Tuesday, April 5, 2011
"The Artist's Loving Hand..."
Words are a writer's medium, like paint is to the artist. Writers create their worlds using words. Broad strokes, short strokes - all to portray a meaning or a feeling by description. An artist uses the faintest umber to give depth or a clear white to show closeness of surface. A writer crafts the feelings of happiness, sadness or anger through words ranging from dark to light. Artists and writers are similar because they both are trying to convey a story, whether on paper or canvas. Both want to show their view of their world.
I have a print in my living room by Vincent Van Gogh which touches my soul with his story. It is not one of his more famous works and is probably unknown to you. Called "Pink and White Roses," the work is a montage of pinks, whites, greens and blues with a slight touch of dark reds. When I look at it I imagine I can sense the joy which Van Gogh felt when he painted it. Perhaps for a time in his troubled life, I like to imagine, he experienced the beauty of the roses and was happy. And that is what I perceive from the painting - profound happiness. On close examination, the abrupt brush strokes and the jarring fever of the artist is evident. No peace or serenity exists in the frenetic strokes with which he painted to capture the scene before the colors faded and the petals dropped. But, if you step back and allow the entire work to coalesce before your eyes, the beauty and serenity creeps in, filling you with the child-like ecstasy he must have harbored when he gazed at that simple vase with its overflowing colors. Understand, if you look too closely, you cannot see the miracle he painted.
The same is true of what we write. To perfect our work, we take classes and listen to lectures. We concentrate on the minutiae. Great attention is paid to the grammar, the syntax, the punctuation and the proper way to write in order to please an agent or an editor. After all, this is a business and we must strive to please the market.
I still pause to think of Van Gogh who never received recognition during his life for his work but is now considered one of the Masters of Impressionism.
We strive to be perfect, centering on the smallest of details to make sure everything is correct. But, if we step back from our work and view the entire story can we see the beauty of what we have created? Does our story fill the reader with emotions? With the basic sense of the work - the STORY?
I sometimes feel bogged down by the miniscule and the mundane of writing. Does the sentence work or is the chapter properly in the right point of view? I think that when that happens to us we should take a step back and allow our stories to coalesce before us. Never forget that, even though it is a craft, writing is also an art. The ART of STORYTELLING. Don't lose sight of the wondrous tale you have in your head. Believe in your story and tell it well, with emotion and heart, not programmed grammar. All the jarring little strokes of those computer keys paint a bigger, more beautiful tale - exactly as Van Gogh did with his oils and brush. The broader picture is, after all, just a sum of the whole.
"We spend our whole lives in unconscious exercise of the art of expressing our thoughts with the help of words." - Vincent Van Gogh.
What do you do when you are overwhelmed with the sameness of your story or the intricacies of your work? Have you ever thrown your hands up in exasperation, forgetting that thought in your head which made the story wonderful? How do you revive the artist within you when the mundane threatens to take over?