Category Archives: developing artists

Joplin’s Ghost, Tananarive Due, Atria Books, New York, 2005, Kindle

I abandoned The Artist’s Rule…not due to any reason associated with the book but my I’m not ready to focus on any spirit/life work right now.  Instead I found myself reading Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due…my second foray into what is labelled sci-fi/paranormal genre.  My first was an Octavia Butler novel (I can’t recall which one) that I commanded myself to finish.  It was among the first books I dropped for Bookcrossing.

Joplin’s Ghost went beyond what I expected! The story is woven seamlessly and beautifully with  gems of history (and I guess that all good fiction writers do this) which captivated me to want to know so much more about Scott Joplin and kept me reflecting on the trails  and trials that early artists had to create and blaze.  Due made the personal agony very real by pitting Joplin’s thoughts and emotions and ego against the thoughts and emotions and ego of an uprising young woman coming of age in current times.

The book opens with Scott’s voice and the next chapter is the voice of Phoenix, the artist in contemporary times and continues to flip back and forth until their experiences merge intimately and passionately in the middle of the book (which held me wondering where it was all going and not at all predictable) and the end of the book their lives (Scott’s and Phoenix’s) battle to separate.  But what is history if not a mirrored reflection for us to study as we go forward…can you say Sankofa.

Due creates two parallel love stories; one being Scott’s love and passion for his second wife, Freddie; the other, Phoenix’s and Carlos’s,  a young music journalist who is the only one willing to believe Phoenix’s encounters with the ghost of Joplin.  There are a hosts of supporting characters which are interesting but slightly predictable in their roles…but the story development makes up for what lacks in character development and the central characters have strong situations and good personal dialogue.

In addition to exploring musical history, Due also handles the world and violence associated with hip-hop moguls, along with the dynamics of family relationships to create a very natural feel to the tensions and the dramas.  I think it would be a great cross-generational read with teenager not only for the educational resource but the action in the story is fast-paced enough for young people and the situations the characters continually face sparks plenty of opportunities for moral and philosophical and financial discussions.

To find more out about the book:’s-Ghost/Tananarive-Due/9780743449038

I will be reading more books from Due.


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Filed under African American, Authors, developing artists, Fiction, history, Joplin's Ghost, Kindle, Multi-racial, musical, musical

The View From the Studio Door, by Ted Orland

This is a book about the process of how art gets made.  For me the main benefit I received is what I perceive to also be the main intent of the book and that is to encourage artists to first and foremost have an indepth conversation with one self about how we create.  Just about every page I found myself talking to myself…out loud!  Occassionally I would say something I wanted to hold on to and think,  “I need to write this down” for further exploration.  Its a small book intimate book but it took me a few weeks to really complete it due to reading a page, talking to myself, writing, then falling asleep for the night process.  I even started going to bed a little earlier to accommodate the energy reading it would create.

Orland seems to offer this exploration of one’s process as a 2 part cycle…first, engages the artist as individual; second, engages the artist as part of a community…with other artists, audience, and then just as a community member in the largest implication of just being citizens, family members, etc.

Its the 2nd half of the process that found me not as  talkative.  Even though I’m a member of a fantastic fiber/textile organization, and have held membership in other groups…its been difficult to find that sense of trust, friendship, artistic communion with other artists.  For one, I can’t get past cliques and group politics and its hard to ignore the “isms” that sometime seem to surface no matter how innocent or unintended they may be.  I do long for the connection with visual artists that I had/hold with poets.  My strongest sense of community for my textile work comes from online friends that I come to know mostly through blogs.  Off line living, I have 2 persons I can commune with over my art.   When I’m at the Mellwood Studio I surprise myself by becoming this overtly (for me) “chipper” person.  Maybe it signals that my expectations are high and there is some sense of safety since I’m in an “art community”.  I expect that they will readily understand where I’m coming from. 

For the most part Orland generates more questioning at a deeper level.  One of the resolutions I’ll cling to however is Orland’s following statement:  For artists the more relevant question is not whether art can be defined, but whether it should be.   This statement strengthens my snarkiness toward the arguments over craft vs. art or serious artists vs. hobby or non-serious artists.   For me, I leave this to those who like this topic for academic excercises…but personally the argument has yet to offer me anything useful and so I tend to roll my eyes whenever I come across it and then entertain myself with made-up stories about the lives of the people who love to engage it.  To paraphrase Ray Charles, lets just do what we do, let the art do what it do!  As Orland also states, “the prophecy is in the artwork itself.”

I know this book will become dog-earred, food-stained, and well-loved as I return to it in upcoming years.

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The View From the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in An Uncertain World by Ted Orland, 2nd ed. 2007, Image Continuum Press, U.S.

This is my current bedside reading.  Its full of all the philosophical ponderings on artists and how they reconcile with the processes of art making, how they define art justaposed against the so-called “art world”, and on and on.  I’ve been highlighting passages because this is one I’m going to keep unlike the book he co-authored called Art & Fear which was okay but just didn’t speak to me personal.

I just completed the first chapter yesterday…it is a slow read for me because I can’t get past a page or two without becoming engaged in internal dialogue with the ideas presented….and if you know me, than you know this is what I want to experience with a book.  I’m digging that Orland recognizes the multipliticies that exist in human experiences, thus art-making also.   He isn’t presenting, so far, some “this is how you do it” approach but  seems to be writing to air out thoughts and engage readers open-endedly.

I’ll share some quotes in upcoming posts.  Peace.

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Letters To A Young Artist: Straight-up Advice for Making A Life in the Arts by Anna Deavere Smith

Usually I feel guilt for even wanting to not finish a book.  Once I crack the book open and begin reading, its a commitment, a serious commitment.  But this is one of the few books I was happy to walk away from.  Smith has a series of letters to some young (as in age) unidentified naive but bright young artist advising them on the risks and skills required to make it in the business.  It was clear from the first chapter I was not the intended audience and after a few chapters I wasn’t being challenged, intrigued, to stay with the book to the end.  It was happily and quickly returned to the library without any guilt.

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