ArtPrize is a huge 19-day celebration in Grand Rapids, MI where some 1500 artists display their works in venues throughout the city and compete for $500,000 in cash prizes. While the contest is juried, the public also gets to vote for its favorites, and the Public Vote Grand Finalist is awarded $200,000. The city thrums with a creative vibe that is hard to put into words. If I were an artist, I would paint it. And then submit it to ArtPrize next year.
What I have discovered this week is that my process as a writer parallels the process of many artists I’ve met. While my husband Rich and I visited different venues, I had a chance to speak to some of the artists.
I always ask artists the same two questions:
- Where did you begin your piece?
- How did you know when it was finished?
Beth Durham was finalizing her painting, All of a Sudden, the day before Art Prize opened. As Rich, my daughter, Kate, and I watched her work, she caught sight of us and suggested I have my picture taken in front of her mural since my pink coat matched the pink in her piece. Of course, I obliged. She took a break to talk to us about her inspiration and process. Then I asked my two questions.
Beth showed me a mock-up of her painting that she was recreating on the wall. She knew exactly where she had begun and how she would finish it since she’d generated the painting on a smaller scale. She admitted that the work evolved as she progressed; that was evident as I looked at the variation in strokes and intensity.
So just as Beth’s painting evolved and changed as she created it—lived it—so does my writing. While I have an idea of where my story is going, the plot may swerve in another direction based on a decision by a character. A relationship may develop that changes the whole story. A secondary character may shove her way in and demand top billing…or at least third down on the list.
Speaking of evolving, Mary Sprague’s painting, Mysticeti Evolves, pulled me in with its lush, vibrant colors. She showed me the last section she’d painted explaining that she had to paint over what she originally had done because it just wasn’t working. That revision was where she ended.
I’m a writer. I revise. ‘Nough said.
The energy and movement of Zach Mory’s piece Swell delighted me. He intentionally displayed it so people could walk all around and see it from the back with the light shining through. Even though the contest had started, he was tweaking the piece when we arrived (cf: Revision) because the breeze created by viewers had moved some pieces from their original placement. He showed me the first piece he’d started with and told me he knew it was done when the deadline arrived.
Someone once said that deadlines were created so writers would finish books. Douglas Adams, author of The Salmon of Doubt said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” The crunch of a deadline can spur authors on to extraordinarily creative heights. We hope. I have to admit that even books I’ve finished, that have met their deadline, been published, purchased and read, tempt me to go back through to do a little revision.
So this week as I strolled through the amazing creations of many gifted artists, I felt affirmed in my own creations. I discovered that regardless of the media used, all of us are creators. I believe that is what God intended—for us to be co-creators in whatever way we have been gifted.
How do you use your gifts to become a co-creator? (Please brag)