Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Writing Romance Description with Western Art

When I'm writing western historical romance, I often need to do some research for accurate descriptions of clothing, the color of dusters, time of year in a certain place in the west, and various other details like architecture.

I've discovered some of the best help through the work of western artists who lived and painted in the late 1800's old west.

Charles Russell,
above, Frederic Remington, and Joseph Sharp are a few of the artists who went west to record with their paintings the landscape and people who lived there.

I've included some of their work as examples of how they illustrated the life and times of the old west. Not quite the same as depicted in most of the movies and TV serials, but every bit as fascinating.

I once had an editor ask me if my story was like the John Wayne movie,
Rio Grande. It took me a moment to answer as I mentally compared the historical details in my story with embellished old west films.

As writers, we strive for accuracy in the historical facts woven through our stories. For the answers, I often look to artists who lived in that time period, and I enjoy their amazing depictions of the old west while I'm at it.

I have to say, the cover of
Dangerous Persuasion also reflects the research that goes into producing historical romance covers that accurately portray historical clothing and the vivid desert colors.

I'd like to thank the generous web sites for the art I've shown here today.

Jeanmarie Hamilton
aka Claire Adele
Dangerous Persuasion, available in ebook now, and soon in print, from Siren BookStrand and other online booksellers.


  1. Jeanmarie, you clever woman. I doubt I would have thought of using Remington's and others' paintings as research material. Kudos to you for doing so.

    Good luck with your book.

    And, thank you for the beautiful art work within your post. I thoroughly enjoyed them.

  2. Jeanmarie, I love western art, but also hadn't thought of it for research. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing those beautiful paintings in your post, too. I'll look at your blog again and again.

  3. Sandra,
    I'm glad you enjoyed the art. The first time I thought of using Charles Russell's art for research, was one day when I needed to know the color of cowboys' dusters. My dad's father took part in one of the last big cattle roundups when he was young. Later, my grandfather had a small ranch in Montana. He'd met Charlie Russell during the cattle roundups. So we always had a book or two in the house about Charlie Russell's art. I'd poured over his books over the years and later when I started writing I realized the answers were there as to what people wore back in the late 1800s. Now, the information is easy to find on the web.
    Thanks so much for your good wishes! :-)

  4. Caroline,
    You're welcome! The same help through paintings can be useful for any time period we're writing. I took a college class in art history years ago. I sometimes refer to the huge book we used in that class which covered art through the ages.

    Check out the web for more western paintings by the artists of the 1800s.

  5. Jeanmarie, the paintings are gorgeous. I've seen some western paintings, but those colors are amazing. I have a book somewhere -- will have to hunt it up -- with black and white drawings, but they give you a truer idea of how the people in the old days really looked and dressed.


  6. Jane,
    Yes, they do give a fairly true picture of how people looked and dressed back then. There's a Charlie Russell painting of a stagecoach holdup that shows lots of people from different walks of life. They're all dressed differently, and one man is wearing a black frock coat. That tells you he was from an eastern state. Interesting stuff.

    Glad you liked the paintings. :-)

  7. Jeanmarie--you are so smart. To use western paintings in your research is pure genius.I think you've now enlisted a few converts.

    I do love Western art, and have two large prints on a living room wall along a walkway. Visitors always comment on them. I absolutely love them.

  8. Celia,
    Thanks for the compliment! But I think really it's pure desperation rather than genius for me. When I'm searching for information and can't find exactly what I need, I'll use everything available. Growing up with parents and grandparents who had early and mid to late 20th century art in their homes, I had the opportunity to peruse the people in the paintings. When I needed more info for my stories, I naturally turned to paintings in my books on art. Serious artists are sticklers for the right details in their art. Makes it a great resource of info. :-)

  9. Great paintings, Jeanmarie! I can certainly see how viewing these would be very inspirational for a writer.

  10. Susan,
    Thanks for commenting. :-) There are so many more paintings out there too.

  11. Jeanmarie--never thought of art work as a research option but it's a great idea! I often search for photographs of the places I write about but not art work...visual landmarks seen through the eyes of someone who lives there.

    Great topic!

  12. Marin,
    Good point. I hadn't thought of it as "visual landmarks seen through the eyes of someone who lives there."
    But yes, art is a more personal visual.

    Glad you enjoyed the post!

  13. Jeanmarie,
    When I worked at the Nat'l. Cowboy Museum, that was one of the best parts of the job--walking around and looking at the beautiful artwork. It was wonderful to go to work everyday and be surrounded by gorgeous paintings. Great idea, using paintings for research!


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