Monday, May 10, 2010


I recently went on a field trip with Drama Queen to our local Museum of Art. Now, our town isn’t tiny, but it isn’t huge either, and our Museum isn’t the biggest. Though under expansion, right now it only hosts 3 small galleries outside of the main room. But I’ve enjoyed every trip I made there, roaming the rooms to investigate the mixture of modern and historical paintings, sculptures, and mixed media pieces. I can’t wait for the expansion to be complete next year.

On our field trip, we toured the galleries with a docent (a tour guide) who discussed various pieces and the significance of them. This particular docent did a wonderful job tying in the art with the reason the students were there (a field trip for the school’s Poetry Club). So many of the things she said resonated with me, and I hope they did with the children there too, since they obviously have an interest in writing.

According to her speech, art is defined as “any creative avenue of learning”. I’ve finally reached the point in my development as an author that, even though I’m unpublished in book length fiction, I can actually think of myself as an author without feeling unworthy of the title. After all, I’ve written 7 novels and novellas, numerous short stories, and non-fiction articles, with a number of articles and short stories that have been published. But even though I think of myself as a author, I’ve never really thought of myself as a artist.

Authors are artists.

As authors, we paint and sculpt a world for the viewer to lose themselves in, only we use words instead of paint, metal, or other, more tangible materials. Yet the viewer steps into the world just the same. The medium is used to create mood, atmosphere, and to evoke emotions in the viewer, whether serious, fun, happy, doubtful, or sorrowful.

This was a totally new idea for me, one that I probably would have understood long before on a logical level, but that just happened to hit me on a psychological level while I was standing in the still, reverent atmosphere of a museum devoted to ART. The feeling was reminiscent of the library I so enjoyed visiting as a teenager. And why not, both are devoted to the preservation and presentation of artistic endeavors.

The docent also mentioned that often the artist tries to create a focus or theme that pulls the viewer in, because most patrons look at each piece for an average of 15 seconds, then move on. The artist wants to catch the viewer, enticing them to stay longer and discover the secret nuances of the piece before them. Writers do the same, hoping in those first couple of pages to interest the reader enough that they continue to read, curious about the secrets of the characters and the intrigue of the plot. We have a short time to draw readers in; without that hook, they might move on without ever discovering the delights to be had within the pages of the book.

So what is your favorite type of art, besides books, of course? J Any preferences? What was your favorite museum to ever visit? My rush through the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Instigator was breathlessly inspiring. I’m hoping for a more leisurely tour on my visit to New York next year.


PS. The winner of Free Book Friday is BlackRoze37! Please email SP at smartypants@writingplayground com to claim your prize within 7 days.


PM's Mother said...

What a great post! We are all artists in some way -- creating pictures with paint or words, creating a decorated cake, sewing a dress, decorating your home or making a flower garden.

My favorite museum visit was to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Holland where I viewed Rembrandt's "The Night Watch". I had seen reproductions of this famous painting many times, but I was not ready for the grandeur of the original. Of course our National Art Museum in Washington, DC is impressive also. Until I visited there I never knew that Picasso painted in differing styles.

Christine said...

I loved the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam as well as the Van Gogh when we last toured. I was fortunate to live in DC for 9 years and was able to visit the National Art Museum many times, the Emily Merriweather Post mansion with its Faberge eggs and Russian pieces of art, and the sculpture garden in the Smithsonian Mall area. Very spoiled--I haven't been to the small museum here, but plan to hit it when the spring weather arrives, stays and allows me to wander through the park as well.

Lovely post. Sounds like your docent was amazing.

I love how you are embracing your inner artist! We are authors. We're not published, but that doesn't diminish the work we put into sculpting our stories. And now -- back to -- uh --molding my mangled mess into a work worthy of praise ;-)

Instigator said...

You know, I think I've probably thought of writing as art at some point. The gap in my thinking is applying that thought to ME.

And I agree. The next time we're in NYC we definitely need more time at the Met.


Playground Monitor said...

It's always nice when you can share the experience with someone and my mother and I went to the Rijksmuseum together. :-) I think that trip to Amsterdam was my first experience with a "girl's trip."

I guess I'd have to say my favorite was the Louvre in Paris simply because of the sheer number of recognizable (to me) pieces of art. I was really surprised the Mona Lisa was so small and that Whistler's Mother was so big. I was there before the Pyramid was added to the complex.

Angel said...

I'm right there with you, Instigator! I had probably thought about it before, but that didn't apply to ME. It only applied to other authors, out there! :) Funny how that happens, huh?


Gwen Hernandez said...

What a great post, Danielle. I had a similar epiphany about writer as artist when I learned that my painter friend has critique partners who give her feedback on things like light and negative space, composition, and so on. I never realized that other artists do revisions just like we do.

I'm glad you've reached a point where you think of yourself as an author. We paint pictures and create three dimensional characters, but with words. How great is that?

Lynn Raye Harris said...

It's hard to think of writing as art when you see crappy reviews of your work. :)

Anyhoo, museums. I've been fortunate enough to visit some of the most fabulous museums in the world, so it's hard to choose a favorite. I love the Louvre and the Prado. The Uffizi is also amazing, and all of Venice is a museum, IMO.

But maybe the Hermitage was my most amazing experience just because of where it was and the hoops we had to jump through to get inside. I don't remember much about the paintings, but I remember Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son. Breathtaking.

A good docent really makes a museum come alive. I'm so glad you had such a good one!

Angel said...

The docent was perfect for the kids. She really tried to make it relatable. And we just happened to go at a time when a whole wing was dedicated to art by art students from the county we live in. The students ranged from Kindergarten to seniors in high school, and the pieces were varied and amazing. Some of them fun and whimsical, some detailed and challenging. The kids loved seeing work by children (and even a couple of kids from their school). The museum had painted the room orange, then matted the pieces in black so they all popped. It was really cool!


Angel said...

You know, Gwen, I didn't realize that other artists did this either! I thought they simply created in a vacuum. It took me so long to accept that I wasn't less of a writer because I did brainstorming or critiquing with others. Now, I can't imagine my process without it! :)


LeaAnnS said...

On my recent trip to DC, my daughter and I were privileged enough to view the original flag written about in Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner." The flag is as big as my bedroom floor and breathtaking to view. It's not breathtaking because it's beautiful -- it's ragged and the edges are cut up and the fabric is yellowed and brittled with age -- but because of the sheer history and life it embodies. At one time it was pristine and new. The artist that created it was meticulous and proud of her work.

But now, like our bodies and our work and, most especially, our art, it shows the age and wisdom of the years it has been in existence. Books, like paintings and other art forms, do that for me. The words I put on paper (or in a computer file) are a moment in time, my thoughts and feelings and desires written down to share with the world, whether it's a select few or so many people it ends up on the NYT Best Seller list. In the future, as the words age, they may become brittle or dated or richer with time, but that piece of me is there for others to see. For me to reflect on as I grow.

It's a piece of my history, a piece of my mind and heart. And the sheer awesomeness of having created in any given moment, whether others see it as precious and awe-inspiring or worn out and worthy of the trash heap, takes my breath away.

Problem Child said...

Anyone who has ever sat through a jury -- where your art is critiqued by peers and teachers until you are a quivering pile of goo -- for a grade fears no reviewer!

Still hurts, though. :-(

But of course you're an artist, Angel. This post is wonderfully written as proof!

Stephanie said...

It sounds as if y'all had a wonderful experience. Your blog made me want to run out and visit an art museum.

I think guess I didn't think of our writing as art but I often said to Pantster that I think it is important to have enough detail in our stories so that the reader could "make a movie" because that is what I do when I read so I guess in a way that means I thought of it as visual art. I guess I was thinking more in line with commercial venture and less artsy. :-)

verification word: grearim-that's the kind of day we are having in 4th grade

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Coming from a family with an artistic bent, I always understood the varieties of mediums. Since I often say I can barely draw breath, my strongest mediums are words and colors. Thus, I also consider gardening (or landscaping, if you think in a larger scale) an art form; the mix of color and texture, fragrance and season, sun and shade pleasing to the eye, the nose, the hands, and the spirit.

PM's Mother said...

There is a large artist colony (both painters and writers) here on St. Simons Island. Occasionally you will see a group of artists (the painting kind) outdoors with their easels, canvases and palettes just painting away. This is referred to as "plein aire" painting. Maybe authors should get outdoors once in a while and write about what they see.

Kim Law said...

Great post! Makes me want to head to a Museum!

Concerning authors as artists, I think of myself as an author, I think of writing as an art, but I have a hard time thinking of me as an artist. Odd, huh? However, I have often referred to authors as artsy people. Hmmm...I wonder why I don't, then, consider myself an artist? Interesting.

And whoever put in the comments that artists (the painting kind) use critique, I never thought of that. Puts a totally different spin in my head on this whole process.

Jean said...

The Victoria and Albert was practically a religious experience.

I have a friend who is a painter and we often talk about our creative processes. It's amazing how similar they are.

Kathy said...

Art and the written word are one. Repeat. Art and the written word are one. ;)

Angel said...

Kim, I wonder if its all that plotting we do. Maybe it is harder to identify with the "free flow creator" type image. I'm the same way. There's so much structure and organization to my creativity, that I didn't really think of it as art until someone pointed it out to me. :)


Kim Law said...

Very good point! That might be it exactly. We boil down all the free flowing parts into structure so we can "see" it and it no longer feels all artsy. Yes, I think you're probably right. I love when there are answers to those "hmmm" moments!

This sounds very non-creative, but I almost like to feel as if I've organized my plot/outline until it's similar to a paint-by-numbers. That way, yes, I've spent the time creating the whole thing, but before I really jump into it I can see what I need to do and feel all warm and fuzzy about attacking it instead of freaked because I don't know where I'm going. And I always did prefer paint-by-numbers to a blank piece of paper :) I also never considered that a real painting.

At least with books, I create the paint-by-numbers outline myself instead of just fill in someone else's idea, huh?

Wow...this feels sort of deep! I write by paint-by-numbers. Never ever considered that until this morning.

blackroze37 AT said...

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