First of all, Paul Wells is incredible. More so than that web page is letting on. He’s creative, smart, articulate, multi-talented, has a has a hybridizing mind, and is a terrific facilitator. If you ever have a chance to take a class with him or hear him speak, DO. Okay, got that over with!
The faculty at the Animation Institute are Rose Bond, Suzanne Buchan, Paul Vester, and Paul Wells. I’m in Paul Wells’ ‘stream’, but the streams come together at lunchtime and for a late afternoon session.
I’m taking this class to open up possibilities for different types of work to come together. I’ve been a visual artist since forever. Well, officially since 1986 when I graduated from art school and started showing. Then I got into the digital realm in about 1999, starting very slowly, and gradually building skills to the point where I now run my own web design company. Then a few years ago I suddenly and unexpectedly started writing fiction. (Yeah those are adverbs. Whatcha gonna do about it?) A novel sort of fell out of me and I’ve been cleaning it up ever since. I hope to have it presentable enough by the end of this year that I can start exploring ways to send it out into the world.
Event Horizon, Julia Stoops, 2007
But these things I do: 1. visual art (mostly painting), 2. website design (with a little bit of client-commissioned animation) and 3. fiction writing (mostly a novel) have not come together. They have informed each other, definitely. Each discipline enriches the others. But I still pursue the disciplines separately. The formal and technical concerns of each discipline are demanding enough that once I’m engaged in one, it’s all I think about. Shifting gears into another discipline is hard, and is a cause for anxiety. My ‘painting brain’ does not want to think about usability and information architecture. My ‘website brain’ isn’t clued in to character development. My ‘writing brain’ never considers revealing mysterious shapes within layers of translucent color.
And why not? As soon as I wrote this, I thought, wow, that’s interesting. But when I’m in the middle of the making, the medium-specific questions I ask are already so requiring, that others get crowded out.
Why? Several reasons. Firstly because the digital and fiction writing practices are relatively new to me. I’m still looking for a level of facility that lets me step back from worrying about ‘getting it right’, into a place where I can truly play. Craft is still an issue with fiction writing and digital work, in a way that it’s not with painting. Not that I’m the world’s most facile painter, but compared with the other two disciplines, I started younger and I’ve been doing it longer. There’s a level of comfort and familiarity in painting that isn’t there yet in the other disciplines. Not to imply all my paintings come easily: they don’t. But when they don’t it’s okay. Painting does not generate the kind of anxieties I experience with fiction and digital.
Secondly, for the last few years I have also been preoccupied with a fourth thing: running a business. With no background in business, and no role models among family or friends, learning how to create and manage a business is a steep learning curve. One that’s charged with the excitement of charting ones own course, (Yeah, a cliche. Whatcha gonna do about it?) but is also labor intensive.
And my ‘business brain’ claims to be far too busy dealing with demanding practicalities to spend quality time playing with color, character, and other things that it says will have to wait. The books have to be balanced. The seminars have to be listened to. The client follow-up is intense. The options have to be weighed. The business plan must be reviewed. The router needs rebooting. The subcontractors must receive explicit instructions. And so on.
So it’s in this context, during this week-long space that I was able to carve out of my daily web design studio routine, that I am exceedingly grateful to be taking ‘Devising Narrative Structures: Script and Storyboard’ with Paul Wells, during Boundary Crossings: An Institute in Animated Arts at PNCA.