Tag Archives: Art

4 Reasons Why You Should Attend Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche is a free annual art festival that occurs overnight or at night. The first one happened in 1990 in Barcelona. As the tradition spread to other cities and countries, they used their own language’s words for White Night as the name for this event.

Here in Toronto, Nuit Blanche generally occurs in late September or early October. It begins at 7 pm and ends at 7 am the next morning, but not every city follows this same exact schedule.

I’ve been attending this event for years now, and I thought it was high time to discuss it in detail with my readers. The photo that accompanies this post wasn’t taken there, but it did remind me of a cool exhibit from it from 2015. While I didn’t add them into my post for copyright reasons, you can see actual pictures from this year’s festival here.

If you’re ever in Toronto, Barcelona, Montreal, St. Petersburg, Buenos Aires, Naples, Cairo, Havana, Paris, or any other city that hosts its own version of Nuit Blanche when this festival is taking place, here are four reasons why I think you should check it out.

Art is for Everyone

One of the things I love the most about Nuit Blanche is how accessible it makes art. While some of the attendees are obviously experts on the creation and interpretation of this sort of thing, many more are people who are casually interested in the topic but who have no specific training or background on it. Some of them are even small children! This isn’t something that is specifically geared towards this age group, but there are exhibits every year that are child-friendly.

I adore the mixture of people that show up for an event like this in general. You’ll see very young infants all the way up to senior citizens enjoying the exhibits, and I’m not even kidding about that first part. I’ve watch the expressions on babies’ faces at the most colourful ones, and they were definitely liking what they saw. Tourists who can’t speak any English at all will marvel at the same exhibit alongside people who have spent their entire lives in English-speaking countries. People from every race, nationality, sexual orientation, social class, and  every other possible demographic group you can imagine are there, too.

There’s something to be said for works that can appeal so many different groups simultaneously. It’s magical.

It’s Interactive

I’ve wandered into the middle of a zombie uprising, danced with spotlights, explored an abandoned subway tunnel while listening to music the creator thought would increase the chances of us spotting a ghost, and heard the stories of people who work or worked in the sex industry at this festival in past years.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the creative things artists have done for it. It’s incredible to see what the participants are able to come up with and how hard they work to make their ideas spring to life. As much as I enjoy wandering around art museums, too, this is nothing at all like that experience. It’s more like the energetic, joyful, and slightly rowdy environment you see on Church Street after the Pride Parade each summer.

No Two Years Are Ever the Same

Let me be really honest with you here. There have been a few years when I didn’t emotionally connect to any of the exhibits I saw for a wide variety of reasons. Not every Nuit Blanche has been spectacular for me as an attendee, but that’s actually a good thing.

I value risk-taking in the arts. Artists and other creative folks who are willing to stretch themselves and their creative works should be admired. It’s much easier to make something that could blandly appeal to most people than it is to drill down and come up with an idea that’s thought-provoking, shocking, humorous, or memorable.

This means that some years will be better for me than others, and vice versa. Not everything can or should appeal to everyone.

Your Definition of What Art Is Might Change

This year there was a dumpling exhibit that caught me a little off guard at first. You could go into it, buy real dumplings (all of which smelled amazing), and eat them while you walked around looking at other artistic displays.

I never would have thought something as ordinary as food preparation could be reimagined as art, but that exhibit was extremely popular. The lines for the dumplings were huge, and everyone who got one looked pretty happy.

As someone who is casually interested in this topic, I appreciate the fact that this event stretches my understanding of what art is or could be. It made me think of what I generally consider to be the fairly mundane practice of cooking and baking food in a new light.

The next time I make cookies, shepherd’s pie, or any number of other dishes, I’ll see it in a way I’ve never seen it before. (I still won’t look forward to washing the dishes, though!)

That’s the beauty of art. If nothing else, I hope that will be what you take from Nuit Blanche if or when you ever see it for yourself.

10 Pictures That Are Begging to Be Turned Into Stories, Part Five

It’s been a while since I wrote another instalment for this series. Either the world of stock photos is gradually growing less strange or I’m getting used to the wilder side of this world. Fewer things are surprising me these days, so it took longer than normal to compile this list.

If you’re looking for some inspiration today, keep reading.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I decided to start doing something constructive with all of the beautiful, haunting, bizarre, creative, and otherwise unique photos I kept finding on the various stock image sites I had on my RSS feed back in 2017. Every few months since then I’ve posted a list of the most unusual photos I’d found to see if any of my readers were interested in using them for any purpose.

Everything I share for this series is in the public domain. You don’t have to do anything special in order to use them.

In the past, I’ve written descriptions of how I’d use the pictures I share with my audience in this series. As much fun as it is to come up with theories about what could be happening in them, I think I’m going to leave it up to my readers to brainstorm everything this time around. My imagination is so strong that I don’t want to overwhelm your own theories about how these images can be used.

All I’m going to add to them is a brief description of what is happening in each photo for anyone who can’t see the photos I’m sharing for any reason. I look forward to seeing how you’d all react to this list and what you do with any of the images in it. Let me know if you use any of them!

A man wearing a wreath of flowers on his head and a pair of glasses that has a dandelion stuck to the middle of each frame.

A hand and forearm sticking straight up out the middle of a wheat field. It is still attached to the body of someone who is hopefully alive and well. 

 

A person wearing contact lenses that makes their eyes glow and makeup that gives their skin a blue, purple, and red hue. 

A person wearing a red hoodie, white gloves, and a mask that glows in the dark. 

A stylized and possibly long-exposure photograph of a city landscape and sky. Everything is arranged in a circle with the landscape being the centre of the shot and the sky being wrapped around it. 

A long, thin cactus poking out of a banana peel. 

A cattle skull sitting next to a decorated box filled with old-fashioned medicine. 

A long-exposure shot of a dancer. She has a pale, ghostly appearance due to how much she was moving during the shot. 

A bluejay sitting on a polished, wooden table and sticking its head into a metal saucer filled with milk.

 

A naughty grasshopper smoking a cigarette while sitting on a rock and staring out at a field of grass. 

Previous posts in this series:

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Two

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Three.

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Four.

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Four

If you’re looking for some inspiration today, keep reading.

A year ago, I decided to start doing something with all of the beautiful, haunting, bizarre, creative, and otherwise unique photos I kept finding on the various stock image sites I have on my RSS feed. That was how this series of posts originally came to be, and today I have another entry in it for you.

As usual, there is a brief description underneath every photo for all of my readers who can’t see the photos for any reason. I’ve also included my thoughts on how I’d use them in a story, poem, essay, or other creative work, but feel free to let your imaginations run wild.

I can’t wait to see how you all react to these images and what you do with them.

This is a picture of a tree stump that’s been carved into the shape of a person. The person’s head is tilted back, and he or she is gazing at the sky. There is a large crack in the tree that is splitting this carving’s neck down the middle.

Step one: carve the perfect sculpture into a tree.

Step two: magically convert all of the knowledge you’ve gained from this project into the energy to carve your greatest work into stone so that it will last for an eternity. When the carving is complete, bring the wooden sculpture back to your home and put it somewhere safe. As long as it is still standing, you will remain alive and well, too.

This is a picture of someone wearing a Guy Fawkes mask looking at a red flower that is sitting on the palm of their hand. 

All I can think about when I look at this photograph are the protests that used to happen in Toronto a few years ago. People wearing these masks often played a large part in those protests. It was fascinating to see how someone behaves (in a totally law-abiding way) when no one knows who they are. Their body language is more relaxed and their movements are freer than one generally sees in a stranger on the streets of this city.

Would you or I behave the same way in that situation? I’d like to think so. Maybe we’d even pause to admire a flower before jumping back into the protest.

 

This is a picture of a young woman whose body is covered in skimpy bandages and whose face is covered in indecipherable writing. She is staring directly at the person who took this picture. 

The first thing to pass through my mind when I saw this was: “why must so many Halloween costumes for women be ‘sexy’?” I have no problem at all with people of any gender choosing to wear revealing costumes on Halloween, but it bothers me that men’s costumes are generally made to look as realistic as possible while women’s costumes are usually made to look as revealing as possible.

As hard as I tried to find some supernatural or science fiction spin on this picture, the only thing it would inspire me to write is a long essay about the intersection between capitalism and sexism.

 

 

This is a picture of two discarded artificial legs lying on a dusty wooden floor. One of the legs is bigger and longer than the other one. 

These legs belong to the same kid. As that child grows up and needs larger artificial legs, they always make sure to pause and take a picture of the limbs they’ve left behind before moving onto the next one.

This isn’t a sad moment to me. It’s a happy one. Look at how much that kid has grown!

This is a picture of someone holding a piece of green moss that has had two googly eyes glued to it. 

After forgetting to buy a birthday present for her preschool-aged son, the main character decided to surprise him with a pet moss. She wasn’t expecting him to love it as he did, and she definitely wan’t expecting the pet moss to grow legs and begin scampering around the house one night.

This picture, titled “Cosmic Winter Wonderland,” is of region NGC 6357 in space. It is a birthplace for new stars. The stars in the photograph are surrounded by large clouds of dust that resemble the clouds made of water we have on Earth.

How did life first begin? Many people have wondered that over the years. I’d like to think it happened in a place as beautiful and peaceful as this one. Perhaps it could even be witnessed by aliens or other beings who were intelligent and long-lived enough to see it all play out.

 

This is a picture of a green parakeet. It is staring directly at the photographer. 

This bird looks slightly annoyed to me. Is it actually annoyed, though? Do birds have a similarly difficult time reading human body language?

If the first sentient aliens we ever met were avian-like, how well would our species be able to understand each other? Would they find us endearing the way humans often squeal over birds on Earth?

Why can’t I stop thinking about this scenario?

 

This is a picture of a barefoot woman who is sitting in a grocery cart. 

I love everything about this photo other than the fact that the subject is barefoot. It seems like such a dangerous place to walk around if you’re not wearing shoes.

Of course, the subject has probably heard this a thousand times before. She no doubt has some sort of invention to keep anything from cutting her feet as she runs around. Maybe she’s a scientist or a magician?

This is a picture of a man who is cosplaying in the forest. He’s carrying an ornate walking stick and wearing a green cloak and other Medieval-esque pieces of clothing. 

Anyone else would have been terrified by the sight of a dragon appearing in the sky and landing in the park one summer day. Marvin had played so many rounds of Dungeons & Dragons, though, that he was sure he could get it to fly home again.

This is a picture of an empty playground that is covered in fog.

What if Stephen King’s The Mist wasn’t just a story? We know how it ended in the parallel universe he tapped into while he was writing, but maybe this is how that tale will begin in our universe.

Previous posts in this series:

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Two

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Three.

Nothing Appeals to Everyone

As I mentioned last week, there are certain authors and genres I’ve never been able to become a fan of no matter how many times I try to like them.

It simply isn’t possible to write, draw, film, or sing something that’s going to appeal to every single person who stumbles across it. My thoughts on this topic were too complicated to condense for last week’s post, so I’m going to discuss them with you this week instead.

Some themes, plot twists, or tropes will appeal to one reader but will repel the next person who attempts to read them. This is completely normal, and it says nothing about the quality of the writing itself. It all boils down to the subjective nature of art and storytelling.

Subjectivity and Literature

To give you a concrete example of what I’m talking about, let’s go back to when I was in high school. My eleventh grade English teacher was a kind, generous woman who regularly allowed her students borrow books from her if we wanted something to read for the sheer joy of it.

When she noticed me reading a scary Stephen King story one week and a collection of Langston Hughes poems the next, she smiled and say she was glad to see a student of hers readings such a wide variety of stuff.

She taught her students a lot about literature in general. The authors she assigned us to study were from a wide range of eras and movements. I enjoyed all of them at least a little bit with one glaring exception: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

By the time I finished the first scene of it, I began counting down the days until we finished the last chapter and moved onto literally anything else in the entire world. I honestly would have preferred to read the phone book by the time we were halfway through that story because there was nothing about it that I found at all enjoyable. The characters were vain, selfish, and materialistic from what I observed. If anything interesting ever happened to them, the horrendously slow pacing made it hard for me to tell when those scenes were occurring.

I’ve never been able to get into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s catalogue even as an adult reader who no longer has to remember anything about what I’ve read for a future pop quiz. Obviously, there are plenty of people who disagree with me here, and I’m glad that they’re able to get something out of his writing. The fact that it doesn’t speak to me in no way means that it isn’t worth reading.

He simply isn’t the kind of storyteller that I’m drawn to. Something tells me that my teacher would have understood this if it had been socially acceptable for me to tell her how much I disliked that unit. As it was, I stayed perfectly polite and never brought up the subject. She might have privately had a list of authors she wasn’t a fan of as well!

Subjectivity and Art

The subjective nature of these things isn’t limited to literature, either.

One of the biggest reasons why I love going to art museums, shows, galleries, and other creative spaces with a small group of like-minded people has to do with how interesting it is to see how different folks respond to the same painting, sculpture, or other creative work.

When it comes to photography, I like whimsical, thought-provoking pieces like the shot of two toy robots on the right side of this post. Their glowing eyes make it easy to imagine that they’re somehow at least slightly aware of their surroundings.

There are so many different ways to interpret a photo like this one. Sometimes when I’m sitting quietly somewhere this is exactly the sort of thing I think about.

My taste in paintings is nothing like my preferences for photography. Hyperrealism fascinated me long before I had any idea that there was a name for this movement or that multiple painters have figured out how to paint scenes so realistic that I genuinely feel like I could walk into them and never notice I was in a painting at all. It was a style of painting I was pleasantly surprised to see on occasion, and I only grew to love it more once I figured out what it was called and that many different artists have explored it over the years.

Of course, not everyone is going to agree with me on either of these points. There are people out there who don’t connect with the pieces that speak to me at all just like I have been known to have trouble understanding other, most abstract types of art.

Subjectivity and Music

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to get a group of people to agree on what a good song should sound like even after you’ve sorted out objective criteria like the quality of the singer’s voice or whether or not they’re singing on key?

I know plenty of folks who have incredibly strong opinions on this topic. Some of them even refuse to listen to certain artists or entire genres of music altogether because of how firmly they’ve made up their minds about what they do and don’t enjoy.

Yes, I’ve done this, too. There was a long period of time when I didn’t think I liked any form of country music at all. It was only after being exposed to many different types of it that I realized there were a small number of country artists that I actually did enjoy quite a bit.

There’s Something for Everyone

While nothing is going to appeal to everyone, there is something out there for everyone.

I don’t know about you, but I find that freeing.

It’s okay not to like something. Someone else out there loves it.

On the flip side, you’ll find plenty of books and other creative works that you do love if you keep searching for the things that speak to you.

What have you read, watched, or listened to that you’ve never been able to enjoy? What creative works have you tried and been surprised by how much you loved them?

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned into Stories

I come across the most beautiful, scary, haunting, and fascinating images when I’m searching for stock photos for this blog. It always makes me a little sad when I realize that nothing I’ve written so far fits them in any way.

They’re the kind of images that demand an audience, so today I’m sharing a few of these unusual pictures with you in the hope that you’ll be inspired by them. If anyone uses one of these images as a writing prompt, I’d love to know how you interpreted it! Send me a message about it on Twitter.

 

An Unbroken Doll

The fact that this doll’s face was broken at one point doesn’t surprise me. Toys break all of the time.

Who painstakingly glued her back together, though?

That isn’t the kind of chore that can be finished in a few minutes. It probably took days of carefully sifting through the sharp porcelain pieces of her head to figure out how every piece fit together and what kind of glue works best for this sort of delicate project.

It would take a lot of determination to see this project through to the end. I imagine only someone who had a strong emotional urge to do it would succeed.

 

The Pretty Poison

None of the household poisons I’ve ever seen look anything like this.

The purple liquid sure seems like it would smell nice. I’m imagining a light, floral scent that almost disappears once air hits it. You’d have to be quite close to it to catch a whiff of anything.

That wouldn’t make it any less dangerous, of course. Every apothecarist knows that.

Leg Day

Look closely at the picture above. It may take you a moment to notice the strange twist in it.

My first thought when I saw it was that it was some kind of genetic engineering gone weird. The horses legs look almost human at first glance. Is a horse still a horse if some part of its DNA somehow came from a human?

I’d love to read that book and find out.

Happily Ever After

The bright colours and whimsical scenery in it caught my eye. immediately. They’re exactly what I’d expect to find in a fantasy romance novel.

This is the kind of cover that would make me pick up a book to find out more about its plot. If nothing else, I’d want to know if there was an entire forest of heart-shaped trees for the characters to skip through or if this tree was unique in that way.

Knock, knock!

This is another one of those photographs that seems perfectly ordinary when you first glance at it. I was actually planning to save it for a future post about something cheerful and ordinary like going on vacation until one strange little detail in it popped out at me.

That detail catapulted this post from it’s original purpose into possible story territory. The explanation for it could be completely logical and scientific, but there’s also room for science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, or even horror elements to it if you prefer. Stop reading now if you want to figure out on your own what I noticed.

For anyone who needs or wants a hint about, pay attention to the body language of the woman in the centre of the photograph. How has she positioned herself? Do you notice anything unexpected about it?

The Insincere Smile

The stock photo site that I use most often has dozens of pictures that are similar to this one. The models are always nicely dressed  but have completely insincere expressions on their faces.

There are many explanations for why that might be so. Sometimes I like to come up with some reasons for the fun of it. Were the models worn out from a day of posing? Are they trying to secretly warn their audiences about who or what might be lurking behind the camera? The possibilities are endless, and the sci-fi writer in me prefers the unexplainable ones.

All that Glitters…

What I like the most about this picture is how versatile it is. Off the top of my head, it could be interpreted to be part of the erotic romance, regular romance, science fiction, fantasy, or even the older end of the young adult genre. You could probably even find a way to turn it into a mystery or a thriller if you massaged the possibilities enough.

That ambiguity makes me smile. I like it when stories leave room for more than one genre to flourish in them. When its done correctly, this can be a wonderful way to introduce people to types of storytelling that they might not otherwise be open to trying.

Deep in Thought

I both love and hate seeing gorillas and other apes at the zoo for the same reason: they remind me so much of human beings.

Everything from their mannerisms to their facial expressions can be eerily close to the way that people behave at times. When I look at them, I feel like we are this close to having a conversation about the weather or which kind of fruit is in season now.

While I’m glad that they have a safe place to live, it also feels wrong to cage them up. They feel too intelligent for that fate to me.

The nice thing about this picture is that it could be used for non-fiction just as easily as it could for fiction. You don’t have to invent anything about the intelligence of other primates in order to write about them. We already know that while they might not be exactly like us, they’re also not exactly like other animals either.

When Justice Is Blind

Is it just me, or does that water look uncomfortably cold?

The first thing I thought when I saw this scene was that it looked like a test of some sorts. Is he expected to swim in that chilly water or simply stand in it blindfolded for a predetermined amount of time?

The One Who’s Watching You

Obviously I had to save the best picture for last today. This is the creepiest thing I’ve stumbled across in a long time.

Not seeing a character’s face always scares me.

The fact that we can see his or her hands doesn’t help the situation, though. Their nails look sharp and rough. Their skin looks leathery, and I’m not entirely sure it would still be warm to the touch if they brushed against you.

What does he or she want?

I’m afraid to ask, but I’m even more afraid to turn away before they do.

Why You Should Be Following the Mystery of Tom Thomson’s Death

Tom Thomson was a famous Canadian painter who died nearly a century ago. His landscapes influenced the Group of Seven. Had he lived longer, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have become an official member and they would have been called the Group of Eight instead. If you haven’t heard of this artist or the kinds of… Read More