Guest Post: What does a writer know about teaching art?
On its surface, An Intention of Flowers (Book One in my Work of Art series) is a story about artists and art students and art teachers, about painters and sculptors, amateurs and professionals – none of which I know a single thing about!
And you may find yourself wondering: Why? Why write about artists? Isn’t the rule for writing, after all, to “write what you know”?
Indeed, it is. And I found myself wondering over my motivations as well, even as this story filled my mind with its twists and turns, details and mysteries. What could I, certainly no expert in the visual arts, understand about artists?
Well, as it turns out… There’s not as much a difference as you might think. All artists, be they visual artists or musicians or actors or film-makers – whatever you want to call them – all artists share a lot more in common than their mediums might suggest.
And nothing makes that commonality more clear than the current under-valuation all art is experiencing. Musicians can’t make a buck. Authors can’t sell books. Photographers find their work propagated on the Internet before they can earn anything from them. We find ourselves at a time in which art is certainly in crisis.
And then, one day as my wife and I were driving over the Sixth Street Viaduct in Los Angeles, I looked down into a parking lot to see a group of children painting the pavement. What if they decide to become artists, I wondered. What will art mean to them? How is the next generation of artists, be they painters or writers or singers, supposed to make their mark when the tide of commerce so easily sweeps them away?
These are questions I face every day as an independent author. I decided to strike out on my own after spending years trying to work within a publishing industry in disarray. While there are definitely strategies that can help you succeed in the business, reconciling that business with art is more difficult when there’s a business telling you what that art should be.
And so, the meaning of art has become far more important as the meaningfulness of art becomes diminished. Where are artists to go when galleries have to compete with Instagram and every live theater produces live-action versions of animated films? For an artist to stand out, they must truly stand up.
An Intention of Flowers is not just about students or teachers, artists or otherwise; it is about people of passion standing up in a world that believes them to be invisible and saying “I am here.” As far as that goes, I know at least a thing or two.
About the Book
Title: Work of Art: An Intention of Flowers
Author: Ken La Salle
Genre: YA / Contemporary Fiction
Thick tempera paint.
A parking lot filled with history, fear, and regret.
A young man named Joseph Arillo sits in the parking lot and paints the pavement with flowers.
And Andy Hollis steps in it.
As the new art teacher at Santa Ana High School, he’s too curious about Joseph’s Flowers and unravels both of their lives in his pursuit for answers.
He learns that it’s all part of a rite of passage, an absurd test started by Joseph Arillo’s father, the suspiciously world-renowned artist named only Tom. Which also connects to the drama teacher at Santa Ana High, Katie Bustos. Whose daughter, Desiree, may or may not be dating Joseph. Who is putting himself in danger from a local gang, the lot’s mysterious history, and the police.
Andy puts himself in danger of losing his job, his home, and his freedom. If he can’t solve the riddle of Joseph’s Flowers, both of their lives will go up in smoke – despite any help from Winny, the old, Slovakian bureaucrat at school, or his students, or Tom himself.
But is Tom trying to help? And is Joseph really up to his father’s test?
And is Andy really fit to be a teacher? He doesn’t understand kids, can’t get to school on time, and… doesn’t appear to care about art or families or anything. But Joseph’s Flowers will challenge everything Andy believes: about himself, about the world, and most importantly of all about art.
Before Andy and Joseph are finished, they will witness the power art has to provide inspiration, to waken our hearts, and to shatter everything you ever believed about humanity.
An Intention of Flowers is the first book in a 5-book series, modestly titled Work of Art, about growing into the person you always wanted to be, making the most of what you have to give and not just what you have, and the power in each of us when we chose to be ourselves.
Author and occasional philosopher and monologist, Ken La Salle’s passion is intense humor, meaningful drama, and finding answers to the questions that define our lives. Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue collar roots, which have given his writing a progressive and environmentalist view. You can find a growing number of his books and performances available online. Find out more about Ken on his website at www.kenlasalle.com.