Anyone who also has me as a friend on Facebook has probably noticed that I have what I happily declare as an “ART DAY!!!” just about every Thursday. Lately, my job has been scheduling me fairly consistently (unheard of in retail!), which includes Thursdays free, which is fabulous, because Thursday is the one day that the glorious Art Institute of Chicago is open all the way into the evening, giving me plenty of time to flit around and look at stuff. Which is precisely what I do. I can literally spend hours in there, but there’s a method to my obsession.
You see, I’m the person moving through the galleries with a notebook in my hand, standing in front of the pieces and scribbling stuff down. It’s all a bit of a writing exercise. Part of it is just describing what I see and jotting down my thoughts as they pertain to turning that piece of art into a story. Another part of it is practicing my description skills. My goal? Fill up a whole page of notes about any given piece. Pretty easy to do with the Renaissance paintings already depicting some elaborate mythological scene or the Thorne Miniature Rooms in all their miniature historical detail, but it gets a little trickier when it comes to describing an ancient Italian halberd without detail. Now that’s a fantastic way to challenge your abilities! I had one of the guards, very nice ad good intentioned, quietly remind me that I ~WAS~ allowed to take pictures last week. I told her I knew, but didn’t quite go into explaining that I was a ~writer~, which probably would have made her (kindly) roll her eyes and understand.
Either way, I’ve already got a notebook nearly filled with jotted notes about various pieces around the Art Institute, and I have a feeling that, today, the notebook will be officially filled. Then it’s just a matter of converting those notes into eventual stories, which is the trickier part. My goal is to have at least one story rooted in each piece in that museum. I just find it so fascinating to take these old stories and try to “restore” them into new ones. Most of them won’t even seem directly related; some of those pieces can take my imagination on such a wild tangent, it’s incredible.
Also, I’m constantly amused because the abbreviation for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is practically the abbreviation for my (potential) next book, Serpent in a Cage (SiaC).
It amuses me, anyway.
So….what really inspires you? I know I have a treasure trove of tales within the walls of the Art Institute. I always walk to the train station to take me downtown, and the suburb I live i is filled with so many beautiful houses that it’s impossible for me to not walk by them and not start crafting stories about the buildings, speculations about who lives there and what kind of stories go on beyond those doors. Which makes me feel a little bit creepy, sure, but, as writers, I think it’s nearly impossible for us to look at something that someone else has created and not be flooded with a whole wealth of inspiration and stories.