Monday, 3 October 2011

Guest blog post by Teresa Flavin: 5 eras in time I'd like to go to and why

After reading her thrilling books, as part of the promotion for The Crimson Shard (Link to follow soon), Teresa very kindly wrote about 5 eras she would like to have travelled to and why. I can see where she gets all her ideas for her stories from - there's just so much scope in all the historical eras. 

Time Travelling
When I began thinking about the top five eras in history I'd like to visit, I thought they fell into two straightforward categories: Heavenly and Hellish. But I realised that each had its upsides and downsides as well, and that as a time-traveller, my experience would very much depend upon whether I walked among the rich or the poor. 

If I could cross time, like Sunni and Blaise, my teenager characters in The Blackhope Enigma and The Crimson Shard, I'd go to mid-1750's London like they did and see it for myself. Their experience of this filthy, lawless city is Hellish because of the dire circumstances they find themselves in, and it's far from the glossy, indulgent lifestyles of the rich. But Sunni and Blaise do also experience the opulent side of Georgian life: large houses, entertainments and costumes. As an artist, all these dark and light elements attract me greatly and play a big part in the 'film' that is running in my head when I write Of course I'd want to wear a huge dress and a fantastic wig, or even an outrageous costume to an over-the-top  ball, but I'd also want to experience the edginess of London street life. 

My second journey across time would to (Heavenly) 16th Centure Venice, where I would hopefully be transported into a painter's studio. If I were especially lucky, I would be on hand to see Titian or Veronese working. Not only would I be privy to their ways of painting, but I'd also be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world - and one of the most powerful and prosperous of the Renaissance. I made Fausto Corvo, the enigmatic painter at the root of The Blackhope Enigma, a Venetian, and imagined him navigating the canals and maze-like squares, on the run from his enemy, Soranzo. Even the most beautiful cities have terrifying dark sides. 

I would be back in Hellish territory for my third journey: 17th century London in 1665-66. But I would only do this if I were immune from all disease and able to escape quickly, for this was the period of the Great Plague and then the Great Fire. My fascination for this dramatic time was at its height when I was in art school and did an illustrated history of the Plague year. I learned everything about rats and buboes and plague doctors, but I also listened to music of the time and studied the work of painters like Sir Peter Lely, a prolific portrait artist. I have a particular liking for the fashions of the period: swashbuckling boots with bows, daring necklines on dresses and lots of high wigs. 

I'd leave Europe for my fourth (and Heavenly) trip to the past and visit India under the Mughal emperors, Akbar and Jahangir, in the late 16th and early 17th century, when their artists were creating some of the most stunning miniature paintings ever seen. The Mughals brought Persian culture to the Indian subcontinent, and presided over one of the richest and greatest empires in the world. Once again, I would seek out the miniature painters' workshops and watch their painstaking renderings of illuminated manuscripts. I have been inspired by Persian and Indian miniatures for many years and try to bring their richness of colour and detain into my own illustrations. 

My final trip would be to Paris in the 1870's and 1880's, to experience the radical new ideas of the Impressionist painters, such as Monet, Pissarro, and Renoir, who challenged the artistic conventions of the time. This would be a heady experience, and not without drama, because the Impressionists withstood harsh criticism, were rejected from exhibitions and worked on with little money. I'm fascinated by their Parisian cafe society, the passionate battle they waged to see their work accepted and by their, at times fractious, camaraderie. To paint outside in all weather conditions with Monet or to draw dancers rehearsing in the company of Degas would indeed be Heavenly. 

Thank you Teresa for a truly interesting post - they all sound fascinating times to pop into. I'm looking forward to whatever you write next. 

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