not had much opportunity to take part in plein air painting before, so there will be lots of technical challenges (such as my acrylic paint drying out too quickly, what kit to pack) as well as the time restriction.

On Sunday 24th I will be visiting Upfest in Bristol and taking part in a graffiti workshop. Given that my latest series of paintings “The Urban Faeries” are all set in Bristol and contain a lot of street art within the paintings, it will be great to finally get my hands on a some spray cans and practise my newly designed tag!

So – will I see any of you at these events? If so, tap me on the shoulder and say hello!

Exciting News!

It’s been all go these last few weeks, with progress going well on my latest series of paintings and plenty of local networking. The most exciting news this month is that I will be exhibiting (and hopefully selling!) some of my work at the BristolCon Art Show.

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For those of you who have not heard of BristolCon, it is a fantastic one-day science fiction and fantasy convention in Bristol. It’s a fun and friendly convention that has gone from strength to strength since it started in 2009 (and I’ve only missed it one year).

I will have cards, prints and lots of new paintings to display, which will hopefully include at least one of the new series I’ve mentioned that I’m working on, as the entire series of five painting is…. (spoiler alert) set in Bristol!

The other bit of news is that I have finally taken the plunge and joined Facebook! Having resisted it for years, and hidden myself away on Twitter, I have come to realise that I am missing out on connecting with lots of lovely people and organisations and sharing my art with a wider audience. So, please do look me up on Facebook, like what you see and connect – see you there!

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Can you spot the dragon?

I’ve spoken before about how Twitter is a never-ending source of inspiration and ideas for me. It’s such an accessible format to use, enables me to connect with creative people across the globe and I can control how relevant my twitter feed is. One evening, a wonderful tweet caught my imagination and energized me to paint it. Here is my attempt – a picture paints 140 characters.

 

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Acrylic on Canvas Board 10″ x 8″

Did you spot the dragon? Part of the tweet was “the hills of Wales were a dragons back”.

In other news, work on my forthcoming series of 5 paintings continues and almost all the research and thumbnails are complete. Now it’s down to larger scale mock ups of the paintings, practising some portraits of the people I intend to feature and checking they work as a series and individually. More on that soon and hopefully a sneak preview in the next blog post. Stay tuned!