As an artist I am discovering there indeed is life after writing a book. Months of intense immersion in paints and words have created their own compelling rhythm from which I slowly extricate myself.
In an unexpected career opportunity, over a year ago, Quarto in London contacted me. They had discovered my work on the internet and wanted to know if I would be interested in writing a book about painting flowers in acrylics. I had already completed a fine art coffee table book featuring my paintings and poetry and realized this would be an altogether different project.
Intrigued, I created material for sample page spreads and Quarto included them in the London Booksellers Mart. Quarto always co-publishes so they had to find the right partner for this project.
After they did so, it took months to get the copyright portions of the contract completed correctly, mainly because my editor was temporarily doing the job of another editor as well as her own. I did not become serious about producing work for the book until I had the signed contract in hand.
Upon final contract signing in late August I started painting and photographing my work in progress almost non-stop. I created 45 paintings in about 4 months, doing little else. My gardens did not get any fall cleanup, my husband handled most of the tasks involved with our art gallery, and I painted, photographed, and wrote at all hours of the day and night.
I found it odd painting for a how-to-book because I had to photograph the work four different times in the course of each painting. I had to be careful not to get carried away and paint too much before recording that state of the painting.
One concept that helped me immensely was to regard the entire book as one creative venture, rather than focusing so much on individual paintings. This made it much easier to switch rapidly to the next painting when I needed to do so.
The painting quality went up as my speed and weariness combined to take my conscious mind interference out of the equation. Our monkey minds are often the biggest problem when creating art and mine got too tired and overworked to muster its usual busybody interference. That part of the process, while strenuous, was really fun.
I also learned a lot about working with a large publisher. One thing I greatly appreciated was the level of expertise they brought to the table. With their help I did not have to struggle a lot with the mechanics of structure. They already had a general format in place because this book was to be a companion volume to a pre-existing watercolor book.
The most difficult part came at the end, when I had to do the in depth techniques and explanations. I told them what I needed to include, and they made their best effort to set up the layouts to accommodate my list. However, their ideas and mine did not dovetail as smoothly as I would have liked for that section, because they were not fully familiar with all the processes I use or how I intended to present them.
They had their own frustrations dealing with someone far away in Montana photographing jars of paint and whatnot instead of being on site with the photographer themselves. We did arrive at a mutual understanding of how to work together and that section is now in the hands of their art department and text editors.
Due to my remote location, most of our communications have been via email, phone calls, and a lot of FTP uploads. They occasionally send layouts for proofing by courier, which never works well. Most courier services just put the package in regular snail mail after it reaches somewhere 200 miles from me.
Despite the complications of working long distance in that fashion, I developed a warm working relationship with the editors involved in the project. It has been a challenging and mostly enjoyable experience.
Now that the bulk of the work is in their hands, I see life with new eyes. I began my first painting since the series of works for the book and it is surprising to see how ingrained the four stage photography has become. At the same time, a new vitality appears in my work due to the intense personal development this book project required.
While painting I find myself hesitating, thinking I should wait for photography before I change something, and then I realize this painting will not be photographed until completed. I gleefully attack the section I want to change and feel a new freedom rising in my work.
At this moment I believe I am creating my best painting ever.
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Copyright © Lexi Sundell 2007. All Rights Reserved.