Month: September 2009

Got Inspiration in the Gallery?

Patricia Piccinini - The Stags (2008)

Patricia Piccinini - The Stags (2008)

Inspiring! Some of these should not be reserved just for writers. My favorite technique is to sit in the gallery on a bench and watch people’s reaction to a painting as they stare up at it. You can capture many more viewpoints than you’d ever dream up yourself.

From 15 Ways Modern Art Galleries Can Inspire Writers by Joanna Penn on September 2, 2009
Tate Modern, London

I love modern art galleries and go to them whenever I am in a large city. I find they spark creative ideas and I leave feeling refreshed and ready to write more! Here are 15 ways Modern Art Galleries can inspire writers and authors.

  • Writing Exercise: Sit before a piece of art and describe the piece and what it says to you. Modern art is fantastic because you can’t just say “It’s a portrait of a young woman with a dog”. Often the pieces are entirely based on your interpretation.
  • Use as a setting in your novel. Describe the physical details of the place, the various rooms, how you could use them. Would your characters meet here in the vast white open space of the main hall? or in one of the obscure video dark rooms?
  • Write notes from the display description. Copy down phrases that touch you in some way. What images are conjured up?
  • Free associate from one of the pieces. Just write down all the words that come to mind. Do it in a mind map format.
  • Listen for dialogue. Sit in the lobby or a public area and listen for snatches of conversation. Write notes on what you hear.
  • Browse the giftshop for marketing ideas. Can you use some of these ideas in your own marketing?
  • Use it as your Artists Date. An Artist’s Date is time out to refill our creative wells and allow new ideas to surface and spark.
  • Change your writing scene. Buy a coffee in the Gallery cafe and sit and write for an hour.
  • Use it as a venue for a meeting with another author.
  • Understand the Body of Work. This book we are working on is one piece of a whole lifetime, a whole body of work embracing all we are and all we want to express in the written word.
  • Research one of the Artists for a character sketch. Google them and use this for a character sketch.
  • Research one of the Artists and evaluate their online presence. Do they use multi-media? Do they blog?
  • Use your visit to inspire a blog post.
  • Be silly. I did tracings on coloured paper with crayons on one exhibit.

With Amateur Photographers, the World is a Visual Oyster

Dariusz Dziala: Grand Carnival Costume Splash

Dariusz Dziala: This was taken at the Grand Carnival Costume Splash in London, where costumes for the Notting Hill Carnival are previewed

Got a picture that would be perfect for the [UK Guardian’s] Your Photographs section? We’re looking for snaps from around the world related to the arts or culture – from pop gigs, to street graffiti, book signings, modern architecture and visual art exhibitions. Anything, really, as long as it is bold, imaginative and original.

Professional media photographers can only do so much; they can only be in so many places. That’s why I love these “data calls” by major presses for amateur photographs. By doing so, with so many scattered tentacles around to take photos, the world becomes a visual oyster.

I just love the pic above. Costumes are fabulous. It reminds me of a pic I took at Barcelona’s Textile Museum of swirling opera costumes in shimmery taffeta. (In my case, the amazing subject matter more than made up for the fact that I am a very, very amateur photographer.)

Art Transposed: Is that a Man or a Woman?

MichelangeloDoniTondodet.jpgModern Art Notes’ Tyler Green posted an article about artists transposing men’s bodies on women. Michelangelo did this frequently.

“Believing (with most of his contemporaries) that the male was superior to the female,” Goffen writes, “Michelangelo intended to honor Mary by making her male… In images, the Renaissance norm remained the feminine ideal embodied by such Madonnas as Leonardo’s. But Michelangelo abandoned this tradition, masculinizing Mary in part to exempt her from his own society’s oppression of women and to shield her from dangerous and inappropriate female sexuality.”

Green writes: “Compare that to today: None of the discussion about Michelle Obama’s guns is about her build personifying an idealized male body, but is instead about her having an idealized female body. The first lady is proud of the body she’s built and she shows it off in sleeveless dresses and tops at every opportunity. While Michelangelo’s Mary is a woman masculinized to separate her from the way women were viewed in the 16thC, Michelle Obama’s presentation of herself explicitly associates herself with modernity.”

Local Designers are Wear (!) It’s At

Garance Dore (and Vogue) is where it's AT

Garance Dore (and Vogue) is where it's AT?

I was talking with a friend of mine last night — the friend who travels to Paros, Greece and Colombia on a whim and comes back speaking other tongues and wearing fabulous shoes — and we talked fashion.

I mean, we talked over-my-head Milan catwalk fashion.

My personal taste will never be the latest Prada bag (everyone has it?), or the latest Ferragamo shoes (everyone has them?). I go gaga over local artists who craft really distinctive pieces. I want something that absolutely no one else has. I like to think of it as my own haute couture. (Wry grin.) I wish the design critics would reach beyond just the NYC and Milan design scene to pull out of the recesses (closets) some great local designers. I talked about these local gems in a piece on Cleveland artist Todd Pownell and his jewelry. But I’m secretly glad sometimes that I can relish this art myself.

Regardless, here are my friend’s two favorite blogs of the moment, and I’m shamelessly going to say I’m hooked! Not only are they artistically inspired, but they are a riot! (Perhaps because Garance only speaks French!)

The Sartorialist:

Garance Dore:

On Writing (On Art too?) — Joan Didion


I saw this on The Errant Aesthete and had to re-post. I think you can also consider visual artists as the writers in this analogy.

“I wrote stories from the time I was a little girl, but I didn’t want to be a writer. I wanted to be an actress. I didn’t realize then that it’s the same impulse. It’s make-believe. It’s performance. The only difference being that a writer can do it all alone. I was struck a few years ago when a friend of ours — an actress — was having dinner here with us and a couple of other writers. It suddenly occurred to me that she was the only person in the room who couldn’t plan what she was going to do. She had to wait for someone to ask her, which is a strange way to live.”

— Joan Didion
The Paris Review, 1978

Unconventional Art Spaces: Do They Work?

Cheeming Boey's Styrofoam Cups

Cheeming Boey's Styrofoam Cups

Every day you see art plastered everywhere from city parks to the lobbies of public buildings to public bathroom stalls. And so it should come as no surprise that Heathrow  is rolling up its sleeves and lending the wall space as well.

The UK government is planning to turn Heathrow’s Terminal 5 into a leading venue showcasing masterpieces from the national collections, together with contemporary art works. The National Gallery, the Tate galleries, and the Hayward Gallery in London are interested in the project. Currently the National Gallery shows works from its collection at the Eurostar Terminal at London’s St. Pancras Station, and the Rijksmuseum has an exhibition space in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

In the mood for some unconventional art? Cheeming Boey draws on styrofoam coffee cups with a sharpie pen. (