Thursday, April 14, 2016

Painting Pictures with Words

When I was a teenager I fell in love with pen and ink drawing. I liked doing a beautiful drawing with black India ink and then adding some delicate glimpses of color with Higgins colored inks. I did some acrylic painting too back then and explored watercolor painting. All the time I was doing art with pen and ink and paint I was also writing.

I was out of college by the time I realized that the prettiest or most striking pictures I had ever painted were the ones I had painted with words.

I have always been a voracious reader. I was bored in school because once I learned to read I read every book in the house. My mother always encouraged our love of reading. She had my Dad tear down the walls in the long hallway of our four bedroom ranch house and replace the walls with floor to ceiling bookcases thereby making the hallway our library. You could always find one or two of us sprawled on the hallway floor reading. Our best road trips were to Bookland in Northampton and Holyoke- this was before Barnes & Noble arrived in Holyoke. Then came Walden Books. While my peers were buying clothes and make-up I was buying books ad writing stories.

I even read the dictionary, probably a Websters when I was a teenager. I retain individual words better than I retain phrases. I can't remember a joke to save my life. But say a word and I can pretty easily list five or six synonyms just off the top of my head without really thinking about it.

When Kelly was born I would get up to feed her in the middle of the night and while she had her bottle I would grab a book off the bookcase already present in the nursery and read it to her and show her the pictures. Every night I read picture and storybooks to her from her library. Between ages two and three she nearly fell on the cement steps in the back walkway and said, "That could have been a catastrophe!" Around that time she liked to wear hats and march around the dining room table at my parent's house. One day she handed a Greek fisherman's cap to my Dad, put on his bucket hat he used for yard work and said, "Let's form a procession!"

Those two instances opened my eyes and ears to the fact that small children are sponges that absorb everything they see and hear. They have minds like computer processors, matching new words to actions, objects, emotions... I never talked baby talk to her. I never parked her in front of the television. We danced in the kitchen to every kind of music imaginable because I did not want to limit her horizons to the walls of a small box. I gave her the whole world ad let her explore it.

Picture books and storybooks come with age ranges. I ignored them. We read wonderful stories above her age level, often reading the same books over and over because we loved them so much. And in not dumbing down her ability to learn she easily learned to read and loves to read to this day. She also writes some pretty amazing books in her own right-although she hasn't buckled down and published anything yet, except on wattpad.

She is a minimalist painter with words, but she has the ability to choose the perfect word from her extensive vocabulary so it is like the exact brushstroke and evokes the exact emotion she wants the reader to feel.

My writing is a little more descriptive and dense. I find myself writing too much sometimes so I have to go back and pare out the excess verbage, distill the image, idea, emotion to it's purest form. Where Kelly is concise, I am expansive. We have totally different writing styles. But if you see us together and listen to us talk you will witness a duel of words as we aren't afraid to use the choicest words we can dredge up from memory for ordinary everyday things. Where someone would walk into a furniture store and see chairs, tables, couches, and lamps Kelly and I see a vast assortment and variety of chaises, settees, divans, illumination devices, candoliers, club chairs, wingchairs, Morris chairs and so forth. It drives my husband crazy but occasionally he joins in one of our conversations and coughs up a cool archaic word. Language- both oral and written is certainly not dead in our house. I don't use abbreviations or texting shortcuts on social media. I shall not slaughter the English language is my motto.

Language is beautiful. By utilizing carefully chosen words in the body of a text a writer/author can create beautiful images that paint pictures in the mind of a reader, enhancing the story being told with the visual imagery.

The fiery red fox streaked across the sloping green lawn like a flaming arrow shot from the bow of the earth. That is what I saw the other day- a fox running across the back yard. How would you write that sight on facebook?

Paint pictures with words and make the world a more beautiful place!

No comments:

Post a Comment