Words are my friends. All I have to do is sit at a keyboard, and my fingers start tapping. Empty pages fill quickly, and (generally speaking) easily. But although I see images in my mind, the only way I can capture these visions is through words on a page.
Unless, I call Eliza.
You see, Eliza is my artist. Oh, sure, she’s her own person. Flesh, blood, bone. I don’t actually own her, or anything. But we’ve known each other since I was twelve, and she and I have a definite connection. I see a picture in my head, talk to Eliza on the phone, and presto… artwork begins to pour out of my fax machine or fill up my email box. Somehow, she knows exactly what I’m seeing.
But I got to thinking. Are pictures for Eliza what words are for me? I hear stories in my head, the words perfectly enunciated (unless I’m drunk, and then they’re slurred). Does Eliza see art in her mind? Or is her inner voice a paintbrush? Is her constant dialogue done in pictures rather than words?
I asked her, and this is what she said….
No, I see in motion. I have to feel the curve and I don’t know how to explain it, but let’s say that we’re talking about the curve of a woman’s back going to the small of her back. I see the motion. And I see the 3-D. And if I feel that, I actually feel the motion of what you’re saying in order to see the picture in your head.
Is that something you learned in art class, or is this just the way the world is for you?
In art class, you learn about the negative space. You learn to see what’s not in a picture. That’s as important as what actually is.
What about colors? Are there colors you are drawn to, or ones that you shy away from?
Red, purple, hot or warm colors are my favorites. I'm not drawn to baby blues. I don't like anti-freeze yellow.
Do you move around when you draw? Do you pace the way I do on those times when the words get stuck between my head and my hands?
I always have to feel the motion of the characters… Sometimes, I do move, like when you were telling me about your ideas for the "Lipstick on Her Collar" cover, I elongated my neck, imagined wearing a stiff white collar… I felt tall and sexy.
When I was doing the artwork for "Naked Erotica," with the curtain, I could feel the soft wave in it.
Are bodies just bodies to you, or do you like to draw men over women or women over men (stop snickering Kristina!)?
I prefer drawing the female form to the male form. The female form has more curves. I think it’s more exciting—not sexually, but exciting because of the dips, pinches, peaks, valleys. The man’s body really doesn’t have that. It does, but it’s not as pronounced. You’ve got your six-pack, but that’s just like a quiet, rippling ocean. Where as a woman’s body has got crashing waves. It goes up. It’s cool. It’s always in motion. Doesn’t matter which direction you look at, she’s got curves in the small of her back, her waist…The very first paintings I ever sold were of nudes. And they were the Botticelli nudes.
How do ideas come to you?
You hear someone’s voice talking about what they want.... As soon as I hear the words, I see the image. I can see the ruffle going down the side of a dress… I keep thinking about the covers that you and I talk about, where suddenly I just saw the image in my head. Like picking up a crystal and turning it over and over and over and over.
Together, Eliza and I have collaborated on all of the 15 covers for the Pretty Things Press books. She has illustrated several of the books, themselves: Juicy Erotica and Sex & Candy. Here is a snippet from the soon-to-be-released S&C.
From “Kneading” by Shanna Germain
At home, I don’t let her touch me. There is only this: my fingers tangled in her thin apron strings, cascade of cotton and flour against the floor, Macy’s dark arms iced with sugars and spice.
My recipe is simple: Macy and me, hands and skin, kneading and heat. “The best recipes just taste complicated.” This is something I plan to teach her.
Macy stands, her apron at her feet, still in her white baker’s clothes. Her arms at her sides.
I pull my own apron over my head, wrap the wide fabric around Macy’s waist, around her hands. Still not touching. The cloth wraps her twice, three times. Macy’s eyes, nutmegs in their spicy stare, watch me. The only thing on her that moves, her breath and those eyes. I lean down to tie the cloth around her. Her stomach smells of honey. I want to lick it clean.
Instead, I grab the cloth wrapping. I pull it toward me and Macy comes too, bringing her sugar scent. She thinks I might kiss her, maybe she expects me to kiss her, but I don’t. I trail my fingers up her arms, the crunch of sugar beneath my skin. At first, she just stands, one foot cocked to the side like a horse, waiting. I keep my fingers there, against the skin of her arms, smoothing and pressing.
This evening, there is nothing but this: soft chocolate breasts inside my strong hands, roll and pinch of skin, my fingers lathered in Macy’s dew and sweat and sweet cream. There is only her reaching, dark fingers, hungry mouth.
Inside my mouth she is the first spoonful of tapioca pudding. She is finding a fudgesicle in the freezer on a hot summer day. She is the sweet cinnamon bloom of apple pie up on the tongue. She is the perfect cake, hot from the oven.
Eliza is often the first person I talk to in the morning and the last person I talk to at night. Even though we’re separated by several thousand miles, we share coffee and cocktails on a daily basis.
Everyone should have an artist. I highly recommend it.
P.S. Eliza Castle is here today to answer questions. Comment for a chance to win a complete set of the 14 books currently published by Pretty Things Press.