When I found that I was getting a chance to review Drawing Out the Dragons, I was excited. James A. Owen has been a staple of fantasy and SF genres for decades. And I was getting a chance to learn some of his the tricks of the trade? Sign me up!
But in actually reading the book, I must admit my disappointment came rather quickly. Owen’s ability to tell a good story never falters, but the actual information he’s trying to impart does. By the end of the book, Owen’s advice appears as fresh and sparkling as a wad of chewed gum, crusting over on a bench seat.
OK, maybe I’m being a little cynical. But let me explain.
The basis of Drawing Out the Dragons is simple. Owen goes over the pitfalls of his long artistic career, and uses them to help new writers and artists. Each chapter of the book walks the reader through one of his biggest trials. And he shows how these mistakes sparked an ‘A-ha’ moment in his professional life.
I liked how Owen was able to describe each event with the smooth ease of a practiced story teller. But as the end of each chapter approached, Owen’s advice quickly turned into pixy dust. Believe in yourself, keep working even when people tell you otherwise, and focus on the work and the rest will follow. It was positive and warm, but not exactly ground breaking.
In some chapters I thought he might supplement the good vibes with free resources for young artists. I hoped he would recommend places that would allow them to showcase their work, ways for them to promote themselves. It didn’t happen. I hoped he would at least tell young artists not to work for free, like his contemporary Stephen Silver recently did. Nope.
And quite a few of the problems that come up in Owen’s life aren’t really problems at all. I personally know many writers and artists who come from Blue Collar and White Collar backgrounds. Hell, I’m one of them. And I know the struggle of trying to convince certain 9-5 loved ones that writing is a career and worthy of respect.
Owen was able to use his established artist aunt to learn the ropes of the commercial art business. In one chapter he complains of the difficulty of getting a business loan at 15. This admittedly shows some fantastic initiative on his part. But his biggest problem at that time was his aunt’s concerns about how much time she devoted to driving him around.
I recognize Owen’s considerable talent got him where he is today. But it’s hard to relate to a guy’s pain when he didn’t even have to chip in for gas money.
I expected a little bit more from an artist on James A. Owen’s level. A bit more practical advice, a bit more substance, a bit more… something. Owen’s prose ensures that Drawing Out the Dragons isn’t bad. It’s quick, fun, easy to digest, and can be knocked out in a lazy afternoon. But it doesn’t have the resources needed to truly help a new artist. And it doesn’t have the meat to keep an established artist interested.
Leigh is a fearless writer who never met a genre, subject, or format she didn’t like. She has written professionally for the past six years and enjoys biking, exploring odd corners of Northeast Ohio, and discovering those good books she hasn’t read yet.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Shadow Mountain. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.