I came upon this plen aire painting class on my walk yesterday. Beautiful morning; magnificent view.
I watched from a respectful distance, noting with interest that the artists worked systematically, dabbing identical brushes into matching color palettes. When they’d spread the first pigment from corner to corner, they stopped to compare their templated images to the scene beyond their easels.
The instructor was genuine in her praise, and most students seemed to appreciate her occasional redirect. The class objective? To reproduce the painting on the far right, which was itself a reproduction of a rock formation in the cove below.
Truth be told, I started feeling restless. Such an arduous, painstaking task! Like most creative types, I pull from a grab-bag of tried-and-true techniques, easily mastered. I’ve learned that it’s far too easy –and dangerous– to focus our energies on straight-ahead instructions, easily reproduced. I like to experiment, make mistakes, discover.
F-stops, shutter speed, and the Rule of Thirds; strong verbs, sensory images, and character arcs. These are the basic elements of storytelling. I want a working knowledge in my fingertips. But I’d never trade away my wide-eyed sensibilities (my unique perspectives) for that muting thing we writers call “structure.”
For me, creativity comes of exploring a rugged archway–born of earthquakes and raging tides–and chance encounters with tourists who pass through its frame. It’s inspired by pelicans that glide silently through the skies, waves that churn and froth at the shoreline, and salty breezes that tousle my hair.
Writing flows when I break loose from those soul-sucking musts and shoulds, lace up my hiking shoes, and plant both feet in the scene. It’s then, when I finally lose myself in the moment, that I come home to my story.