Juliette Forrest: Writing stories inspired by colour
I spent most of my childhood surrounded by pens and pencils, colouring things in. It came as no surprise when I announced to my parents I wanted to be an art director. Years of slaving away on eye-catching layouts for press ads, posters and websites fuelled my obsession for the names of colours – especially the ones on paint charts. Yellow was never plain old boring yellow: it was Luscious Lemon Drops or Downy Duckling or Treasure Island Gold or Tuscan Sun. It was as if they could, somehow, magically transform your life for the better.
It was a joy creating Coral Glen, the heroine of my second children’s book. She lives by the seaside, has a cat called God and can see an extraordinary range of colours others can’t, which opens a door into a new world. I wanted the colours to add an extra layer of vibrancy to her surroundings as well as to be positively life-changing for her. And just like Coral Glen, there’s more to some colours than meets the eye.
This extraordinary pigment found its way on to the palettes of painters in the 1800s. The magical ingredient which gave the paint its rich brown hue was none other than ground up mummy from Egypt. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that artists balked at the origins of the pigment. C. Roberson, an old art shop in London, sold their last tube of the paint in 1960. It was said the artist Edward Burne-Jones was so horrified about its provenance, his tube of Egyptian brown received a decent burial.
The Royal Navy suffered terrible losses during the Second World War. Lord Mountbatten, aboard his ship, the HMS Kelly, noticed a dull grey liner in the distance that seemed to disappear at dusk. It wasn’t long before all the destroyers in his flotilla were painted the same shade of grey with a dash of pink, creating the perfect camouflage that became known as Mountbatten pink. ‘The Pink Lady’ as it was called survived heavy gunfire near the Norwegian coast with no casualties.
This wonderfully vibrant yellow pigment with its unusual smell was used by artists in the 1700s. It was made by cow herders from a small town in Bengal. The cattle were fed a strict diet of mango and water, turning their pee a luminous yellow colour. The pigment was created by collecting the urine, boiling it down and rolling the sediment into balls, ready to be dried in the sun.
Julius Caesar was the first to wear a toga in glorious Tyrian Purple. The rich tone associated with power and royalty, was the product of two shellfish from the Mediterranean. To extract the dye the hypobranchial gland of the mollusc was removed and a garlic-smelling liquid squeezed out of it. It took a staggering 250,000 sea snails to make an ounce of dye and the piles of shells discarded around the dyeworks were so enormous, they have since become geographical features along the coastline.
Competition: Win a copy of The True Colours of Coral Glen
Thanks to the lovely folk at Scholastic UK, we have three copies of The True Colours of Coral Glen to give away. Simply send your answer to the following question to firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday 16 July:
What is Coral Glen's cat called?
b) Lemon Drop
The book launch party for The True Colours of Coral Glen with special guests Barbara Henderson, Victoria Williamson and Louise Peterkin is at Waterstones Sauchiehall Street on 11 July, 6-8pm. Tickets are free and can be found at Waterstones.com or Eventbrite.co.uk