‘Riting and Paintin’*

Posted by jlubans on July 05, 2021

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Caption: My friend John’s exuberant water color from Galveston, Texas.

When we set out to create something, be it a painting, or an essay, or a musical composition, we strive to offer something fresh, something new and something pleasing to the eye or ear of the beholder.
When I write, I sometimes compare it to composing a musical piece.
While I have zero musical talent I do appreciate a composer’s creative effort; at times I can hear my written words, the sound the sentences make – it’s a bit like music.
One of my editing techniques is to read a manuscript out loud so I can hear how it sounds.
Just like the composer, when the music fails to flow, or like when my words come in dribs and drabs, we both share in the creative frustration.
And, we both know we have to persevere if we are to get something worth reading or listening to.
My friend John struggled with writing his dissertation. The topic and his research were fascinating, but he found the academic writing a slog.
Yet, when he shared his research subjects’ stories (case studies) with me, his retelling drew me in; this was something I really wanted to hear.
However, when he had to follow a strict formula, when he had to make it erudite, he labored.
The literature search is a forced, mandatory exercise for all doctoral candidates. Adding to this wooden exercise, the dissertation committee’s insisted that John acknowledge Marxist philosophers like Derrida and Foucalt, While John was like-minded, his having to include them – somehow to work them into the text - resulted in stilted reading.
I offered feedback on his manuscript, but I ran the other way when it came to helping with the mandatory literature search and review of research. Ditto for my reaction to the gobbledygook he offered up to the deconstruction gods.
Now, I knew John painted – indeed I have two dozen of his paintings. More than once, when I was reviewing his writing, I wondered, “If only John could write like he paints”.
His paintings were lyrical compared to his attempts at the didactic scholarly writing.
Where the one was awkward and uneasy, the other was graceful and evocative.
Where the one was obtuse, his water colors were lively compositions, pleasing and endearing to the eye.
How much better if the dissertation committee had freed up John and allowed him to say things in his own way.
Would getting away from the academic rules and regs really be a bad thing?
Here are two more paintings and a bonus:
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Caption: A warmly colored, intriguing villa, perhaps in Morocco.

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Caption: Pallets in a warehouse yard, a complex composition unpretentiously presented, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Caption: Possibly my favorite, this highly evocative water color done while John was in Morocco on a Peace Corps mission.

* From the facetiously used 3 Rs phrase, reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic

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© Copyright John Lubans 2021

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