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Artfully Said–Keep It Real

William Michael Harnett, Still Life with Violin, 1888, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (Public Domain)

This painting is a fine example of trompe l’oeil, a style of painting where meticulous detail creates a work that that fools the eye into thinking it’s the real thing. Its hyper-realism creates a three-dimensional scene in a two-dimensional medium. Careful use of light and shadow create a piece of almost photographic quality. Look closely at the sheet music. Imagine the steady hand it takes to paint like this.

Writers can do this, too. Sometimes we like to smudge the edges like an Impressionist painter might, and sometimes we need the sharp edges of trompe l’oeil realism.

Find or create a collection or display of objects fashioned after the ones in the painting—everyday objects that somehow find themselves situated together. Think of places where stuff gathers–like the front of your fridge or the top of your bureau. Using words as your medium, paint the picture in such painstaking detail that your readers can “see” the scene before them—light, shading, color, line, texture, arrangement in the space. Sharp, clear reality. Feel free to remove objects from your display after you get started. Once you get going on this, you’ll be glad you kept the collection small.