Lyne Marshall is a contemporary Australian artist who has exhibited extensively in Australia and overseas.
Her book, Gleaner or Gladiator: the struggle to create is a result of over five years' research into the creative processes that artists encounter. It is also a personal narrative of her own struggle to step into the creative flow and it showcases some of her contemporary landscape paintings and photography.
In this interview, Lyne Marshall talks about some of the factors that motivated her to write Gleaner or Gladiator.
When did you start writing?
I have always been creative, but I am primarily an artist, mainly painting in acrylics, and this consumes most of my time. I didn’t see myself as a writer until it was suggested to me, a few years ago, that I write a book about the creative process, based on my experiences.
I had begun to research this topic, a subject that intrigued me greatly, back as early as 2000, after a positive but challenging experience at a workshop run by a Canadian artist/tutor. I began to read a lot of books on creativity and began to collect bits and pieces of my writing into a series of folios. It was the personal incidents that happened during this time, and before, which interested me.
How did you make the transition from researching to publishing your book?
After giving it some thought, I began to consciously, but spontaneously, document experiences in the studio, with a book in mind. This is how the first chapter in my book, "Energy and Action", came about. I wrote it almost un-edited, which hasn’t really happened since. I felt it captured things so well and it was strong. I knew then I could go on to write a book.
I wanted to illustrate the book myself, with my own paintings, as they were perfect examples of how the creative process was working for me. So I set out to produce a body of art work at the same time. I also posted off a lot of proposals to publishers but in the end I self-published. I designed the book myself in Adobe In Design and used one of my paintings, which I had experienced a sort of spiritual encounter with previously, on the cover. I certainly had a lot more freedom in self-publishing.
How would you describe your writing?
My writing is intuitive and has a lot of synchronicity attached to it. I am finding I am getting better at expressing what I want to say as I work more. I write what is factual, which needs research, and I have no interest in writing fiction. Writing doesn’t come easy but neither does painting at times.
Who is your target audience?
I have always been aware of who my audience would be, but I thought the general public would also be interested in the creative process.
It turns out that other artists, in particular those wanting to go beyond the mediocre, really are inspired by my book. I guess this is what I set out to achieve when I began to write, but the response and some of the feedback has amazed me. It has been this feedback that encourages me to write more books.
In the writing that you are doing, who has influenced you most?
My experiences within the creative process, that have shaped my art, have also shaped my writing. I find Asian art and writing very poetic and contemplative. Also the works of Australian writers and painters can seem to have a raw edge, yet be refined at the same time.
My writing is all about personal experiences and is influenced by my own journey. So in this way my life influences why and how I write. I live in rural isolation on a farm, and this also gives me the freedom and time to write.
What are your main concerns as a writer?
My book is about an elusive process, based in factual experiences, and I want it to be seen as an art book and valuable to the industry. However it has been categorized and interpreted by a few as self-help and new age, which is a little disconcerting. I think this is because I am writing on the spiritual in art, which is concerned with profound thought, that which moves us away from mediocrity.
There can be a lack of understanding at times. But these are isolated cases and I try not to worry about it all too much.
What are the biggest challenges that you face?
I want to write another book that goes deeper into the spiritual aspects of creating. I am not sure what form it will finally take. I guess in some ways I am back where I was seven years ago, collecting experiences and data. However, my career in art is pleasantly time-consuming. I exhibit at major art fairs with Art Clique and I have to juggle all my creative pursuits. I have decided I won’t force my next book, but let it evolve in its own time.
How many books have you written so far?
Gleaner or Gladiator: the struggle to create is the first book I have written although I have had my art published in several coffee table books, with poetry which was not my own.
Art Clique Projects published my book in 2007, with the help of a Regional Arts Development Grant to illustrate it.
Gleaner or Gladiator is an art book with a difference in that it explains the process behind creating art. It examines topics like motivation, influences, inspiration and synchronicity. It offers ways to step into creative flow and deal with the issues of everyday life for a creative professional.
Do you write everyday?
I find I do write a little a day, but not always on my new book. I write profiles for my art, and exhibitions, and articles to help publicize my book. I recently wrote an article for a two-page magazine spread.
I always write in the morning and paint in the afternoon. I stop when I have had enough or I want my work proofed before I continue. I am fortunate that my husband had some training as a proof editor and he always challenges me to expand on something that is not clear to him. I try not to think of all my projects, and time issues, so I don’t become overwhelmed. I just make sure I allow enough time for deadlines and keep tapping away at it all.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Gleaner or Gladiator: the struggle to create took about a year to write but followed on from about five years of ongoing research. It was printed in Brisbane, Australia, and launched in February 2007. Although I was initially disappointed that I had to self-publish, as the book wasn’t picked up by a publisher, it was in the end, the best thing that could have happened.
It was an expensive book to print, being 80-page full colour, but it has well and truly paid for itself as sales are ongoing. In producing the book my art has grown tremendously, and this combined with the book itself has moved my career as an artist forward. So in the end it was a good career move for me to go ahead even without a publisher.
I market the book myself and have managed to get it in quite a few bookshops. I find it sells well in Public Art Galleries and Art Supply Shops. Some of these venues are constantly restocking. Marketing is time consuming and bookkeeping ongoing and it does eat into my creative time. I try to prioritize all my projects and allow adequate time for writing and painting. I do plan to have a publisher for my next book to reduce this ongoing level of activity that comes with distribution.
Which other aspects of the work you put into the book did you find most difficult?
To write a factual book about the creative process, I had to write in the first person. It was hard writing about myself, using 'me' and 'I', and giving away things that are not only personal but hard-earned. I just said to myself ‘get over it’. I think what you give out comes back and I like the fact I might help someone else on their creative journey.
Which aspects did you enjoy most?
This book is an honest account and I like that aspect. I like being honest and I also like a challenge. Deciding how to lay the book out was certainly that, and it was exciting seeing it come to fruition. I remember collecting the book from the printer and looking at the finished article for the first time. I said, rather stupidly, but in awe, ‘It’s a book’. I don’t know what else I was expecting.
What sets the book apart from other things you've written?
It is my first book. Everything else I have written has been for an exhibition or a project. This is much bigger than anything else I had ever attempted to do before. It was also the design aspects of the book that were different and a huge learning experience.
In what way is it similar?
I have always written factual statements. This is just a more convoluted version of other writing and an extension of writing about my art. It is easy writing about something you are passionate about. What is not easy is keeping the momentum going.
What will your next book be about?
I am writing on a similar topic, and it is still formulating in my head. It will be on a larger scale I believe and may encompass interviewing other artists and asking them similar questions I asked myself when writing Gleaner or Gladiator.
What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
Self-publishing this book. It seemed a pipe dream for so long, but came together very quickly in the end, and I think very professionally. I know so much more now about the process of designing a book and distributing it. But I still have a lot to learn, especially about writing, and I think writing will become more significant than my art as I grow older.