How Visual Art Practice Advances Writing
A year-long journey in Expressive Arts Training in 2011 helped me to understand how my writing benefitted from varied art modalities such as sound, movement and visual arts. I recognized that designing and crafting paper dolls, being part of an Artist Trading Card group, choreographing dance routines, learning movie monologues and sculpting clay were not interrupting my writing, they were part of its process. These different modalities – that also included paint, collage, and singing – brainstormed with the archives of my subconscious. And with that interactive lightning storm came a flood of new writing ideas.
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Intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity – which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value – more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.
Sir Ken Robinson
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In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King talks about always having a “toy truck” to work on. This is a piece of writing that is diversion, not part of his current project. It wasn’t until I began writing four hours daily on long-form narratives that I quickly realized I needed a lot more tomfoolery than a single toy truck. I needed an entire toy chest. Much of the chest is filled with visual art practice. It helps keep my writing skills sharp, interest in my current project high, and advances my craft in surprising directions.
I've added a new toy to the chest:
“As you begin to draw and experiment with shape and line using just black and white, the contrast and the simplicity will be instantly evident,” writes author and artist Deborah Velasquez in Drawing in Black & White. “Black and white makes for a comfortable, low-noise creative palette. It allows your creative message to be quickly communicated. The results are clean and classic.
“A limited palette lends itself to beautiful, strong, and sophisticated artwork. Dark backgrounds in black or gray with white paint make a bold statement. White pen or paint on a tan craft background has a modern yet rustic vibe.
“It’s restful to the creative eye to peel back color and create with less. This process returns the focus to basic yet important design principles and expands your creative process.
“Working with only positive and negative lines and shapes keeps the focus on the basics: composition, balance, and harmony. Using gel pens, markers, paint pens, and paint on black, tan, and gray papers allows you to experience drawing in a whole new way!”
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“Try a few simple exercises,” Deborah urges. “With a couple of supplies, you have all you need to challenge yourself creatively.”
I followed Deborah’s encouragement and loved every minute of it – buying black, tan and gray paper, black and white paint pens, and drawing with scissors:
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