gawain and the green knight redux

Francesca Kay’s splendid box-set of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight finger puppets prompted me to trawl the archive for images of the story that I’ve made over the past few years. It all started when I read Simon Armitage’s 2007 fresh-as-paint translation, which I found to be wonderful beyond my capacity to describe.

Above: Green Knight Maquette

Below: studies for the Green Knight

Above: Green Knight

Above: Gawain

Above: Study for the Green Knight

Above: The Greening of Gawain

Above: two studies for The Greening of Gawain

All I want now, is to nab any commission to make a cover of the next edition of Armitage’s translation, whenever that may be. I have the first edition hardback which I treasure. I think the cover is very good (I like its delicate, filagree wintriness) though I constantly look at it and wonder what I’d do if the opportunity to make an image for the book came my way!

Above: the 2007 hardback of Simon Armitage’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

15 thoughts on “gawain and the green knight redux

  1. These are wonderful Clive, the red grounded, elder statesman Green Knight is just grand. Thank you for placing the images together, great impact.
    I need to read the Armitage translation after your enthusiastic review; currently reading Beowulf (Seamus Heaney translation)-need to think ahead.
    I miss popping in with regularity, my classes have taken up a lot of time; that and painting of course. I will adjust quickly I’m sure.
    with affection,

    • My friend, never apologise for being busy. I’m glad to hear that you are engaged thoroughly with your classes. My own life has been so crowded over the past months that I have not been as attentive to the blogs of friends as I would like to be, but there are always the catch-up times to be enjoyed after the events!

      However, I’d urge you to occasionally share some of what’s going on away from your easel. The briefest blog can sometimes offer exciting insights into an artist’s journey. Take your camera to class, and post some of the things that you are getting up to. I for one would be hugely interested.

    • Hello Alison. I’ve just viewed the Stanza Stones project, thanks to your link, and I’ll return shortly to read more thoroughly about it. Thank you for your thoughts on this. I’m feeling slightly sheepish about having brought the matter up on the Artlog. People are so enthusiastic and so kind.

      Isaac phoned today, and I look forward to seeing him soon. It sounds as though he had a wonderful time in Scotland getting to grips with printing. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing what he’s been up to.

  2. Clive, as you are responsible for getting me into Simon Armitage and his translations I have already pre-ordered his King Arthur which you definitely should have designed the book jacket for. These maquettes are stunning. You draw with such a bold and decisive hand. I picked up a DVD at the St David’s John Piper exhibition and there is a small segment in it about the foliate heads in his stained glass windows. After seeing your review I feel the need to take out the scissors and construct my own Jack in the Green

    • You’re ahead of me, and I must get around to organising a copy of The Death of King Arthur. I was slightly put off initially because I’m not a fan of Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. But when I discovered the Armitage version was based on an anonymously authored poem of 1400, my spirits lifted, and they positively soared when I read an extract. He does hit the spot with me. However, I fear I don’t at all like the packaging the new book comes in, which is a great disappointment, because despite the fact that I would have loved making the cover for either Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or The Death of King Arthur, I take no pleasure in the opportunity missed to make a book as beautiful as possible. To my eyes the King Arthur cover is garish, where the Gawain was evocative of Gawain’s journey and pleasingly delicate in its palette.

      Yes, get out those scissors and get cutting. Jack-in-the-Green calls!

  3. Oh, I’ve seen several of these–and I remember when one of them floated out of your bedroom, tucked under somebody’s arm, and left Ty Isaf. It’s the sort of thing that brings on a stab of longing, after all!

    I like your maquette heads a lot and think that the idea of snipped metal sounds wonderful. Do!

    • It’s true. We sold Study for the Green Knight right off our walls on the day of the post-retrospective garden party, to friends who said they wouldn’t leave unless we did! It made us vey happy to see them so triumphant, though I miss it here still.

  4. The wonderful maquette would also look good as a metalwork sconce, as it’s also slightly back-lit and reflective in the photograph. The painted profile of the knight makes me think it might be a self portrait, and the ability to zoom into the photograph and see the nature of the paint is a pleasure. I haven’t read the book as yet, but I do now recall admiring a cover of it illustrated by Swava Harasymovicz as part of a series for Penguin Classics in 2006.

    • The maquette is made out of paper, but I have thought of working in thin metal, having always liked the Picasso models made out of snipped and painted tin.

      The profiled knight of The Greening of Gawain is a likeness of my friend Isaac, as is the small painted study underneath it. He’s twenty. I wish I did look like that, but at age sixty-one, I fear I don’t! Ha ha!

  5. I’ve admired these images ever since I first saw some of them in your monograph book from last year, they are so strong, the best Gawain images I’ve seen. I do hope you get the opportunity to do that cover Clive , would love to see what you make of it, the Green Knight maquette is my favourite here, if I had to name one, it’s a magical thing

        • My partner Peter opined it was cheeky of me to have written such a thing on my blog, but it’s the truth, so no point in denying it.

          Steffan, I love the art of book design and illustration, and while I don’t aspire to be other than the painter I am, I take my opportunities where I find them. I’ve hugely enjoyed making covers and interior artwork for the two Marly Youmans poetry books this year, but they would not have come my way were it not for the fact that she and I are friends, and she recommended me to the two publishers. The same thing has happened with the Welsh poet Damian Walford Davies, for who I produced a cover design this year, a collaboration we both enjoyed and hope to extend to his next book. I have a cover due out for Penguin Modern Classics next year, a stroke of good fortune that came out of the blue.

          It hasn’t been my way to seek out authors I admire because I have little confidence that anyone would be interested in me, but I love Armitage’s work so much that passion has made me bold. I’m probably just due for disappointment on that front. I know that authors usually have little say over who provides cover images for them, especially with the big publishing houses. (The three publishing houses I’ve made covers for this year for Damian and Marly are all fairly small, and more suggestible to the artist suggested by their authors. Marly even persuaded Stanza to ditch their usual poetry book livery for The Foliate Head, so that I could work without the constraint that would have imposed.)

          It’s a handsome thing you’re suggesting, to put an artist other than yourself in the way of a writer, and I’m both moved but also intrigued. As for travelling to North Wales to see you, I’m happy to make a special trip. Not this month I fear, as we have a family funeral to attend and and I’m away to Jersey to judge an art competition and hold a masterclass. But come October things will calm down a bit, and I shall happily come. Or you could come here, if you would like. We’re just outside Aberystwyth. Big house. Plenty of room!

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