03 Apr

Image File

Posted in Art, Character, Creativity, DIY MFA

I’d like to start DIY MFA by looking at art because that’s one of the writing tools I use most often, especially when I need to find new characters.  It has taken me a while, but I finally have a small collection of postcards that story ideas for me.  These can be pictures almost always depict people, either going about their daily lives or stuck in bizarre situations.  When there aren’t any people in the images, I try to place myself in that scene and imagine what a character would be doing or thinking in that setting.

Image File Litmus Test:  The picture’s content doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I get a sense that the world of the image extends beyond the canvas or photograph.

Warning:  You need to set some limits for yourself.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same is true for image files.  You could waste hours of precious writing time collecting images of characters you’re never going to use.  This is why I prefer postcards.  Every time I visit a museum or a new city, I take five minutes in a gift shop to buy a few postcards.  At first I had only a handful of images, but over time the collection has grown, and without much time, money or effort spent.

Tip:  If you have family or friends who travel, ask them to send you a postcard with a “picture that tells a story.”  This way, your image file can grow even if you’re not collecting the images yourself.  They’ll get sent to you!  Also, it will be interesting to see what images they choose.

Here are a couple of pictures to help you get started.

Eugene Atget, Staircase, Montmartre (1921)
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Juvisy, France (1938)
Karen Halverson,  Furnace Creek, Death Valley, California (1992)
Edward Hopper, Movie (1939)
Archibald John Motley Jr., Nightlife (c.1943)
Pierre Auguste Renoir,  Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (1875)
Gerhard Richter, Woman Descending the Staircase (1965)
Sheron Rupp, Trudy in Annie’s Sunflower Maze, Amherst, MA (2000)
August Sander, Children, Westerwald (1920)
John Singer Sargent, Fumee D’Ambre Gris (1880)

Homework: Find 5 additional images for your image.  These can be postcards, pictures clipped from magazines or even images you captured with a camera or sketchbook.  The important thing is that all five images help us find a character.

Are there any artists or photographers you recommend who are especially good at capturing such images?  Any must-haves I should add to my image file?


Comments on this post

  1. Julie Musil says:

    Those postcards are gorgeous. I've never thought of doing this. Great idea!

    1. Kerryn Angell says:

      I never thought of collecting postcards. I love the idea of having physical images to flip through. I began my own kind of image file in Evernote a few weeks ago. Ever since I've been collecting images from around the web. Just the act of beginning to collect images has expanded my horizons and I've found more and more blogs and websites with images to inspire.

      1. Girl Friday says:

        Pictures are great for sparking ideas, I love all of these, especially the Hopper. Here are some amazing, very strange old photos that are bound to spark ideas: http://awe.sm/5HIpU

        1. J.C. Martin says:

          Great pictures! You want inspirational pictures? Just look at the covers for the National Geographic magazine! Here's an iconic one: http://bit.ly/ghbKyp

          1. Anonymous says:

            Love your collection…I used to do that years ago, and have lost the habit…and now I'm going to revive it! P.L.

            1. Ghenet Myrthil says:

              This is a great idea! I love looking at photographs so I think I'll search for some of those for inspiration. I'll let you know if I find a good source. I like J.C.'s idea of looking at the Nat Geo magazine covers.

              1. Gabriela Pereira says:

                These are all excellent ideas and suggestions!

                Girl Friday Those pictures you linked are so deliciously weird. Definitely going to go back there for inspiration.

                JC Martin Love the idea of National Geographic covers (as well as images from the magazine itself!)

                1. Tioka says:

                  Great idea. Thanks!

                  1. Rick J. R. says:

                    Yacek Yerka is a fantastic painter, who gets away from reality, and paints the way she sees the world. A must-see gallery:

                    1. gabi says:

                      Rick–Love the link you posted! Absolutely fabulous and so delightfully strange. Perfect inspiration for writing.

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