Thursday 19 May 2022

Progress Continues

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Writer/director Minjae Kwak has me star in his half hour short film Flotsam where I play a man who wakes/materializes in an airport and then wanders away to find himself. He and Yoon, the DOP are from Korea and studied film at Confederation College here in Thunder Bay. They, and other graduates are moving to Toronto to continue their careers in film. It was a delight to help them out.

With a solo art show in 2024 at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery (representing a region bigger than half of Europe) ideas are being sketched out on “drop sheets.” The title of the show is deliberately pompous: The Noble Death of a Poet, the title for the feature painting. This will be an allegorical work to mock our need to create, believe and spread delusions that could wreck the progress we’ve made in bettering our lives. The show will ask; why do we need so many defensive mechanisms against reality? Another large related future work is Mr. F., a depiction of a real terror. And I’m going to complete Spiral soon, a painting that offers hope for the future. The show will include sketches and drop sheets that show how the works progressed.

Detail of Spiral, Oil on Canvas
What might also appear in the show is the best of a new series where I paint children into their own paintings. I provide the canvas to the parents whose children paint the canvas. The latest is titled, River (son of local artist Candace Twance). He has more experience painting than most children, but many children can produce startling and inspiring imagery when handed the right materials and given some encouragement. Initially I wasn’t intending to make any grand statements with this series, but the juxtapositions of the imagery immediately provokes wonder and all sorts of questions. And parents love it. The kids seem thrilled – maybe a little confused. I haven't got much feedback yet. 
 And if that isn’t enough work to have on one’s plate, I’m still looking for an agent and a publisher for a number of completed books. 

Picture Books, The Chameleon Snake and Lara
Wood are looking for a publisher by year end
otherwise I'm printing them myself.
The difficulty has increased exponentially as about 80% of publishers and about half the agents don’t reply at all. Twenty years ago about 90% of the publishers replied and nearly all of the agents. Back then I got a publisher within a matter of a few months. This likely has something to do with the pandemic. Although it’s expensive to print the books myself, I really enjoy selling my books at markets and elsewhere. I’ve met the thousands of people who’ve bought my books, which is unusual for an author. This opportunity gives me great insight into what children like about my books and much more. I've learned that every time someone hands me a twenty dollar bill for a book, it’s not just a financial transaction, it’s a vote for me and making more books. From a strictly financial perspective, for me, it makes no sense to have a Canadian publisher. They print so few books, and rarely reprint books, that making a living is hard. Yet, without a publisher it’s difficult to obtain status, near impossible to get reviews, harder to get grants or to be invited to writer’s festivals. Fortunately, Canadian parents are very eager to support self-published authors, so long as the quality is there. With ten years of reading to children, talking to teachers, parents, kids and other writers, I've got some interesting views on the publishing industry in Canada, not favourable to the current status quo. 
Over the years I did hundreds of 
cartoons with varying themes    

    While playing archivist I realized I have enough imagery and cartoons to put together two more books. Both have over 130 pages laid out in the InDesign program. Hardball and Riley: The Ultimate Collection is nearly complete. Some cartoons need conclusions, editing is required and I’d like to do an original cover. Comic Gazer includes a few cartoons, lots of illustration work, sketchbook drawings, drop sheet imagery and fine art. The introduction is turning into a philosophical exploration of the functions and motivations behind what I do, along with my take on issues in the art world.    

    And if all the above isn’t enough, I completed my first script a few months ago for the first episode of a serialized episodic science fiction, a three season series called E.R.S.. I hope to talk soon with a couple agents in the U.S. First, I have to do some architectural drawing and plot mapping to fully convince an agent, and hopefully a production company, that I’m not crazy.

River, depicted here, is the young
talented artist who painted the background. 
And honestly, to prove to myself that I’m not insane. To pull off a monumental project like this would require being a manager and motivator of other people. I've only done that for a few months and not very well. I'd have to read a management book and get good advice. Just thinking of the logistics for a project this size is frightening. But the ideas are so good that I have to try, otherwise I’ll always regret not doing so. The ideas for E.R.S. first formed in my head when I was fourteen years old, inspired by the threat of descending intercontinental ballistic missiles that could have potentially sent us back to the Stone Age. The themes are directly related to my art show, so the more I read related material, and work on the projects, the clearer the goals become. One project informs the other. During the pandemic I spent hours walking around parks and laying in bed building plots within plots, constructing scenes that cascade into other scenes, into threads driven by story engines to the ultimate dramatic conclusion. And similarly with the paintings. I could babble on an on about the undercurrents involved in the paintings and E.R.S., as I have done with friends, but I’ll stop here.