Using Writing 201 as a Guide for any Creative Endeavour (part 2)

I missed the sign-up for the February 2016 Writing 201: Finding your Story WordPress Blogging U course. But, that’s okay – I’ve decided to follow along with the ebook version found here.

While I do write poetry and short stories from time to time, my chosen artistic outlet is photography. And in any case, I like seeing all artistic and creative endeavors as intertwined in process. Each begins, whether writing, painting, performance art, with an idea and a desire to create. A need for expression. In that sense, every piece of visual art or writing is a story waiting to be told. Once the process of creating begins, the process of editing coincides. Each brush stroke, key stroke, click of the shutter is a conscious decision. Each pressing of the delete key, re-paint, crop is another conscious decision to pair down, fix, edit. The end goal is to make the result, the art piece, reflect your initial vision – to be what you consider complete and ready to be shared with the world.

Week 2

  1. Finding your Angle
  2. Intros and Hooks
    1. “…we’ll explore the openings and hooks of famous novels, and touch on nonfiction and film. Remember that these techniques can be applied to all genres and styles, from memoir to journalism to experimental prose.” – WordPress Writing 201 eBook
    2. What makes a great opening?
      1. A great opening in visual art? Well, as WP suggests, it’s the 1st sentence and the questions it leaves the readers with. I like to think this equivalent in visual art is the first glance of the viewer. She notices the painting, photograph, sculpture etc. and it makes her pause, she’s intrigued and wants to learn more, to discover it’s mystery. The intrigue in the first glance, is the big picture, the overall colors, shadows, composition – the first ‘that’s pretty’ or ‘that’s interesting’ judgement.
    3. Translating the big question
      1. [paraphrased] “Never lose sight of the fundamental question.” – WordPress Writing 201 eBook
        1. I’m sure I’m taking this a bit out of context, but in art, it’s important to stay focused if you want to get your point across. We can all relate to this as far as reading or watching a movie is concerned. If a plot line rambles about, at the end (or middle) of the book, we’re getting bored and questioning the point. Visual art is the same way. Consider the process of making a collage. Your goal for this, say, is to make a collage that serves as a self-portrait. Cut out images that define you, or simply things you like. For me, let’s say I chose a turquoise square, a camera and a cat and glued them on the page. Then, I titled the piece “JNW- a portrait.” You, as the viewer might get the idea that this piece is about me. But let’s narrow it down. What if all I cut out were squares of images of fur and arranged them all into the shape of a strange creature? You as the viewer see this piece without a title, theme or prompt. What would you think? Each item is congruous and leads us to consider that it was done on purpose, that the joining of various fur types into a new creature possibly has meaning. And, maybe we’ll observe the piece a little more to find that meaning.
        2. The same concept can be applied to other types of visual art as well. When you compose a photograph, you are choosing what to include (and what not to include) in that image. If you then decide to crop or further edit, you are continuing to pick and choose what should be included in the final piece. Each of the items, colors, shadows, etc. in the final piece are what your viewers use to interpret the meaning of your art – the point of your art. Every item should serve a purpose – should stay on point.
        3. “Now, look back at a few of your already published pieces – pick one of the posts you’re proudest of, or one that got a particularly positive response from readers. Read your openings. Did you start with a big question?” – WordPress Writing 201 eBook
          1. Bittersweet Boat When thinking about this exercise, I automatically wanted to delve into one of my series. Typically my series are narratives, and therefore, at least a vague story from start to finish. Discussing a single piece is more of a challenge. However, I think I need to be able to discuss each individual piece as fully as I could a series. There needs to be a reason an image stands alone.
            1. For ‘Bittersweet Boat’ I put 3 or 4 drops of food coloring in a water-filled bathroom sink. I put the little 2 cm long boat at the apex of the swirling color and shot the image at a low angle so that we could be almost at the eye level of the boat while still peering inside of it. There is no one in the boat and yet it moves along leaving waves of color behind. The color swirls and takes over the white atmosphere. The edge of the curved world can be seen ahead and yet it’s empty, waiting to be filled with color. The bittersweet (bright orangy red) of the boat contrasts with the turquoise blue of the water. At first glance the viewer is drawn in by the color and pattern. The viewer stays to consider how the image is made, to fully absorb the pattern of the swirls, to consider the scale and meaning of the overall image. The story I attempt to tell is one of hope – of spreading your wings in a world unknown. The title serves 2 purposes, 1) to mention the color of the boat, 2) to discuss the feeling of the image – yes we are forging our own brightly colored path, but we are doing so alone.
      2. From question to angle to hook
        1. “Start with your subject. (This is the big question you’re exploring. What are you writing about, and why?)”
        2. “Next, consider your angle. (Remember, this is the unique way you’re approaching your question.)”
        3. “Finally, smoosh ’em together. (This is where you figure out how to ask your big question in a way that’s unmistakable you.)” – 2. c. ii. – i, ii and iii quotations from WordPress Writing 201 eBook
          1. For my art, when looking for new angles, new ideas, new pieces I try to refer back to my artist statement or bio. These items are updated over time to reflect my goal as a creator of art. Therefore, they help me summarize my big question – my ultimate goal in what I’m trying to get across.
            1. “An introspective, introverted empath, full of anxiety and 90s kid nostalgia, Jennifer Nichole Wells creates images full of desolation, malcontent and longing by transforming her hand-built miniature tableaus through her camera lens. Her images draw influence from her midwestern roots and Florida youth.”
              1. Using this as my starting point this past weekend, I isolated the adjectives and used each for individual google image searches. How to I represent the idea of malcontent in one image or one set of images?
                1. Babies: Crib
                2. I want my images to be relatable and yet at the same time, be full of me and my unique viewpoint. The best way I’ve found to do this is through iconography, shadow and focus.
          2. “The first sentence can’t be written until the last sentence is written” – Joyce Carol Oates as quoted by WordPress Writing 201 eBook
            1. While we may not be writing sentences in visual art, we are creating a story. If you don’t know what story you’re trying to tell, then you can’t focus on what questions you want the viewer to ask. Write a draft artist statement on your piece before you create it, revise your artist statement – use writing and getting your ideas on paper as a stepping stone to creating the piece you envision in your head.
      3. How not to get started
        1. “Knowing your angle and figuring out your question are critical, but having both don’t ensure an amazing hook. There are ways we can go wrong in introductions.” – WordPress Writing 201 eBook
          1. Even fully knowing your idea for the art piece you set out to create by no means guarantees success. Recycle your ideas, focus on them for months until a better visual idea forms, or if need be, toss ’em out. Sometimes it can be better to move onto a new, more plausible, more to-your-point idea. Personally, I write, sketch and sort out my ideas in a sketch book. I don’t always come back to them, but the ones I can’t get out of my head are the ones I have more of an urge to create. These are also the ones that are going to be most successful. Once I create an image I don’t always like it. I’ve either lost sight of my idea or failed in execution. If I feel it’s worth it, I regroup and start again. If my idea is that far gone and no longer speaking to my point I throw out the idea and focus on bigger and better ones.
        2. “We give away too much. It’s easy to fall into the overkill pit; we want to entice all the readers, so we throw all the details up front hoping that everyone will find something that intrigues them. The problem: why should the reader keep reading?” – WordPress Writing 201 eBook
          1. Leave some mystery to be solved by the viewer of your art. Leave some open ended questions so that they can put themselves – their experiences and emotions into the piece. In this way the piece sticks with them for longer than the 4 to 5 seconds (no lie, that’s the average amount of time people view images for) they viewed it on the wall or on your blog.
            1. IMG_1338
        3. “We bury the lead.”
          1.  Do your best to only focus on the pertinent information. If you’re shooting a picture of your daughter outside and you want the viewer to focus on her toothy smile, make sure that smile is in focus and well lit. Blur out the neon graffiti in the background – that’s not the point and it only distracts from her face.
            1. I can hear the ocean.
        4. “We start from the very beginning.”
          1. Your image is your full story. Beginning, middle and end. Represent your point without giving away too much. The middle is the meat. The beginning and end are only tiny points in comparison. Who is the person, place or thing you’re photographing? Why is their story important and worth the viewer’s time? What is the middle, the climax of the story?
      4. Additional food for thought
        1. “There’s so much to read on the web, your piece needs to stand out right from the start – you’ve got a few seconds to hook a reader.” – WordPress Writing 201 eBook
          1. The provided tips are great for visual posts as well – “start with an epigraph”, “grab ’em with a trending story”, “enhance with imagery” (in this case, enhance your image post with words – maybe a poem, quote, artist statement, etc.)
            1. These tips can also be used when deciding to create a new piece. Grab inspiration from all around you. Quote, song lyric, book chapter, poem that you like? Create an image inspired by it, then include some of the words in the post. (See my series In the Depths or SARW)
              1. stairs5-2
  3. Finding your Key Moment
  4. Setting the Scene

Stay tuned for Weeks 3 and 4.

How do you plan and compose your images? What stories do they tell?

3 thoughts on “Using Writing 201 as a Guide for any Creative Endeavour (part 2)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s