marly’s book and henry’s window

So that’s the initial work all done. Six to choose from, though probably only two real contenders. I’ve made small images of them here so that they can be viewed and compared more easily. Any of the images that Marly would like as page divisions will be made again using only black ink on paper, so that they will not require colour printing. I may play around when I start working in black and white, perhaps turn up a few extra foliate head images for her to select  from, and maybe a tailpiece or two and some vignettes. I’m like a terrier at a bone with this project, worrying away and unable to relinquish it!







Quite soon I must move onto the commission that has come my way for the Henry Vaughan commemorative window, the full-scale pattern for which has arrived by post scrolled into a giant cardboard tube. Rod Bender is the presiding master on this project, and it is he who has produced the pattern and hereafter shall be interpreting and transforming my design into glass. The pattern is presently still scrolled on the kitchen table  waiting for me to quarry compositional solutions to its immensely long, though narrow proportions. I think that the foliate heads have been a good preparation for this work, as their pictorial simplicity and clarity of colour are germane to the consideration of imagery within the medium of stained-glass. Vaughan is one of the metaphysical poets… alongside Donne, Herbert and Marvell… and I came to love his poetry when I worked as a custodian at Tretower Court and Castle in the years between the theatre and painting. He’s lies in the graveyard of a country church a few miles from Tretower, and indeed his family once owned and resided at the Court, though the poet himself never lived there.

It seems that a circle is to close as I embark on the Henry Vaughan project. His poetry was a great comfort to me at a time in my life when I felt frozen and unable to move forward. Returning to him in preparation to designing his commemorative window is akin to visiting a well-loved friend to repay a long-outstanding debt of gratitude.

I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great ring of pure and endless light.
All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow moved; in which the world
And all her train were hurled.

From The World by Henry Vaughan (1622 -1695)

44 thoughts on “marly’s book and henry’s window

  1. Pingback: the foliate head arrives | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. My vote goes to the very striking Number Three.
    Clive, I’m wondering if you intended the blue foliage to look like a somewhat human creature about to be eaten or spewed out?

  3. All of the heads have their intrigues and strengths… so it shall have to be up to Marly in the end. However, I do have one strong feeling about using human imagery on book covers… especially heads, in 3/4 view or profile—I feel the face, should face the right where the book opens—as if to lead the viewer/reader INTO the text. And if not the entire face, facing right, then at least the eye of the figure should lead us to the opening of the book, or the “spikes” of the foliage pointing in that direction. So, in the case of some of these examples, the image would need to be “flopped” to accommodate. My 2¢ worth of opinion—for whatever that’s worth—take it or leave it. Cheers!

    • The head thing is interesting. I remember Nicolas at the old Stile Press voicing misgivings about my cover for Equus having the horse/man facing the spine, though he let me have my way with it. (I felt very strongly about the matter. Couldn’t abide the thought of it facing the other way and my feeling is the same today as it was back then.) However I understand completely your reasoning on this, though I seem to be missing the sense that for you makes it feel wrong. Perhaps it’s the left-handed bit of me that renders a left-facing profile on a cover seem natural. But I’ll bear your words in mind Anita, and I thank you for the two cents worth! (-;

      • Interesting also that I am a left-handed person, though not entirely so. I’ve always been ambidextrous in most things, but for writing longhand, holding a fork [one shouldn’t mess around with THAT! ; ) ], and fine motor control for cutting with an X-acto knife, etc. What may “feel” natural to us (also with our years and years of looking at art and designing for visual impact) might not feel natural to your prospective reader/book buyer.

        My opinion about heads (imagery) on book covers comes from studies about how the viewers’ eye negotiates a composition on the pictorial plane… and how that composition can lead the viewer’s eye where you want their attention and interest to move… in this case, to inspire them to open a book.
        For Westerners, whose training from early childhood is to read from left to right, there is a corresponding tendency for us to cover ANY visual ground in that same way… visually entering the picture at the top left and moving in a meandering exploration of the centered matter, and finally finding our way to the bottom right. Whether we notice it as it’s happening, like it, or not… sorry, but that’s just the way most people in the West cover the visual territory with their eyes. My opinion is also based on a notion of “being invitational” to the prospective reader, in the same way that I don’t wish to greet people at my front door with my back turned to them. I know you get that part of my reasoning. Trying not to be pedantic here, but rather to discuss in a way that your dear readers might appreciate.

        Indeed, you were probably right to stand your ground for the “Equus,” as it was a beautiful, extremely limited edition, artist rendered book. In short, each “Equus” volume is a rare work of art. But, I venture that the book cover intended for a mass market is not a canvas in the usual sense of the word, and might be benefited by a marriage of the “conventional” AND the graphically startling. As for “rules,” of course, you know I like to quote Thoreau who said, “Any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it.”

        Would be interested to know what your other correspondents think re: this topic. If, they are interested to comment.

        XO AM

        • I agree with everything you’ve noted here Anita. Indeed I’ve long acknowledged you as the doyenne of all matters compositional. I’m always reading what you have to say and thinking ‘Now why didn’t I notice that?’. I’ve also returned three or four times to read the beautiful essay on drawing that you did for my monograph, and as with the best writing, I always find some extraordinary insight that had escaped me on previous readings. And so I shall look closely at the cover when Andrew gets busy on it, and indeed ask your opinion on how we’re doing. Right now I don’t know how we stand with regard to whether we must fit the head into the cover-template for the poetry series the publisher has already established, or be allowed to start afresh, which of course would be my preference. Those two scenarios would probably demand two solutions regarding choosing heads from the six completed, because what may look great by itself on the cover wouldn’t necessarily work as well within a panel, and vice versa. I’ll also be happy to ‘flop’ an image if the cover demands it. Fear not, I shall not gainsay your masterful compositional advice. (I wouldn’t dare!)


  4. Your work is of course stunning, and as expressed by others impossible to decide; my maximalist tendencies embrace each and every gem.

    But I am struck by your allusion to Vaughn and the circle, what a blessing (please dismiss the triteness so often attributed with that word) to have this opportunity. My ambivalence concerning spiritual matters is called into question when such situations arise. Who else but one comforted by Vaughn’s words should pay homage- that you are so gifted only gilds the circle. I look forward to seeing the result.

    You are an inspiration to me in my own shadowy state of life.

    • Leonard, the Vaughan commission coming my way is a delight and a link to my past. I couldn’t be happier. I’m greatly looking forward to working with Rod too. He was supervisor on the only other stained-glass commission that I’ve done, and so it’s wonderful that we’ll be collaborating again after so long.

      I’m not a believer, though that has never stopped me from loving and being moved by Vaughan’s poems. I shall endeavour to do him justice.

      I know that things are difficult for you right now, but I hope that shadows will give way to light and that all will be well again soon.

  5. iv, v and vi for me, probably in that order! But it does hang so much, as every body has said, on the content of the book.

    • Number one does seem to be in the top two of everyone commenting so far. I’d have to agree that for me it’s one of the stronger images.

  6. For it’s a close call between I and V. Perhaps I like V slightly better–, though I love the green head, fierce, but may change my mind any second. All very strong work! I like the defiant Promethean quality of V, and its elegant economy.

    • Hi Mary–

      I and V…. Glad you came to look! And I have two other painter friends who have weighed in this afternoon.


      Laura Murphy Frankstone (friend and painter from Chapel Hill) likes the first one after looking at the poems. She thought them all powerful but that the first was best for the poems…

      Painter Maja Kihlstedt wrote me that she likes the first and fourth one. She said they were not so much “in your face” as the others but “more intriguing” to her.

      My friend Erica Eisdorfer (novelist/bookseller, so she has a good slant) wrote me a note that she liked the first and then came back later and said four.

      And composer (and painter and so on!) Paul Digby said I and III.

      And there are more comments on my blog as well… While I don’t think it should be a “vote,” it is fun to consider the comments.

      • We are awash in responses! Just had some notes from two more painters–Ashley Cooper picked 2 and 3, and Yolanda Sharpe liked 1, 2, and 3.

        At this point, I think we can say that the heads are well loved!

  7. Both of these commissions sound amazing. Your head must be spinning with all the possibilities these days!

    As for the fellows above, I think my favourite is number four. Though, as you said, it will all depend on the rest of the elements in the cover design. And any one of them would be lovely.

    • Jodi, this has indeed been an exciting and energising project. Marly is a wonderful poet and so there is never any lack of inspiration when producing images for her. However my head is in a bit of a spin right now, so I must remember to take a breath before embarking on the next project!

  8. Note for people interested in how the pictures go with the text:

    John Coulthart (who definitely ought to have a cover opinion!) mentioned not knowing the text as an issue. If anybody wants a peek / preview, the easiest way is to go to “Mezzo Cammin,” where I have evidently published more poems than any other contributor (because I like the publication and the editor.)

    Here are some links to some poems in the book from that site: This one includes the poem called “The Foliate Head.” The second poem is also in the book. The first, second, and fifth poems are in the book and, I think, all in the foliate portion. The second poem is dedicated to Clive because he once played Puck (of course!) It won’t be listed that way in the book because the book itself is dedicated to him. (This is a very Clivean project, so I think it the right one to have his name on the dedication page…) All of these are in the book, though not in the foliate section. But they are quite harmonious with the greener poems.

    • Marly, I thought that you might enjoy the Vaughan connection!

      I read Laura’s comment and she’s quite right. The way the title and name sit on the cover will change things. Plus we must not forget that Andrew will have to make the layout fit with others in the series, and that too will impact the way any of these heads may look. In so many ways I wish we could have a very plain cover with whichever head we go with plus text, rather be having to use the panel design. Nevertheless, I’m sure Andrew will make a handsome job of it.

        • Here’s what Pete said in ’10: “I really don’t mind so long as the book can sit alongside the others and be seen to be part of the same stable. That said, I wouldn’t want to be too prescriptive and spoil something that may be innovative.”

          So I am thinking we can get away without the panel, since you want the boldness of the head to be unconstrained… It will be the same size as the others, and it will be highly illustrated like them–just in a different way.

          But I will write him.

          • OK. But bear in mind that although it would be lovely to be unfettered by the established layout for the ‘series’, and go instead with a clean, minimal design of a foliate head against a plain background, we’ll make a good job of it either way.

  9. oh! i love the ink colors you came across! i am completely taken with number three and number five, though 4 grows on me more and more…
    i love them all 😀
    number five *looks* like a cover, though, i think. what a wonderful project!

    • Zoe is referring to the fact that a few of the colours I’ve used here are ‘liquid watercolours’ that once belonged to Peter’s parents, and as such are probably over twenty years old. The dark brown bottles have excellent stoppers with still un-perished rubber bulbs, and I’ve been frankly staggered by the quality of the colours within them. No sediments or fading. They certainly knew how to make ’em back then. The orange/gold of image III comes from this cache, as does the green in images I and IV. All the other colours are Liquitex and FW branded acrylic inks.

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