The Six Colours of a Rainbow

We’ve seen a lot of beautifully drawn rainbows recently but what colours should you use. It’s a simple matter of physics, but not everyone has seen rainbows the same way, and when Sir Isaac Newton got it wrong we all followed. This is a potted history of how rainbows have been described over millennia.

homer's rainbow

About 3000 years ago, Homer, an Ancient Greek epic poet and philosopher, described rainbows as being a single colour – purple. Maybe he was severely colour blind or more interested in poetry than painting.

a rainbow of three colours

About 2500 years ago, another Greek philosopher called Xenophanes of Colofon identified two more colours. He added red and a yellowy-green to the purple. Still not much like a real rainbow.

The European Renaissance
Some 500 years ago, during the European Renaissance pretty much everyone ‘in the know’ agreed there were four colours, red, yellow, green and blue. But they got a lot of things wrong.

It’s worth remembering that orange had only just been made a colour – before then it just meant an orange – and the colour was referred to as a yellow-red.

The Enlightenment
It began to make a little more sense around 400 years ago. at the start of the Enlightenment, also known as ‘The Age of Reason’. Science began to challenge some long held beliefs. Europeans expanded the rainbow to five colours – red, yellow, green, blue and purple. (still no orange)

Science takes over
A major change came in 1665 when Sir Isaac Newton split light using a prism (he bought it at a county fair) to make a rainbow on the wall of his room. He got his assistant, under instruction, to mark the divisions of colour with a pencil.

A incorrect correlation
Newton believed there must be a connection between the number of colours in a rainbow and the number of notes in a musical scale (he was wrong). We still use the names he gave those seven colours – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.

But colours sometimes change name
Newton probably intended for the seven colours of a rainbow to look more like this. That one he called indigo was almost certainly dark blue – he would have known Indigo as a dye that comes from a plant called Indigofera – and his blue might well have been a paler greenish blue.

The primary colours of light
The three primary colours of light are Red, Green and Blue. Mixing them is called additive colour mixing because the more of the primary colours you shine in one place, the closer you get to white. (its not the same as mixing paint)

Red and Green combine to make Yellow.
Green and Blue combine to make Cyan (a pale blue).
Red and Blue combine to make Magenta.

You may recognise the colours, or even just the letters RGB, as they are the three colours used in televisions, computers, smartphones and stage lighting. The three secondary colours may also be familiar as the colours of the inks in a inkjet printer.

A more accurate rainbow
So it might make sense to use these colours for our rainbow drawings. Of course we’d have to think of a new mnemonic to remember them. Roy G BIV (USA) or Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain (UK) would no longer work.

How about a new mnemonic for Red Yellow Green Cyan Blue Magenta?

Rainbows You Gladly Colour By Magic?)

Lynmouth, Harbour Lights

Lynmouth harbour as the light fades

When I first knew Lynmouth, in the 1960s, the Harbour would be bustling, both during the day and in the evenings during the summer. Pubs, shops and cafés would all be open. Now it’s much quieter after the day visitors have left, but still as atmospheric as the light fades.

I am probably one amongst many who would like to see it busy with tourists as the sun sets, but life changes, habits change and holiday-makers have changed too.

This poster is available to purchase in four sizes from A1, A2, A3 and A4. All prints are made to order snd produced on a silk matt 170gsm paper.

For those who are not familiar with all the ‘A’ paper sizes, a visual guide to these is shown below:

size guide for poster of Lynmouth harbour lights
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Watersmeet, East Lyn, Lynmouth

poster of watersmeet house near Lynton

This poster is in the mid 20th century style of British travel posters for coastal resorts. It’s the location of Watersmeet House on the East Lyn valley above Lynmouth. The property is now a National Trust tea room, but was originally a fishing lodge built for Walter Stevenson Halliday in 1832.

Two rivers meet here and cascading waterfalls tumble in this iconic Exmoor landscape.

This poster is available to purchase in four sizes from A1, A2, A3 and A4. All prints are made to order snd produced on a silk matt 170gsm paper.

For those who are not familiar with all the ‘A’ paper sizes, a visual guide to these is shown below:

size guide for watersmeet poster
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I used to draw postcards

It feels like a different life when we didn’t have cameras on our phones, or not even mobile phones. In those distant days people would send a postcard to friends and family whilst on holiday. Sometimes the postcards even arrived before they returned home.

postcard blow-up doll
postcard nut on beach

Somehow I started drawing cartoons for holiday postcards. It was only ever meant to be an idle amusement and an interesting challenge. Over the course of a dozen years or so, we sold somewhere between two and three million postcards. This didn’t make us rich or famous as the net profit on a postcard is only a few pence.

Sometimes I find myself browsing in an antique shop and discover my own work. I never reveal my identity – it might spoil the owner’s day to find out that I’m still alive.

The first postcard was mailed in England in 1870. Over 150 years later does anyone send them? If they do, I have a big back catalogue.

postcard dad buried in sand

North Walk, Lynton

poster showing north walk Lynton

From a painting in acrylics. This is a favourite place of mine and one of the views that entranced me when I first visited North Devon.

The view is one of the few I am able to enjoy because my fear of heights prevents me from completing the whole route. Every day the colours change and you never quite get the same light air clarity.

This poster is available to purchase in four sizes from A1, A2, A3 and A4. All prints are made to order snd produced on a silk matt 170gsm paper.

For those who are not familiar with all the ‘A’ paper sizes, a visual guide to these is shown below:

size guide showing A sizes
buy on etsy button

Southport Pier

Southport Pier in late afternoon

Southport in Merseyside, North West England. Taken one late afternoon for no other reason than it looked amazing. I was there partly to see Antony Gormley’s Another Place and this view was breathtaking. The government was going to move my parents to Southport from London, during WW2, but in the end my father remained in London at the Ministry of War. This was my first visit to a beautiful town in which I almost grew up.

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Three Reasons to Write

psychologist and client

Behind every author, professional or amateur, is a reason they started and continue to write. I have fumbled for words when asked ‘Why do you write?’, especially as I would be classified as commercially unsuccessful (no agent or publisher). But I have spoken to and listened to a lot of authors in my life, from both sides of the publishing divide, and I think most fall into one of three categories.

Literary Ambition
This might be the most common reason people start writing their first novel. Didn’t we all think we going to write either a top-ten best-seller, or the best prose since… well, fill in your favourite writer here.

Emulating a Genre?
There are a lot of writers who have loved a genre so much that simply want to invent their own worlds, their own characters and join with the cohort of authors they have enjoyed and admired.

Therapeutic or Cathartic?
This is me, and I doubt I’m the only one. Through writing characters and plots, I work out some of the sociological and interpersonal conundrums that elude me in real life.

So, is there a writer who doesn’t fall into one of these three groups, or maybe straddles two of them. Love to add categories to this nascent list.

Where it feels right to write

interior of charlie fridays cafe

After a lifetime of working freelance as an illustrator, graphic designer, copywriter and cartoonist, I have an established working routine and a quiet studio with forty years history embedded in every dust mote – or I did have until we moved house a few years ago. I now have a smaller studio, but much of the dust moved with me.

I have always been happy to work alone and have music playing to cut out any distracting sounds. Maybe this is not untypical for a slightly autistic mindset – it certainly works for me. I have no problem focussing on whatever I’m working on and don’t really experience things like writer’s block.

exterior of charlie fridays cafe

Charlie Friday’s
Sometimes I walk down to my favourite café, Charlie Friday’s, where they have great coffee and make the best scones and cakes I’ve had anywhere, not to mention fantastic lunches and suppers. The ambience is totally different to my desk space and makes a pleasant change that can revitalise my mood – at least it could until lockdown struck.

How this works in practical terms
I write predominantly using the Pages app on a Mac computer. The files automatically update on my iPad so I can stop mid sentence, grab my iPad, walk down the road to Charlie Fridays and continue writing.

The Parracombe Prize

four people writing at home

Last autumn a small group of writers in Parracombe, both amateur and professional, decided to launch a short story competition. The village is unusual in that a population of less than 300 inhabitants has held an active book group for over twenty years and has several people involved in writing or in publishing services.

We felt there was space for a short story competition that wouldn’t penalise entries for punctuation errors or minor grammatical slips and that celebrated the skill of weaving a story for the joy of the reader. So, the Parracombe Prize was born.

We kept the entry fee as low as we felt we could and opened the competition to all. The stories have been a joy to read and, at the time of writing, there are still three weeks left for people to enter (closing date is 31st January 2021).

We will definitely be repeating this event.

How I didn’t find a Literary Agent

picture of unicorn

A quick check on Google confirmed my worst fears. There are almost half a billion returns for ‘unicorn’ and only 168 for ‘literary agents’. Does that mean that getting into a conversation with a unicorn is more likely than getting a literary agent to consider my latest novel? This was how I approached the process.

Stage 1 Before submitting any material I read through the sites of some 150 agencies. I checked the agents online profile, twitter feeds and video posts. I noted their likes and dislikes and checked the authors they represent.

Stage 2 The first three chapters of my novel were submitted, a query letter and a synopsis to a number of agents (all tailored to their individual specifications).

Stage 3 A couple of depressingly quick rejections ensued. I waited longer (quite a long time in fact) but heard nothing from the majority of them.

Stage 4 I repeated of stages 2 to 3 – several times.

Stage 5 A few more rejections – some polite, some formulaic and some friendly – but also a lot of silence.

In summary
It may be about ‘who you know’, but I hope it’s also about what you’ve written. My readers like my style and my stories, but my offerings simply don’t grab the attention of agents.

I’m sure that literary agents stand shoulder to shoulder in wanting to like your novel. I fear that I can write a popular novel, but get the pitch wrong when I am approaching agents – being on the autistic spectrum may be a problem here as my command of interpersonal relationships is learned rather than intuitive.