Friday, 23 March 2012

Painting and writing

As I explained the other day, I have been reunited with my paintings and illustration artwork now that we have moved and all our stuff is out of storage.  It has rekindled my desire to paint.  Though of course this is a bit of a distraction to my actual job as a writer.

I was never trained as a writer.  I wrote at school of course - as we all did - but everything else about the craft I have absorbed from the things I have read.  But I did train as an artist and I think that there are some overlaps.

I think I work in a similar, haphazard way when I do both.  When I paint, I like to chase back and forth, painting, scraping away, painting again.  I like the texture this gives to the surface.  And I think I do the same when I write a book - writing great swathes I know will not appear, but without which the book would not be the same.

I also want to push my paintings to the point of destruction.  I want to feel like I have explored every avenue and I certainly have that aim as a writer.  I don't want to repeat myself.  As an illustrator there is a necessary element of repetition because an art director is choosing you because of your body of work and does not want something weirdly different.  Having never settled on a style I felt entirely happy with I always found that a constraint.

I suppose there is an element of this with writing, but there is so much more freedom in writing that I have never found it stifled my creativity or my enthusiasm.  Writing is more like illustration in that there is an expectation from your publisher about what the finished result will look like, just as there is in illustration from the commissioning designer.  When I paint, even I'm not sure how it will turn out.  That's what I like about it.  I want to exceed my own expectations when I paint, and when I write.

Having said that, I'm after clarity when I paint and when I write.  That's not to say I don't enjoy ambiguity, but I want that ambiguity to be intentional, not the product of some kind of inconsistency or timidity.  I want the right tone, the right colour, the right mark, the right word.  The achieving of that is the   thing that excites me.

Above are two iPhone photos of a couple of painting's I have been doing recently.  They are of the Grand Canal in Venice at night.  I have been doing some half-hearted things lately, scared to take them beyond a point where they were just  pleasing, semi-abstract set of colours and textures.  But I was keen that I finished these; that I solved any problems as best as I could.

With painting and writing there comes a point when you have to stop endlessly deferring and equivocating and say, 'OK, that's it - that's the best I could do at this time.'


  1. Great post! That's exactly how I see writing, too. I trained as an artist, and my other half is an artist, and when we talk about our work there are so many parallels.

    Love your paintings!

  2. I love your paintings :)

  3. Thanks Mandy and Meera. They are definitely getting better. I have been out of practice for a while. And I'm very pleased to hear that Emma. Sometimes I wonder if I am muttering to myself about myself and it is of no relevance at all to anyone!