On Art and Writing

Feels like it’s been forever since I’ve written anything for this site. And not for a lack of ideas! I have a growing list of topics I’d like to talk about, including a long overdue review of The Abomination Vault (which will probably wait for me to re-read the book from my new POV of a year-old Darksiders fan), my thoughts on Darksiders III (which I only finished recently, after a playthrough that dragged out for months), and a series of posts with parts of my Darksiders verse that might never get explicit coverage in my stories. But I’m not doing any of that today, am I. I’m here to write about writing instead of actually writing — be it fiction or something from that list of planned posts — because I’ve hit something of a block, and it’s got a lot to do with my not-so-recent-anymore obsession with art.

Practically all my free time goes into drawing and painting these days. After the first several months of practicing pencil drawing and some dabbling with digital art, I’ve discovered the unexpected joy of traditional painting in mid-September, and I’ve been doing this almost daily since. I started with watercolor and gouache, then went on to oil and acrylic paint. The most recent addition to my arting arsenal is a set of dip-pens and a vial of waterproof ink that I’d like to use for painting in watercolor over ink lines. Every new technique is like a world of its own, and if a few months ago I felt like a wannabe swimmer dipping his toes into a vast ocean, now I feel like I’ve wetted my feet — but I’m still so very, very far from even treading water.

I have a recurring checklist with art things I’d like to do every week. It looks something like this:

  • Do a watercolor/gouache painting
  • Do an oil/acrylic painting
  • Work on a digital painting
  • Practice figures
  • Practice portraits
  • Practice hands
  • Practice gesture drawing
  • Practice shading
  • Practice inking
  • Do Drawbox lessons or homework
  • Do Ctrl.Paint lessons or homework
  • Do Proko lessons or homework
  • Do random tutorial

Sheesh! No wonder I don’t have time to write, eh?

To be clear, I don’t do all of that stuff every week. But I manage most of it.

And yeah, writing definitely suffers. I only write on weekends, and not consistently. Also, only a small fraction of that is new, first-draft stuff. Mostly I type in or go over the existing handwritten and digital drafts, notes, and exercise my fountain pens with journaling.

Even so, I’ve recently written two short pieces: Stitching the Wound is one, and the other awaits editing. I’ve made some progress with one of my long-haul WIPs, Shalome. Fury’s Embrace, the second fic in my Legendary series for Darksiders, seems stuck, but it’s stuck in final stages, and it’s bound to get finished eventually.

Ok, so maybe the writing situation isn’t as dire as I made it sound at first.

The trouble is, when writing and art compete, writing has no chance:

  • Art is faster and more fun to make. Sure, it took me a month to create that first digital painting of a bare-chested War, and more than that to complete the Watcher, and I’ve got some digital WIPs that might never get finished at all, but that was before I discovered traditional art. And even then, I was able to complete satisfying pencil drawings in hours or days.
  • Art is standalone and easier to conceptualize, because one image is sufficient; whereas writing, even if all I do is write towards a single scene, requires setup, development and, more importantly, meaning.
  • Very much unlike my pickiness with writing, I’d draw/paint just about anything: landscapes, seascapes, birds, plants, flowers, cars, buildings, people, fandom stuff — it’s all good!
  • Due to the things above, iterations are faster, and improvement readily noticeable, whereas in writing I’ve reached the level of competence where it’s no longer easy to find challenge or to see advancement.
  • Arting doesn’t demand as much focus as writing. I’m perfectly able to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while drawing, which doubles the profit from the time investment. Writing is often very tense; drawing relaxes me.
  • I’m also more relaxed about sharing it than I am with writing — probably because I produce more and share more often. But also because I know how much easier it is to appreciate a piece of art, compared to a written work. Reading, like writing, demands full focus, while consuming an image is instant.
  • Which is why, even though my artworks are nowhere near the quality of my writing, they get far more engagement on social media. Yeah, yeah, write for yourself and all that. And I am. But engagement matters anyway.
  • And last but not least, regarding Darksiders creations, I’m not as unmotivated to make fanart that doesn’t reference my ships as I am to ever write such fanfiction, so there’s more room for interaction with mainstream fandom.

To be fair to writing, it’s got the huge advantage of my (perceived) mastery of it. In writing, I can execute almost anything I conceive of. It will be years before I reach a similar level of skill and experience with art. But with this also comes greater ambition, and unfortunately, a hesitation to start large projects, especially in a niche fandom dominated by heteronormative ideas which is at best disinterested in, and at worst hostile to my works.

On top of these considerations, there’s also the logistics. Since my first art post, last April, I’ve made a couple music posts and one (1) text post, and everything else was art that I typically don’t have much to say about. This website isn’t suitable for that kind of content and the poor Gallery page is overflowing with diverse stuff, from random pictures I used in random posts, to commissioned pieces, to my own, with no navigation and few options for better organization. I don’t want this blog to turn into an art timeline after ten and more years of happy blog-being. Yet I definitely want to serve my art on a site of my own, without the hustle and limitations of social networking.

So… I’ll be launching two new subdomains of smehur.com, one for art and the other for writing, in the days to come.

Why writing? Well, while I’m nowhere near as prolific with it as I am with art, I’ve been at it a much longer time. With more than a decade’s worth of piled up works, the poor Fanfiction page is just as bad as the Gallery in terms of organization and navigation. But also, because I enjoy symmetry, and I don’t want to create or be under the impression that art deserves more room or attention or work than my older hobby.

The art site is already in the making, and I hope to announce it soon; once it’s up, I’ll remove most of the art posts from here, and in the meanwhile, I don’t plan to make any new ones. The writing site will be slower in the making because all the linked content in Ghost, TTSS and other chaptered stories, but also because I’m unlikely to ever overwhelm this blog with stories.

Of course, all this will contribute absolutely nothing towards finding a balance between art and writing in my creative endeavors. But organizing the world without sometimes helps organize the world within.

Hope to be back soon with something more substantial.

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