The other day Charlene and I were talking about our respective summer art projects, and she got me thinking about how often our stories also inspire us to create other types of art. Not every writer is an artist, but many of us have hobbies or sidelines that incorporate writing into another art form. I combine my love of art and writing in my art journals every week, and I've made a number of quilted pieces like this one based on elements and characters from my stories and books.
I also like looking for new ways to play with writing and art, and Cloth Paper Scissors magazine is one place I find regular inspiration. The magazine holds regular art challenges for their readers that I find hard to resist, and the one in the Jul/Aug issue is no exception: Create an original, mixed-media mini book no larger than 6" X 6" X 1" that weighs no more than 1 lb. Since I love making books, and the deadline isn't until September 1st, I don't think I'm going to be able to resist this one (the challenge details aren't up yet on the web site, but they will probably post them by the end of the month when the issue hits the new stands.)
Unless you're selling your work, creating art from your writing is generally for your own gratification, but it can also be a way to get better in touch with the work. I always feel I know a character better after I've sketched or painted them. In my novel notebooks I create collages of pictures I take from the internet and magazines that help me with character, setting and time period details. Color palettes are important to me, too, and I often play with online generators like this one to figure out what part of the spectrum I want to use for some story element.
Story art doesn't always have to be a project. I use my camera all the time to photograph places and things and capture the images I want to incorporate in a story, or buy images off royalty-free sites that help me visualize better (these also help when an editor asks you for input on cover art; nothing illustrates an idea better than an image.) Cameras are also good for people who aren't inclined to sketch or paint but who still want to create -- pretty much anyone can point and shoot.
For this mini-book project I'm going to be studying the techniques in the Summer 2010 issue of Sew Somerset. This issue is packed with art book-making ideas from raw-edged journals, fabric and panel books all with different inspirations, themes and techniques. Definitely the magazine to check out if you're interested in getting some ideas to make your own sewn mixed-media books.
Building up a personal collection of artwork based on your writing can help recharge the creative batteries, too. We spend so much time translating our vision of story into words that we occasionally feel a little trapped in the black-ink white-paper world; playing with images is a nice mental vacation. When it comes to art you may choose to stick with one medium that you enjoy or that you're familiar with, or try something new. I like trying new techniques because they force me to stretch rather than get comfortable, and sometimes the results are pretty neat. I always think it's interesting to get first-hand experience with any artistic process; if nothing else you gain a mountain of respect for the artists who do it every day.
This is why another of my summer projects is to sculpt an art doll based on one of my characters. I don't want it to be a kids' doll, however, and up until now it's been tough to find usable info from doll makers who are inspired by books that are a little more grownup than Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz. Fortunately Art Doll Quarterly magazine finally came through for me with a terrific article in their summer issue about Loni, an artist who makes steampunk dolls. She talks about the process of creation and her doll-making techniques, but something she wrote at the article really resonated with me: Remember to listen to your dolls; they will guide you along. I spend so much time listening to my characters in my head I sometimes feel like I'm developing multiple personality disorder, but they never steer me in the wrong direction (sadly I can't make the same claim.)
Do you guys play with art for story? What things other than writing do you use to work out or illustrate your stories? Is there anything you'd like to try someday? Let us know in comments.