Art imitating life imitating art imitating

This is not a re-enactment of a painting. This is me getting reference for an illustration (more on which soon, but between this and needing impromptu video-conferencing backgrounds, my undergrad collection of shawls is getting a workout).


(Photos by Liz McKewin)

Not least because they remind me of illustrators’ awkward reference photos, I am enjoying all the recreating of paintings lately. It’s like a 21st-century reinvention of an Edwardian novel, with all those tableaux.

(The link above is to Muddy Colors’ Artist Selfies: Everybody’s Doing It post).

Art/writing exercises:

  • For writers, as well as readers, here’s a great deal to be said for dressing up. Knowing that certain hats cut off your peripheral vision, or the noise of heels on a hardwood floor, or how harsh embroidery can be on the skin is wonderful for sensory detail, while catching the detail of where a seam actually rips or how striped fabrics chevron, or what angle of light causes the shadow of a hat to obscure a face can also add beautiful texture and accuracy to a story. 
  • For writers, learning to really see into a painting can help with visual descriptions. Dorothy Dunnett (who was also a portrait artist) does this magnificently, and in her historical novels describes scenes with visuals that are not only rich but also in the style of painters of the relevant era.
  • For illustrators, the applications are obvious (for more on using reference more rigorously than I do, I recommend Muddy Colours and Gurney Journey), but I am waiting for someone to start a trend of drawing a photo of someone’s re-enactment of a painting that was based on a photo of someone dressed up (Alphonse Mucha and Norman Rockwell both used photo reference heavily and very well).