In July, Jeff Phelps and Marion Cockin ran a workshop for us on writing inspired by colour and paintings.
We started with a fun exercise using colour names taken from paint charts.
Jeff talked about the role of paintings in his own work: his first novel Painter Man (published by Tindal Street Press, 2005) is about an artist and how his art is influenced by and reflects his life. Jeff told us he was inspired by an exhibition about a Black Country artist.
He also used old photos of New Brighton and Liverpool for inspiration when writing his second novel Box of Tricks (Tindal Street Press, 2009). And the title poem of his poetry collection Wolverhampton Madonna (Offa’s Press, 2016) is based on ‘Madonna and Child’, a painting by Marianne Stokes that’s currently in Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
We looked at a number of other poems inspired by paintings, including:
‘Mourning Picture’ painted by Edwin Romanzo Elmer (1890), and the poem of the same name by Adrienne Rich (1965)
‘The Starry Night’ painted by Van Gogh (1889), and the poem of the same name by Anne Sexton (1961), and
‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ painted by Duchamp (1912) and the poem of the same name by X. J. Kennedy (1961).
Finally, we had a go ourselves – picking a picture and writing a story or poem inspired by it, trying to do more than just describe the picture: could the poem/story stand on its own? Did it add something to the picture it was inspired by?