Today, I want to revisit a post I did exactly twelve years ago – before I had published a thing and before most of you had ever heard of me! It was called Blank Canvas and related to the creation of the cover art for The Darcys of Pemberley, my first sequel to Pride and Prejudice.
Rereading it, I realized how much had changed since then. The biggest thing is I’ve gone from zero to twelve books published. Yay! Also, I’m never on Twitter anymore. What hasn’t changed is the challenge of writing the book and then producing the cover art. And the blank canvas is still intimidating!
Blank: Not marked; lacking features or interest; uneventful or unproductive; emptiness of mind. (Now we can’t have that, can we?)
I’m again facing the looming prospect of a blank canvas, since Mr. Knightley in His Own Words is about 80% completed, and I’ve started thinking about the cover design – always an exciting part of the process! I plan to do some mock-ups again for your feedback, like I did with Colonel Brandon in His Own Words (see post here). So watch for that in a month or two.
Now without further ado, here’s the brief original Blank Canvas post, followed by the finished painting and final cover:
I wish I had written down a great quote someone posted on Twitter the other day. It went something like this: What a blank canvas is to the artist and empty paper is to the writer, silence is to the musician. Since my creative interests carry me into the realms of art and music as well as writing, I’ve faced all three – most recently, the blank canvas.
This morning I started the painting that I hope will turn into the cover art for The Darcys of Pemberley. As I mentioned before (see Pemberley, the Picturesque), it will be loosely based on a view of Lyme House from the ’95 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. Here’s the work-in-progress:
It has a long way to go. The house looks a little cold and lonely right now. I need to warm up the color, get the water looking like water, and do the entire foreground. But at least all that white canvas is gone. So, I’ve made it over the first hurdle.
It’s the same for writing and singing; the hardest part is getting started. Staring at that ream of blank paper (or computer screen) is intimidating. Venturing out into an empty, expectant silence can be scary. That sensible, timid voice in my head tells me, “It’s too risky. Safer not to try. Public humiliation awaits.” Right now, for instance, I’m guessing you’re not all that impressed with my artistic abilities (and I’m not all that confident in them either, to tell you the truth).
So, why do people keep painting, writing, and making music? Not for any tangible reward; most artists/writers/musicians will never see big fame or fortune. I think we’re simply compelled to fill the void. We can’t NOT do it. Seen in proper perspective, those blank canvases, empty pages, and vacant silences are not foreboding. Each one is an open invitation that’s too good to bypass, an irresistible opportunity to share a creative vision with others, the chance to make daily life a little richer.
I would rarely agree with Mrs. Elton, but she makes a good point here (which applies to all the arts, not only music):
“I honestly said that…the world was not necessary to me…Certainly I had been accustomed to every luxury at Maple Grove; but I did assure him that two carriages were not necessary to my happiness, nor were spacious apartments. ‘But,’ said I, ‘I do not think I can live without something of a musical society. I condition for nothing else; but without music, life would be a blank to me.’” (Emma, chapter 32)
Here’s the finished painting and how it appears on the final wrap-around cover. “Tone down the color and make it look old,” I told my graphic designer.
I hope you enjoyed this look back in time and the inside view of the production of my very first book cover! Have you ever experienced the thrill/terror of a blank canvas, a blank page, or a silence to be filled? In what form, and how did you overcome it?
PS – There’s lots of interesting stuff back in the archives. Take a snoop around when you have some time to kill on a rainy day!