I've always been interested in the visual arts, but was one of those people who tried to draw, felt I couldn't, then simply didn't try anymore, forgetting that art, like anything, requires practice. Those with a natural talent might be able to immediately draw, write, play an instrument, but for the rest of us, a lot of determination and practice is needed.
One of the things that often troubled me when I started the Newford stories was that while I'd done research into how artists go about their business, I didn't have any hands-on experience. For the characters who were musicians or writers, even photographers, it was no problem, because it was something I could do, but fine art remained a mystery.
So finally, in 1992, on a trip to Arizona when MaryAnn and I were staying with our friend Terri Windling, I ended up having a long talk with Terri about her wonderful art and how I'd always wanted to do it and her advice basically boiled down to: the longer you wait, the longer it'll be before you can get anywhere. So I went out that morning and got a pencil and a sketchbook and I haven't looked back since.
Which isn't to infer that I'm now some wonderful artist. On the contrary, I'm still not a whole lot further along the road than I was back in that fall of 1992. The difference is, I'm doing it as regularly as possible and thoroughly enjoying it.
Having always loved artist's sketchbooks (often more than the actual finished work), it's probably not surprising that I love going out with my own sketchbook, drawing and painting whatever comes to hand. When we're living at our cottage in Quebec during the summer, or when we're traveling for my work, I always bring along a little packet of pencils, watercolours and a sketchbook. One of the most interesting side-effects of this is that my foray into art has taught me to pay more visual attention to the world around me, much the same as music taught me to appreciate the everyday rhythms of the world.
Here's a photo from the 1995 Memory and Dream tour in the UK that took MaryAnn and I from London up to Scotland. This was taken by our friend Beth Gwinn, a Nashville-based photographer who joined us to tour the Isle of Arran. Needless to say, Beth's work always looks far better than how this photograph is reproducing on your screen.
And here's the quick watercolour I was doing in my sketchbook when Beth took the picture:
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