Tribute to an Artist

All writers, when questioned, will recall those who influenced them in their youth. Those who guided or inspired them on the journey to becoming authors, be they teachers, parents, grandparents or friends.

I am no exception, being profoundly influenced by my father with his love of storytelling and writing, also my mother who shared her love of books. There were teachers too, notably Miss Stella Lewis, who encouraged this shy, introvert young girl to believe in her ability to write. Then there was my uncle, Gordon Firth.

Recently, at his funeral, my cousin spoke movingly about the influence of his father on himself and his brother. He reflected on how this giant of a man, a passionate and much respected teacher and a talented artist, had not only brought up his sons with that perfect balance of love and discipline, but also painted and sculpted them into the men they are today.

I was moved by his words and knew exactly what he meant. As I looked at the displays of sunflowers and Yorkshire white roses that symbolised everything he held dear, I recalled that here was man who had touched my life too.   When I was small, he would praise my cartoon-like drawings with speech bubbles; my earliest attempts at creative writing. He drew me pictures, read me stories in silly voices and played riotous games with me and my cousins. He made me a wooden clown puppet, which I would dance on its strings and which, I like to think, was the first inkling of the Rottentrolls, which were to earn him a BAFTA many years later.

He taught us all; his children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, to question and observe the world around us. Everything had a purpose, every walk was a treasure hunt. There was a story to be told about each tree, flower or place that he visited. He would chat to everyone he met, drawing out interesting tales from them all.

We all have our mementoes; his glorious water-colour paintings, his funny sculpted figures, the cards he painted for Christmas or any other notable family event. I have a set of illustrations which he did for one of my stories, and which gave me that first taste of how it might feel to be a published author.

So, to return to the metaphor used by my cousin, I have been incredibly lucky to have been a figure in the beautiful painting which Gordon created throughout his life. To learn from him to observe the world more closely, to live life to the full, to constantly search for inspiration and create something from everything I see.

Oh, and to love Yorkshire. Now that, I think, would please him most of all.

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