After spending four and a half hours times two traveling to and from Seattle this past weekend, I realized how many things a good book has in common with a good painting. My
Kindle had two novels downloaded from the library (if you don't have the Libby App yet, here's some info). I started the first book, expecting to become deeply immersed in a compelling, enjoyable read and, being the fair-minded person that I am, I gave it the entire 4 hour flight time to SeaTac before deciding it wasn't for me. On the trip back to Nashville, I turned to my second downloaded book and, even though it was a much slower start with much more initial information to wade through, I found myself drawn into and captured by the story. So, what are the elements that good writing and good painting have in common?
First of all, a really good book must have a solid structure that gives the reader a sense of form that this story will take them. My brother-in-law is an author and has taught me much about his writing process, which begins . Similarly with a painting, the first step is to create a structure that I will call The Composition. While I can't paint the "ending", I can make decisions of lines, shapes, orientation, and placement that create the bones of the painting and will take me where I want it to go. A sloppy composition has competing focal areas, redundant shapes, or uninteresting lines. Similarly, a sloppy story may have meandering threads, competing genres, or tedious dialogue within it.
A second element that books and paintings share is Clarity: how clear has the artist (writer or painter) communicated the "reason for the art"? After just a few pages you should have a sense of the author's theme and what she wants this book to teach or show you. Did you know that most people in art museums and galleries will only look at a painting for 15 to 30 seconds? So both writer and painter must be on their game to make clear the reason, main idea, and purpose of their work. A writer will do this through character development, story line, and themes; a painter through subject matter, values (darks and lights), and color use. A painting with highly saturated colors sends a completely different message than the one that is painted with muted, grayed down colors. Many successful paintings have a clear path (often a literal path) into and around the whole painting to keep the viewer engaged and interested in what it is saying.
I'm sure there are many other similarities that books and paintings share, but I want to end this short essay with this third element that I can only call the "It Factor". I found this definition: "the It Factor is very elusive as it refers to the hard-to-define quality that makes something special and outstanding." I'm certain that art competition judges can define what it is that makes a painting stand out, but for the rest of us it is more an intuitive resonance as we respond to a painting. And it is highly individual; one person loves impressionism and another prefers realism, etc. Of course, all the other technical elements must be in place, but the artists that charm me often have a style or a signature color or a type of brushstroke that connects with me. In a more universal sense, the It Factor tends to resonate across a large swath of folks...hence: book awards and blue ribbons. These are the artists and writers who rise to the top with best sellers and solo art shows.
Here is your take-away from this post: next time you are looking at a painting, linger just a little longer than 30 seconds and see if you can sense the structure, the message, and the thing that brings a thrill. Making art has helped me appreciate good art so much more and I hope that is what reading my blog will do for you!
Thank you!! Happy, healthy summer!! Share kindness...
Hello! My name is Wendy and I am passionate about oil painting! Whether in the studio or out in Mother Nature, I get lost in the experience of capturing on canvas the moment and the feel of what I am painting. I pour my love and energy into every single piece of artwork and I hope it shows! This blog is a place where I can use words to talk about art, painting, life, faith, things that make me laugh, and things that inspire. I love every response, so don't be shy about leaving a comment...