thought about writing
Writing fills a strong inner need of mine to record and document my life, and to observe my thoughts, experiences and surroundings. Even in childhood, I used writing to a search for what was real and true via my own experience and the observations of others, and that has continued all my life in the form of journals, letters, newspaper articles, art criticism, essays, a couple of self-published books about my work, and now this blog. Whether for a private or pubic audience, writing has been a touchstone for many years, and I can't imagine life without it any more than I can imagine life without painting.
But, I'm a painter first and foremost...why the focus on visually interpreting my experience, when writing has this obvious pull? I've been thinking about this question, and also the balance that the two activities provide.
Painting comes first for me for several reasons-- the most obvious one is pleasure in the process. It is compelling, always pulling me on, a journey of endless discovery. Beyond the joy of the process, I also love what painting expresses and reveals, both during its creation and as a finished object. In painting I feel I tap into basic aspects of life that I hold dear--trust, generosity, communication, openness to possibility, creation of beauty, peace of mind, and the celebration, mystery and acceptance of being human. Both the paintings themselves and the process of creating them are spiritual in essence. This is true not only of my own work, of course. It's what I find compelling in the work of others that I admire and feel pulled into, the basic glue that binds viewer and artist.
Writing (always non-fiction, in my case) is for me a very different process. While pleasurable in its own way, it draws on skills and energies unrelated to the kind of creation I experience in painting. It requires that I pull existing thoughts from my brain—where they are lurking, usually half-formed and unorganized --and then that I form logical and cohesive structures from these thoughts. There are parallels to painting for sure, especially in forming structures and in the rather picky editing I apply to both forms of expression. And writing does lead to discoveries...I often don't know where I am heading with something until it is mostly written, and this is a familiar mode in the studio as well. But in the end, everything I write I already know in some way, it is a matter of digging it out and clarifying, making connections.
On the other hand I often feel that a painting comes from some place beyond me. While writing is very satisfying to me, it is firmly rooted in my own brain, and lacks the mystery and power of painting... more akin to sorting and organizing the closet than channeling something mysterious and magical.
I often do a bit of "writing" (nothing legible) on my paintings to add visual texture. The diptych above is Black Beach, each 16"x16" (2011.)