A short missive about inspiration.
This past Thanksgiving Day long weekend, my far-better half and I ventured to Prince Edward County, south of Belleville, Ontario. The idea was to spend a few days touring the wineries (which are legion in the region), have dinner at a couple of nice restaurants, and take in an art gallery or two. We ended up visiting several galleries, and while the talent exhibited was undeniable, the few works in which we were in complete and full agreement were plainly out of our price range. By Monday we were prepared to return home empty-handed (it wouldn’t have been the first time), when during a last-minute visit to Arts on Main (an artists’ cooperative in Picton) we stumbled upon this.
Moon Rising is by Picton artist Barb Högenauer. [You can see her some of her other works at www.countystudio.ca] The piece is done in cold wax medium and oil. I fell in love with it instantly. That doesn’t happen often.
I could go on about what it was about the painting that stopped me in my tracks (the intensity of colour, the texture, the contrast, the almost mathematically perfect composition), but what sold me from the first moment were the stories it evoked.
I started off as a visual artist: my primary source of inspiration in those early days was simply good art. As a graphic designer, the same principle held: good design made me want to create good design. The same with acting, the same with sculpture, hell, the same with cooking. As a writer, however, inspiration is far, far more arbitrary, diverse, random and unexpected. It can come from anywhere at any given moment: good writing (obviously) inspires me to write, but so can a great film (or a bad one), a piece of music, lyrics to a song, street art, an odd building or quirky feature on a landscape, a random individual on the subway, a stray comment overheard at a gas station, even a single image or a clever meme on Facebook, to say nothing of personal experience, events local or far flung, and dreams (waking or otherwise). [This is not to say that visual artists, musicians, and actors don’t benefit from a diversity of inspirational sources, but this blog is partly about my discoveries as a writer; and while it’s one thing to read about what may light your creative flame as an author, it’s a whole other to live it first hand.] For the instinctive storyteller and compulsive communicator, someone with a half decent eye for detail and a runaway imagination, all of these sources can and will provide the beginnings of storylines, settings, conflicts, and characters.
The painting we purchased in Picton on Monday has that power, at least for me. One glance in the gallery and it immediately started telling me stories. There is mood. There is atmosphere. There is movement (don’t believe me? look at the trees). There’s a sense of isolation, of scale, and even a sense of temperature. And there is a presence, possibly lurking somewhere in the woods but most definitely in the little red house. From my vantage point as a viewer, I’m drawn by what may be down in that cold dark forest clearing; I want to know who or what lives down there, but I somehow want to be careful about finding out.
Part of the purpose of this blog, in addition to talking about my novel, my process, and my revelations as a writer, is to serve as a landing place for new works of short fiction. I suspect something in Moon Rising may have hit a switch, got the machine grinding and chugging, setting something in motion.
Watch this space: things are stirring.