Art and Writing – Inspiration For the Tired Mind

8 Mar

Vanessa Di Gregorio


Whenever we read, our imagination runs wild; and everything we see is thanks to the writer. Large trees loom ominously over a protagonist’s head; or the sea churns angrily, throwing a stowaway violently to and fro on a pirate ship. Tall, imposingly beautiful castles tower over someone as their horse’s hooves clatter on the cobblestones before coming to a halt. Perhaps you are on a ship, flying through space, with nothing but the stars and the glow from the controls in your cabin surrounding you. White silk gloves could be covering a young woman’s arm, matching the white silk detailing on her crimson petticoat; her hair tall and majestic, her eyes dark and mischievous.

But have you ever found yourself running into writers block? It’s happened to all of us. Now, maybe this is because I’m a visual person, having been an art student for a number of years, but I find that images can really inspire me. Sure, putting down your manuscript and picking up another book is a great way of finding inspiration. Other people swear in just writing, even if faced with writers block; that eventually, after writing a bunch of nonsense, it will suddenly just appear like a flash. Others yet will grab their ipod and listen to music, to both the melodies and the lyrics. Some will watch movies and tv shows to get their inspiration, be it from a character, or a setting, or an expression. And there are those who will do a mixture of these things.

The truth is, sometimes we just exhaust ourselves. Take the time to fill up your head with anything inspirational; maybe writing poetry gets those juices flowing. Maybe painting does. Maybe talking a walk in a park, or an art gallery, or even playing on your PS3 helps; or maybe drinking your coffee in a cafe while watching people does (hey… us writers are observers by nature!). Do what you love to do.

Me? Well, I love to look at art. Sure, I also love to paint; but as an artist, I know that I can exhaust myself that way as well. Other artists can really inspire me. Images can speak volumes; cliché, I know, but it’s absolutely true. Colours, perspectives, expressions, sharpness, composition; all of these can affect how an image appears, and how it, in turn, makes you feel. The feelings an image can evoke can become your inspiration.

Having trouble with a romantic scene? Look at a romantic photo, or watch a romantic movie; maybe read a romantic book, or listen to a romantic song. Having trouble seeing the world from a child’s P.O.V.? Look at childhood photos.

For me, writing prose is similar to writing poetry. Sure, I’m not as flowery, but I try to choose words to help readers visualize. Showing, not telling. Writing is an art; think of yourselves as artists.

I’ve decided to show you some of my favorite images that I’ve collected over the years. None of this is my own work; they all belong to other artists (all of whom are on deviantART). But something about these images speak to me. They make me want to write.  And I have to admit, I’m a bit curious too! Do any of these images make you feel inspired? Do they evoke feelings? Perhaps even create scenes or moods for future works?

What do you turn to for inspiration? Do any of these images make you want to write? (Be honest!) And is there one image that speaks to you more than others?


Vanessa is an intern at The Rights Factory, a literary agency located in Toronto. She is also taking courses in a publishing program, and is trying to figure out where in the world of publishing she wants to end up in. Currently, she is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.


16 Responses to “Art and Writing – Inspiration For the Tired Mind”

  1. Rowenna March 8, 2010 at 11:05 AM #

    Beautiful pieces of art! I especially love the Loved Birds–the composition is beautifully balanced and really striking. I have to say that I tend not to look to art for inspiration–maybe it’s what I’ve been writing that doesn’t lend itself well or that it’s not what strikes a chord with me. I suppose that I enjoy art (including these images) but it’s been in a separate sphere than my writing inspiration for some reason. I’ll have to explore visual art a bit more to see if I can change that!

    • Vanessa March 8, 2010 at 12:17 PM #

      I think I’ve always found so much inspiration in art because I was so involved in the art community (while I was taking art in university).

      I’m glad that this is helping to expose you to other ways of finding inspiration! I think that anything that can stimulate the mind can become inspiring. And The Loved Birds is one of my all-time faves! I’m glad you really liked that one!

      In one of my publishing classes, someone was telling us how an author found a piece of art that was the protagonist of a book he was writing. Everything about her, from the flaming red hair, to her pose, and to her smile, was his character fully visualized. So he kept the image taped to his computer as he finished writing the story.

      So you never know!

  2. gabydasilva March 8, 2010 at 11:53 AM #

    I liked that Alice much MUCH better than Tim Burton’s – that one felt kinda mass-market emo, the one you posted is just imaginative and beautiful.

    Art serves as inspiration only sometimes to me… probably because I don’t look at art very often. Only when I visit musems ^^;

    Since what I wrote/am writing is medieval fantasy, my biggest help to overcome writer’s block is:
    a) To read history
    b) “Magic” self-help books.

    I’m a history afficionado, and while I probably can’t remember any dates, I could explain to you most of Europe’s conflicts, wars and traditions. I enjoy reading all about the past – hell, I even enjoy reading economic treaties from the middle ages.
    And every time I read a history book I find something that either helps my writing or spurs new ideas.

    As for the self-help books… I’m sure you’ve seen some of them. “White Magic for Everyday Life”, “Ten Charms for Love” and so on.
    Normally, it’s difficult to take these seriously, and even if you believe in magic (or are a Wicca), these books seem to simplify things too much.
    BUT they can give you great ideas for your fantasy setting. If you ever doubt about how to write a spell, potion-mixing, ritual dancing or stuff like that… believe me, self-help books are incredible helpful!

    • Vanessa March 8, 2010 at 12:23 PM #

      The Alice image stood out as a complete retelling of the story in a visual form (which is why I love it so much!). I’m glad you liked that one!

      And I LOVE history books! The more ancient the history (and the more myths entwined with the history), the more I love it, haha!

      I actually took a history of Mexico course (from the ancient pre-Aztec times to modern day), and it was incredibly fascinating! Seeing how a culture is built, and the different aspects that make up the collective whole that is now Mexico was amazing! I’m terrible with dates and whatnot, but I love knowing the background. For me, different cultures and their histories are huge inspirations!

      I never would have thought of those self-help books! That is such a great idea!

  3. Biljana March 8, 2010 at 1:23 PM #

    That Alice is gorgeous.

    I can’t say a lot of these pictures would help me because they’re very fantasy/magic realism. But I do believe strongly in pictures as inspiration. I never look for them actively, but there have been times when I saw stuff, especially pictures and portraits of people, where you can see the life in their eyes.

    Like this one. Love this. “The Lady with the Veil” by Roslin.

    • Vanessa March 8, 2010 at 9:51 PM #

      She has a great expression! And for some reason, that glove on her hand is really drawing my eye!

  4. Sarah J. Maas March 8, 2010 at 2:34 PM #

    “Fables” “God of the Forest” and “Rider” all got my creative juices flowing when I looked at them!

    I seriously adore this post!

    I have folders for every novel/series I’ve written, and I always have a folder within that contains pictures of characters, scenes, places, etc.. They’re great for an instant shot of inspiration!!!

    Fantastic job!! 🙂

    • Vanessa March 8, 2010 at 10:02 PM #

      Yay! I’m glad you liked it! I actually wrote this the other day, and was pretty excited about posting it!

      I have so many images saved on my laptop… it’s absolutely insane. I think some of my best ideas come after I’ve looked at some art!

  5. Marina March 8, 2010 at 4:21 PM #

    Oh, I love DA, especially for inspiration. Out of the pictures that you’ve posted here, I like Fables… something about the way that clothes/ dress is drawn around her appeals to me, as well as her expression. That Alice picture in an imagination fix, my eyes can’t focus, that detail and color are amazing. Rider is pretty awesome too, but I think I like his horse better :p. All of these pictures are amazing, and I have probably hundreds of saved as my favorites on DA that inspire me sometimes. Really great post! I could see how these could make your fingers itch to start drumming away at the keyboard. *goes*
    Gah, I could literally provide dozens of links. But here are couple of my favs:
    A beautiful decor of a house:
    A cute fairy-tale type of setting:
    Bad-ass heroine:

    • Sarah J. Maas March 8, 2010 at 8:05 PM #

      Holy shit–that one of the girl with the wings is AMAAAAAZING!!!!

    • Vanessa March 8, 2010 at 9:58 PM #

      The watercolour one by micorl is absolutely STUNNING! I love the feel that watercolour gives; it gives off the most surreal atmosphere! Everything is so grand… I love it!

      And I agree with Sarah… that girl with the wings is just insane! I am adding those to my favorites on dA! That image really makes me want to write!

  6. Savannah J. Foley March 8, 2010 at 6:18 PM #

    God of the Forest makes me want to write!

    • Vanessa March 8, 2010 at 10:00 PM #

      I love that image. There is just so much depth and story to that image (which is why I am so attached to it!). But he’s such a brilliant artist; he can covey so much in one scene. It’s brilliant.

  7. Susan April 14, 2010 at 3:59 PM #

    Beautiful pieces of art! I also like going to deviantart to find pieces of artwork. For some reason, filtering through the bad, the mediocre, and the good makes the good seem so much better to me. They also tend to jump out at me more than just looking at pages upon pages of classic art. “Umbrella Sky” is one I’d looked at before – that artist’s page is one I’ve frequented in looking for good pieces of artwork. Oftentimes, when I’m on deviantart, I’m actually looking for pieces of art to combine with a quote or a poem that I’ve come across and decided to make into a background for my computer. This is actually something that I’ve found can help me work through writers block. It’s a creative outlet, but it’s me taking other artists’ works and combing them into something personal, that means something to me. I’ve found on quite a few occasions that after creating one of these backgrounds, the block I had on my writing has minimized, and I have a better feel for what I want next, or what I’d been stuck on and not really needed to worry about.

    Great article!

    • Vanessa April 15, 2010 at 10:29 PM #

      Deviantart is great, isn’t it?

      And that is so interesting! I used to paired my own artwork with poetry I that I used to write, but I’ve never thought of pairing poetry/quotes with other people’s artwork! Such a great idea!!

      I’m glad you liked the article as well! 😀

  8. Keith Casey July 18, 2011 at 12:03 PM #

    I’m to give a presentation to my Writers Group, and the public at large, on “Art as Inspiration”. Our group holds an anual Artists Stroll every year where we view works and come up with stories or poetry. And, since I’ve been there from the first one, and the most prolific, the powers-that-be decided that I would fill an open date quite nicely! Your site/sight has inspired some much needed confidence and helped to flesh-out what I already have. Thank you, and great site!

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