Winter holds on in mid-March with a stubborn, icy grip. Despite the bright afternoon sun, the air is crisp. Those meandering through New York’s harbor still dress in layers of thick clothing for warmth.
In the midst of the crowd that has gathered, a young thief breathes into her threadbare gloves, rubs her hands briskly together, and joins the masses to begin her work. Bright coppery curls tucked under a cap are her only distinguishing marker. Pale green eyes hide behind a shadow and her plain clothing helps her melt into the background. Just one poor immigrant in a sea of other immigrants.
Most of these poor souls do not have the money to visit Liberty Island, so they come here instead. Hundreds of unsuspecting victims bundle close while they shuffle along the pier. Many stop to gape in awe at the colossal splendor of the Statue of Liberty.
Just as well, for their diverted attention allows the pickpocket’s careful fingers to work without too many mistakes.
In this line of work, mistakes can be a death sentence.
Within the hour, she has garnered enough money to last her till Sunday, if she is careful. She dares not press her luck for any more. And, anyway, it is foolish to keep too much on her person. Plenty of other thieves to watch out for in this city.
Hiding everything within her full skirts, she slips away from the crowd and begins walking. She daydreams about dinner and the full meal that will fill her belly. She may even splurge just a little and wash it down with a pint of ale.
Someone pushes past her then. The sudden motion pushes her off-balance and jars her back to reality. Heart pounding, she pats her skirts. She hears the quiet jangle of coins from beneath the folds of fabric. Thank goodness.
Now more curious than frantic, she watches the other person, a girl close to her own age – maybe a few years older. The other girl moves swiftly toward the end of the street. A thick mass of people have all but blocked off that side and she stops behind a particularly thick wall of bodies. Her foot taps impatiently while she looks to the left and to the right to find an open path. Her reddish brown hair threatens to pull out of the haphazard bun tied at the nape of her neck.
The thief moves closer. The other girl’s clothes are old, but clean and well taken care of. Even closer now. A silver pocket watch glints in the sunlight at the girl’s waist and catches the thief’s eye. She gasps. That watch could buy her new gloves. Maybe even a new outfit.
Just another step. Almost there.
Fingers brush against skirt fabric. It rustles. The other girl whips around. Fingers wrap around the thief’s neck and without warning she is shoved. Her body trips backward. She slams against a brick wall, the other girl surprisingly strong for her size. The thief feels fingers squeeze against her throat when she struggles. The other girl’s face, now scowling, leans in so close that the thief can feel warm breath on her cheek.
“You picked the wrong target, street rat,” the other girl hisses.
A knife presses into the thief’s side and she stops struggling. She says, “I’m sorry,” in a strangled choke. Tears gather in the corner of her eyes. “Please don’t kill me!”
The other girl rolls her eyes. “Good lord, you are bad at this.” She releases her hold and steps back. A sudden rush of air fills the thief’s lungs and she doubles over and takes several frantic, ragged breaths.
“What’s your name?” the other girl asks.
The burning in her throat makes it hard to form words. “Keelie.” Her voice sounds scratch and foreign to her ears. “Keelie Flynn.”
“Well, Keelie Flynn, I’m Annie McCain.” She holds out her hand. Keelie stares down at it, dubious, before she takes it in her own. “I’m surprised you aren’t starving or in jail, what with that sad little display just now. Though,” she adds, looking Keelie up and down, “you do look a little worse for wear.”
Keelie flushes. “I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.” She turns away – then back again. “Why do ye care?”
“I don’t.” Annie pockets the knife and leans against the brick wall to Keelie’s left. “I just happen to be the best pickpocket in New York City. Wouldn’t mind having an assistant of sorts. I could show you the ropes.”
“What’s the catch?”
“No catch. Just a cut of the profits. What do you say?”
Keelie takes a moment to think it over. While a small part of her wants to say no, she is tired. And hungry. And, to be honest, she really is a horrible pickpocket. “Okay, then,” she says. “I’ll do it.”
“Great! Now then,” Annie says with a smirk. “Lesson number one: when you pickpocket a female, always move the skirt with the breeze. Not against.”
Keelie Flynn and Annie McCain are two characters in an upcoming novel collaboration with Heatherlyn Egan. I hope you enjoyed this little preview of the characters! Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below. 🙂
“You want HOW MUCH for that?!”
Words no creative professional wants to hear. Pair it with an incredulous look and it’s enough to make blood boil. The truth is, real artists and artisans put a lot of time, blood, sweat, and tears into the creations they make. They toil for hours. They lose sleep. They forget to eat. (Trust me. I’ve experienced it all.)
When someone implies (or outright says) that they think an artist/artisan’s creations are somehow worth less…
Honestly, I can’t even describe it.
Here is the best example I can think of: say you just interviewed for a big promotion at work. The interview went well, the committee seemed suitably impressed, and you feel confident that you are the best person for the job. Later, your boss comes up to you and says, “We like you, [name], but that raise you’re looking for? We just can’t afford what you think you’re worth. I mean, [so-and-so] would do the same job for half that price.” Then, the company low-balls you on their offer.
How would that make you feel? Pretty crappy, I’d imagine.
I have wanted to do a post on how much an artist’s or artisan’s time is worth. Recently a friend posted a blog post that perfectly illustrates just what goes into an artist’s creation, so I thought, why mess with perfection? The post, titled “Materials, Time, Creativity,” written by Matt Munson (on the site The Project Workbench) goes into detail as to why artistic creations are worth so much more than the average person assumes.
As the name implies, the cost of most artisan pieces can be broken down into three major categories:
“This is the easiest one for people to wrap their heads around. These are the hard costs of the stuff used to make the thing you’re looking to purchase.”
Simply, these are the supplies we use to create the finished product. For someone like me, it would be things like paper, paints, brushes, etc. These numbers are easily quantifiable, and oftentimes they are the numbers that most people assume should encompass the entire price.
Just because I spent $20 in supplies does NOT make my illustrations worth $20.
“Contrary to what you may believe or understand, the time of the artisan is worth something. Just as you would not do your job for free, it’s a bit short sighted to expect an artist to do their job for free.”
I love the quote above especially. Developers may love their job, but they still expect compensation for their work. Teachers may have a passion for education and children, but they still spent a lot of time and money learning to do the job they do, and do it well. Is that not worth something? Should they not be compensated for their skill and knowledge of their profession?
Artists and artisans should be no different.
“And here we reach what I believe is the toughest pill for a potential customer to swallow. The idea that the product you are creating has some value all its own, independent of the materials and time used to create it.”
When I am looking at a priceless painting by a world-renowned artist, I would never presume to think that the item has no intrinsic value. And, while we cannot all be Picassos or Van Goghs, I believe that an artist’s creations do have value all their own.
After all, if a person does not love something about that artist’s work, why on earth would that person bother approaching them for a custom piece? It makes no sense.
As for me – if someone comes to me thinking they’ll get something for nothing, they are sorely mistaken. And if they claim that they can make the same thing for a fraction of the cost, I will smile at them and say:
“By all means, then. You’re welcome to do it yourself.”
I struggle against the rope at my wrists. They did a thorough job tying me to this tree, but that does little to stop the irrational voice in my head that screams for me to escape. I tell the voice to shove it. We aren’t going anywhere at this rate.
So, this is how it all ends. Virginal sacrifice to some hideous god-monster.
What a sick joke.
Leaves rustle somewhere behind me. I tense. My eyes clamp shut. I grit my teeth in wait for whatever being has chosen me for its dinner. I wait for the hot, rancid breath on my cheek.
Instead, I hear a tinkling laugh.
My head snaps up. What sort of monster makes a noise like that?
A pair of violet doe-eyes meets my gaze, framed by silvery white locks and plump lips that are currently curled up in an amused grin. Under the darkening sky, she almost glows. Her mocha skin sparkles wherever the moonlight touches – soft like a caress – and she reminds me of a wood dryad or a fairy, the kind made popular in movies. Small. Dainty.
“No one has sent me a boy in ages,” she says. Her voice sounds like music.
Is this a trick where she gets close after I let my guard down, then turns into some vile creature to go in for the kill? I want to ask her this. My confused brain instead tells my mouth to spit out, “But, you’re so hot!”
“Am I? I don’t feel very warm.” She looks down and runs her hands down the front of her dress – which I notice is almost completely transparent.
Dear God, so it’s to be torture before death.
She looks back up at me and tilts her head. “You’re funny.” So close now that her breasts press against my stomach, her scent of peaches and cream envelops the air around me.
Definite, absolute torture.
“Are you going to eat me?” I ground out, heart pounding — this time, not from fear.
She laughs again. “Eat you! Whatever gave you that idea?”
“Because that’s what these people do. They sacrifice people to their gods. To you.” I lean forward and loud-whisper, “It’s why I’m tied to this tree.”
The goddess-monster-dryad-fairy takes her time to answer. She considers my question while hands and gaze peruse every inch of my body in slow, lazy paths. I may spontaneously burst at any moment. Blow up or be eaten… if either are like this exquisite torture I would die a happy man. But I’d still like to know.
“I do not eat meat, human boy,” she finally says. “I will not eat you.”
I slump against my bonds in relief. “Then, what’s with being trussed up like a sacrificial lamb?”
Her smile turns wicked. “I will not eat you, human boy,” she repeats. “But, I WILL feast.”
“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”
The importance of sketching: artists hear it all the time. (No? Just me?) We should sketch every chance we get, they say.
Well, they’re not wrong.
Think of sketching like riding a bike. It takes practice to gain enough skill to stay on the bike, even more so to get it to move forward. We must practice to learn to stop. We must practice to do wheelies. When we don’t practice, we lose the skills we have learned. They grow rusty. Harder to perform.
So, yes, sketching is important, and below I’ve outlined my top seven reasons to keep a sketchbook with you at all times and practice, practice, practice! (Why seven? Because I’m a rebel like that. Take that, number ten! I do what I want!)
- Sketchbooks are snapshots in time
- Think of a sketchbook as a type of journal. Each time you sketch something in it, you are capturing – immortalizing – a moment in time. Journals do the same, just with words.
- Sketching reduces stress
- I can’t speak for everyone, but when I start drawing, I tend to get lost in my own world. Everything around me fades. My worries melt away. I fall into a zen-like state where nothing exists but that very moment. And, when I finish, I feel at ease and I am filled with satisfaction.
- Sketching improves skill
- Sketching, as mentioned above, allows us to practice and improve our skills. By sketching the things around us, we see the world with an artistic eye and a different perspective.
- Sketching fights boredom
- Before the time of smart phones, I never left home without a book (or two or three), a sketchbook, and my pencils. Waiting at the doctor, standing in a line, waiting for class to start (though that one was a quite a while ago…), you would see me with my nose in a book or else feverishly drawing something in my sketchbook. The time always passed much quicker, then – and unlike with smart phones, I actually had something to show for it at the end. 🙂
- Sketchbooks store thoughts and ideas
- I’ve actually got what I call a scratch-book in my purse at all times. It is sort of a sketchbook on steroids. I sketch, jot down ideas, mind-map (more on that at a later date). It helps me better organize my scatterbrained ideas.
- Sketching makes us think
- Sketching opens me up to whole new ways of thinking. When I start drawing, I look at things in a different perspective and in a new light. I ask questions. These questions lead to ideas. I jot the ideas down on paper and sketch them out. So the cycle continues.
- Sketching allows us to truly experience the world around us
- We have multiple senses for a reason. Use them. Never assume that because drawings and paintings are a visual medium that other senses don’t come into play. On the contrary. They evoke memory and personal experience. While a person may not actually smell a drawing of the sea, a well-done artwork will evoke a strong memory that transports the viewer into the scene. That is the power of experience.
What reasons do you have for keeping a sketchbook? Or, if you don’t draw, what sorts of tools do you use to experience the world around you? I’d love to hear them, so be sure to post them in the comments below!
Lonely is dark.
Lonely is the feeling of nighttime that stretches forever, a shadow that devours and suffocates. Light withers and wanes in its icy grip. Flames extinguish.
Lonely is tears.
Lonely is the feeling that runs bleak and black down the heart. And with each stilted beat, with each pregnant pause, you hear nothing but thick, heavy silence and the drowning of dreams.
Lonely is cold.
Lonely is the feeling of remembered lost loves and missed opportunities. It shatters composure. Mutilates. Marks. Slices down deep with its razor sharp tongue each time you think, “I’m not good enough.”