The last time I visited the museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, I was seized with a longing to write stories sparked by a few of the artworks I'd seen that day. I wanted to bring a notebook and sit in front of a few pieces and write whatever came to mind.
It's taken me years, but today I finally did it. I invited intrepid writers Kelly Fineman and Angela De Groot to join me for this session of ekphrastic writing. It was a great way to spend a drizzly Saturday morning, especially as a break between copy edits on one novel (just finished) and resuming work on another novel (which I'd temporarily laid aside for the copy edits on the other).
I decided to work with flash fiction today, and the four pieces I chose as inspiration were "The Wave," by Alexander Harrison, "Apple Blossom Time" by George Inness, "Gladiolus" by Charles Demuth, and "Pandora" by Aaron Bohrod (which doesn't seem to be included in the online images from the museum's collection). For the first, "Pandora," I set a ten-minute time limit and used it all. It took me a while to get started, and that piece rambled all over the place. For the other pieces, I didn't need to set a time; they were much shorter, and came to a natural conclusion more easily. (I think I was warmed up by that time!) I didn't come home with finished stories, of course. I have first drafts that may or may not turn into anything else.
Although you can view the museum's collection online through the above link, I can see that the online images don't do many of the paintings justice. There is nothing like viewing the works in person, being able to see the brush strokes, the texture of the marble, the true colors. The museum's atmosphere is also wonderful: amazingly high ceilings for a feeling of spaciousness, thick stone walls that give a peaceful atmosphere. Kelly, Angela and I compared notes on our experience before heading out to lunch--we had all written something new. It's nice to have local writer friends who are willing to try these projects!