Friday Fun – Has art ever inspired your writing?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Have any of your stories been inspired by a piece of visual or performing art – a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, a dance, or vocal performance? What struck you about the piece and inspired you to write? 

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: In so many ways! I run a service organization (StageSource) for the New England theater community, so I see a lot of theater, and talk to a lot of theater folk. Since storytelling is in the DNA, that inspires me. And the dramatic structure of plays is the same for mysteries, so there’s that. Also, using Scrivener, I often take a photograph or a painting and use them as reference points to describe a place, or an emotion. And music is frequently a mood setter for me, though I can’t write with music in the background. Artist dates are my creative food–I am pushing myself to explore new (to me) art forms. Sorry that there aren’t specifics, but I love that my life is full and inspired by art and creativity, and I know it makes me a better writer.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: Absolutely. I have many short stories whose inspiration came from photos I’ve come across (or taken on my own). I’m always inspired by B&W drawings or photos – something about the lack of color and the different shades of gray pulls me in and gets the muse extremely excited and creative.

I’ve been watching a lot of Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes via Hulu and although pulled in by the mystery, the b&w filming also pulls me in as I wonder about all the colors that I can’t see. It’s a fun creative exercise to wonder what the set was really like – did they care about having complementary colors? Or just use whatever was on hand since it would only convert to a shade of gray, anyway?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I can’t think of a specific type of art that has inspired my writing other than poetry and literature. Over the years I’ve written sonnets after reading some of Shakespeare’s, haiku’s after discovering the form in a book of Eastern poetry, and I’ve even written my version of an epic journey after reading The Odyssey. While some might not consider this art, I’ve even written about an eventful day as a Star Trek episode. The limitation of different forms somehow boosts my creativity–and it’s really fun..

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin: Absolutely! Classical music – especially chamber music – was a huge influence and became an important theme in Into the Wilderness. Music is the common language for Rose and Percy, who have no other way to communicate when they first meet. Percy (the leading male) even learns how to play the piano in the course of the story. Landscape and fashion are key elements of Elegy for a Girl, the novel currently with my agent. And I’m now writing Ellen, a story about a character who is hugely influenced by nineteenth century British fiction.

headshot_jw_thumbnailmermaidJamie Wallace: All. The. Time. The quantity and diversity of artworks that have sparked my writer’s mind are nearly impossible to measure. A beautiful bracelet gave me the idea to write a series of linked short stories about the bracelet’s many owners. This painting of a mermaid (which I coveted for years and which my parents gave to me as a Christmas gift last year) made me want to write a story about this beautiful and fierce merwoman. I wanted to find her story and explore her world under the sea. My daughter takes dance classes at a local dance studio that is well known for its modern choreography and gorgeous aerial work. Each time I watch one of these abstract, wordless shows, I can sense a story coursing along just below the music – reaching out through the dancers’ moves. I don’t know if I’ll ever actually write any of these stories, but they stick with me and I feel like even as time passes, they continue to percolate in the back of my mind – slowly brewing themselves into something more tangible than an ephemeral breath from the muse.

Take this song by Sting – a track off his 1999 album, Brand New Day. This song has been rattling around in my head for fourteen years.

4 thoughts on “Friday Fun – Has art ever inspired your writing?

    • Simmering is a good thing, I think … though you can take it too far. Sometimes I can only remember that I had a great idea inspired by some fabulous piece of art, but I have NO idea what it was! 😉

  1. I definitely find art influences writing. If your imagination can span far enough, you can create any story or idea out of any visual object. Pictures are a fantastic example. See a a great photograph and ask yourself.. what is going on here? what was the photographer thinking or envisioning when they took this? Bank off those questions and write your own answers. You never know where those creative answers might lead.

  2. …it’s amazing how it works for me with art as a visual stimulant to my writing …I am very influenced in my work by the art of Josephine Wall …the lovely lady actually did a wonderful deal with me for the cover art of my books. I’m not sure what came first (a bit like the chicken or the egg question) but her work inspires me ….I’m a an urban fantasy writer and her work is pure fairy tale. I actually said to her I could write a story for each of her paintings. When something attracts my attention that fits with the story line I’ll also take a photo as a trigger to use when I have a slump.I need visuals.

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