What Writers Can Learn From Visual Artists

What Writers Can Learn From Visual Artists

I enrolled in Fundamentals of Sculpture while in college many years ago. I was an art major and it was one of our lower-division course choices. Our assignment was to sculpt a human figure using modeling clay. We started by making an armature, a 15" vertical wire (with a wood-block base) providing the framework around which the sculpture was to be built.

I enrolled in Fundamentals of Sculpture while in college many years ago. I was an art major and it was one of our lower-division course choices. Our assignment was to sculpt a human figure using modeling clay. We started by making an armature, a 15" vertical wire (with a wood-block base) providing the framework around which the sculpture was to be built.

We were learning the fundamentals of anatomy and we had to start by modeling every bone, every rib, every vertebra, before moving on to the muscles, and finally skin. I was impatient and asked the instructor “Why can’t I just put the modeling clay on it and model the figure? The instructor, a patient man, explained: “ You can’t start from the outside and work inward. The anatomical structure is what informs the muscular structure. That’s what determines the form your figure will take.”¹

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This encounter taught me a valuable lesson that has guided me for over forty years. You have to get the understructure right if you want your final product to be right. This is true an any visual art, it’s true for writers, and it’s true in life.

Let’s take a look at a three important practices writers can learn from visual artists.

The importance of:

1. Preliminary sketches

2. Composition

3. Reworking

Premlinary sketches

It is common practice for arists to work on preliminary sketches before beginning a larger work. Just about every painting or sculpture you’ve ever seen started with preliminary sketches.

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