One of the interesting things I’ve discovered since I started painting is how similar the process is to writing fiction. Well, at least to my way of writing fiction. Every writer has a method for their madness, and I’m no different. I prefer for my fiction to be improvisational, spur-of-the-moment, unplanned. For me, too much planning dilutes the magic of the creative process.
I’ve discovered my painting method a the same. When I first started, I would really think about what I wanted to paint, plan out the image, the colors, the entire process. And while those early attempts turned out…okay, I guess…they felt stiff to me, sterile and plastic.
Lately, I’ve been painting in an improvisational style. I may sketch out what I want to do on the canvas before I apply paint, but that initial sketch is random. I try not to think about it, or to not think too much beforehand. For example, I may want to paint flowers, but instead of spending time looking at pictures of flowers, I’ll instead walk through my backyard and look at the wildflowers growing out there to get inspiration. Then I stand in front of my easel with a pencil in my hand, clear my mind, and just let my hand wander where it may.
It’s a similar process when I start writing a new short story. I rarely have a full story laid out in my head beforehand. In fact, most of my stories come from my dreams, some fragment that stays with me after I wake up. I scribble down a few notes in my writing journal or maybe a couple of paragraphs to use as a starting point and go from there. I don’t think about the ending. Endings reveal themselves as the story builds.
Just like a painting reveals itself as I work on it. Knowing where it’s going or what it’s going to end up looking like makes the journey less exciting. It’s like knowing the ending of a book before I begin reading it. The story may still be a good read, but not quite as enjoyable if I know how it’s going to turn out.
For what it’s worth, I have respect for those writers and artists who plan out everything to the smallest details. I think that takes dedication and a keen mind to figure out all the characters and plot threads and how to tie them all up in the end. Or to visualize a completed canvas and figure out what colors to use, how to apply them, and which tools to utilize.
For good or bad, I have to let creativity lead the way.
I’m curious how many painters and writers plan versus how many plant things out. What’s your creative process?