Each month the Renderosity community votes on The Renderosity Artist Of The Month [AOM] ... October's AOM is Michael Jansen [bangonthedrums]!
We congratulate Michael for an outstanding collection of works in the Writers Gallery!
Hi! You may know me as ‘bangonthedrums,’ and many of you were kind enough to vote me in as Renderosity’s Artist of the Month (AOM) for October, an honor for which I am deeply grateful. Before diving into the interview, let me take a moment to acknowledge the other writer/artists nominated alongside me, especially beachzz, with whom I was tied in the voting at the end of regulation time. I for one would’ve loved to see the tie stand, allowing us to share this honor. Ah well, at any rate, please take a moment to check out her gallery, it’s well worth it. And before I forget, a huge ‘thank you!’ to those of you who have left me congratulatory comments and sitemails – my being busy dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Ike has put me way behind in thanking each of you individually as I usually like to do... never doubt for a moment, however, that your support touches me greatly!
Now, on to our regularly scheduled programming… ;)
Who is "bangonthedrums"?
Well, for starters, my name is Michael Jansen. The bangonthedrums moniker was derived from the lyrics of a song that cracks me up. And no, I don’t play drums; tenor sax is my toy, although I haven’t played in awhile. I was born to German parents but am a native upstate New Yorker, transplanted to Texas, where I’ve been doing the rocket science thing for NASA as a day job for 26 years now (I’m an aeronautical engineer). I’m recently divorced (as of a year ago) and have two children: a daughter, 20, and a son, 15. My daughter’s been tagged and released to the wild awhile now already; my son still lives with me. Besides art and writing, my hobbies/interests include soaring (I’ve had my pilot’s license since I was 16), hiking, traveling, soccer, racquetball, and time with family and friends.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since, oh, about second grade or so. I can recall penning several chapters of my first ‘novel’ – something of a Robert Louis Stevenson / Treasure Island knockoff – at about that time. I, of course, based the young protagonist on, well, me, and his love interest on a girl I was sweet on that summer. I think I still have it somewhere. After that auspicious start (wink!) my interests wandered, and I barely managed to write a poem here, a short story there (typically in the fulfillment of a homework assignment), until sometime in the mid-‘90s, when I completed one novel (a real, original one this time, lol) plus several chapters of a second one. Then life happened, and my writing went by the wayside awhile – only to find renewal several years later when I was inspired to write several poems during a silent spiritual retreat. Since then (about five years ago or so), my literary outlet has been poetry. For the last two of those years, I’ve also rediscovered my passion for drawing, and have since endeavored to teach myself digital rendering, en route to illustrating my poems.
Since my current artistic goal is to promote collaborative blending of creative genres – e.g., poem-pictures – I’ll take the liberty of addressing some of my art as well, as it relates to my writing. I taught myself to draw back when I was a little kid, as a way to occupy myself weekend mornings when my folks wanted to sleep in. Over the years since then most of my work has been in traditional media: oil pastel, pencil, charcoal, oil paint, and watercolor; heavy emphasis on the first two. My foray into digital art arose as a challenge to myself to find an art medium that will let me continue to create, even as Parkinson’s slowly erodes my steadiness. You’ll have to be the judge as to how well that’s going… ;)
What are you currently working on?
I have four writing-related irons in the fire at this time. A textbook on management of aerospace programs is due for initial printing any moment now (if the editor is to be believed, lol) which includes a case study I was asked to write – my first bona fide publishing credit! I’ve also recently been asked to contribute a chapter for a program control best practices textbook that NASA intends to publish. On the purely fun side, I am hip-deep in the compilation and editing of my first poetry chapbook – woo-hoo! It will comprise 60-70 of the nearly 200 poems I’ve written, and will include illustrations for approximately one-third of them. You’ll be familiar with much of the material; all the poems I’ve posted here on Renderosity will be in it. My working title is A Cool Draught from a Rusty Pump, and I’ll be self-publishing it via Lulu.com… more to come! (Check my Renderosity home page from time to time if you’re interested; I’ll post its release date and purchasing information as it becomes available.)
And yes, last but perhaps dearest to my heart, I’ve dusted off my first real novel, completed 11 years ago, and am editing it for self-publishing via Lulu.com. A boyhood friend of mine who grew up to be an editor for New Yorker magazine and a published author, told me in his critique of the draft that the only thing wrong with it was that it was too lengthy for the publishing houses’ collective comfort zone, coming as it did from a first-time author. I found his recommendation at the time to cut 50,000 words and resubmit it to be akin to being asked to choose one of my limbs to hack off – I simply couldn’t find enough material to cut and still preserve the storyline, so hence the hiatus. But now, with the increasing legitimacy of self- and online-publishing, I have a chance to prove my friend’s critique right and the publishing giants’ conservatism unfounded… wish me luck!
What do you think your best piece of work is and why?
Wow, now that’s a hard one… almost like being asked which of my kids I love most, lol. Certainly, the most involved/complex written project has been the novel I’m readying for self-publication… and I do like how it turned out. Of my body of poetic work, I’d be very hard-pressed to name a ‘best’ piece… you’re likely a far more qualified judge of that! (Please let me know via comment or sitemail how you would answer this one for me – I’d love to hear your opinion!)
So many of my poems are based on what I’ve seen or experienced, so it’s difficult for me to judge them objectively. Among my Renderosity posts, my ‘top ten’ would be: Blackberries, Rude Awakening, Perspective, Veterans Day, Glass Cage, Gentle Me, The Dance, Kat’s Cradle, and The Search. They are dear to me because I believe that they each capture the essence of their respective inspirations, contain at least a twist of plot or turn of phrase I’m happy with, and (so I’m told) make the situation palpable for the reader and leave him/her thinking. Whew! …how’s that for a long non-answer, lol?
I have a far crisper response when considering my artwork: Hawk Ascending. Technically it is, beyond a doubt, the most complex subject I have attempted, and I’m (brace yourself for a rare admission) actually satisfied with it! Of course, the clincher is that it, especially when paired with the poem Glass Cage, captures so completely where I am in my life right now, that it affects me deeply whenever I see it.
Who/what inspires you?
People, life, and their interactions inspire my writing. Perhaps I was a philosopher – or psychologist – in some former life, lol. Our collective and individual ability to endure and mete out hardship, to conquer or be overwhelmed by our circumstances, has always fascinated me. When one strips away all other trappings, one finds that visceral reaction to be what truly defines us. Perhaps that is why I tend to look for ways to illustrate my human condition poems with nudes… when you can’t hide behind aught but the skin you were born in, you quickly have to deal with your true appearance. Similarly, when life strips you of the things that comprise your comfort zone, you’re left having to confront the essence of the person you really are. Those seem to fit together, metaphorically speaking, don’t they?
Folks who read my poetry soon see that the themes and twists are often sobering rather than humorous; that’s because life isn’t always carefree and sunny. Often it’s challenging, and, on occasion, seemingly downright cruel. But I hope that people who read enough of my work also notice another thread running through it: one of amazement at the human ability to survive – indeed thrive – despite adversity, for that is my ultimate source of inspiration.
How has this online community (Renderosity) enhanced your work, relationships, and learning?
The Renderosity family has been a wonderful source of encouragement and surprisingly close friendships. I have received some frank and spot-on suggestions for improvement; I have also gotten unabashed praise from artists and writers whose work I greatly admire. Both inputs have served to raise my competency and lift my spirits more than I can adequately describe. Even such a seemingly minor acknowledgement as someone adding one of my pieces to his/her favorites list without comment means the world to me: it tells me that this person ‘gets’ what I was trying to convey – at some level, these words or poem/image combination connected with this reader. Isn’t that, ultimately, what all our creative outpourings are intended to achieve? So, if such quiet kinships mean that much to me, you may well imagine how I truly cherish the deep exchanges and kindred spirit friendships that simply would not have enriched my life were it not for Renderosity.
And, finally, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the incredible talent that graces the works in Renderosity’s galleries… there is so much to learn simply by viewing others’ works and reading their tutorials, comments, and the like. Toss in the fact that most members (and indeed, the entire Renderosity staff – administrators, moderators, etc.) have demonstrated a ready willingness, via sitemail or threads in the myriad forums, to share tips, techniques, and critiques in an affirming, constructive manner, and one can easily begin to grasp how central an element our online community has been to my growth as a writer/artist.
Do you have any comments or advice for other writers/artists?
It sounds cliché to advise folks to ‘write what you know,’ but I’ve found it to be a truism. The corollary I’d add to that is ‘expand what you know.’ If, for example, you like to write about people, it helps to make it a habit to pay attention to folks around you – what they say/do, how they say/do it, the expressions on their faces, their accents, colloquialisms, appearances – anything that’ll augment your personal experiences and help you to understand, write about, and even render the characters in your creative works.
One longtime friend of mine and I periodically perch ourselves atop barstools at various local watering holes and, after people-watching awhile will indicate a random patron and ask each other: ‘Okay, what’s (his/her) story?’ We then proceed to construct a background and current life-situation for the ‘victim’ in question. On occasion, if the person seems approachable, we’ll even ask him/her to substantiate our guesses. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle so aptly illustrated with his Sherlock Holmes character, one would be amazed how much can be deduced via simple observation! And even when my friend and I are completely wrong, the stories we construct are rarely boring, lol.
The other lesson-learned I’d like to share is to be absolutely fearless in experimenting with artistic media, writing styles, points of view (both personal and artistic), subjects, and so forth. It’s one of the key elements to discovery and growth. Were it not for experimentation, my poetic body of work would exhibit very little diversity of subject and style (indeed, I may not have ventured from prose to poetry at all!), and I most certainly would not have developed the artistic techniques I now use (see my tutorial, based on Hawk Ascending, here).
Well, friends, there you have it: a little bit about me and the artistic road I’m traveling. If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave me a comment or send me a sitemail; I’d love to learn from your insights. Thank you again for this honor, and for all your views and words of critique and encouragement! I wish you the best of luck, growth, and satisfaction in all your creative endeavors!
We invite you to have a further look at bangonthedrums' Renderosity Gallery! Also, as Michael mentioned, his tutorial on Hawk Ascending really is a must see. What he does with Microsoft's PowerPoint is truly amazing! Check out "A Basic Technique For Achieving Photorealism Using PowerPoint"
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Artist of the Month is highlighting a talented Renderosity artist that has been nominated by mods and admins, and voted by the community. Recognition is given to this member for their collection of works for that year.
Since we only select one AOM per month, it is not about their works for that particular month. Instead, it is about highlighting a talented artist's works for that year, and they are recognized during that month.
To learn more about Renderosity's Artist Of The Month [AOM] award, and to view our past AOM's, please visit the AOM 2008 page, which can also be found on the sidebar under Highlights.