When I’m teaching writing, I follow the two rules I learned from Miss Fidditch years ago: 1. Get the words down. 2. Fix them.
As far as I’m concerned these are the only two rules for writers. The “fixing” part is sometimes called editing and it comprises all the other “rules” we learned in school about grammar and spelling and syntax. But the first, and most important thing, is to get the words down. You can’t fix what you haven’t written.
Now that I’ve segued from writing to visual art, I find that Miss Fidditch’s rules work here, too.
In my last post, I included a photo of a recently finished piece that I titled First Blush. I liked it, but over the next few days, I experienced a “felt difficulty.” Something was wrong with the piece (with my inexperience, many things could be wrong!) but I didn’t know just what.
Now like a lot of writers, I wanted to think that my first effort was my best effort, and I know this is almost never true. But I also know from experience that too much fiddling around with our creations can lead to one kind of mess or another. Deleting an entire manuscript or grabbing the gesso for an unfortunate painting are both options, but neither really solve the problems.
So I put the painting back on my work table and looked. I had the paint down and now it was time to fix it. One small area at a time, I was able to see a problem – a color, a texture, a shape – and to fix that problem. The grammar and syntax of art are not unlike those of writing, and like revising the manuscript for a novel or a poem, it happens a bit at a time.
Revising a painting or a piece of writing is about exactly what the word revision means: re-seeing. Patience will be required.
In the end, the biggest and best thing happened when I played with the orientation of the painting. I had fun turning it this way and that until I could see quite clearly that its best face was not vertical, but horizontal. The image – and its new title – came to me then in a flash. (No pun intended.)
Here’s are the two versions. See what you think.
City of Strangers, World War III, Day 2