Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

I met a fellow children's author in the café of the National Gallery the other day. After our lunch he told me he was going to sit in front of a particular painting by Van Gogh for a long time. He said it helped him get ideas for his writing.

That's something I do, too, though Van Gogh doesn't work for me. I don't mean that I don't like his paintings. I love them. I just mean that they don't give me any ideas for stories. For me it's religious art that does the trick. It's all that imagery.

Last summer when I was in Italy I kept coming across representations of St Bartholomew. Every church I stepped into, there he was on the wall holding his own skin in one hand. Apparently, this is how he is always represented because he was martyred by being flayed alive.

When I got back to England I knew it would start to work its way into my writing and it did. I didn't write a story about someone being flayed alive. But I did write one about someone who goes through the psychological equivalent.

According to the internet St Bartholomew is the patron saint of tanners which seems like a fairly ironic occupation for him to end up with. I think there's a good case for appointing him to the position of patron saint of writers looking for ideas.


Paul said...

I think St. Lucy is considered the patron saint of writers.

Flayed alive. Yikes!

Brian Keaney said...

I didn't know that, Paul. I'd better look her up. Presumably she's the one in the sky with diamonds.

Elin said...

There is some beautiful religious art out there, but there are also some very gruesome depictions of the saints. I came across this one of St Maximillian Kolbe the other day and found it very poignant. I'd just been in conversation with one of my students whose father had been in a concentration camp and it brought it all very close.