Applying the rules of art to writing: making art is an act of discovery

“If you are dealing only with what you know, you may not be doing your job. When you discover something new, or surprise yourself, you are engaging in the process of discovery.”
Excerpt from ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White

So this is clear: push the boundaries. I agree with this to a certain degree. Familiar can be safe, predictable and boring on the page.  If you discover something new, something that excites you, and you can transfer this to the page, then you stand a better chance of exciting your readers too.

Kit White

[photo Wikipedia]

I’ve been learning about art, as research for my character Justine Tree in Connectedness. I know a bit about art but definitely have my comfort zone. So I’ve been making a conscious effort to visit exhibitions of artists I know nothing about, styles I am unfamiliar with. Shows I’ve been to include Damien Hirst, Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Constable Gainsborough Turner and Kurt Schwitters [top]. I have my member’s card for the Tate, the Royal Academy and the V&A. I eat cake in their members’ rooms, I know the location of the ladies loos.

What have I learned? I’ve certainly learned more about the history of art, the way artists work and think. And I have another two ideas for novels, with cuttings filling up box files in my study. And Justine, what did I learn to help flesh out her character? Mostly small details, such as the way Schwitters foraged for collage materials while interned at Douglas in the Isle of Man during World War II [below]. In Connectedness, Justine collects feathers, scrap paper, used stamps, embroidery thread, knitting wool, cardboard boxes.

Kit White

[photo Wikipedia]

Kit White

Das Undbild by Kurt Schwitters [photo Wikipedia]

Kit White

‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White [MIT Press]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Making art is an act of discovery: applying the rules of #art to #writing via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-O9

Comments

  1. All that art research sounds like brilliant fun! Making note to write art-related story soon just for the excuse… ;o)

    When making art of any kind, it’s often the “happy accidents” (splodges or smears or drawing mistakes) that can make the finished piece, taking it in a direction you wouldn’t have intended. I’m not sure quite how one could replicate that chance effect in writing but it’s a nice thought!

    • I guess the nearest thing to splodges and drawing mistakes is ‘free writing’. I do try to give myself time every now and then to sit quietly, on a park bench, or in a cafe, and just write. Most of the time it is rubbish, but sometimes I surprise myself! SD

  2. This is so true. You know you are doing it when inspiration fires up the veins and you think about your characters all day, waiting to get back to them to see what they will reveal of themselves to you, the author.