I’m a visual artist yet I coach a lot of writers.
I think it’s because I make art the way some writers write.
Each artwork I make is a story. I don’t know exactly where the ‘plot’ will take me or what the moral of the story will be.
I don’t have a vision of where I’m going, I only have an instinctual sense of a direction to follow. (AKA make it up as I go along.)
“Writing is about following signposts. We don’t always know what the signs are saying, only that they are somehow, some way significant.”
I begin a piece with just the vaguest idea of the characters and the locations that I’m going to include. My first ideas for a piece are like what Anne Lamott calls the ‘shitty first draft’ of a piece of writing. I will substantially alter many of these original ideas and throw some of them out altogether.
I work on many iterations of my ideas, gradually refining them in a manner not dissimilar to the process of a writer editing a manuscript.
I push and pull my ideas, pace around them, reject and replace some, and many times storm off in a huff.
Until one day I hear a mental ‘click’.
That click tells me that the pieces are finally in the right place. I can now get to the next stage of fleshing them out and bringing them to life.
Resolving my ideas for the Wolf Triptych - in an almost-writerly manner
This week I finally heard the click with my ideas for the inside of the Wolf Triptych.
I’ve had a mental block about what should go in the area below the floating figure in the central panel, as well as the feeling that something was missing to bring the whole ‘story’ together.
Free-writing is a technique writers often use to get unstuck. Since I coach writers, it’s not that surprising that one of the techniques I use to get unstuck with the ‘plot’ of my visual story, is my artist-equivalent of free-writing: a stream-of-conciousness drawing.
I did a SOC drawing to access my subconscious knowing about what to put in the central Triptych panel.
The answer that came to me was the sea. This led me to realise that I needed to replace the sun in the small panel with a fish.
But that turned out not to be all. It seems that one little SOC drawing released a deep blockage. I realised that the right and left panels needed to swap.
I’ve never been happy with the wolf on the right but somehow I was fixed on the idea that the artist needed to be on the left. But, as soon as I reversed the whole image, I realised this was exactly how it needed to go.
The bird resumed its original trajectory of right to left which I’d always preferred, and the crescent moon now forms my initial - C.
Everything suddenly felt right.
So although, it might seem weird that as a visual artist I coach a lot of writers, I think I have this affinity with some of you because I make art the way you write.
(My process is more Aphantasic - no inner visual imagery - rather than Hyperphantasic - strong mental imagery. I'll write more about this topic soon.)
So, if you’re the kind of writer that tends to discover your novel’s plot, or your non-fiction’s main takeaway, through rather than before creating it, then I totally get where you’re coming from!
And if you’ve been wondering about getting coaching with me for your writing project but weren’t sure if I’d know how to coach you because I’m a visual artist, then rest easy.
As well as the fact that I write a lot of blogposts and short eBooks, my visual process looks a lot more like your written one than you might have imagined.
Now you know that I coach writers...
Got a novel, a non-fiction book or a thesis you can’t seem to get done? I have 3 free coaching call slots in July set aside just for writers to explore coaching options with me. Book one now and let’s see if we’re a fit!