The new girl has scars on her arms, like mine…
Sophie thought her senior year was going to be the best. That was before the new girl Laney arrives in her art class. Now, instead of good times hanging with her friends, everyone is acting strangely. Paul is angry all the time, Kevin and Jenna aren’t quite the perfect couple anymore, and everyone is ignoring Evan.
Sophie knows there’s something different about the new girl. Something that seems to be tearing her group of friends apart. When Evan starts dating Laney, it looks like the end of the Art Kids… but maybe Sophie isn’t seeing the whole picture. Something happened last May… something Sophie doesn’t want to remember…
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I began writing The Art Kids with that first line, “The new girl has scars on her arms, like mine.” I was very influenced by the tone of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides and I liked the idea of a collective narrator (“us” instead of “I”). The next part I wrote was the “We are the Art Kids” kind of manifesto of who they were and how they were different from how the other kids at school perceived them (“the Art Freaks”).
Originally I was thinking along the lines of The Virgin Suicides in that I had thought Laney would end up being this suicidal influence that destroyed each of the Art Boys in turn. But after several tries at this route, I found it harder and harder to keep the “we” narration. Sophie then because a stronger, more concrete character, although she is still very passive.
As I mentioned in the Bethany Caleb section, I wrote Bethany as a novel about an individual, and The Art Kids is very much about group dynamics, how one person can affect many, even if he or she feels insignificant or alienated in that group.
I didn’t have too many songs that inspired me or helped me write this novel, but these songs I did play over and over again (sometimes on repeat) while I was writing.
- Alice in Chains – Nutshell (Unplugged)
- Deftones – Teenager
- Jewel – Amen
- Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
- Pink Floyd – Hey You
- Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
In art class we have to write words on slips of paper then pick them out of a hat and forma sentence with then, which we then have to illustrate. My words are “cow,” “dog,” “sweetly,” and “jumped.” My palette holds a selection of candy colors that make me want to vomit.
This assignment – and Sophie’s particular selection of words – is based on an assignment I had to deal with in a college painting class. This was the result.
“This is my painting,” Bethany says, jabbing a finger at a black canvas with three off-center vertical slashes of red. “And this is his painting.” She points to the canvas beside her own. It’s a black and red portrayal of a human chest cavity, with the heart being encased by ribs. “I did hate and James did love. We decided to use the same colors to see if they would come out different.” Bethany stops talking and walks back to her seat.
This was my attempt to abstractly create James’s painting of “love.” I actually prefer the way it looks when I turn it vertical… But essentially this was meant to look like inner organs.
Our new assignment is “Still Life,” and Mr. Beck has set up a table with various bottles and bones and flowers for us to paint. He said we could either paint it as realistically as we want or as abstract as we want. So far Paul has given each object a blackish tinge but kept it pretty realistic. Kevin is using an impressionistic style, more sloppy than an actual style. Roger seems pretty concerned about making his painting similar to a photograph.
[image coming soon] In a dark wood, giant trees take up most of the painting, but deep amongst them stands a person, a girl, looking up. She has brown hair. The trees are strangely proportioned to show their immense height. At first when I look at, it doesn’t impress me much, but later that night when I’m trying to fall asleep, I think about Laney’s painting. For some reason I think the girl in the painting might be me, and I wonder what made Laney hack off all her hair.
From Bethany Caleb: Her first five paintings from her art class freshman year all had the typical realistic style she learned her parents liked, but all five featured subject matter her parents did not like. One painting was a face reflected in a knife. One showed a girl in an empty room; the shadows of icicles in the room’s window became bars that striped her face.
I did this linocut print in high school. There was also a poem:
Winter, jangling its keys of ice,
Locks me in a frozen cell,
Icicles like steel bars in the windows.
Draft 1 (1,112 words, incomplete, March 2003): Back when Laney was named Liz
Draft 1.5 (1,700 words, incomplete, August 2003)
Draft 2 (16,414 words, incomplete, November 2003): Attempted a framing structure in which Sophie is returning to town after being away in college
Draft 2.5 (21,050 words, incomplete, March 2004)
Draft 3 (47,544 words, complete, March 2005): Eliminated framing structure
Draft 4 (First Final Draft, 57,886 words, April 2005)
Draft 5 (First Edition, 53,167 words, May 2013)
Draft 6 (Revised Edition, January 2017)
My first cover for The Art Kids was very basic. I created this cover with an double-exposed photograph (a selfie before I ever had a cell phone) that I absolutely love. It matches the style of Bethany Caleb‘s original cover. The image does match the tone of the novel – a little ghostly and introspective.
It’s a good thing I made this edition of The Art Kids on Lulu, because I ended up losing my computer files and typing the entire novel all over again, using this as my only reference.
The original published cover for The Art Kids features the FFF Tusj font and an image of a paint brush which I took myself.