I’ve come across lots of books, apps and websites with writing prompts. I don’t think any of them have mentioned looking at paintings. I find that to be quite inspirational, in the sense of inspiring me to write reviews (which I don’t always publish).
To be inspired in such a way involves seeing exhibitions or at least visiting art galleries, which is always a pleasure. However, the next best thing — because such visits are time-consuming — is to look at books of paintings. I have several of these at home, and one of my favourites is Andrew Graham-Dixon’s In the Picture: The Year Through Art (Amazon affiliate link).
This looks at 48 paintings — 4 to a month — starting in January. I love it because the sumptuously reproduced paintings are accompanied by two or three pages of explanatory text. More often than not, there is much more to the art than one would think, especially when it comes to the symbolism present in may of the paintings.
At first sight, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with the writer, unless your specialism is art criticism. However, I think it serves three useful purposes.
First, it gives your brain a rest. Whether your topic is the development of tractor engines or a romantic novel, reading something completely different can be quite restful.
Secondly, some of the paintings may evoke an emotional response which inspires you to write. This is certainly worth bearing in mind if you suffer from writers’ block.
Thirdly, because this particular book explains things that may not be obvious to the casual observer, I like to think that it exercises that part of the brain responsible for making logical connections.
It’s a great book for dipping into, is beautifully written, and very informative. Sadly, it’s out of print now, but used copies are available on Amazon.