If a picture paints a hundred thousand words: painting compared with writing
I used to try to paint pictures … many years ago. I was never satisfied with the finished effort, which wasn’t anywhere near as good as the picture in my mind that I was trying to replicate. My subjects were usually imaginary creatures. I would picture the main subject; maybe a dragon coiled in front of a Gothic castle, and sketch the outline but then when I came to fill in the background the mind work would begin. Was the castle on a hillside? How much of the background was sky and how much was land? What kind of sky or land? Was the light-source from the moon … if so, from what angle? How about the dragon; was it dozing, or warily guarding the castle, or angry and fearsome? Should the dragon be painted in fine detail, down to its individual claws, or would an impression of claws be more effective?
Painting a picture has some parallels with writing a novel. The novel starts with a visualised scene or an idea that inspires the writer to create a plot that includes the central characters – the secret friends who are with you night and day. You already know, understand and admire them, and you want the reader to feel the same about them. For this to happen you have to think about the details. How do your characters react in given situations? How about their style of speech; the way they dress, the way they move? What sort of homes do they live in? Has anything significant happened in the past that has shaped them? Could some of this detail be narrated or would it be more effectively conveyed as an impression through their actions and dialogue?
Writing suits me better than painting – and not only because I get better results with no mess to clear away afterwards. When I used to paint, if I realised too late that the composition was wrong I found it impossible to salvage, whereas with a novel I am able to go back and change the beginning or insert extra chapters or add some twists and turns to make up the length if required – although I’m not sure how well that would work if I was asked to provide a synopsis prior to beginning a novel!
Lately I have been trying to clear things out of the house to make some space. I still have my large art folder containing the artwork I did at school thirty years ago! I can’t keep such things for ever but there are a few pictures I might hang on to. I will throw out my paints though – they can’t be much good after all this time! I decided to take photos of the best few pictures and post them on this blog. Then, if I decide to chuck the lot out there is still a record. I never improved on my school work, and the photographed images somehow look better than the real things – and I like to see pictures on the blog.
So here they are …