equus revisited: part one

The Old Stile Press illustrated edition of Peter Shaffer’s Equus was published in 2009. A forthcoming Penguin Classics edition of the play in new livery and with cover artwork by me will be out later this year. Right now I’m up to my knees in Mari Lwyd imagery again, as I embark on the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra project for which composer Mark Bowden and writer Damian Walford Davies have been commissioned to create a new music/theatre piece, The Mare’s Tale, inspired by my 2001 series of drawings for which that title was coined.

I’ve been trawling through the horse-related material I’ve produced over the past twenty years, and find there is plenty of it. Here, to kick-start what promises to be my ‘year of the horse’, is the ‘afterword’ I wrote for the OSP edition of Equus, together with some of my illustrations for the book. It was edited by my friend Marly Youmans, who kindly cast her writer’s eye over it for me and made numerous helpful suggestions.

The cover of Equus

Afterword by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

In the mid 1980s I was asked to direct a murder mystery play by Anthony Shaffer. Whodunnit was an opportunity to work with an interesting cast on a national tour, and I accepted the offer. However, I also harboured a faint hope that in so doing I might meet the playwright’s twin brother Peter and, by dint of the wonderful work I planned to do, convince him I would be the perfect director for a new production of his great play Equus. Anthony declared himself delighted with the production, but I never met Peter and I never directed Equus. A few years later I left my career in the theatre to concentrate on painting.

The illustrated lining of the folding slip-case

Page opening

Title page of my own copy inscribed by the playwright to the illustrator

Part two of the Equus Afterword tomorrow.

10 thoughts on “equus revisited: part one

    • Thank you Phil. As with nearly every book I’ve made, at the end of Equus… which was a long old haul… I wasn’t sure whether I’d achieved what I set out to do. But looking back over the images I can say that I’m satisfied with it, and even feel a little proud.

  1. Seems Fate shoved you in the correct direction (not, as Marly points, that you haven’t many other skills). I am undeniably biased concerning painting/drawing. Your examples above really soar. Are they drawings?, they have such a strong presence they almost seem like relief prints. Wonderful stuff.

    • Well spotted Leonard. They are in fact both. The original images were made on acetate. I work on both sides, using a technique I evolved long ago for my Old Stile Press books. (See HERE and HERE.) One side for line and solid blacks, and the other for areas of paint that I scratch through. Glass pen and ink for the line, and brush, acrylic paint and etching tool for the solid black and sgraffito. The finished acetate sheets are laid on white paper and photographed with a plate camera. The negatives generated are then used to produce the polymer relief-blocks that Nicolas at OSP occasionally prints from. He additionally made a set of selected Equus prints for me, on beautiful paper.

      • Well I shouldn’t be surprised that you would tinker about the studio discovering just the right technique to create the illusion you sought. Seems particularly theatrical. My limited involvement with theatre was an appreciation for the ability to improvise a solution; smoke and mirrors in the very best sense. You do not seem to recoil from a challenge and i am impressed by that…and the work of course.

        • I am an inveterate tinkerer in the quest for new effects. It’s in the bone.

          Your allusion to smoke and mirrors made me smile. You might enjoy THIS recollection of a time when smoke and mirrors were quite literally a part of my currency! (the post is in two parts, and you can find a link to the second one at the bottom of the piece.)

  2. Clive, just went to get my copy and read because the whole Afterward is not showing up for me… Nice of you to mention me, but I think everybody knows by now that you can write! Particularly well about nature and creatures, but really about anything…

    • The ‘Afterward’ is so long that I decided for the purposes of posting it here to divide it into ‘episodes’.

      Last week I wrote a Forward for a forthcoming book, and I fear it was pretty abysmal. Peter has noted that when I’m struggling with a subject, whether a letter or even here at the Artlog, then my sentences get longer and more ornate, and the points I’m trying to make become increasingly opaque. He tore through my Forward, worked his editor’s magic and all was well. (He cut down by a third, which was a great improvement.) Occasionally I can be trusted to make a reasonable stab at a piece of writing, and I can see I’ve got better over the years, guided by him… he really is a very sure editor… and you, dear Marly. You went carefully through the Equus Afterword and made your suggestions within the existing text, together with explanations of of your reasons. I kept that, and constantly referred to it for the longest time thereafter, because it was such a masterclass on aspects of writing that habitually unseated me. I used it when I was writing the autobiographical chapter for the monograph, and thereafter that had need of a relatively light editing hand, though I’d spent an exceedingly long time on the piece, which suits me better. (Time to reflect and revise.)

      I’ve had very good teachers.

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