By JEAN SHORNEY
Writing. Painting. Acting. Music. Our love of all things artistic successfully manages to inspire us. For me, as a writer, all the above are ultimately conducive. Music sets my scenes, but the music has to be of a particular kind. The waltz themes of old country music does the business every time.
The singers are barely known outside of this world in which I lose myself. Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner, Marty Robbins and Kitty Wells are among the artists who inspire my work. From the moment I sit down to write the music draws me in and the words flow as fluently as a river.
The kind of creativity that punctuates certain scenes issue from my love of both classical music and country. While writing a particular scene, I often play the same song innumerable times in order to maintain the scene’s development. Certainly for love or sex scenes, the dreamy country waltzes do it every time. It is my music that prevents the dreaded writer’s block from creeping in. From a blank page flows the music of my words so fast, I am no longer in this base world of normalcy, but in the lives of my creations. Sometimes the characters are so real, it’s as if I could reach out and touch them.
But it isn’t simply music that inspires, and envelops, me, or from where I create my characters. After all, where do our characters come from? From real life? A photo in a catalogue perhaps? A certain bone structure. A model. Will she make a suitable heroine?
For my own inspiration, the latter is the one I’ve often used in my books. There is the beautiful heroine, her hair flowing as pennants of molten lava to her waist. Or the black-haired woman, whom I described in one of my books, who has striking green eyes, muddied with brownish flecks. In the novel I’m in the process of writing, the heroine, Freya, is described by her husband as Venus rising from the sea (from the painting by Apelles). Her luxuriant auburn hair is entwined and plaited, cascading to the alabaster purity of her unfettered breasts.
So who inspired the artists? Who were their muses? For Dante Gabriel Rossetti, it was Miss Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal. Once a lowly hat-shop girl, she became the painter’s muse and later his wife. Thanks to the woman who improved his art to such a degree, he was soon to become as famous as John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, both members of the elite Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of mid-Victorian times. Other women came into Rossetti’s life of course. They too became his inspirations for some rather wonderful paintings – one was Jane Burden, later to marry the poet and artist William Morris.
Art can be inspiring to the writer too. The Rossetti beauties often punctuate my stories, but art and life isn’t all about beauty, of course. The other, darker side, the ugliness of life, is perhaps even more inspiring. I visited London recently, and the East End where the new happily unites with the old. We walked our own Jack the Ripper tour, which took us into those fascinating darker realms. The inspiration of ugliness was represented by a collection of murals on a dingy, dilapidated wall. There was a young woman, her features concealed by a black cloth, or wrapped in tape. The tape or cloth was pulled so tightly across her face, it barely left a small section of flesh exposed. For me the inspiration fuelled by the mural was so intense that I planned to use it my book.
In fact, for most readers, the inspiration evoked by the ugliness of life is the stuff we can’t get enough of.
If anyone has seen the amazing “DeviantArt”, they would know what wonderful book covers this particular art form would make. The horror scenes are particularly provocative. While writing this article, I have been browsing this amazing art. So many stories emerging. Beauty and Ugliness merging together in a kind of cataclysmic plethora of wonder.
There is inspiration all around us. All we have to do is not merely to open our eyes and our minds.
As a fan of the Old West, I’m inspired by the captivating art of my favourite painter of those times, Charles Russell. Russell depicted everything that encompassed the Old West, from outlaws holding up a stage to the fierce gun battles with Native Americans.
In art, as in life, there is a mixture of both beauty and ugliness. Each one an inspiration in their own way. A picture paints a thousand words. And a picture can also be transformed into a thousand words.
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