Mon. Aug. 12, 2019: Paintings as Inspiration – #UpbeatAuthors

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image courtesy of Pexels via pixabay.com

Monday, August 12, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter DIRECT (as of yesterday)
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

Last Week:
Last week , we talked about Still Lifes and taking an object in your home to use as inspiration.

What did you use? What kind of piece came out of it? A story? A play? A song? A painting? A dance? Something else? Leave your answer in the comments (mine will be there as well). I’ll also post the title of the book I looked at with Still Lifes in it. I tend to gravitate to the Dutch painters for that.

Paintings as Inspiration
I love to use paintings as a jumping off point for a new piece. If I’m feeling stuck or un-creative or like any of the various fragments and outlines and Ideas I’ve jotted down are worthless, I go to a museum and look at paintings (I always prefer to do it in person) or I get a book out of the library and look, or a DVD on a great museum.

I find Edward Hopper’s work particularly inspiring. New York Movie is one of my favorite pieces, and it inspired what may wind up as a long short story or a novella (I’ve been working on it, on and off, around other projects, for several years).

I love wandering into a museum and letting the pictures and sculptures “speak” to me. I may not get the story the painter intended to tell; but I always come away with something. I always come away feeling brighter and fuller and excited.

Details
One of the things I like to do in paintings is to look closely at what is not central to the action. For instance, in Canaletto’s “Rio dei Mendicanti: looking South” (1723?), I’m less interested in the men on the sunny side of the canal in conversation than in the darker, right side of the painting, with the laundry lines hanging out of the window, the woman shaking her broom, and the man perched on the edge of the building, nearly in the canal, cleaning the side of the building. To me, there’s something furtive about the man. Is he observing the place in order to rob it? Although it’s a not a rich area, filled with working people. Are the acoustics in that position good, allowing him to eavesdrop on the conversation of the burghers across the water from him? That’s a possibility. Or does he not want them to recognize him? Does he have a dispute with one of them? Or is he simply going about his day, doing his work, and has to adjust his position so as not to get hit with the debris from the broom shaken out above him? (Aside: I’m writing a play about Canaletto’s sisters, so I’m looking at a lot of his paintings these past months).

This painting could inspire an historical piece (probably a mystery) tying those three elements together. Or a short radio play. Or I could take the ideas and sensations it provokes and set them somewhere completely different: A New York tenement or a created world in a fantasy novel.

In Poussin’s “Summer”, the woman with the bowls beside the tree and the man in the background handling the horses are more interesting to me than the central figure of a man kneeling before the other man. Is the woman going about her business, ignoring what is going on? I don’t think so. She may be related to the kneeling man, or perhaps he is her lover. Or perhaps her lover is the man on the other side of the tree, drinking, out of the sight line of the man in charge. What’s going on in the woman’s mind? There are so many wonderful possibilities.

Even a portrait can inspire. Several years ago, I wrote a play about Lavinia Fontana, the first woman painter in the Renaissance who took in commissions like the men. One of my favorites of her paintings is the portrait “Portrait of a Lady of the Court.” This woman looks like she has a secret. She and Lavinia share it. But we must guess. My research into the extensive network of powerful Bolognese women at the time reinforces that idea, and the research helps me look at the painting with more knowledge.

This Week’s Challenge:
This week, give yourself an Artist’s Date (thanks to Julia Cameron for encouraging us to do that) to go to a museum or a gallery and look at paintings. Pick one that inspires you and write something about it.

You can leave information about it in the comments below, or wait until next week.

Mon. Jan. 28, 2019: Bringing Back the Artist Date #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, January 28, 2019
Waning Moon

 

How often do you do an Artist Date?

What is an Artist Date?

If you’ve ever read any of Julia Cameron’s work, you’re familiar with the concept. It is one of her tools that I find useful, although sometimes I let it slide too often.

One of my promises to myself this year is to bring back the Artist Date.

When I teach long-form workshops, that’s also one of the weekly assignments.

Her rule for the Artist Date is that it must be done on one’s own, once a week.

That’s fine, if you need the alone time. But many of us spend most of the time working alone, so sometimes we want to have companionship when we go out and do an Artist Date.

For me, the Artist Date is something I might put off doing, but which, if I commit and DO IT, will feed my soul.

Often, that means going to a museum to look at paintings or other art forms. Sometimes, it’s listening to live music or going to a play. Other times, it’s going to a bookstore to find something I didn’t know I needed, or wander through a yarn shop and find the perfect yarn for a new project. Or go to the wonderful local chocolatier and buy myself a lovely concoction.

Sometimes, it’s taking a notebook or a book and going to the beach or one of the local nature sanctuaries and just spending some time BEING there.

Committing to it once a week and doing it makes an enormous positive difference.

Yes, you might have to give something up. You have to MAKE the time for it. You know what? The laundry will still be there, waiting to be folded and put away when you get back. Or someone else in the house can take a turn helping out. Have a few hours less of television.

If you can, occasionally, take a personal day and have a daylong Artist Date where you travel somewhere you’ve always meant to go, and really give yourself a treat.

I find that making the time for a weekly Artist Date creates more pockets of time in the rest of the week. My week is less stressful and more creative when I do the date than when I skip it.

If you’ve never try it, I encourage you. If you’ve done it and let it slip away, I encourage you to reinstate it.

Enjoy!

Published in: on January 28, 2019 at 6:16 am  Comments (2)  
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Mon. June 3, 2013: Intense Ending in NY and Coming Home

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The Hatshepsut Sphinx next to the Temple of Dendur

Monday, June 3, 2013
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Rainy and cool

Friday was yet another intense NY day. It started on a sad note — my hosts had to take their sick, elderly dog to the vet for the last time. I cancelled my morning appointments so I could be there when they got back, and make sure they were as okay as they could be under the circumstances before heading out.

I went up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I gorged myself on beauty — visited my favorite Hatshepsut in the Egyptian wing, wandered through the Sculpture Garden, the Greek and Roman galleries, European painting, Contemporary painting (saw some Hoppers — nothing compares to seeing the actual painting in person), some of the furniture and design, the Armory, a wonderful exhibit on musical instruments. It was wonderful. I didn’t realize how much I missed that museum — I went there regularly when I lived in the city.

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This is a musical instrument, a Javanese piece called a “slento”.

Walked down along Central Park. Stopped in at the Plaza Hotel and was horrified by their renovations. They’ve rearranged the lobby, stripped it of its classic elegance, and put in a food court downstairs, which looks like a tacky, overpriced New Jersey mall. Horrible. Tacky. Revolting. Not at all in keeping with the history of the place. Made me sick.

Didn’t have time to swatch in the garment district, which was disappointing. Went to the Algonquin — their drinks are now outrageously priced and they’ve come up with gimmick drinks instead of keeping the classics, like their amazing Sidecar, on the menu. Big disappointment. I met Teri Brown there, and her cousin, and a couple of blogging friends. We quickly ditched the place (so disappointing, it used to be THE place to go if you were a writer) and went to my favorite Scottish bar, The St. Andrew’s Pub, for some Belhaven lager and tasty appetizers. And, of course, great conversation, amongst all of us. Great fun.

Headed back to Brooklyn and my friends. We sat out in the garden, chatting and catching up. I went upstairs to pack and get things sorted for the trip home.

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Manhattan skyline from the rooftop garden at the Met

Saturday morning, up early. Packed the last few things, rearranged the luggage a few times. Said goodbye to all the animals and my friends. One of them, a caterer, packed me a lunch.

Getting to the bus wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. We were right across from the Javits, so I watched people stagger out with bags full of books — some people had four or five tote bags overflowing. Wow. What was great about this year’s BEA was that the publishers really made their AUTHORS feel appreciated, along with the readers. It’s so important to know one’s publisher gives a damn, and understands and appreciates the work that writers put in. It’s also important for publishers to do their part in promoting the list and the authors, something which a lot of publishers can’t be bothered with anymore — and then wonder, when EVERYTHING is put on the author, why the numbers aren’t high. When it’s a partnership, everyone benefits. When it becomes an attitude-laden pissing contest, everyone loses.

I’m really happy for my author pals who were celebrated by their publishers here at BEA. They’ve earned the right to feel special and treasured.

Got settled on the bus. Everyone was jealous of my lunch! Steak sandwich on toasted baguette, rice and beans, salad. I wished I had business cards with my friend’s info to give out.

Trip back up to Providence was fine, although traffic was heavy and I was too tired to read or do much of anything.

My mom picked me up and we drove home, stopping to do a few errands on the way. The cats were happy to see me.
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By 6:30, I had a load of laundry in the washer, was showered, barefoot, and out on the deck with the cats and a very dry martini. Heaven!

Sunday, I was exhausted. Couldn’t light much of a fire under myself. I have a respiratory irritation — too many bus fumes, probably, and had headache, muscle aches, overall ick feeling. Dug into the still room and have solved everything except the lingering effect of the respiratory irritation, which I hope to fix by the end of the day.

Three loads of laundry. Took down the winter drapes. Put up the lace panels for summer. Took off the fleece chair covers. Put on the cotton summer covers. Mowed the terraced back area. Tended the flowers. Played with the cats. Tried to read a bit. Worked on some notes from the meetings and runnings-around. Watched GAME OF THRONES.

Slow start this morning. I have to get back in the saddle today, do all the follow-up from last week, and get going on some fresh assignments. Lots of meetings this week, and I have to make sure I’m properly prepared.

I had a great time in NY. I’m so glad I went. It was a good business move. It was a good personal move. I could genuinely enjoy the city and my time spent there, while knowing I made the right decision to leave. The best of both worlds.

Devon