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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Painting with Words

By Ruth Douthitt

As an artist, I’ve learned how to see things. Painting and drawing are basically “seeing” and then expressing what one sees onto paper or canvas or any other desired medium. 

Is it possible for art and writing to be similar? I’ve blogged before about how running and writing are similar, but what about drawing or painting?

I’ve only been writing since 2004, published since 2008, but I’ve been an artist all my life. I can easily tell you the answer is YES! There are many similarities and that’s what makes me love both art forms. I’ll share what I’ve learned from both mediums of artistic expression with you and let you decide for yourself…

Creating art typically requires a process. This was something my art professors drilled into my brain over and over again. Conceptual development came first. What’s the context? Who is your audience? What is your theme? What are the comparisons? What other artists inspired the work? What is the purpose? How will it be created and why?

All this must be decided first before an artist even attempts to create art for a showing or exhibit. A concept brainstorm can be a long arduous process, but I found it fun. I suppose that’s why brainstorming a writing project is fun for me, too.

In the creation of art, it is always best to know the medium of choice. What are its strengths and weaknesses? For instance, oil painting. What are the strengths of oil as a medium? Gorgeous color and texture. It lasts for a lifetime. Blends easily. Its weaknesses? Odorous, requires proper ventilation. It is very expensive. Requires additional resources for preparation and preservation, which can be costly. It dries slowly, so the process requires patience.

What about with writing? It is always best to know the strengths and weaknesses of the tools you select for writing: MS Word, Scrivener, Open Office, etc. What about where you write? Can you work in uninterrupted bliss?

In art, a rough draft does help. My one art professor required at least 15 (minimum) paintings/sketches that he would approve of before we even attempted to work on a painting for our show. I grumbled about it at first, but after a while, I realized how much this process helped to produce a “rough draft” of a painting or drawing first. Not only did it save me money on canvas or paper (my professor didn’t care about what we used for the 15 paintings or sketches…), but it forced me to slow down and truly settle on an idea that I had worked through. I loved that! I learned how to settle on a composition and explain why I did so.

Doesn’t this remind you of writing? When we sit with our editor to explain our plot premise of the rough draft, if we cannot explain it in an interesting way to him, then how will our readers understand it? A rough draft forces us to slow down and truly work out the plot details.

In art, the focus is intense. I can stare at my work for hours at a time. A wise artist will pause to take a step back in order to inspect his work from a different focal point. In fact, my professor always challenged us to turn the piece upside down! I definitely agree with this approach because the errors in the painting or drawing always pop out when turned upside down. I also look at my work in a mirror to find errors. In writing, taking time to step away from a work-in-progress is most helpful. When you come back to your work, errors glare at you. You are more capable of checking for point-of-view and the voice of the characters.

So, these are just some examples of how visual art and writing reflect one another. One can see why they both are part of the Fine Arts. Structure, planning, plotting, and preparation are necessary for both types of artistic expression.

Because I dabble in both mediums, I find it most fascinating how writing and art align so nicely. I suppose that’s why I love both art forms. Music, theatre, visual art, and writing…the Fine Arts are each unique threads in the tapestry of artistic expression. If you excel in one, you will probably discover that you can excel in the another! I am learning to play piano and violin. I also sing with a praise and worship band. Maybe, someday, I’ll try acting.

What about you? Why not give another form of artistic expression a try? You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

For information about my books, please visit my website:
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