Fiction, Imagination, Inspiration, Reflections, Writing

It’s all in how you look at it

La Tempête -- Pierre August Cot (1880)

I have a poster of this painting (The Storm)  in my master bathroom. Apparently, Cot is most widely known for only two of his paintings, this and another romantic one titled Le Printemps (Spring). From an artistic viewpoint, I’m bothered by some confusion in his depiction of the light source and the angle and perspective of this young woman’s right calf and foot, but I enjoy it anyway. I like to look at this painting and imagine the story it tells.

Although the figures are clothed, I sometimes think of it as the moment in the Garden of Eden when God confronts Adam and Eve with their sin. It reminds me that Adam immediately turned to Eve, trying to pass the blame.

With other viewpoints, I look at the painting and see different situations. I see fear in her eyes as she looks toward the approaching storm, while the man has focused his eyes tenderly on the woman. His only concern is for her well-being. Then again, it could speak of her strength, her courage with him looking to her for guidance.

Or I see that she is aware of the serious concerns of life, while he thinks only of sex. (Notice her see-through tunic and his big horn.) And with a slight change, that could be her innocence, not seeing his lustful leer, trusting in the protection of his strong arm around her.

Within this painting of contrasting light and dark can be seen many tales of innocence and guilt, fear and assurance, weakness and strength. It’s all in how you look at it.

That’s why each of us may see pretty much the same world, but interpret it differently in our writing. From our individual viewpoints, we experience life and pass on the stories it tells us.

Isn’t that the wonder and privilege of story telling?


12 thoughts on “It’s all in how you look at it”

  1. I’ve never seen this painting before. I really like it. I think their picnic got ruined, but they’re off to do something more fun. 😉

    I always love when multiple authors write on a single theme or word. There used to be a literary journal, Thema (not sure it still exists), that accepted stories all on a given theme. It fascinated me, how wildly different the tales always were.


    1. A few writers of blogs I frequent use prompts for poems or flash stories and I always stop reading as soon as they name the prompt to think what I might have written from it. They never go where I would have gone … they go somewhere better. 🙂


  2. It’s a wonderful painting. I tried like heck to find the perspective problem and lighting issue you mentioned and couldn’t, at least not in this representation. Maybe up close and in person some of them show; and no artist nails everything.

    That’s another lesson from this masterful work. As brilliant as it is, it has issues. Like our work, we can strive for written perfection but must ultimately know we don’t ever achieve it.


    1. Well, I could be wrong, but it seems the light direction is not true in some areas. That could be the cause of her right leg from the knee down appearing to be slightly too large. Also, and the angle of it doesn’t look quite natural to me. Sometimes the imperfections are what makes a work interesting. To paraphrase Jimmy Maquire (an interesting singer/musician/philosopher) Everything is perfect, each with a unique set of imperfections.


  3. So wait, you’re not going to tell us which one of the facts from your last post wasn’t true?

    I love the painting. Your talk of different viewpoints based on experience reminds me of that night at writer’s group where everyone interpreted Meredith’s motives differently. It’s true. So much of how we read things (or see things) is based on our life experiences.


    1. Now why would I tell? Maybe I lied, and none of them are true. Maybe I lied and all of them are true. Choose your own adventure. 😉

      Yes, I remember that discussion. I believe it was at that point I understood there was no way you could ever write a story that everyone would like or understand.


  4. Hey. I’m with Kasie. I want to know the lie. And if you gave away all that money, I want to know where was I? (That rhymed)

    Here’s my perspective: The hormone-fueled guy in the picture has only one thing on his mind, which happens to be the furthest from hers.


  5. The wonderful thing about writing is the fact that each author brings something new to the page. Our life experiences shape us into the writer we are. We all see the world in a different way and thank goodness for that. It keeps everything fresh and new. Great post, Linda!


    1. Thank you, Laura. And yes, it’s our unique life view that enables us to create vastly different stories from the five basic plots. And, as Kasie pointed out, it’s that unique viewpoint that may cause us to read a book in a different way than the author intended. The experience of a book is slightly different for each of us. I experience this most immediately when I read a poem … or listen to a lyric … I know what it says to me, which may not at all be what it says to you.


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