Friday, June 21, 2019

Why I Paint: Instant Feedback

"Rolling Fog"
7x9 Oil
Available Here

Once upon a time, I wanted to write novels.  And I did write a few, one of which I finally ended up self-publishing.  But I found that I had a problem with the novel-writing process—feedback on chapters given to friends for review took a long time coming.  This slowed down the writing, which, for a novel, was already considerably slow.  I was raised on a diet rich in impatience.

Craving faster feedback, I turned to short stories. They were quicker to write, but feedback didn't come any faster.  And the time it took for a story submitted to a magazine either to be rejected or accepted was, well, daunting.  I tried poetry, too, short little things.*

It occured to me that the problem with writing is that it is linear.  Letters are strung into words; words, into sentences; sentences into chapters; chapters into the proverbial weighty tome.  (Or "tomb," if all that work doesn't pay off.)  My reader had to follow this miles-long, tangled string I had reeled out in the labyrinth of my writing.   Was there any quicker way to get feedback?

Yes, I discovered, in painting.  A painting isn't made up of one string but of many layers of strings, all interwoven, all visible.  Because you can see all of it in a single moment of study, it provokes an immediate response—sometimes visceral and dramatic, othertimes cautious and tentative, but there's always something.  This initial response is often followed by a more considered one; a painting can contain a world of complexity in that two-dimensional surface, a complexity as involved as any novel's plot, a complexity that requires time and effort to understand.  But it is that initial response, that quick kick, that the painter wants and gets.

And that's one reason why I'm a painter.

But these days, as I age, the quick reponse is losing its savor.  I'm more sure of myself and don't crave—or even really need—the instant response.  What's more, I'm now chewing my food more slowly and with more thought.  Painting has become a more-considered effort, not so much a sandwich slapped together but a fine meal with many courses.  And I in the drawer I do have a couple of half-written novels.  I've a mind to start thinking about them again.

But in the meantime, I will keep on painting—right now, it's the way I digest the world.

*Curious about what I've published?  Besides poetry here and there, I've had science fiction and fantasy published in small magazines.  My claim to fame is a story, "The Stone Wives," that Marion Zimmer Bradley took for the last volume of an anthology series that she personally edited before her death, Sword & Sorceress XVIII.  I've also self-published my novel, Dream Sector, under my pen name, Mac Braxton, which you can get from Amazon.  Here's the cover:

1 comment:

shirley bland said...

Michael, I think as artists we paint or write or in my case, we weave because something inside of us needs to create constantly. The feedback fuels us, whether it be a comment on Facebook or a friend’s ‘ critique. Sharing our work with others is what keeps us moving forward. I don’t think it’s an ego thing as much as a desire to grow. Feedback does that, if we listen carefully. Creating is just what we do.