Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Inspiration of Paintings

(More notes from my experiences at the Rosemary Beach Conference for Writers.)

I mentioned in a previous post that JD had us write about myths after reading his story based on the fall of Icarus. He was thinking of a poem based on a particular painting when he began the work. So his short story was three times removed from the myth. He passed out a series of paintings by Edward Hopper for us to look at, asked us to answer a few questions about the one we chose. I chose this one:
"Gas" by Edward Hopper, from the MOMA collection.

Why I chose this painting: Pegasus ascending above the old pumps. Red, winged and fiery, climbing over the trees in the background. We take the gas to go beyond. It fuels the mechanics of our imagination. The man checking the pumps will never fly away.

The mood or emotion suggested by the painting: Isolation vs. escapism. Defeat? The trees wall him in from the larger world. He has his routine, his daily expectations. He doesn't even notice the winged stallion any more. He keeps his shop clean, he records the numbers. He never looks up. There is a suggestion of wild flowers growing alongside the pavement, but his back is turned.

Give him a name and a point of view, a history: Wilson McCall. Brewton, Alabama. 1949. His father was a cotton farmer and he grew up in the dirt. Now he smells of petroleum rather than the earth, and he can never get his hands to smell of Ivory soap. His son, back from France and Germany, went off to college in Birmingham, dreaming of being a playwright or an author; he doesn't care if the numbers add up; he wants to roam. (Are those wild strawberries growing by the road?)

JD says: Fiction writers lead at least two lives. Everything is grist for the act of creation.

LLS: When the well runs dry, she mines her memory, finds seeds to take and turn into stories. Evocative details prove authenticity. To be fresh and unusual, be specific. She suggests drawing a floor plan of the first home you remember living in, then note memories from specific rooms in the house. Go where these memories take you. Apply them to your fictional character.

Next: Leonard Nash teaches us how to make lists to mine material from your life to use in stories/memoirs.
Post a Comment