Ajax Resplendent

Having spent such a productive day drawing the Valhalla Collection of Ships’ Figureheads, right now I’ve got a bit of a thing going for the magnificent polychrome sculptures that once adorned the prows of vessels, and I’m building up a sketch book of ideas that I hope may develop into a series of screenprints with my collaborator, printmaker Daniel Bugg of the Penfold Press.

In the cottage where I’m staying, there’s a National Maritime Museum booklet about the Valhalla Collection, including a small line illustration of the figurehead from the Royal Naval warship, HMS Ajax. I’d once seen the figurehead at Greenwich, but had forgotten it until I turned the page and there it was, dark-browed and resplendently plumed. So today has been given up to drawing Ajax. His helmet feathers have been cut into scrolls reminiscent of cresting waves and billowing sails, and are a tour-de-force of the wood-carver’s skills.

To begin with I used the small illustration as my guide, but then disregarded it to improvise on the theme, which is my preferred way of working. I love Ajax’s helmet with its forward-brim like the prow of a ship, his fierce black eyes and his rather cruel though sensual mouth. He has a fantastically commanding presence, and if I can capture him, I get a strong feeling he’ll make a memorable subject for a print.

If this goes well, I’ll make a colour version to be my guide for separations. There are the other figurehead drawings in my sketchbook that may well also serve as sources for printmaking. The combination of vigorous, carved form coupled with vibrant colour, is a seductive mix to my eye, and I feel a ‘figurehead’ series calling

The Enclosure

I knew that after collaborating with Johann Rohl on the ‘garden’ for Sarah Parvin’s forthcoming ‘The Curious One’, website, that the spirit of what we made would drive me to further explore the theme. Today I made The Enclosure in oil pastel, the first of a planned set of small garden  images. The iconography devised with Johann…red brick walled-garden, dark flower beds, trees and garden follies… are all about to find their ways into the new work.