Word on a Whim

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 …


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6 thoughts on “If a picture paints a hundred thousand words: painting compared with writing

  1. That is such a good post Jules. The first part about what goes through your mind when you paint sums you up perfectly. What I know about you, and after working with you, I know you’re inflicted with self doubt and indecision – but it doesn’t stop you being very talented. I love the pics – my favorites are the one with the skull & windmill, and the one with what looks like St. Pauls dome (the last one). I would quite happily have those up on my wall. Honestly! Thanks for the post 🙂

    • Simon, thanks so much for your understanding and for giving me the benefit of the doubt at work despite my dithering!
      I really hope you carry on writing.
      Jules x

  2. Wow Jules! Great blog and the pictures are just amazing. The third one down is my favourite. You should never get rid of them, frame them and put them on your wall and remind me never to invite you to a game of drawesome lol xx

    • Thanks Jo!
      It was just school-girl stuff and it makes me feel nostalgic to look back at them. I can’t draw at all, and it was a bit of a con trick to use contrasting light and dark to make an eye catching picture.
      I do struggle to throw old things out but the older you get, the more clutter you accumulate.
      Jules x

  3. Nice post sometimes I learn more stuff from your written word than listening but then as my Nan said ‘In one ear out the other’ you’d be good at shamanic journeying with that sort of imagination. Emaho!

    Request: a fantasy novel next time, lets get some imps, toads, wands and dragons in there such stories are timeless and allow for archetypal expression. I mean flying Deerhounds…..hmmm maybe not especially after eating grass….bombs away :- P

    • Julz,
      Perhaps I should leave you notes instead of telling you stuff!
      Fantasy novel? I wrote one 25 years ago and probably still have it somewhere – but there are no flying Deerhounds. Would you like me to dig it out for you to read?! 😉 X

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