The artistic heroon January 9th, 2012 at 10:22 am
What does a woman look for in a romantic hero – in the object of the protagonist’s affection in a romance novel? Of course, we like him to be handsome and mature and intelligent and brave and masculine. We’re likely attracted to sensitivity and a sense of humour and a man who’s strong enough to lift a fallen log off the protagonist’s leg [sigh]. But I think what’s missing from that recipe for the ideal man is a touch of the artistic.
Creative men are compelling, n’est-ce pas? In the traditional categorisation of male and female characteristics, creativity often falls in the feminine sphere; but of course through the ages men have also excelled in the arts – and there is something marvellously attractive about an artistic man. A man who writes, who dances, who acts, who sculpts, who designs, who paints. As the nineteenth-century orator Henry Ward Beecher put it, ‘Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.’ And I think that is what is most enthralling about an artistic man: through his art, we women can see the part of him that he keeps private – because when it comes to innermost feelings, men are from Mars and women are from Venus.
In Burning Embers I was determined that my male protagonist would have some artistic sensibilities. He’s a businessman, a plantation- and nightclub owner. He can hunt. He can fly an aeroplane and a hot air balloon. He’s practical, strong, an alpha male. But he can also paint – and it is through his paintings of Coral that sees the softness and vulnerability and ability to love that lies deep in his heart. It was as a child, with his mother whom he lost at the age of eleven, that Rafe learnt to paint, and thus he associates the form of expression with tenderness and affection. He has painted Coral for years, before he even knew her, from photographs – he has fallen in love with her through the vehicle of his art. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.’ And at the end of the book, it is while painting Coral that he finally feels able to open up and tell her his deepest feelings, thereby casting aside the barrier between them so they can be together at last.
When I imagine Rafe’s paintings, they are a kaleidoscope of colour and texture. Onto the canvas he pours out his passion and longing, and the vibrancy of his vision. There is the sense that, like Coral with her photography, Rafe captures a single moment in time in a scene that is ever moving. And as for how he depicts his muse, she is beautiful, of course, but what comes forth most is her vitality, which is what breathes life to Rafe’s aching heart.