Sunday, August 19, 2018

Not my usual subject matter

This sketch is not my usual subject matter. As a matter of fact I don't think there's another unicorn in my entire artistic history. The reason for that is because I did this one before I had discovered myself, so to speak. This was done when I was seventeen (or so) as part of a high school project. My teacher (Mrs. Wilson) wanted us to learn about lithography printing. Litho printing is usually done with a stone but she gave us a treated paper to draw on. I didn't especially like the project and to make it worse those special treated papers (we were to use as printing plates) were fragile and would only make one or maybe two images at best. The result (for me) was hideous. My print was nothing like my drawing., so you see, this is neither my drawing for that project or the print I awkwardly produced. It is my initial drawing I made for the project... The one in my sketchbook.  As for the litho print and the plate... I destroyed it as soon as I got it back from the teacher. The drawing style is somewhat reminiscent of what it would come to be but the composition is... not so good. Sawblade mountains, and an awkward foggy thing making a fingery point toward the animals head. All so high school...  Art is a growing process and the newest art should be the best yet. This drawing has problems and was finished a very long time ago. That very same year I won a contest to design the poster for the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra's next concert. I was all so excited. Thank goodness I didn't have to draw any unicorns on it.
Looking at this drawing for what it was (what I was) not what I became makes it more palatable... like writing. The newest is supposed to be the best yet, and I think my new book (which I'm currently writing) is the best one I've ever written. It has suspense, intregue, a priceless treasure, lots of puzzles for the reader (and the hero) to decipher, and of course one of those inexplicable love triangles... But, until it's published check out my books "The Secret King and Poetry of Praise" and "Spies Lie and Spies Die." on Amazon and Goodreads.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Basic Materials

Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.
Willa Cather – Pulitzer Prize for writing ‘One of Ours.’

Here I am at age eleven soaking up a little nature in my front yard. (Doesn't most eleven year old boys wear dressy casual clothes to play in... NOT.  lol)  Oh my, look at that hair... You have to love that flat top hair cut. I was never tall... I guess I come by that naturally as my father was only 5'6" and my grandfather was only about 5'3".  I don't know for sure but I've been told that my great grandfather was only about 5'2". I was anything but gangly... thin but not tall, and I was a handful. I should have been in the sixth grade.  (The account of my life I'm telling here is not something I usually talk about... I just felt like sharing today.) When I was in the third grade I would do unconventional stuff on purpose. I would write a required school assignment, a whole paper and after I finished it I would go back and take out all the punctuation and capitalization. It would look like one long sentence. Doing things like that didn't make me popular with the teacher. Then there were the students too. I was kinda different. I didn't fit in with their crowd. I had a few friends but they were as strange as I was. Most the kids didn't like them much either. My only friend who was what I would call cool was my life long neighbor girl, Karla. We were always best friends (and even though we rarely see each other any more I hope we always will be.) Truthfully, I was too different even for her crowd. Anyway I regress, my teacher thought that I was mentally retarded and told my parents not to expect me to go to college or anything like that (and here I am with an advanced degree and certifications.) I know that "mentally retarded" is not a term used in proper, politically correct, circles, but it was the early 1960s and that was the word used back then. The crux of my story is that my teacher convinced my parents to have me tested and prove her theory to be right. She arranged for an IQ test. Mother and I faithfully showed up for the test and I took it. I remember thinking how dumb of a test it was. When the results came back the teacher was furious. My teacher said that I had cheated or something... My score was 130. She never took responsibility for how bored I was in class, her inadequate teaching , and not challenging me to do better. She told my parents that I wasn't socially prepared to go into the fourth grade (really... like I ever would be). Well, I was held back a year anyway. It didn't help... I didn't fit into the social class of that group any better than I did the previous class, and now I carried the stigma that I had something wrong with me. I believed that there was a reason I didn't fit in... and it was me... All my fault... and I can't be fixed. No one told me until much later (many years in fact) what a score of 130 on that test meant. Then the pieces started falling into place, however, It still meant that I was.... different.  Even now, if the topic of IQ ever comes up in a conversation and someone tells me they have an IQ of say 120... I reply, "Oh... me too." and let it go. Social adjustment is more important than vanity. 
As for High School:
I went through school not caring to make terrific grades. I could make it through every class without taking notes. (My parents were just thankful that I passed... after all the school system had told them that I was maladjusted.)  Over the years I did get asked by several students if I would write their required writing assignments for them... (not that I would ever do that of course) and unlike my classmates I could understand Shakespeare's old (almost biblical) writing. Then there was the art. The cheerleaders were always making signs for one thing or another and it became a common thing for them to ask for my help in drawing letters.  Now, that was cool.  My favorite classes were art and world lit. You may ask how I learned to get along with others... I learned to keep my mouth shut and only give my ideas when they were asked for. Still (even with my new philosophy) for the most part my school years were awkward and unrewarding... or so I thought. Now as I look back I think that all my life's experiences has made me more empathetic. This, I think, translates to into being a better writer.    

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Life with Father (and Mother)

Okay the folks you see here are... Mom and Pop Spencer with little Dan-Dwayne. I couldn't have been but maybe 18 months old here. But, this blog post is really not about me... it is about Mom and Pop. My father was a mechanic, and I believe that he was the first of his immediate family to go to college. After WWII he took his GI bill and went to Paris Junior College where he studied auto mechanics. They say that reading is essential to being a good writer... Well, Mom bought me book on all kinds of nonfiction subjects. That's the reason today my head is full of useless information, however, I can't remember one time that my mother or father read me a story (bedtime or other wise.) I do remember my father reading a lot. He read his manuals and kept up with the latest on automatic transmissions, He also read his bible faithfully every night. (He was no saint by today's standards... I remember him cursing the house blue, but frankly I 'personally' have issues with todays overtly critical expectations of Christian behavior. But, that is a blog for another time.) My mother would tell me stories... not read them. They were events that happened in their lifetime that were rather remarkable. Like the story about living in a Railroad boxcar when they couldn't find or afford anything else. Then there was the time they once lived in a chicken coup when they went traveling picking cotton (migrant workers.) As you might have guessed my family was... poor. That all changed when my Dad became a certified mechanic. They actually started living the American dream. Did I know much about their hardships?... No, only the stories my mother told me. You see, when I came along Dad was already working at a garage. Soon he even started his own business (Spencer's Garage) and that was even better than working for someone else. As a young man I had to decide what my career was to be. I decided to get a BFA in Fine Art. My Dad hit the roof. He told me that I would starve. That was a bad career choice. I should go into medicine or law. (I would have made lots more money in either of those fields... for sure.) With my BFA and a teaching certification I ended up working in advertising, printing, television, and even taught school for 24 years. I have to say that from time to time things have been hard, but God has blessed me to be able to make a living at the one thing that was my passion. When I retired from teaching I decided it was time to reinvent myself and because my sister and my wife insisted that I publish some of my stories - I did. Now I have two books on Amazon and Goodreads with a Novel hitting the market by Christmas. (Writing was always my avocation while art was my vocation.)  When my kids were little I read them stories that I had written... then later I started writing short stories and novellas. I'm exceptionally excited about the adventure story I am currently working on. Check out my books I'm sure you'll like them.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Art can be made of the simplest things.

Title: Shirt on Easel
Media: White Pencil on Black Paper
Artist: Dan-Dwayne Spencer

This drawing is a reminder that art can be made from the simplest things.  I had finished painting for the day and hung my painting shirt on the end of the easel I was using. (I have several.)  When I looked up, I felt challenged. The shirt was white and the only good drawing paper I had at the time was black. So, in the spirit of competition I set off to make the shirt look somewhat like a white shirt. The light was strong and the shadows were dark and deep. Much of the white shirt looked grey in the little side light I was using. When it was finished I knew it looked more like a grey shirt hanging on an easel than a white one. Oh well, I thought I was trying to be so faithful to record what I was seeing. When I compared my drawing to the shirt... I found that I had indeed made the contrast a bit higher than the original (hanging on the easel) and the drawing looked more like a white shirt on an easel than the shirt before me. I suppose that comes from having a mindset while I'm attempting a project. It will (at least a little bit) resemble the image in my mind rather than the one I see before me. 
I think when I'm writing I do that with my characters too (and maybe that's a good thing.) I see and hear them in my head in a certain way. It's like they are a people and I'm trying to imitate them as I write. I only hope that I translate their uniqueness to the page. Anyway, I was reading a part of my new (soon to be released) novel to my sister and she stopped me and ask me if something was true about my female lead character. I was shocked because that is exactly how I was seeing her in my head.  It made me feel like I had succeeded in giving her more than a name and occupation. She was more to my sister than the words I had written. She had heard (since I was reading) between the lines and given the character more of the intended personality and physicality than I had completely described. She had picked up on my innuendos... my inferences. You should read one of my stories for yourself. There are 9 short stories in my latest publication "Spies Lie and Spies Die" and I'm sure you will like them. Remember they are all adventitious mystery stories. Some are even a little eerie. Hummm… How would I describe my more spooky tales? I'd describe them as Twilight Zone meets Agatha Christie. Well maybe... 

Monday, August 6, 2018

How important is a name?

As a writer I go through dozens and dozens of name choices for my characters. I what the right name for the right character... it must relate to the character's personality. Then there are the cars that they drive. Do you think it was by chance that Helen (and her son Blair) who were running from the thugs in my story "A Deal of a Lifetime" was driving a Ford Escape. Not an accident. The name of the car that the character drives has something to do either with the personality or the situation the character is involved in. Then there is my story "The Gaslight Gallery Mystery" the Native American, Detective Navarre, drives a Jeep Grand Cherokee. If you haven't noticed this then reread my stories and see for yourself.

I also think that names of people are important. Would John Wayne have been as popular if he had not changed his name. His first name was Marion. Then there was Lubbock's favorite son... Buddy Holly. His real name was Charles. Not nearly as 50's cool as Buddy.