Leeching the Sirens

Some time ago, as I sat on a bus heading from the Western U.S. to the East Coast, I found myself bored out of my mind staring out the window at the endless fields through the state of Kansas. Having previously set a goal to add more of a narrative to my paintings, I figured this was the best time to start something. With my sepia inked pen and a small spiral notebook in hand I began to write.

After returning home I sat down at the computer to fine tune the summary I had hand written during the many hours on the bus. But instead a new story came to mind. So I set the previous tale aside and went about writing what I believed was going to be a short story to accompany roughly 10-15 paintings. However the more I worked on it the bigger it became. That short story became an 80,000 word manuscript titled Leeching the Sirens and the number of paintings doubled to 30.

The story follows Jessica, whose life is turned upside down when she is kidnapped by a masked man who, in an unknown location, slowly bleeds his victims as he paints their portraits with their own blood. When she comes to realize she isn't the first victim nor will she be the last, Jessica has to find a way to save her own life and those who have yet to be taken.

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All thirty paintings are done as though they are the actual paintings from the story. Every soft line, every angered dash of straight blood strew across the composition; all depicting the moments when the antagonist creates them. A part of the story can be glimpsed through the progression of paintings. The details behind each piece however, lies in the pages of the novel.

The manuscript itself is currently in the latter stages of the editing process. Once editing is complete then the quest to find a publisher will begin. As with many things in this world it would go faster if enough money were thrown at it. Unfortunately that option isn't on the list. So instead it’s a waiting game. Now originally the thought was to have the book promote the paintings. But instead it looks as though the paintings will be promoting the book.

 The setting of this story provided me with the perfect opportunity to try out some new approaches to my work. Prior to Leeching the Sirens I had done all of my blood based paintings on Plexiglas. Through the antagonist of the story I was able to follow his development of a new painting process with my own. My first attempts at painting with blood on paper became his first attempts. My progressive improvement through each painting was his as well. Although this alter-ego is a much darker character than me, we both share a drive to perfect our unconventional techniques. I discovered a way to better control the blood on the paper, but at a cost of saturation. The colors are not as rich as they were on the Plexiglas. Yet with enough time though, I'm certain I can enhance the hues in future paper paintings.

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Aside from their intended connections to the story, these paintings reflect a deeper story of my own journey in the development of my artistic process from when I first began during college up to now. A roller coaster of hope and disappointment played out in a series of paintings. At first the vision of how it would all work was set in mind and only needed to be translated through the medium and materials. However they were found wanting. Further on there was hope, but then struggles of frustration ensued throughout one painting after the next. The result was never as good as it should have been, as it could have been. The next one will be better. Yes, I can make it better. After mentally beating myself up for each disappointing painting, I soon came to realize that perhaps the goal was too high to reach in a single stride. A transitional period of healing and recovery came, but still a need to aim high persisted. With the bar lowered I could meet the expectations and raise it slightly for the next. A casual dialog was opened between me and my work. But when the bar became too high again the self confidence waned. With sudden outbursts in the work, there then came the realization that the burden of inadequacy and frustration came not from the outside, but from the inside, from my own expectations. Just as the antagonist of the story does with his captured victims, so too needed I to let my unreal expectations die.

*UPDATE*

I began this venture over three years ago and now I’m finally able to announce that my book Leeching the Sirens has been published! In the days to come there will be exciting announcements regarding my début novel and the next stages of its growth, so keep an eye out for what’s coming!

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JS 4thPerhaps she is sleeping?
Perhaps she is weeping?
She is sad yet beautiful, but is it her sadness that makes her so beautiful, so fragile, and so breakable?
I sympathize for this withdrawn figure, her face buried in her arms.
As with a frightened child, my hands ache to be placed on the back of her head or shoulder.
Perhaps all she wants is someone to hold her.

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