Having spent over ten years writing just about everything: poetry, stories, plays, and screenplays, as well as essays, articles, and journals, before I began to paint in 1999- after nearly a year off- I see many similarities between the construction of a painting and a piece of writing.
As with all of my entries, as in all of my paintings, this will not be completely linear, the process of writing and painting is the process of searching, and what is left on the page is like a translation of my thoughts. There will be dangling phrases and unanswered questions that may or may not be returned to.
Painting is much the same. You can come at painting in many different ways. You could have a style or a set of visual ideas, things you like, and in large part know where you are headed. You might be a plein air painter who ends up after each session with a certain airy 'look' to your work, a kind of impressionism that we are seeing more and more in all of the popular magazines. For you, success may mean positioning the elements of the landscape in a readable and pleasant way. Success for this type of painter is capturing light primarily, among other things, I won't elaborate on this-it's for future more specific pieces- and that kind of painting can be beautiful, sometimes powerful, and at times individualistic, but rarely unique.
The great benefit of popular painting magazines is the contact with the techniques of more accomplished artists, but even a cursory view at the articles from month to month reveal great similarities among the various styles and artists.
Your goal might be to make things appear real, either photorealistic or highly representational, and your feeling of success depends on accuracy. Still, there are those painters who pursue art in those styles whose work transcends the medium and is filled with real emotion.
I am not judging styles, I have often found myself on a warm spring day, out in the field, trying my best to get at that particular plein air quality, and I think it's important to the artist's education, it's just that it can become the be all and end all of an artist's path if he is not vigilant.
The same with realism, at one point a few years ago, after I had attained a level of success with my own style, I realized that I wouldn't be satisfied in the end unless I learned how to paint anything more 'as it is,' in a realistic way, and I honed my skills at viewing the outside world only to once again realize that my true nature is driving me always toward a freer more wide-ranging aesthetic.
Always ask yourself why you paint? What do you want out of painting?
Now, how is painting like writing?
Obviously, there are the elements, the fundamentals, the letters, the words, the phrases, the sentences. Then there are meanings, denotations, connotations, sympathetic ideas, historical references, and modern understandings, each word, each idea, can carry with it hundreds, if not thousands of years of meaning, and every word or phrase has the opportunity to change each day depending on usage and popularity.
Some will just write, words are words. And some will just paint, a vase of flowers, a bowl of fruit. And of course, there are an infinite number of variations on any theme, but for some the basic is enough, nothing deeper needs to be said, found, or seen, and again, it's not my goal to judge, but I am after something much deeper, and not for the sake of appearances, for the sake of living, because I think human thought is valuable and without constantly questioning, delving deeper, and evolving, we will sink into complacency and uniformity and lose something sacred.
Of course, words have sounds, and as sentences begin to flow together, music is being made.
Do paintings make sound? Do colors have feeling? Does a string of brush strokes create a phrase? Is a painting like a story?
Painting for me is a translation of my experience painting. More than the visual image I seek to create, the finished product, I aim to exist while I paint, to breathe into each stroke and to transcribe my heartbeat, my existence in those hours onto the canvas, the same way a writer might begin a session with free writing only to enter fully into the constant flow of thought, to become one with the passing of time, I as a painter must actually feel myself being human while I am painting, feel the animal inside me, acknowledge the reasonable mind, and breathe, no matter what my subject, I am recording my time alive and seeking to suspend the energy of consciousness and the energy of passionate life on the canvas.
So, as you set out to make your story, to create, as a writer sets out to write, do you look at what words, phrasing, and stories are popular and seek only to mimic what is considered a successful piece. Are you trying to trick people or yourself into thinking you have a certain flair or proficiency, or do you want to create something fresh with your whole being, bringing together your years of experience and inspire your viewers to feel the beauty of life in time?