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Friday, January 18, 2008

That Secret Ingredient In Creating A Story

You know, writing and drawing are deeply personal acts. When you were a kid making that arts and craft assignment (remember that horrible plate made of watered mushy paper? Or the first lopsided glaced mug?), didn't you add a bit of uniqueness to it to make your own? It could be some initials hidden in the picture, a small piece of glass embedded in the clay, or for me, a three legged turtle vase (don't ask). It was yours because you envisioned it, took it from within and made it real--with words, or paint, or pieces of wood--and when you received an A or some compliment from teacher and friends, do you remember the bloom of pride over your creation?

Some of us grew up to be writers and painters (and craftsmen). We enjoy the act of creation, of bringing our imagination to live and sharing it with others. There is a kind of magic we perform, each of us leaving a piece of souls in our art. And yes, there are secrets in each one of our creation, some of which we keep even from our selves. We have our different ways of blending paint and words, of mixing ingredients, even though it might use the same basic recipe, of adding that touch that make what we're creating uniquely ours.

Then...there are those who love to strip us of our secrets. Take, for example, the famous painting, Mona Lisa.

Immediately, the smile comes to mind, yes? It's that da Vinci magic touch. That smile and its owner have haunted many for centuries. Books have been written about her. Is it important to discover her identity? Would that reveal the magic of that smile da Vinci captured?

Recently, Mona Lisa's identity has been confirmed by the academics in Heidelberg University. She was a young lady named Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. From that one starting point, suddenly we know details about that Mona Lisa in the painting.

No, she wasn't a secret lover.

No, she wasn't a prostitute.

Nope, not the face of da Vinci's muse.

She was the wife of a silk merchant. She married him at sixteen. The fabric of imagination ripped just like that.

We suddenly have so many details. Her husband was fourteen years older, which made him thirty. They were da Vinci's neighbor. She had five children (we even had a list of all the names) and she died at 63.

And part of me is resentful that the magic has been stripped. When I first visited the Louvre so many decades ago, my first destination was Mona Lisa. I've always been drawn to her when I looked at paintings of portraits. Perhaps it was because she was mysterious. Nameless. A woman da Vinci had left some of his magic.

I remember the first reaction. The throng trying to get closer to the picture. The shock of the how small that painting was. The details. And yes, my eyes were drawn to that smile, just like in the painting. To me, she symbolized what an artist could do with words and paint. Look at me, she said. I'm not another painted head. I have a story only my creator can tell. And you'd better come closer and pay attention.

Today, I know more about her than my neighbor's life. It doesn't change the beauty of the painting, I know that, but inside, my lips curl down like a pouting child. The creator in me is throwing a tantrum for da Vinci.

I use a lot of emotional magic in my creation. I would not have liked those elements identified and labled. I might admit a few details here and there to my readers--walking through a red-light district and watching children propositioning men and my feelings about that; the frustration with working against redtape; the childhood myths that my mother told me that became a character's internal foundation; the essense of the male jokes bantered around in the real job. And even that have to be pried from me.

Edited to add: And now they are going to use a digital scanner to figure out how da Vinci applied his paint. There is a "misty" look in the Mona Lisa that was part of the da Vinci secret magic. Using the scanner, they have found no brushstrokes or even da Vinci's fingerprints present on the canvas.

Decoding Mona Lisa

I'm hoping they fail. I don't want them to find all of Mona Lisa's secrets.

Let the creation tell its own story. You don't have to know everything.

Do you?

;-)

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9 comments:

Deborah said...

I absolutely agree with you. We are stripping away the fun and mystery of curiousity.

A few months ago, there was some type of animal found that was approximately 3000-3500 years old. It was an amazing find, or so they said. Do you know how they were able to quess the age????? That's right. They killed it. It was living its life and because we can't let some things remain a mystery, we killed a living being just so we could date it.

I understand the "need to know" but I think society has become obsessed with it. Simple example, Britney Spears.

Deb

booklady said...

I agree. I think that I want to know the answers to things, but they are rarely as exciting as what my brain conjures up, and that usually ends in disappointment

Mel said...

Some things, but not everything. Just like with my favorite movies I do not listen to the directors comments. Who cares? I love the movie. I don't care to know if my favorite part was MISTAKE. What I wanted to think you guys were brillant and had me, the viewer, in mind. Geez.

Leslie said...

I think it's like writing a term paper or something. Sheesh, after writing a whole darn critique of Pride and Prejudice, there's just no fun in it any more. Ten pages of my crap compared to the beauty of that story, ya know?

LadyZannah said...

I know how you feel. I am a HUGE dinosaur fan with T-Rex beign my fave and scientists keep trying to make the Lizard King into some overgrown vulture. Poor T-Rex went from being a bad@$$ to some carrion eating loser (they even gave him feathers). I was very upset and refuse to hear about it anymore. It seems that scientists and "experts" don't want to leave any magic left on this planet, some things should remain un-answered so that we can always wonder.

Monique said...

I totally want to know (but seriously, don't tell me Jed is modeled off someone 'cause then I might have to leave my hubby hehe). I *love* to hear what the directors and actors and effects people have to say; I have found that to be a magic all its own and so long (and it hasn't happened yet) I'm not thinking cool effect while I'm watching to movie, it's all good. The things I could tell you about the Lord of the Rings movies because of the commentary! I could go on for days. LOL As for scientists and experts, well they keep revising things and who's to say they weren't right the first time. I am endlessly curious and want to know everything about everything, but I do draw the line at killing an animal so I can find out how old it is. There is so much more valuable information in how long it can live (let it die naturally) than in just killing it.

Gennita said...

Deborah,

How terrible! What animal was it? Is there an article I can read?

********

Booklady,

I understand the need for the truth in some mysteries. Like The Shroud, for instance. But Mona Lisa? Well...not so much.

*********

Mel,

Yeah, sometimes overanalysis can kill the art/magic.

**********

Leslie,

Like I was saying to Mel, when there is so much research about a topic (or book), the object of research becomes just that--an object. I remember writing those English papers ;-)...they were fun but after a bunch of them, I forgot the joy of reading the story for itself.

********

Lady Zannah,

Reptiles? And chains? ;-) Cleo, you're scaring me again.

**********

Monique,

I love directors' takes too. I don't mind listening to them so much. Actually, movies are one of the mediums that I don't mind analyzing story-wise. But I don't want to know too much about the stunts, just enough.

LadyZannah said...

Now the alpha male has compared me to an anaconda but for the life of me I have no clue why. Lizards are cool, and so are chains, and whips, and leather, and...never mind. I need chocolate again.

ZaZa said...

Well, they've been calling the Mona Lisa, La Gioconda, forever, so that's just confirmation and expansion of what was known. Think of it this way, Da Vinci knew exactly who she was. And yet, and yet. ;+) She still had that smile, and he still painted that smile. There's some secrets inside their heads, maybe some shared secret, that no one will ever uncover.

I feel like I should add a "bwahahaha" here for some reason. /;+)

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