By Norma Atwood-
I am an artist. My father was an artist. He worked in pen and ink, pastels, watercolors, and oils. He taught me how to draw when I was very little. After showing me the basics, every piece of paper in our house belonged to me. I’d even draw on grocery bags, anything that was blank. To me, every piece of blank paper has a picture just waiting to be drawn.
Dad had an ‘artist gallery’ box of newspaper pictures, magazine pictures, photos, and examples of just about everything. Thrown into that box were sketches he had done years ago, and ideas of all sorts. Whenever he was painting, he’d pull out some of the examples relating to the picture to help him visualize. He clipped the picture to his easel, and he’d use it for reference. He taught me to keep all of my successes and failures, ideas, and other pictures that inspired me, in my artist gallery box.
Today, I’m not only an artist, I’m also a writer. So, I now have a second gallery box. This one is full of writing ideas, poetry attempts, pictures of all sorts, and short stories partially written. They are all thrown into the box for reference and inspiration.
After many years, I’ve perfected my style of art and writing. But my style didn’t develop when I was 10 years old. It took years of practice, and tons of paper. Often children will ask how long I’ve been drawing and I tell them, “all my life.”
If you’re an artist, then draw. If you’re a writer, then write. Do something every day. See the blank, white piece of paper and make it come to life.
BUILDING AND USING A WRITER’S GALLERY BOX
So, what should you keep in a ‘writer’s gallery box’? I recommend pictures from magazines, all of your earlier writing attempts, and poetry. If you see something in a magazine that holds your attention, rip it out. Put it into your gallery box for later. Then, when all is quiet and you want to write, but you can’t seem to come up with an idea, just open your gallery box.
I wrote this when I was 16 years old:
The moon is but a glimmering star,
Awakening the night.
Which fills my heart with sorrow,
As I think of darkness.
Man walks alone through this blanket of black,
Thinking only of his tomorrows.
And the moon watches over him,
With forgiving eyes.
More than forty years have passed since I wrote that poem. But reading it now gives me an idea for a short story. It might begin like this:
The young boy was all alone in the city. As the skies turned dark, he strolled with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his old blue jeans. Loneliness engulfed him as he walked with his head down. He thought about tomorrow and hoped it would be better than today. Secretly he was glad today was over. The full moon cast a dull light on the street as he walked sadly to the abandoned building he called home. Somehow tomorrow had to be better he thought because winter was coming.
As you can see, I’ve been able to use my writer’s gallery box to begin a new story. I see my gallery box to be like a museum. It holds hundreds of things that inspire me to write, just as a museum holds hundreds of pictures that inspire.
Activity: Begin collecting pictures, objects, anything that inspires you and put it in a box. Then, when the piece of paper before you seems to be blank, take something out of your gallery box, and let it speak to you.