Thursday, 12 January 2017

Visual Inspiration and the Heart Within

by Josephine-Anne Griffiths

I never wondered where the writer’s inspiration came from. I suppose since I’ve been good at telling a tall tale since childhood, it didn’t occur to me to ponder. Over the years, I’ve developed my own style for drawing upon my imagination, combined with other techniques to achieve that inspiration, that powerful idea that would become a story, article, or perhaps a book one day … the arrival of the muse.

As a younger person, I was always the shy, quiet one in the group. This isn’t so much the case these days, if I feel safe within a group, I’ll usually find something to talk about. Until that comfort comes however, I am quiet and reserved … but I believe that’s okay. As a child, my quiet nature seemed to be a problem for others more than for me. I did become the victim of cruel bullying in and out of school, and as such began to feel that there was something wrong with me, something lacking in my personality.

One day towards the end of fourth form (called year ten these days), a sweet and caring Nun at the school I was attending, wrote in my treasured autograph book.

‘If silence be golden, then I think your thoughts must be of that variety.’

From that very moment, I felt a warm glow inside and thought how lovely it was that someone would see my quietness as an asset. I would often just sit and quietly listen and observe people. I had no idea that what I was doing had a name … ‘people watching’.

Writers over the decades and longer have used this as a technique, to draw stories out of what and who they see and hear. You’d be amazed at some of the scandalous but interesting conversations one can overhear in a café (one of my favourite places to write).

When the day came that I had no choice but to retire from full-time work, I began to take some courses in Creative Writing techniques and read a lot on the craft of writing. I continue to read as there is so much to learn. I’m certain that I’ll be learning the whole of my life. When I combined what, I was learning with my love of the written word, and entwined it with the blessed talents I had so graciously been gifted with, I found that I had a lot to say, and write about.

Many writers have applied the art of seeing a possible scenario or story within a picture or photograph. I did toy with this technique while I was an active member of the Australian Writers’ Centre Graduates Writing Group. Although my activity was short-lived due to ill health, I got the idea. They are such a lovely bunch of people, it’s a pity I couldn’t have continued … who knows, maybe one day.

It is amazing how many different stories and points of view, can emerge from one picture. Just prior to Christmas, while on a cruise to Tasmania with some members of my family, my husband and I attended an onboard art auction. We did win a couple of bids and are now impatiently awaiting their arrival. With one of those artworks, in particular, I've fallen completely in love.

'La Liciana'
~ Csaba Markus
It is a beautiful painting by Csaba Markus, called ‘La Liciana’. One of the most significant moments for me at that art auction was the previewing period. It was as though I was walking through a gorgeous garden of imagery and light, with so many delights to feast my eyes on. Of course, there were some paintings I really did not like, taste in art is an individual thing. The same thing applies to writers, we are all very different in what we like to both read and write. There were quite a few paintings that sang to me, but this one by Markus captured my imagination. I had to get to know this young woman. She is so beautiful, innocent and regal.

~ Csaba Markus

I placed my preference stickers on her frame as well as another of his artworks,  ‘Aurora’.

They were both so beautiful, and I knew that Leon had always wanted a tasteful semi-nude, but it was Liciana who was singing to me. She wants me to write her story.

One of the most famous paintings, let alone a portrait of a woman, is da Vinci’s 'Mona Lisa.' Markus poses the question: What is the secret to Mona Lisa being so famous?

'It is not because she is beautiful, because she is not that beautiful, and it wasn’t a big picture.' ~ Csaba Markus.

Markus took it upon himself to study the 'Mona Lisa,' as well as da Vinci’s notes to unlock the secret, and what he learned was that there was more to Mona Lisa than her smile.

'There is balance, there is grace, there is femininity,” ~ Csaba Markus

During and after the Second World War, women began to take on more and different roles, whether it was in the workforce or politics. This redefined women, and Markus wanted to capture that spirit in his art. His artwork certainly captured my imagination, so much so that a story was already forming in my mind. I shall bring my Liciana to life within a story one day soon.

Another painting we acquired while on holiday was a gorgeous Thomas Kinkade called 'Cobblestone Bridge'. Always known as 'the Painter of Light', Kinkade has been a firm favourite of mine. I remember one day, completing a jig-saw puzzle based on a painting of his. There was a lighthouse near the cliff's edge, the waves of the ocean below were crashing and bubbling way up high upon the rocks. It appeared to be a lonely place except for the winding stone path which led up to a cute, well-lit cottage with a pretty red roof. I remember seeing a story within that picture and wondering who might be living there.

Well, now I have my story nutted out in my mind, still needing to put the words on paper. Liciana is indeed very beautiful, and yes she has something to do with that cobblestone bridge and the illuminated buildings behind it. So who is she? What happens? You'll have to read my story once it's written.

All artists, whether they be musicians, painters, photographers, or indeed writers have been given this wonderful privilege to be able to create from their own inspired imagination. Ah, but where does all this inspiration come from, you ask? It had to start somewhere.

Yes, it did! Our Masterful Creator is responsible for the creation of all things beautiful, and it is up to us to use those incredible talents that He has gifted us with to create our own beauty for others to enjoy.

La Liciana, like the Mona Lisa, follows you around the room with her eyes. She doesn’t let you escape. She captivates your imagination to the extent that you must do something about it. In fact, ‘La Liciana’ is often called the modern day ‘Mona Lisa’.

Markus says that there is so much bad news in the world, and he didn’t want his art to be one of the ‘bad channels’ broadcasting negativity. Instead, he always strives to give people hope and beauty. By painting his 21st century Mona Lisa’s, Markus hopes to honour his muse and put smiles on his audience’s faces.

In the same way, we writers should want to please our audience, and what better way than to be doing what we love. What do you think? Where does your inspiration come from? I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment below.


  1. Beautiful post Jo'Anne. The pictures you bought are so special - I particularly like the Thomas Kinkade picture - I'd love to explore that neighbourhood and walk into that house! :) Loved the words of that Nun who knew that your thoughts were golden. I would agree with her. Being rich in thought life is a must for a writer I'd guess. My inspiration comes from the world around me - there is so much beauty in God's world that I never cease to be inspired. Thanks dear Jo'Anne for a lovely reminder of our calling as we seek to bless our world through our thoughts, our words and our stories.

    1. Thanks Anusha :-)
      I really don't think we would be able to be creative without all of the beautiful things that God has gifted us with. There is so much in this world to be inspired by ... even as I look out of my window at my rose garden, words start coming to me. God bless.

  2. Enjoyed your post, Jo'Anne - love how your imagination works and the inspiration from art, images, thoughts.

    1. Thank you Jenny :-)
      I think all of our imaginations work differently, we are all unique, and that's what makes us all so special.

  3. Hi Jo'Anne, she's beautiful, and I wish you all the best coming up with her story. I also love what your Nun said, and that her words have stayed with you all these years. That's just another proof that our words can be golden. As you say, when quiet kids are bullied, we get a perception that something must be wrong with us. I can relate to you there! Some years ago, I bought of book of Thomas Kinkade paintings, which I find very soothing, although everyone always seems to have all their lights on in every room of their house. I can just hear my parents say, 'You're wasting power,' when I look at his work :) Finally, I love how your post shows that creativity is not something we have to strain at, but something that bubbles up spontaneously. Thanks for these thoughts.

    1. Thanks Paula, yes she is lovely :-)
      I am looking forward to writing about her. It's amazing how a lot of us who were quiet at school and beyond, end up being writers. I won't say becoming, because we were always meant to be writers ... I think ;-) Oh yes, Thomas does love his light, as do I, but even my husband would be saying 'turn off those lights'! I agree with you too Paula, that creativity should just 'bubble up' in an enormous fountain of thoughts. Of course, we know who makes those fountains.

  4. I love art, Jo'Anne and relate to your post. Especially the bit about how we write about the same thing from different angles. I went to painting classes a few years ago, and three of us 'copied' the same painting. But everything was different: our colour mix, our style of brushwork, the way we painted trees. It was revealing just how differently we interpret a similar thing. I think writing is so like that too - and it is so helpful to read another person's reflection on something. I've learnt much about life, God, myself, through the words of another. Some writing stays with us for years - very precious!

    1. Wow! Thank you Pam :-)
      Your words are very kind and thoughtful. I wish I could say that I can paint ... or draw, but sadly I cannot do either to save myself. My husband however, is very artistic and cannot fathom why I am unable to draw something that even resembles a cat or a dog :-D Yes we are all different in so many ways, and isn't that just wonderful?