The Same Object, From Many Viewpoints

Creativity challenge: try writing about the same object in at least 13 different ways.

(Wallace Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” is below for inspiration.)

-OR-draw 50 drawings in four hours . . . staying with the same object for as many drawings as possible.

In Experimental Drawing by Robert Kaupelis (1980), one exercise provided is to draw 50 drawings in four hours. He suggests several variations, but remarks that some of his students chose 50 different topics while others tended to draw the same object multiple times, using different media, different styles, different angles.
I have attempted this exercise but keep getting distracted after about ten drawings. . . I do plan to finish this exercise, hopefully this weekend.
Think of how challenging it will be to stick with the same object for more than ten drawings! What I have learned from attempting this exercise, is that even after a few drawings, my style loosens up, I take greater risks, think of unusual solutions prompted by the medium I am using. I drew objects such as stacked pots, a pile of bricks, close up views of tree bark.
I think it would be fun to do the drawings first, and then the writing.
There is a reason why artists work in series, or revisit the same topic throughout a lifetime of work (think of Cezanne’s still lifes, Degas’ dancers, to name some examples that come to mind easily).
Enjoy the Stevens poem. Find other examples–and think about your topics! If you are snowed in, what about looking out the window for inspiration? Or at a fire in the fireplace? Or if you live someplace with sunny skies, wander outside to find your topic in nature, or along the city streets where you live. One thing is certain, you will never look at your surroundings in the same way after completing either or both of these exercises.
Happy drawing, happy writing! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. Copyright 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird


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