Tuesday Tryouts

27 Mar

7:28 a.m. — Atlanta

Hi, all. I hope you are well. For this week, we have an image prompt. As with any images I give you, you can follow suggestions, or ignore them completely and go with whatever idea flashes into your mind.

The artist we are looking at for a couple of image weeks is Norman Rockwell, an artist I believe has become… underrated? forgotten? pigeonholed? When I was looking around for the next artist, I came across his work and settled in to have a good look. It had been a while since I had looked at any Rockwells. I tended to think of his art as ‘very good at what he did,’ as magazine cover art, or as caricature. After an hour of looking, I realised I had been underselling his work to myself.

If you study the three works I have chosen, you will see that it is Rockwell’s incredible ability to reproduce what he conceived, as if he had taken a photograph, that puts him in the top tier of artists and, at the same time, often causes his work to be dismissed by modern audiences. Look at the wealth of detail in each painting. Not an impression of background, or a loosely suggested few things, but an exact accounting of every part of the scene. Look at the faces and their expressions. I felt as if I could call out to the characters.

Rockwell’s work was used as magazine cover art, he did paint caricatures, but his work covers far more. Resist looking up the paintings to see their titles. That plants too firm a direction. Unless you have a reason for making it part of the poem, we shouldn’t know a piece of art is involved.

In general, I would say, choose the painting that speaks to you and go with your idea for a poem but, should you want suggestions, here are a few. Choose a painting. List everything you observe about the main person. Look for details: physical, clothing, background, other people… Don’t draw conclusions yet.

Now, from the list of facts, spend several minutes writing what you think your person is like as a person, their character traits, based on what you observe.

What does this person look like s/he might be or do?

Write sketches introducing your character in two or three of the following ways:

through his/her own inner monologue
through two people discussing him/her in his/her absence
through a dialogue between him/herself and another person
show him/her eating
describe the possessions s/he values
describe his/her hands and the way s/he uses them


Pick any painting. Jot down everything you notice. Don’t miss the tiniest detail. Don’t draw conclusions yet. Now jot down the things you associate with some of the things you have noticed. See if anything forms a pattern.

From your notes, pick a direction that pleases you and write. You might try a prose piece, a haibun, or a form as tightly structured as a Rockwell.

Enjoy your last week of freedom, those of you who are about to embark on Poem-a-day. Me? Do I look nuts? Which is not to say I don’t admire you.

I shall see you Thursday for announcements; Friday for the roundup; and next Tuesday for a prompt that should satisfy everyone’s requests… sound ominous? Heh heh.

Happy writing, all.



Posted by on 27/03/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


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43 responses to “Tuesday Tryouts

  1. b_y

    27/03/2012 at 9:07 am

    Neat. One of my groups just did a Rockwell painting prompt. We started out looking for cliches to write on/about/against, and decided to use one of his illustrations because his subjects are so (I’m too lazy this morning not to use the word) iconic that they straddle the border. Of course, some of the images are the originals. What’s derived from them is what gives them a bad name.

    • margo roby

      27/03/2012 at 9:21 am

      Exactly! I was amazed when I started to really look at his work.

  2. vivinfrance

    27/03/2012 at 11:22 am

    I’ve loved Rockwell’s work since as a small child I would crouch under the table while the Grans and Mum and Dad played cards, gloating over a huge pile of Saturday Evening Posts. I’m too tired to start again now, having given my all to Joseph’s ephemeral reverie this morning. Maybe tomorrow.

    • margo roby

      27/03/2012 at 11:32 am

      His stuff is stunning, ViV. I have always liked it, but never appreciated it as I should and now do. I would love to see originals.

      I have my Joseph poems ready to print on postcards, so I can find a place to pin them up. Must go do that.

      • vivinfrance

        27/03/2012 at 11:33 am

        I have written a small French version, which I will put up tomorrow.

        • margo roby

          27/03/2012 at 12:12 pm

          How lovely, ViV. Don’t forget to take a photograph.

  3. Hannah Gosselin

    27/03/2012 at 3:44 pm

    Hey all!! I gave it a whirl! If anyone wants to read it, I’ll place the link here. πŸ™‚

    Thank you for this prompt, Margo. I’ve always loved Norman Rockwell. One year we had a calendar of his art, I was probably around 12 or 13. Brings me back. πŸ™‚

    • margo roby

      28/03/2012 at 7:30 am

      I was that age, Hannah, when I first got to know his art. I am glad to be revisiting.

      • Hannah Gosselin

        28/03/2012 at 8:07 am

        Neat coincidence, Margo. I His work is truly amazing, I think!

        • Hannah Gosselin

          28/03/2012 at 8:08 am

          Hmm random “I,” why are you there? Silly morning fingers… πŸ™‚

          • margo roby

            28/03/2012 at 8:26 am

            πŸ˜€ Yep, I know those morning fingers. Even worse, when you reach my age apparently the fingers move faster than the brain, or the other way around. I now make typos with everything I type. Never used to.

            • Hannah Gosselin

              28/03/2012 at 9:31 am

              That’s okay, Margo pretty soon we’ll be able to wire-lessly “hook-up,” to our computers and the words we think will just magically appear!! I don’t know that for sure but it seems like the next most logical step. :)!

              • margo roby

                28/03/2012 at 9:44 am

                Oh, I like that, Hannah. You are quite right. Bring it on.

  4. pmwanken

    27/03/2012 at 7:37 pm

    Do YOU look nuts? Are you saying, then, that WE look nuts to do the 30-day challenge!? πŸ˜‰

    <— ok…yes…looking a little nuts.


    I'll be back with my poem.


  5. markwindham

    27/03/2012 at 8:19 pm

    hooray for me! completed (draft) one (draft) in the same day (draft). πŸ˜‰

    • margo roby

      28/03/2012 at 7:33 am

      Laughing at your not so subliminal message, Mark. I shall visit shortly, when my brain forms intelligent thoughts.

  6. markwindham

    27/03/2012 at 9:08 pm

    eh, why not another? Just a quickie.

  7. Misky

    28/03/2012 at 8:04 am

    Here’s mine. It’s a bit longer than I’d want, so might chop at it a bit during the week. Can’t today. I’m off to London, and running for the train.

  8. Mr. Walker

    28/03/2012 at 3:04 pm

    Margo, thanks. Great fun this was. Here’s a link to my poem, The Judge.

  9. vivinfrance

    29/03/2012 at 2:57 am Sorry I’m late: I’ve been busy poetry bombing.

    • margo roby

      29/03/2012 at 7:34 am

      You have been having fun, ViV. And there is no late, none, although I can hold you to a different standard πŸ™‚

  10. b_y

    29/03/2012 at 9:31 am A short one.
    Thanks again for the Rockwells.

    Still being poetry-lethargic, but hey, that’s what March is for, isn’t it? Resting up for Sunday. (this will be my third April Madness. Discovered the PAD challenge two days before it began that year, and went from a full stop into the marathon)

    • margo roby

      29/03/2012 at 9:35 am

      Sure, Barb. Keep telling yourself that. Like I said: Nuts. Although, I am trying to tell myself that I don’t have to write every day [which thought sends me into a large dark cave] only the prompts that spark. I ‘ll see if that works. I would like to be a small part of the madness.

    • b_y

      29/03/2012 at 9:38 am

      Don’t know what it is about Rockwell, but his pictures almost always make me feel myself looking at the subject, if that makes any sense. This is the link to the piece I did for my group the other day.

  11. irene

    29/03/2012 at 10:46 pm

    I went with another Rockwell painting, if that’s ok.

    the problem we all live with

    • margo roby

      30/03/2012 at 7:46 am

      Oh, Irene, I am so tempted to say ‘No, it’s not okay’. Of course, it’s okay, but thanks for the warning!. I’ll be over to read in a minute.

  12. purplepeninportland

    29/03/2012 at 11:35 pm

    I chose the girl at the mirror. I wanted to paste the photo in with my text, but can’t seem to figure out how to do it.

    • margo roby

      30/03/2012 at 7:47 am

      Sarah, I right-click on an image and copy paste. Macs should have the same function.

  13. Joseph Harker

    31/03/2012 at 1:35 pm

    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. It was just begging for a little touch of corruption. πŸ™‚

    • margo roby

      31/03/2012 at 2:20 pm

      Laughing at you, Joseph — check my remark on your poem πŸ˜€
      I do agree with you that Rockwell’s work comes across too clean, but I think he felt that’s what was needed at that time. For every good he holds up, there is the strong reminder that it’s being held up because the other side of the coin exists. Does that make sense? I think he would have lived in our century with no problem, just different coins.

  14. Walt Wojtanik

    15/10/2013 at 1:59 pm

    I am working on a stage play “Rockwell” based on vignettes of Rockwell’s paintings. But this prompt added one to the Santa Claus file, always good for a smile.

    • margo roby

      15/10/2013 at 4:25 pm

      Walt, that sounds really neat. It’s a play I would buy tickets for. Great premise.


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