Thursday, December 29, 2011

Drawing and Writing

I've been wondering a lot this past year about the creative connections (brain-wise) between drawing and writing. I tend to write every day in some capacity, but I don't often take the time to draw. But during the last school year, the sweet girl and I took time every week to draw together, first utilizing Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes (a book I would highly recommend for people of all ages) and then just "free-drawing," often copying pictures from book illustrations.

The result was astonishing for me. The sweet girl had a boldness and freedom in drawing right away, a boldness I lacked (inhibited as I was by decades worth of no-practice, of cautious drawing and insecurities) but I gained confidence as the months went on. Although we've not been able to work drawing into our curriculum nearly as much this school year, we still make drawing time whenever we can, and we both (oh joy!) got beautiful new art supplies for Christmas.

What I've discovered, besides a real love of drawing for its own sake, is that drawing often seems to fire up the creative synapses in my brain. If there's time, I almost always follow up a drawing session with a bit of writing, not because I think I have to, but because one activity seems to flow naturally from the other. I write better -- I make more interesting connections with words, I play more -- if I'm warmed up first with drawing.

It's been a fascinating discovery, one that I wish I could spend more time thinking about, or even better, actually engaging in. For now, I'm discovering that drawing can also help me as I work on longer bits of fiction. In the waning days of 2011, I've found a sudden bit of fiction writing fire in my bones I haven't felt in a long time. In the past few weeks, in spite of tiredness, holiday busyness, and end of semester grading, I've dived back into a WIP (work in progress) that is essentially a fairy-tale/fantasy.

What's been helping me when I start to feel stuck? Drawing the characters, and most specifically styling their hair and creating costumes for them. For the latter inspiration, I'm hugely indebted to The Chronicles of Western Fashion, a library book D. brought home a few months ago when the art camp kids were working on costume design. We've checked it out abundant times since, and just this past week, it inspired me to create an important character in my story -- a queen I was having a hard time picturing. Picturing her with words is going to be much easier now that I've taken colored pencils in hand and drawn her likeness. It's so much easier to imagine how she she carries her head, the color of her eyes, the sound of the swish of her dress as she walks, now that I've drawn her.


Anonymous said...

I've been wishing lately that I was better at art - even considering taking a class. I recently collaborated with a friend on a picture book - I provided the text and she is doing the illustrations - and while it has been a tremendous joy to work with her on this project, it's also made me aware of how much I would love to be able to illustrate my own works someday, even if just for my own satisfaction. Elizabeth Enright is one of my favorite writers, and the books of hers that she illustrated herself have so much more of a special feel to them than the ones that were illustrated by others.

Beth said...

We love Elizabeth Enright! In fact, we're just finishing up The Saturdays (my daughter's first time through). She's already begging to go on to The Four-Story Mistake. I don't think I realized Enright did her own pictures -- I am guessing she did the ones in the edition we're currently reading (a very old library sale copy I picked up of three Melendy books in one). I will look again! I think my copy of Gone-Away Lake has pictures by Joe and Mary Beth Krush (if I'm remembering their names rightly...)

I seriously recommend *Drawing With Children.* As much as it helped my little girl, I think it helped me more. What I like about it is the way Brookes helps you think about *looking* at an object you're drawing. She describes five different "elements of shape" -- it's a very simple list, but having the vocabulary to describe certain shapes not only helped me to think more clearly about what I was seeing, but to find an entrance into where to begin composing a picture. I spent years mentally blocking myself from enjoying drawing (for all sorts of silly reasons I won't go into here). While I'm still not a great artist, what I'm loving is the freedom I'm finding in drawing again...and how that frees me up to create in other ways too. It's also helped me appreciate the different types of artistry in picture books.

Hmm...long comment. I may need to do another post about this sometime! :)