Friday, 6 March 2015

What's your Other Life? - post by Jonathan Allen

As I've been at this job for a good thirty years or so, I think I can use the pompous phrase "In my long and varied career. ." without any exaggeration.

So, In my 'long and varied career' as a writer and illustrator, I have always had other interests bumping along in the back of the van, as it were. I suppose that, because I have never had what could be called a 'proper job', nothing that required travel to a place of work and a commitment to eight hours of labour of any kind, I don't compartmentalise my time. By which I mean that I don't feel I have to be doing any particular thing at a particular time of day. I am constrained by deadlines, but have free choice about when I do what in order to meet said deadlines.

I have lived long enough to realise that this is very unusual, and how lucky I am to be able to earn a living (of sorts) doing what I like and am good at. Basically I draw funny animals and get paid for it. . . Ridiculous. . .

A Fat Cat - but you knew that.


As what time I spend on what, is determined by me, I have been able to pursue other creative avenues in a fairly intensive way, deadlines permitting.

How about you? What interests do you have running parallel to your life a an author or illustrator?

I think creative people are inclined to use their creativity in all areas of life, after all it is a mindset rather than a 'hat' you put on from time to time. It would be interesting to know what strong interests other writers and illustrators have or have had in their lives alongside their writing and Illustrating careers, and how they feel it might feed back into their 'work'.

My list starts with music. I played bass in a band at art school, art school being one of the traditional places bands emerge from. We never got anywhere, but really wanted to for a while. From that I got interested in recording, and had a small studio in a house I lived in, with a couple of mates. I lost interest, as I hadn't got the level of commitment needed to spend long and antisocial hours in a darkened room with a rock band from Croydon (for instance). . .

Status Shark, 5 string, passive electronics. Ho yes.

I got interested in computer related music tech and electronic music. Sampling etc, but again, didn't pursue it to any tangible end. (story of my life. .)
That led to an interest in computer generated landscape software, fractal based forms and how to make 'realistic' textures and patterns using them.

This kind of thing - computer generated landscape from a good few years ago now. . .


I still mess with that stuff, but I now make abstract patterns and print the images onto ceramic tiles. Getting the patterns out onto real objects led me to polymer clay, which in turn led me to making beads and jewelry of a particular 'rustic' kind. I've started selling them online. . . (under another name so as to avoid confusion. .) I could never have predicted that one!

'Rustic' Image Transfer beads, antiqued up to high heaven - fun to do


I think it feeds back into what I do in that the same process of refining a rough idea into something finished goes on. (Well, obviously!) What I mean is that the process of structuring a good pop song, or bass line, or idea for a pendant etc is comparable to that of putting together good picture book. It's the same mindset at work, getting stuck in to the complex work that goes into producing something simple but solid in concept and execution.
Anyway, enough about me. What is and what has been your creative passion outside writing or illustrating, and has it been an inspiration or a distraction? (I think mine have been both at various times. . )




15 comments:

  1. One my main creative hobbies are designing and making furniture (examples here http://bit.ly/1n5GD6l) and making short videos with family and friends. Now the kids are older, most of the videos I make are trailers for my books, so they don't really qualify as being part of my other life any more.

    I also love playing about with creative software, whether it's CAD, music, video or anything else. As a former architect I've played around with quite a lot of 3D modelling software, including terrain modellers like "Bryce". I'm guessing that you might have used that for the image in the post, Jonathan.

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    1. I was a Bryce nut for years, well spotted, though, to those who know it's kind of obvious ;-) . I got into 'materials' and even sold some ;-) I never got the hang of Vue or Terragen etc, though got involved with Mojoworld a fair bit. I could never find an intuitive 3D modelling programme though I lusted after Zbrush but didn't want to splash the cash or go through another long learning curve. . .
      OK tech waffle over. . . I'll check out your furniture.

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    2. Impressed, very cool furniture. I wish I had more engineering knowledge!

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    3. Just noticed the gratuitous "One" at the beginning of my last comment. I must proof my comments properly before hitting publish!

      I didn't go much further than fooling about with Bryce for terrain modelling. I did do a fair bit of architectural 3D modelling though and still use the Vectorworks 2D/3D design software that I started using as an architect (back then it was called MiniCad) for my pop-up book designs. A lot of paper-engineers seem to use Adobe Illustrator, but I've found Vectorworks to be much better suited to the task. I still use Vectorworks for the occasional bit of 3D work, but I suspect that more intuitive (and cheaper) 3D modelling programmes must be available.

      Glad you liked the furniture!

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  2. It's fun finding out about the other you, Jonathan! I'm forever dabbling in creative pursuits. I suspect that sometimes we feel stale and want to create in new ways. Poetry, illustration, origami, gardening, pottery... But I always return to writing picture books. And there are some creative pursuits I'd never get involved with, including DIY, knitting and dressmaking and any form of sewing, because I don't have the patience.

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    1. I don't have much patience either, and have to watch myself when doing DIY in case I start cutting corners ;-) I'd like to know how to use a sewing machine, not sure why or for what, but it bothers me that it's a total mystery to me. .

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  3. Just loving the beads.

    I've always crafted and this led me (eventually) into writing, my first published work being craft related. I've taught interior design, product design, ceramics, photography, card making, jewellery and candle making. At the moment I teach various craft related projects to kids plus crochet, sewing and writing to adults. So although these are all the 'other' me they have been or are also my job. My other real passion (which I'd love to be my job) is caring for sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs (www.hertshogline.com). HQ is a 6' x 8' shed in my back garden and over the last 25 years I've built up a small group of volunteers who help me care for these super cute critter.

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    1. Glad you like the beads Lynne, if you want to see a selection of what I have been making check out my Etsy shop - https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/JBDRusticOrganic
      I seem to have hit upon a relatively popular aesthetic, which is nice.
      Great that you've done all that craft teaching. It shows that my theory about creativity being a sort of life choice rather than a day job is probably true. .

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  4. P.S. If you're ever in my neck of the woods do pop in for a lesson on how to use a sewing machine. It's not rocket science, if it were I'd not be able to do it.

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  5. I love to sew, and I collect retro original fabrics from the 50s, 60s and 70s, which I make into bags, cushions and fabric flowers and give to friends. I did once run a bespoke cushion stall at a market, but that proved hard work! I love cycling but I'm not a lycra-clad tecchie road biker. My bike is the size of a gate, and I like to go off-road and see the countryside. My main aim is usually to get to a tea shop. I've just started something new - improv classes! Who knows how it's going to go - it's hard and very full-on - but I hope it will help me think outside the box and also feel less nervous doing appearances (I haven't done one since I had a horrible panic attack pre-Cheltenham Literary Festival one year! It was my biggest event, and though I did it ok, I hated the experience).

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    1. I love those retro fabric designs. I wish I had been more aware of them in my London junk shop frequenting days in the late seventies. I bet I could have picked up some great stuff. I did have some curtain fabric by Ivon Hitchens once that my ex found.
      A lot of people are copying that 'mid century' style now though, which is a bit of a shame as they all seem to copy each other's copies and it all gets a bit crap.

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    2. Yes, there are lots of copies now. I like to find crazy old barkcloth curtains and pair them with interesting linings (such as old damask curtains nobody wants any more). Yes, junk shops and flea markets are a big, big hobby - too much of one! I find lovely old picture books that way.

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  6. I did love doing amateur patchwork and the odd bit of sewing, but haven't for some time. I'd claim two big creative projects that have run alongside writing for the last twenty years. The biggest was helping to create three people (my children), and we did make hobby horses and gardens and all sorts along the way at the same time as developing them. And we have also created our own house ... by far the bulk of that creative work being done by architect husband, but there are a few touches which were mine, and I'm proud of them!
    I think you're right, Jonathan. Creative people aren't just creative in one narrow aspect of their lives. Interesting.

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  7. My 'other life' is completely different. I started out as a barrister and still work part time for a policing think tank. Although the work is totally separate (one day I can be analysing changes to domestic violence legislation, another I can be pondering whether dragons and fairies can be friends) I feel like I write for a living every day of my life; it's just that the writing comes out in different forms. I find the change of work helps my writing. If I get stuck on a fiction book, I do a bit of academic work and it seems to free me up somehow, maybe because I'm using a different bit of my brain. I think my fiction work helps my day job too: picture books have taught me to write clearly and precisely. I quite like my split life! :)

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  8. Wow, you all have such interesting hobbies! I agree, once a creative, always a creative. I'm always thinking up stories, reading stories, and doodling stories. When I was younger and had more time, I tried to learn the guitar and did some oil and watercolour painting. I love arts and crafts and making things, particularly with small children. I also recently re-trained to teach Montessori 0-6 years, where I got to sing, make, chat and re-discover the wonder of this world with small children all day long.

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