Writing and Painting are the same thing

While working on edition 2 of The Silver Ninja and my top secret military novella. I realized that writing and painting are the same thing but look different. I would often watch livestreams from Stanley “Artgerm” Lau (who owns the studio I commission for cover artwork) and watch him create art on a blank sheet of paper or digital canvas.


This is the same thing with writing. Allow me to explain.


When an artist starts a traditional painting on canvas with oil or water color (think Bob Ross) it’s always on a blank sheet of paper. The artist may sketch out some lines for guidance or simply start splattering colors on canvas. What you see is blobs of blue, green, brown, placed randomly throughout the canvas as if lacking in purpose.


Then the artist will switch brushes and start adding shapes that add form created by empty masses of color. Maybe he or she will add some orange, peach, pink, and then he’ll add tones which give those empty shapes volume and depth.


He may erase from time to time, sometimes because it was a mistake, sometimes because it was intentional. Then he’ll switch brushes again, maybe something with a fanned brush on it. He’ll dabble in some blacks and press it onto the canvas until it starts taking the shape of trees.


Then with a dabble of white and a painting knife, the artist will scrape along the triangular brown masses in the background and create snowcapped mountains. That peach shape from earlier suddenly has eyes and an iris, black strands become hair, lips are filled and you can see the distinct shape of a hand.


The blobs of color which seemed to have no rhyme or reason are transforming into an image. It’s a girl standing in front of a mountain landscape filled with blue, cloudy skies, butterflies, and trees but the painting is not done yet.


The artist switches to a more precise brush and starts edging out the details. The glossy highlights in her eyes, the wood grain in the trees, the rocks on the mountain, the wrinkles in her lips, the sunlight diffusing through her hair.


When the artist finally puts away the tools you’re left with a fully rendered depiction of a beautiful woman standing in front of a mountainscape with a caption that reads: I’ll wait for you.


This my friends, is the same exact thing as writing.


The blobs of color that seem to have no purpose are the rough draft.

The shapes and forms become the structure of your narrative with a beginning and end.

Erasing is the trashing of old ideas to make room for new ones.

The sculpting of the snow capped mountains is the detail you add to the world in order to make it feel alive. How the people clutch their collars when the wind blows. Or how cars cause puddles to splash like fountains when it rains.


When you finally see the girl, your 1st pass and 2nd pass editing has been completed, the story has weight and form.


When the artist adds in the minor details for corrections, you’re nitpicking your manuscript to find misplaced commas, periods, uncapitalized letters, i.e. the proofing pass.


The adding of the caption is to finally submit your book and say that it is done.


When an artist doesn’t finish a sketch or abandons an illustration, is it not the same for a writer that hates his/her own work?


Why bring this up? Well the main thing I wanted to illustrate (no pun intended) is that the creative process is not unique to its medium. It is a universal system that applies to any creative endeavor.


It doesn’t matter if it’s music, a sculpture, a book, a painting, everything starts from nothing. The more practiced and experienced you become with the process, the faster it goes and the less mistakes you will make.


Being creative is not about just doing things when you’re inspired. It’s about being willing to sit down to work on a project even when you’re tired, bored, frustrated, and uninterested. All creators will hit this wall of creative block. Discipline yourself to work through it and you may find yourself with a completed work of art.

Wilmar Luna
%d bloggers like this: