In my novel, Death of a Friend, Detective Inspector Fiona Collins comes into Karl Landry’s office to discuss some painting remnants found in a fire ravaged house. She makes herself comfortable in his expensive office furniture and the following scene takes place:
She sat in the soft leather chair, squirmed a little.
“Mm, nice chair. Wish I had furniture like this in my office.” I didn’t know what to say and she smiled at me. It was my office, I should be in control.
“Yes,” she said, looking at the line drawings on my walls, in no hurry. “They’re new.”
She was right. I’d changed the insipid art work the interior designer had installed, with my own choice. She was looking at a bank of six black-framed animal cartoons in two lines of three, close together.
“Full marks. Prints of course.” We both smiled. “Most clients – if they notice them at all – think they’re cartoons and ask if I did them. They’re cartoons all right, and aren’t they the very essence? That ostrich. That dog. He had a dachshund. Called it Lumpe. It takes a passionate genius to be able to draw a single line like that.”
“Yes, it’s what we’re all looking for isn’t it?”
“A line to follow, as right as that. I like them.”
“Shall I send them over with this furniture?”
“Ah, please.” She looked at them longingly, taking her time, and said with more seriousness, “Everyone should have something as good as that on the wall, just to remind them at the beginning of each day, what’s possible.”
I wrote that scene early in the book and it stuck in my mind..
It’s not uncommon to find a scene from real life in a novel, it is after all a legitimate way to make a setting, but I couldn’t think of a fiction setting which was then translated into real life. That hasn’t happened with the scene above either, but it almost has.
The more I thought about what Fiona said the more I agreed with her. That was my belief. Well, it would be since I’d written the scene, but the more I thought about it, the more I believed in it. I grew jealous of Karl Landry’s wall. I wanted to see the block of six Picasso cartoons at the beginning of each day. I had the wall but I didn’t have the pictures, or the money to buy them..
Of course I spoke about this at home and I meant to do something about it but I had a book to write and it took up all my time.
A birthday arrived and with it a wonderful Picasso print of an owl, just as I had imagined it, the first frame for my blank wall. I bought another, the cartoon of Picasso’s daschund, Lumpe. Picasso used only a line drawing, yet there they are – a serious owl and an alert dog – and they are entirely there in form, in spirit.
Now, I have two pictures, two Picasso cartoons on my wall, a beginning, and just as in the fiction I wrote, I look at them every morning and I think to myself – yes, if I can write as plainly and tellingly as those lines capture the very essence of those animals, I shall be heading in the right direction.
Always artists try to get to the heart of things. Whether they be writers, potters or painters, dancers or musicians doesn’t matter, the trade is only their instruments of choice, their purpose remains the same – to capture the essential spirit of what they are working with and present it to the world for its enlightenment and its pleasure.
It is not easy and the only thing the artist has a right to, is the struggle to do it, yet it seems such a worthwhile life.
Of course I want my work to enrich the lives of people and it pleases me, makes me smile, that in this instance it has enriched my own.
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