Crimson, buttercup, emerald, slate, cocoa bean… I’ve always been drawn to colour, in what I wear, how I decorate and especially when writing. I love the richness and joy colour brings, both visually and through words on the page. I’ve been known, when travelling, to collect paint colour charts. An unusual souvenir but they’re great reference aids when my creative mojo goes walkabout. I flick through their pages savouring exotic names that roll off the tongue - prairie peach, climbing vine, cheetah spots, young banana - soon those ideas are coursing again.
And so I look forward to what has become an annual treat when I meet my friend, K in one of our favourite places to visit - the seaside town of Broughty Ferry, near Dundee. As well as enjoying K’s company, a hearty lunch followed by ice cream and a stroll along the beach, one of the things I most look forward to is browsing the Eduardo Alessandro Studio, which showcases Scottish contemporary art. So what has all this to do with writing?
|Artwork by Jack Morrocco|
Well K is a keen amateur painter who knows her stuff, introducing me to the street café scenes of Jack Morrocco, the clean lines of fine artist and children’s illustrator, Dan Crisp along with the quirky designs of Gail Stirling Robertson. When browsing alone I tend to be quite simple in taste, drawn to exhibits brightest in colour, instinctively knowing what I like and what leaves me cold - but perhaps not understanding why. And it’s the ‘why’ K helps explain as we appreciate paintings together, providing a brief lesson in art.
First, the artist must select the palette to be used for colour scheme and harmony, choosing opposites on the colour wheel, which are pleasing to the eye. It’s also important to re-use colours to unify a painting, for example, when using a certain shade of blue in the sky to use it again in the foreground. On examining canvases carefully I found this was so – noticing the soft blush of nectarine in a snow scene or vivid mauve in the swell of the sea. And it struck me the same is true for writers when considering character development. Conflict – essential to fiction writing – works best when the protagonist and their opponent are opposite in nature. When characters are too alike then writing lacks, well – a bit of colour.
|Artwork by Gail Stirling Robertson|
My art lesson continues. The second decision a landscape artist must make is where to place the horizon, either above or below the mid point, avoiding dead centre, which most find too harsh. And so it is with fiction writing when selecting point of view – deciding whose story should be told, which character’s voice will grab the reader best, pulling them in. Of course in writing we have the luxury of being able to tell the story from a number of viewpoints, but they must all draw the reader towards the same final scene.
Finally, K explains the skills required when using different medium in art. My friend is a water colourist, one of the most difficult forms of painting, requiring a light touch and patience, as work must dry before the artist can continue. Unlike say the bold, layered strokes of an oil painter, who enjoys more freedom to experiment, adapting their designs. Again, this made me think of the plethora of skills required when writing– the imagery of poetry, restrictive length of a short story or novella, the need for pacing in a novel. Skills at least two members of our Novel Points of View blog team have shown in spades this week. Congratulations to Lesley Cookman on publication of ‘Murder Dancing’, the 16th in the Libby Sarjeant crime series and to Gill Stewart, writing as Gillian Villiers, on publication of ‘As Time Goes By’, the 4th novella in a collection set in the Scottish Highlands.
And so back to Broughty Ferry - and after a pleasant hour in the gallery with K, I understand more of what it must be like to stand in an artist's shoes. But then isn’t that one of the things that makes a great friend? - Someone to learn from, adding colour to life.