It can be useful, using one kind of art to inspire another. Besides being a writer, I'm an amateur photographer. Often, when I get particularly stuck in my writing work, I take pictures to guide me out of my block. Photography makes me stand still and take in what is in front of my eyes. With writing I can add more; a sense of tone, of atmosphere, the feelings that are inherent in this place and time. In fact, I'm working on and off again on a project of linking photos to poetry (if you scroll through some of my blog posts, you'll see some of this work sprinkled in here).
I've used famous works, too. I've written at least three poems on Van Gough's Sunflowers. One of my favorite paintings is Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, and I so I wrote a poem about it. I love going to art museums and galleries, seeking out art that inspires me.
And before you think 'well, I don't do poetry', pictures can also be useful in novel writing and storytelling. When starting a new project, I always make a Pinterest board (and sometimes also an istock board). I keep it 'hidden' just for myself and fill it with images that bring to mind the places my characters inhabit. I add and subtract images as the story grows and I learn more about the characters and their environs.
My WIP is a western historical called, tentatively, The Stars All Have Names. It's set on a Colorado Ranch in the 1880s, The boards, as you might imagine, are full of ranches and mountains, and big night skies. There are a number of horses, too. And cowboys. And a steam engine or two. These are the images in my head as I write and flipping to them can sometimes help me to set the scene,
The book I have coming out later this month, The Fall Line, and it's 'sister' book, Dancing in the White Room, are set in a skiing world. Both boards have lots of skiers and mountains covered in snow. Racing is a big part of Fall Line, so I've included some pictures of ski racers and slalom courses. In Dancing, there's a strong mother/ young child theme, so there a winter pictures of moms with their small children, as well as a spattering of ski lifts, and an area ski map of Whiteface Mountain, where the main character works.
I find these very helpful when I'm dipping back down into the world in my imagination, the world I want to share with my readers.
Do you find images helpful in your writing? How do you use them?