(“Love’s Errand” by American artist Elisabeth Moss)
I was hungry for painting—for thick, textural layers of color—and so I invited the artist Elisabeth Moss to visit one of my writing workshops with some of her recent work. She brought five works-in-progress and displayed them throughout the space. As participants arrived, they each had the opportunity to approach the paintings, speak with the artist, then reapproach the works. When the session began, Elisabeth briefly spoke about her process and told us the working title for each painting. I offered the following prompts and then we all wrote for 40 minutes.
These prompts offer three specific ways to engage with or “leap from” a painting (or photograph). You can click on the image above to see a gallery of Moss’ paintings, open an art book from your shelves or a library, ask to visit the studio of an artist you know, or drop by a local gallery. Choose a work that intrigues you—especially if you’re not sure why. Choose a work that draws you toward and into its frame and makes you want to linger.
- The Dream: Write about the painting as if you’ve entered it, as if you’re dreaming it.
- The Relationship: Write about your experience of the painting as if the two of you are in a relationship. Describe falling in love with this particular work. Describe approaching, remembering, and returning to see it. Write about all that you know and don’t know about it—and the ways you feel known by it. In fact, rather than call the painting “it,” give it a nickname or perhaps a gender. What are you living and learning because of this unique relationship?
- The Translation: Describe a significant and specific image-anchored memory as if it were a painting. Essentially, translate an experience into a painting. You might want to focus on describing “your” painting as if you’re standing in front of it.
Or, you may prefer to write a scene in which your painting becomes the subject or some other plot-device. Perhaps two estranged friends run into each other at a gallery opening and find themselves talking about your painting.
Set a timer for 10, 20, 30, or 40 minutes—whatever amount of time you can “steal” for your writing today! Just keep writing. Write with a pen or type. Don’t erase or delete. Don’t stop for spelling or grammar. Don’t ponder word choice. Don’t slow to revise or reconsider a line. Just keep dancing with you pen, dancing with your fingers, watching letters and words and lines take shape before your eyes. Don’t critique or reread. Just write! And enjoy…