Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Watercolor Characters

Tonight I was wrapping presents while Doug watched the "making of" extra for The Devil and Daniel Mouse. While watching the backgrounds being painted in watercolor, I remembered some discussions with artist friends about how different media behave. If you want control, paint in oil or acrylic. If you paint in watercolor, you have to give up control and trust that the paint knows what it's doing. I'm not an artist, but I don't think I'd like watercolor because I generally want to be in control of things.

Except that's not the way I write. Almost all of my characters -- and all the great ones -- are watercolor characters. I lay out the broad lines of the story, but they have a mind of their own. They know what they're doing. They change and flow and interact in ways I don't always anticipate, and I like that about them. It's what makes them come alive, what makes the story more than just words on paper. There is a brilliance in these characters like the layered brilliance of light in watercolors.

There are writers who plan out everything in meticulous detail, who exert the kind of control over their characters that an oil painter does over art. They think it's silly -- or simply nonsensical -- that other writers work differently. I think their approach sounds like way too much work and not any fun. They think mine is chaos and delusion. Oil and water. Both art, yet utterly different.

I am intrigued that my needs and tastes in different creative endeavors could be so opposite. When I work with visuals, I tend to prefer precision, every piece just so. It's like putting together a puzzle, piece by piece, to match an image in my head. I even favor representational over abstract pictures. But when I work with words, everything is malleable, fluid, flowing -- riding the story as it takes shape is like flying. It's a voyage of discovery.

I am a bouquet of contradictions.
Tags: art, personal, writing
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