The Art of Plotting While Painting

Hello everybody (said in the voice of Matt Bellasai from Whine About It video fame). AJ Rose here, lowering the tone of Karin’s classy blog to bring you some rambling about books, reading, and my new favorite hobby, painting masterpieces… with a paint-by-numbers guide. What? I can’t paint to save my life. Unless it’s a wall.

So, a bit about me for those who don’t know. I have 12 books out, of which my most recent is the 4th installment of the Power Exchange series, Restraint.

Restraint Final Cover web copy

Aside from writing Ben and Gavin, my other books include reapers, ghosts, everyday guys going through extraordinary circumstances, a dueling piano bar with a life of its own, and one hell of a power outage.

The last time I was on Karin’s blog, I wrote about knitting, which is one of my happy places when I need to stay busy while relaxing. It quiets my mind and gives me a sense of accomplishment that all those hours binge watching Sense8 weren’t a total waste. They wouldn’t be a total waste anyway, because that show is utterly, utterly brilliant, but to have a completed pair of socks or a big chunk of a blanket done makes me feel useful at the same time. Reading also relaxes me, but following along with plots other fantastic authors have created (like Jordan L. Hawk, whose Spirits series I’m currently reading, or The Lost and Founds by Edmond Manning, my favorite series of all time) just makes me want to immerse in their worlds, not the ones I’m trying to build for my own readers. I get taken away on the rides those authors create, not leaving a lot of room for my own stories to get a voice.

My answer? Painting. Recently, I’ve discovered paint-by-numbers kits online. The knitting is still a go-to for quieting my mind, but the painting… oh it’s so much fun. The beauty of paint-by-numbers is that I can pretty much mentally check out while I’m doing it, whereas sometimes with knitting, I have to pay attention to a pattern and focus. Not so with PBN. The best part? I’ve discovered it focuses me just enough for my brain to relax, and then BAM! Plots happen.

Particularly stubborn character not doing what my outline says he should? Paint it out.


Plot point not have quite as much zing as I thought it would? Paint it out.


Not sure where to go next? Paint. It. Out.


I’ve recently finished the first of what I hope will be many paintings I can be proud to hang in my house. My wife, Kate Aaron, who’s also an m/m romance author, ahem, and I have plans for a collage of sorts on our bedroom wall, a collection of paintings that make a mosaic of a rainbow, and in the middle, a customized painting of us on our wedding night.

So I give you the finished red/orange painting of our rainbow collage, the completed piece called The Soul of the Rain.


I’m honestly flabbergasted that I did this. Like I said, I can’t paint creatively to save my life. The best part is, there are more paintings out there! SO MANY MORE. And you know, I just might have enough book ideas to justify all the paintings I plan to do. Because seriously, when I get stuck, when a character isn’t cooperating, or a plot point doesn’t hang together the way I hoped, lately it’s been painting that’s helped me work out the kinks. In the end, I still get a finished object in my hands, too.

I’ve moved on to a series Kate and I have planned to write together, and just in time, too, because I have two new paintings that came in the mail. Here is the current state of the green/blue painting in our rainbow collage. The finished painting is a wave at sunset looking toward the land.


And last, the custom painting of Kate and I on our wedding night. (This is the mockup the wonderful people at Canvastly did for me, not the actual finished painting.)


I’m not entirely certain how all these paintings will look when we hang them, but that almost doesn’t matter. It’s the painting them I enjoy most. Especially when they help me put vivid color to the worlds I paint with words. It’s my hope that for every book I write in the future, there’ll be a painting that helped me through its plot. Then I can look at both the book on my shelf and the painting on my wall and say, “I maked that.” And be proud.

Anyway, this has been a little piece of me, and in case you’re interested in more pieces of me, you can find me on facebook, twitter, my website, and my books can be found at various retailers all linked to here. Thanks for having me, Karin!

9 thoughts on “The Art of Plotting While Painting

  1. You’re welcome, AJ! And thank you for being my guest. I love the painting! I still want to try the whole painting by numbers thing, like I said in chat. Still a little concerned about being able to even see everything to do it, though. Maybe some day I’ll give it a shot. For now, I’ll keep fawning over your pieces 😉


    1. Michael’s has smaller PBN kits for less $$ if you want to see if it’ll work for you without a lot of investment up front. Those are fun, too. Kate did a really awesome tiger last year.


  2. JJ Crafts

    These are really awesome and I completely get it because I do exactly the same with cross stitching! It keeps me busy but checks my brain out enough to focus on plotting.


    1. I used to cross stitch, and yeah, that’s the same kind of zen. I can’t see the tiny little patterns for that anymore though. I used to use size 20 or 22 cross stitch fabric for really detailed patterns, and it was murder on my eyes.


      1. JJ Crafts

        Ah. My eyes hurt just thinking about using 22 count fabric! I use 18 count and find it okay. Nice mix of keeping it intricate without killing my eyes.


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