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