Drawn to art

Gua Tewet, the tree of life, Borneo, Indonesia.
- an inspiration piece by  K. M. Lockwood

Human beings are compelled to create art. Some of our earliest surviving creations are paintings and to the best of my knowledge, every society has made marks that show recognisable beings. We are naturally visual - up to two thirds of our brain can be involved in processing what we see. So it's really not surprising that children love drawing - and pictures in books.

We give babies [quite rightly] books which are all images. Then as children age, the pictures give way to words. Sadly, it seems that in our culture, as the storytelling grows in difficulty, the illustrations diminish. I realise I am preaching to the converted, but I do wish there were more pictures in books for older children and young people everyone.

I wonder if this may be partly why boys often favour non-fiction: it's acceptable to have diagrams and charts and pictures if it's a fact book. Likewise, look at the appeal of joyously colourful comics, and the intensity found in graphic novels. People of all ages and stages are passionate about them.

V for Vendetta by Vendetta666 on Deviant Art

Here in SCBWI  we really know the complementary nature of Words and Pictures! But what can authors learn from artists? We already share a lot in terms of creativity - but what else can be learnt from the practice of drawing? Here are three thoughts:

  • life studies imply truly looking at the world. We don't have to go as far as Turner and lash ourselves to a mast to experience a storm at sea, but using our own viewpoint, not received wisdom, can deepen our understanding.
  • observation requires concentration. We need to pay attention to what lies beneath. What is the subtext of muscles below the skin of a conversation? Interactions have their own anatomy - and if we dissect real ones, we can create the imaginary.
  • sketch - accept that not everything you create will end up in the finished text. Allow some work to be scruffy, quick, unfinished. Let there be pieces from a point of view you will not use. Be experimental - and remember that all of it infuses the completed piece with depth. Nothing is wasted.
Young Woman Drawing, (1801, Metropolitan Museum of Art) painted by Marie-Denise Villers (possibly a self-portrait)

  • Go to an art gallery - many are free. You can always find a decent character or two - either in the portraits or in the viewers. 
  • Try moving a person in one painting to the setting in another. Is there a story in that?
  • If possible, watch an artist at work. If they don't mind, ask questions. Perhaps someone in your story world might paint or sketch.
  • Alternatively, doodle, colour in, gaze, trace - don't think about writing and be refreshed!
by  K. M. Lockwood - who posts on her blog from time to time,  often tweets from her garret, and writes and colours-in

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