Saturday, May 22, 2010

Art shorthand as character triggers

Eventful weekends are not only inspiring my writing, but helping me to get out of hermit mode. The Art Bomb, a group of art studios where some of the most innovative local artists work, once again had one of their rare shows in their renovated historic building in Greenville, SC.
 Often one or two of the pieces I see at Art Bomb shows will infiltrate my imagination and end up in in my writing. 
The pieces are owned or viewed by my characters. In Shaman Circus, two characters are artists.  Mavis, the Katrina survivor is a painter, and Lily is a painter  who also  creates 3-d sculptures in copper and pottery. 
 I thugged this concept from my favorite author, John Fowles, whose character, Nick in the The Magus, visits a house on the Greek island of Phraxos. The house's charismatic and mysterious owner, Conchis traveled the world and owns  large valuable art collection. However, among, all the paintings, Nick is drawn to the Bonnards.
When I first read The Magus, I was unschooled in art. I was young and foolish, and didn't bother to look up the artwork, but years later, after about my 5th or 6th read, knowing the painter and his subject matter (nude and semi nude women in the boudoir or bath) added layers to the scene. Fowles used the painting, instead of words to speak volumes for those who knew Bonnard's work.
Granted some of the pieces I mention are not internationally known yet, but I believe they will be or should be. my character's reactions to the art, is another way for me to do characterization, even character development. I call this technique art shorthand.
 Twice these have been pieces by Greg Flint, but the artists there always offer something which challenges my preconceptions about art and writing, which then filters into my characters mindset. For instance, a piece I own of Greg's and its message of the hero's journey is incorporated in Shaman in Exile. The piece and it's meanings are touchstones throughout the entire book, reflecting one of the main themes. The characters refer to it over and over again, and even carry symbols of it as a talisman. A second a piece I drooled over but which was eventually bought by someone else inspired parts of Fireworks, Interference Equation. 
I know a lot of you who are writers already use music to augment your atmospheres, what your characters listen to hum or play, but don't forget art.  Look at your favorite pieces and see what they tell you.  They may tell your characters something as well, who will turn around and tell your readers, thereby  making your writing richer, deeper, multi-layered.
I'm curious, who of you out there have used art in your writing....and how?


1 comment:

  1. I'm not an artist (although I'm a photographer and have used my photos for inspiration) but I do find inspiration in other's works. Detailed scenes (in acrylic, oil, or computer drawn) of fantastical settings inspire me the most.


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