An afternoon spent wandering aimlessly in an art gallery or exhibition, letting the images feed my imagination, is sheer bliss. As with music and dance and literature, I find many forms of art inspirational in my writing.
A painter whose works I much admire is David Roberts, an artist who painted wonderfully vivid scenes of the Middle East.
Roberts was born in 1796 in Edinburgh, and his first foray into painting was an apprentice decorator. He then moved on to painting scenery – first at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal and then at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Meanwhile, there was growing interest in the oil paintings he was producing. As his artistic career – both as a stage scenery and oil painter – developed, he began travelling to seek inspiration, and it’s these later paintings that really inspired the British public – who, at the time, were very interested in foreign settings.
He painted scenes of Italy and France, but it is his paintings inspired by his journey to Egypt, the Holy Land, Jordan and Lebanon in the 1830s that established him as a great artist. He developed his drawings and watercolours, made at the scenes, into oil paintings and lithographs. His work was much in demand when he returned to Britain; indeed, Queen Victoria bought a set of paintings. The series also earned him a place in the prestigious Royal Academy.
There’s something about Roberts’ depiction of foreign soil that stirs my inner artist – the part of me that, when I write a description of a setting, tries to really capture the scene and create a vivid image in the reader’s mind. In Burning Embers Morgana, the dancer who is in love with Rafe, is Middle Eastern, and while I wrote her scenes I pictured the settings she’d have known as in Roberts’ paintings. And among his artwork there are paintings of Nubia, which though part of upper Egypt is more like Africa, and these inspired me while writing about settings.
The easiest way to take a look at Roberts’ works is to type ‘David Roberts’ into Google and select images. I’m sure you’ll agree, they really capture a sense of grandeur and beauty in their subjects.