the process of preparing the ‘thaliad’ page decorations

Noah’s Ark.

Enquiring minds have been wondering about how the Thaliad page decorations are being made, and so here are the stages of one image from start to finish.

First come the drawings, usually quite rough, that guide the process.

I prepare pages of thin paper worked with black acrylic paint. The mark-making is as varied as I can come up with, from the faintly worked with starved brushes, to dense fields of star-speckled black.

From these papers the collage elements are cut. I don’t trace out the shapes, but cut them free-hand using the original sketch as a guide.

The cut-out elements are loosely assembled into the composition. There are lots of adjustments at this stage, trying out ideas and keeping the whole process free-flowing. Sometimes drawn elements are added. I take photographs so that I can look at the various versions on-screen before coming to a final decision.

Key elements are tacked down with tiny dots of glue to trial-run the composition. Finally the components are pasted down firmly, and the image (see top of post) is complete.

24 thoughts on “the process of preparing the ‘thaliad’ page decorations

  1. I echo everything said by everyone else. I love this Clive. If you are choosing pieces to use for fabric prints can this be among them, I can quite easily see a quilt for a nursery, matching curtains and a perfect cameo for cushions.

    By the way yesterday I was in my local Waterstones which is more like my local library to me and chatting to the assistant about the art on the front of books which she agreed enthusiastically was one of her favourite parts of the job. We also agreed that we like to hoard our books and re read them; hated taking them back to a library. I told her about you being asked to do a cover and she was really excited for you and asked if you would be touring to sign artwork! Or sign some of the books for selling. Hmm there’s a thought.

  2. Clive, I love seeing your working process and the final image is beautiful. Have you ever done any sculpture? You certainly have a feeling for solid forms and space and I can well image a very large version of your Noah’s ark carved from wood or even stone! Not that it needs to be translated into another medium.
    Your use of chance elements from the prepared ‘graffittied’ papers really resonates with me.

    • Natalie, I have done sculpture, working in various materials to make masks, and I produced earthenware in the studio of my friend Pip Koppel. I love working with plastic materials and hope to do more in the future.

      ‘Chance’ is an part of my practice that I greatly value. Important to subvert processes of creativity that might otherwise become stale. I know that you too reinvent your art to keep things fresh and edgy.

  3. So pleasing to the eye….sensitive and exciting work as ever, Clive!

    Black and white can be difficult to handle and become cliched or rather flat….yours is never, ever like that…inspiring to see!! Anyone planning on joining in the Alphabet Soup* idea can challenge themselves to the black and white idea…PLUS one colour per image… can we resist with such inspiring images here to spur us on!

    *shameless plug*

    • Beth, I’m coming to the end of my work on the images, and I hope to be able to forward scans of the new ones to you next week. Sorry to have kept you waiting so long, but I’ve had to fit the work between other commitments.

      Yes, the ‘twin’ theme has surfaced here, though the original idea was to mirror through the use of a traditional toy ark, the Thaliad theme of fragile life surviving against extraordinary odds. A metaphor if you like, but one that echoes the poetry of Marly’s narrative.

  4. Well, Clive, I’m mostly just stunned with the delight and beauty of this particular illustration. Thaliad is lucky indeed that you were willing to come aboard!

  5. Clive, you make this sound so matter of fact yet I know the skill is really in what parts of the painted page you select and the intuitive way you place them into your design. I love this image, especially the elephants!

    • Thank you Lesley. I’ve never drawn or painted an elephant before… that I can recall at any rate… and so this was fun to do. Every now and then some exotic subject matter comes along that requires a moment’s pause for reflection. It happened quite a lot on the folding-book ‘alphabet primer’, where I found myself drawing such previously unexplored subjects as a flour-mill, a tattooed sailor, a griffin, the god Neptune and a portrait of the young Queen Elizabeth II.

      Have you ever noticed how limited the repertoire of artists can become once they’re established? After the subject matter has been chosen, expressed and become familiar to collectors, thereafter not much changes. The Welsh artist Kyffin Williams springs to mind, who all his life painted the landscape, some portraits and the odd horse, cow and sheepdog, and that was it. I don’t think he ever got to do an elephant. Neither I suspect would I have done, had I not been given these recent opportunities to explore illustration.

  6. Yep, just echoing previous comments here, but I so appreciate these posts where you show the stages of your process Clive, it’s like being part of a workshop or masterclass and very inspiring. This image has such a simple, yet rather elegiac quality, beautiful

    • This has been quite interesting for me too, Phil, taking photographs of all the stages. It’s made me examine the process in a way I don’t normally. Sometimes when I get to the finishing line of one of these collages, I’m not really too sure how the result came about!

    • Hello Mary. I see that Marly sent you in this direction. Welcome to the Artlog.

      Yes, I can see the face now you mention it. It’s in the finished version too, and moreover with the ‘cloud eyes’ seen to better effect because the right one has been defined with more black around it.

  7. Yes, that was interesting–love it that you make a world of marks and then “see” the image in the right texture. I shall have to send my friend Mary B. over, as she is devoted to collage…

  8. Terrific! Great skill in your compositions and design development. I think it’s great that you take the time to share your process – thank you.

  9. oh, i love this image! i was curious about the patterning–it makes sense to have the page patterned before you begin cutting, for chance effects…. i love the outcome!
    thanks for sharing the process!

    • Chance effects are grist to my mill with this technique. It’s not a given in every image that there will be a happy accident, though enough occur to make the process rewarding. For the rest it’s pretty much working away at the coal-face until I get the general shape and feeling I’m aiming for. Sometimes I see what an image needs and I’ll ‘fill in’ directly with brushes and pens, or make a texture to order on a separate sheet that I then cut. But mostly I’ll start off with a stash of randomly prepared sheets, and work with those alone.

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