In my last blog post, I praised the writer William McIlvanney for his work capturing working class life in contemporary fiction and giving a voice to the people he grew up with in the west of Scotland. I’m fascinated by authentic representation of working class culture and heritage and so thanks to the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library, I was able to learn more about one of my favourite artists – Joan Eardley.
If McIlvanney used words, Eardley used paint to give us a credible portrait of the reality of life in deprived areas and she is famous for her paintings of ‘street urchins’. She also painted stunning seascapes whilst living in the remote village of Catterline in Aberdeenshire and her atmospheric paintings of stormy seas are powerful and full of energy.
Christopher Andreae has written a biography of Eardley and his talk, ‘Summer Sea, Winter Sea’ at GWL was a fantastic insight into the artist’s life and work. I love art but I’m no art critic so it was a real privilege to benefit from Christopher’s knowledge of her work.
Sadly, Eardley died aged 42 from breast cancer and I was left wondering how her career would’ve developed if she had the chance to live longer. Christopher’s slide show highlighted that Earley is one of the most influential painters of her generation whose paintings and drawings reflect urban and rural Scotland.
Her portraits of the children of inner city Glasgow and her east coast seascapes are a rich source of inspiration for a writing exercise. Her vibrant paintings of children make it easy for me to imagine my dad and his siblings playing in the street all those years ago. My dad was one of a family of fourteen children who operated a ‘first up, best dressed’ lifestyle and their childhood stories would fill several books.
Have you ever used artwork as a prompt for your writing? Are you a fan of Eardley’s work?
If you want to know a wee bit more about Eardley’s life and work, this short film is a good introduction.