Using Art to Create Story

"We are Elephants, (bum! bum!) From our backs and fronts (bum! bum!) We are elephants all day long"

One of the things I love about being a Mom is how you do things for your kid and then discover it’s really been for you all along. Like art class.

My daughter was a little shy, so I agreed to take art with her for a year. She stopped after that – but I loved it so much I couldn’t quit. This is my fifth year at BellinghamArt.

Look at the top of this blog. I’m awfully proud of my whale up there in its banner position! The original isn’t so long and skinny, but I think you can still tell that is one amused whale.

Well, my oil painting teacher has now even started giving us homework! This week we’re supposed to write down what makes a great painting. I’m pretty sure she’s looking for “value,” “contrast,” “color,” “composition,” and “theme” (I think we’re supposed to rank these). But for me – it came to me in a flash of light! – for me, it’s story.

I want to be drawn into character, to look at a picture and have my imagination throw me into a scene. Well, duh. As a children’s writer of COURSE I adore illustration.

Doesn't this picture make you think of a story?

Which leads me to the subject of this post: using art to create story. One of my favorite exercises is to have a bunch of pictures – maybe paintings, maybe photos, maybe a combination, in a slurpy pile on a table. You choose one at random and then spend 10 or 20 minutes getting into the head of one of the characters—describing the scene or just talking.

I wish I had the photo the following exercise came from, but I can tell you a friend of mine just cut it from a magazine, maybe even one she got for free at the library. It was a black and white picture of a young girl in pigtails and overalls, sitting on the steps of a front porch with a flower in her hand. The photo took me right into … well, here’s what I wrote:

If I squeeze my eyes tight enough the polkydots inside turn colors – bright yellow and green—and I can see my wishes come true.

I got a wish comin’ to me. Gimpy gave me the first orange rose his garden grew.

“You gotta have it, Shandra Fay,” he said. “It goes too good with your cover-alls to give to someone else, someone—” and he interrupted hisself to look at Googaw and he snorted up a laugh. It was playful. “–someone who got the bad taste to wear lilac on a rose day.”

And Googaw grinned her old white teeth. “You get the wish, Shandra Fay. Don’t waste it, sugar-hon.”

I sure am not gonna waste it.

I see my Daddy in the polkydots, coming down the sidewalk, carrying a silly ol’ kitty cat. It’s crawling up his shoulder, orange like my rose but pink, too. But then the black in my eyes scoots over and the kitty goes.

I don’t care. I really don’t. ‘Cause all I really want is my Daddy home again.

That’s all I wrote! Maybe some day I’ll put Shandra Fay into a book. But even if I don’t, I made her. She’s part of me now. She colors my world. Kind of wonderful!

Hmmm. Here's another good one to start you off!

So you do it. It’s your turn. Find a photo or an illustration in a book. Don’t look at the words! That’s for you to make up. Tell me how it goes. Is it fun?

This entry was posted in Idea Sparkers, Personal, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Using Art to Create Story

  1. Pingback: Release into Laughter! | The Wonder Writer

  2. Pingback: Writing to Pictures II: Mathilda Wheeler, Wonder Writer « What’s New Wendy Wahman?

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