Sunday, 5 March 2017

Letters from an Artist during World War One

There were great remonstrations at the one hundredth anniversary of the start of World War One, yet in recent months things have quietened down. Perhaps we shouldn't forget so quickly (as is the symptom of modern life where it's 'come-day go-day' too easily).

The great artist Claude Monet lost his son in World War One.  Extracts of Monet's letters are available over the period of his working life. This one from October 1917:

'To Gustave Geffroy,

Having come to Paris for Degas's funeral I was hoping to see you. I had also hoped you come here with your friend Barbier, but I've been working so hard that I'm exhausted and having just resumed the enormous task in the studio, I feel I won't be able to do without a week's rest, so I'm off to see the sea.  I've just let Monsieur Barbier know, thought it's merely a postponement. Could you kindly tell me what happened to the painting sent to Madame Poisson for the benefit of the blind; she did write to me but absorbed in my work as I was, I don't remember what she said and I've mislaid the letter. If the painting didn't find a buyer for the price that was settled on, I wouldn't want it to go to public auction and be sold off at a low price to some dealer; I'd prefer to have it back and hand over as large a sum of money as I'm able.

Claude Monet.'

Even in the midst of a war, an artist has to be business minded and practical. Perhaps a stabilising distraction.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Devonport Guildhall or Paris, New York, Washington, Vienna, Geneva ... ?

Where was I? Paris, New York, Washington, Vienna, Geneva .... the sheer blitz of colour from the wonderful art exhibition entitled: Persona Perspective by Plymouth artist Rosie Cunningham, was a treat to behold. A veritable palette of colours swept before our eyes. If you knew nothing about abstract art before entering the gallery, then the delight of the colour ensemble was enough to give you a feel of immense well being.

The day after a well attended launch evening, we held a creative writing workshop on the theme of Ekphrasis - or how to write about art from art. That too was well attended with some faces from the past in among several of the new. A few of the writer's from Plymouth Proprietary Library who were so loyal to me in my battle against the more sinister forces which try to control Plymouth, came unexpectedly to the fore. It was a pleasure to see you all.

If you feel you need an injection of colour in the midst of a dull January, take a step into Devonport Guildhall. You won't be disappointed. Devonport really is doing very well indeed.

Monday, 19 December 2016

PERSONA PERSPECTIVE: Creative Writing Workshop in the Ekphrasis of Art by Rosie Cunningham with Ruth Snell.

PERSONA PERSPECTIVE: A Creative Writing workshop in the Ekphrasis of Art by Rosie Cunningham with Ruth Snell.

On Saturday 7th January 2017, Rosie Cunningham and Ruth Snell will be working in collaboration on an arts event regarding Rosie's paintings which will be on display in the Gallery of Devonport Guildhall, Plymouth. The exhibition runs from 6th January to 25 February 2017.

Tickets are available from Eventbrite:

This will be a colourful start to the New Year.

As some of you know, I rarely venture in public creative writing circles these days but I found Rosie's art work very therapeutic when I was recuperating from surgery.  It gives me great pleasure to thank Rosie by presenting this workshop at the launch of her art collection in the Gallery of Devonport Guildhall Plymouth.

Persona Perspective - giving a voice to something or someone otherwise silent.

Some people in Plymouth always have their faces in the newspaper for any old event. That doesn't interest me but real art and caring creativity does interest me. Substance over show.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Therapy in Creativity

Those sharp eyed followers of my blog have already contacted me to say they noticed my change of title heading.  Ruth Snell Creative Writing is now re-labelled as Ruth Snell Creative Arts. The simple reason being that painting has formed a large part of my life lately and I've found it easier to reach people through my painting than my writing.  Not that my book has fallen into the mire.  A lovely message came in only today to say how much someone enjoyed the story, so it is warming to know people out there are reading it.

When you create a painting and show it to a viewer, what you see is what you get.  When you write a book, people are aware the creative process is more of a two way street.  They have to acquire a copy of the book and then engage some of their spare time to read it. It may not be what they expect or it can give them a few surprises.  Paintings aren't like that. A split second of viewing will either draw someone in or they will walk on by.  Their appreciation is more instantaneous.

Perhaps then it is time to consider the importance of a book cover.  What sort of judgements do you make on browsing in a book shop? Do you have expectations of how a book cover should look or does it not worry you?  The official line from those who conduct studies into such observations say that the cover of a book will firstly make a browser pick it up. This can occupy some four to six seconds and if the 'blurb' on the back cover is attractively written, you have another hook in on a possible purchaser.

Is it all about hard sales? Well, the general idea in writing a book is that you want your 'message' to get out there. You have spent tremendous amounts of time writing the thing. Imagine if someone was paying you by the hour ...

For me the creative process must make me feel better about myself.  That is why for me, designing - and painting - the cover of my books is important to me. The reader will hopefully have 'more of me' in what they take from the bookshelf. The package must be more rounded.  I read several years ago that the singer/songwriter, Kate Bush, was very serious about record covers. Before she made it as a hit in the music world, as a young teenager, she would take a train into London on Saturday's to browse the shops.  If she bought a record (LP to us oldies) she would sit on the train back to Kent pouring over the record sleeve, absorbing the design.  At this point she didn't know what all the songs on the record sounded like, aside from the one perhaps she'd heard on the radio, but for her it was important to take in the cover design as it led her to understand more of what the music was portraying.  Occasionally there were surprises but more often than not, the design emphasised the audio effect.

So if you are a writer and plan to publish, think carefully about your book cover.  You may not be artistic but that doesn't matter.  The point is that you know what you want your cover to be like. And, painting is a very therapeutic occupation.  Writing can be extremely stressful. Even if you have the most perfect plot in the world and stunning characters, time for editing could be tight, your laptop may be playing up or even worse, crash losing your work. Painting (or drawing) may even help you understand what you are trying to say.  Art, in all its forms is highly enjoyable but it can help the mind to cross over to another discipline.  Think carefully about your book cover and make it intrinsic to the text. Make it ... you ...

Happy creativity!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

New Book Release: Galene by Ruth Snell (ISBN: 978-1-5376-6225-1)

Many of you won't be expecting this new book Galene by Ruth Snell  (ISBN: 978-1-5376-6225-1).

     "Dartmoor is a shadowy, mist-shrouded frontier largely unknown to Isabella Cole, a young woman who resides in Plymouth and is employed as a valuations clerk to a local auctioneer.  It is 1898 and her occupation is uncommon for a woman.  Her employer is invited to a working weekend at Hazelwood Grange, the moorland country house of Sir Sholto Lelawne, a reclusive scientist and world traveller, who extends the invitation to Isabella.  Entering a world far different to the one she grew up in, Isabella encounters the elusive Galene, a beautiful young woman with spiritual powers who is introduced as Sir Sholto's sister.  Isabella begins to uncover a complex web of lies and mysteries.  Not all is as it seems.

     Meanwhile in Plymouth, under the foundations of his valuations business near Charles church, her employer, Thomas Northcott, while renovating the building, uncovers an extensive chamber filled with antiquities from Roman times.  Isabella finds herself wrapped up in an intrigue of both ancient and Victorian power struggles involving Freemasons and the churchmen, who will stop at nothing to claim the highest prize of all - and she is key to its discovery."

Why has this come out of the blue? Very few people knew I was writing it.  Was there any deliberate secrecy? Only to the point I do freeze if people ask what I'm writing, when I'm struggling to get a plot organized in my head. It can be hard to explain 'what I am writing' when even I don't know where it's going.  I gave up Writer's Group's a year ago when I became tangled in two necessary operations for breast cancer.  The good news on that front, is the prognosis is favourable and the surgeon seemed to catch it on time.  That does however, have a profound effect on your outlook to life.  You withdraw (and I've never been a hugely outgoing person).  Then you get your priorities in order.  Health is paramount.

Aside from the very small family unit I have, my next priority is my job.  Most people I know who write, either professionally or as a hobby, don't work full time.  I do work full time. Forty-two hours a week and sometimes more. I'll repeat that.  I work full time so my spare time is precious.  I have to work, I have no choice. What spare time I do have often involves the vacuum cleaner, washing machine, garden or DIY. My weekends are valuable. I discovered through detriment to my health that through throwing so much time and energy into helping others with their writing activities, my health took a bad knock. 

There is also an element of nastiness in the writing world in Plymouth (as the poet laureate Michael Sullivan discovered) and I don't want to be part of it.  I will occasionally run a Writing Workshop if requested but aside from that .... I also paint. I am not a good artist but I find working with colour hugely relaxing.  After two operations I re-aligned my scant spare time.  Yoga has been hugely beneficial and painting largely therapeutic.  I painted the front cover for Galene  (in fact I painted several different scenes) and my daughter Rebecca had the final choice of my painting 'Peacock on Dartmoor' to finish the book cover.  To create a work of art, inside and out, is the most rewarding thing.

Where did the idea from Galene come from?  A mixture of elements viz: a picture I passed in 1981 and a discussion with my grandmother who came from a very old Plymouth family, a couple of years before she died in 1984.  The outline of the book was written circa 2008, just before my father died but never left the computer due to the complexities of life at that time.  When you think your life is running out of time, you take remedial action and now the final result is out there.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

American Publishers in the depths of Cornwall

Over the summer leave break, we did a 'staycation' and spent some lovely days around Devon and Cornwall looking at various sights we hadn't seen for some years.  As some of you know, I occasionally dabble in family history (although apart from my daughter I have no family left now) and after locating the birth and census details of one great-grandfather (Mark Snell) we found ourselves in St Neot, Cornwall after a walk around the nearby Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor.  This particular great-grandfather shows up in the 1871 Census as living with his parents, Richard and Elizabeth Snell in Lower Newton Farm, St Neot, Cornwall.

In the local pub, beside the charming St Neot church, we came across two Americans looking for fairies.  Once further into the conversation we quickly established they were publishers of a beautifully presented magazine called Faeirie Magazine  see  and had made a special trip from New York to Cornwall to investigate the West Country legends.

It was an absolute pleasure to meet Paul and Laren of the Faerie Magazine.  We discussed many aspects of creative writing, ideas, imaginations, literary form, poetry and magic.  They are now back in the United States.  We have kept in touch and here, on 11 September, a particularly difficult day for the American people, let us look forwards to the positive energy of good growing out of evil and take stock of all that is beautiful in the world.

N.B. Dozmary Pool, St Neot, Cornwall:  legendary resting place of King Arthur's Sword which was rumoured to have been thrown into the middle of the water by Merlin.  To this day, nobody knows the actual depth of the water.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Creative Writing Workshops at Whitleigh Community Hub in Plymouth

To mark the opening of the new Whitleigh Community Hub, a wide variety of events are being compiled for everyone at a Taster Day on 25 August 2016.  I look forward to seeing the wide range of activities on display and talking with other artists, writers and musicians.

After this event, I will be running two creative writing workshops - dates and times to be advised.  Keep an eye on my Blog and on the Facebook page for Sandy Wager Arts and Crafts.  Sandy is closely involved with the new hub and will be advertising events as they are announced.