Writing Inspiration from the Visual Arts

When the “writers’ muse” seems to have flown away, those lists of “writing prompts” just aren’t doing it for you, and the weather is too nasty to head outdoors for inspiration, you can always draw from (pardon the pun!) the visual arts–sketches, paintings, sculpture, photography, cartooning, film and more.

Here are some inspirational ideas to develop some “creative writing with art”—or you can use your own imagination. Ideally, combine both visual art and writing in some way. You can choose one project and dive deep, or you can play around with two or three different projects. You can work alone, or if you wish, you can work with a partner or small group, discussing your project with others and helping each other come up with creative ideas.

Using visual art (or even live arts such as dancing) available to you right now, right where you are, reflect on it and let it inspire your writing. How? Well, you could …

  • Sketch it; describe it in writing; turn it into a story; turn it into an alternative art form (for example, create a story from a photograph and present it as a comic or graphic story).
  • Create a mini-memoir of some aspect of yourself or of some event in your life that’s been recorded in a photograph or home movie, combining sketches and words. Perhaps create a photo essay with captivating captions in suitable fonts, or create an illustrated “family story” for your children and grandchildren.
  • Using a “plot template” (google “plot templates” and click on “images” — then choose one of the many options available), plan a story on the template, using a combination of sketches and words. Then write the story.
  • Choose a photo or other picture as inspiration. Write a “snapshot,” including observations from all your senses, to describe the picture (and/or the situation in the picture) for a reader who has not seen the picture. Help them “see” it through your word snapshot.
  • Create your own story in comic or graphic novel format, using panel templates (google “panel manga templates” and then click on “images” for lots of options). Draw inspiration from comics, cartoons and graphic novels.
  • Do one or more of the following “Language and Art” activities, to help you think more deeply about art, and how it can be related to writing:
    • Art critic: Become an art critic and write a review of a piece of art. Write your review as if you were a newspaper columnist or reporter. Include specific details to support your critique.
    • Letter to the artist: Choose a favourite piece of artwork. What questions do you have for the artist? Tell the artist about your feelings about his or her work and how it inspires your writing.
    • Be the artist. Imagine you are a public artist, or an illustrator for children’s books, graphic novels, magazines, comics, etc. Describe your artwork. What is it? How large is it? What is it made of? What does it represent, what is its story? Where do you get your inspiration? Where will it be displayed (or published)?
    • Tell a story: Choose a piece of artwork. Imagine it can see and hear. What can it see from its location? What can it hear? Write a story from the perspective of the piece. Add events and dialogue to give an interesting view of its world.

How do you use art to inspire your writing? Please share your ideas in the comments! Thank you!

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