Wednesday, March 04, 2015

What Tole Painting Taught Me

I’m back from a week in Vegas where I attended the Creative Painting convention. Had a great time. Came back to discover that fellow Type Mer, Vicki Delany, and I are going to be on the same panel at Malice Domestic. Pretty cool! 

While I was painting away at the convention, I was reminded of what painting taught me about writing. The post below originally appeared on Michele Lynn Seigfried's Blog as part of the Fatal Brushstroke blog tour last November.
One of the projects I painted at the convention
Like Rory Anderson, the main character in my book, Fatal Brushstroke, I’m a tole/decorative painter. (Decorative painting seems to be the preferred term these days, though I still often use tole.) I started painting in the early 90s, several years before I started writing. I’ve gone to conventions, taken classes, and worked on projects on my own.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot from painting that I can apply to my writing life. Whenever I get discouraged, the following bits of wisdom keep me moving forward.

  • You can only paint/write based on your ability at the time. Be patient. Don’t expect to be perfect right off the bat. It takes time and practice to learn a new skill. The more projects you work on, the better you’ll become.
  • Don’t constantly compare yourself to others. There will always be someone who paints better or writes better. That doesn’t mean what you’re doing isn’t valid. Just do the best you can. We’re often not the best judges of our own work, anyway.
  • You won’t know what a project looks like until it’s finished. Don’t fret over it while it’s in progress. About halfway through every painting project I’ve ever worked on, I look at it and think it’s not turning out as I’d hoped, so why bother? The same is true of every writing project, be it short story or novel. But I keep on plugging away and, at the end, I like the final result and feel it was worth spending time on.
  • You can always start over. Wood can be sanded, paint can be removed from most surfaces. In writing, chapters can be rewritten, characters can be changed. Just because you put it down on paper or typed it into a Word document doesn’t mean it’s permanent. We tend to think if something is written down or already painted it can’t be modified. Why? You started the project in the first place. You have control over it, you can change it.
  • Periodically look at a project as a whole. One of my painting teachers told me this when I complained about how a project was turning out. She held the project a few feet away from me and told me to look at it again. It looked better than I’d thought. Don’t dwell on every brushstroke, don’t dwell on every word and sentence. Look at the project as a whole. Sure, details are important but, in my eyes at least, the overall effect is more important.
  • You don’t have to do everything the way the instructions say. You can change paint colors if you want. You can omit part of a design if it doesn’t suit you. You can ignore writing rules as long as you understand them and know why you’re ignoring them.
  • Don’t give up. You never know what’s going to happen or how something is going to turn out until the end. A painting project looks better after it’s varnished. A writing project looks better after it’s polished.
And most important of all
  • Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Take a moment to celebrate your achievement. You finished a painting project! You finished a book or short story! If you’ve never painted or written a book or short story before, wow! you did it! If this is your second, third or nth short story/painting project/book, wow! you did it again! Remember to take time to celebrate your accomplishments. Lots of people say they want to write or paint. How many actually sit down and do it?

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

Love this post!