Halloween Greetings from Ty Isaf!
The Pelham Witch and her Cat
Scary! (Especially when they escape from the cabinet!)
As the painting of Tobias and the Angel (working title only) moves foward, I occasionally look to the earlier image I made in black and white. When I was working on that I wasn’t thinking very much about how or even whether it would eventually translate into colour, as I saw it as being a work in its own right. So it’s interesting at this stage of the current work to compare images of how things were and how they are now.
I might equally have called this post Shoes and Songbirds or Lace-ups and Leaves. However I couldn’t find sufficient alliteration to hit the three new ingredients of shoes, wings (or rather a ‘new bit’ of wing) and and blackbirds (it’s late, I’m bone-weary and my brain isn’t working well) though I just know that visitors here will entertain me with alternatives that I missed. Go on, get creative. (-;
It takes imagination, skill, muscle power, sweat and wool to make the hat…
When it’s half done, Miszek teases Clive by sending a photo in which the hat can’t be properly seen.
Later, the finished hat travels from Gdansk in Poland to the Ystwyth Valley in Wales…
… snug in a neatly packed box.
The hat has been sleeping, but wakes up when the box is opened.
Jack investigates the hat. The hat smells interesting. It smells of Miszek…
and of Fisieńka Ćmieleska!
Here is the hat. It’s the best hat in the world!
It springs a wonderful surprise, having not one…
… but two faces!
Miszek writes to Clive:
‘So here it is – your protection from the cold and what’s more important – protection from all the evil lurking in the woods. From now on you are perfectly safe.’
He’s right. I do feel safe with this Janus hat that keeps an eye on where I’ve been as well as where I’m going.
It takes imagination, skill, muscle power, sweat and wool to make the hat. But most of all it takes a big heart, and Miszek has the biggest. Thank you Miszek for the-hat-that-keeps-me-warm-and-safe. This hat makes me very, very happy.
This copy of Russian Fairy Tales with extraordinary illustrations by Alexandre Alexeieff (Александр Александрович) is a much loved and well-thumbed treasure from my bookshelves.
Alexeieff was a stage designer as well as an illustrator, and perhaps this accounts for the creation in the Fairy Tales of a plausibly complete world with it’s own unique visual style. I can’t recall any other illustrations quite like these. I particularly like the half page images and vignettes, of which there are many. What’s so impressive about his approach is that it’s imaginative and yet leaves ample room for the imagination of the reader, a crucial aspect I think of the best illustrated books. Some of the figures look as though they may have been influenced by the folk tradition of Russian toys, a notion not so far from my own process of creativity.
Alexeieff became a pioneer in the field of animatied film when in 1931, with his second wife Claire Parker, he developed the ‘pin-screen’, a technique by which thousands of adjustable pins in a panel are lit with raking light, and images are conjured by the shadows resulting from manipulating them to different heights. (The couple’s invention was the precursor of the toy pin-screens available in novelty shops, into which you can press your hand so that the shape of it appears sculpted by pin heads on the reverse.) Parker and Alexeieff’s pin-screen wrought effects of ravishingly atmospheric beauty, conjured out of light and shadow alone. Their calling card showcasing the technique was the 1931 animated film Night on the Bald Mountain set to the music of Mussorgsky.
You can view part of Parker and Alexeieff’s pin-screen animated version of Gogol’s The Nose HERE. Do bear in mind that everything you see is painstakingly made from the shadows of thousands of pins!
Alexander Alexeieff (1901 – 1982) Claire Parker (1910 – 1981)
Work such as this is time-consuming… probably more so than it looks. There are so many tones involved and since those slender leaves need the slimmest brushes to produce them, the tide of foliage across the surface of the painting creeps at a snail-like pace. There are blackbirds too to be included, and those will start going in tomorrow.
This dense patterning isn’t intended to draw too much attention to itself in the composition. In some respects I want it to go almost unnoticed, the idea being that it’s there to reward anyone lingering over the composition and taking the time to step close to it. But even though that’s the effect I’m aiming for, it needs a meticulous execution or the ‘busyness’ could at best unbalance the painting, or worse, overturn it. So the result is that fronds get painted in and back out again rather endlessly as I try to find the perfect balance. Sometimes I dream that the mice will come and finish the leaves for me at night after I’m done at the easel, as they come to finish embroidering the mayor’s wedding waistcoat in Beatrix Potters The Tailor of Gloucester. Alas all the Ty Isaf field mice seem to do is remove our shoelaces in the boot-room and then weave them into winter nests inside our wellingtons! My walking boots these days are laced with garden twine!
If you click HERE you can see all of the posts in reverse order on the genesis of this painting, back to the initial drawings underlying the paint and the maquettes used to devise the composition.
Back to wings again today, and the task of suggesting colour, iridescence and texture. Water-flow, pinions, ruffles, scales and constellations of stars are a few of the ideas worked into these. Paint has been brushed, smeared, sanded back and scratched through with engraving needles. It’s a slow process but I’m getting there.