Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Expand Your Writing: Play With Paint!

by Susan

"But in order to catch the poetry, the art, the beauty, we have to see." 
 - Linda Hasselstrom

Many of us have used photos and images as prompts. But how about using our words to prompt an image? Or creating our own image to spark creativity?

Our writing group, the Gang of Five, made a painting date. For a fee, Flydragon Design Art Studio in Cheyenne set us up with paints, canvas, brushes and even decorative papers and ModPodge if we wanted to use collage. All we had to do was show up.

Each of us used one of our own poems as a starting point.The results were as unique as our individual writing styles.

There is something to be said for not just bringing the visual world into our words, but also creating those visual images ourselves. It stretches different mental muscles. It's relaxing, meditative -- things that can open a space for creativity.

In an interview with the Wyoming Library Roundup, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx said she grew up with pencils and paintbrushes in her hands, thanks to an artist mother. Proulx said she often starts with images. “I have just sketch books full and full and full of places for landscape description. You look very hard at something for 20 minutes or so, try to draw it and get the colors and so forth right, it sticks in your mind and is much easier to describe than if you wrote ten thousand words while sitting there."

Over on the Women on Writing blog, Anne Greenawalt gives several reasons why art journaling improves her writing, such as inspiring ideas: "Working in a visual medium taps into a part of the brain that isn’t used when just writing down words."

I've heard it said that all children begin as artists and writers -- it's just that most of us forget that we are.

Creating art helps me be that child again. Unlike with writing, I have no expectations that my drawings, paintings or collages will go anywhere. There's no anxiety involved. I can create for the sheer joy of it.

So how do you tap into that visually creative side? Here are some things I've done or heard of or plan to try:
  •  Buy yourself the big box of crayons, the huge one, the one you wanted as a kid but didn't get.* Go for a Sunday drive with your spouse so you can make him/her drive. Break out your crayons and sketch what you see. 
  • Keep an art journal, just as you keep a writing journal. Set aside time to play with it. Do you set aside writing journaling time? Set aside art journaling time as well.
  • Collect images from magazines that speak to you -- faces, scenery. Heck, if the toilet bowl cleaner pictures speaks to you, cut it out and keep it with the others in a file. Pull them out and scatter them on your desk. Arrange them, maybe even collage them.
  • Wander every aisle in a craft store and buy a few items that speak to you. Get the ribbon pattern that strikes you and the bright red clay to play with.
And, most importantly, have fun! Play!

How about you? Have you tried art as part of your writing practice? What have you done?

*I have to confess, I DID get the monster box of 128 crayons with the sharpener in the side once. It was the year I only asked for two things for Christmas: a guitar and a box of crayons. They could not pry any other requests out of me, so they must have figured they'd better go big on the crayons.


  1. I love your picture!! And what a great idea! I have never tried art journaling. I was unspeakably bad at all forms of visual art as a child, so I decided stick to writing. But I like drawing and painting too, so what can it hurt to try? My husband and I got some great laughs out of a "visual prayer list" I attempted to draw based on a book my book club read a while ago. So worst case, more laughter may ensue.

    1. I can pull off an occasional collage for some reason, but for the most part I'm a dreadful visual artist myself. (I'll have to show you my crayon sketches of the Black Hills!) There's joy in just doing it, without getting invested in an idea of what it's supposed to look like when you're done. If you love to draw and paint, do it! Even if you feel like it deserves a laugh afterward, don't stop.

      The worst case is not more laughter. The worst case is that you stop creating. :)


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