Art in Fiction (Flips Flipping Pages May Book Discussion)
Last Saturday, the Flippers met up again for our monthly book discussion, this time moderated by Raissa and Joel on the theme of “Art in Fiction.”
It’s a theme I personally love — ever since I read Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring around five years ago, I was hooked on this subgenre, and I still read one every so often.
Our afternoon was packed for this discussion, we had a drawing session, a discussion, and a museum tour!
I was actually in charge of conducting a drawing session; I volunteered for it some weeks back and I wanted to do something fun for the group, an activity that even those not so artistically-inclined would enjoy.
I remembered an exercise an art teacher gave at one of my first drawing classes, from the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (which has since been upgraded into so many editions; my copy is actually entitled Drawing on the Artist Within) by Betty Edwards.
That afternoon, we laid mats by the Zen Pond outside Ayala Museum (warning to those tempted by the idea: you’ll need a permit for this), distributed pencils and drawing paper, and I gave them a drawing to copy, upside down instead of right side up.
The idea behind the exercise is simple — a lot of people think they can’t draw because they keep thinking about how the drawing is supposed to look like. But if you focus on what you’re actually drawing (e.g. lines and shapes) instead of what you think you’re drawing (e.g. hands, nose, etc.), it will actually turn out better than you expect!
And so we were holed up all got around to drawing, and despite the moaning and groaning, they were actually pretty good!
Then we headed to a cafe for the book discussion, where we discussed the books we read for this month’s theme.
I must confess I didn’t have time to read any new books this month, but I brought Tracy Chevalier’s Lady and the Unicorn (one of my favorites) and Nick Bantock’s The Venetian’s Wife, which I read last year, for the discussion. I agree with Raissa that Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier’s best novel yet. Compared to Girl with a Pearl Earring the story is much more compelling; it moves faster and is more interesting because it has more depth. I like how the story plays into the Unicorn tapestries, and how the plot is mirrored in many different ways in the novel.
I also shared my opinion that Nick Bantock tells a story better in pictures rather than words. You don’t notice this so much in the Griffin and Sabine books because the text is mostly letters, but this is much more obvious in his full length novels.
I’ve also read some of the books other people talked about — Joel discussed Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet (the Vermeer part I liked; the leaps in logic I didn’t); Chie discussed Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (another art fiction book I enjoyed reading); Rhett talked about The Republic of Dreams by G. Garfield Crimmins (which I found abysmal!); Gege talked about Chasing Cezanne by Peter Mayle, Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, and Girl and Ruby discussed Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts (which I read all the way back in high school and I barely remember).
The other books in the discussion are going into my wishlist, too. Fredda read Gregory Maguire’s Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; Peter read the graphic novel Asterios Polyp (I sooo want!); Marie tackled To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf; Sana discussed art books for children; and Iya talked about The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey.
We also discussed how artists are portrayed in novels, and other aspects of art we want to read about in books.
Before we headed over to Ayala Museum for our museum tour, Joel and Raissa gave out a new bookmark (FFP tradition) and bookplates (I think we’ve started another tradition here):
We then took a tour of the Ayala Museum, where we had an edifying look at the Philippine costumes, pre-colonial gold and ceramics, historical dioramas, and the El Prado project.
Joel and Raissa (and Chesca!) also got me another set of bookplates — I think I’ll have to start a bookplate collection too!
Another month, another great discussion for FFP. Watch out for our June book discussion, Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin!
*Workshop photos and museum photo courtesy of Rhett (Thanks Rhett!)