I enjoy debates around expressionistic, impressionistic, abstract, and other avant-garde paintings. Usually, people with little or no artistic taste assess a painting based on the criteria of realism. The two polar (and most frequent) sentences they tend to use are, “I could draw that myself,” or “Wow, it looks like it’s real.” Both of them make me want to laugh.

Woman shrugging
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In my opinion, pure realism is boring. Just walk around the halls of the Louvre or the Hermitage, where the paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries are exposed. Is it really so exciting to look at endlessly cloned portraits, still-lives, and battles? Of course, sometimes an artist’s technique is so fabulous, even trivial scenes look outstanding (like el Greco or Titian). But in general, I see no point in drawing something 100% realistic in the age of digital cameras and Photoshop.

The main value of expressionism, abstractionism, and other avant-garde art is an artist’s interpretation of the surrounding reality. Such an artist does not just copy the view of the world around him or her, but tries to express his or her vision and emotions from this reality, his or her attitude and perception. This is why Munch’s “Scream,” though not “perfect” in terms of technique (I’ve heard people saying “I could draw it myself” about this work) is so great; this painting is the peak of Much’s depression, and this can be seen in the painting’s disturbing colors, distorted lines, weird figures.

A talented artist does not need to depict the reality literally; sometimes, even a couple of lines and stains can tell more than a detailed scenery or portrait.

Why am I saying all this in a blog dedicated to writing? Because I believe writing is similar to painting; the only difference is you use words instead of colors. The same as in the case with writing—there were many masters whose technique made their realistic “paintings” outstanding: Dickens, Tolstoy, Hemingway, for example, and many more. But, if you take Murakami, Marquez, Pavich (not to mention poets—Morrison, Whitman, etc.) you will see their literature is not strictly realistic. These writers did not neglect surrealistic means to express what they wanted to say; if they limited themselves with the commonly recognized limits and rules of writing, they would not have become what they are known as today.

Have you noticed how sometimes, when you write a composition, you exclude certain comparisons, metaphors, phrases, or even paragraphs, because “one can’t write this way,” or “people will get it wrong?” Instead of using these constructions, you seek for substitutes, for something more neutral. I say it is a big mistake of yours.

Don’t just describe actions, words, and appearances; if you are writing an academic article, don’t simply list pro and con arguments. Live in your writing. Be a scientist who crushes his or her opponents during a scientific conference. Be the character of your novel (unless this means going against the law). Be passionate, be emotional—don’t write with emptiness inside. Accept the immanent rules of your writing—and follow them, regardless of whether they match the rules of reality or not. Your writing is boring unless you put your soul into it.

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