How Many Stories Can A Picture Tell?

Catherine Nesbitt called the other day to buy a painting. It was her husband’s birthday and the painting gave Jim pleasure so she wanted him to have it. If the truth be told it wasn’t her favorite. The other painting they have been holding in safekeeping for me in North Carolina was actually the favorite, but that is one my 9 year old painted with me two years ago, when he was 7, and for a lot of reasons, mostly sentimental, we are not ready to part with it yet.

But Jim likes the other one a lot, too, and so we made the deal. I told her the image had been used as a writing prompt on the Storybook Collaborative and there might be writing that could come along with it and which might increase Jim’s pleasure. Of course she wanted to see what there was to see and so I dug to see what ekphrasis pieces people might have written about the painting. The painting to me was a constellation of images and I couldn’t remember, really, what might have been written. I hoped I would find something.

As luck would have it, I did find some things. I will post the image and the links to the writing below, because I think the story is interesting.

loopy heart

Loopy Heart (a.k.a. Mobius Heart: a.k.a. The Wheelbarrow Woman); mixed media,oils and charcoal on canvas, approx. 4’ x 3’

The first piece of writing I found was:

teach me death , by whypaisley

The second was:

Another Fine Day, by Doug Palmer

The third:

winged ventricle, from marlow44 (glenn buttkus)

(Click on the links to sample the flavor of their writing.)

And I was surprised to find that the third piece was my own, which I wrote in gibberish and then translated, and which I had entirely forgotten. I wrote the nonsense/sound poem for fun. The “translation” was something I did to squeeze a little more fun from the silly-talk. Both may be found here:


In my mind the poem and the painting fit somehow. Maybe because the painting reminded me of children’s book illustrations I grew up with. Sometimes I’ll look at a painting and wonder, where on earth did that come from? Then I’ll open some old children’s book, one of the Childcraft* series from the ‘50’s, say, and see a border illustration around a page and think, hmmm, that’s where they come from.

The painting itself was part of a series, in that they were all painted at roughly the same time. I try to do it that way – to always have multiple projects going – to protect myself from the tendency to torture a painting to death when I have only the one in front of me. With multiple projects I can turn from one to another when I run out of ideas for the first, working on the second, or third, or fourth, or fifth until ideas and a sense of direction for the first piece returns, or a sense of completion sets in.

Happy Birthday, Jim, best wishes always.

* Childcraft: hours of serene, happy, absorbed, enjoyment: projects, mythologies, stories, poetry, games, how to, and more.

Childcraft is also, I found after rediscovering the series 10 or 12 years ago in a thrift shop, easily recognizable as part of the institutionally racist, mid-century, white male dominated culture insinuating itself into every aspect of the lives of those of us growing up in the good old U.S. of A at the time.

Which is to say, it was invisible. To me, anyway. Like Crayola’s pink crayons, which were called “Flesh”, and the dusky red/burnt sienna, which was called “Indian Red”. Quite likely invisible to the authors of the series, as well. What am I overlooking today?

This entry was posted in art, childcraft books, collaborative storybook, Crayola crayons, creative process, Doug Palmer, ekphrasis, image prompts, institutional racism, Jim and Cathleen Nesbitt, painting, poetry, selling art, the wheelbarrow woman, whypaisley, Wilmington NC. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to How Many Stories Can A Picture Tell?

  1. Paul says:

    I’ll tell you this, Mobbsy. You are an artist and a man of great integrity. Not much higher compliment I can think of than that.


  2. marlowe44 says:

    Rick: That painting and image prompt was done before I became a regular contributer. I had just found out about your blog, turned on to it by Janet Leigh, and I simply borrowed the image to illustrate Doug Palmer’s poem. I had not progressed yet to the point where I was brave enough to begin writing poetry to compliment the image. Still, now, on my site the painting is posted once, years ago, over Palmer, and now again, over Mobbsian poetry. While you were busy making a “living” last year, and we reported weekly here to pick up the droppings, the few words you shared, we missed these image prompts. Your Art, your paintings and poems had become a significant part of my world, and I was missing the heart/soul connection. Welcome back to it.



  3. rick mobbs says:

    I don’t know where you get that, Paul, but I’ll take it. Thanks.

    Mr Marlow 44, now you’ve done it. The cat’s out of the bag and Jim is going to find out the only thing that painting has to do with Doug’s poem is… you. So now I’m asking you, and Doug, if he’s around, to write a something to attach to the image so I can make it up to my friend Jim. (If it fits into your life.)

    But I kinda did the same thing with my nonsense verse, made some intuitive connection to the painting and so posted them together.

    Good to be back, and good to hear from you both again. Thanks.


  4. marlowe44 says:

    I accept you challenge, sir, and you can now find a new poem by mineself: WINGED VENTRICLE, over on my site:

    And so now all’s right in the Mobbsian universe, enit?



  5. marlowe44 says:

    So in fact, actually now this image prompt is offered three times on my site.
    One over the Doug Palmer poem.
    One over the Rick Mobbs poem.
    One over the poem by me.

    Cool, enit?



  6. marlowe44 says:

    This comment section is turning into the Marlowe44 show, gosh. Not to state the obvious, but it has been seven weeks since Senor Mobbs has blogged some. We can only hope that whatever is keeping Rick so occupied is not a tragic or bad thing, but just life; work and such. We, of the Mobbsian infleunce, do miss your patter and passion. We do miss you, again.



  7. rick mobbs says:

    Hello Mr Marlow 44,
    I’m always glad to hear from you. Just overworked and undermotivated or you would have heard from me by now. Sorry for the extended silence. I hope you are well. I’ll try to catch up this week. Will be emailing.

    Later, skater,



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