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  • Writer's picturemarti mcginnis

Writing Exercises for Visual Artists

Your normal access to creativity can be enhanced by exploring challenges novel to your normal routine. For visual artists, especially those who specialize in 2D work, sketching exercises aften get the juices flowing. But letting your creativity flow through different channels can loosen ideas up you might not otherwise not have accessed.

That's why I like to dive into some writing prompts from time to time.

In my online Creativity Club session today we started with a ten minute meditation on "Creative Writing" (I like to use the Headspace App). The voice guided us through a gentle allowing that opened us up to the exercises that came next. It's nice to start with an activity like this to separate normal life from the intentions at hand.

Next we took a look at the video below, featuring abandoned places, to get us further out of our normal. There is something about a place no longer in use that evokes wonderment about what happened there before.

I selected a still photo from the video and we used the Floating Forest for our first 7 minute writing session.

Then, to lighten the mood, we let George Seurat's painting "Sunday Afternoon In The Park" inform our next ten minute freeform writing exercise.

The Floating Forest near Sydney, Australia

Then, to lighten the mood, we let George Seurat's painting "SundayAfternoon In The Park" inform our next seven minute freeform writing exercise.

We finished up with 7 more minutes on each of these two images.

The colorful "Nichols Canyon Road" by David Hockney...

And this amazing photograph of a murmuration of starlings.


The Results

Throughout, I asked each artist to let the image inspire a free flow of words on the page, regardless of the outcome or coherence. They were allowed to stick with one image if they desired and keep working on that.

After the final image was completed I asked everyone if they had any new ideas bubble or aha moments.

Several participants saw the succession of the four images as a natural story flow - something I had not thought of at all! Others let each image inform the writing independently yet found the thread of a theme throughout. We all wrote longhand using pen on paper. I hadn't advised against using a keyboard, it just worked out that way.

There is something so freeing about allowing your mind to approach a project with zero expectations. In the end we all surprised ourselves with the results.


More Prompts

Here are some additional writing prompts I particularly liked during my preparation for this session.

From blogger and writer Emily Stroia

One of my favorite writing prompts from Natalie Goldberg’s book, Living the Writer Life:

Start your prompt with “I remember”….

And then reverse it to “I don’t remember”…

I am always surprised at what comes up!

A writing prompt from one of my favorite artists & authors, Sabrina Ward Harrison.

On my walls I would write…


Copyblogger had this:

Write in present tense describing what your life is like after achieving a big goal

Do you have a big dream you’re working to achieve?

In this warm up, you’re going to imagine you’re already there. You’re going to write about what life is like now that your dream is a reality.

Spend 10–15 minutes describing what your life is like in the present tense now that you’ve achieved your big goal. Write in first person, too, so you feel the experience first-hand.

Put yourself in the shoes of the future you. What is life like now that you’ve finally achieved your big dream?

Write that.


Additional Resources:

More really great prompts -

365 writing prompts



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