Drawing and Writing are hotly debating their differences at the local Starbucks. Drawing brought her iPad, with its various art apps, and her electronic pen; Writing has his Surface Pro before him, with its magical keyboard. Each device shows an interpretation of “the meaning in/of art”–a rough sketch on the iPad, a first draft of a short story outline on the Surface.
“You can just see the beginnings of what I’m trying to say about art in this montage,” says Drawing. “I’m still working on fitting all the pieces together into a cohesive whole…”
Writing looks across the table at the sketch. Clearly, it is an early plan, just as his story is a sketchy list of ideas, not quite organized, not quite complete. “I’m beginning to think it’s easier to express the meaning of the art of writing than to express what art means through your visual arts.”
Drawing sighs. “Look, we’re never going to come to a complete agreement here. Personally, I really suck at putting words to paper. And we both know that your stick figures are not exactly a high form of any visual media I know of, except maybe cartoons…but even so, we’ve challenged each other to express this idea in our own art forms, and I’m finding it harder to organize my visuals than usual.”
Writing nods. “I’m having trouble with organizing my ideas, too. Heck, I’m a writer of short stories, which is a world apart from nonfiction.” He looks down at the annotated outline. Hmm, he thinks. This is a temporary sketch of a final product, and I hate writing nonfiction–one has to be able to support every concept, or at least be able to clearly state what that concept means. “Maybe I’m just not good enough to write an expository piece.”
“Meaning…?” asks Drawing.
“Any idea how hard it is to express boring facts in an entertaining style?” he complains. “Oh, sure, I’ve read a few articles written in wonderful prose, but most others are so pedantic that I can’t even get through the first few paragraphs. So what makes me think I can philosophize on the art of writing in an artistic and creative way that actually gives meaning to written works?”
“Can you pretend you’re writing fiction? Can you go back to any of those well-written pieces you mentioned to see how they did it, how they held your attention?”
Writing says nothing for a moment. “My fiction writes itself,” he admits. “I start with a topic and let the story write itself, which usually means that the story veers off the plan I had in mind. That’s my style. For this type of piece, I need an actual plan that I have to stick to.” Again he is silent for a moment. “To be truthful, I’m not sure I know what the art of writing actually means.”
Drawing looks down at the blobs on her iPad that she’s labeled with words like “love,” “hate,” “politics,” “rebellion,” and a few other conceptual representations she hopes to keep in her montage. She sighs again. “I’m finding it hard myself. Usually, I have a single emotion or concept that I want to express in shapes and colors–or maybe a scene I am observing gives me an idea.” She looks up at Writing. “Hell! Most of the time all I’m doing is representing what’s in front of my eyes or in my imagination. If emotion or meaning gets in there, it’s by pure accident–kind of like my subconscious mind asserting itself through my medium. Forcing ideas onto a canvas–and before you say it, yes, I consider the iPad as much of a canvas as the linen stuff I paint on!–it’s not easy for me to do. I’ll really have to think on this and decide how much of ‘meaning’ I want to–or even can–represent. Sometimes I wish I had just taken up photography…but I’m no photojournalist either, and I don’t have an eye for what photographic scene will inspire others, much less express some sort of meaning.”
Writing chuckles. “I read you loud and clear. Remember all the great prize-winning photographs from Life Magazine, or some of the great war-related photos published in the Times? One picture that really does represent a thousand words…”
Drawing smiles as she looks down at her iPad. She is thinking about some of those photos from Life, and the photo essays from National Geographic, and all the other sources that told stories through pictures. She opens Safari and starts searching for thematic photos in the National Geographic archives…
Writing has minimized his story draft and is searching through the Life web site for the short expositions that always accompanied the photos…