Art-Making: Express Yourself with Pictures, Not Just Words

We’re lucky, we humans. We have words to express what we think, what we feel, and what we dream. But words are just one way for us to “say” who we are. Many of us also find art-making or music-making or acting as natural as wordsmithing.

I paint—with oils, acrylics, pastels, and for the last few years, digital medium as well. The iPad and other tablets like it make it much easier to sketch or “paint” digitally. It’s because of those magical touch screens which let you use strokes and gestures much like those for painting on a real canvas. I tested a Wacom tablet once, but I’m clumsy. I have problems visually connecting the image on a tablet with that on the computer screen. My Wacom experience was so far removed from canvas painting that I nearly swore off digital art-making.

Art-making is as necessary to me as writing. Why? Because after months of working on a book, I need a break, do something different. I’ve played with haiku, for instance. More often, though, I take out my iPad, and I have fun with one of my art apps. Or, I take out a sketchbook, and mess around with charcoal or pastels. Art-making breaks the tension and stress, the monotony and boredom that come with writing intensely for long periods.

I especially enjoy sketching or painting figures. Maybe, that’s not surprising since it’s like fleshing out characters with words. Though I don’t always succeed, I try to convey some inner trait or emotion in my art subjects. Here’s an oil painting I did of my son decades ago when he was six or seven. I tried to capture a rare pensive look on his face. Recently, I redid the painting in digital medium with an iPad app.


And here are digital sketches for Hello, My Love and Hello Agnieszka, which I did model after people who I think projected the personalities of the main characters. When modelling sketches after people who might be in the public eye, I alter some features or change expressions. I make them more like the characters in a novel.



We love illustrations and a lot of us would like to try our hand at art. We can begin with coloring books. In fact, the interest in having fun or relaxing with art is enjoying a renaissance with coloring books for adults.

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