I’ve long had a history of straddling the two horses of writing and painting, and there have been a few times where I seriously thought I should ditch writing in favor of art. Yet what has always felt best is to say that I’m 80% a writer and 20% a visual artist.
I can allow those percentages to vary a bit as I try to keep one foot in each horse’s stirrup, hoping they head more or less in the same direction. But while painting is necessary, the writing horse must lead. This does not mean illustration, just that the energies involved in my visual art—and they do differ from writing energies—are literary.
I’m not sure I can really pin down how that works. But I’ve noticed that in all cases where I’ve flirted with abandoning writing in favor of art, I’ve been out of contact with myself, even if the surrounding energies have been high. Visual creation can take on too much importance, luring me with its physicality and immediacy. Three examples are:
- Walking back across the soccer fields from the Media Center one February morning my freshman year at Rice, I had the sudden certainty that I should chuck the difficult, lonely writing quest in favor of the power of painting. While my actual output of that time was mediocre, I was immersed in the studio, the materials, the other artists, the art community, and the high-energy experimentation. It was natural to respond to that energy.
- Spring-Summer 1986. During this time I was experiencing a renaissance of painting energy and a rededication to developing my visual style, not just trying to repeat older processes. Although at the same time I was connecting with some new writing energy, with two new science fiction novels that year, the visual energy was in ascendance, and I began to consider whether I should pursue art first.
- The Summer Art Career, 2006. After a period of several years of doing one-man shows and selling some art, I took early retirement from the library with the hope that visual art would lead to career and financial success. But this delusion didn’t last through the summer. Continue reading →