Artist’s Way Check In #1

Today marks the end of my first week of moving through The Artist’s Way for 2012.

If any of you are following along, you know that weekly check-ins are an essential part of The Artist’s Way. It’s a time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, what emerges as important and what comes up as a surprise.

As I tried to figure out my own artist’s date for this week, I decided I wanted to play around with paint. I had a master vision of painting some kind of abstraction based on close-ups of stuff in my garden.  I mentioned this to my son, Shawn, who is a Minneapolis-based artist. He said, Mom, if you want to paint, learn to draw.

So, my surprise this week is that I began drawing lessons. Shawn is a pretty good teacher. He’s a mince-no-words critic, and I work best with directness which means this is a good fit. Today I’m playing with gray scales and learning to use different types of pencils – graphite, charcoal, conté – and trying to squelch that voice that has always told me I can’t draw worth a damn. I’ve always wanted to draw and so do I really want to give credit to any message that I can’t? Hell no. Not right now. Besides, nobody is going to see this stuff but me. Well, and Shawn, so he can tell me what lesson to do next.

What does this do for my writing life?

I’m a big believer in trying to look at things through an assortment of lenses. Looking at what’s around me as potential for something to sketch makes me look at space differently, makes me think about lines differently. It shakes up my perspective. That shake-up is something I can take back to the writing desk. Every time I write something, I have a picture in my head. I think those picture are about to shift.

How did your first week of 2012 surprise you? What other art would you do to shake up your writing?


  1. It's interesting that you posted about learning to draw in order to paint. I touch upon this concept in my novel, in a passage that speaks of sketching before painting, and how artists use sketches to flesh out what will come on the canvas. Will you share some of your drawing here on the blog?


  2. I'm not reading TAW along with you so forgive me for interjecting myself but I simply couldn't resist. The current issue of Tricycle magazine has an article in it which features a photographic study that beautifully explores light and shadow. It's simply a white ball in a white box. However, the same image is repeated with the lighting shifted just slightly creating a different shadow each time. As soon as I saw it I thought to myself it would make a wonderful practice study for any drawing artist.

    And sometimes I forget what my son always reminds me, “You can find anything on the internet.”

    So here. I found this:


  3. @Joanne – I am clearly going to have to read your novel! I don't know if I'm going to share drawings anytime soon…eventually, perhaps. I'm leaving the door open on that one.

    @Satia – Hey! Haven't seen you in a while, so am delighted you dropped in. I followed the link and that is very, very cool. Thank you!


  4. Thanks for giving me a new lens to look through in terms of the “artist date.” What a special experience for both you and your son!

    I need to work more on turning to other forms of art to enhance my writing. Sometimes, a well-crafted movie can do it.


  5. With the holidays and studying I've been super busy. So much so that last week I desperately needed to just sort of stop. I let myself turn inward and it was what I needed.

    But I've been around, reading every blog I have in my blog list. I just don't always have time or the mental energy (especially when I'm studying) to compose a coherent comment.

    Here's another link for you. I read the post on “lost and found edges” and I realized that this is something I never learned when I was drawing. I mean I knew about it but I didn't understand the concept fully. Anyway, it's a good blog and it might be an interesting one for you to dip into as you continue through your art classes.

    @Andrea Have you considered reading some picture books? I would especially recommend Tuesday and Flotsam both of which tell imaginative stories without words. I think reading children's picture books–and not just the ones that are beautifully illustrated–can be a delightful way to play and remind me of the fun that can be had in writing. (My granddaughter adored Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and I found Click Clack Moo Cows That Type so humorous that I was literally chuckling aloud as I read it and then read it aloud to my husband. Neither is beautifully illustrated and yet both are engaging, quirky, and just plain fun to read and share.

    Another thought I had, and this is totally random, is to watch La Jetee which is a short foreign film on which Terry Gilliam based his 12 Monkeys which itself can be compared with Vertigo. There are other films like this, ones that seem to juxtapose and inform one another. When watched together, they can be quite stimulating and inspire the viewer to consider new ways of interpreting old stories, especially the stories one carries from personal experience.

    (See? This is not something I could have written when I was overwhelmed and burnt out with studying. My classes start back up next week.)


  6. Hey Satia….wow! Very thoughtful comments. I'll definitely check out that blog you mentioned. Last night, I was finishing up my gray scales, surprised at how hard they are when I get down to 30%, 20%, 10%, and yet I realized I enjoyed myself immensely. I think it's the need to do something more tactile that I've tapped into. Nice advice on the kids' books; I'm a big fan of Sandra Boynton myself. Good luck with your classes next week.


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