Archive for July, 2015

From drawing board to Kindle

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

Coming soon, for an e-reader near you…

The manuscript is finished and polished, and illustrations are in position. I’ve been struggling to get the files uploaded for Kindle, converted, and previewed to verify a satisfactory presentation, then tweaked, and uploaded again to go through the conversion and verification process again, and again, and again….

Will it eventually cause me to leave my perfectionist tendencies behind? Probably not. Though my increasing frustration level could definitely be a determining factor.

My concerns about why some of the chapter headings inexplicably justify to the full page width, while others don’t, may seem inconsequential to many readers. But, as a former book editor who has professionally designed numerous textbooks, I find it difficult to overlook major editorial glitches and glaring inconsistencies. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that these, like many other aspects of e-formatting, are out of my hands.

Other issues, such as image sizing and positioning (and even the opening page…despite having clearly designated a starting point), are apparently totally beyond my control. So, to paraphrase the serenity prayer, “God, grant me the perspective to accept the things I cannot change, perseverance to change the things I can, and the perception to recognize the difference.”

Having also attempted to verify the appearance on as many different Kindle and mobile devices as possible, I have been astonished at the differences that show up. And I’m afraid that most of these inconsistencies will be unavoidable, since they appear to be due to coding peculiarities introduced in the KDP transpositions rather than anything I do (or don’t do) in formatting the manuscript.

I do understand that page proportions, line length, and page length must change from one kind of device to another, resulting in different page breaks, depending on the reading device used. But I had supposed that there should be some logic and consistency in alignments, and in whether a line is justified (stretching out the words and sometimes individual letters to fit the page width) or simply be allowed to remain unjustified before breaking onto the following line, even within an otherwise entirely justified paragraph. I find neither rhyme nor reason (nor can I get any explanation) for it. It just is.

Similarly, while I have taken into account the fact that some devices display in only black and white, and have tried to select images that can be read well both in black and white and in color, I would have expected images to at least maintain their relative proportions rather than being elongated when translated into narrower formats such as iPhones. Most devices show the illustrations almost the full page width (though indented to match paragraph indentions). Some devices proportion them down to a somewhat narrower width (and, in my opinion, they look better for doing so). So, depending on how your device configures them, … well, that’s just what it’s going to be.

I also recognize that, in many cases, fonts, font sizes, and justification can also be adjusted by the viewer, so there’s little point in expecting them to follow a single specification. But I would have supposed that basic text fonts would still look like … well, at least similar text fonts across the board. I obviously still have a lot to learn.

As I attempt to resolve those issues that are within my control, I am anticipating a release date on August 1 for Elements of Great Composition, to be available exclusively through Amazon. It’s taking me a while to ensure that it’s being published in as professional a manner as possible.

In my opinion, KDP is better equipped to publish books incorporating straight, unillustrated text than books heavy in illustrations, like this one. I must say, though, that, despite the inherent peculiarities of e-publishing, self-publishing through KDP is much faster (if not always easier) than the old, traditional publishing process.

For my readers, an additional benefit of opting for KDP is that, particularly for a book like this, with a high proportion of illustrations in relation to text, e-publishing will allow me to keep the pricing much lower than I could ever have hoped to in a hard-copy format. As it is, I’ll be able to make it available at a great value –for less than the cover price of many monthly magazines. So stay tuned!

Remember the target date: August 1, 2015!

Generating the Gist

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Did you ever notice a scene that you wanted to capture but didn’t have a camera or any way to record it at the time?

That’s what happened to me one morning when I stopped for breakfast at a little local coffee shop. It was apparent that everyone knew everyone else there. The regulars called the waitress by name, and she knew their standard orders. The stories they told were the same ones they seem to have told every morning to anyone who would listen, and gossip got top billing among the daily specials.

150602w Morning Joe and Sunshine

Having captured a few details in my mind as general impressions, I recreated the scene in watercolor after I returned home. The result is “Morning Joe and Sunshine” (#150602w), above. Much detail is omitted or changed to suit my purposes, but the gist and impression of the scene are enough to tell the story.

No, these are not portraits of the folks who actually peopled the place, yet my painting serves as a portrait of the genre, the local coffee shop, the morning hangout for absorbing some morning light, companionship, and an invigorating cup of joe or two before making the daily trek to work. And that, after all, was my goal.

On multiple facets of composition

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

One of the many projects I’ve undertaken this year is a book. At least I hope it will become an e-book in the not-too-distant future. Though limited in scope, the information it conveys is valuable, and I trust that it will prove useful to its readers.

At the beginning of this year I felt compelled to compile my thoughts about the elements of good composition as a kind of checklist and measuring rod for my own work. So I began to list the various components as they occurred to me.

A month later, I joined a photography group in our community and quickly saw that the other photographers were searching for answers to many of the same questions I had had when I was first learning to paint. It immediately became clear that the same information that I had already begun to compile would be just as helpful to them as to my painting students.

So, instead of preparing a series of quick lessons to insert into my blog or newsletter or to develop into a lecture series, I began to develop my topic points and found myself digging into a more involved writing project. The difficulty was not in the writing but in maintaining my focus and intention of purpose. I had to control my enthusiasm and establish a specific and limited focus for the work.

I knew my purpose was not to teach people how to take photographs or how to paint. Those topics are covered by a wide variety of other resources already, including the noteworthy Virtual Art Academy (, from whose curriculum I drew many of the points in regard to painting. But simply identifying these universally applicable elements of composition, and recognizing why they are important, appears to be a topic often brushed aside by most easily accessed sources. Some of the information is certainly available in piecemeal form or through more comprehensive educational sources than this book, but there seems to be a lack of information accessibility, for those who don’t have the time or financial resources to devote to a comprehensive art course, that simply points beginners toward the many pertinent elements of good composition.

Since most beginning artists and amateur photographers are largely self-taught, they often don’t realize what they have not yet learned regarding effective composition. This work will help them recognize some of those gaps in their knowledge to help them seek out appropriate answers to suit their own medium and artistic needs.

For more advanced artists and photographers, the work will provide a checklist against which they can compare their work to find where their work can be strengthened or improved.

I was undecided at first about how to approach the project or to what extent I should cover the topic, but I took a tip from Pablo Picasso, who said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” He was right. Little by little the manuscript has expanded. Rather than more words, it begs now for images to illustrate my thoughts. I look forward to working on those in the weeks ahead.