Visualising Greythorne

Greythorne portraitOne of the things that really gave me the drive to write Greythorne after going through a bit of a creative drought was connecting with a fabulous group of artists, including dancers, painters, musicians, poets and other writers at the Poatina artists colony in Poatina, Tasmania. In January 2014, after I’d just finished the first draft of Greythorne, I spent a week in Poatina at a creative arts summer school, and was very fortunate to be able to collaborate with my good friend and amazing visual artist Pamela Horsely. Pamela took the following excerpt from the book, where our heroine Nell first meets the enigmatic Professor Nathaniel Greythorne, and fashioned a gorgeous (and incredibly accurate!) portrait of him in less than 24 hours. He now hangs on the wall in my study, overseeing my writing…

*

The dining room was very pleasant, with a fire crackling merrily in the large grate, dispelling the chill of the autumn evening. A long, polished wooden table took up the centre of the room, and at the head of it sat the Professor. He rose when he saw me enter, giving a little bow. He was formally dressed, and I suddenly felt my attire to be far less adequate than I had a few minutes ago, but if he found some deficiency in my dress he was polite enough not to say so.

“Miss Featherstone,” he said with evident warmth. “Welcome. I apologise for being unable to greet you personally this afternoon; I was engaged in an experiment that could not be neglected.”

“I am pleased to meet you, sir,” I said, “and please don’t trouble yourself. Jonas provided for me more than adequately.”

He laughed, a great booming laugh that I found almost infectious; I felt myself smiling automatically in response. “I doubt that,” he said. “But Jonas is a good man, despite his lack of sociability. Please, have a seat.” He pulled out a chair for me to his left and I sat obediently. In truth, I was somewhat taken aback. I had expected a notable eccentric, not this charming and, truth be told, rather handsome man.

The Professor was a man of middle years – I would hazard a guess at forty – but his hair was still jet-black, with only a few streaks of grey appearing at the temples. His moustache, which grew thick and luxuriant, was likewise not lacking in pigment. He had a distinguished, aristocratic nose and a firmly-set jaw; the overall effect I found very pleasing. I had expected his eyes to be dark like Sophie’s, but they were of the palest grey-blue, a striking feature in an otherwise tanned face. When he smiled I could recognise some similarity with his daughter, but I suspected she must take most strongly after her mother.

“I trust you are settling in well?” he asked, as Jonas entered bearing soup.

I nodded. “Sophie and I became acquainted this afternoon,” I said. “She’s a sweet child and seems keen to learn.” I did not tell him of my real impressions, nor about the disastrous game of hide-and-seek, partly out of wounded pride and partly because I knew I would never win Sophie’s trust if I went to her father at the slightest infraction.

“She is a bright girl, no doubt,” he said, “but she is undisciplined with regard to her studies. I would teach her myself, but I am much preoccupied with my work, and also I fear our temperaments would not allow for much progress.” He gave a charming half-smile, little more than a faint crinkle around the eyes, which I took to mean that father and daughter both possessed the same fiery streak.

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