“There are no people in my paintings, so you can imagine yourself in the scenes.”
Part of Thomas’ approach to writing the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels is producing complementary media to enhance their storyworld, which includes music, in the form of Dooven Muzak, and artwork, in the form of Extractionism.
This polyauthoric approach to writing books emerged in response to the digital mashup entertainment culture of today’s world, where traditional media of art, film and television have become blended, blurred and shared in a mélange of new formats across a wide variety of platforms. It made him realise that writing books in this digital age—that is, being a traditional author—is not enough: audiences, in general, have embraced this mélange: it’s now the norm, and he believes that all authors must adapt to this to remain relevant.
“Emerging writers, in particular,” he says, “need to reflect on whether authorship should do the same and evolve in a manner that ensures books not only remain relevant in this entertainment-saturated world, but afford new means of gaining new audience.”
Essentially, Thomas believes that contemporary authors need to reinvent themselves as producers.
“For me,” he says, “writing and imagery are intimately related because books use words to essentially paint pictures. When we reflect on a favourite book, what makes it memorable is not necessarily character or plot, but an atmosphere of scene, and this is what Extractionist Art tries to capture and portray: the atmosphere and scene that I see in my mind’s eye when I’m writing the books.”
Thomas suggests that we have three eyes: two optical eyes and the mind’s eye. Unlike our optical eyes, the mind’s eye doesn’t discern visual detail. It does, however, discern emotional detail, and conveying this is the aim of creative writing. It is, therefore, also the aim of Extractionist art. It’s a form of impressionism that tries harnessing feeling by extracting the colour and shapes of a scene at the expense of visual detail.
“Extractionist artwork is what my mind’s eye sees when I’m writing the books,” he says, “so its stylistic traits of bold colour and broad shape mimic the non-descript imagery of my mind’s eye. It’s called Extractionism because it's a form of impressionism that harnesses the atmosphere of a Dooven Book's scene by extracting its colour and shapes at the expense of visual detail."
When he writes the Dooven Books he watches scenes unfold in his mind’s eye, and while these scenes lack visual detail, the emotional vibrancy is intense, and it’s this atmosphere that he tries conveying in both words and Extractionism.
Extractionism is a form of impressionism that harnesses the atmosphere of a Dooven Book's scene by extracting its colour and shapes at the expense of visual detail.
“It’s a bit like dreams,” he says. “No one else can experience the atmosphere of your dream, regardless of how well you explain it. They may understand its technicalities and sequence, but never the atmosphere. And so it is with books: every reader’s interpretation of scene within their mind’s eye will be unique. And that’s fine, but as the author of these tales I want to show them the original: the director’s cut.”
While the Velvet Paw of Asquith novels are aimed at an adult audience, their characters are eccentric cats and dogs that act like people. This allows eccentricity to become the norm and absurdity to become eccentricity. Their adventures are set in vibrant and exotic locations and have been described as ‘Wind in the Willows meets James Bond—though with fewer badgers’. Perhaps this vibrancy also contributes to Extractionism’s characteristics of exaggerated colour and shape.
As a child, Thomas would often peruse books on art in his parents’ bookshelves, and he was particularly taken with Fauvism and the abstract arrangements of the colour and shapes and bold, expressive brushwork of Matisse, Cezanne and Derain.
As the first new artistic style of the 20th century, Fauvists produced vibrant landscapes, often depicting scenes from France’s Mediterranean, using intense, simple colour and bold brushwork. It was a liberated style, far from photographic, and celebrated the pleasure of painting alongside the pleasures of life.
Most artistic movements revolt against what came before. For the Fauvists, this vibrancy was a post-impressionistic reaction to their forebears’ intent on natural depiction of light and colour in landscape scenes. Rather than embrace post-impressionist’s dark, symbolist art, they instead created exaggerated, simplified and vibrant impressions of their world.
Like Fauvism, Extractionism also uses strong colour and shape in an effort at conveying landscapes, though from a fictional story world instead.
Funny the way childhood catches up with you.