Monday, January 9, 2012

The Barn

I am going to write about barbed wire.

This unlikely topic sprung from a New Year's Day conversation I enjoyed with an old friend. As she is a gifted photographer, we spoke of a recent picture she had just taken. In a car with her parents, she asked her father to stop so she could capture the beauty of an aging barn, set against the bucolic and rolling hills of the Palouse. This set off an argument over where the shot should be taken. Her parents thought they should position the car so as to avoid getting the barbed wire fence in the foreground.

“No, no, no!” I said. “You were right. The barbed wire would add, not detract from the picture. It would set a distinct tone, provide prospective and add contrast. ”

Because my friend is an adult and a strong person who has learned to stand her ground, she made sure all objections were over ruled, got her way, and took the picture.

As I listened, I thought about classic foregrounds. If a picture tells a story, then a story paints a picture and all techniques, commonly used, and oft taught, must be employed.

In college, I took as many art history courses as I possibly could. How I loved the dark rooms, the slides, and the layering of the centuries and the years of innovation. Being a hands on mom, while at home with children, and having been blessed with two artistic types in my care, I spent many years putting their art supplies on the counter before I turned in for the night. If they were to get up before us, they could begin their day in artistic endeavors, and leave me free to get a few more minutes of precious sleep.

We went to art galleries constantly, and when traveling, saw everything. We remember fondly the time our son was depicted in the Sacramento Bee, at a summer art class for Impressionism. He was eight at the time, and we still have the painting he made. We signed him up for a class after that, taking place one day a week. This had to fit in with Kung Fu, soccer, school activities and lots of time for play, but on the day of that class, Wednesday, he would hop around in the morning singing that it was his favorite day of the week. It went from there. On a trip to Philadelphia, we planned to spend the better part of the day at one of the greatest museums in the country. I remember well what happened up on the third floor. As we came out of the elevator, and he saw a painting that knocked him sideways, he sank down to his knees. I came up and asked, “ are you okay?”

“Its a Van Gogh!”

Years later on a trip to Paris, at the D'Orsay, after seeing masterpiece after masterpiece, I suddenly and without any warning, burst into tears in front of Van Gogh's Starry Night. I went to look for my son to tell him that I had been overcome.

I found him madly sketching Van Gogh's self portrait. “Look at his eyes!”he said.

My son went on to major in studio art at Gonzaga and when I saw his senior thesis up on the gallery wall, it was one of those moments one remembers as being at the pinnacle.

The relationship between art and writing goes hand and hand. When I created the plot line of my novel in progress, and put a visual picture up on the wall, it changed what I often refer to as the oil slick of ideas and began to form a cohesive whole. I pass by it every day when I enter my study. As I complete a chapter, I add a sticky note and cover the main points. It is a visual representation of my upward climb. It reminds me that I am getting there.

Apart from the mechanics of telling a story, I do always, try to paint pictures with words. I also remember that Vincent Van Gogh received no recognition in his life time, but now, tops the charts in terms of monetary worth for his art. Yet, like my friend, he stuck to his belief in his own authenticity.

"Feelings of authenticity are heightened by a lack of a philosophy that allows failure to be a part of life. If you're leading a full life, you're going to fail some every day."

Thomas Moore


Mary Jane Honegger said...

What do mothers know anyway? The barbed wire adds interest and depth to the photo and is just the type of thing we writers need to add when setting the scene to add depth and substance to our writing. Thanks for the analogy.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

I like what you write, 'paint pictures with words'. After reading a poem I've written to my husband, I know if it passes the test when he says, "I can see it. You painted a picture." Good blog, Liz! Thank you for interesting points to ponder about writing and art.

elizabethbrinton said...

Thank you so much. The Art Spirit Gallery here in Coeur d' Alene, is a treasure. It always feeds my soul. I will be there Friday night for the new exhibit.

Bay Views said...

The barb wire adds teo things. It gives the picture character, and it frames the picture. Without a frame to contrast the subject it just isn't as good. You got it just right.

elizabethbrinton said...

Thank you. I will send your nice remarks to the photographer.