Katherine Keenum

A blog about how paintings, photographs, and prints have helped me visualize my fiction—both Where the Light Falls and works-in-progress—with a hope that they will stimulate other writers and readers, too.

A small sample of the images that inspired me appears below. Click on these or any images in the posts to see enlargements. In the text, click on colored words to activate links.

Selected Works

An American woman art student meets a Civil War veteran in Belle Époque Paris.


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Picturing a World

Wintry inspiration

November 26, 2018

Tags: women artists

In her introduction to the 2016 edition of The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin says, “The artist deals with what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words.”

Imagery, like music, can induce feelings as well as ideas; it conveys complex attitudes, multiple meanings. Through her painting, Nom kinnear king expresses what she explores in the only way she fully can. Trying to put it into words would be pointless.

And yet, for those of us who are inspired by art while we are writing fiction, a picture may suggest a plot line. It may offer a concrete detail for a scene. Or it may just as well go into the unconscious and work magic. Gretta, I think, is going to haunt me into winter.

Thanksgiving 2018

November 22, 2018

Things you love sometimes lead you to personal connections that no one else might ever make but which nourish your soul. This year I have been exploring the art of Samuel Palmer. Every November I read Greer Gilman’s Moonwise. In September, up popped this engraving by Andrew Davidson, which reminded me of both. It also suggested its own mysteries independent even of the Riggs story it illustrates.

Great stimulants to the imagination are gifts to be thankful for, especially in dark times. (more…)

Beatrice Baxter Ruyl

November 12, 2018

Tags: summer art colonies, art schools, women artists

I love illustrated books, which in today’s world largely means children’s books. This combination of text and illustration from 1909 is by Beatrice Baxter Ruyl (who posed for photographer Gertrude Käsebier’s picture The Sketch). The children’s book pulp-fiction syndicate for (more…)

Monet’s Gare Saint-Lazare

November 8, 2018

Tags: Impressionism, Paris landmark, Monet, transportation

A tip from James Gurney on the release of high-resolution images by the Chicago Art Institute led me back to this 1877 painting by Monet. It was in my mind when I wrote Jeanette and Effie’s arrival in (more…)

Norah Smyth, photographer

November 6, 2018

Tags: photography, women's suffrage

Blog tip: Votes for women on both sides of the pond! A post on the English photographer, Norah Smyth, fits well on an American election day when women need to get out and exercise the right our foremothers won for us. And Smyth’s pictures of East Enders instead of the rich and famous should inspire us all to remember that ordinary people matter and can change the world for the better.

Hearts, arts (and votes)

November 3, 2018

“It’s hard to change people’s minds with information and rational arguments. I think what really changes people are experiences,” says Ben Fountain in an interview about his new book, Beautiful Country Burn Again. This struck me specially because recently, when I gave a reading, a local man who is fond of bragging to me that he never reads fiction came up and said, “I read the Narnia books when I was a child, but now I read for information. Do you read fiction?” I said, "Yes." I half wish I had thought to say, “Eustace Clarence Scrubb must have been your favorite character,” but what I really wish I could have thought to say was, "Yes, because vicarious experience informs the heart."

Fiction matters, poetry and music matter, drama and dance matter, representational painting and abstract sculpture matter—all the arts matter because the world is a better place the more we expand our hearts and minds. (more…)