Shadows: Painting or Writing?

I am an amateur artist—a very amateur artist.  Last week I attended my annual fall oil paint workshop and was reminded of all the similarities between painting and writing that I’ve discovered so far along my journey.  Both cast similar shadows, and here are a few (wherever the word “paint” appears, you can substitute its shadow word “write”):

1. “Why do you paint?” asked the master artist who led my workshop.  Chances are, she went on to explain, it’s not for the money.  It has to be for the joy.  You’ve got to have joy!  And that joy will come out in the painting.

Writers, does this sound familiar?  Joy = Passion

2.  “Every painting is an adventure.”  Visual artists discover something new and different with each subject.

Oh, yeah!  Written words do that, too. 

3.  “Think about a painting as puzzle pieces.”  The pieces consist of shapes and values, and it’s the artist’s job to make them fit together.  Each piece builds on another.

It’s also the writer’s job.  We have to make sure all the puzzle pieces are there.

4.  “Keep an area cool if you don’t want the eye to go there.”

Red herrings to distract readers from the real clues?

5.  “Have a visual path that will lead the viewer through the painting.”

Writers do that with theme.

6.  “Get your darks in first.”  This is specific to oil, as opposed to watercolor.  But in watercolor, the painting doesn’t pop out until the darks are added last.

We mystery writers know that the strength of the villain is the strength of the story!

7.  “When you start a painting, think:  what will the painting look like?  Then, once you start, the painting will take over.  Things change as you go along.”

This never happens in writing, right??  <g>

8.  “Use a big brush initially.  It covers more quickly.”

Writers often like to bang out first drafts fast, and then go back later to refine.  

And finally, the most important lesson I’ve learned from all of my art instructors:

9.  You don’t have to have talent to paint.  Sure, talent helps, as is also true in writing.  But painting can be learned, as can writing.  It takes lots of practice, patience, and a healthy dose of joy.  Without that sense of self-satisfaction, why would you work so hard at your craft, no matter what form it takes?

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8 thoughts on “Shadows: Painting or Writing?”

  1. Great post, Sue. It’s amazing how different art forms are so similar once you break it down. It’s the same with music: a really great piece of music doesn’t just have bright notes, it’s the deeper (shadowy) notes that bring out the song.

  2. I also paint. Another similarity I see is the mid point in both works when I’m convinced it’s horrible. The ego takes a huge beating.

  3. It really is amazing, Mary! Would love to know more about music.

    Right, Keenan! I have stacks of unfinished paintings because they seemed impossibly stupid in the middle. The benefit of going to workshop is that I can’t quit in the middle of a painting!

  4. Yes! Great post, Sue! I’ve used the analogy of painting and writing in classes before and agree completely that they go together so well. You’ve got some new aspects here for me to think about–thank you. (Also think revising can be like painting “over” something too…”re-seeing” what is there.)

    And Keenan, ha ha…but that only happens to you at the midpoint? It lingers longer for me… 😉

  5. Very interesting post. I haven’t painted anything except my kitchen wall, but perhaps, since having talent is not a pre-requisite, I will try paint something to go ON my kitchen walls. I’ll walk softly down a cool, dark path, and carry a big brush.

  6. Oh, good point, Cynthia, about painting over! Gesso is my friend.

    Haha, 3 no 7! My drawing teacher swears that she can teach anyone to draw who can draw a straight line with the aid of a ruler. (Still working on that…)

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