Themes in life and art

Recently, when having lunch with a local novelist, I mentioned that I’d just finished a draft of a short story I’d been working on since I was about eleven (that’s twenty-odd years ago). She looked surprised. She may have even taken a short gasp. Her look was one of, “Why/how could it take you so long?”

The short story version my eleven-year-old self wrote was, well, an eleven-year-old’s ramblings. The story has grown and changed since then (I would hope so!). But I’ve returned to this story again and again over the years, rewriting, revising. It even became a play when I was in college. Why?

Last week I had my eureka moment.

Themes. Of course, themes!

My sculpture, Beatrice, is about intercession. Redemption. She is named for Dante’s Beatrice. The short story I just revised, again, also includes that theme of a female intercessor. My eureka moment was discovering/realizing that I’ve expressed that idea in both written and sculptural form. There is something inexplicable that draws me to this idea of the female helper. I’ve expressed it across media.

My singing instructor made a comment about singers recently. But it’s a comment that can be applied to any artist, regardless of discipline. He said (and I paraphrase), “The thing about artists is that we keep trying, keep experimenting with things in different ways, we try variations on the same theme until we get it right.”

Variations of a theme. Classical musicians commonly explored variations on a theme. So did the Impressionists. Look at Monet.

Maybe my singing instructor is right. Artists, or pursuers of creative endeavors, are compelled to try something different with the theme until we get it just right.

Do you have themes you return to in your creative pursuits, exploring them in different ways, through different characters and with different outcomes? Do tell.



  1. A recurring theme for me seems to be evil fathers. 😯

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