My friend at Sentient Marrow (see Blogs on Interest) made a list of thirteen artists and writers who have influenced her. Her list is rather art-heavy as she's a visual artist; mine will list quite a few more writers (especially poets) than artists. These are in no particular order; there is simply no way to value them one against the other.
1. John Milton: His elevated language as he writes about heavenly things from a human perspective haunts me; his poetry is the human expression closest to heavenly experience. Paradise Lost is THE masterpiece of the English language.
2. JMW Turner: His work, which early is so distinct and clear and becomes wilder and more colorful as he increased in experience and knowledge, helps me to se that "letting go" is something I need to do as a writer and artist. Don't worry about the details; just CREATE!
3. Emily Dickinson: I can't say that she's my favorite poet because she's so obtuse, but her style of writing has definitely impacted the form of my own poetry.
4. Louisa May Alcott: From childhood, her semi-biographical novels have impacted how I live my life: richly, for others. The newer discoveries of her work under an assumed name have shown me that her work is far from childhood material; she could write exciting and even dark works that are surprising; versatility is a gift, and she certainly possessed it in abundance.
5. Mary Cassatt: A print of "Breakfast in Bed" graces our living room. Her work, mostly about mothers and children, touches a deep chord within me. Her delicate use of color reminds me to delicately frame the words I write. The soft strength of her paintings demonstrate that what is gentle can also be some of the strongest stuff.
6. Geoffrey Chaucer: Studying Chaucer for an entire year in graduate school taught me to look for the inherent humor in some of the kost serious situations. The layering of earnestness, humor, descriptive genius, and a darn good story causes me to aspire to heights I can't quite imagine myself, but which I hope are indeed possible.
7. ee cummings: His poetry, minus punctuation and capitalization, searches for the inner child in even the gruffest of people. His turn of phrase, his love of what was light and good, and his gentle touch of the perfect word in the perfect phrase inspires my poetry continually.
8. John Everett Millais: I had never seen a Millais painting until I stepped into the Tate Gallery in London. His "Ophelia" and other amazing paintings showed that colors brighten even the most morbid scene. Whether colors are of physical or descriptive, they enliven all scenes. Color is "the deal" in life.
9. William Shakespeare: Obviously the most amazing English poet and playwright whose grasp of human psychology was so amazing. His turn of phrase, his poetic sense, his depth of character development, all these qualities inspire me to read more of his work and perhaps I'll even write a sonnet sometime!
10. Judith Deem Dupree: An acomplished poet and a woman who was surprised when I told her that she holds her opinions "with authority." She inspires me in the ability to build others up to see the artist within themselves. She has spent her life in encouragement and empowerment, and her poetry is at once the stuff of revelation and the stuff of life. (Both the same thing, really.) It inspires me to have someone I know who writes so well and encouarges me in my work, so that being an "writer" seems like it might actually become a reality.
11. Fra Angelico: His art is pre-Renaissance in its time period, yet so much of his art seems to herald the high Renaissance ideals while remaining true to the medieval mindset. His "Resurrection" has been my wallpaper ever since I got my laptop about four years ago, and it never ceases to amaze me. Perusing his work feels like reading Scriptures or Milton's poetry: the stuff of God is revealed within it.
12. Lucy Maud Montgomery: If only I could write prose like hers! I still sit stunned and amazed as I observe the quality of her writing. Her "Anne" books are absolute brilliance of human nature, humor, and poignancy; the last book in the series, Rilla of Ingleside, taught me more about the First World War than any book I've ever read. But her prose simply blows me away every time I pick up one of her books.
13. Frederica Mathewes-Green: Her writing on Orthodoxy has been informative, humorous, touching, and convicting. Her small book The Illumined Heart taught me to look at myself through the eyes of a first-century Christian. She mixes autobiography with liturgy with history with gentle humor. And her movie reviews are some of the best I've ever read. I've been fortunate to meet her twice now; her modern viewpoint of ancient faith is invaluable in today's theological works.
So there they are: the Thirteen Artists and Writers who have impacted me the most. Only two are living, one of whom lives in my town and the other one I've at least met. The rest are classics whose quality I know I'll never reach, but perhaps I can do a little of what Judith and Frederica do. Someday.