equus revisted: part three

Part three of my Afterword to the 2009 Old Stile Press illustrated edition of Peter Shaffer’s Equus.


Gradually I pared down the characters to just Strang and Dysart and, of course, Nugget and his stable companions. By using a radically limited cast, I could better produce images that felt like ideas. For these I had to invent a visual language: the back view of a naked youth can stand for Alan, while the bearded profile and dark gaze will summon Dysart.

Page opening

Page opening

In my sketch books the horses developed in ways I hadn’t anticipated, as though demanding fresh transformations from page to page. These metamorphoses had something to do with time: I noted that every scene where Nugget appears is either recalled or imagined, never in the present. Alan describes past events, as do his parents, but other characters, particularly Dysart, imagine them. Therein lay clues to the way the book might develop. Face to face with this troubled young man, anyone might feel the presences of his crime and his victims.

Page opening

Page opening

 The fourth and final part of the Equus Afterword tomorrow.

10 thoughts on “equus revisted: part three

  1. Hello! I missed your recent posts, for I was very busy the last 10 days… But here they are, inviting me to dive in their world.

    I like your illustrations very much – there’s some cool beauty and might in them!

    I think that having been a director helps you in analysing the dramaturgy and leads your hand as an artist – it’s amazing!:)

  2. That final image is particularly stunning, the boy with a bit. Very charged, erotic, visceral, painful, seemingly simple, extremely effective. I love them all of course, but that hit me in the heart.

    • Although nudity is central to the play and Alan’s arousal when riding Nugget is certainly implied, his self-flagellation to a sexual climax with a coat-hanger while wearing an improvised horse-bit, is described rather than shown, given in an account to the psychiatrist by the boy’s father. (He’d spied on his son through a door left ajar.) Here was an opportunity for me to open up the text with a more explicit image. In fact I went even further in a couple of front-view studies, but Nicolas vetoed them and he was probably right. It certainly would have been a quite different book had I gone that route. You can see the drawings in a 2010 post titled ‘Equus: what you didn’t see’.

      • I looked at the full frontal images, and thought them quite vulnerable and painful to witness, eliciting a great deal of empathy.

  3. So good to look at these images again and with the extra insight afforded by your afterword Clive, they really are very powerful, dramatic and beautiful. The different marks, bold shapes and tones make for exciting stuff but with real tenderness there too

    • Tenderness… yes. I’m pleased that you see that, Phil. I wanted there to be tenderness. The sense too of Alan being so steeped in the world of his imagination, that like a child who believes the characters of nursery fiction are ‘real’, so he is utterly in thrall to the God/Horse he’s created for himself, superimposed over the reality of a animal called Nugget. When the bad things happen, it’s very hard for us to see them through Alan’s eyes… though Dysart helps us… because we inhabit a world where blinding animals is an act of barbarism. For Alan though, something else entirely is going on, and I wanted to show as through his eyes the transforming and transformative god of his imagination. Here is a young man creating a religion and form of worship to meet his needs, and it’s an exciting though challenging notion for an artist to to wrestle with.

  4. Dear Clive

    I love your work. Is it possible to buy prints from somewhere? ( I think I couldn’t afford the originals). I particularly love Kevin and the Blackbird…and have used projected images of it in school assembly to tell the story. Yours Sue


    • Hello Florence Walker

      I don’t make prints of my paintings. Producing, marketing and selling prints of paintings is not something I have experience of, or have given serious thought to. I know it would be a time-consuming and expensive endeavour (and a distraction) and so although I shall keep an open mind, I can’t see it happening any time soon.

      However, I do make original relief prints. particularly mono-prints and lino-prints, and my dealer Martin Tinney in Cardiff has a couple of the latter in stock. (You can see them HERE and HERE.) He also has some of the limited edition prints made of selected images from Equus. I’m not sure which ones, but you could contact the gallery and ask. The details are at the end of this message.

      I have more Equus prints stored in my studio, and in the next few days I’ll post images of what’s still available. Should there be one you’re interested in, then indicate which in a message here, and I’ll arrange for it to be sent to the gallery for you to collect. This is the best I can suggest, as I’m afraid I don’t sell directly to the public. The gallery staff will give you prices for framed and unframed prints. You’ll find them really very approachable and helpful.

      Martin Tinney Gallery is situated in Cardiff city centre, less than 5 minutes walk from the National Museum of Wales. There are several car parks immediately nearby, and Pay and Display on-street parking directly outside.
      18 St. Andrew’s Crescent
      CF10 3DD
      Tel +44 (0) 29 2064 1411
      e-mail: mtg@artwales.com

      Monday-Friday, 10:00-18:00
      Saturday, 10:00-17:00
      Closed Sundays and Bank Holidays

        • The economics of producing prints of original artworks is a minefield. Prints require extensive marketing, distribution and specialist outlets, and I’m simply not set up for such a venture. The business of making paintings is a full-time occupation for me, and one that’s made possible only because I’m represented by a single gallery which takes care of all my exhibition needs. A one-man show every two years eliminates the necessity of having to regularly find new venues to show my work. It’s a cosy set-up and I’m happy with it.

          If you’d like to have a good source of reproductions of my work, you might try the Lund Humphries monograph available at Amazon. Among the couple of hundred illustrations in it are all the major Kevin and the Blackbird paintings, plus quite a few drawings and prints on the subject.

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