Finding our voice with words or paint. It’s all the same.

This morning I skipped up to the breakfast table and said to Himself, ‘I love writing sooo much!’

Himself looked suspicious. He rarely hears me say such a thing. Usually it’s, ‘I hate writing!’ Or, ‘I’m never doing this again!’ Or, ‘This book is PATHETIC. Someone else can write it.’

But this morning  was different. This morning my tired author heart was light.

‘Why do you love writing?’ said Himself, as he stirred his bircher.

‘Because writing led me to art!’ I cried.

I LOVE art. I love the learning and the constant discoveries. I love that there’s no pressure, no one depending on me, no expectations.

Art lets me be playful and colourful and messy in  ways that writing simply will not stand for.

But art also informs my writing and expands my imagination in surprising ways.

For example, I’m always going on about voice. You can flick back to this blog post or go to this video to see me rant about voice and how important it is to our success as authors.

Art has made me think even more about this .

You see, these days I’m trying to find my voice as an artist. And today it occurred to me that  I have a visual representation of my quest.

If you’re struggling with writing or art or with any creative pursuit, this might help you.

Of course, it makes me cringe to share this. But as Matisse said, ‘It takes courage to be creative’. If he were alive today he’d probably say, ‘It takes courage to be creative AND to share it on social media.’

So, see this? This is my first canvas. Ever. It’s acrylic and a bit of Derwent inktense pencil. I’ve been playing with it for months.


The poor darling. She must feel so exposed. But this is me learning to paint a face. To blend and whatnot. The only thing I’m sure of at this stage is that I love whimsy and have no interest in realism. I enjoy life drawing classes very much but halfway through every session I find myself giving people spaghetti arms. Or Quentin Blake eyes. Or legs like a Tim Burton character. I just CANNOT commit to serious.

Step one in finding my voice? I think so.

baldy2Utterly clueless about what I wanted in the background. Also, I sort of liked the idea of slick grey hair but in the end I wasn’t sold on it. Who is this women? What’s her story?

I didn’t know and therefore I couldn’t decide how to dress her. She had no backstory.

I wanted to play with the palette, too, but I wasn’t brave enough at this stage.


A month or so later I darkened up the hair and the background and gave her a cardigan. I felt a bit happier with her.

But I still didn’t have a handle on her. Not really. She was  much like an evolving character in a novel.  I would have to write loads more chapters before our friendship deepened.


More weeks went by. More weeks of staring of my mysterious lady. Until one day I couldn’t stand it any longer. I attacked the background. And her hair.

baldy3Okay. So now I like the palette, it’s much cheerier.

But what’s really interesting to me is the background. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of videos from gorgeous mixed media artists in the US. And lo and behold I’ve absorbed their imagery! Pine trees and snow and hipster triangles and what looks suspiciously like… dream catchers.

The entire thing is now a dog’s breakfast.

But that’s wonderful! It’s exactly what I say to my creative writing students. We must write out all the rubbish in order to find our own voice. Play with your influences, mimic your heroes but eventually you’ll have to let them go and find what’s true to you.

This imagery is not true to my heart. It’s just Not Me. And it doesn’t sit right with the woman. To me she looks like someone out of a Daphne du Maurier novel. Not a hippy, whimsical, mermaid, dream catcher, pine forest angel. In fact, she looks downright disdainful. She’d much rather be sipping tea on a manicured lawn.

No matter. I love this canvas. It has taught me a trillion tiny priceless lessons.

I’m  also one painting closer to my first 100 paintings. And to finding my voice.

I’m shamelessly proud. 😉


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