Just recently, I had the very great pleasure of spending the day with a long-time friend of mine. As we were travelling by train to our destination, and a leisurely lunch followed by a play, we discussed a number of issues ranging from art to honesty. But it was the debate about art that has kept creeping back into my mind.
My friend, who knows I’m writing this post but wishes to remain anonymous, so we’ll call her C for ease of reference, is an artist. She produces lovely scenic views in watercolour but also likes to work with acrillic paints. I happen to be the very proud owner of one of her watercolours of a village in France and it hangs in my lounge.
But – the conversation! It has stayed with me because I have realised that her talent for drawing and painting is not so very different from my own capability to spin words. You see, we’d got to the nitty gritty of how she put what she could see in front of her onto a piece of paper. ‘There’s a spontaneity about watercolour,’ she said. ‘You have to work quite fast.’ And later she said, ‘Washes are good for sky and the changes in the density of the colour can suggest the clouds, for instance.’
As the discussion progressed I was reminded of a time some years ago when we sat in balcony area of The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and I made a comment about how to reproduce on paper the people opposite. ‘I would look at the light and the dark,’ she said. ‘And the shades in between.’ On the train, she talked about recreating the colours on the paper which helped her to suggest shadow and light, depth and detail.
She then looked out of the train window at the houses we were passing and talked about finding a small detail of particular interest, an arrangement of brickwork, a lintel across a window or door, perhaps a fracture in the stone, anything of interest. ‘I focus on that and draw it,’ she said. ‘Once I’ve got that small detail I can add in the surrounding features and expand the picture.’
It was at this point I realised that, although C is a gifted artist and I’m only a spinner of words, we are not so very different after all. As a reader, I never look at blurbs on the backs of books to help me decide if I want to read them. I always turn to the first page and start reading and if I can’t see the colours in the writing after the first couple of paragraphs, the book goes back on the shelf. And it’s the same when I’m sat in front of my computer screen. If I can’t see the scene in my mind’s eye in full and glorious technicolour, then the words won’t be there.
I guess C and I just use our ability to see colour in different ways. I did suggest to C that she become one of my interviewees for this blog – but she said no. Asked would she consider making some of her pictures available for my blog. And you guessed it, she said no. So, to illustrate this particular post, I’m afraid you will have to put up with a couple of pieces of art that hang on my walls. I hope yoiu like them.