What's the difference between being a writer and an artist?

What is the difference between being a creative writer and an artist? Aside from learning different skill sets, of course. This question popped in my mind while listening to a podcast recently.

The Pug Party podcast is hosted by Roxanne Cable, artist, and her husband James Siciliano, writer. They talk about art, writing, being nerds, and occasionally pugs. (They own two.) As someone who has been a writer and is now an artist, it's really interesting to hear their perspectives on their work.

In their first episode, they talked about their creative processes. James spoke about story circles, which is a way of envisioning Joseph Campbell's the Hero's Journey.

Unfortunately, what sometimes happens to me in listening to podcasts is that it provokes my own thought processes and I end up going down a completely different track. Which may mean I'm not as good a listener as I thought I was, but also, I rarely listen to podcasts because I tend to drift off with one voice talking for too long. I am much better at watching or reading. Or in person.

I ended up thinking about my own work both as a writer (I used the Hero's Journey loosely -- it was more about turning points for me) and as an artist.

In writing, there is a ton of work on character etc that doesn't get seen and in the longer format of a novella or novel, you travel with the character through a part of their life.

In my art, it is more a moment, a glimpse into a story: whether it is a moment of my life or an imagined character. 

Artist Michael Reardon in a video teaching painting watercolor cityscapes remarked, " [This] window has all these fancy mullioned patterns, but it’s really not the story...”  The story for him is told in the play of light and shadow around buildings and water, not in every single detail.

This editing is true in creating both art and writing -- unless you're James Joyce or Diana Gabaldon (whose books have reams of detail) -- you choose what to show. (This is why you so rarely read about a character going to the bathroom unless its intrinsic to the plot.)

In my art, the story is still there, often intuitively, not intentionally placed, and the viewer of the artwork can bring as much or as little into the piece as they want. This interaction exists in reading, of course, but a lot more is spelled out. (Baroom ching) The reader gets to imagine the characters and the scenes, helped by the writer but it is ultimately the reader's own story/life experience that comes into play.

What differences do you see between being a writer and an artist?


  1. Leanne, I'm curious about how you feel expressing yourself through art compares to writing. I have absolutely zero artistic talent, and am thus limited to using words. But I have stories going through my head all the time, and I'm not sure a piece of art would tell them enough for me. Do you ever have a story to tell and feel that your art can't express it?

    1. Ugh, the comment below was meant to be the reply -- Judith -- I hope you get this notice and come to my blog to see the answer :)

  2. Judith -- nobody has zero artistic talent, they've just been told they haven't. (I was at stick figures until recently.) And besides, think about how long it took you to write well enough to sell. Art is the same, just a different skill set. I have actually done a page in my art journal where I wrote the synopsis of the story into the background (it ends up mostly hidden, but it's there) and painted a woman looking back and a quote that kind of summarized things. I've been thinking about doing a two page spread for "A Sword for Wellington" actually but that will have to wait for me to make a new journal.


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