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how art inspires art inspires art
Now, I’ve been aware of Hokusai’s most famous wood block print, The Great Wave at Kanagawa, (above) since high school, maybe college. I’d seen it on posters and T-shirts and tattooed on friend’s bodies. But I never realized, since the print looms so large in popular culture, how small the original work is. The exhibit was crowded and I almost missed it, there on the wall, the size of something you might hang in your half bathroom at home:
And here are some examples from the exhibit of how contemporary artists have reinterpreted Hokusai’s print (I wish I could credit each artist, but I wasn’t thinking of a newsletter post when I snapped these):
And then we happened to go to “The Art of the Brick” LEGO exhibit, where we saw yet another variation on the theme:
What got me thinking about this exhibit again, a whole five months later, was reading Gabrielle Zevin’s novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.
In the book, young video game designers Sam and Sadie use Hokusai’s print to inform their choices about the aesthetics of Ichigo, a game they’re creating. The design of Ichigo becomes a character in and of itself. But, as they’re building the game, Sadie becomes frustrated with the progress she’s making and asks Sam a question that really resonated with me: “‘How can anything feel real when our landscape looks like woodblock prints?’” She bursts into tears, and reflects on why she’s so frustrated: “It was that she had barely slept or showered for three months, and they still weren’t going to finish the game! They had done so much work—- they had mapped out all the levels and they had written the entire story and they had designed the background and the characters, and yet . . . there was still SO MUCH WORK to do. She began to feel herself panic.”
And that, friends, is what trying to draft a novel has felt like.
The morning after reading this scene, I went to my day job as a school librarian like I always do. I have a student who likes to come in early to sit and write before the day starts. They’re writing a novel—- not their first!—- and I am a little bit in awe and a little bit envious of their ability to dive into the drafting process without giving up. They can see the shortcomings in their work, and they can acknowledge when it’s hard, yet they’re happy just to play. I was telling them this when the bell rang, and they closed their laptop to pack up.
And that’s when I saw the sticker on their laptop case:
Now, I’m not a particularly superstitious person. I don’t believe in coincidences, but I have started paying attention to them, if that makes sense. I’m starting to notice where ideas and images keep appearing, again and again—- especially if they’re happening in real time, in real life, and not just because of some algorithm on social media. Are these appearances and patterns reawakening anything in my own creativity? (I can’t help but tie this back, too, to my earlier post on stuckness, where I mention David Hockney’s choice to repeatedly paint tulips and swimming pools).
There are several images I keep encoutering, again and again, for a few secret projects I’ve been working on (or not working on, due to that tricky stuckness). I have no idea what they mean, or if my brain is just trying to make meaning from them. But for now, it’s enough just to notice, until the next wave comes.
Other Random Fun Things
This unexpectedly beautiful, picture book-related exchange betweenand a surprise guest (revealed halfway through the post) on Story Club.
The Part Two to that exchange, here.
This lovely article on the Robert McCloskey: The Art of Wonder exhibit - “One morning in Maine, 225 people went to the library” If you can’t make the exhibit in Brunswick before it closes in October, there’s now a virtual tour as well. (And here’s my earlier post about the exhibit, in case you missed it.)
I wore this Pink Moon perfume (obligatory Nick Drake link!)by Long Winter Farm all spring and summer, and loved it. Now that the weather it’s turning, I’m back to an old favorite, and/or maybe road testing this more autumnal scent (if I can pull off patchouli).
Sadly, I had to cancel my appearance at the Bath Book Bash at the very last minute because I came down with COVID. It looks like a wonderful event, and I hope I’ll be able to attend next year!
On Saturday, October 21st you can catch me at the South Burlington Public Library for a free storytime and book signing starting at 10am. There’ll be a fun craft activity, too!
And, in event-related news, I’m now represented by Rebecca Miller of Authors Out Loud! If you’d like to schedule a school visit, event, or speaking engagement, please contact Rebecca, or check out my speaking profile.
Picture Books I Read and Loved Recently
I Want 100 Dogs, by Stacy McAnulty and Claire Keane
Indigo Dreaming, by Dinah Johnson and Anna Cunha
Summer is for Cousins, by Rajani LaRocca and Abhi Alwar
*Please note that all books mentioned above contain affiliate links to Bookshop.org, a site that helps support local independent bookstores.