I had a lovely time at Richard Hugo House this Saturday leading my workshop “Looking & Seeing: Generating Prose with Paintings.” Back in December, I did a mini-lesson at Write-O-Rama, where I talked a bit about this concept of using visual art as inspiration and introduced the idea of deciding whether you would work “inside” the painting or “outside” of it – meaning whether the writing refers to the fact that there’s a painting or only focuses on the story within.
In December, we did one exercise focused on stories outside of paintings. This is the prompt I gave: What if a particular painting somehow changed the course of a story? The Picture of Dorian Gray, My Name is Red, and The Idiot are a few examples of novels in which art plays a crucial role in the unfolding of story.
This past Saturday,we focused mainly on working within a painting. We looked at a range of paintings, examining possibilities for the stories behind what was immediately visible through details such as posture, gaze, movement, color, mood, and light. This was the prompt: If we widened our imaginative lens beyond the frame, what might we find? What came before? What comes next? One textual example we discussed briefly was Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea, which uses Titian’s painting “Perseus and Andromeda” but is set in England in the 1970s.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s an old favorite short-short of mine: http://cafeirreal.alicewhittenburg.com/szilagyi.htm