The other day we attended an art exhibit from the Dutch masters.  Knowing very little about art history, we soon tagged along with a tour in session to discover the story behind the story.  It turns out one painter, Meindert Hobbema, couldn’t paint people.  In one of his lovely woodland landscapes, there were several farmers and local villagers in the scene.  So what did he do?  He contracted out.  Paid them a fee and that was the end of their services.  No credit at all. 

Reminds me of the world of ghost writing in publishing, or work-for-hire.  One example in children’s books is The Babysitter’s Club.  Although Ann Martin began the series, soon she went off and wrote her own books and other writers penned them.  They did get some credit, however.  Just check the dedication page.  That’s the author. 

Art is also similar to literature in how we read a painting.  On first glance of one shown at the museum, we saw a family seated around a table celebrating a baby’s christening with wine.  One man was lighting a very long pipe.  But to hear the story behind the story, we discover that this pious occasion wouldn’t have been a time for such inebriation. The pipe symbolized something else entirely. The adults in the picture looked like they were having way too much fun.  The woman’s clothing dipped lower than it should have, and her seating position invited more than friendliness.  Who knew?  Today we wouldn’t think twice about it.   In the corner a parrot perched.  It wasn’t merely the family pet, but a symbol.  The artist was saying the children in the picture would learn from the adults’ wild ways, or parrot by example.

Writing Prompts:

  1. Pick up a book you love and parrot or model what you admire about this writer. 
  2. Make a goal of an artist date for yourself once a month.  Or once a week if you can.  See a play or attend a writer or artist event.  Keep a journal of details that impresses you. 
  3. Choose a painting from a book, online or from an exhibit.  Without knowing anything about it, write a short story or poem to go with the art work.  
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