Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Writing with Leonardo

Monet's Poppies near Argenteuil
When was the last time you visited an art museum? 
"What the poet sees in art and puts into words can transform an image . . . extending what is often an immediate response into something more lasting and reflective." (Jan Greenberg in Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth Century American Art, 4).
John Keats, Henry James,  Chaim Potok… all used art as inspiration for one or more of their works. 
Most art galleries have partial online collections so you can observe these great works in your home. 
Write whatever you see.  Look at a favorite piece of art and tell its story.  Ignore the notes beside each painting that tell you how the artist was inspired and just write. 
Van Gogh's "Starry Night"
Setting.  Maxfield Parrish and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” come to mind.  Parrish’s work would be excellent fodder for fantasy writers.  What type of character would live in or visit this setting?  What might happen here?
Character sketches.   Gericault believed that a person’s character was written on their face.  Who is the “Insane Woman?”  What do you learn about her by looking at her face?  What are her passions?  What are her deepest fears?  What motivates her?
Add description and color.  Monet’s “Irises” or “Poppies near Argenteuil” are beautiful nature paintings and also wonderful studies of color.  Writing about art can be a great way to practice creating the type of descriptive language that will make your novel rich in sensory detail.  Further, place yourself in the middle of the painting.  Allow your hands to touch the irises, to feel the soft dew on the grass.  Allow the rich, pungent smell of the flowers to intoxicate you.
Gericault's "Insane Woman"
Writing style.  Look at different styles of art.  Use these styles to inspire your writing.  Is your style colorful and angular like the works of Pablo Picasso?  Soft and descriptive like Claude Monet?  Gritty and realistic, like Millet? 
If you’re so inclined, try creating a painting yourself, then write about the experience.  You’ll be using both sides of your brain to unleash a new creativity that might surprise you.  Personally, I am not talented in creating the visual arts but I love using them to inspire my writing.
Have you ever used art to inspire your writing?  If your novel were a painting, how would you describe it?


Misha Gerrick said...

Yes I have. A lot of creative flashes come from looking at other people's art.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

My family took a day last summer to visit some art museums and we had so much fun. And yes, it does get the creative juices flowing. Sometimes creativity spurs on creativity. Love it!

Mary Vee Writer said...

What a fantastic post.
Using this skill would help me develop a synopsis, elevator pitch, and other required formats to discribe my work in a compact, visual way. This may be the very key I needed.

Casey said...

Not me, I am NO good whatsoever when it comes to art. I couldn't even draw my three dimensional shapes in math class. But I did like your post, art is an inspirational, nature is an inspiration!

PS. I got your email, just trying to formulate a response. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...


Me, too :)


That sounds like my sort of vacation!

Julia M. Reffner said...


I never thought about that...hmmmm...interesting. Everyone brings a new perspective. That's what I love about this group!

Julia M. Reffner said...


I'm the same way, but I love looking at it and it definitely gets my juices flowing.

Gia Cooper said...

This is a great idea for a future personal blog post...choosing an art piece and writing a short spurred by it. I like to do the same thing with pieces of music. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...


This is a great idea, Gia. I don't know if I've ever done it with music, but now I will. :)

Gia Cooper said...

I did for music here: http://emmagayle.blogspot.com/2011/01/rest-in-your-tomorrow.html

It was fun. Nothing deep or anything...but fun.

Angie Dicken said...

I love art so this really resonates with me! Right now, my novel brings images of the deep color and high contrasting light of the Renaissance, crashing into the beauty of ancient South America and photography of brilliant nature.
I also use music that is inspired by whatever time period I am writing in...gets me in a little deeper as I write.
Thanks Julia!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Oooohhh, I love this image Angie! I love Renaissance art and South America! What a great way to describe.