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Word Art: Guide Dog

I’ve decided that this shall be the blog of record for my word art creations.  Each piece will get its own blog entry, where I detail the story (however short or long) of the piece’s creation, post the transcript of the words themselves and post a picture of the result.

Rather than do it chronologically, I’m starting with the two pieces that are no longer in my possession, since I no longer have the physical objects to help jog my memory.  Of those two, I’m starting with the one I presented to Mr. Neil Gaiman, since I don’t have the option of tapping on his door and asking for another look-see at the work, as I do with the other one.

Five days before the night I mark as the start of my art career, I’d picked up a bright orange ticket from Little Shop of Stories, a little bookshop in Decatur which had won the privilege of having Mr. Gaiman appear for a signing by throwing one of the best Halloween parties to celebrate The Graveyard Book.  The ticket granted admission to the talk and reading he would be giving at Agnes Scott College.

Somewhere between the 5th (when I discovered that people who are not me also find my artwork worth looking at) and the 14th (when the event was scheduled) I got it in my head that I would make some art for Mr. Gaiman and present it to him as a gift.  I picked out a suitable frame at the same trip to Goodwill that I picked up the frame for the piece for Mr. I and cut a sheet of paper to fit in it.

I swiped a photograph from Mr. Gaiman’s blog (seen here–it’s the second of the two) and sized it down to a suitable proportion.  The glass door to the patio served as an improvised light table as I traced (and re-traced, and re-re-traced) the outline of Cabal the dog to my satisfaction.

Thursday morning, after much dithering, I finally sat down and wrote the words.  Unlike all the other works so far, I used a Cross fountain pen and black ink instead of the gel pens I’ve been normally using.  It seemed appropriate.  The words ended up as follows:

The story as we know it starts the way most good stories end.

The poor, neglected, unwanted creature escapes, goes on strange journey, finds love and acceptance in a magical new place.

Or, perhaps, this is the middle of the story, the time spent with the adoptive family before the heroic journey begins.

The woods nearby are perilous, after all, and must not be entered in certain seasons without a protective cape.

We all know what happens next. Or, at least, what is supposed to happen next.

There will be the time, the one little time, when our hero slips into the woods unprotected and discovers why that protection is needed.

But with wit and luck and courage, he defeats the menace and returns home triumphant.

One might suspect that was the real reason he shed his cape when he did–he wanted to move the story along.

(Far too many people, it seems, get themselves in trouble because they want their lives to be more interesting stories.)

Then again, that operates under the assumption that he is the protagonist.

The story as we have seen it written places him instead as one of many side characters–first as mystery, then as miracle, now and again as comic relief.

The role he plays now appears to be that of spirit guide or mentor, the serene master who reminds you that all of life is in the present moment, to pay no mind to what was and what might be, to watch the fireflies as they dance, to breathe in the scents bestowed by nature, to know that it is enough to just be.

However, even as essential as these sacred moments are, and while, admittedly, they make for excellent poems, they do not do well as stories.

And one of the things that marks us as human is our insatiable craving for stories.

Even when our own lives are not lacking for adventure, excitement, or drama we still seek out the conflicts of others that we may look at them from a safe distance and perhaps learn lessons that we could apply to the antagonisms in our own lives.

At the very least, we see the endings we wish we could have (or the dark fates we are glad to have avoided) and we are consoled by them.

We tell stories of the things we wish were true.

We tell stories of the things we are glad are not true.

Once in a while, we tell the stories of things in the hope of making them reality.

(It only seems to work, in my experience, when one isn’t necessarily trying to write something into being. Though it can be more than a bit unnerving when an echo of something you wrote shows up in your reality. Trust me on this one.)

So one may wonder if this guardian spirit will appear in future tales or if he already did at one point and thus he arrived just as summoned by written word by the spell of the mage who can weave a world into being with one word after the other, not even fully grasping the power he has?

Either way, he lives in stories now, the stories of day-to-day living that may not be (and do not need to be) as grand and epic as the stories told between bound covers.

Does he realize he is a character in the story of another? I doubt it matters to him.

I took a photograph each time I hit a point of “Argh!  I don’t know what to do next!” and managed to turn the results into an animated GIF (with apologies in advance to those on dial-up or hazy wi-fi signals:

Guide Dog

I should perhaps state for the record that I never really plan the words in advance.  I don’t do full-on free writing, the way I do elsewhere, but I sort it out in my head about one or two sentences at a time and only look back at the last sentence or so when I move on to the next, which leads to things veering in odd directions I hadn’t even really counted on when I first set pen to page.  Sentences will find themselves slightly rephrased between conception and execution if the room for the exact wording is insufficient.

Once framed, the result was something like this:

Guide Dog (framed)

Neil Gaiman arrived in Decatur in a bank of fog and rumbles of thunder.  He read from his work, voices and everything, answered questions and signed for many, many hours.  (If you care to read it, I have a more detailed account of that night on my LiveJournal here.)  I presented my work to him and I’m reasonably sure he liked it.

Prints of this work are not available.

The original has been given to Neil Gaiman.

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