Painted Sounds – Writing About Art

Once a year the Palm Springs Branch of the National League of American Pen Women holds its annual program called Painted Sounds. The popular event actually begins several weeks prior when predetermined artists share their paintings online with the Branch membership. Pen Women then select one or more of these paintings to write about … what they see, how it makes them feel, memories the painting evokes.

This year an artists’ group in Desert Hot Springs called the Spa City Paletteers submitted artwork on the Pen Women website, the individual artists’ names anonymous. As a long time NLAPW member, I knew I wanted to participate. I scrolled through the submitted work to make a selection.

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A Blend of Writing and Art

I chose a watercolor by artist Marlis Gray. It reminded me of the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean and how I grew to love the Pacific shore. It reminded me of the times many years ago I swam from a Malibu beach out into the ocean, feeling free, empowered and full of wonder.

A strong swimmer, I often swam out into the sea a good distance. Near a large kelp bed, I’d turn and look back at the land, all the while enjoying the water around me, the breeze on my face, the salty smell of the sea. Mostly, I enjoyed the sense of freedom, the dissolution of boundaries, the joy of adventure in the offing. I admired the rising hills, the beauty of the shoreline and became filled with anticipation about life experiences ahead as a new California transplant from western New York.

Time has passed and, to build on an old adage, I’ve sailed through life’s smooth waters, its turbulent waters and have been becalmed. I no longer swim in the sea nor look back at the shore while treading water near mysterious kelp beds. I look out at the sea from the shore to give myself a different perspective.

Now, when I look out onto the Pacific, I seek its solace. I seek its ability to renew my spirit and clear my head. I welcome the brain space for new thoughts, to solve a problem or make a choice or decision. I savor the sea’s ability to calm my mind, give me peace, renew my sense of wonder.

These thoughts motivated me to choose the watercolor below by Marlis Gray.


The artist titled her work “Join Me by the Sea.”

Join Me by the Sea

Join me by the sea,
spread a blanket among the dunes.
We’ll watch waves unfurl in
rhythmic beats along an endless shore.

Ocean breezes will skim
across the fathoms of sapphire hue,
while along the horizon a
setting sun will tiptoe from our view.

Immeasurable grains of sand will
remind us of ages past,
of explorers cautious but not afraid,
sailing the seas unknown.

We voyage life’s uncharted main
like mariners of old.
Come, take time to fill your soul.
Join me by the sea.

                                                                                      by Carol Mann © 2018

Writing about art, called Ekphrastic writing, dates from the time of the early Greeks. According to the Poetry Foundation, “an ekphrastic poem is a poem inspired or stimulated by a work of art.” You can see more writings based on the Spa City Paletteers on the Pen Woman website. If you haven’t written to a piece of art or want to do it again, select a painting and try your hand.

The book pictured below, which I co-created with artist Lynn Centeno and titled All Ways A Woman, tells the story of women’s lives via original poetry and art as they make their journey through life’s special moments. The content illustrates this ancient ekphrastic concept of writing inspired by art.

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All Ways A Woman is available on

About cmwriter

I'm a writer ... of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I blog about writing, short stories, poetry, books, plays, and thoughts on life. Love reading and travel and being with friends!
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4 Responses to Painted Sounds – Writing About Art

  1. kathybjork says:

    So glad you chose to share your beautiful poem and the information about the Pen Women program. I think this connection between visual artists and writers is a special one.

  2. Danielle Cook says:

    Another beautiful posting AND poem! Thank you also for educating me on Ekphrasic writing.

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