The Contemporary Artist’s use of Light and How it Relates to Writers

in Entertaining nonsense and profound thought, The Craft of Writing

I love working in an art museum. Sitting and studying the art is not only allowed it’s encouraged – required.

At the moment we have a diverse collection of art in our upper gallery – a retrospective of sorts from the 1930s to current day. There is so much to talk about. The progression and changes in artists work. The use of color. The use of light. Look at these images. (I apologize for the quality. We aren’t allowed to use flash in the galleries. Although for our purposes here, perhaps the unfocused pictures are better.)
Click on the images to make them larger.

Where does your eye go? Into the dark recesses or do you find yourself focusing on the areas of light? There are technique and artist can use to direct our vision and light is only one of them, but let’s concentrate our focus there. On the light.

Can I, as a writer us the light to focus your attention where I want it to go? I think I can.

I’m not talking about physical description here – landscapes and clothing. Those are the things I skip when reading. I certainly don’t want to high light the places that you aren’t interested in.

So how do I direct your gaze, make you interested in one detail instead of another? I can use light:  “The sun streamed through the window and reflected of the fluid in the glass. Was it wine?” But did you notice I also used a question? I’m asking you to question the content of that glass. Focusing your attention.

Let’s look at something else.  What if I say “He grabbed her hat and was startled to see that her hair was the color of peacock feathers.” What IS the color of peacock feathers? I’m not sure.  But by adding a detail that is out of the ordinary I’m directing your focus. You may think “why is her hair THAT color?” Then again you may not.

What if I say her hair was the color of poppies? What do you automatically assume about a person whose hair is that red?What do you see in your minds eye?

The fun part is that I write the words and you created the vision in your mind. You become an artist, painting the picture in your mind – if not in the physical world. I like it when people make art. Accordingly the process makes me happy.

How else do writers direct your attention? What methods do you like an author to use?

I will send a gift from the Hood Museum of Art to one random commenter.


Check out Kate’s Novels.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Toni / blonde betty February 7, 2014 at 11:29 am

I’m a big fan of show don’t tell. Show me why her hair is the color of poppies (which I always see as purple, blue, and yellow, by the way). Draw me in with your words that create images. Allow me to visualize in my mind.


Julie February 7, 2014 at 7:23 am

Ooo, I’m very bad at this sort of thing.

Besides, as I catch up (after Dan’s weekend) I got distracted by your red scarf. I was sent one as well!!! From a VERY far away Betty a few years ago. It’s the first one I’ve ever had. Now I’ve begun collecting them (but each has to be EXTREMELY special).

Not only is this a symbol of power, for us both, but the vibrancy of the red (a color I nevereverever wear) just screams drama and strength and life. So, when we get together (because, at some point, we absolutely will) let’s make it a winter visit, and we’ll wear our matching Special Scarves of Love.


Cindy Jones February 7, 2014 at 1:54 am

I love it when an author draws you to a question, but doesn’t answer it yet. I want to continue reading to find the answer (who committed the crime, why did he say that, what did she just see?) I love mysteries and trying to find the answer before the author gives it to you.


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