“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”
The quote is about writing, but it can be applied to other fields of art as well.
Are You a Real Artist if You “Cheat?”
Since I was a kid, I’ve always been into art — admiring others’ and creating my own. But for some reason I always held this idea that a “real” artist is one who sits down with a blank page and begins drawing or painting solely from his or her imagination. I’m not sure why I initially believed most works of art were created without research, planning or aids. Some art is, but the older I get, the more I realize that’s usually not the case.
After talking to more individuals about their art, I’ve come to realize that most artists have a plan in mind before the pencil touches the page. Most of them paint while looking at an image. In other words, artists rely on much more than imagination alone. Observation is crucial for visually-geared people. As far as experience goes, I’ve realized that once I’ve drawn something one time, I can often use that memory to recreate the object, often without looking at an image. For artists who have a lot practice, I’m guessing the same is true, but on a much larger scale.
Imagination, Experience and Observation
That realization was very freeing for me. I have embraced the idea that using a model or a picture is not “cheating” and doesn’t degrade the quality of art. And the same is true of writing. When you’re running low on imagination, when you’re searching for that perfect idea, consider your past. The longer you’ve lived, the greater the wealth of experiences you have to go on. Or park yourself somewhere interesting and try people watching, using your observations as fuel for that work-in-progress.
From now on, I’ll remember Faulkner’s quote. So if my imagination is giving me fits, I can set aside that part of my brain for the time being and instead dive into the pool of my personal experiences. Or if, because of my schedule, I don’t have the opportunity to leave the house, I can dig inside myself and lean on my imagination for material.
What is your art — writing, painting or other?
Do you agree with Faulkner’s statement?
Which of the three keys do you access most? Which is your weakest area?