On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Oxmarket Centre of Arts in Chichester. It’s well worth a look as there are constantly changing exhibitions. I was interested the work of a local artist David Souter for the seamagic.org website as he paints a fair few sea scenes.
Luckily, he was there (with his delightful little dog) and we got talking. I was struck by how much of his practice as a painter chimed with mine as a writer.
He said his finished works were each a jigsaw, a fitting-together of imagination and observation. That’s what writers do, observe and then fit their understandings into a given shape. It’s the imaginative structure that holds those pieces together.
He felt the real work was in the sketches beforehand and the actual painting didn’t take him long at all. I’m not at that stage, it takes me a fairish while to write a novel, but I certainly find the repeated exercise of my craft is essential. Little notes, pen sketches and the like drawn from life feed the larger work.
Many of his scenes were recognisable places. Others were creative amalgams. He was honest and unapologetic about re-arranging people and sometimes other elements to suit the composition. That’s what I’m doing right now: I’m editing a first draft to bring out the shape. Some characters will move, some will blend and others may well get painted out. The overall shape, the arrangement of different elements, is what brings pleasure to the reader – or the viewer.
A final aspect that tallied was his desire to create a sense of movement in his work. His images are not static. There is a sense of a before and an after – we are seeing something happening – not just posed. I suggested that this was how writers approach character: we show the person doing something in order to convey them to the reader – we rarely describe them at a standstill.
I found this cross-fertilisation from one art to to another quite a tonic. I wonder what my readers think?
(dedicated to the Music Room Poets and all my other creative friends)
Image courtesy of Futurity.com
In the last week I’ve been think about the core of things a great deal.
My friend Kathryn Evans.
I thoroughly enjoy my belly-dancing classes and here we work on our cores so that we can do two contrasting things at once. It’s a little like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. We might do snake arms as a slow and sinuous pace whilst shimmying our hips fast enough to make the coins on our hip-scarves jingle. Lots of concentration involved for me.
I also go to yoga – and core strength is central here too (pun intended). By engaging the core, you can develop flexibility, say, in bridge pose to loosen the spine safely – but you can also use it to increase your focus in a balance like tree pose. The key is not to force but to allow a posture to come.
This last weekend I was at West Dean for a magical poetry workshop led by Philip Wells. One of the themes I picked up on was the core of engagement with each other and our creativity. On one hand, I need to open up, allow myself to be vulnerable – but on the other hand, I have to respect my own truth as I do that of others. Somehow I want to show sensitivity to others without that horrible inhibiting self-censorship: that’s me back to doing two opposing things at once.
In my understanding , the physical core and the creative are intimately connected. It doesn’t matter if it’s dance, painting or writing novels. By sloughing off my outward shy and sometimes cynical outer shell, I can let something new, trembling but truthful emerge. It takes courage – ‘coreness’ – to do that ( I think of Chaucer and hir corages ).