Fun Stuff, Vacancy

Art References in The Willful Inheritor

I did this for The Weary Traveler and The Wayward Deed, so it’s only fair the final book in the series, The Willful Inheritor, gets a turn. However, since I had a a lot of computer and software issues in finishing up this book, there’s a pretty good chance this post won’t cover every artsy-fartsy mention because I put less care into keeping track of them and more care into not losing any of the actual text. I think I made a good choice.

Her reflection looked right past her, like some melancholy woman from an Edward Hopper painting, and she finally felt how much her frown actually hurt.

Automat, Edward Hopper, 1927, Oil on canvas

There are some parts of this book that are real bummers, specifically when Lorelei is a a total sadsack, and the melancholy in Edward Hopper’s work felt right for the malaise I was going for in the opening scene.

There are lots of interpretations of Hopper’s paintings, most popularly that they’re a comment on isolation in urban spaces. They certainly feel lonesome to me, but I also really enjoy them. Hopper and I almost share a birthday, but he’s a true Cancer where I’m on the cusp of Leo, and that probably makes total sense.

As if she’d stepped into Gagnon’s Twilight, the scene before her in the clearing was all deep shades of blue, the sky brighter than it should have been for how dark the shadows around her were.

Twilight, Clarence Gagnon, 1913

Just look at it. I don’t know why I bothered to try and describe it, I didn’t do a great job, but there it is. Clarence Gagnon did this thing with shadows, putting them in unexpected but correct places. A lot of his artwork seems to be at dusk which we all know is a liminal time, so one of the most magical.

Beige walls, the world’s least offensive, floral duvet, matching, square side tables set with equally square lamps and a square alarm clock with big, red, square numbers, and a Thomas Kinkade framed above the standard queen.

I think Thomas Kinkade gets shit on a lot because his work is mass-produced, but just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s objectively bad. That said, you can shit on the dude, it’s fine, he didn’t seem like a super great human. The art, though, does have carry a connotation–these paintings are often hung up in hotel rooms, and on those puzzles you did when you stayed at grandma’s, and randomly have Mickey and Minnie Mouse in them to fulfil one of the oddest crossover brand deals.

Lovelight Cottage, Thomas Kinkade, 2014

But I’ll be honest with you: I think they’re fucking great.

Like, look at that. It’s just so cozy and charming and pretty. I know, art is supposed to crush your soul, we get it, but sometimes it’s nice to be uplifted by something, ya know? Sure, it’s kitschy, but, uh…so is my stuff, so…yeah! Camp, for the win, friends!

But I will say this, if you can’t separate the art from the artist (though it might be easier here since the art isn’t entirely his), it’s cool to hate him. He trademarked the phrase “Painter of Light” for himself, and I think that’s super tacky. Trademarks exist for a reason, but not for this reason, buddy. Those words, in that order, are so generic that I’m super disappointed in the trademark office for not throwing the request out. Also, his work is akin to James Patterson or Tom Clancy–he essentially had painting ghostwriters. Have whatever feelings you want about that, I don’t care what people do as long as they’re honest about it, but when a name is actually a conglomerate or a collective of people, I think it’s a little weird and a lot disingenuous to pass off your stuff as essentially indie. But what the fuck do I know, ya know?

Also, though, Tommy boy himself? Kinda a mess! Remember how I said the crossover with The Mouse is weird? Kinkade actually pissed on a Winnie the Pooh sculpture in public declaring, “This one’s for you, Walt!” Dude just liked pulling out his ween and watering stuff, declaring it his. He was also accused of sexual assault a couple times and heckling other artists. Like, not cool, obviously, but also a weird and bold choice on Disney’s part. But I guess the thing is, most people who like his art just know NOTHING about him, so it’s super easy to get away with. Man I could blog about this forever. What a topic! But let’s move onto something way better.

Illustrations and calligraphy painted every page, beautiful and intricate like Beatrix Potter herself had sketched them.

Mycological illustration of the reproductive system of a fungus. Hygrocybe coccinea, Beatrix Potter, 1897
Illustration for page 65 of ‘The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies’, Beatrix Potter, 1909

People know Beatrix Potter as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, but less people seem to be aware she was a scientist. There’s a second reference to her in this book, a sort of hidden nod, and it’s to do with mushrooms which Potter seemed particularly fond of.

Because she was a woman, she couldn’t study in the capacity she wanted or present her findings on her own. I guess having a penis is necessary in studying mushroom reproduction which, okay, I get it, there’s a resemblance, sure, but I can’t imagine it’s all that integral.

Potter was also, obviously, an author, but she was self published too! She chose that route when traditional publishers wanted to print The Tale of Peter Rabbit too large for children’s hands which she didn’t want, so she just did it herself. God, girl, yas.

Okay, so onto Italian Renaissance artwork. There’s a chapter just soaked in this stuff in the book, it’s a whole thing, but instead of going into why and how it’s A Thing, I’ll just post some of the images I reference.

Christ Crowned with Thorns, Titian, 1542
Susanna and the Elders, Paolo Veronese, 1580
The Wedding at Cana, Paolo Veronese, 1562
Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci, 1506

Look, I’m not religious, but there is a beauty and grace to artwork from this time that’s touching. There was a turn, literally in how figures were painted, but also theoretically in what was represented, a light and dark are used to convey sorrow and hope in interesting way. And someone like Lorelei, who’s just always reaching and never making contact, would appreciate that. Also, you know, the art stuff.

There are also a number of references to colors, and it’s not like all authors don’t use color as description, but I tried to pull up every memory I had of watching Bob Ross on PBS when I would stay home sick from school to figure out what names might pop into Lorelei’s head when evaluating the color of a thing. So, here, enjoy an hour of Bob Ross. You’ve earned it.

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