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6527212 November 09, 2011

CALVET and Art: Isn't This What They Told Me About Jesus?

Okay, I realize this may be controversial for some folks; I may be struck down by the hand of God at any time today, but lately it's occurred to me that art provides many of the things that Jesus is supposed to give me ... redemption, purpose, love, meaning, joy, healing, etc.  Of course, I don't know that art can give eternal salvation, but I do know that it can save a soul.  It did just that for my friend, artist Jean Marc Calvet. 

I met Jean Marc a year or two ago through Monkdogz Urban Art (NYC).  We struck up a friendship after I interviewed him on Aberration Nation.  I later also interviewed Dominic Allan, the film director/producer, who was so taken by Jean Marc's story that he spent four or so years making a documentary about the artist's incredible life. 

This weekend, I finally saw the film, CALVET, in its entirety.  I knew a lot about it before hand.  What I didn't know was how deeply I would identify with certain aspects of Jean Marc's tale. 

We all have some sort of story; we have our own personal demons, although for some of us those demons are more terrifying than others.  The question I most often ask myself is how many of those demons were tossed at me, and how many did I conjure up myself.  And for those that I did create, how in God's name could I have avoided it? 

When I watched Jean Marc's story, and took in just how simultaneously tough and gentle he is, I could so clearly see how the circumstances of our lives turn us into monsters.  I wondered what makes a man look into the mirror and decide that he no longer wants to be monstrous, and if a true monster even has such thoughts.  Perhaps the true devils just keep on being monstrous until they finally drop dead and go to monster hell. Perhaps it's actually the fallen angels of our world who can recognize the demons inside and find the courage to battle them.  Like the incessant drive to create, maybe it's a simultaneous catch and release.  Good news and bad.

Some days I look in the mirror and see a monster.  Maybe you do as well.  I don't want to see it but I know it's there. I hide it.  I chase it. I squelch it and cover it up.  And in that never ending game--that dysfunctional relationship I have with myself--I sometimes love it, too. If I didn't, the whole stinking business wouldn't be so difficult.

For Jean Marc, it was ultimately the language of art and a profound love for his son that propelled him back to life.  This theme was brilliantly seared into my heart during a few pivotal scenes in the movie.

In one episode, Jean Marc recounts how he listened to his parents fight each night when the lights went out.  How he tried not to listen, but also wanted to hear what was being said.  How he buried his head in his pillow and then tried to forget the terrible things he'd heard when he woke each morning.  Jean Marc's expressive explanation of how this emotionally influenced him as a child slammed me straight back to my own small home where my parents fought 24/7.  Yelling, screaming, hitting, crying .... deposit after deposit of heightened emotional turmoil into the heart of a child.  How can we possibly avoid those early monsters ushered in by the adults we love?

In another scene, Jean Marc describes how as a teen / very young adult he was violently raped by a large, brutish stranger.  The audience sat holding our breath as we listened to Jean Marc's moving confessional.  How he sat outside on a park bench for two days after the incident, numb and dying inside, angered by those who had hurt him.  After the rape, the monsters in Jean Marc came into full force, determined to not only hurt others but to also hurt himself.  It's a punishment we need to inflict on ourselves.  Somehow we blame ourselves as a way to hide, to push the pain we can't bare away.  Let me feel this and that and whatever other horrible thing I can so as to wipe all this other stuff away.  In the end, it's an emotional trap.

At Monkdogz' exhibition of Jean Marc's work (which runs through tomorrow), artist Esther Barend and I talked about the scene and I said to her, "I've never been raped like that ....but I feel like I have." 

Isn't that a ballsy thing to say?  Should I be ashamed? 

No, because perhaps you and I haven't experienced exactly what happened to Jean Marc that terrible day, but we may have felt some of the same emotions.  Being used, physically hurt, and/or severely mistreated by someone bigger, stronger, and domineering causes a universal pain.  Jean Marc had the guts to tell us how it feels and as we listened, we knew we were hearing something profoundly honest.

The third scene that indelibly sticks with me is one in which Jean Marc describes how he stumbled upon art, and how doing so saved his life.  This is the part that reminds me of Jesus. 

I grew up being told that Jesus is the answer to everything.  I know there are millions of people out there who believe and will testify to the healing power of that message.  I've heard all the testimony.  I was spoon fed the information for year upon year, the same years that my own monsters were developing. 

Jean Marc describes how he stumbled upon some buckets of paint during the lowest point in his life, a time when he was literally taking his own life.  In a drug induced rage, he "fought" with the paint and the surfaces nearest to him as if it were all an extension of his misery, anger, and hopelessness. 

In my own way, I've experience a similar struggle.  I channeled life into something inanimate and then struggled with it.  I fought with it as if to save my life somehow.  In a fit of rage, I once sat in my car on the side of the road and violently ripped an entire bulky textbook apart into tiny pieces as if it was all that I hated, all that I wanted to conquer in myself that I couldn't pull forth and destroy.  Instead the book became something alive that I could hurt and once I started, I couldn't stop; I ripped every single page to shreds as if it were the flesh and blood of a person being ripped from its spine, and then I ripped the front and back covers from the stringy, tight center. It was in that same week that I also attempted to take my own life.

Such was Jean Marc's nightmarish battle times 1,000, and in the end, he stepped back and saw his emotions.  I too, saw my emotions in the mutilation of something I loved most in the world (books).  Maybe in some way, you've seen yours.  For Jean Marc, it was magnified and redemptive because in that moment he found salvation. 

He found art.

Jean Marc's remarkable discovery was the scene that brought back to me the idea of art being like Jesus ... the reason for the season.  The end of the road, the pot of gold we search for in all our suffering and flight from whatever monsters and demons life has shown us, and from those we've created for ourselves.

We're all apples and oranges of some sort, but in our heart of hearts, we're all human.  The depth of our capacity to experience love, shame, hatred, joy, degradation, etc. likely varies but our ability to feel it, to recognize it, lies deep in the kernel of who we are. 

Dominic Allan's CALVET takes one man's struggle and shows us our own.

I'll continue to think about art being like Jesus, and wonder if it could ever give us eternal salvation. It's a perplexing question because for Jean Marc, it just may do that.  His may be the testimony heard through the ages. The call others continue to hear when they seem to have nothing left.

If you get a chance, go see the movie.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wwoy3oocw9c]

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6527212 July 29, 2011

Minya: A Creative Lifestyle

"Creativity is a lifestyle. I think that at some point in life one has to decide if he or she wants to follow their creativity and search for alternative ways, or to accept solutions and decisions that have already been established."

Einstein said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, his eyes are closed." 

This is particularly comforting to me today.  I've been sitting here worrying about the fact that I'm still a mystery to myself after 45 years.  I won't share the details but I've recently been reminded (once again) that despite all my education and achievements, I have the spirit of a child.  She dominates when she should be off frolicking in some back corner of my mind, picking imaginary, sun-drenched daisies while she hums a happy tune. 

At times, I'm confident that the little girl who won't go away is responsible for my ability to create interesting artwork, think outside the box, break rules (most of the time in positive ways now), get blissfully lost in my imagination, and in conjunction with my mature brain, make connections others do not.  I love that aspect of her resistance to stand back.  I just wish the world were structured in a way that would enable the two of us to be more comfortable.  I wish we could have our cake and eat it, too.  Most of the time, she's eating the cake and I'm starving. 

My guest today, artist Minya, notes that all children are in some way artists. At an early stage, the vast majority of us danced, sang, colored, banged on pots and pans, and pretended to be all kinds of things.  I made salads out of plants; played house for hours; colored a thousand pictures with crayons and magic markers; pretended I was chewing gun when I couldn't sleep; and made a mansion for my paper dolls out of flattened boxes ... among other things.  As Minya says, all children explore their imagination, but sometimes I think I went overboard out of necessity.  For some of us, especially those wired to be highly imaginative, pretending offers a unique brand of solace in the midst of dysfunctional situations.

I didn't fully emerge from my early flight of fancy until I was about twelve.  When I finally peered into reality, I didn't cope very well.  As a child, there was a part of me who was sucking life in, processing, and analyzing.  That girl filed a tremendous amount of information away with the idea that she might deal with it later.

Hello!

Now I realize why the kid is so strong and the other so often weak. I realize why I'm still more comfortable in the role of the playful, imaginative girl whose willing to notice and take in what swirls around her, but prefers to shove it to the side, sending it to the auto processing file rather than deal with it. 

My goal is to keep aiming to balance myself while embracing the creativity that still fuels my spirit.  Several years ago, after fighting it, I decided to choose creativity as a lifestyle.  It suits me best and feels right.  I'm still transitioning in many ways.  I'm evolving just as I did when I chose as a young adult to put limits on my creativity, to squelch it so that I could live the type of life everyone expected of me.  Doing so had its rewards, but finally I realized there is no true choice, only a battle.  We are who we are, and it's best to accept the wiring we were allotted on production day.  

Minya tells us that her paintings symbolically illustrate the journey mankind has made – from prehistory and cave painting, to modern technologies and ways of communication used today (computers, TV, phones).  Her work metaphorically comments on actual events and contemporary life.  Maybe at a philosophical level, Minya's work somehow expresses how I've evolved from the day I decided to lump disproportionate paper dolls made by different toy companies together (because that's how real people are, thought the little girl), and play out their lives on a 6' x 6' detailed cardboard blueprint of the home I wanted to have.


The week I spent making the paper doll house was like any other.  I could have chosen to play outside.  I could have watched television all week.  I could have done anything but I didn't.  I had an idea, a concept, and was driven to create something that was unique and unavailable to me by any other means.  I didn't care that nobody wanted to do it with me.  I was willing to do the work, and I made it a reality.

But as Minya points out, it's important to understand that the work is never completely finished.  I see that now; I won't stop again.   
    

Have you always know you would be an artist? How has your artistic life evolved?

I believe that all children in their early stages when they start communicating with their environment, are in some way artists! They express their deepest and most sincere emotions in a straightforward way: by dancing, singing or drawing. Some of them continue to analyze their feelings and environment throughout their life by expressing themselves in some form of art. I am one of those! My artistic expression has changed and evolved during my growing up: my artistic research became more complex and articulated following my interests, and so did the materials and techniques I’m using.

How would you best describe your personality, and how your art relays that to the world.

I am, by nature, a person who notices and carefully studies their surroundings. I define my artistic expression methodically and with a lot of attention. My works represent, in a metaphorical sense, commentaries on actual events and contemporary life.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Those “moments” do occur, they come periodically.  They represent turning points in my creative phases. They happen occasionally but do not come out of the blue! They are the result of a continuing work.  It has happened several times that, while working on one series of works, when I’m most satisfied and inspired, that “moment” strikes and suddenly a rather different painting comes out! That moment I recognize as a turning point, the beginning of a new series. That somehow happens naturally and easily and I know exactly what I need to do next, as if there is some kind of recipe I have to follow.

You do quite a bit of work on Plexiglas. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to appreciate this medium and what draws you to it?

Plexiglas is a material that in a way imposed itself to me in past few years, as it is a perfect medium for expressing my artistic thoughts. It is, as a material, in contrast with the natural pigments I use for painting. With this contrasting effect I want to point out a very interesting fact: during history people always wanted to catch the moment they live in, to register what is happening around them at that instant. They wanted to record it and to send a message to the following generations. Through my paintings I symbolically illustrate the journey mankind has made – from prehistory and cave painting, to modern technologies and ways of communication used today (computers, TV, phones). In my paintings that is depicted with natural pigments on the smooth surface of Plexiglas.

I also like the transparent nature of the material. I apply pigments on both sides of Plexiglas but at the same time I take great care of areas that will remain transparent. When finished, my works are mounted on the wall with the distance of few inches from it, hence creating shadows behind painted parts that can be seen through transparent ones. This, as a result, creates the impression of visual depth and third dimension

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations (issues) in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Creativity is a lifestyle. I think that at some point in life one has to decide if he or she wants to follow their creativity and search for alternative ways, or to accept solutions and decisions that have already been established. Naturally, rules and codes of conduct exist in every society, but it is for each individual to decide how they will relate to them. That is one of the aspects I like to explore in my works. With straight lines and arranged square forms I want to suggest those rules, control and regulations. On the other hand, free hand movements and paint drippings suggest the “human factor”: creativity, surprise factor, unpredictability, improvisation. I personally have chosen improvisation and creativity as my contribution to the society I live in.

In what ways does art sooth or inspire you during difficult or challenging times?

During the creative procedure, the artist is exempt from all boring, trifling, everyday rules and procedures that make life complicated. They are free to express themselves and act free of any social and bureaucratic constrains. The artist is completely alone, with their tool to create anything they want – that feeling is elating and makes you feel limitless.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I was blessed to grow up in a family of artists, both of my parents are painters. I was surrounded by people who understand and appreciate art ever since I can remember. That experience prepared me and gave me ability to search and find an appropriate interlocutor through my life.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?

For me, every new painting I create represents an individual research. It is primarily with relation to the technique, but also regarding the artistic concept. New discoveries, experiments but also new casual effects, contribute that one idea evolves through its transformation. My ideas breed slowly and before I present them to the general public they have to go through a complex process of maturation.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

What distinguishes one artist from another, and sets them apart is their ability to present their artistic idea. It is important that an effort of research and study of a certain phenomenon is shown. Experimentation and research of new and original ways of expression, new materials and modern technologies are also essential. More interesting, intelligent and courageous those ideas are - more brilliant and extraordinary is the artist himself.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

I think it is essential that one never considers their work completely finished.

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6527212 March 25, 2011

Marker Full of Dreams: Angelique Price

"Art is my heart. It makes my world full and alive, and it keeps me inspired."

I've always dreamed of being one of those people who doesn't give a hoot about what people think. I've worked hard at it.  Unfortunately, I'm beginning to realize that my dream may never come true; it may be one that just has to die. 

I still find myself actually experiencing physical pain associated with both obvious and subtle rejections. It hits me at the center of my torso, radiating from somewhere between my internal organs and my skin. When it strikes, it's a terrifying feeling that I can't seem to shake no matter how many times I tell myself that I shouldn't care what he or she thinks.

My guest today, artist Angelique Price, seems to accepts who she is with no apologies. In contrast, it seems like I've been apologizing my entire life. I suppose I know when it all started. As early as I can remember, I tried to do certain things better because no matter how hard I worked at it, I couldn't achieve the outcomes I longed for, one of which was to somehow ease the pain of my afflicted mother, my quiet father, and my brother who had a learning disability at a time when bullies and teasers went unchecked.  I always felt that I held the hope of my family, and if I could somehow decipher the riddle of how to share it, we would all survive.

No one really survived. No matter how much I smiled, how much I helped around the house, how much affection I showed my mother, how many good grades I made, how clean I kept my room, how beautiful I grew, how pleasant I remained, how organized I was, how many times I took up for my older brother in the school yard, how many veggies I ate or how high I jumped ... I failed. 

Angelique was a troubled as well; she became a "cutter." When I was younger, I'd never heard of cutting. Perhaps it's for the best. Instead, I sliced myself up via other means. I spent quite a few years desperately racing down avenues leading to self-inflicted pain and suffering. 

The paths we take in life are fascinating. Like Angelique, I was also a pre-med student in college.  Whereas she veered off into art, I barrelled through and earned my degree in Biology, despite my creative dreams. Our paths recently crossed when our art was exhibited together at a show in New York City. We both continue to move toward a dream we've stoked for years.

This week, another friend of mine mentioned how she's getting older and realizing that certain things in life haven't turned out the way she'd hoped. She wonders if it's okay that she's given up, considering that time is getting shorter and possibilities less possible. With this on my mind, I happened to hear the song, I Dreamed a Dream.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp7ARm2Lwdo]

Although I'd heard it before, I'd never fully focused on the lyrics.  When it began, I thought of my friend's dying dreams as well as some of mine. I waited for what would surely be an uplifting ending, but there was none.  I was left with the empty realization that dreams can die; sometimes life kills them.

I can't do anything about that miserable truth. What I can do is make sure that I always have some kind of dream brewing. As a child, my deepest desire was to be part of a happy family; as a teen my dream was to be loved; as a college student I longed to understand what true happiness and real love actually felt like; as a young adult, I dreamed of finding positive avenues to express my emotions and the ideas they bring.

Angelique seems to have found such avenues for herself.  Like me, she no longer needs to cut herself away. 

Art soothes our pain.  Art "slays the tigers that come at night, with their voices soft as thunder, as they tear our hope apart, and turn our dream to shame."  Art grabs that pain in my gut and flings it into the never ending race of life, filled with beauty and complexity.  It leaves me satisfied like nothing else.  It pulls beauty out of shame, joy out of sorrow, meaning from corruption, and love from loneliness.

What's your story (in a nutshell)? How long did it take to establish yourself as an artist? Was the journey on a straight or twisted path? Are you surprised by your success?

Wow, my story in a nutshell ... that's tough. There is so much to tell. My childhood was traumatic causing me to be a disturbed and unhappy person throughout half of my life. I had no way of expressing myself except for when I would find a piece of paper and a pencil. I would usually draw an imaginary portrait and she would be crying. I was also a "cutter" and that would relieve my pain as well. I had planned on becoming a psychiatrist because I felt that the entire industry needed something new. After being treated like a number in a psychiatric hospital, I felt that the modern methods were not working and wanted to be a part of changing that. Graduating from high school with a 3.6 GPA, I was given a scholarship to Belmont University for Pre-Med. On the first day of class, I heard my inner voice tell me to change my major to fine art. I listened. I have been a fine artist ever since.

Ironically, I am also studying to be a Chord Therapist which is a therapy created by Dr. Roni Angel. It reprograms our cells to release what no longer serves us and replaces what does serve us. I have been a part of the therapy for 10 years and am a much healthier person because of it.

My art has also contributed to me becoming healthier. I pour myself into my work, expressing whatever it is I need to express. Sometimes I release, sometimes I transform myself with an idea, and sometimes I work with an idea to help me create that in my life.

I don't know that my journey has been straight or twisted. It has just been my journey. I have a very strong work ethic when it comes to my art. I am constantly creating. Six years ago, I developed a method of drawing with art markers that is completely original in its style. This has propelled my career and given me a lot of recognition. I still feel that I am establishing myself because I am not yet at the level of success that is my goal. I am very driven, intelligent and talented, so I have no doubt about where I am headed. I am also not surprised by the success that I have achieved. I have worked very hard for 15 years to be in the place I am now. I am very grateful though. Art is my heart. It makes my world full and alive and it keeps me inspired.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

Yes, the first "ah-ha" moment was when I discovered what I could do with art markers. I had never seen anything like it before. I knew I had found my medium. I am skilled with oils, acrylics, watercolors and clay, but my medium chose me. I never would have guessed it would be markers. As artists, we have to discover within us the originality we behold. My originality oozes onto paper with markers.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? It could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist and why?

My art is equally about expression and creation. It completely depends on my message and where I am in my life at that particular moment.

Many artist focus on one particular subject or style. How important is this for career development? Have you ever grown tired of painting the same types of things, and if so, can you tell us about it?


I do not follow the rules of the art world. I create whatever moves me. Thankfully, I am most moved by people so the majority of my work is portraiture of some kind. I am very passionate about nude women. Our society has made a little tiny box for beauty. It is my greatest desire to smash that box. I want women to see that they are beautiful exactly as they are. There is no box. Beauty is vast.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Definitely both. Being highly creative can be debilitating and empowering. It depends on the day.

During difficult or challenging times in your life, does creating art sooth or inspire you? Is it therapeutic in any way?

It is always therapeutic as I discussed earlier. Creating always soothes and inspires me.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive?

Oh yes, I have had many people misunderstand me. I simply explain to them the truth about me, and they can take it or leave it. It's my life.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your artistic goals? If so, can you tell us about it. Where do most of your ideas come from?

My ideas come from life in general. I am often inspired by certain women and need to draw them. I am constantly inspired by my son and my husband. My son is so genuine and talented. My husband's photography is what I use to work from. We are a true team. I love digging into myself as well which is why I do so many self portraits. The other part of success in art is the business aspect. It is imperative to have an intriguing biography and artist statement. It is also important to document exhibitions, charities, publications and awards. Buyers in the art world want to know about these things. I represent myself meaning I make all of the calls and write to the galleries etc. It's a full plate. I also sell a lot of prints and I design my own t-shirts. My site for that is ELIQ.

What do you believe places an artist apart from his or her peers? So many are highly talented, but what makes one stand out as truly gifted?

Integrity and style. If an artist has no integrity, his or her art will not move anyone. If an artist does not have their own unique style, they will be lost in the crowd. Learn the rules and then break them. After that is established, work your ass off at marketing your work. You have to have the determination to do it yourself.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Gandhi said that. To me, it means that I must do what is in my heart and be proud but always remember that I am just a speck as well. Humanity is equal in all ways. No one is better than anyone else. And while our actions may seem futile, they are still important. But they are not so important that we should ever become self absorbed or self righteous.

Learn more about Angelique and her art at her various websites:

eliq.mosaicglobe.com

eliq.ws

eliq.redbubble.com

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6527212 March 11, 2011

Astronomical Odds: Douglas Preston

"I know some writers who like to talk about it more than they do it, who've been writing a book for ten years."

If you've been following my blog, you know that I've been writing novels for over twenty years.  I've also been working full time, among other things that tend to suck up time.  One thing I can say for myself is that I've been consistent and dedicated.  Over the years, I've fought diligently to find time to write. 

And I have won that battle.

When I began painting three years ago, I viewed it as a crazy experiment.  With that said, I had a powerful urge for it.  All I wanted to do at that time was experience the feeling of sliding a brush dabbed in gooey paint across white canvas.  I wanted to know what that would feel like because I had so vividly experienced it in my mind.  It was similar to the desire for food, water, sex ... deep,  urgent, and animalistic.  I never believed I had the ability to create visual art despite my sometimes alarmingly active imagination.  I grew up assuming that every mind contained the same dynamic world that exists in mine.  That everyone could envision the detail, color, and complexity that I create and see in my head. 

I came to realize that's not the case. 

Just when I was beginning to think that I had pieced together the puzzle of who I am, I picked up that paint brush and bam! I realized I had only been focusing on one area of a puzzle that is much larger and more complex.  I'm still trying to understand and define my creative place in the world, but after twenty years of writing and only three years of painting, I realize that it's not exactly what I thought it was.

I don't know how many years my guest, bestselling author Douglas Preston, has been writing.  What I do know is that he's written over twenty successful books. 

In his interview, Douglas shares how he got his big start.  He was working at the American Museum of Natural History when he got a call from Lincoln Child, an editor at St. Martin's Press, asking if he'd be interested in writing a book. 

Twenty-five books later ... the rest is history.

What are the odds of that happening, you ask?  They're likely astronomical.  However, something similar happened to me.  When I was working at Johnson & Johnson, an editor from McGraw-Hill called to ask if I'd ever thought of writing a book.  The result was my first book, Six Sigma for Business Excellence.

So the immature, emotional child in me asks with a pout on my face, "How does Douglas now have twenty-five books published and I have only two?" 

The adult visionary in me replies, "Who cares?  Things happen for a reason."  I'm content with my journey, no matter how hard fought it may be.  My philosophy is that if I keep moving down my own personal road, I'll eventually reach my destination.  I don't care how many years it takes.  It is what it is.  I am who I am.  I don't need to be Douglas Preston, or any other fantastic author out there.  I'd only fail where they succeeded. 

I have failed where they succeeded.

After just three years of painting, this month my work is being shown in an international art show in New York City curated by Monkdogz Urban Art, one of the top contemporary art galleries in the world.  I've been told that the odds of that happening are beyond astronomical. 

My third book, Centerpieces, will be launched this summer. 



What's your writing story?

I had been writing a column in the magazine Natural History, published by the Museum, where I worked. An editor from St. Martin's Press named Lincoln Child, who had been reading my pieces, called me up and asked if I wanted to write a history of the Museum. I said yes -- and that became my first book, Dinosaurs in the Attic. After the book was published, I gave Linc a tour of the Museum -- at midnight. I showed him all the best places in the Museum to which I had access--the dinosaur bone storage room, the collection of 30,000 rats in jars of alcohol, the whale eyeball collection, the preserved mastodon stomach with its last meal inside, and a lot of other unusual things. We ended up in the Hall of Late Dinosaurs around 2:00 a.m., with only the emergency lights on, the great black skeletons looming in the darkness around us--and Linc turned to me and said: "Doug, this is the scariest damn building in the world. Let's write a thriller set in here." And that was the birth of Relic, and of our partnership.

Was there someone in particular who inspired you to love books and/or take an interest in writing?

There are certain teachers and librarians who encouraged me -- most particularly the late Darcy O'Brien, who was a professor at Pomona College where I went to school. He was writing his novel, A Way of Life, Like Any Other, when I took a creative writing class from him, and he shared with us the drafts of his novel. It was an extraordinary experience. His novel was rejected by 26 publishers and finally published--and then it won the prestigious Hemingway Award! So he was both a great teacher and a lesson in the perversity of the publishing business.

Where do most of your creative ideas come from?

They come from every direction -- from personal experience to articles in magazines, news stories, factoids on the web, and most of all from my extensive world travels. The key is always being open to a new idea, because we are surrounded by a sea of brilliant ideas, if only we can open our eyes and see them.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about?

I was doing research on potter's fields when I came across a strange factoid: that in New York City, sometimes limbs amputated in hospitals are not treated as medical waste, but are placed in a small coffin and buried on Hart Island, New York City's enormous potters field. I called up Linc and in twenty minutes we had worked out the basic plot to Gideon's Sword.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? How so?

Both. It may have made me difficult to deal with at times, but I find the writer's life to be ideal, for me, if a bit lonely, and I have no regrets.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

Sometimes people don't respect a writer's working time. I've been interrupted by people in the middle of the day for various trivial things -- people who, for example, would never call me in the middle of the day if I were a corporate lawyer or an auto mechanic. But that's rare. My family has always been very supportive. They get it.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your writing goals? If so, can you tell us about it, and also share any thoughts you may have on the role discipline and organization play in reaching creative goals?

Writing is like exercise or playing the violin: you have to do it every day. You have to carve out uninterrupted time. And then you have to have the discipline to stay at your desk and write, write, write. I know some writers who like to talk about it more than they do it, who've been writing a book for ten years. Sorry, unless you're writing Ulysses I don't buy it. Discipline is huge. Even after twenty five books, I find myself looking for every excuse not to write.

You're written both as a solo author, and as part of a team. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of both scenarios?

Writing with a partner has a lot of advantages. You have someone to brainstorm with, bounce ideas off, not to mention a partner who shares your triumphs and tragedy. Writing is a lonely business. The downside is that you share credit for a piece of work. But for me, that's not at all a problem. Linc is the best writing partner anyone could ask for.

You've also written both fiction and nonfiction. How do you see creativity playing a role in nonfiction?

Creativity plays a huge role in nonfiction. Real life is messy, formless, sprawling, and mostly boring. The key with nonfiction is to extract the story from this formless mass, to boil it down to its key elements, to order it so the reader can follow it--and on top of that, to be absolutely accurate both in fact and in spirit. This to me is more difficult than fiction and it takes a great creativity.

What's next for Douglas Preston?

I'm working with Linc on a new Gideon novel, Gideon's Corpse. We're having a wonderful time writing this book.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Compassion. The word says it all.

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