Notice stuff and fire up your creativity
Updated: Feb 8
Not too long ago, I met a friend for lunch. During our visit, I commented on some of the café’s artwork. She mentioned that I always seem to notice details. She’s right.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting snippets to incorporate into my fiction. As an author, I’m always reading, and I love to take note of interesting details that pull me further into the fictional dream. The more deeply I’m drawn into the story, the more meaningful the book becomes and the more it lingers with me after I’ve read the last page. Several years ago I went to an Expressionist exhibit at an art museum. The curator mentioned that long before multimedia, people would go to an art show and then discuss the picture much in the same way that people discuss a new movie release. That thought intrigued me. To do that, the critics must have REALLY looked hard at the image. Now when I stroll through galleries I wonder what the artists were trying to say through the paintings. Why was the scene outdoors instead of inside? Why was the subject glancing to the right? What significance is there in the other objects in the painting? When you consider the art, you can find stories inside. The experience helped to jumpstart my creativity. I wondered about so much of what I noticed. A painting of a family portrait I’ve seen had a family gathered around the end of the table, but if you look carefully, there was a figure at the other end of the table, shaded so much that you might have missed her. Why did the painter depict her like that? Could she have been a beloved child, now deceased? Another portrait showed a young girl holding a doll dressed in black, one that looked like a little adult. I read some information about that painting, and it said that perhaps the child’s mother was no longer living. There are so many stories swirling around us, both written with words and crafted with a painter’s brush. What makes the stories intriguing are the details. It’s up to us to notice the details. And it’s all in the details, don’t you think?
BTW, the above portrait is called Portrait of a Woman with a Book of Music. Bachiacca (Francesco Ubertini) (Italian (Florentine), 1494 - 1557)
Did you notice all the details? According to the Getty Museum, this unidentified woman wears an elegant, colorful dress of a type that was the height of Florentine fashion around 1540. Her costume and music book indicate her cultured, patrician background; she may have been a member of the Frescobaldi, a powerful Florentine banking family that once owned the painting.
The surprising juxtaposition of the bright green of the tablecloth alongside the sitter’s pink dress, and the polished, sculptural treatment of flesh tones are characteristics associated with Florentine painting of the early sixteenth century.
The artist shows off his ability to represent intricate embroidery and textures, such as the fur trim of the sitter’s sleeves and patterns on her dress. According to biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574), Bachiacca was famous for his accurate illustrations of birds, examples of which appear here on the border of the tablecloth—they can be identified from left to right as a great or lesser grey shrike, a blue jay, a wren and a yellowhammer. The same birds appear in the borders of tapestries designed by Bachiacca, as well as in the fragmentary remains of some of his murals in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. All of these details reveal the artist’s many talents: Bachiacca and his younger brother in fact worked across many media, and were producers of a variety of luxury items for the Medici court, including tapestries, embroidery design, and zoological illustrations. The melody on the sheet held by the woman is unintelligible; the artist, who is not known to have read music, deliberately obscures it with the sitter’s hand. Bachiacca derived his ambiguous space, juxtaposition of dissonant colors, and polished, sculptural treatment of flesh from Agnolo Bronzino's contemporary portraits of members of the Medici court.
Thanks for playing along and giving yourself the treat of looking deeply at a piece of art to find interesting details. Wouldn't you love to write this character into a book?