Thursday, June 2, 2011

Paint a story

Coming Out
Original oil painting 24x18"
by Susan Roux

A blogging-writer friend recently sent me an excerpt from a book she's writing. It's a very rough draft she told me. I have to tell you it was very interesting to experience the work in progress. I've never stopped to think about writers and their creative process, but suddenly I couldn't get it off my mind.

It fascinated me how the idea she created needed to be "hatched" before outlines and chapters could be written. Just reading a short bit opened my eyes to how the many pieces of the process come together. It gave me a glimpse into her idea and made my imagination run wild, almost to the point of making me feel like I wanted to write this story...

But who am I kidding?

The funny thing was, afterwards I couldn't shake it from my mind. As though clear as freshly washed glass, I realized the aspects that make art good are the same aspects needed in all forms of art, be it writing, dancing, singing etc. The comparisons flooded my head...

Words, like brushstrokes, could be colorful or dull and grouped together to suggest a unified idea. Every paragraph, every chapter needs a focal point. Needless brushstrokes or words only get in the way, busying up the composition. Making it hard to follow. The more I thought of these things, the clearer and clearer creating art became to me.

It's not about painting a girl or a fruit or a tree. We learn to do that very early on in our painting lives. The juice of the matter is to capture these elements with passion. The colors, the strokes we use need to be so unified that a single one missing would render it incomplete. Imagine a song with a crucial note missing? Everything must work harmoniously together, supporting one main idea.

More than an idea, really.

A painting must tell a story. It's what pulls the viewer in, lets their imagination run free therefore keeping them engaged.

A book must paint a picture. It's what pulls the reader in, lets their imagination run free therefore keeping them engaged.

It's the same thing. But with a switch. The painter must tell a story and the writer, paint a picture. As painters we are not painting pictures. Why didn't anyone tell me this years ago? We are telling a story with paint. All you writers, you are not writing a story. You are painting a picture with words. Why was this easier to see through a different form of art?

So in conclusion, if you can follow my skewed way of thinking, artist should be grouped with writers. They'll be the ones who'll let us know if we told a story. Conversely, writers should be grouped with painters so we can help them paint a picture. After all we know how to paint a picture. We could be very helpful with that.

Paint a story. A passionate story.

Now that's a challenge. Go find yourselves writers to help you.

Note: Coming Out was painted from a black and white photo. It's the first time I've attempted this and found it to be completely freeing! Colors weren't dictated at all. How would I have painted such a rainbow hat with suggested colors hampering my imagination?


  1. Another beautiful painting!What you say about the creative process is very true,my best works of art are those which I have experienced the moment myself and then had that exciting urge to express it.

  2. Great post, Susan. I guess it helps that I am both a writer and artist. That's probably why I see things the way I do and can express them in both mediums. Enjoy your day.

  3. What an interesting essay, Susan. I've been noticing this too. Both my son and my daughter, four years apart, just graduated. A Masters and a Bachelors, both in writing. Their creative works are amazing. I've often marveled at them taking to writing rather than art, but as you say, it's all coming from the same place isn't it?

  4. As a writer and a painter i agree 100%...we all love a good story whether it is told with words, colors or musical notes...we are all in the same boat while engaging our "audience."

  5. Such a beautiful lady. Your paintings have such a soft quality. Beautiful work

  6. What you have said is so true. Another thing you must have noticed,that when we write/ paint a scene or a character, soon the character or the scene takes over, for sometime we feel that we are the creator, but soon we see ourselves being dictated by our character/ scene, for they want to become something else, something more deep, something that has a character of its own.
    I always like when I come to such a point, for then the mystery begins, for i myself would not be able to tell where my character is going to lead me. It gives one a thrill, an adventure, to be lead into uncharted paths. I am sure it has happened to you as a painter many times.
    The creator and the created become one, it is an amazing oneness.
    Very interesting post.

  7. Love the way you think, Susan! Both books (stories) and art (paintings/drawings) that are done well get my mind/imagination off and running. I think that is why I am so passionate for both. Even art that I am not attracted to makes me wonder at the artist who painted the piece. Every artist has a lifetime of stories to tell. One comment you made really intrigues me; that even one stroke missing from a good painting would render it incomplete. That one is tumbling about in the rocks in my head; I like that and will be thinking on it long and hard.

  8. Interesting thought. Some paintings do seem to have "stuff" happening in them--some have mystery.

  9. another ethereal beauty with an wonderful story.

  10. Beautiful paintings (as always). Pretty cool painting from a B&W photo. I draw mine in using grey scale, but I can't imagine just coming up with the colors on my own. Very nice!!

  11. LOVE the thoughts. I've often thought about the similarities between creating with words and creating with paint... But I like the way you stated it. I also like your "Coming Out" painting... ethereal..

  12. Aurais-tu une petite envie de trottiner le long de la plage?!... Fraîcheur et lumière fascinante...
    Gros bisous.

  13. Très belles pensées et réflexions sur ton post, et je me réjouie de comprendre tout comme toi que beaucoup de peintres racontent une histoire...tu racontes toi aussi merveilleusement bien en peinture ta plume pour l'écriture aussi, car on te lit avec beaucoup de plaisir comme on en prend à regarder tes toiles !
    Bonne semaine.

  14. Susan this is a lovely painting. The backlight is so beautiful and just glows on her skin. I really like what you wrote, and you're so right! To paint with emotion is a challenge we face everyday, and sometimes it works and other times we're disappointed in the outcome. You wouldn't think it would be so hard to paint passionately when we're passionate about painting! Thanks for the great thoughts.

  15. I love your suggestion of dappled light in this piece, and you told a wonderful story with this painting...She's just had some news and has to make a life changing decision, so she....ah, who am I kidding? I am no writer. I'll stick to painting! :)

  16. I very much love this painting, not to speak from you other work. I also love what you write about painting a story. I only can agree!
    I will visit your blog more often. Your work is just wonderful and so is your writing.

  17. What a wonderful light-filled study, Susan. Your colors are so nuanced that i would never have guessed that the work is based on a B&W photo!. It has all the Impressionist glow of a Monet - except ankles kissed by the sea are more exciting than haystacks.


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