Wednesday, October 31, 2012

critiquing fiction with ideas from paintings

Many writers plough through a first draft of their fiction in a heat of creative energy.  There may be a focusing theme, often a central protagonist, or perhaps a group of central characters,  and a framing of the place, or setting, of a story.

Pencil Sketch on Drawing Paper
The initial fast pacing seems all to the good--getting the creative impulse down where it can be studied for what might be needed to make it a better work of art.  To broadly relate the idea of developing a work of fiction as one would do for a painting (see similar discussion in an earlier blog, on 8/23/2009), we can use the preliminary pencil sketch of a reclining woman model, shown here.  The sketch was done during a twenty minute pose at a life drawing workshop.  

The idea is to make a rapid assessment of major forms and spatial relationships presented by the model's pose, then block in the shapes quickly on paper as one continually tests the alignments and proportions of the shapes. One can take some artistic license and depart from a photographic-like realism by selecting some particularly beautiful lines and accenting them in a sort of impressionistic way--perhaps by using a heavy charcoal line in places.  It probably wouldn't be useful to dwell too long on any local regions of the body at this point of the painting, just as it might not be too useful to dwell overly long at any particular conflict resolution contained in the first draft of a fictional work.

Color Wash of Sketch on Drawing Paper
A potentially more exciting phase of the creative work takes place as the artist or author assesses the preliminary work, and judges how better to amplify a potential for drama, by 1) using contrasts of light and dark shapes in the painting--or personalities in the fiction; 2) choosing a color palette for the painting--or mood for the fiction; and 3) studying how best to use such choices for creating eye movement or intellectual movement through the piece.  (The painting here is still very preliminary--a color wash on the original drawing paper.  Think perhaps of a first revision of a fiction draft.  A finished painting would be done on heavier, watercolor paper, using the insights gained in the sketch and wash process.)

Of course, it is not suggested that a writer use all these things in any rigorous checklist; however, if one took time to occasionally consider such analogies for telling a story in a painting and in a story, the insights might become part of a subconscious tool kit for creating a more dramatic and coherent work.

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