Calliope, the muse of writing and Clio, the muse of painting, were undeniably sisters. Greek mythology bears conclusive evidence of them being daughters of Zeus, the Thunder God and and Mnemosyne, the Goddess of memory. There has been no evidence of them fighting bitterly with each other. These evidences are of course as conclusive as mythological evidences come. But do writing and painting, as two faculties of the fine arts bear such sisterly feelings towards each other? Or don't they? Are they joined at the hip, yet resolutely facing away from each other like Siamese twins? Or are they like strangers halfway across the world who have two bodies but one soul? Expectedly and interestingly, there are no easy answers to these questions. So let's count the nays as well as the ayes'. Because, no matter how much writing or painting have in common, they are not about the blacks and the whites but about exploring the different shades of gray.
Let's begin at the very beginning. But fortunately, here we don't have to worry about a chicken-egg scenario. Painting came much before writing. In fact, simple paintings of different objects gave way to pictograms, the first system of writing. Cuneiform, the ancient Sumerian system or Hieroglyphs, the ancient Egyptian system of writing were essentially pictograms. But when the vocabulary of early humans expanded beyond 'grains', 'hunt' and 'baby making', drawing a picture for every object became increasingly difficult and thus evolved the system of writing based on pronunciations and ideas which ultimately led to alphabets. But pictograms are far from dead. You can still see them around in representational signs (on the road, in public buildings), instruction manuals and statistical diagrams which are universally understood. So when it comes to getting the message across, can writing hold a candle to painting? "Non" says Jacques Derrida. According to him, “The image always has the last word.” In his words (irony intended), words are always approximations for thoughts and feelings, the more and more words you use to convey an exact thought or feeling, you are merely decreasing the range of error in your approximation. While this thought may be perfect for ruminating on a rainy day, here's something else to chew on. How you are feeling on a rainy day might take two pages of writing to express but can be demonstrated by the few deft strokes of a wet brush. On the other hand, while identifying the different kinds of clouds that have crowded over the sky, you will be glad that writing was invented. So writing and painting have their inherent strengths and weaknesses conveying different kinds of messages. You might still argue saying, when we speak a word, it flashes an image on our minds and that's when the penny drops, q.e.d. images are superior than words. But summoning up images by words is not always easy and natural. Try looking for the image you have in mind in any stock image website. The lesser keywords you use, the more irrelevant images you get and using a lot of specified keywords will get you nothing. An hair-raising example of futility would be “Pretty girl doing something active, sporty in a summery setting, beach - not wearing lycra, exercise clothes - more relaxed in tee-shirt. Feature is about deodorant so girl should look active - not sweaty but happy, healthy, carefree - nothing too posed or set up - nice and natural looking.” In contrary, summoning up words with an image seem like child's play, only if you don't discuss the results with Herr Hermann Rorschach. So aye for writing and painting getting along.
[caption id="attachment_8220" align="alignright" width="209" caption="A clever dig at the endless words vs image battle "][/caption] The argument about the superiority of one art form over another does not go on only in the hallowed circles of mild-mannered scholars. It goes on in full force, day in and day out, with ample use of invectives, screams and sometimes fists, in offices all around the world. These offices are of organizations where writers and painters are forced to work together in harmony and beating up each other on a daily basis is frowned upon. Organizations like advertising agencies: where copywriters work with art directors, comic book syndicates: where illustrators work with writers, magazine / newspaper cartoon departments: where gag writers work with cartoonists. The apple of discord is, of course, their perceptions of each other, which is not entirely untrue. According to artists, writers are glib talking, credit snatching, work shirking charlatans. According to writers, artists are air-headed, illiterate, uncouth sex-maniacs. Text is a bunch of squiggles to an artist. Design is a pretty nothing to writers. It you go by their arguments, it would seem, in the pre-historic times, the cave painters who were not so good with their brushes were kicked out of the cave and in their frustration, became doodlers. Aeons later, those doodlers have become writers and want to put painters back in their place. While in advertising and comic book industry, the writers and artists have no way out from working with each other, in cartoon industry, gag writers are kind of an open secret. Very few are ready to admit using them, but most are ready to use them. Because the cartoonist is expected to be as adept with words as with images. But good writers and artists, when done with fighting bitterly, sit down, roll up their sleeves and like true partners, complement each other to create a great piece of work which none of them could have created alone. But still, 'nay' for writing and painting getting along.