Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What are your triggers?

What is the trigger? Last night at our Hopper meeting, I mentioned how looking at the studies of some of Hopper's paintings inspired me to re-examine the paintings themselves, that by seeing an image slightly different and then getting to compare the levels of progression or even just the media and color or lack of color used, how these differences helped me to shake loose what was denotative in my interpretation of the final work (I of course didn't phrase my thought half as eloquent last night).

After attempting to state this idea, in the hopes that it might possibly get others to talk about "surprises" that might have occurred to them over the course of writing these Hopper pieces, I immediately felt...apprehension.

I thought I might have discovered a potential engine(s) for ideas. I wanted to discover if there were other ways to observe the paintings aside from the methods I felt we had as a commonality approached.

Jen's initial response was to clarify that she didn't want us to deviate from the paintings that were presented to us as potential subject matter, that using the study or a sketch was acceptable so long as we could reference back to an actual painting among those chosen. She mentioned how if you want to write a play about Hopper's boat paintings, that is not the project we have undertaken. Granted, I agree...but even if the narrative objects we populate our short plays with might not be the subject of those pieces...I wonder still how those objects we are not using yet perhaps still aware of...work on us and possibly trigger out subconscious and then signify the paintings and objects we are literally embracing..i.e. is that sad looking girl barely hitting the piano keys dreaming about a sail boat.

Anyway, I had a very hard time I think articulating my idea which led to hemming and hawing on my part because every one's body language...It seemed that no one was picking up what I was dropping. I was trying to elucidate what I thought might be a interest way to experiment with "ways of seeing" a painting, but when I scanned the faces of the other writers I saw a lot of lost looks and furrowed brows. Suddenly, it was as if I were at a therapy session. And, the only reason I tried to push forward was not to "feel" better about myself, it was that I really think that there is something to be gained by sharing ideas about the nuts and bolts of making art or triggers or engines of creation...and that I was hit with a bit of personal profundity in my discovery. To the credit of my fellow cohorts who are extremely supportive, the awkward wrestling with this notion went on a little longer than it should have probably.

The general consensus I felt last night that the engine for creation for others was to look at the painting, observe its objects and inhabitants and from there derive a narrative. Simplicity. A sound approach to be sure. But are there other possible approaches that could enrich the possibilities of what we can accomplish using the materials available to us?

For example, the nudity (we sure talked up the nudity last night). There are figures of nude women looking out windows in many of the paintings. Now perhaps I can ask myself questions about the images that pertain to what I am immediately seeing...

For instance...Why this women, this room, what lies outside the frame, why those objects (that book, that cloth, etc.), why the light, why the tree or the tenement building in the background, why this angle?, what is in the liminal space of the work that perhaps I am not seeing?

Are there other ways to trigger creativity related to this, that we aren't utilizing? For instance how this nude relates to other nudes in the history of art, if I compare Hopper's women to Ruben's women, or Venus De Milo, or Pin Ups from that time period, etc. how each of them makes me feel, and then use that to imbue, to signify, etc what I'm seeing in the Hopper piece, and make a narrative that utilizes that in conjunction with objects in the Hopper painting...

Or how fragmenting Hopper's imagery might inspire something. For instance, if one blacks out the facial expressions of his characters, does that change your way of seeing that might be useful when writing. By removing color, rotating the image, removing an object, etc. etc. Or focusing on the facial expressions...how does this woman's expression in "Western Motel" compare to the expression of Mona Lisa?

So why all this pondering, second guessing, finger tapping? Well, I confessed to the group last night that I thought that the very best I had in me in regards to Hopper Project had already been written. I doubted whether or not I'd be able to write anything else. And, when you feel like "well regardless of what others think, I feel that piece nails everything I have to say about what these paintings mean to me.", it can be a discouraging feeling especially when the writing portion of the project is still in full swing and with be for another 2 months. So, I wondered out loud about some of my triggers hoping that others might have similar thoughts to share.

Do you dear reader have certain sorts of tricks, triggers, etc that kindle creative that turn the engine that generate words on a page?


GreyZelda Land said...

This is a very interesting post ...

I was going to say that visiting an art museum can always trigger my imagination, but the beautiful thing about an art museum, is that my tastes change each time I visit. A painting that inspired me two years ago might get a quick glance and no feeling, but another painting that I wasn't really feeling before, might pop out to me and that's the painting that sticks with me until the next time I go.

It sounds like the Hopper paintings aren't tripping your trigger anymore and that's why you're looking at different aspects and different angles ... which seems like a natural step to try to maintain your interest for the next couple of months ... your lack of trigger could be something to write about in itself even ... write about the lack of interest and where that takes you.

I'm not a writer, but I'm always looking for that creative spark ... nature does it for me too.

Anyway ... good luck with the writing project!


Devilvet said...


It isnt that they arent tripping my triggers anymore.

I actually did start to write a new scene today.

But, how we approach the picture. I'm interested in finding new ways, just like I am interested in way to make and think about theatre in general.

Maybe though, I'm feeling too familiar with the Hopper world...I dont know. Writing even as the pen moves across the page or fingers across the keyboard seems to be an internal exercise. And, talking about methods of writing (not elements of storytelling) but methods of idea generation, might be as difficult as talking about different methods of thinking.

GreyZelda Land said...

OK, I see and just reread the post ...

I wasn't there, but I think it's good that you're raising those questions and trying to figure out a way to work with your ideas within the construct of the exercise. And it's good that you're writing now.

Could these thoughts be explored more in your writing meetings now that you've been able to write them more eloquently?


Devilvet said...

Maybe not the Hopper meetings. I dont know. Perhaps more so with individuals who express a similar interest

Paul said...

Deconstruction is certainly worthwhile in its generation techniques. I take it you've seen the Garfield cartoons where they eliminate Garfield's dialogue...

I don't think it's what this project wants, per se. This project from Day 1 has seemed to me, make this picture come to life. And that means that while some liberties can be had with the characters themselves, I would need to focus on what was actually represented.

I can't speak for your frustrations with the project, but for me, it's rough to write shitty first-draft after shitty first-draft about American isolation, a topic that I live every day and experience too closely at times. And there's no way to talk about either Hopper or the characters that embody his works without it. It just leaves me exhausted and wanting.

Devilvet said...

"Deconstruction is certainly worthwhile in its generation techniques...I don't think it's what this project wants, per se. This project from Day 1 has seemed to me, make this picture come to life."

see, I don't know if i would call what I was preposing deconstruction per se...and I think different non-narrative approaches to "ideas" can lead to narrative "text" sometimes...Even if the first draft remains a variant of American Isolation, perhaps we imagine a new unique element to a painting or a comparison and suddenly a new novel way (at least to the writer) suddenly appears in a flash.

I'm not talking about telling a story different that the one's we all set out together to tell. I'm talking about different ways to enable creative approaches to those same stories.

Paul said...

I was referring specifically to this paragraph, and with which I completely agree is a great way to jump-off creatively and get that spark/juice going:

For instance, if one blacks out the facial expressions of his characters, does that change your way of seeing that might be useful when writing. By removing color, rotating the image, removing an object, etc. etc.

If I eliminate this element, or rearrange that one, what else must follow? How is my reaction modified? What triggers? That's Magritte's hidden man in a nutshell.

Your other suggestion begs the Passover Question, but begs it in context to the material itself. Why this room, why this alcove, why this dress? Again, deconstruction.

I agree that what comes from this idea can be some beautiful narrative, linear or otherwise.

And I'll give some thought into whether I can deconstruct the stories I'm coming up with and turn them into something that won't continue to alienate me from them. I have a feeling it'll turn them into something that will be of no use whatsoever to the Hopper Project -- and at the same time, I wonder if they'll help me (God save me for saying this) rediscover my voice.