Week 5: Words from the Wild


Hello and a warm welcome to this week’s creative writing and literature session. Our theme for today will be ‘colour’.

Last week we read chapter four of Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer. We learned about the long journey that Maria took to reach South America and about some of the discoveries that she made. A side note to the chapter mentions the discovery of ladybug larvae as predators to the cochineal insect which was sought after for red pigment in making paint.

We learned in earlier chapters about Maria’s life that she was adept at mixing paints and making up watercolours using gum arabic as a binding agent and using pigments sourced from around the world. Today we forget how difficult it once was to produce certain dyes and how hard to find colours were reserved for the richest in society.

For anyone interested in learning more about colour I am currently reading ‘Colour’ by Victoria Finlay , the book takes you through a journey of colours and where pigments originally came from, so far it’s a fascinating read and I would highly recommend it.

So on to this week’s tasks. I hope you enjoy them!

Task 1: (5 mins) Observing colour. Take yourself for a morning walk, or gaze out of the window. Take five minutes to write about as many colours as you can observe. Take note of all the different shades of colour and where you find them.

Task 2: (10 mins). Imagine that you have been given the task of dying a beautiful length of cloth to send to someone who lives in a contrasting landscape to where you live. You have to choose something from nature as your inspiration. What colour would you dye your cloth? Here are some ideas:

  • The red of a lady bird shell.
  • The colour of rich green grass.
  • Orange of autumn leaves.
  • The blue of a forget me knots.

Write about the colour that you choose and why you chose it. Write a letter to accompany the cloth explaining what it represents and what you hope that they will make out of the cloth. Describe where the colour is found in nature.

Task 3: (5 mins). Write about one of the colours that you look out for the most when you are outdoors? Perhaps you enjoy patches of blue sky, or the smokey grey of clouds? Are you enamoured with silver of dew drops, or perhaps you love purple flowers in particular? Tell me about what you notice and what it means to you.

Task 4: (5 mins) A scrap of colour. Think about an unusual landscape that you have visited. What colour would you bring home from that place? What contrasts to the colours that you are used to? (Ideas: The vivid colours of warm seas, or exotic birds. The beautiful purple of wild heather. The sandy tones of a deserted beach, or something interesting that you have collected from a natural landscape.)

I hope that you enjoyed these tasks and that you will start to see many beautiful colours everywhere, even on grey rainy days.

With best wishes,


Published by Emma

Hi my name is Emma! I am a writer and artist. I work for the NHS at Converge (www.yorksj.ac.uk/converge) and I am also an MA graduate in Creative writing and am currently studying for a PhD in Humanities. I have been leading a creative writing class at the beautiful St Nicks in York (www.stnicks.org.uk) for the last five years. When I am not at work I'm on my allotment or at Base Camp (my home) planning new adventures.

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