WesterCon 70 ~ Part 3: Art and “Aftermath”

Part 1: Steampunk & 19th Century F&SF
Part 2: Science and Writing

My second panel on Saturday was “Using Art and Literature to Build Science Identity.” Sadly, I came into this panel a little late after “Classic SF vs The Modern Perspective” went long and missed most of the introductions. It was a small group with KellyAnn Bonnell, her daughter (as AV support), artist Tom Deadstuff, and two other gentlemen besides Eric and me. We didn’t get too much into the art/lit aspects, but KellyAnn Bonnell did have an interesting list of what things engender science appreciation in kids. (Spoiler: it helps if parents are pro science to begin with!)

After the panel Eric ended up chatting with Tom Deadstuff about, well, stuff. The two had an ongoing conversation over the four days of the convention as we sat in the courtyard and defrosted (some of the meeting rooms were frigid!) and Mr. Deadstuff satisfied his cigarette habit. Sometimes they talked about the artistic process, about the journey of being independent artists, and about the different-but-sameness of being passionate about art or science and how to use that passion to get through life. I listened, mostly. It’s what I do.

Below: some of Tom Deadstuff’s art pieces. He was the local artist guest of honor, by the way. More of his work can be found on Facebook.

Directly related, Tom Deadstuff held a Paper Mache 101 class on Monday. That’s right. All the art above? Paper mache.

On Tuesday, we also attended “From Concept to Reality: Digital Art Painting” with Anabel Amis and “What to Draw When There’s Nothing to Draw” with Julie Dillon, Gilead, Tom Deadstuff, and Larry Elmore. That’s quite a bit of art for this writer and, really, I wish I would have gone to more art panels because…

Writers, I think, get into a weird place when it comes to their art. Well, this first thing is maybe just me. Watching Tom Deadstuff take shopping bags, foil, glue soup, and bits of paper and work it into a “first draft” of a face reminded me that art is messy in its early stages. Seeing Anabel Amis and Gilead working too. Though in different mediums, their art starts as only lines. How did I get the idea that a finished polished novel should pop fully formed from my head? Yes, I know rationally that’s not how writing works, but seeing that part of the artistic process physically embodied is different from hearing it over and over from other writers.

It also occurred to me that visual artist have a different relationship with their finished products. Gilead started out as a window painter. He’d paint advertisements, and a few weeks later he’d scrape his own work off the windows to paint something new. Tom Deadstuff’s early works included piñatas. Now, whether anyone actually ever broke one, I don’t know, but it was a possibility. Even without those extremes, visual artist create a piece of art and then sell it. Doesn’t matter how much they personally like the art, the singular object eventually becomes the property of someone else. Maybe they have photographs or prints, but the paragon version of their art is no longer theirs. In contrast, the paragon version of a writer’s art, an edited bound book or well formatted ebook, is theirs forever. Yet, writers (some writers) pick fights with their readers over reviews and interpretations because their art is still very close to their ego. I think that working hard on your art, loving your art, but still having a certain distance from it is sort of a freeing concept.

Anyway, I’ve had a really a good writing week since WesterCon. Some of that is due to the above, and some of it is due to a change in perspective that occurred for reasons vaguely tangential. I don’t really want to say much here because  I have a habit of jinxing myself. If this attitude continues a while, maybe I’ll go into more detail.

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