Saturday, March 17, 2012

Painting vs. Writing

I'm concentrating more on writing now, my new fad. In art I'll focus only on paintings for competitions or specific exhibitions. Sadly, it means that many of my artistic ideas will not be painted, but I can do those later when I'm rich enough to rest and endulge in flights of artistic fancy.

Writing is like painting in many ways. The first draft is like the underpainting, but it's made linearly instead of all in one go, like a painting that starts in one corner and creeps towards to other. Some painters have a rough underpainting that marks out the blobs of light and shade, and writers like that would quickly write a first draft, then spend a lot of work on subsequent drafts, redrafting many times, like those painters who add lots of layers to model and refine. Some painters plan the whole picture first. Some just start, adjusting as they go. The same is true of writers, although it seems relatively rare for writers to plan the story in advance, many just writing and making parts up as they go.

I write like I paint, first with a rough plan that sets out what happens in each chapter. I do this largely unconsciously, exactly like my idea sketches for paintings, so that the mood can be instantly captured. Then I write the first draft, with lots of detail and largely like the final book, again like my detailed underpaintings. Then glazing, a next and (hopefully) final draft, which contains few new elements, adds colour, more unusual words that fit and enhance the story. As in an underpainting, the first draft contains a simpler vocabulary.

The two media are amazingly similar. One big difference though is expression of emotion. In a book the mood can change and sway with each chapter, but a painting really conveys one feeling. Paintings can contain many emotions, each part with a different mood, (Dali's The Great Masturbator was the first time I noticed this, the eroticism of the woman's face, the fear of the grasshopper on the big face, the anxiety of the ants) but paintings like that demand more attention, and have less instant visual impact, they are less accesible. Simiarly though, a book works best when it as a whole has one mood. Nineteen Eighty Four has a feeling of oppression conflicting freedom throughout. Perhaps one overall mood, with subtle variations in different parts is the key to a good artwork in any medium. If I were to illustrate the story I'm writing it would demand and benefit most from one single painting for the whole story, I think.

In my story so far George has caused a stir and is about to try to escape from Heaven with his 1950's teenage rebel father, pursued by angelic guards. I'm writing the odd bit at night while spending the day planning paintings.

7 comments :

Susan Roux said...

Very interesting. I often think of writing and how similar it is to painting. Your post says just what is in my head! Best of luck with your new creative adventure. Follow your passion. It's what it's all about.

-Don said...

It's interesting to me that you post this today. My brother, the writer, and I had a conversation about this very subject yesterday. We find that we each approach our works quite similarly. We both work out our concepts quite thoroughly in the outline/design stage and then make organic adjustments during the writing/painting stage. Basically, quite similarly to your approaches...

Have fun!

-Don

Robin Samiljan said...

I am intrigued also. And admire your determination to grasp this new "medium", Mark. I think writing can also help focus on creating visual art, and vice versa. The two really do go hand in hand. It's wonderful when you can just start writing and the words flow, and the story unfolds itself to you. Good luck.

John Salmon said...

Hey Mark! Another interesting turn your artistic leanings has taken. I'm currently following my interest in music at the expense of my painting.

I was just thinking. After reading your description of how writing was so much like painting, I was wondering if anyone has written an abstract book and what it would be like?

Mark Sheeky said...

Interesting to read everyone's thoughts. I suppose Finnegan's Wake is sort of abstract expressionist. For some reason See Spot, See Spot Run, Run Spot Run, reminds me of Mondrian! I wonder which came first.

jill said...

Are you going to post your book on your blog, it would be great to read. Every now and then I get an idea for a book but I push it away as i already don't have time for my interests now to do them any justice. Maybe one day. i am just listening to 1984 on an audiobook when i go out walking. Tomorrow night will be chapter 3

Mark Sheeky said...

When (if!) it gets done I won't post the whole thing on the blog but I plan on posting a big portion on a website for doing just that, authonomy. I must make more time to write! At the moment I'm stalling.