This month's LikeWise targets artists but it's open to anyone who likes to create. I came across The Art Assignment while researching John and Hank Green's Nerdfighter world. The Art Assignment is a PBS weekly video series hosted by John and his wife Sarah who's a curator. Artists from around the U.S. are interviewed, then they offer assignments for viewers to respond to and post on the site.
There is probably a lot more I can say about this brilliant project but I'm not sure it will enhance your experience. And since I'm short on time this week, I'll shut up and let you enjoy this sample video by John Herschend and Will Rogan. Be sure to check out the website for more fantastic interviews and prompts, as well as instructions on how and where to post your responses.
Oh, one last thing. My response to this assignment would be to create a real life Clippy (the paper clip that used to haunt Microsoft Word). My Clippy would solve all my computer conundruns with cute Minion like expressions and exclamations, then offer encouraging or sympathetic comments when appropriate. Unfortunately, I'd need a wand for this and I don't have one.
Life doesn't always happen the way you plan. In February we put a deposit on a puppy. I posted a picture of the litter when they were four weeks old and promised to announce which one we chose along with its name. But just before we were scheduled to pick the puppy up, the breeder discovered it had a serious health issue. Instead of waiting for another litter to be born, we decided to adopt a rescue dog. We fell in love with a mixed-breed puppy. Unfortunately, the people fostering the dog fell in love with it too and announced they were going to keep it.
So two weeks ago, we stopped by the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and came home with the strangest looking, nearly hairless, nine-pound wonder. His name is Teddy. He's a one-year-old rat terrier mix who's been neglected and dumped by too many people in his short life. He's already won our hearts and I'll be sharing his story along the way.
Our meandering journey to adopting Teddy reminds me of the path art takes. Stories start as one thing, twist and turn, morph and mutate, ending at a place we hadn't imagined. I'm a wild start-at-page-one-and-let-the-book-unfold kind of writer. I have only a vague idea who my main character is and what they want when I start. By the time the last word of the first draft is typed, I'm just beginning to figure it out. Other writers diligently outline their books before they start. They know a great deal about the plot and characters. But even careful planners admit their stories change as they write. Plots thicken, minor characters demand a bigger part, and major characters surprise us with unforeseen secrets.
I think the best art is created with a lightly held concept. Flexible minds allow projects the freedom to grow. Paintings are layered testimony to the changes artists make. A brighter color here, more texture there, something solid in that corner, and underneath it all, the line or splash of paint that first marked the canvas. I've heard carvers say they allow the material to tell them what it will become. In each chunk of rock or wood, a figure or object waits to be revealed.
Discovery is a thrilling part of making art. And it doesn't stop when the work is complete. Paintings and stories continue to speak as long as people interact with them. Each viewer interprets the art in a unique way and sometimes they reveal insights even the artist didn't see.
Teddy is nothing like the cute cuddly puppy we hoped for. He comes with the kind of baggage you'd expect in a confused, neglected dog: no manners, health issues, etc. But he greets each day with optimism and he's eager to please his new family. We are holding him lightly and looking forward to discovering what he'll become given the care and respect he deserves.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. And creatures, always creatures. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Baggott, Asher & Bode
Rear in Gear
Kate DiCamillo on Writing