I have been doing a spot of editing and proofreading – not that I am specifically trained in that area but, having been a teacher of English, I have something to offer. As I undertook the stages of the task, it struck me how similar the process was to that of painting.
When looking at a first draft of a written document it is structure, flow and basic sense that is the focus. It is broad brushstroke stuff: ideas, essential information, the overall picture. As time and the work continues, the focus narrows. We begin to look in a closer way at how elements fit together, how they lead the reader from one idea to the next, how sense is crafted by the choice of words. Finally it is the detail that takes our attention. Punctuation, repetition, typing errors and any moments lacking clarity come under the microscope. Then when, as they say, the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed, we may begin to call the work complete.
And so it goes with painting and, although the receiver of the information is looking rather than reading, the process can be the same. Broad brushstrokes, quite literally this time, set out a framework. Decisions are made about what information we want to convey, what image or impression we want to create and what the viewer might think and feel in response to this burgeoning work. Later, we look more closely – perhaps at colour, at shape, at any elements that don’t contribute to the whole that we can either remove or modify. The brush may be medium-sized now, less basic and more considered. Finally, we begin to look at what might be wrong – parts that annoy, sections that stand out unpleasantly because of emptiness or busy-ness, – and we concentrate on those detailed marks that make the work look balanced, cared for and, eventually, finished.
This is not true for all artists, of course, or even all art. It is, however, one approach that can lead to the same freedom and energy in a painting as it can in writing. Both of these are the creation of a whole entity via steps and stages. There will be a time where they are messy (and perhaps unappealing) but with love and care they will coalesce into something pleasing for a reader or a viewer.