|photo by Lauri Johnston|
This evening I went to a special class at our city's art museum. About fifty of us--teachers, artists, writers--were going to explore Monet's art in depth.
The museum was closed to everyone else. We had a quick meal in the cafe, then began our workshop. At one point I needed to use the restroom; another woman and I went at the same time. A guard was there when we got on the elevator, and a guard was there when we got off and went directly into the bathroom. The rest of the museum was off-access.
The cloak of darkness was upon us. The elevator was large enough to comfortably accomodate a painting or two. For a moment, the Walter Mitty in me came out...What would it be like to try and lift a priceless painting? Probably more exciting than wrestling with my students and their stuffed animals (It's "Hugs Not Drugs" day tomorrow.)
Of course, I did not conjure up Pierce Brosnan ala "The Thomas Crowne Affair," nor did I branch out on my own and become an art thief. But I did think about it for a split-second.
This evening we looked at Monet's Waterlilies using homemade viewfinders (an index card with a small rectangle cut out of the center) and decided on a spot of our own, we drew what our spot inspired in us, we chose a sound that we "heard" at our spot and created a symphony of sounds, and we wrote poetry about the paintings. Even though I did not get back until close to 9 (making it a 14-hour day for me), it was a marvelous night.
The bit of writing advice I got out of this experience: look from afar, and then look closely (make your own handy-dandy viewfinder), and then back up again and look from a distance. If you're writing about a character, and you know a person who has the same hair as your character, ask to look at their hair with the viewfinder. You'll see things differently. You'll see the variances in color, you'll see more texture than you would otherwise. Look at your house with the viewfinder. You'll be focusing on parts, which will nudge you into thinking in unique ways.
Try it. You'll be surprised...