Saturday, February 03, 2007

Vision and Revision

Hadn't planned on putting up any pics of my paintings (you can click on it to see a closer view...and the rotten cropping job), but I had one of those head smacking revelations a few days ago. Kind of like in physics when I'd stare and stare at a formula (hours, days sometimes) in complete incomprehension, and then something would make those little grey cells click & I'd "get" it. A friend of mine recently completed a first draft of a novel (first completion for him - Yay, Christian!), and talked about moving from the "vision" stage to the "revision" stage. For whatever reason, hearing it put this way made the little grey cells click & I've been able to get some writing done. Not a ton, but a lot more than the hundred words or so I was managing to eke out before.

Everybody talks about the first draft being messy, long, etc., etc. I kept hearing "don't worry about getting it right, just get it done," and other pithy bits of good advice that made me pretty much nuts. I'm a perfectionist, and a fairly lean writer and I couldn't freakin' do it. Now I get it, though.

Writing really has to be like painting for me. I started off as a figurative painter - it wasn't until my Painting III class that I had a teacher encourage me to stop painting people & focus on the abstract work I was doing in the background. Flipped me out entirely, but he was right. With my abstract work, I would literally make a mess on the canvas - this painting was no exception. Basically, I got the colors, general composition, and feeling - not just the emotional shit, but that sense of core concept - down, and it was (usually) really fast work. And I almost always had a lot of fun in this part of the process.

Then came what I called the push 'n pull. I'd rotate the canvas until I found the right view and begin taking the threads in the piece I wanted to push back or pull forward. Sometimes I added new elements, but mostly it was all about the push 'n pull. Bring this line forward, paint over this space, draw with charcoal or pastel onto wet oil, blur this edge, sharpen that one. Here's where the real joy of painting came in. When I finally "got" the piece, the act of painting felt as though I was just part of a conduit for what wanted to come into being. That critical part of my mind wasn't absent, but relegated to a different space in the act of creating, kind of floating on the periphery. The critical mind was always making comments, but wasn't screaming in my head stopping my hand from moving or making a decision. I'm not trying to sound all woo-woo, I just don't know how to explain it better than that.

This is exactly what I need to do (and have started doing) with the novel. Work fast, make sure all the elements are present and then worry about what needs to be sharpened, blurred, written over, moved. The vision has to be allowed to come into being first, though. How the hell do I expect to be able to do the push 'n pull when I don't have the elements on the canvas (page) first?!

Okay, okay. Captain Obvious is shaking his head, but I'm just grateful that I think I finally "get" this whole vision/revision thing. It's a no-brainer. As in, I can't let the ol' brain get out of control, because that just stops the vision before it has a chance to come out and be. So, y'know, that's where I'm at.

18 Comments:

At 11:49 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Your painting is beautiful. And I see my problem. I can't draw.

 
At 1:09 AM, Blogger Steve G said...

I picture a stained glass window. Wish I could paint, but alas, no such luck.

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger C. Atrox said...

I see the sign of the cross turn into a crossbow and deliver a death blow to all good people. Oh, and the colors are swell.
This is what happens when you let the characters do what you don't want them to do.
Go Bears!

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger dink said...

"I just don't know how to explain it better than that."

I don't think I've ever heard it explained better. I think the inside of everybody's head works a little differently but this resonated with me.

And silly Mindy--lots of painters "can't draw" or think they can't.

I love the painting! It's such a reflection of you (the bit I know of you, anyway) the colors and vibrancy are totally angie-esque hahahhaha

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Amra Pajalic said...

Gorgeous painting and I love the "vision and revision" thing. I call my first draft 'finding the story.' I'm just kind of poking around in the dark with a flashlight and hoping something will come to light.

 
At 1:15 PM, Blogger angie said...

Glad my explanation worked. It's one of those things that can be hard to peg. The creative process is such a hard one to define, much less reproduce,regardless of whether you're a writer, an artist, musician, poet, actor, whatever. I was just so excited to have a bit of a break through that it really got me thinking.

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Christian said...

I clicked yer gray cells?! I'm so flattered! Love the painting, by the way. It's my favorite of all your work I've seen.

 
At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Sparkle said...

"don't worry about getting it right, just get it done,"

exactly!

Amazing painting. I haven't seen any of your paintings in 10 + years. That is so beautiful. You are a fucking great artist.

GO COLTS WOOOOOOO!

 
At 4:57 PM, Blogger Bill Cameron said...

Aye, the painting is beautiful. And I agree your description of the process is very incisive! The push-pull, I love that phrase. It sounds very similar to what I'm doing right now, though I tend to fret over phrasing even in the first draft. Still, a great way to put it!

 
At 5:20 PM, Blogger Hulles said...

What an insightful and articulate post. I'm with Dink, I don't think I've heard it explained better either. It's really funny because it helps me understand painting better, sort of coming the other way from the direction you were taking. Did I mention articulate? Very nice work -- the blog post and the painting!

 
At 3:27 AM, Blogger Daniel Hatadi said...

Your painting says as much to me as this post, but in different words. Both are great.

 
At 6:15 AM, Blogger Bill Cameron said...

Well said, Daniel!

 
At 9:50 AM, Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Would you come paint my house? Pretty please!

 
At 10:09 AM, Blogger angie said...

LOL,Sandra! You'd certainly be the talk of the town if I did that, wouldn't ya? And not necessarily in the good way...

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Brett Battles said...

Excellent, grasshopper! You have snatched the stone from the palm. You are ready...

now finish. :)

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger Rob Gregory Browne said...

The painting is gorgeous. Damn. Really wonderful.

 
At 3:58 PM, Blogger Granny J said...

Speaking of revisions --have you heard of the wiki-novel being sponsored by Penguin? Here's the URL

http://www.amillionpenguins.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Havinga whole bunch of writers collaborate on one novel certainly sounds easier than having each author write a novel in a month!

 
At 6:21 PM, Blogger angie said...

I dunno, Granny J. That's an awful lot of cooks in the kitchen! Still, thanks for the link. It'll be interesting to watch what comes out of this.

And thanks for all the kind words re. the painting. Glad it gave some of you a few minutes of pleasure!

 

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