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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
UK Artist and Author, Richard Savage
As an introduction, I am a 46 year old, rather work obsessed, artist and writer, living and working from my Cambridgeshire studio. I have been an artist all my life, the writing developed a little later. I am dyslexic, so the writing process is rather laboured. I started with Black Velvet Seductions, as one of their cover artists. An opportunity came up to contribute to the supernatural erotic anthology The Crimson Z: A Compendium of the Paranormal. My contribution was, The Anniversary and I have gone on to write three more stories and I am currently working on my fifth, The Trainer. Laurie Sanders is a great editor, mentor and friend. She has patiently guided me through my first four stories. The latest In the Driving Seat is just out as an electronic download. With the exception of In the Driving Seat which is currently only available from Black Velvet Seductions, all of my writing is available through Black Velvet Seductions’ website and through www.amazon.com.
Atmosphere is something that is important in all of the work I do. In art and in writing atmosphere is about the mood of the piece. Dramatic or soft lighting in a picture or a subtle use of colours can create an atmosphere, a feeling. An example of that would be the cover I did for Toy’s Story. I love the drama in this one, a feeling of menace.
My editor says that what makes a hook work in writing is creating an emotional reaction in the reader. She says the literary hook needs to be something that makes the reader care about the characters and their plight. The atmosphere that I create in book covers is similar in that I want to create an emotional response in the reader. Sometimes the response is warm, fuzzy, romantic, other times it is an erotic zing that I am after. Always I want the cover to invite the reader to ask a question, to become curious enough to pick up the book.
Art and writing are both ways that I explore my own thoughts, feelings and perceptions about the world. The question about why one particular image is erotic and another isn’t, was the starting point for my exploration of the erotic through art and writing. In books I like well developed worlds, situations and plots. I like to create believable characters, imaginary people who have both strengths and weaknesses and who show both sides of their characters throughout their stories. A lot of my stories centre around the world of domination and submission, and a lot of my art clients come from this community. I am fascinated by the strong erotic undertones to both the power exchange and the iconic nature of some of the clothing.
As an artist and writer I have been struck by the many parallels between writing and art. I find the similarities with the whole mechanical process of creation exceptionally interesting.
First, comes the concept. In art the inspiration comes from many angles, it might be a commission or a picture intended for the portfolio, an image I have seen, or just an idea some emotion I want to express. For this particular picture I wanted to explore a thing called under painting. The inspiration for the subject was a series of pictures of ladies’ backs. I wanted to explore light and skin tones. The piece was intended primarily for the portfolio. The under painting in this particular example is based on a classical technique designed to give a realistic skin tone. http://www.swage.net/art/wip/underpainting.html
With Temporally Yours, my third story for Black Velvet Seductions, I wanted to explore time, and how time, or the lack of it, affects a relationship. In my own life time is a rather pressing matter. My average day starts at 7:30 am and I typically finish work at about 1 am. So time is a subject close to my heart and I figure that a lot of people are familiar with similar time problems. I am constantly trying to fit more things than possible into the time available, a metaphor I use is trying to get 3 lbs in a 1 lb bag. The core of Temporally Yours is what if you could have more time by stopping time and living in the gap?
With writing, you sketch out the character, make lists of details that you will refer to later when you write the text. The colour of hair and eyes, is he tall, short, has she long or short hair, body type distinguishing features. What strengths and weaknesses does she have? Which does he have? How do their unique combinations of strengths and weaknesses draw them together and push them apart? The character sketch builds up, as a sketch on canvas would.
The process is similar with art. With this picture I wanted the character to be back lit, so the dress would be partly see through. To back light the character I needed a light source. I decided on a window because it added the elegant look I was after. At this point the picture is rough, but that is okay. I know it is just a concept and will improve as it is sketched onto canvas http://www.swage.net/art/wip/underpainting.html
With the characters in Temporally Yours, I wanted them to be busy people, a businessman and an air stewardess, because there is a reason for them to meet if they are regulars on the same flight.
The character sketch becomes deeper and richer as it is fleshed out. Depth is built as the sketch moves beyond the physical attributes of the characters to their personalities, histories, goals, fears, and motivations. This character sketch and the general idea are like the source material for a story. The source material for a story, or for a painting, is of fundamental importance to the finished product. The better, the richer and more detailed the information included in the source material the finer the result will be.
I have always been a people watcher; I think most writers and artists are. I find myself surreptitiously looking at people, squirreling away little details, and snippets of conversation.
The similarities between artwork and writing continue beyond the characters as you look at settings and locations. In a picture you might want to set a scene, making the most of the atmosphere. The same is true of the setting in a book. In Temporally Yours the opening scene happens in a café where Patrick and Susan meet for a coffee. In the scene they are glad to see each other and can’t wait to be alone. It is as simple as that really and in the original draft it didn’t read much more than that. As a sketch that was fine, but it didn’t make much of a picture. It is akin to stick men, getting the characters in position on paper or in words.
Once the scene is drafted then you can add the clutter of the café, the smells of coffee and Danish Pastries, other characters, there but out of focus, so as not to distract from the two main characters Patrick and Susan. The back drop has more depth, is altogether more interesting as a setting for what is going to happen in the spotlight. Whether painting or writing, I visualize the whole scene in my mind and do my best to show what is in my head, to the reader or viewer.
I think the café scene in Temporally Yours is a very sexy scene. The elicit conversation, the conspiratorial nature, and the naughtiness of it occurring in public place with the risk of being caught all combine to create a scene with rather tantalising elements. The scene is stronger because the café details are there to anchor the reader in the scene with familiar smells and the chatter of the normal, yet weaved in is the eroticised intimacy.
A clip: from Temporally Yours
The main characters are the focus of the piece, they need to be explored in depth, you have their features and clothing, but we want to go deeper, to their emotions and their motivations. Building tension and conflict is very much like adding light and shade to a picture. http://www.swage.net/art/wip/underpainting.html You have to establish a dynamic, there needs to be some drama, some conflict.
In Temporally Yours the tension is built by showing the couple’s desire for each other. I wanted to build it to fever pitch giving the reader the feeling that if they were alone Patrick would take Susan there and than over the table. The conflict is in their circumstance, the constrictions of their time together. I wanted to draw that out in the same way as I would in a painting.
In photographic terms it is called depth of field, which is the amount of image that is in focus. For example the main object in the picture is the lady. http://www.swage.net/art/wip/underpainting.html If you were to have a highly detailed object next to her that was irrelevant it would detract from the image. In the same way if you spend a page and a half describing every detail of a door the character is not going to walk through and there is no reason why he or she is not going to walk through it, it can be an annoying irrelevance. So the focus stays on the main character unless there is a good reason for it to shift elsewhere. This more intense exploration of character in terms of their thoughts, emotions and motivations, we would refer to it as deep point of view. Depth of field in art and depth of point of view in writing are both important factors which help the viewer or reader focus on the important aspects of the work.
Another parallel is the number of revisions undertaken as you sharpen the detail in the characters, written and drawn. I know a number of writers that groan when the revisions come back. But revising is a natural part of the process. The harder you work on the revisions the better the end product. The same is true with art work. My editor is fond of saying that none of us have golden words flowing from our keyboards. We all have to revise. It is the same for artists. None of us get it perfect with the first stroke of pencil or paint brush. Perfection comes with successive passes which add the layers of nuance and detail.
I hope you’ll check out the first three chapters of Temporally Yours and visit me at my website www.swage.net Also check out Black Velvet Seductions where you can enter to win free books and ebooks which are given away each Friday to subscribers of their free readers newsletter.
Visit Savage Art Studio and sign up for the newsletter. Five lucky newsletter subscribers will get to choose a free ebook and a print of their choice.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to chat here