Mackerel Finale

The Final Product:

(Collaborative Reflections on “Mackerel” by Jeffrey F. Barken and Diana Muller)

"Mackerel," Diana Muller, oil on canvas

"Salt Hill", Diana Muller, oil on Canvas

JEFFREY: It’s hard to imagine how a blank Word document ever grew into these two full-size oil on canvas paintings, “Salt Hill,” and “Mackerel,” which, artist and friend, Diana Muller, completed as her final installment to my online story, “Mackerel.” The story tells of three hungry travelers who go fishing one night on the pier in Galway, Ireland. The fantastic paintings that Diana has produced in response are awe inspiring! They add immense color, depth, and perspective to any reading.

This online collaboration took place over the course of several months and was a wonderful reunion for us both. I had first met Diana in 2007 when I was backpacking around the Ring of Kerry, Ireland, and happened to be offered a place to stay by Diana’s family. Since then, we have kept in touch through email. When I suggested collaborating through the medium of an experimental website, Diana’s reaction was prompt. “Yes!” she wrote back excitedly,  “I’d LOVE to collaborate on something. I’ve been craving some creative synergy!”

I began writing immediately and Diana waited for the first scenes to arrive before she sketched anything. Then we relied on Skype and email to communicate our ideas about Diana’s initial sketches and the twists and turns and even revisions that my story was taking in each of my weekly blog installments. Diana’s final paintings achieve the professional quality that is proud to represent but also highlight the process of experimentation, difficulties encountered and changing perspectives inherent in such an ambitious long distance collaborative project.  The final result, of course, is a full-length story, two beautiful paintings, and the essence of multimedia.

DIANA:  It has been a real pleasure working together with Jeff on the “Mackerel” project.  I’m generally a solitary worker. So it was a new experience for me to collaborate in this way. “Mackerel” was also an unusual project.  The story defied traditional illustration methods as Jeff wrote his installments at the same time that I was sketching ideas for paintings.  We had to defy the constant lag time inherent in trans-Atlantic communications and neither of us ever knew quite where  the plot was going.

Despite challenges, everything worked out well in the end. I was able to incorporate many of my sketches into the two final paintings, hopefully, summing up the evocative, slightly eerie nature of the story.  There is something of western Ireland, captured in the tale. An odd mixture of longing, uneasiness and beauty.

What’s more, we were pleased with the feedback we received throughout the course of the project, both online and locally. At one point, somebody here in Sneem, Ireland, actually stopped me on the street to mention that he had come across the storyboard online and was eager to see the final painting. Likewise, Jeffrey, who teaches at a pre-school in Baltimore, Maryland, had a whole following of enthusiastic parents waiting to see the final results of our collaboration.

Hopefully our project will inspire many more artists and writers to contribute to the  wonderful “Monologging” magazine. A project which, I feel, is most beneficial to creative minds everywhere, not to mention entertaining and inspiring.




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