Welcome to IAAY number seven!

This week it's all about Australian writer, calligrapher, artist and, as if that wasn't enough, Olympic cycle trainer, Graham McArthur. Oh yes, did I mention he plays the guitar a bit too and released three music CDs ?

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments section or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Graham McArthur
It’s all about My Father
I grew up surrounded by letters. Lettering was everywhere inside and outside the house. My father was a sign writer and calligrapher although he never used the label. He worked from home and there were large signs in the driveway and in the ‘shed’ where he spent most of his time. Small stuff was made inside wherever there was room. Works on paper, wood panels, scrolls, plaques, heraldry, photo mounts etc were stacked against the walls and on chairs and any available flat surface including the floor. The dinning room became his inside studio for 360 days of year (it only functioned as a dining room at Christmas). As a small pre-school boy this is the room I spent most of each day in.

I can not remember a time I did not draw. For obvious reasons most of my drawings contained letters. My father thought that if I was drawing letters, I should draw them correctly. From the age of five and before I learnt to read, he had me drawing Roman Capitals in pencil on a daily basis (up to about age 11-12). My love of letters has never lessened.

It was many, many years later that learnt to appreciate just how much he taught me and how skilled he really was. I still have a few leaves of gold leaf from those early years of learning to brush letter and gild on glass, wood and leather all before I learnt to read.

Unfortunately nothing has survived except 2-3 leaves of gold. I can only imagine how bad those early letters were, but the memories are what is important and much more precious than any physical reminders.

It’s All About Me
I left art school early to pursue a career in fine art. After an inaugural sell out exhibition I spent a few years painting portraits and landscapes. This drove me insane and so I turned to commercial illustration eventually working as an illustrator and typographer for a printing and publishing house during the early 1970’s. By the mid 70’s I was freelancing and have been freelancing ever since. 

Three years ago I accepted a full time job offer and have pulled back from illustration somewhat. Today my interests and work is varied and broad. I still love letters and lettering, calligraphy and type design. These precious things will never leave me. I still love to draw and paint and have learnt late in life to appreciate abstract art and all its singular challenges. I now understand just how important my often tedious and repetitious classical training in drawing, painting and lettering is in creating a sound foundation from which one can have the freedom of choice in pursuit of experimentation and discovering the new. Without that training you have little to nothing from which to stand on or leave behind.

I made my first guitar in circa 1990 because I could afford to buy a good instrument. Its is a terrible instrument but it taught me much. Ten years after that my guitar workshop became my daughter’s bedroom and guitar making was transferred to the shed where it remains with an ever growing hunger to re-establish warmer and more pleasant surroundings befitting its stature and importance to my life. Of course I play terribly and one should always wear ear muffs when I am near an instrument.

Music is of course extremely important to me and is a big part in my daily life. A recently developed passion for electronic soundscapes and experimental music genres has almost become an obsession, well OK, I will admit it is an obsession. 

Sorry can’t help it. My third CD was thrown at the world a few days ago.

When not following the above distractions I find a strange comfort it reading and writing. My fantasy novel ‘Mironmure’, which began life some 15-20 years ago is as stagnant as always, but not forgotten. I am still working on it - honest. The other novel is going much better and I am hopeful it will be finish with in the next 12 months. This time I have taken to crime with the aid of a rather socially inept and reclusive artist who has become very pissed off and annoyed at a certain individual who steals artworks and kills people. Can’t say any more on that. 

I must not leave without mentioning the bike, its always about the bike. Cycling is in my blood and its a sport I love dearly. Three athletes I introduced to the sport and coached in their formative years are riding for Australia in the Olympics. I am very excited about that.

You can find out more about Graham at the following:
 * All art work (C) Graham McArthur

1. The Darkness Beneath - Free Copy
2. It's All About You
3. Writers Read Right?
4. Watcha Reading?

The Darkness Beneath: Sex, Death and Trains, all Yours For Nothing (still!)*

You can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only (yes, only...) the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy. *Terms and Conditions apply.

It's All About You
Last week's IAAY was hosted by British writer Stephan J Myers, whose first novel, Loss De Plott, is beautifully brought to life by the drawings of the characters on his website.

Writers Read Right?
We all know that as a writer you have to read - it's the law and if you don't, one day we'll all find out and then you'll be sorry. But that said, am I the only one who worries that other people's writing might unduly influence my own?

Weird as it seems, this is a worry for me. I worry because I want my writing to be original - it's bad enough that there's only six or seven distinct plots we can use, the fact that I might be using other people's ideas, mannerisms and language terrifies me.

It's hard to be original, but I think as writers we owe it to ourselves to plough our own furrows, even if that means furrowing our own brows as we chase our elusive unique selling point across our screens. And that takes work and the willingness to re-write or even throw out the lines that are not of our own loins.

Watcha Reading?
This week I have been mostly reading The Sense of An Ending by Julien Barnes. It's the first book by JB that I've read and I'm really enjoying. I think this is partly because I relate to the subject matter - aging, memory, death, and partly because the way he writes is so simple the words just flow off the page. 

I bought this book (yes, a real book with pages that turn - I'm still dragging my heels through the pre-Ereader mud) because of his delightful book A Life With Books. In this JB talks about his childhood and how he became a collector of books as well as a writer.

As a young man he used to spend much of his time searching musty old bookshops as he built his collection of what sounds like 1000s of books. This reminded me of how much I used to love doing the same, though on very much more modest scale. I particularly like the fact that he and I must have scoured the same book shop in Aylesbury. Obviously it's no longer there, which is a shame because being whisked away into lost and dusty worlds by the smell of a book that hasn't been opened for the last 50 years is a wonderful experience.

Call me sentimental, but there's nothing that fires my imagination more than opening a book, a world, that's been shut for decades. It's a world that puts me, as far as I am concerned, directly in touch with the ghost of the previous owner.

Welcome to IAAY number six!

This week it's all about British writer Stephan J Myers, whose website supporting his debut novel, Loss De Plott, shows how to break down the barriers most of us - including myself, live behind. 

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments section or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Stephan J Myers
It’s all about Carlos Ruiz Zafon

‘that blessed state of ignorance which made us believe we were worthy of 
a special state of grace: because we had no past we felt we had nothing to fear from the future’

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Midnight Palace.

Today presented as something of a milestone for me. This marked by the arrival of UPS and the first colour copies of Loss De Plott. The latter representing my inaugural foray into the wistful world of literary design that shadows the rather quirky and somewhat beguiling Loss. It may be that you are following her on Twitter and having come to know the words and images that complement her tale have in part garnered an insight into her character.

Whilst I have truly enjoyed bringing her to life the journey has hardly been devoid of angst. Each challenge met and in turn laid to rest, yet it is the last of these that proves most irksome. For though Loss is light on word count her tale is undoubtedly informed by the quandaries life has seen fit to present me with in recent years. A truly humbling experience which has seen me run the gamut of emotions. Each coming unbidden as the Machiavellian plot driving continuing economic turmoil unfolds; with notables such as ‘Fred The Shred’ and other ‘fat cats’ lingering as sordid reminders that trust might be as easily bartered as 
common coin by those without conscience. 

How then to impart the subtlety of the message imbued in this tale of Loss whilst rallying the thoughts of those that care for kin and country A dilemma indeed but for the words of Zafon and a wonderful read entitled The Midnight Palace, but no less than the quote with which I began this discourse. For that special state of grace to which Zafon eludes is surely within the grasp of all.

It’s All About Me
For my own part I am minded that beyond those halcyon days of youth a magic lingers still. Cast not by a sorcerer’s hand, but born of expectations untainted by the realities of life. Such magic imbuing each with sense of self and the enduring belief we might a difference make.

As I write, I look to the world about. Not yet blinkered to the wonders that abound but seeing well the shadows we have cast upon this Eden; a timely portent that in the absence of care all things might find their end. Such thoughts undoubtedly influencing my tale of Loss, each character a parody of some you may have come to know; some you might studiously avoid!

Be you young or young at heart it matters not. This tale I wrote for you. That you may look to the past and a future yet unwritten for yours is the legacy upon which both might be well founded!

My thanks to Carlos Ruiz Zafon for the best of words and no less Mick for his kind invitation to make a contribution to ‘It’s All About You’.

You can contact Stephan J Myers at any of the following:
  • www.LossDePlott.com
  • Twitter: @stephanjmyers 
  • https://www.createspace.com/3923926

1. The Darkness Beneath - Free Copy
2. It's All About You
3. It's All About Writing 

The Darkness Beneath: Sex, Death and Trains, all Yours For Nothing (still!)*

You can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only (yes, only...) the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy. *Terms and Conditions apply.

It Is All About You!
We had a cracking IAAY from guitarist/Composer Simon Imagin who talked about how JS Bach has influenced his work. I'm also fortunate enough to have been introduced to Bach at an early age, not sure how early but probably before reaching double figures. Next week's IAAY is all about writer Stephan J Myers.

It's All About Writing
Constructing and De-constructing: Digging Into Your Writing
One of the things that I learnt from hearing Bach was to listen to the elements that made up a piece. Not every single note, my brain was far the scatter-gun for that, but a few bars here and there. 

After mastering the art of only listening to one instrument or phrase at a time (on a record player!), I was able to see how Bach twisted and twined and bounced melodies off each other. This showed me how they were related (two sides of one coin), and how combining different melodies etc produced something that was more beautiful and often very different to how they sounded and felt on their own.

Another thing I used to do as a child was, when on a train, stare out the window (and don't tell me you're a writer and then say you never do that!) and imagine I was watching a motorcyle (ridden by myself of course) bouncing along  out there as we hurtled through the English countryside.

Of course, at speed and with a limited viewpoint, I couldn't always see what was coming, so I'd frequently find my ghost rider ploughing into trees and bushes, disappearing down holes and crashing into bridges. 

What I'd then do, to keep the continuity of the ride going, was to dial the story back a little and build the new elements into it, along with how I would have dealt with them had I seen them coming. In other words, I was editing the story.

Write, Edit; Re-write, Re-edit
Which brings me to editing and re-writing. As you already know, writing is really all about re-writing - which is something that not everyone likes or wants to do. I can't say I want to do too much of it, but I know that I have to, especially as I'm a self-publisher: no one else is going to do it for me. 

That said, I do have a number of readers (and my thanks to you all for your invaluable and free help) who pick up on all sorts of errors (grammar, spelling, plot...) but they only usually get to see what I intend to be the last or 2nd to last draft. Which means I have to scratch my way through all the mess I leave behind as I plough through the story the first four or five times.

Although I'd rather do less of this, I think my musical and motorbike experiences taught me the value of picking things apart and putting them back together again. A lesson that's been very valuable and certainly makes the task of re-writing and editing something I've actually come to enjoy. 

Like many writers I see writing as sculpting: you produce a thicket of words and ideas that you have to cut and trim until all that is left is all that is needed to tell the story.

Welcome to IAAY number five!

This week it's all about Australian composer and guitarist Simon Imagin, whose skills at both have to be heard to be believed - fortunately you can do that by following the links below. And if you happen to find yourself in Melbourne, make sure you get to see him live - I know I will.

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Simon Imagin
It’s all about JS Bach
JS Bach's music has been a huge inspiration for me as a composer, musician and person. 

I first discovered Bach as a teenager studying classical piano. I had no time for the pomp and circumstance of the classical world - I just needed to know how people like Bach accessed the music which seemed to flow through them in rivers of intertwining melodies. 

Music filled my head but seemed stuck there for the time.

I was learning Bach's 2 & 3-Part Inventions and was comparing various recordings to show me different approaches. Most were performed efficiently but said very little to me. Then I heard Glenn Gould's versions.

Not only did he have a total technique and understanding of the music, but this eccentric Canadian was allowing the music to take him over. Everything was coming out of the moment that both Bach and Gould had found themselves in.

Gould's 1981 recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations is the one I visit the most. Amazingly a film was made of it.

It’s All About Me
Now, although I am not anywhere near either man in skill, as a composer I had a small Bach/Gould experience in 2009 when I experimented with writing music in one sitting - virtually slow-motion improvisation. Bach often gives me the feeling where he is just as interested where the piece will lead as any listener so I decided to follow my inner ear with an open mind and see what I could come up with.

I started by inventing a short and simple melodic fragment that lasted a bar or two - just a few notes that suggested a rhythm. I wrote out the logical extension of that line until I had a nice musical statement that went for 4, 6 or perhaps 8 bars. Next I added a supportive bass melody and maybe a third inner line. If anything didn't quite sound right I erased and rewrote but I was always moving forwards and working steadily one bar at a time and not letting my attention wander too far.

When I found that I had a cohesive chunk of music (or "A part") I continued with writing a complementary (or completely different) "B" and "C" part using the same procedure. I also came up with an intro and outro to bookend the piece. The process wasn't far from that 'kindergarten feeling' of making something with the objects at hand. At the end of the session I had a two page composition and left it on the table. The next day I played through it and was amazed at it's originality. 

How did I write that? 

Not allowing myself to feel too smug I wrote 'piece two' and each night or so I added another until I had completed 36 complex pieces in the space of 60 days. Some nights I felt more tired but that seemed to help the music to come out more easily as I wasn't questioning the process. With a few small revisions these were arranged into six suites of six pieces each and they now form the bulk of my setlist. It amazes me how many simple moments added together can lead to such richness.

The notes are out there for us all I believe and we can catch them in our butterfly nets if we keep an open ear and are patient. Here are simple run-throughs of pieces 2 and 20.

You can contact Simone via his email address: simonimagin at gmail dot com

1. The Darkness Beneath - Free Copy
2. It's All About You
3. Writer's Blues

The Darkness Beneath: Sex, Death and Trains, all Yours For Nothing (still!)*

You can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy. *Terms and Conditions apply.

It Is All About You!
We had a cracking IAAY from Russ King who has, among other things, managed to turn his experience of working from home into a novel. Given that I've been working from home for 6.5 years now, maybe I should take a leaf or two out of his book.

As A Writer...
I'm fascinated by the process of writing, both mine and other people's, and just how much of that is a learning experience. I recently started re-drafting my second book, The Girl Who Dreamt of Water, and was shocked to find how badly written the first few pages were. Actually forget that: how about the first few lines? 

I was not only shocked by how poor some of the sentence structure was, but also how I'd just not written what I intended to write. OK, I nearly wrote what was intended, but it was a long way from what I can now see I should have written.

The question is, how could this have happened and how can I avoid it in the future? I'd be fascinated to know how other writers deal with this sort of thing and how you feel when you think you've finished something, only to go back later and find it needs a lot of re-writing.

For example, how do you deal with finding out that you've deluded yourself into believing what you wrote was good? It stopped me in my tracks and for a while I was at a loss to understand what had happened. I even wondered if someone had been tampering with my MS (about 99% impossible), so it must be my fault (of course it is!). I've managed to get over that now and have started a massive re-edit. It's annoying and frustrating, but in terms of meaning, it's a cold hard lesson that I won't forget.

And as I'm currently an indie-author, it's a lesson I, and we, all have to accept. There's far too many stories in the press about poor quality work from indie-authors.This isn't because we're lazy or inherently rubbish, but because we don't have the resources traditional publishers have. By that I mean the people who scour our MS's to weed out all the bad grammar and plotting errors etc: an independent pair of eyes can see farther than our own.

Instead we have to makes ourselves work ten times harder on the writing and editing whilst accepting that what we do is worth less than the price a cup of coffee. And if that isn't the best motivational poster you've ever seen for being a writer, I don't know what is.

Welcome to IAAY number four!

This week it's all about British writer Russ King who's been known to double up as a pirate and/or Batman in North Somerset. He also works from home.

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Russ King
It’s all about Roald Dahl

Just to be different I’m going to ignore the obvious effect Roald Dahl’s children’s fiction had on my imagination and love of books as a child. Today I want to tell you about the legendary diaries of Oswald Hendryks Cornelius, ‘the greatest bounder, bon vivant and fornicator of all time’.

Dahl’s fiction for children featured fantastically nasty villains that you couldn’t wait to reach a spectacularly sticky end, but in Uncle Oswald we have a flamboyant, reckless and bad character that you somehow can’t help liking.

This dastardly seducer first appears in Dahl’s short stories but he gets a whole book in My Uncle Oswald and it is the most ridiculous, rude and funny romp you will ever read. It centres on the discovery of the ‘invigorating properties’ of the Sudanese Blister Beetle that makes Viagra look impotent. In partnership with the stunning Yasmin Howcomely he uses his potent sex potion to steal the most unusual and profitable substances ever.

We see Dahl’s compelling sense of mischief in a sexual context and the true skill of the book is that while it covers uncontrollable sexual urges it is never explicit or vulgar. Well, you might disagree with the vulgar claim, but the charm of the story telling far outstrips any possible feeling of shock.

There’s loads of info about Roald Dahl’s varied repertoire at: www.roalddahl.com

It’s All About Me

I've been writing for a living in some form or other for about 15 years now and that included working on social networks before MySpace and Facebook appeared on the scene. I’ve had three books published the most recent is almost still warm off the press - a romantic comedy - Working from home: Mixing with pleasure? - available as an eBook in all formats.

Being an indie author is both empowering and sobering as the competition to get people buy your book is immense. My latest ruse is T-shirts printed with a sales pitch for the book. This is great fun as strangers start talking to you when you least expect it. This can be quite surreal when you’re in the supermarket with two young children!

Oh yes, I am now a stay at home dad looking after our four and three year old kids, mixing with those yummy mummies and writing in spare time and evenings. The TV doesn’t get much of a look in these days…

So is Working from home inspired by My Uncle Oswald? Not directly. One aim was to give people an insight into what it is like to work for yourself; having breakfast meetings with strangers and getting clients via Facebook and Twitter.

The other aim was to make people laugh out loud while reading it. Not a wry smile, a little snigger, but a proper laugh that really annoys everyone else around you. From the reviews so far it seems I have succeeded and I have to thank Mr Dahl for the inspiration.

You can find out more about Russ's writing at: 

Welcome to IAAY number three!

This time it's all about US writer, Tonya Cannariato, who is a web project manager by day but spends the rest of her life devoted to reading, writing, reviewing and blogging about all three. She also hails from Wisconsin, though I believe she's yet to meet last week's IAAY contributor Rebecca Venn.

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Tonya Cannariato
It's All About Gayla Drummond
Two Katarr Kanticles Press Books
I'll admit off the bat that I have some stake in this review: I was given the privilege of beta reading the book, and then editing it. And its author runs the publishing house that published my book. We have a great professional relationship; part of the reason for that is her hard-nosed, results-oriented approach to running a writing-based business.

Gayla Drummond also has a heckuvan imagination that has allowed her to dream up interesting aliens (her Katarr and Werens) as well as purely human interactions (either sci-fi, like in Code Walker or romance, in some of her unpublished work). The book I'm focusing on today, Arcane Solutions, is the first in the Discord Jones series and is her latest release. I can't classify it as purely human, since there are shifters, elves, and other magic wielders in the story, but the protagonist is a human woman who wakes up three years after the Y2K experience to discover the world has experienced a "melding" that has allowed anything magic-related to become real. And she, herself, is saddled with a whole new set of psi talents.

Cordi, as she likes her friends to call her, emerged to Drummond and began her documented existence as part of NaNoWriMo 2009. There's every likelihood that the series will continue for another 8 books (9 total), and the first installment weighs in at a meaty 70K words, so there's a lot to learn about the world. The way Drummond sprinkles all the research she has poured into its creation throughout her tale is an object lesson for other world-builders: small bites flesh out key scenes but don't distract from the banter all her characters maintain to carry the story forward.

"Sure." She pulled out a map of Santo Trueno before reaching a hand behind her neck to unhook the gold chain her locator crystal hung upon. Handing her the photo, I dropped into a chair to watch. Dangling the crystal over the map, Kate gazed at the photo, her green eyes going vague. Her lips barely moved as she formed a silent request to her chosen goddess for guidance.

I don't pretend to understand magic or to believe in any pantheon of gods, but it works for some people. Kate and the others of her coven are some for whom it works really well. They’d all chosen Aztec gods, so I couldn’t pronounce half the names. Our city, Santo Trueno, is allegedly named after the Aztec god of thunder, so their choices seemed appropriate to me.

For fans who want just a little more, she's set up a series website where they can find some of the back story, too. Her main character is also on Twitter, though I suspect her fans are chasing her off that venue to encourage her to write more.

She's been racking up some pretty decent reviews for the book on Smashwords too, so while I may have my own personal inclination bias, there are others who find this variation on paranormal romance right up their alley as well. The book is also available from Amazon where there's another nice review.

It's All About Me
Part of what makes me a Drummond fan on a personal level is that she chose to accept my story idea, and has been shepherding me along the new-author path in ways at once firm and gentle. I dreamed up Dust to Blood in the fall of 2009, not long after I first met her on Twitter. I typed up a precis and emailed it to her, then sat on my hands for a day hoping I wasn't being intrusive, naive, or somehow inappropriate. Her enthusiastic response saddled me with a different kind of inertia. The last time (first time!) I had written to book length was my college honor's thesis, and it had been like pulling teeth and drawing blood--or whatever other horrible medical procedure that makes you break out in a cold sweat.

I finally overcame my internal roadblocks and committed to writing the story during the 2010 NaNoWriMo. What came out is something of a genre-bending mix of fantasy, mystery, action, and romance, speculating on the reason the Communists maintained power for so long when they did so much to disempower their population. The theory my story outlined was that they had trapped their land's magical beasts and were siphoning that power into their systems.

My protagonist is a researcher, visiting Moscow for the first time in the fall of 1992. Her assignment is to find the history of a small group of amnesiacs who share an unusual physical characteristic: Dust as blood.

On top of which, some crazy twist of fate has seated me next to a woman whose name is only one letter removed from mine. It’s a coincidence Ann noticed as we were sorting out boarding passes and carry-on bags. I’ve always thought my parents just ran out of creativity after the initial effort of gestation, so plonked an “e” at the end of a common name for their naming effort. The oddity of meeting someone whose family name is as similar (she’s a Cosby while I’m a Crosby) almost guarantees other comparisons. For my own peace of mind, I’m glad to see she’s my opposite both in looks—she’s much shorter than my own 5’4” and about as wide as she is tall, with blond hair and blue eyes—as well as beliefs—she’s traveling with her church’s youth group as something of a mentor/adviser, as they make a tour of holy sites in exotic places.

For myself, I’ve never been much more than agnostic. I acknowledge the existence of mysteries and a force outside myself, but have never been much on organizations and their doctrines. This is another reason for suspicion: my boss is a real conspiracy nut, so it would be no skin off his nose to manufacture a case that forces me to delve deeper into pseudo-history and related apocrypha. In fact, he would have reams of research for me to read proving that there’s no such thing even as the “coincidence” of sitting next to a virtual name double.

I had a lot of fun pulling up research on interesting locales throughout Russia, as well as Russian military hardware and common Russian phrases in the course of my writing frenzy, and am currently in the process of (procrastinating) writing the second in the series. I hope to release it by Christmas, and the third and final installment next April.

The book is available at Amazon and Smashwords, as well as being listed on Goodreads.

You can find Tonya at all of the following:

1. The Darkness Beneath - Free Copy
2. It's All About You

The Darkness Beneath: Sex, Death and Trains, all Yours For Nothing (still!)*

You can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy. *Terms and Conditions apply. 

It Is All About You!
Who me? No, you! IAAY is going from strength to strength in terms of responses, visitors and new participants. Rebecca Venn's contribution topped out at about 800 visitors in less than five whole days, which is excellent. Well done Rebecca! 

Both Rebecca and Maureen's stories have proved to be excellent examples to others and I've now got at least the next four weeks booked up. But there's plenty more room inside for you to talk about your creative inspiration, so get in touch and let's get you jammed into space too.

Next week's edition will, as it's the 4th July, feature another American (they've taken over the world, now they're taking over my blog...) in the form of writer Tonya Cannariato. And in the week or so after that we will have guitarist extraordinaire Simon Imagin, from Melbourne, Australia.

This week I will be mostly in the UK, all week in fact. Mainly in the office, the rest will be sleeping, though I'm hoping to slip in a visit to my sons, a few friends and the Tate Modern. I may have to reverse time to get some of this in. And to do that I have to stop writing this blog and start cranking Big Ben backwards now!

Welcome to IAAY number two! This time it's all about Rebecca Venn, who is a superb water-colourist and pencil-wielder. She's had many exhibitions and her work is one of the main attractions in fine art collections around the USA and Europe. 

Rebecca gained her BA in Art from Brescia College in Owensboro, Kentucky. That said, she considers herself self-educated rather than self-taught as she has searched out artists whose work she admired and studied under them. 

Ultimately she taught Life Studio at UW Parkside, and a variety of workshops at the Charles A. Wustum Museum in Racine, Wisconsin and The Clearing in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin.

IAAY is published every Wednesday (yes, all of them), so there's plenty of time for you to join in too! Contact me via the comments or via Twitter: @mickdavidson.

It's All About Rebecca Venn
It's All About Elizabeth Sparhawk Jones
Deciding on one artist that has influenced or inspired me is a daunting task. I think I have, without realizing it, been affected on many levels walking through the Chicago Art Institute and seeing vision after vision that crept into my dreams at night and no doubt appear on the tip of my paintbrush in the morning. And so many are men. I love many of them and it is easy to choose one, so I do not. I choose Elizabeth Sparhawk Jones.  

She was a surprise for me. Seeing her stunning painting one day entitled “The Shoe Shop”. I wanted to know more. In it you can hear the rustle of the skirts and marvel at the crisp white blouses that are a uniform and sensual attire at the same time. And those brush strokes make me marvel.

When she was at her peak she won a prestigious award that she was to collect in Europe but her strict parents would not allow it. Gradually she sank into mental illness. After many years she reappeared and became successful once again. Her work was never the same though. It is as if her spirit, once shattered, is now viewed through the lines glued together, distorted, holding the vessel of her talent together, but not the same.

I choose her and her magnificent artwork as inspiration when days are hard. It is her determination, her brilliance, her fragility  and her talent that I admire. I am not fond of her last work, but this earlier work was so very beautiful. In a time when success was hard for a woman she shown like a star, unable to be ignored.

It's All About Me
This painting is titled “Swimmer I”. It is a watercolor measuring 17” x47”. Originally it was a movie that inspired it. The move was an HBO film titled “Angels In America”. At the end of the film the actor tells the story of the Fountain of Bethesda. I loved the idea of the healing aspect of that story with the water washing over the person and transforming them to wellness, spiritual and physical.

When this artwork was exhibited, many people would call it “the Swimmer” so I renamed it. The original inspiration is personal and viewers bring their own stories and I love that. It is probably why I leave an unfinished quality to a lot of my work so that the viewer can have room to experience their own visions.

This subject of water and the human form is a passion for me. We are a large percentage water and I find that I tend to return often to watercolor and the human form. It is the risk of watercolor that excites me. It makes me crazy and happy at the same time. It is like life. Risky and joyous. It is flux. It is flow. It is sensuous.

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