Cross training.

training

I signed up for art classes this fall. Every Tuesday for the next seven weeks, I'm playing with gouache! What?

My art teacher, Erica, taught me about colour theory. I drank it up — chroma, hue, value. The difference between chroma and lightness. How different colours have their own inherent value. And how different value treatments create different feelings in a painting.

This has nothing to do with writing. But because of the way my mind works, I see the world as a massive network of connected references. So it also has everything to do with writing.

Making art helps you make art. The form or genre of the art doesn't really matter.

Jill Margo calls this "cross training." I love the analogy, because it makes sense to the part of my mind that wants to always be productive and working efficiently towards completion of a project.

Cross training = productive play.

It's so good to give your brain fresh creative advancement! I've written about the importance of mixing up your art before, here and here. Focus is excellent and necessary, but without cross training, you risk getting into a groove — aka, a creative plateau.

Give your writing some fresh air. Boost your creative immune system. Give your mind a chance to explore different ways of seeing and knowing.

I heard Martha Baillie say that she likes to take her novel writing class to a sculpture gallery to get the writers thinking about structure differently. How cool is that?

After only one painting class, I'm already starting to think about what I can do with language in a new way. I learned about blending colour, and looked at colour on a value scale. If the yellow petals of that sunflower were black and white, what shades of grey would they be?

How can I use that new way of seeing in my prose? What would it sound like?

The thing about cross training is that the results aren't going to be guessable or prescriptive. It's artistic exploration. Something unpredictable will happen when you mix your art forms. Don't try to guess what will that will be. Do it for no reason. Take a mandolin class. Sign up for ballet. Join a choir.

Insight comes from everywhere!

Now, while you engage your creative core and learn the basics of this weird new art form, keep writing. Watch what happens as the new kind of art integrates with your own art.

xo,

Sarah Selecky    


ps. If you live near Chicago and you want to be inspired by some epic cross training, don't miss David Bowie Is!  


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8 comments

Lindsay Edmunds

This makes a lot of sense. I like the idea of cross training.
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I love that idea! I've been wanting to do something creative lately outside of writing - take a pottery class or music class or something, but couldn't really justify the time and cost with all the other things going on in my life. But productive play - that may be just what I need to justify it!
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Elle Flythe

I love this advice. It's spurring me to get back into aromatherapy. I've been learning to code HTML lately and I'm amazed how much I like writing in it. It's clearing a lot of cobwebs from my prose.
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Fiona Murchie

I was lucky enough to see David Bowie Is at the V & A in London last summer - it is, without question, the most exciting, creative, wonderful exhibition I've ever been to. And there is no better advert for 'cross pollination' of art.
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Stephen D. Forman

How fun! For some reason, today's post reminded me of an art project I've always wanted to coordinate, tentatively called a Daisy Chain. Here's the idea: The first artist paints a water color...or oil painting... what-have-you. The next artist uses that as her inspiration to write a song, perhaps a sonata or EDM or rap. The next artist listens to that track as inspiration for a sculpture or installation or statuette. The next artist ponders the bust or sculpture and creates a graffiti on a wall or side of a bus. The next artist takes the graffiti and creates a ballet out of it or interpretive dance. I think you get the idea...(oops, forgot short story in there!) I just don't know a community of artists in which to plant such a seed, but I'll bet it would be possible to get this sort of thing going online, here and there... Good luck with your classes!
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I've been embarking on some color explorations too! My motives are a bit more directly related to my work, since I want to include more stones (ergo color) and I want the stone choices to be both exciting and harmonious - an "Om" for your neck or finger. My brother-in-law recommended Stephen Quiller's book _Color Choices_ http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0823006972?pc_redir=1411832053&robot_redir=1. Brother-in-law is a relentlessly talented watercolor artist, so I figure his rec. is likely to be meaty and thought-provoking ;).
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Thanks Sarah for this great advice (and new, gentle, creative use of the term "cross training", which I absolutely love!)....I had the opportunity to take an art class the other day, and found what you said to be so true....(learned how to sketch an apple, which was a thrill, but was especially excited about how the experience calmed, relaxed and inspired me, and got me thinking about apples in new ways)....Now that's my kind of cross training!
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Amanda Niehaus-Hard

You know, Sandra, that ties directly to what Sarah talks about in SSM, when she says "write the apple." I took a portrait drawing course once and was surprised to find out I wasn't actually "Seeing" the face I was drawing. I was drawing symbols, which is why my drawings looked childish. When I finally started paying attention to the actual face and not what I THOUGHT the face looked like, the work got so much more realistic and detailed. I am finding the same thing happening to me as I progress through SSM. I'm actually writing the apple instead of writing what I "think" the apple is.
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