Training a painter takes more than just a knowledge of colors, shapes, and textures. When I think about painting or drawing all I pictures is learning about how to put brush or pen or pencil to paper. But that’s not all, and in fact that image of producing art misses a big point.
Before you can train the hand, or maybe as part of training the hand, the artist’s eye must develop.
Painting, sketching, sculpting, drawing… These are all part of learning how to see. Beyond aesthetics alone, this eye training shapes the perception of the world, to see the lines which form around different shades of skin, to see the dappling of light falling through rain clouds. The best artists start with unusual aptitude, but all artists grow and learn anew how to see the world.
Their work can change how they see the world too. In a weird reversal, what they produce can change how they see.
And this isn’t true in just painting, sculpting, drawing – it’s true in nearly everything. A mathematician computes new ways to look at numbers. A chef develops their palate.
Well, from what I can tell, they have to learn an entirely new way of looking at words and the world to find out what inspires them. It may begin as a love of reading and watching, but as the words come out to put on paper what we see in the world, that’s where it gets transformed.
Training the writer’s eye is learning through writing and reading and watching. It’s looking at the world for that bit of interest that cries out to be put on page and wont be done with the author until it’s rolled off the tip of the pen or been hammered out on a set of keys.
It takes practice to find the lens that lets little bits of the world pop out, and it takes diligence to capture them and tell stories. The scope and scale of the writer’s pen is boundless: philosophy, poetry, science, art, travel, relationships, characters, theology, and all else included, every last bit of human experience… All of it calling out waiting to pop into our heads and get expressed with whatever vocabulary we can must.
As often as not, it ends in frustration.
Painters and writers discover they cannot quite get what they see to come out the way they want it too, and both end up shaped by their creations as they shape their creations.
Of course that’s why we keep going, keep writing, keep sketching… So our eyes might get that much better and our pens will be better for it.