Sunday, 4 October 2015

Creativity ~ An Artist’s Map

I’ve often told people that crafting is not only deeply meditative for me, but that, curiously, it also makes me write better. I think it’s because the creativity involved in the crafting process lights the same areas of the brain that are engaged by writing. Kind of artistry-begets-artistry philosophy. This evening I also reflected on the artistic process itself, though, and it struck me that paper-crafting, and writing, are essentially the same.

So I decided to document it, sort of a like a play-by-play (and for anyone who’s read my romance novel, Divinity & The Python, all about a hunky hockey hero and his superstitious Tarot readings, you will know that I am indeed very fond of a play-by-play ;) )

Let’s Begin:

It all starts with the call to creativity—also known as inspiration. Artists and writers will tell you that inspiration lives everywhere—and that it sometimes appears in the most surprising places. In the case of this example, the inspiration was more like love at first sight. A few weeks ago my gaze nabbed a picture my friend Jo had posted on facebook, a Fall image of an old Massey Ferguson tractor (just like my Grandpa used to have!). The photo is simply staggering; the filter Jo used lends a nostalgia to the piece, and the autumn setting generates an atmosphere that calls forth a flood of nouns and adjectives: antiquity. Conclusions. Season’s end, harvest, bounty, and yesteryear. I was captivated by this photo. Had to create something with it.

So I asked. Jo said “Sure!”

And here it is:


Was I right? Is this not breathtaking? So when I had it—the photo, the inspiration—in my sticky little hand, I imagined where I could take this image, how I could do it its own unique justice. How to tell its story, if you will, and, just like in writing, I came up with a plot outline—except in this case it looked more like a drawing. Like this:

Cute, right?

What do you mean, ‘No’?

Well, trust me.  It will be beyond cute. It will be *beautiful*. Keep watching.

Just like in writing, once I had my outline done, I started the ‘story’; I considered setting, mood, and some complimentary layers to ensure that the finished piece would have atmosphere and beauty. In writing, this looks like pulling in secondary characters, secondary and tertiary plots, using geography and seasons and weather as plot devices. In paper-crafting it has a simpler (yet maybe more apt) term: It’s called pulling together a palette:


…and from the palette you start to hold one color against another (while in writing you hold one character, circumstance, or setting against the other) and decide what is going to be the most fetching.

And then….then you work. You cut, you paste, you measure to make sure that, just like in writing, your ideas are going to gel and that each element leaves sufficient room for the other. Things begin to take shape:

….and even though some elements don’t look like they have the ‘wow factor’ as soon as they’re laid down, you nonetheless remain true to your vision, and remember that creating is a process, not an event. In crafting it’s laying something ho-hum down knowing you can (and plan to) make it better. In writing it’s getting the idea or direction of the scene down—and knowing you will go back and dress up the prose; add an image or an emotion that make it unforgettable. But in order to do it you have to trust yourself—and it doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with tools that can enhance your project and take it to the next level. In crafting those tools sometimes look like this:

…while in writing, your tools are your words, images, atmosphere, dialogue, characters, and the tension & stakes you’ll use to enlarge the feel of your story. Use them all—or at least try them—but also always be aware that, just like here:

…some ideas (even though they are beautiful) just won’t work. (I put this crest with the embossed leaf on the left, on the right, and ….no. Just…NO). Still, just like some of my lines of prose I love but end up cutting from my novel, I keep ‘em around. ‘Cause you just never know where they might work:


Well, look at that. It looks perfectly fine—fancy, even—on the inside. Who knew?

Then there was this, and note that, just like a story, it turned out both like and not like the original outline (plot) that I’d scratched out on that scribbler paper at the beginning of this article: