Saturday, August 21, 2010

Art is Art

A writer friend of mine, Janet Corcoran, just posted on her blog Janet’s Journal about a talk she recently attended, given by three women who were artists in residence for the past year in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia . Janet’s post got me thinking about the connections between different art forms, including writing. It’s a topic that fascinates me, so I thought I’d run with it.

My DH writes with sound instead of words, but it’s uncanny how similar our processes are. First, there’s inspiration. For me that can come from an old photograph, a story someone tells me, a historical event, or it can simply come at me out of the blue, like Trey McShannon’s character did. For my DH, it’s much the same. Musical phrases from pieces he already knows, random sounds he stumbles on when ‘noodling ‘ on his guitar (his version of free writing), events or people provide the starting point, the initial spark. He banks melody lines in his memory the way I bank phrases, lines of poetry or story ideas. He’ll write a snatch of music down on paper the way I scrawl ideas in a note book – if I have one (You’ve all heard my paper towel story by now.)

Next, the idea has to be fleshed out. For me, that means I start writing the first draft of my story. For my DH, it means finding a chord progression that expresses his original idea. Both of us have to think about length and mood and pacing. There are conventions in music – chord families and scales – just as there are conventions for the written word. Music has phrases, punctuation, its own grammar if you will. It also has its free-verse poets who ignore the conventions.

Finally there’s revision and polishing. For me that means going back and adding layers of action, emotion and introspection (Yeah, yeah, I know, too much introspection. I’m working on it.) For DH, it means a different kind of layering: adding harmony lines and embellishments, adjusting pace and rhythm. And yes, it can cause as much angst for him as it does for me. In the end, it’s about taking the reader or listener to a place you’ve created for them. The only difference is the medium.

With painting, it seems to me that the process is pared down but essentially the same. It starts with inspiration. The palette chosen is like a writer’s voice, and the intensity of the colors sets the mood. Any given subject can be interpreted in as many different ways as there are artists.

What do you think? Have you experimented with different forms of artistic expression? What’s your take on the idea that ‘art is art’?


  1. It goes without saying - food. I'll think of a combination of ingredients while I'm driving, or what I want it to look like on the plate... or I'll riff on textures. It could be anything!

  2. Very true. The meals that you compose are pure poetry!

  3. First, thanks for the shout out :)

    Second - what a beautiful post on comparing the two art forms. You 'painted' a wonderful picture of the processes you both go through and how they parallel one another.

    I just came back from a concert with Peter Togni and Peter Reilly (two members of the trio Sanctuary). Bass clarinet and pipe organ - absolutely wonderful. And they played versions of Gregorian chants, Miles Davies and an amazing original piece that was pure magic. Art is art - they beautified my life, therefore they are artists.

  4. I used to draw growing up and I always wanted to learn how to paint with oils. But right now my only other form of creative expression is a little amateur photography and knitting.

  5. To me, all artists are one and the same - it doesn't matter what medium is chosen. As you just described, the creative process is the same, it just takes different forms. Someone collecting fabric, designing a quilt and piecing it together is doing the same thing as an artist in oils or watercolours. An actor stepping back from a personal emotion in order to 'record' it for future sense memory use is doing the exact same thing a writer does. It's all the same.

    Ultimately, it all leads to a dialogue with the audience/reader/viewer.