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  • Guest Post and Giveaway: Art Appreciation Blog Tour with Dev Bentham, Jordan Castillo-Price, and Clare London

Hi guys! Today I am super excited to welcome a trio of fabulous authors to Joyfully Jay!  We have Dev Bentham, Jordan Castillo-Price and Clare London with us here today.  They have joined together for an Art Appreciation mini-blog tour and are here to talk to us about art and their new books.  In addition, they are each offering up a copy of their book in a giveaway, so one lucky winner will get their hands on all three books.  So please join me in giving them all a big welcome!

Clare: One topic I’m always fascinated by is the immediate, visceral response to visual art in contrast with the slower burn of response to reading a book i.e. also a creative product, but connecting with the consumer in a very different way.

Jordan: I wonder how much more a reader has to bring to a story as opposed to what a viewer must bring to a painting. In a way it seems like the visual of a painting would be a more didactic thing with fewer shades of meaning that can be misinterpreted. But then I visited some of the Smithsonian museums it was clear I’d been really shaped by my years in art school. (I had a minor in art history so I took lots of extra art history classes instead of blowoff classes.)

So, for instance, I got more out of the modern art than the people I was with did. They wanted to look at visually attractive things and realistic things. When we were in the national portrait gallery, there was a nude, full-sized portrait of an old woman that was very visually striking, it drew me right in. I read the plaque and it explained it was an artist’s self-portrait and it was about age and gender and societal expectations. Anyway, I got a lot out of it. I heard someone nearby say, “Ugh, that’s disgusting,” and that’s what they took from it.

I guess I’m saying that just because something is visual doesn’t mean people don’t bring their own worlds of experience to it.

Picture 1: The Muse of Painting, John La Farge

The Muse of Painting, John La Farge

Dev: I think you’re right. I’m always amazed at how personal taste is. To frame our discussion of taste, I found a couple out of copyright images from the Smithsonian. The more classical drawing is The Muse of Painting by John La Farge and the other is Head by Alfred H. Maurer. They’re both good enough to end up in the Smithsonian but I’m much more attracted to the moreabstract woman in Head (I tried to find an interesting contrast with male figures but got tired of scrolling).

I’m really not sure how relevant this is to the discussion, except that I see the same kind of difference in gut response when it comes to how people relate to stories. We all bring our whole past to the appreciation of both visual art and fiction. There are technical aspects that we can appreciate if we’re trained to, but how certain elements resonate probably depends as much on our history as on the writer or artist’s skill.

Jordan: These two images are interesting because I could see someone who didn’t like the abstract woman saying it was too crude, or it hardly took any talent, or even “I could’ve painted that myself” which is something people who know nothing about art tend to exclaim whenever they see abstract work.

Head, Alfred H. Maurer

Head, Alfred H. Maurer

I’m also attracted to the more modern piece even though I think it probably took a lot less time to create and probably even less technical skill than the traditional image (is it a lithograph?), because it’s a livelier piece with more personality and quirk and soul. It speaks to me more across the years than the other piece, which just feels dated and which I can’t really relate to.

Clare: I like both! Though I’m drawn to the prettiness of the first one. I can’t say either says “better” to me, because I have a huge appreciation of the skill involved in painting of any kind, and have no talent of my own (apart from cartooning!) to help measure. I confess I’m also a bit of an inverted snob – I can admire the craft or talent in a painting, but I refuse (privately) to like something just because someone tells me it’s masterful or a masterpiece. I like it because I like it, because it stimulates emotion in me. And I suppose that can be hate or love emotion. El Greco’s another good example of that, I’m v fond of his stuff. And Reubens, who has so much going on! And the pre-Raphaelites who are just darned pretty.

Maybe it’s a throwback to studying English, where I thought it was such a pity that critical investigation of a play or book – while it’s meant to bring added appreciation and a depth of understanding and context – so often bred contempt from too much familiarity. And honestly, did Shakespeare or Dickens actually have all that stuff in mind when they wrote the damn thing? Or were they just out for a lark and to make some money??

Books I tend to give more leeway to. I think there’s time to get to love a book, time to attune to an author’s style. The characters can “grow” on you, the plot can draw you in. I think resonance comes at a base level for me – I can be fascinated or attracted to a writer’s style, then secondly to the topic – but I will give it chance to enchant me.

So should I give that same attention and patience to art? I admit that some art I’ve “come around to”, maybe because I’ve spent more time with it, seen it in another context, seen a whole body of work rather than an isolated painting.

And maybe then, confusingly, I may give art *more* attention than a book! Because if I dislike a book on first reading, assuming I’ve given plenty of time to it, to make a measured decision – then I wouldn’t look out more of the author’s work.

So maybe at the end of the day, my love of a book will equate to love of a painting, I just took different routes. Or not.  Whoa, deep LOL.

Dev: I actually think I give more space to an artist than to a writer. I’m very picky with stories, maybe because I know something about the technical aspects that I don’t know anything about with visual art.

Jordan: This idea interests me because I think I do too. I wonder if it’s because it can be so much quicker and more immediate to get the overall feel of a piece of visual art, sometimes as little as a glance, whereas you might need to devote hours or days to a story to determine if it works for you or not. This is assuming everyone has a level of basic competence, and you don’t see a lame first page of a story or a cliche blurb that will rule it out for you. But what if it’s a competent writer and a subject matter you could potentially like…except somehow this author just doesn’t work for you.

I’d tend to be more “forgiving” of the art form that only takes a second or two to make that initial “is it for me?” judgment.

Clare: I agree. That’s more or less where I came in, comparing the immediate impact of art to the slower seduction – or not – of a book. It’s fascinating to see how our minds and emotions work together!

Dev: Clearly we all love art, and artists, since they populate our books. We also love readers, love them so much we’re each giving away a book. Leave a comment below for a chance to win.

Which of the paintings trips your trigger? Or feel free to share your favorite artist with us.

Blinded By Our EyesBLINDED BY OUR EYES by Clare London

London art dealer Charles Garrett has devoted his life to appreciating beauty, both in art & in his companions. His fashionable life is rocked to the core when he discovers the body of a young artist, Paolo Valero, in a pool of blood in his gallery.

As Paolo’s mentor, Charles is haunted by the horror of his violent death. He investigates Paolo’s past & discovers a tangled web of motives & potential suspects, some closer to home than he ever imagined. He’s drawn to Antony Walker, an aggressive, handsome sculptor with unsavory ties to Paolo. Charles is unsettled by Antony’s forceful nature but irresistibly attracted to his passion. When the evidence points toward Antony’s guilt, Charles is thrown into emotional turmoil. Has he lost his heart to a killer?

sympathy SYMPATHY by Jordan Castillo Price

Fear takes many forms. As a child, Anthony Potosi was afraid of the Hook House, not because of the cheesy stories his older brothers attempted to terrorize him with, but the startling presence of gravestones he stumbled across in the abandoned Victorian’s overgrown yard.

It’s been ages since Tony has thought about the old place. As an adult, he’s had to deal with more immediate fears. The fear that he’d never recover from the accident that killed his father and shattered his pelvis was at the top of the list. Now that he can walk again, though, the fear that his brothers are edging him out of the family landscaping business seems more pressing…until he’s called to make a drop-off at the Hook House.

While delivering the order, Tony finds ceramicist David Dean living there, along with several dozen eerily expressive clay figures he’s sculpted. David has converted the weedy lot to native prairie, and the dilapidated stone outbuilding to a pottery studio. While he hasn’t worked his alchemy on the family plot, it’s no longer quite as daunting as Tony remembers. It’s nowhere near as frightening as getting physical with someone for the first time since his accident, especially with a body he’d presumed was broken beyond repair, and especially with someone as captivating as David. Tony finds that learning to open up again to trust, desire—and maybe even love—is far scarier than The Hook.

painting in the rainPAINTING IN THE RAIN by Dev Bentham

Helping teenagers is tough. They face so many dangers – peer pressure, drugs, pregnancy, STDs. As a trained social worker, Mike knows all about it. He’s taken a temporary job on the Oregon coast working with at-risk kids. But when he meets Gabe, the father of one of his charges, he finds himself in another type of danger – that of falling in love and getting stuck in a small, conservative town, not to mention living with an angry teenager. And yet, he’s drawn to Gabe in a way he never imagined possible.

Gabe, whose own father left before he was born, stays in a town where he no longer feels welcome. He’s living the life of a lonely artist so that he can be a father to his son, a bond that’s been threatened by divorce and Gabe’s public coming out. When he meets Mike, Gabe is bowled over with a longing so deep that he finds himself willing to risk everything.

There are plenty of dangers in a small town. When a gay kid gets hurt and they refuse to leave him to his fate, Mike and Gabe may be risking more than their hearts.


Today Dev, Jordan, and Clare are offering an amazing prize to one lucky reader — all three books!  Yep, one commenter is going to win all three of these awesome books.  So be sure to leave a comment at the end of the post for your chance to enter.  The contest closes on Thursday, July 25th at 11:59 pm EST. Good luck to everyone and thanks to our authors for the fabulous prize!

  • By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
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