Interviews and Such

James Strecker Reviews the Arts


Posted on March 28, 2020 by strecker

ELYSE DRAPER: My life has taken on more than a few twists and turns over the past nine years. Creation had been a compulsion since I was very young- writing, painting, web design, graphic illustration, and marketing. Until, I manifested a rare autoimmune disease that would progressively destroy my retinas and lead me into a black hole. Over the next seven years of sight loss, I became a single parent, taking chemotherapy levels of immunosuppressants, and working fifty to sixty hours a week. Artistic creation had to take a back seat to surviving.

A little over a year ago, night blindness forced me to cut back my work schedule, and brought me face to face with a desperation to make up for lost time, to finish projects that I once loved, and start down a new path that ensured a healthy future.

Now here we are, with recent projects and what they mean. I am amid one of the most creatively hyperactive time periods in my life. As a publisher, and formatting editor, I published three books.

·        From Murder Incorporated to the PGA Tour: The Remarkable Untold Story of Charlie “The Bug” Workman & His Son PGA Pro Chuck Workman, By Chuck Workman, with Peter Cimino.

·        The Legend of Ugly Joe By Gregory L Hall.

·        TALES FOR THE 21st CENTURY volume 2 By W. Freedreamer Tinkanesh.

I am writing a beautifully brutal sociological science fiction, speculative series – Overtaken, which has two books down and one more to go (one of multiple projects that I had begun to write over nine years ago.) A tale that asks if humanity is prepared to evolve. What if we don’t have the possibility of refusing … what if we have made our choice by how we treat one another; how we have treated the world around us?

And I started a new business with my partner, Stephen Hawkins, based on the same premise that I have always applied to my writing- if you are searching for something and can’t find it, create it yourself. In our case, affordable graphic design and merchandising for us little guys, who simply don’t have a million-dollar marketing budget. The Hall Closet Custom Shirtworks LLC, specializes in supplying custom graphic design and branding services, as well as promotional products from clothing to candles. We focus on providing professional corporate design and marketing to clients who are self-employed, running a start-up, and/or small businesses with limited budgets. I am particularly proud of developing a model for my fellow authors, whether independent or small press, which allows them a unique marketing opportunity, by having access to affordable merchandising. And, we’re funny … No; I mean it, we’re actually quite humorous. Or, at least, we laugh a lot, and thoroughly enjoy our work.   

What does this mean? Hope. Independence. Creative fulfillment. Life. Looking out from the darkness, my art is giving me life.

JS: How did doing these projects change you as a person and as a creator?

ED: Art in all its mediums, rarely appears from happy minds; the most brilliant words usually come from deep dark places. With that being said, creativity is salve for the raw and wounded soul. We try to make something good out of the toxicity within; and if we’re very lucky, it can remind our onlookers that they are not alone.

Every time I delve deep into my imagination and carve out something that I can hold, it reminds me that creativity is a gift. After a lifetime of invention, each piece that I can still finish with pride, no matter the hurdles, makes me stronger. As a matter of fact, I think progressively overcoming more difficult situations, leaves one feeling like everything is going to be okay if they don’t give up on making their dreams a reality.

With these latest hurdles, my present projects have been teaching me how to continue with hope, and abandon despondency. It is always an ongoing process; and through method or madness, my work is changing me in profound (hopefully positive) ways.

JS: What might others not understand or appreciate about the work you produce or do?

ED: I have spent my entire life absorbing as much philosophy as possible, reading constantly, only to realize that I know very little, but thrive on the search for and expressions of knowledge. Consequently, I have found tremendous pleasure in attempting to organize my thoughts and research, while weaving them into the fantastical, the visceral, and the fictional. Trying to untangle the nest of notes, stray thoughts, and emotions from complicated timelines, atypical protagonists/antagonists, and support characters that are constantly stealing the spotlight … most certainly is my idea of a good time. Kind of like putting together a 100,000-piece puzzle, of a polar bear in a blizzard … if quite a few of the pieces are missing behind the couch, so you create new ones with colored scrap paper. Thus, my work can be complex and an acquired taste; however, over the years, I have received more positive feedback than ridicule.

JS: What are the most important parts of yourself that you put into your work?

ED: The hidden fragile parts that only see the light of day when projected through my imagination.

Authors are a funny breed; we like to hang our knickers on the clothesline for inspection, but then run back inside to hide, occasionally peeking out the kitchen window to see what people think of our various under-garments.

JS: What are your biggest challenges as a creative person?

ED: Balance. I have come to appreciate that making time and finding balance with my creative self is as important as preventative health care.

JS: Imagine that you are meeting two or three people, living or dead, whom you admire because of their work in your form of artistic expression. What would you say to them and what would they say to you?

ED: I would love to have Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Einstein, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian Mckellen over for a casual dinner. I wouldn’t say a word; I would just close my eyes and listen, like the proper fan-girl of the human condition that I am. Well… I may, at some point, ask Stewart and Mckellen if they wouldn’t mind reading aloud a sonnet or two. After all, listening, learning, observing, dreaming, and feeling are the most important factors in drawing out artistic expression.

JS: Please describe at least one major turning point in your life that helped to make you who you are as a creative artist.

ED: Approximately twenty years ago, the accumulated deep dark places and general confusion about life began to overflow with my work as a hospice care provider. I, in turn, began to ooze an angst for not being able to express myself. Writing saved me then, as much as it is now.   

JS: What are the hardest things for an outsider to understand about your life as a person in the arts?

ED: That the term “starving artist” is not some cute avant-garde concept to describe the existential struggle to create … as if deliberately struggling and starving gives birth to our art. We’re starving, people; take an interest, while we’re still alive.

JS: Please tell us what you haven’t attempted as yet that you would like to do in the arts? Why the delay so far?

ED: Movies. I have yet to do work as a screenwriter. Honestly, I think I might be too long winded to be a truly successful one. Perhaps, working with a good screenwriter, one day I could see my work on the big screen, or streamed through a little one.

What would be the delay, up to this point? Representation. Let’s face it, it is ultimately the name of the game … if you want your work noticed, it must be visible to those who might want to buy and/or support your dream. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

JS: If you could re-live your life in the arts, how would you change it and why?

ED: I wish that I had a sharper learning curve concerning who to trust with support. However, the hardest lessons learned, are the one’s with the most impact. Ultimately, I wouldn’t change anything … I’ve earned where I am now.

JS: Let’s talk about the state of the arts in today’s society, including the forms in which you work. What specifically gives you hope and what specifically do you find depressing?

ED: The history of art’s impact on society, has been the topic of countless books and educational publications. Comparatively, I cannot elaborate any better than those authors on art’s tremendous influence on humanity, or to a timelier extent, society. I can express my opinion though – Art, by the consequence of its existence, touches the unspoken parallels that connect us to each other. Art in its purest forms, surpasses our differences and prejudices, to lay our commonality bare. And yet, those who fear that connection, the ignorant, the narcissists and the xenophobes, have always and will always try to block others from building a broader perspective of the world around them. It is not a coincidence that the largest fear-mongers, are also those spouting the loudest that the art culture is a luxury and wasteful, and therefore should be eliminated.

Within the writing world, I see hope in the explosion of writing and sharing different perspectives through independent publishing innovations. So much talent has gone unknown because there simply wasn’t a platform for distribution. I also find it depressing that so many extraordinary voices are lost inside the sheer quantity of noise that would be better served by a different medium. It really is a double-edged sword for the philosophical grammar nazi.

JS: What exactly do you like about the work you create and/or do? 

ED: Taking the mess that I call a brain, spilling it out onto a page, and eventually (with extensive fine-tuning) seeing it make sense.

JS: In your creative life thus far, what have been the most helpful comments you have heard about your work? 

ED: “It means something. Don’t stop.” Just vague enough to be left open to interpretation, while also incredibly encouraging.

JS: Finally, what do you yourself find to be the most intriguing and/or surprising things about you?

ED: When I finally found the medium to express myself, I was extremely surprised to find that anyone cared to listen.

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