What writing does

I had an “aha” moment last night while reading “What I talk about when I talk about running,” by Haruki Murakami. Not because I’m a runner, but because in the foreword of the book, Murakami mentions that he never realized what running meant to him until he started writing about it. And it made me realize that over the course of the past three years, I’ve only acknowledged the value of sketching every day, but I haven’t given much thought to writing every day. I’m afraid I’ve been neglectful. Or oblivious. Writing about the things I think about when I sketch has been equally if not more important to me. It’s helped me focus, have direction and, hopefully, be a more thoughtful painter. Because if you know you are going to write about the work, you also spend more time thinking about the process and sometimes (but not always) making better decisions because of that. Now that I don’t post my work quite as often, I’ve come to realize that it’s not only the drawing that I miss but the writing too.

As for my little sketch today… even after 1,000 posts I am still discovering new places to paint in my neighbourhood. There are two cemeteries not five minutes drive from my house that I explored for the first time this morning. The one in the sketch has rolling hills, grand old trees and even a military cemetery complete with cannons. And if I find myself with a bit of time this week I hope to turn the sketch into a painting.


20 Comments on “What writing does”

  1. Liz Steel says:

    exactly!!! beautifully said Shari. I miss the writing a LOT when I am not blogging.
    For me the writing is an integral part of the process and has so many benefits.
    I always think that it helps reinforce the lessons you learnt and has benefit for the next sketch… but it is nice to be reminded that the intention to write helps the one you are doing now!

    • Liz, it’s great to hear from you. I don’t know how YOU do it. You write about ten times more than me and you do it every day too.
      The intention to write, as you say, is exactly what helps me think about what I am doing.

      • Liz Steel says:

        Ah – but I don’t have a ‘real job’ anymore. Blogging is now the core of my business. I don’t know how you carve time for a painting everyday with your ‘real job’ and family.

  2. Ross says:

    I agree about the effect of writing. For a compulsive commenter like me, I find that before I post a reply I have to look critically at your painting (to see what I can pick on) and then I have to read your words closely (to see what openings you have provided for me)… all so that I can make an informed “constructive” comment. So, for me, that decision to write means that I have to examine and think about everything in much more detail.

    • Ross, I’m so happy to know that I’ve helped you hone your writing skills!

      • Ross says:

        Yes, and you have also helped hone my skills at being a difficult and sarcastic commenter… you have been a great target for the past three years. And I like to think that I have helped you to develop your skills at responding to those comments. : )

  3. Yes. I don’t know that I think different thoughts when I plan on writing, but I am aware of what I am thinking and the more I write and share my insights and get feedback the more I realize what my readers respond to and need to know about my process and my insight as an architect.

    • It’s not that I think different thoughts when I know I am going to write, it’s just that when I paint with no intention of writing, the process seems more intuitive, almost without words or thoughts. Some sort of visual auto-pilot, if that makes any sense at all.
      I agree about getting feedback. That has been extremely helpful for me too.

  4. Lee Kline says:

    Very true, Shari. I find myself reading a lot of what others say and have said about drawing and painting. For anyone who has not read Robert Henri’s remarkable, “The Art Spirit,” it is as good a place to start as any I know. There are many very good HOW TO books on technique. Henri’s book is the best I know of on how to BE as an artist. Passing it along for your subscribers who may not be familiar with it.

  5. SusanA says:

    Thank you for this post, Shari. I’ve been a student of online art classes since the spring, and so far, I’ve been focused on sketching and watercolor technique–which I need. But lately, I’ve begun to feel like something is missing in my sketchbooks, and I’m thinking it’s the writing–and not just the documentation of palette and process, but of my own self.

    Lee, thank you for the book recommendation. I have The Art Spirit in my TBR pile. Looks like I should move it to the top.

  6. Arti Mader says:

    I just discovered your blog, and I am in awe of your work that I saw on Pinterest. When I found the blog, I thought I would see a new painting every day. After reading today’s blog I realize that might not be the case, but even occasional sketches are wonderful to see. Thank you for sharing your gift.

    • Thanks Arti. Yes, I did post almost every day for three years but I find that my day job (teaching) is becoming very busy, so during the semester I have been reducing my blogging time. I hope that in the summer I’ll be able to post every day again.

  7. Alison says:

    Very interesting Shari. Like Ross, I know I think carefully before writing a comment. And only comment if I feel I have something worthwhile to say. The care you take with your posts is VERY evident. You write beautifully. In fact, I make a point of reading the post BEFORE looking at the sketch. All this to say, I really enjoy your thoughtful and well composed posts almost as much as the sketches. Regarding recent sketches, I appreciate, and am enjoying, the abstract quality of the work you have been posting.

    • Alison, I know you take great care in writing because when I read them I often wish I had written my post as beautifully as your comment. I think maybe it’s time you started a blog with some words to accompany your sketches. I know I would enjoy reading it.

  8. tsketching says:

    I totally agree. And it is not just thinking about the place and the circumstances of sketching itself while sketching but it is also about the memory. The sketches become sort of mnemonic and a rememberance tool to remember the place, the multitude of experiences at that particular moment of sketching. Thanks for a great blog!

  9. Dear Shari, Just love the powerful sketch w the feeling of the cemetery, the colors are perfect. Thank you for your blog!

  10. Carmen Renaud says:

    Hi Shari: Happy New Year. Haven’t received much of your work lately. I miss it terribly. Just so inspirational. Anyway, I do have a new email, maybe that is the problem.

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