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Friday, March 12, 2010

Including the Shadow and the Light

When I write about what I see, my goal is to include texture in what goes on around me. Take, for example, the grass out our front window. I could call it winter grass, dead grass, or instead, comment on the way short thatches of hay swirl out from the cement planter in the middle of the yard–or that the uneven suggestion of green emerging from below reminds me of a rough patch of whiskers on a man's unshaven face.

If an artist set up an easel beside me right now, she wouldn’t paint our yard a one-dimensional yellow; good paintings aren’t flat. She’d mix a blend of taupe and burnt umber on her pallet, feeding lighter colors to the place on the canvas where the descending hill fades to winter white. Adding brown pocks to represent the fringed pine cones scattered at the edge of the driveway, her finished painting would pulse with brush-strokes and nuance, depth and grain, shadows and the disparity of light.

An article in WritersDigest.com this week, “How to Enrich your Descriptions” reminded me of the importance of working for the strongest image. It is never right to take the things you see for granted. I know how the ocean looks; I drive by it almost every day. Waves are a common sight in my world.

How though, should I describe them to someone who has never left Kansas?

How do you challenge yourself to "see" the world around you?

9 comments:

jbchicoine said...

What an awesome depiction of what an artist sees. When I am painting, I'm never more aware of shadows and light, and when I'm writing, I always look for a vivid metaphor--which is what you've done, and why I love your writing so much!

Helen Ginger said...

I think it's a good idea, when describing something you see every day, to try to focus on something you hadn't noticed before. Even if you see the tree everyday in your front yard, if you look more closely at it, you'll notice something new. We rarely really look at the things in our lives.

Helen
Straight From Hel

glnroz said...

I am amazed by your writers that are artists, both with words and paint.

Sharon said...

Your word-brush dips effortlessly into nuance, painting vivid mental images of such extraordinary beauty that I know immediately "I'm not in Kansas anymore."

Jody Hedlund said...

You have a beautiful way of describing things, Liza! I love your encouragement to describe the strongest image.

Kristi Faith said...

Great post! Definitely a good idea to get people thinking on description. I try to remember how I felt the first time I saw something, smelled a nursing home, heard waves from miles away as I walked to the beach for the first time, etc...

Stephen Tremp said...

I write down observations from different perspectives. How would a child view what was just encountered compared to an elderly person. What would a person rejoicing see and one mourning find. Stuff like that.

Stephen Tremp

Helen Ginger said...

Stopped back by, Liza, to say that this kind of great post is why you're a "pro-lific" blogger!

Helen
Straight From Hel

Joanne said...

I love the idea of seeing our subject through another artist's eyes. It does give a different dimension to it. I enjoy seeing things through the lens of the camera, finding that focusing through the lens also gives me a layer of detail to add to my words.

Clicked over from Helen's, enjoyed browsing here!