New Poetry, Fiction, Essays

Escaping the dead hand of writer’s block 4 Yet More Writers’ Prompts – Colour Your Life

By Shirley Bell


This is another exercise I tried with the group at my recent creative writers meeting. The focus I had for this was free writing using unusual vocabularies.

I am bemused by Farrow and Ball paint names, they are luscious and quite mental. I am fascinated by how these names are created and there is an interesting article on this here, colour & design surgery…how are paint colour names chosen? Karen Haller colour & design consultancy


In the article Lynne Stainthorpe, Director Big Idea, says the process is:-

“Whether brain storming as an individual or in a group, start with the actual colour sample and brain-storm a list of words, from a basic description to more creative options. Inspiration comes from:

  • Describe the colour e.g. Lemon or Purple
  • Add more definition to the description – this could be functional or emotional e.g. Dark or Precious
  • Capture the mood the colour creates e.g. Sunny or Fresh
  • Explore connotations from nature – flowers, oceans, winds, deserts, animals etc. can be evocative e.g. Blossom, Aegean, Mistral, Sahara, Elephant etc.
  • Explore associations with places – from holiday destinations to international cities that could have allure e.g. Tuscany or Tokyo
  • Explore appeal to the taste buds – from food and drink to spices e.g. Coffee, Sorbet or Vanilla
  • Or perhaps appeal to the sense of touch – from natural materials to fabrics e.g. Driftwood or Satin
  • Create a personality or event e.g. Babe or Celebration
  • Evoke the interplay of colour and light e.g. Shimmer or Glow

The brainstorming continues until a combination of words is achieved that fit both the colour and the brand – with a positive and enticing name!”

Here you have a flexible technique you can apply to poetry writing in general to generate ideas.

In the workshop we used the Farrow and Ball palette: –

All White; Wimborne White; Pointing; James White; Clunch; Shaded White; White Tie; New White; Matchstick; String; Savage Ground; Cord;Tallow;Ringwold Ground; House White;Farrow’s Cream;Cream;Cat’s Paw; Dimity;Joa’s White; Archive;Oxford Stone;London Stone; Smoked Trout;Slipper Satin;Lime White;Off-White;Old White; Light Gray; Mouse’s Back;Wevet; Strong White;Ammonite;Cornforth White; Purbeck Stone;Mole’s Breath;Stony Ground; Fawn;Bone;French Gray;Hardwick White;Lamp Room Gray;Blackened;Dimpse;Pavilion Gray;Mizzle;Blue Gray; Pigeon;Skimming Stone; Elephant’s Breath;Dove Tale;Charleston Gray;London Clay;Brinjal;Great White;Middleton Pink;Cinder Rose;Pink Ground; Setting Plaster;Dead Salmon;Calamine;Nancy’s Blushes;Radicchio;Red Earth;Picture Gallery Red;Incarnadine;Rectory Red;Eating Room Red;Book Room Red;Terre D’Egypte;Charlotte’s Locks; Blazer;Pale Hound;Dayroom Yellow;Yellowcake;Citron;Yellow Ground;Babouche;Hound Lemon;Hay;Dorset Cream;Sudbury Yellow;Print Room Yellow;India Yellow; Tunsgate Green; Green Ground; Cooking Apple Green;Ball Green;Olive;Studio Green;Churlish Green;Breakfast Room Green;Calke Green;Castle Gray;Card Room Green;Green Smoke;Vert De Terre;Lichen;Teresa’s Green;Dix Blue;Chappell Green;Arsenic;Cabbage White;Pavilion Blue;Pale Powder;Green Blue;Oval Room Blue;Stone Blue;Borrowed Light;Skylight;Light Blue;Parma Gray; Lulworth Blue;Cook’s Blue;Blue Ground;St Giles Blue;Pitch Blue;Drawing Room Blue;Stiffkey Blue;Hague Blue;Calluna;Brassica;Pelt;Manor House Gray;Plummett;Down Pipe; Mahogany; Tanner’s Brown; Railings;Black Blue;Off-Black;Pitch Black

This was combined with the topic of life events, growing up, etc. beginning with when or as, so When I was born I was, When I was a child I was, As I grew older I was, then adding in events, birth of siblings, secondary school, graduating, marriage, having children and other momentous occasions.

There are word combinations that turned out to be totally inspiring and we had some great work as a result. I only have my own here, so I will have to impose this on you. It was literally a few minutes of free writing but we all had something to continue working with:-

When I was born I was the colour of a Mouse’s Back

my little hands curled into paws

my mouth was a screech of Radicchio.

My life was a beige Clunch

of Pigeon blankets around me

and the garden was a Churlish Green.

I knew I was on Savage Ground,

my childhood a desert of Elephant’s Breath,

my pelt of Tallow.

My parents’ love was Lulworth Blue,

but towards each other

they were the green of Arsenic,

hatred in the air like Yellowcake.

At school it was Bookroom Red,

I could relax there in the Red Earth, the Cinder Rose.

but in the end, I was Blackened.

There are two things at work in this exercise, and both can both generate and improve poetry. One is unusual words with their associations, and the other is list making and the power of naming.

There are all sorts of specialist names for colours which you could use. At the writers’ group, Laura had studied archaeology and as a result she knew names for the tiny differences in the colour ochre and what these meant for identifying a geological era. The ochres are earth pigments including yellow ochre, red ochre, purple ochre, brown ochre sienna, and umber, burnt sienna and burnt umber.

Artists’ colour charts include many ochres, umbers, siennas, burnt umber and burnt sienna as well as another treasure trove of names, with loads online i.e. http://www.winsornewton.com/uk/discover/resources/colour-charts/professional-water-colour

but here are a few –

Lemon Yellow, Winsor Yellow, Aureolin, Winsor Orange, Winsor Red Perm, Aliz Crimson, Perm Rose, Winsor Violet Diox, French Ultramarine, Winsor Blue GS, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Viridian Perm, Sap Green, Olive Green, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Indigo, Paynes Grey, Ivory Black and Chinese White.

The colour of crystals and gemstones also came up and were used in pieces. There is a list here https://www.gemselect.com/gem-info/gems-by-color.php

And a list poem here https://hellopoetry.com/words/gemstones/:-


Blue topaz
White topaz
Citrine topaz
Smokey topaz
Opal dendrite
Moon stone
Tiger’s eye

N Sep 2013

(There will be more to come on list poems as prompts in a future article)

So again, if you are stuck, this is an easy “poetry generator” of your own, and there may be strands in there you can pick up, for example I rather liked the few lines below!

When I was born I was the colour of a Mouse’s Back

my little hands curled into paws

my mouth was a screech of Radicchio.


You might also like

Stephen House

Stephen House: has had many plays commissioned and produced. He’s won two Awgie Awards (Australian Writers Guild), The Rhonda Jancovic Poetry Award for Social Justice,

Read More »

6 poems from Tom Paine

TOM PAINE’s poetry is upcoming or published in The Nation, Glasgow Review of Books, The Moth Magazine, Blackbox Manifold, Volt, Fence, Forklift, Ohio, Epiphany, The

Read More »

Share this post with your friends

You may also enjoy
By Dave Kavanagh   In the past week a poet…