Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stop motion photography

How's this for a little thinking outside the box...and off the desk...and down the stairs?

Great blogs on visual inspiration

A couple of fabulous blog entries on visual inspiration...

From Ali Edwards:

So much of creativity is about how you see things; and more often than not how you allow yourself to be open to seeing things in new ways.

It's been my experience that many of us tend to pass by things in our surroundings with a nonchalant "this doesn't apply to me" thought as we rush on to the next thing on our list. We move too quickly to whatever is next: the next image, the next page, the next person, the next job, the next thought, without really looking or giving something the chance to inspire us.

Today I challenge you to take a closer look at something you initially pass by. Slow down. Do a double-take. Take a deep breath. Let yourself be inspired by something you would normally skip. This could be an image online or a conversation or a new person or something you read in the newspaper.

There are so many gems hidden in our world if we just slow down enough to experience them.

And from aspiring author Anna Claire Vollers:

Today's the birthday of my home state's most famous author, Harper Lee, born in 1926 in Monroeville. Nearly everyone here who loves literature thinks she's a goddess, maybe even more so because she's published just one book and avoids national attention like the plague.

So it's fitting I post pictures today of my muse house. See, I'm deep into plotting my next novel, a post-WWI Southern Gothic tale. My genius sister has been the best sounding board I could have asked for, offering advice as I work through characters and plot kinks. And, as a bonus, she's getting her master's degree in historic preservation in one of the most quintessentially Southern cities in the country, so she's a wealth of knowledge on Southern architecture and the way it influences culture.

This is a bonus because of the house.

It's me writing this book, so you knew there'd be a big, creepy, dilapidated house, right?

She sent me a link to an antebellum mansion in west Alabama called Rosemount Plantation. I looked at the photos and fell in love:

[Click to read more.]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ork Posters - Chicago

I can't get over how fabulous these posters are, especially the Chicago screen print...

Anne Sage on Creating Inspiration Boards

From my personal blog . . . 

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Inspiration boards are an incredibly effective tool for communicating the look and feel of a project. I create inspiration boards every chance I get, whether I'm planning a party, redecorating a room in my house, or just fantasizing about my favourite color combination du jour. This is the first board I've every composed based on work of literature, and it proved to be every bit as fun as I thought it would be! The process for making inspiration boards can be as flexible as you like, but here are some tips I've learned the hard way!

1. Create an Image Library. It's much easier to construct a board by picking and choosing from amongst images that you already have on your computer, rather than by searching the internet one image at a time. I organize images on my hard drive using a program called Yojimbo; it allows me to drag and drop straight from my web browser window, and it saves the source URL of the image. Photographers' and artists' management websites are a terrific place to find a wealth of images; I likeCameralink and Art Department for fashion imagery, and Re:Fresh Agency or Sarah Kaye Represents for interiors and still life. As well, when I happen across an image that I love in a magazine, I not only scan it but I also take note of the photographer's name and check to see if he has an online portfolio. Feel free to explore the list of my favourite photographers in the sidebar of my blog.

2. Choose a starting point and set your guidelines. Putting together a board is quite an adventure; you never know exactly how it will end! But I always select one image as my foundation and refer back to it as I bring in other photos. This foundational image should capture all or most of the qualities that you'd like the finished board to have. In this instance, Chloe felt that the photo of three lounging women (second row, far left) perfectly summed up her vision of the novel's aesthetic. I let that image dictate the color palette (blacks and greys with blue undertones, punctuated by warm splashes of coral and red), its textural notes (lots of glossy finishes and fluid draperies), as well as its overall mood (a louche yet pensive opulence). As the board came together, I always referred back to that original photo and used that criteria of palette, texture and mood as my filter for selecting additional images.

3. Keep an open mind. As with any narrative, surprises often pop up as a board evolves. For example, no chandelier appears in the image I used as my starting point, but several others of the photos I loved happened to have striking baroque chandeliers. I pushed farther with that recurring device and brought in not only more chandeliers but also shimmering glassware to mirror a chandelier's reflective glow. The result? An unexpected complementary motif that enhances the luxurious tone of the board.

4. A Few Technical Details: I design my inspiration boards using InDesign, a publishing software in the Adobe Creative Suite. It takes a bit of getting used to but allows for great precision when cropping and aligning images. Another popular (free!) platform for making inspiration boards is Polyvore. It's fairly straightforward to use, and people are creating some amazing collages with it. Of course you can't go wrong with good old paper, scissors and glue! No matter how you create your board, be sure to take note of your sources--that way if you ever share your board in a public forum, you can give proper credit where credit is due.

This is the inspiration board created by Anne for SOME GIRLS BITE:

Workspaces . . .

Where do you write? Play? Craft? Style? These images of very clever offices have popped up various design blogs lately...

Source: Coveiter


I can't find the source, for this one, so feel free to comment if you know where it's from. I love the southern traditional feel.  Very feminine.  Maybe a bit too much for a long summer of writing?

Organized by color

I'm not sure why I find things organized by color to be so incredibly appealing, but there's something so soothing about it. I have too many books in series to organize them by color, but the icons on my 'puter dock are arranged by color, as are the icons on my iPhone.

Friday, April 24, 2009

All About the Visual

From my Knight Agency blog . . . 

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You've probably heard the classic adage: "Write what you know."
Problem is, writers aren't just writers. Writers who do any kind of world building are also architects, interior designers, fashion designers, psychologists, aestheticians, stylists, set designers, city planners, etc., etc. We have to know where the hero/heroine lives, works, plays. What they wear. What they drive. And most importantly, we have to figure out a way to translate all these things into words in order to create a seamless map of our world for readers. A map they can imagine. A map they can *see.*
One of the best ways for me to do that is to see the map on my own, to have my own visual understanding of the world I'm attempting to create. Thus, I'm thinking about an adjustment to the adage. Maybe something along the lines of "Write what you see."
For me, what I "see" comes in a couple of forms of visual inspiration: (1) images that serve as literal source material, or (2) images that serve as inspiration.
The first category includes those pictures that I know you've stuffed into a folder or binder (or saved on your computer desktop)--pictures of houses, cars, monsters, outfits, hairstyles and/or pretty boys with pretty blue eyes who would make an outstanding hero down the road. Maybe you took a photograph, maybe you printed them off the web, maybe you tore them out of magazines. Either way, these are the images a writer uses to facilitate description later on.
I consider myself to be a "visual" person, so I do a lot of visual sourcing. For example, when it came to creating the architecture of the CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES, I researched Chicago real estate, neighborhoods, architectural styles and historically important homes to figure out (1) where the vampires should live and (2) what kind of building they'd live in. There are some amazing resources out there. For the neighborhoods, you can't beat Wikipedia, which provides summaries and basic data about the the Windy City's 'hoods. In bigger cities, Google Maps offers "street view," which can give you a sense of, for example, what a character might see if they were standing on a particular corner.
For the architecture, the city of Chicago provides an entire catalog ofarchitectural landmarks online, and places like the Wheeler Mansion and Cheney Mansion have web sites with photo galleries. The web site of Chicago magazine has an outstanding "Deal Estate" section where they review luxury home sales and postings in the metro area. It was in searches like these that I found the model for Cadogan House, Kimball Mansion, which currently houses the U.S. Soccer Federation.
But what about stuff in the second category, which is a little squishier to define? These aren't just images you've stuffed into a folder, but images that serve as triggers for your writing. Images that send you to a different place, a different time, a different mindset. I'd propose that these kinds of images are JUST as important as source images. The can help you in world-building, especially when it comes to esoteric concerns (the "feel" of your world, the philosophy of your characters, the emotion of a particular scene), and they can serve as inspiration when the words are only trickling out, especially if you're a "visual" person like me.
Here are some ways to think about (and look for) both kinds of inspiration.
> Where you live
Thus far, I've lived in six cities. Nothing that I've written so far is set in those six cities, but that's not to say that parts of the cities don't make their way into the books. Even if you live in Podunkville, but want to set your manuscript in Excitotropolis, there may be discrete parts of P that could serve as appropriate visual sourcing for E. Think about (and take pictures of!):
- Architecturally interesting buildings, bridges, towers. Architecture from the WPA era, which often has tons of interesting detailing, might serve you particularly well here. And don't just think about the pretty buildings--think about the decaying ones, the peeling ones, the well-used ones.
- City parks, arboretums or trails
- Museums, mansions, birthplaces and historical sites: If you can tour it, there's probably a good chance the architecture is at least interesting.
- Public utilities. How about an old train station? A railroad depot?
- The thing that put your Podunkville on the map. Was it trains? Agriculture? Car production? Somebody famous was born there? If your Podunkville ever had a "thing," there's a good chance that there's some remnant of that "thing" around town. Trainyards. Stockyards. Manufacturing plants. Houses. Restaurants that were reviewed on a Food Network show. Check them out ( and, if the management approves) with camera in hand.
> Where you travel
Sure, it would be great if I could spend every weekend in Chicago. But that's just not feasible (which, in January and February, is probably a good thing). That also doesn't mean that "travel" has to include a road trip or plane flight to be inspirational. Pull out a map: What's within a couple hours' worth of driving? Any of the items listed above? Even if you can't spend a week solid in your "source" city, is there a building a couple of hours away that might be interesting to look at, and which might serve as inspiration for a bit of world-building down the road? How about a country road that might make for an interesting drive, and a setting for a Regency romance or countryside chase scene?
> Where you write
I'll admit it--I'm currently pre-move, so my "office" is the couch, laptop in hand. But once I'm settled in, I'm hoping I can fashion a space that's organized, clutter-free, and contains some nice bits of visual inspiration to keep the word count moving.
Or, maybe, where everything is organized by color. 'Cause that's just kinda fabulous.
Think about it this way: if artists and designers can have lovely, well-organized studios, why can't writers?
If you're looking for a bit of inspiration, Ali Edwards is a favorite of mine in terms of office organization. As a scrapbooker, she has lots of little supplies and bits here and there. But she's managed to create astreamlined office dotted with beautiful bits of design. Her typography print and inspiration bulletin board are particularly nice.
> The Internet
Now that the Interwebs put millions of facts at your fingertips, it's easier than ever to research, to browse, to become familiar with new people, new places, new things, new trends. In terms of the visual, you can peruse stock photographs check out headshots for heroes and heroines and shop for handmade prints and other design elements.
I've got a lengthy list of style mavens and designers whose work--whether in calligraphy or photography--I find particularly inspiring. But in case you need a design fix--a little visual inspiration to get you hooked into the best of Interweb style scouts--here are some lovelies: The City SageDesign*SpongeAbbey Goes Design Scouting,Bloomalicious,The SartorialistThe Style Files 
> Putting it all together 
- Inspiration Boards and the CONTEST!!!
Alright. So you've clipped, printed, downloaded or photographed a pile (or folder) of images. Now what?
Well, you have LOTS of options. Electronic source material can be organized in computer folders or by using photo software like iPhoto, and paper material can be arranged in gorgeous bindersaccordion filesfolios or presentation binders.
The problem is, if you're anything like me, you end up with LOTS of images stuffed in a folder that you completely forget about, however helpful they might be. If that's the way you work, I propose it's time to think about a different way of seeing. A different way of visualizing. And that's where we come to inspiration boards.
I was very fortunate to come across The City Sage one day during my Interweb travels. Anne blogs about gorgeous style and design, but she also creates electronic inspiration boards. Utilizing Adobe InDesign, Anne creates mosaic images intended to inspire--inspiration for color, style, emotion and theme.