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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Reluctant Artist Within

Today I was reminded of why I'm not a painter.

I've been working in bits and pieces on this "landscape" lately, for want of a better description. Because it's for someone I love, I'm trying to do a good job replicating the photograph that was given to me. Striving to get the proportions right. Making it visually interesting. Using vibrant colors while still keeping somewhat true to the original, etc., etc.

The project required a primary sketch on a large canvas, which I actually did months ago. It brought to mind many of my early plotting notes on a novel: very rough, broad strokes that suggested (rather than possessed) the detail and design intricacies necessary to make the finished product a solid creation. But, however pleased I may have been with this pencil draft "full of potential," I struggled repeatedly with the motivation to put real paint onto all that canvas whiteness.

Well, this past week I started in on the paint. I did the easy sky first. Skies are forgiving. They don't mind too much if your wispy cloud swirls aren't in the exact places they were in the photo. I painted a fair approximation, stood back and took a look. Not Michelangelo, but not kindergartenesque either.

Then I moved onto the background, which required lots of browns and tans and peaches. After a couple of hours dabbling in shades of beige, I found myself adopting a "That's good enough, eh?" attitude, which I've been saying to myself this entire summer--but always in regards to my writing of the first draft of Novel #8. With the novel, I know I'll have to go back and deal with the fragmented backstories and the secondary plot issues that, currently, are messy, indistinct and often read like boring scene summaries. The new book is in want of layering and a type of precision that only happens for me when I'm seriously editing and revising.

With the painting, though, I kinda feel like I might just get away with it if I left it as it is... It's just the background, after all...

Well, the time has now come for the foreground to be painted. For the main event. For the transferring of the original photograph's central figure to the canvas. And the time has likewise come for perfectionism to finally step in and claim this project.

But, so far, it just hasn't.

I spent most of the weekend tempted to throw paint at the thing and hope it'd magically arrange itself on the canvas to make the central object look shaded, blended and richly colored without my having to do any of the painstaking detail work that I know is needed.

Can't tell you how often I've wished the same for my manuscripts ("Just type a bunch of words and hope the scenes sounds well crafted, eh?"), but I'm a draft writer. I know it takes 17+ passes before the collection of pages I wrote start to seem like "a book." I've accepted this and have even come to appreciate that stage in the writing process when I can correct my earlier plot missteps and re-draw my characters with better chosen phrases.

I don't know how many passes it'll take for this collection of acrylics to look like "a painting"... But I'm fairly certain it'll need more than I have the patience to deliver.

10 comments:

Caryn Caldwell said...

Wow! 17+ passes? You have such patience. I do know what you mean, though, about layering things in with each pass. Description, for example, is not my thing, so I always have to go back and add a lot or else there's no setting and readers have no idea what characters look like. It's the stuff I usually skim or skip when I'm reading that I tend to leave out when I'm writing. Too bad others like that stuff!

As for painting, I have so much admiration for anyone who can paint well. Good luck with this piece!

Marilyn Brant said...

Caryn~LOL. I can't paint well, so I need LOTS of luck with this piece!! BTW, I know what you mean about writing description--that's something I always have to remember to revisit. Can't readers just see what's in my head?

Pamala Knight said...

Good grief, you paint too!!! Wow, your talent knows no bounds evidently because that description certainly sounds like you definitely know what you're doing. You must be one of those people whose creativitiy crosses borders. I hope you'll post some of your work so that we can see. Please?

Marilyn Brant said...

Ha!! Pamala, you a very, very funny... Sadly, if you were to see the project in question, it would leave you with little doubt as to why nothing I paint will ever hang in the Met--or, aside from deluded family members--even in someone's basement :).

Louisa Edwards said...

As someone who can't even draw a straight line, much less a landscape, I think it's pretty awesome that you're even attempting it! I'm sure it looks better than you think.

Marilyn Brant said...

Thanks, Louisa!! I sure hope you're right :-).

Still very excited for you on your big multiple sale. Hope you're continuing to celebrate!

Pam said...

You have much more patience than I do--I would have trashed the painting and wrote them a short story instead!

How goes the search for the dress?

Maureen McGowan said...

I need at least 17 passes for a novel, too... (Hence the insane state I was in through May-June during the revision stages of my latest project...)

And I've done a little painting... but I never had the patience or the talent to really make anything great. All my paintings either went a few passes past okay to horrible, or I never really finished them, so bits are okay and bits are, well, unfinished...

Haven't picked up a paintbrush since I started writing....

Marilyn Brant said...

Pam~I'm going dress shopping again tomorrow at a place where my M-I-L insisted she could ALWAYS find something good... Hoping she was on to something :).

Maureen~You know, until this project, it'd been years for me, too, and I think I could let a good decade elapse before I attempt another...

Nadine said...

I am filled with awe for people who paint... I used to love to sketch (still do, but always sucked at painting) but I am too lazy to be able to cope with more than one "hobby" at a time(not that I regard writing as a mere hobby, but it's not my main source of income so no choice...) Since I started writing I just visit the art store and salivate and dream about the day I can devote all my time to so called "hobbies"... (but would probably end up reading and waching VH1 all day - who am I kidding???)