Sunday, June 19, 2016

Writing for the Arts

Writing for the Arts was the name of a class I took at California State University, Los Angeles in the late 1980s when I was finishing up my Bachelors degree in Art. I learned a lot in the class, and the professor (Sandy B.) was adamant about NOT writing in the "Artspeak" manner so typical of most art reviewers and critics. If you've ever tried to read that stuff, you know how utterly nonsensical and useless it is.

I was grateful that Sandy introduced us to a writing style that emphasized descriptive language -- wording that would form images in the reader's minds, using lots of adverbs, some adjectives and "good" verbs. As much as possible, I continue to try to write that way in what I would consider my "serious" writing (posts on Facebook are NOT included in that group!) One example of my "serious" writing appears on my website -- my Bio page (aka "Why Does Mark Paint the Desert?!?" -- you can see it HERE).

In addition, the following was an assignment for the class, talking about some early experiences (1970s) with selling my surrealist paintings at an outdoor art fair.


“Geez, that’s weird!” he said, pausing briefly, then turning away into the art fair’s forest of canvases, tinkling windchimes and seashell animals. The April sun gently warmed the barely-clothed bodies meandering down the narrow pathways.

“Really different. By far the best work in the show.” I looked up. The man, perhaps in his sixties, smiled, nodded and continued on his way.

A breeze softly lifted a lock of her long, reddish-brown hair as her mouth and eyes opened into perfect circles. “A surrealist! How neat!” She gazed at my paintings in wonder. “I’d love to buy one. Will you be here next week?”

“Probably,” I said.

She smiled. “Great! I’ll probably see you then.” I knew I would never see her again.

The flow of people seemed to stop momentarily, so I ambled over to my neighbor. “They never buy here. They only look,” he commented with the air of wisdom that comes only with long, hard years of experience.

“I think you’re right,” I answered. “I’ve gotten lots of nice comments, but you can’t pay the bills with nice comments.” He agreed.

An older couple appeared and looked at my paintings. I quickly turned, but they left before I could take a step. An older, bearded intellectual type stopped, thoughtfully puffed on his pipe, and spoke slowly.

“A Rod Serling of the brush” he said, continuing with a discourse on the meaning of my work. He told me things about my artwork that even I didn’t know. I couldn’t resist.

“Wanna buy it?”

“No, no,” he laughed as he walked away.

I had hoped to sell publishing rights to the story to The Artist magazine, but they wanted writing that showed the positive side of the artists' lives. Well, I'll admit my story isn't very hopeful, but it IS accurate!

Oh, well. At least my writing skills are still intact. I doubt I'll ever write a novel, but I can see trying my luck with writing some short stories. Author Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors, and he wrote some short stories that used some of this descriptive language in powerful ways. So -- maybe some day...

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