06 July 2014

Painting an Aspen Forest and Not Writing

A lot has happened in the last month. I finished a job contract in New Zealand. Moved to North Carolina to spend time with my son. Started working in a bookstore. What I haven't been doing? Writing. No writing. No editing.

But, I have been painting. Acrylics were my original creative outlet and I've had a set of paints and brushes tucked away in a fishing tackle box since college. At some point, painting became laborious and slow. I couldn't finish what I started. I had too many ideas rumbling below the surface never to emerge.

Blue + Red + Green = Nice dark background

After painting a few simple monotone forests and space scenes, my son asked me to do something more detailed. And since that was the same request I keep getting from the people beta reading my post apocalyptic novel, it started to feel like a theme.

Lavender outlines of trees and foliage

 Getting the general idea for a story or a painting is easy. Just as with writing, it takes just as long to develop a good plan as it does to execute it effectively. Researching a painting usually brings to collect three or four images to incorporate.

Basic forms in white, yellow and orange

Writing on the other hand is like painting a thousand pictures and adding detail to the work requires remembering each of those thousand pictures long after you've stopped working on them. Took me two years writing before I found a good software to help with that.

Added some sky and some more trees
Added a few yellow and white glazes to the trees
Here we are. This is it. The turning point. No matter whether I'm painting or writing, I reach this stage in the creative process when I'm satisfied that I've done well and I loose all confidence that I can finish the work without somehow ruining it. 

I've realized that with my paintings, I can keep going. Writing is a newer form of expression for me, which I find more agonizing to complete.

Some detail
 From the basic shapes to the finished work, I spend twice the time. I fix it. I change it. I add depth. I revise. In every manner, this corresponds to the writing process. Only, I have much more practice painting. I know that when I screw something up that I can adjust it and change it back.

Confidence is learned through the process of making many many mistakes and surviving them.

Some more detail

Apsen forrest acrylic painting stages
Brighter colors and more detail

After I get to a stopping point, I almost always need to take a long pause, drink a few cups of coffee and consider what I've left out.

Aspen forest acrylic painting
Finishing touches

I'm never satisfied. I'm happy. I'm "done." But, looking at the final result, I could keep going and soften some of the edges. At the same time, I'm already planning the next project. 

And writing is exactly like this, too. There is no point when something is finished. It ends when you let go and move on. 

This is the fundamental truth behind all artists and all artwork. We evolve. Our work evolves. These skills are developed over years and years of intense effort. The fact that anyone has the resolve and the patience to continue writing, drawing or whatever sparks their imagination is an intensely beautiful thing. 

I will go back and edit my book soon. But, for right now, I'm falling in love with acrylics all over again. Hopefully, if I'll feel the same about writing when I return.

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