When it comes to creative writing, there are plenty of sources of inspiration out there. Several of them have been featured here on my blog, from books to music to video games. But one particularly beautiful source of inspiration that I have yet to discuss is visual art.
So today, I’d like to explore the inspiration that visual works of art can provide for creative writing. How can art composed of images become fruit for art composed of words? Enjoy!
Worth a Thousand Ideas
Visual art is arguably the “most universal” art medium. It comes in many forms: drawings, paintings, photography, sculptures, etc. They can come in a vast array of colors or a monochromatic spectrum from black to white. They can be amateur pieces created for fun or professional-quality works on display in the finest galleries in the world. But one thing they all have in common is that they were each born from an idea. If you think about it, doesn’t that make them a sort of “writing with images”?
Similar to creative writing, a work of visual art can start as one idea that grows into a whole network of connected thoughts, stories, possibilities, all waiting to be discovered by the artist’s audience. These can prove especially inspirational to writers, as the quality of our work relies on our ability to create images in our readers’ minds the same way that visual artists create images for their viewers’ eyes. So the next time you feel stuck in your writing, why not try to draw ideas from the beauty within a visual piece?
Gaze into the Mona Lisa‘s eyes and try to imagine what she’s thinking. Mentally reassemble the shapes of an abstract work into something concrete. Improvise a scene based on your favorite photograph. Write a poem based on the emotions evoked by the colors in a classic painting. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then challenge yourself to see how many of them you can fit into a story. You never know what ideas may be hidden in a visual work until you look for them!
Visual art is a beautiful means of expression that can spark all sorts of other wonderful forms of art. Just a brief look is often enough to get our creativity flowing. But what happens when you create visual art yourself?
From Drawings to Words
When I was in high school, I would sometimes find my mind wandering in the middle of class. To pass the time, I would draw the occasional doodle in my textbook. Most of these drawings consisted of wings, dolphins, and horses, with a wolf and a tiger thrown into the mix for good measure. I’ll be the first to admit that they weren’t very good, but those drawings, however distracting they were from schoolwork, actually taught me a few interesting things about myself: I love animals, I love movement, and I wish I could fly. And from then on, I applied all those facts to my writing.
If you were to look back through all the Friday posts on my blog, you’d probably notice that most of my stories feature animals and other non-human characters. I’ve written a poem about what I would do if I had wings, and one of my most popular creative writing posts is about how to write for animal characters. Even a look through my novel ideas would reveal a pattern of bird motifs. Though drawing was never my strong suit, it did give me plenty of ideas for my creative writing, and for that I’ll always appreciate it as one of the many invaluable sources of inspiration for my true artistic passion.
So even if it’s not your forte, I strongly recommend giving visual art a chance. Draw, paint, take photos, anything that can jumpstart the creative part of your mind. The ideas you find in your art may become the inspiration for your next big written work. And if you’re lucky, you may discover something beautiful about yourself along the way. Good luck, and thanks for reading!
Today’s post is dedicated to my grandmother, whose lovely work in Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden coloring book served as the illustrations for this article. Happy Birthday, Grandma! I love you!