Writing on Wednesday: Red, Black and Silver (a new beginning)


Red, Black and Silver by Jackson Pollack
Red, Black and Silver by Jackson Pollock

 Although I haven’t finished revisions to my novel, I’m drafting the first chapter of a new book to turn in to the YOK Workshop in Oxford in a couple of weeks. (REMINDER: REGISTER SOON…. HERE!)

I’ve only drafted about nine pages. I’ll share the first two here…. just as a teaser:


Chapter One

Hattie continued to drip paint onto the large canvas spread on the floor of the art therapy room, although there was barely any white space left. This week she was replacing the neutral colors she had chosen for her first pieces—ochre, brown, beige, and white—with bold hues of blue, red, and yellow. Heavy black lines criss-crossed the swirls and drips of color. Each consecutive painting had become more intense. She used increasingly thicker layers of paint, giving the work an almost three-dimensional appearance. Her first two paintings seemed to lack any clear architecture, but this one was different.

A nurse escorted another patient into the room just as Hattie was finishing her painting. They stood silently, staring at the paint-splattered canvas for a while before the nurse ushered the patient to a table on the other side of the room, where some pastels and paper were waiting. Hattie looked up at the patient in her pale blue hospital gown and the nurse in her white uniform. A perfect sky dotted with cotton ball clouds. She wished for a new canvas to capture the image.

“Hi, Mildred,” Jessica waved to the middle-aged woman. “Have a seat and go ahead and get started with the pastels if you’d like. I’ll be over to talk with you in a few minutes.” Jessica looked more like a free-spirited hippie than a health-care professional. Actually, she was both. She lived in Greenwich Village and frequented the bohemian shops in her neighborhood. Today she was wearing a typical find—a blue and black batik tunic with jeans and sandals. Her straight blond hair was pulled into a ponytail to keep it out of the paint when she was working with her patients.

Mildred nodded as she sat at the table, but her focus returned to the painting on the floor. It was large—about four feet by six feet—and very difficult to ignore. She watched as Jessica continued her conversation with Hattie.

“Tell me about this piece,” Jessica approached Hattie as she was putting the large spatula she had just used back into a bucket of paint on the floor. Hattie’s curly brown hair was tucked behind her ears, revealing holes in her earlobes where the emergency room personnel had removed her large loop earrings the day she arrived at the hospital. Her smooth, olive skin was covered with paint. She fingered her left lobe as she stared at the painting with her light blue eyes, herself a study in contrast.

“What do you want to know?” Hattie’s face was as blank as the concrete block wall behind her, and her words fell flat.

“Well, this one seems to have some brighter flicks of yellow than the other two—it almost seems like some sort of sunlight is flowing through the blacks and browns. Does that mean something?”

Hattie turned from the painting to pick up a pack of cigarettes from a nearby table. Patients weren’t allowed to have matches or lighters, so Jessica lit the cigarette for her and patiently waited for her reply. After a pull or two on her smoke, she spoke without looking at Jessica.

“Did I do something wrong?” Her voice was apologetic, almost child-like.

“Oh, no—not at all. It’s wonderful. All of the paintings you’ve done here are really good. It’s just that they are, well, unusual. Not many people use these techniques in their painting, and I was just wondering where you got the idea. And what you were feeling when you created them. Especially this new one today.”