Today’s post I’m going to focus on tableaux art, or snapshot art. This is one of my favorite modes of expression. For those who aren’t quite clear what I’m talking about, think charades. When I speak of tableaux art, I’m talking about two things.
1. This can be any form of artistic expression, not just writing (sorry Tobias). While I do love to write, I’m also an artist, and I find it hard to limit practices to one medium when they crossover really well.
2. Snapshot art is just that. It’s like taking a picture of moment in time, or taking the idea from a song or literary passage, and putting it to paper.
Since writing is the primary purpose of this blog setup, I will begin with it. When writing a tableaux, it is important to be descriptive, more so than when writing a complete story. This snippet has to convey emotion, image, idea, and general atmospheric feeling. It is more than a photo snapshot though, for a photo, unless you’re in the magical world, remains motionless. Writing snapshots cannot. For me, anytime I see or experience a touching, or strange, or heart-stopping moment in life, my mind automatically begins putting it to words. My mind searches for just the right words to convey both my feeling and the feelings of my unknowing subjects. By doing so, I create a story for the moment in my mind with a past, present, and future. But, more importantly, I catalogue this one unique moment in history. Additionally, it’s good writing practice.
Here are two examples:
1. On the bus, there is a guy. Young, probably mid-20s, and quiet for the most part. He is Russian to his very core with his close-cropped hair to his hearty complexion. I can picture him with both a scythe and a calculator in his hands. However, in reality, in his hands he holds a tiny baby. He is bent over, staring at the young infant, and I know, this baby is his, without a doubt. Next to him is a young woman with long blond hair and a slightly long, yet thin, nose. Her frame is facing the man, melting into him. Yet, there’s an arch to her back as it bends over the child, protecting, and loving. As her hair acts as a shield, a curtain enveloping them, her hand reaches out, and her fingers brush up and down the baby’s arms and legs. Tender, caring. Together the two young parents protectively surround each other, protecting that which is most precious to them.
2. In walks the child, followed by voice. The voice is followed by her, the babushka. The boy’s dressed for the winter, but I can’t tell if he looks more like a blue-colored snowman or a yummy Easter marshmellow. All I know is I feel guilty for wanting to use him like a bowling pin and see him bouncing around on the ground. He is that adorable and squishy cute. As he and his grandmother get inside, I see the entire Russian domestic system exemplified in their actions. The babushka, or grandmother, corrals her charge, drawing him to her. Sternly, yet gently she unravels him. Off with the hat, the gloves, the scarf. Next comes the giant marshmellow coat that makes me hungry followed by the sweater and the snow pants. The result is astonishing, revealing a fully-clothed scarecrow of a little boy. But, he still has the squishy cheeks, and suddenly I feel like my great-aunt Myrtle. The boy goes off to class as the babushka takes her seat. Sitting, chatting with the other babushkas, and waiting, waiting. When the little boy runs back out, the babushka gets up and swarms to her little man, bundling him up. On goes the sweater, the pants, the jacket, the hat, the gloves, the scarf. The motions are abrupt, rushed as she tries to hold him down so that he won’t chase after his friends unprepared for the outside elements. But the face bending over the boy is one of love. The words spoken to him, guttural, but sweet.
The first snapshot was a complete third person omniscient snippet. I described a seen like I would a painting. The second is slightly more personal. I used first person in order to enhance the imagery, but I kept myself out of the action and picture itself. The focus remains on the picture. The second is also a greater time period, but it’s still a manageable moment. However, it shouldn’t be much longer than that.
This practice is useful when building up specific dramatic images for stories as it increases the energy and drama of a piece. It can also be used for more interesting blogging, magazine snippets, etc. And it’s easy to practice. As you walk up and down the street, take mental snapshots and think of how you would see it described in a book. Think of what strikes you the most about that moment; it will be different from person to person. In my first example, I tried to describe the positioning of the bodies and how they relate to the feeling. With the second piece, I tried to get a lighter tone in as the situation itself amused me. Yet I also wanted the chemistry and family dynamic to be there.
My baby is art. I love finding inspiration in philosophy, but more than anything, I love finding my snapshot moments in songs. Many songs these days have such ridiculous or cliched or trite themes (or all of the above), that when I find one that just hits me, I have to capture that moment, that idea, in graphite. With art, it’s not so much capturing the specific images conveyed as the idea itself. If you can use both, then so much the better.
Here’s some snapshots which I did based on a philosophical idea, a song, and a literary piece.