Category Archives: Art

Right Brained Distractions and a Way Forward

I’ve been writing some lately, but mostly just ideas and notes for the manuscript I want to complete this year; it’s not really anything I’m posting.  Beyond that however, It seems that when I try to pick up and continue some of the material from the blog, I haven’t been able to feel comfortable with where my mind is going, so I’ve stalled on some of the work.  I’ve also been a little distracted by drawing and other right brained activities.

Last night, for instance, I was sitting on the couch and noticed a fingernail clipper sitting on an end table in direct light from a lamp.  I immediately started to notice the shadows and highlights that shiny metal object was creating.  I had to draw it.

Sketch of Fingernail Clippers

Fingernail Clippers

You’ll have to forgive the photograph.  I took it with my phone in low light.  I brightened it up in Photoshop, which brought the picture noise out nicely (read sarcasm).  I’ll try to put up a better one some time.

Anyway, that drawing episode got me thinking about how art affects me as it pertains to writing.  I truly am not much of an artist, but I would like to be.  Much like my writing, I have some ability, but I need a lot of practice.  I’ve felt that way most of my life, so naturally when I got to college, I took some art classes along with my English and creative writing coursework.

I’ve always been a very spatially organized person, but that structure typically played second fiddle to my verbal pursuits.  Once I started taking art classes in college, that changed quite a bit.  In even the most basic courses, you are taught to look at everything spatially.  It’s all shape and value and space and negative space.  It’s a new language.  Teaching that language is the primary objective of most drawing courses rather than mechanical skills with one medium or another.  You willfully override the connection in your brain that wants to put a name to an object and instead look at the object as the product of light and shadow.  It pulls you away from the verbal to the spatial.  I’m certain that I will not blow anyone’s mind with that statement of the super obvious.  I only mention it to highlight the fact that viewing the world around you this way becomes easier the more you do it, and that is largely the aim of an art class.

Well, after having taken a number of classes, I noticed that the switch to spatial awareness was much more instinctive rather than methodic.  It is much more common now for me to look at something as a shape rather than an object.  This right brained tendency somewhat interferes with my writing because it pulls me away from words.  I also find that when I start to get a little “right brained,” it becomes an itch I have to scratch, and it’s been my most keen distraction lately.

So, it seems that beyond my typical distractibility in writing pursuits, I also have my right brain to deal with, and I believe I’ve ignored this facet in many ways.  I hope thinking about this is the first step to truly developing a strategy for successful productivity.  My original plan was to use this blog to force me to focus on writing, and that is the aspect of blogging–with this type of blog specifically–which rubs up against my bad writing habits and bends them to shape.  I obviously jump around between work a lot when writing and sometimes find it hard to find direction.  I wanted to feel pressure to work on something with consistency and to be able to break through some of the barriers I’ve typically encountered in my workflow.  The structure provided by the blog is helping me focus on completing work rather than letting it lie rough, and the guilt of not posting helps bring me back to it.

Also running counter to my goal of completing material is a tendency to want to start something new.  I’ve been trying to find a balance between doing new exercises and drafts versus continuing revisions on other work.  I did notice that while trying to create new material, I have been consistently coming back to similar imagery or ideas, which I think is a natural byproduct of writing more frequently and which must be dealt with by anyone who writes.  I seem particularly prone to writing about dawn and dusk lately.  Being conscious of the staleness of some of my thoughts has therefore made me even more prone to distraction.  I need to avoid distraction or at least manage it so that I can maintain progress.

And speaking of distractions, I have the artsy things I like to do.  I need to find a way to make art a part of my workflow rather than an impediment.  I am going to try to make myself draw at least once every few days in hopes that it will help me manage that desire.  I think I’ll probably start to include posts with anything I think has been executed well.  That will give me an outlet so that I won’t feel like I’m forsaking one thing for another.

Going forward, I’ll try to fine tune a structured approach to conducting my activities that allows enough freedom to avoid becoming stifled while maximizing my opportunities for being creative.  Drawing will be the easier part.  One upside to drawing and painting is that it’s easier to make yourself do it.  Even if I don’t particularly feel like drawing, I can set up a few objects and some light and make myself work through the process of exploring and translating that scene to a page.  It might not be the best work if I’m not “feeling” it, but it should at least be a quantifiable effort that can be completed to some degree.  The writing portion will require me to delve more deeply into my approach to become more efficient when writing.  I need to find a way to break away from distraction and to break through walls.  I think finding an method of brainstorming up new and fresh ideas will help with potential stagnation, and then improving my free-writing method for revisions will help evolve older work.

So . . . if I try to draw twice a week and then write something at least twice a week, I should be able to keep moving forward with this blog and with my work.  Ultimately, I think I’ve learned more about my process and what works for me in the last few months than I had in the entire interval preceding it.  I still have a lot of fine tuning to do before I would even consider myself passably efficient, but I’m willing to try.

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Funny disconnect with the wife.

I thought I’d post this funny tidbit.  I was telling my wife that I really needed to do something “artistic” since it has been a while since I’d drawn or painted, and I’m not that good to begin with, so I need the practice.  She then says that I should draw her something.  I asked her what she would like me to draw her, and I got no response.  I thought she had decided to ruminate on the idea, and that she would get back to me when she had a more concrete idea of what I could do specifically for her.

Well, since I was actually allowing the creative impulse to drive me to open the sketch book and sharpen the pencils, I knew I was actually motivated enough to overcome my general laziness when it comes to breaking out the supplies and actually making some marks.  And since she hadn’t offered up a subject, I turned to a website meant for artists to study and/or practice called the Drawing Script.  It’s located here: http://lovecastle.org/draw/.

It’s a website that will display a configurable selection of images, either in a click-to-advance or automated slideshow.  The subject material is somewhat configurable, but lends itself to figure drawing.  You can view nude or clothes figures or a few body parts such as hands or heads.  I found the site through http://www.ctrlpaint.com/, which is a very cool website with a lot of free digital art instruction.

I elected to draw a simple posed hand since I seriously haven’t drawn anything in many months, and I am by no means a master of any media.  So, I check the Hands checkbox, set it to not advance so I could pick an image myself, and clicked the Draw! button.  To my delight, the first image that popped up was–in my estimation–pretty cool and had some elements that I thought would be fun to try to draw.  So I did.  This is the result:

Drawing of a hand holding a knife

Hand with a Dagger

The entire drawing process was great.  I was dialed in spatially, I was making good marks, I was getting good contrast and detail, and I wasn’t having to correct the image much at all.  I was ecstatic!  Granted, I know that’s not going to beat most middleschoolers with talent, but for me, that’s a really good result after not having drawn in so long.

Problem is that my pregnant wife thought I was intending to draw something for her.  So by not giving me direction earlier, she was giving me freedom to come up with a wonderful idea of something nice for her rather than free rein to just draw whatever.  I go into the bedroom feeling good about myself, wake up my pregnancy-napping wife, and show her a picture of a hand holding a knife.  First impression was not great!

After a measure of understanding drizzled in, I explained the disconnect and how funny it was.  I don’t think she agreed.  I must now learn to draw flowers, possibly inside of an apology card.

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