for writers and readers….

Get lost in a watercolour and emerge with your own work of art ART FOR WRITERS

crows sarah yeoman

I was struck by this watercolour by the American artist Sarah Yeoman and her imagination-stiring title I Once Was Lost.

The literary term for writing that reflects on a work of art is ekphrastic (actually, I think it can be applied to any vivid description, but I’ve only seen it used when a piece of art has been the inspiration). You might like to drop that into a casual conversation when it’s appropriate:
‘What did you do today?
‘Nothing much, wrote an ekphrastic poem before going to the car wash.’

The most famous ekphrastic poem must be Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn where he reflects on the lovers who dance for eternity to music we can’t hear.

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Ok, so let Sarah Yeoman’s painting be your Grecian urn: here’s the exercise.

Write for five minutes. Write what you see. Write about the sounds you can’t hear. Write about what it reminds you of. Write about the title. It’s hard, but try to keep your pen moving.

When five minutes is up read out aloud what you’ve written. (To yourself. You don’t need an audience at this stage.)

Cut anything you don’t like. Cut any word you’ve repeated and replace it with a better word, unless the repetition adds something – in which case maybe you should repeat the word again. And maybe again.  Cut anything you stumble over when you say it aloud. Or rephrase it so it sits better in your mouth.

Find a pattern in what you’ve written, a rhythm, and rearrange the lines to make it stronger. Use line breaks as punctuation. Put it away (with a link to the picture so the two are always united). Go to the car wash.

A week later (or a year) later find the poem. Edit it as if someone else had written it.

Sarah Yeoman is not only an award-winning watercolour artist; she has also been a singer/songwriter which probably accounts for the wonderful movement and rhythm in her paintings. She has a whole collection of crows and ravens on her website, and a lot more besides. Go and have a look.

Sarah describes her artistic process as “sculpting and pulling the form out of the paper,” which is a pretty good description of writing as well, don’t you think?


If you enjoyed this, there’s a pretty good chance you’d also like my writing guide Back to Creative Writing School. 100+ reviews on Amazon…just saying.
Amazon UK    Amazon US



4 comments on “Get lost in a watercolour and emerge with your own work of art ART FOR WRITERS

  1. ann perrin
    January 26, 2018

    Brilliant… thank you x

    • bridget whelan
      January 26, 2018

      It’s a great image – I’m in awe of artists able to create using such an uncontrollable medium as coloured water

  2. Jennie
    January 27, 2018

    This is as interesting as it is beautiful. Thank you, Bridget!

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