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The Art That Made Us

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, May 7, 2022
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A million things have already been said and talked about regarding an artist's inspiration. A million more will be. From debates on what constitutes inspiration vs. poaching or plagiarism to what makes an artist inspired by other artists' work.

But what I want to talk about is not exactly that. It's still about inspiration, in a way, but rather in its subtler, cumulative effect of us being exposed to various pieces of art as we grow up. Perhaps way before we ever thought to create something of our own. And even afterwards, when we were amazed and absorbed by some piece of art (visual, narrative, sequential, etc) that affected us deeply.

All of these stimuli, even if they never cross our mind when we are in the process of creating our own work, affect the way we write, what we seek to explore, and how we approach said exploration. I find it fascinating! For example, recently in a chat with another awesome artist, I talked about how when I was around 12-14 a short story haunted me, though it doesn't anymore. It was The Story of the Widow's Son, which is a ‘Sliding Doors’ type story of a widow who loses (or doesn't lose) her son in a freak accident with a bicycle.

Now, I've never written a double-ended story nor have I ever wanted to; and yet, the artist I was chatting with told me that she could see some of that story's style in the way I write my books. It surprised me enough to write this article, but I also felt happy about it. It was an attestation that all the stuff I ever read (and saw, and experienced in the theater or the cinema) has contributed to how I write and how I tell my own stories.

And though the particular short story was never a favorite (it still ate my brain for a season), it played a role in shaping me as an author and a story teller. There are a lot more where that came from of course! For example, the heavy political hue that exists in nearly all my writings comes from my own political views and sensitivity to political discourse BUT- it also comes from stories and artwork that captured me whether I liked it or not. Some of those (from international lit and art) are:

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman
My Grandmother Smoked Cigars by Sabine Ulibarri
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
The Gods of Foxcroft by David Levy
Germinal by Emil Zola
Guernica by Picasso
Cronus Eating His Son by Fransisco Goya
Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen
12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose (this dissuaded me from becoming a judge as a career)
The Parallax View (the movie)
Grave of the Fireflies by Studio Ghibli

and many, many more…

Of the works I listed there isn't a single one I don't deeply respect. There are a couple I still love. Some I can't revisit or simply don't like. But ALL of them have etched themselves in my memory, as a person and as an artist. They are part of the art that made me.

What are yours?

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comment

anonymous?

PaulEberhardt at 5:37AM, May 9, 2022

Oh dear,... I'm a voracious reader and consequently a walking, talking library. I took my minor in English literature mainly because it was a great for me to get brilliant marks with relatively little effort. There has been a certain tendency to old Golden Age and New Age SF lately, but there are few genres I won't touch. If I were to list them - and I probably could, because I'm one of the nutjobs who also never ever dispose of a book after reading - I'd fill the comment section even more than usual. Let's just stick to the first I ever read. I don't remember the title, but I know it was something about volcanoes. That I teach geography today is pure coincidence, though. My first comics were (I think) Donald Duck, everything and its grandmas from Belgium and France, and old Mad Magazines - which means slapstick-heavy stuff, altering between wildly cartoonish and semi-realist, in slightly old-fashioned settings. You'll have to be my judge, but I think it kind of shows in what I draw.

skyangel at 9:46AM, May 7, 2022

During my childhood I enjoyed many of the stories that ran in the British Girls comics but even as a child I was all to aware that they were tamed down for child reading no matter how adventurous the story, so it was a slowly developed sense of frustration that made me want to write the sort of stories I really wanted to read. Artwise though I was given a second hand comic book around the age of 10-12 which had a short 6 page strip in done by an artist called Leslie Otway. I was so taken by his art style that even to this day he is still my biggest influence when it comes to doing comic art.

bravo1102 at 7:55AM, May 7, 2022

Lloyd Alexander's series, E.B. White. I was reading myself very early and with my mother working flex retail hours I really don't remember being read much except Bible Stories for Children and a wonderfully illustrated book about Pocahontas. There were tons of others but I read so voraciously that much is a blur. Consumed and put into the stew that is my imagination. Everything cooks and bubbles and mixes together.

bravo1102 at 7:48AM, May 7, 2022

Monty Python, the Marx Brothers and Abbot and Costello. Then you had the 4:30 movie weekdays, 4:00 movie which had older films, stuff of all genres. Then there was Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, Boris Karloff Thriller theater and reading about movies. The In Search of Series (I still have all the original paperbacks) One that really influenced me was Chariots of the Gods. Got super interested in history and occult. Read Edgar Rice Burroughs except Tarzan. I preferred other worlds to other continents. Wells, Verne, Poe. Lots of Poe and A. Conan Doyle ( more than just Sherlock Holmes. Also read Professor Challenger. And that was all before 7th grade when I was introduced to J.R.R. Tolkien. To go back to roots in satire I read the Harvard Lampoon parody Bored of the Rings before I read Lord of the Rings. ;D

Andreas_Helixfinger at 5:07AM, May 7, 2022

I think the earliest inspiration to all of my creative works that I can trace back to would be children stories such as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. Peter Pan definitely spawned my love of island locations, pirates, natives and water based creatures and locations. And Alice in Wonderland would have been what first kindled my fascination with surrealism, dream logic, anthropmorphic characters and human characters sharing a common reality and absurdism.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 4:05AM, May 7, 2022

I've always traced back to every inspirational source that I identify in my worldbuilding and my storywriting. Connecting back to what I wrote in my previous article about plagiarism I've kept writing on what first looked to be a plagiarist for my-eyes-only side project, and as I did I started to locate other inspirational sources tracing back to these earlier story ideas that I had that got abandoned with time. And this process ironically enough ended up transforming a piece of plagiarism into something quite original. Now I'm actually thinking about making it into a self-published novel or something, if I ever finnish writing it.

usedbooks at 3:41AM, May 7, 2022

Oh, and the books Mom read to me as I child. I forget them all. It was only her voice that mattered, tbh. I know she read us A Wrinkle in Time, Little House on the Prairie, and a series called Camp Sunnyside. Also, I just randomly recalled a book I bought in a book fair as a kid. It was called Dissidents. It was about two kids escaping Russia. I remember enjoying that book but nothing about it.

usedbooks at 3:36AM, May 7, 2022

(Apologies for my autocorrect's nonsense this morning.)

usedbooks at 3:34AM, May 7, 2022

Hmm. That was an interesting reflection. But seeing it all laid out, I have to wonder why so much of my school required literature involved torturing children. -_-

usedbooks at 3:32AM, May 7, 2022

I also read Gulliver's Travels (although my teacher tried to dissuade me) and loved it, especially the footnotes explaining the satire. In college, I took two literature classes (required but I got to choose which). One was Appalachian Fiction and Poetry, which was immensely depressing. We read a lot of poems about death and Night of the Hunter, which is another story of a villain trying to murder young children (like the novels that haunted my youth :P). The other course I took was Fantasy and Fairy Tales. I enjoyed that. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were part of it. We also read the old classics and I learned to loathe Hand Christian Andersen. Oh, and I survived my first awful job out of college by reading Sherlock Holmes on my lunch break. I gated the writing style, but it did require a lot of concentration and made me use my brain (which otherwise would have atrophied at that awful job).

usedbooks at 3:23AM, May 7, 2022

I go through phases in my reading. In middle school, I read exclusively Quantum Leap novels. In high school, it was all Agatha Christie. In college, I read nothing but assignments but lost myself in anime (Lupin III and Detective Conan), and as an adult, it's mostly Terry Pratchett. I do recall being somewhat traumatized by certain books in school, though. I remember my fifth grade teacher read us some awful ones. One was about a boy trapped in an avalanche. The whole book was his survival under the snow. Another had the protagonist (also a child) disemboweled at the end -- which it described. When I was nine, our class read a book about a boy who ran away to live in the woods. I told my parents I wanted to live in the woods. (They bought me a tent.) I recall a story called Hatchet in middle school. I also remember being forced to read Grapes of Wrath' and the Black Pearl -- awful. I chose to do a project on Mark Twain and was fascinated by The Tragedy of Puddinghead Wilson.


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