the Barnfield sonnets, part 1: the project book

Above: sketch for Sonnet I

Some of you have been kind enough to tell me from time to time that you enjoy glimpses into my sketchbooks. What we have here is less a sketchbook than a project book: a cheap, lined, spiral-bound exercise book into which I taped the many scrappy drawings made for an illustrated edition of Richard Barnfield’s Sonnets. (The Old Stile Press, 2001.) In some of the project book drawings I was trying out line techniques over blocks of colour. In the book this was achieved by printing each image from two relief blocks, one inked in black and the other in colour. In the project book the images are made by laying line-drawings made in ink on clear plastic, over paper worked with coloured pencils. In each instance here I’ve added an image of the page as it appeared in the finished book.

Below: the finished page

In the book the sonnets appear on the left side of each page opening. They aren’t numbered on the text pages, but the numbers appear within the illustrations. (The one above is hiding in the moon.)

Below: sketches for Sonnet II

Below: the finished page

Below: sketches for Sonnet XII

Below: the finished page

Below: sketches for Sonnet XX

Below: the finished page

Below: sketches for Sonnet XVII

Below: the finished page

Below: sketch for the Tailpiece

Below: the finished page

Below: sketch for Sonnet VII

Below: the finished page

Below: sketch for Title Page

Below: the finished page

Below: sketch for Sonnet III

Below: the finished page

Below: sketches for the cover

Below: the ‘peep-hole’ slip-case with the book within


In part 2: the dummy copy and the book of my childhood that inspired my approach to this project. Prepare to be surprised!

22 thoughts on “the Barnfield sonnets, part 1: the project book

  1. Pingback: Barnfield in new clothes | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. What a treat this is at this hour. I do look forward to posts of this nature from you – it’s always fascinating to see how things formed from a third-person perspective, and that’s proven when we happen across sketches like these, with such panache. As for the finals, well, picking a single favourite would be impossible, but I am rather in love with the turquoise pieces – I mean, that’s a REALLY pretty turquoise.

    I would conclude by drawing yet again on the buzz this stuff generates, or how impressive the work (and process) is, but I fear I’m sounding rather a broken record by now… tsk, just take those remarks as a given addendum for future comments!

    • Oh wow! Something odd has just happened to my eyes while reading your comment. The white on black words have popped into 3D! Really… it’s as though I can see around them. That’s never happened before. I wonder whether it’s because I’m tired or because the interweb has gone all Avatar on me! Ha ha! (Where’s blue Sigourney?)

      I know what you mean about the turquoise. I feel the same way! (-;

      You’re not a broken record, Steven. Far from it. Besides, you know how we insecure artists enjoy a bit of appreciation, especially those of us who live out in the middle of nowhere and don’t see many people!

      But seriously, thank you. I much appreciate the fact that you came, and then left a lovely message. Cheers.

      Jack says he’s got his bus ticket and will see you soon! What the hell is he talking about?

      • Hmm, oh dear. What have I done to Clive’s eyes? And you haven’t even looked me in the eye either – it’s normally only that which causes irreparable damage. We’d best get you to the opticians, pronto.

        On the other hand, perhaps you’ve uncovered the joy of my late-night voyages around places like this 😉 Things come alive after midnight, indeed… or perhaps we both need our eyes looking at.

        I have probably demonstrated my own insecurity in the previous comment, so yes, tell me about it! I am certain the appreciation will continue.

        Oh, uh… um… well, it’s the first I’ve heard of this…. (shifty eyes) This has painted the most adorable mental image of Jack. How wonderful that he’s on his way, with a little suitcase between his teeth, a nice crumpled up name tag and everything – awwww. He’s too much, is that rascal.

        I shall now be heartbroken if he doesn’t arrive, you realise; let that be on your conscience…!! 😉

        • D’you know, Steven, the eye thing did happen to me once before, many years ago when we were staying at Peter’s cousin Angela’s house in Jersey. I was lying on the bed looking at the wallpaper pasted onto the low sloping wall angled over my head. It was very close… one of those spaces that you have to duck when you get up… and quite suddenly the flowered pattern ‘leapt’ into 3D! It was rather unnerving and yet strangely charming, as though all these tiny sprigs of flowers had floated off the paper above me and were hovering centimetres away from their moorings. I did that thing that you see children doing when watching 3D movies, reaching out my hands and pawing at the floating images. Concentrating so as not to lose the effect, I cast my gaze over the room. The illusion persisted. ALL the flower sprigs were floating off the walls. It was astounding. Some weird combination of the pattern and the way my eyes focussed, I guess. And until the letters untethered themselves in your comment the other evening, the phenomenon had never repeated itself. Beats me.

          What’s all this cock-a-mamie nonsense about Jack paying you a visit? Are you insane? He’s a dog!!!! I can’t let him wander off on his own! What have you been saying to him?

          (Bridles with indignation)

          Later: Steven, it’s Jack here.Train trip off. Can you come and get me?

          • That’s really fascinating. Scary somewhat, but fascinating. I wonder what the cocktail of ingredients have to be to trigger it. I’ve certainly never experienced anything like that, not that I can remember anyhow.

            It’s funny what the eyes can put in front of us and present as fact, even at the sharpest of times. I’ve had a few hallucinations in my time, but that’s always been down to too many drugs (prescription drugs, I hasten to add), which I can’t imagine is the case here.

            This whole Jack thing. I am indeed insane, Clive, but you can’t begrudge me a dream, shirley? Maybe he’ll show up someday…

            Like I’m going to divulge our private conversations. Yeesh. You’ll have to try harder than that, bub.

            Also, ‘cock-a-mamie’. I’ve never heard that before. What a fantastic term.

            • Oh wait: if I were calling you Shirley, I’d have shirley given it a capital S.

              I will leave you be now, don’t worry. Goodnight!

            • I note that your grammar is always impeccable, and I greatly appreciate it. Others may eschew the capital, but never you. I knew it was a typo, and I am contrite for my riposte. No-one like a smart-arse. Pace?

            • And likewise is noted at this end, Clive! I enjoy your commentaries and supporting writings just as much as your artwork. You’re a remarkably eloquent chap.

              Don’t be contrite – that should be (and is) my part, *surely*. This is my doing, not your own.

              My previous comment was embarrassing and unnecessary, and I must apologise for that.

            • Generally the comment-boxes at the Artlog are rather serious. That’s just the nature of this blog. You, Steven, contribute another tone entirely. You’re like a bottle of champagne, and I enjoy our riffs and flights of fancy. I should just point out that my dog has never before added his voice to the comment-boxes, so full marks to you for provoking a ‘first’. Moreover this being such a new and potentially interesting development, I think you should continue to draw out his e mail-writing skills! You could be his mentor. (He, of course, need not know we’ve had this little conversation.) I understand that he may need relationships beyond the one he enjoys with me… though I hadn’t expected that he’d find one on the internet! I’m slightly stung that I’m ‘not enough’ for him, but I’ll get over it. Be assured I want him to be happy… I want you both to be happy… and to fully express himself, and I can see from what he’s written here that you mean quite a lot to him. The heart… even a dog’s… wants what the heart wants, right?

            • Hmm, a bottle of champagne, eh? Listen to you though, being charming, and absurdly kind (not to mention tolerant). Thank you.

              Now, in the pursuit of giving back, allow me a crack at this.

              You are like the perfect picture book, Clive, for your artwork is supremely talkative, and the words that form your captions and comments are storybook, and as pretty as a picture in their own right – and, y’know, a picture is reputedly worth a thousand words, so you see, the words must be really pretty, and, picturesque, like a pictur-oh, sod it. *Stop* making things seem so easy.

              You know what? I’ll just call you a wizard. I feel that pretty much covers it.

              As for Jack, why, I would be honoured to be his mentor, though it’ll probably turn out to be he who’s doing most of the mentoring! I look forward to many more conversations with him – of course I do.

            • OK. I’ll settle for wizard. There are witches and wizards aplenty in the Toby Twirl annual, so I’ll fit right in. Now I must just find myself a steeple-hat decorated with the moon, planets and stars. Gotta be one here somewhere…


            • I did have the moon hat in mind when I said it… it’s quite an image. I shall always picture you with it from now on.

  3. I love the Modernist flair of these. A fine thing to have such sonnets and your images elaborating them. A poet could wish for nothing more. I eagerly went online to see if there were copies available out there. There are two. One in Delaware. Now wondering whether I should mortgage the garden shed to obtain it. But so happy to have these images to gaze upon if my purse restrains me. Such a knowing hand you took to these.

    • Jeffery, one of the delights of collaborating with a press making books of such beautiful craftsmanship, is that they keep their lustre. I hauled my copy out of the bookcase today to photograph it, and it’s as lovely now as it was when I had it fresh from the binder thirteen years ago. The paper is thick and creamy, and the blocks have imprinted it so that when you run your fingertips over the pages you can feel the images and words.

      Bear in mind that Nicolas and Frances at Old Stile Press will ship anywhere in the world, and so if you’re seriously thinking of acquiring a copy, you should check with them and compare prices with what’s available in the U.S. I’ve noticed recently that the prices direct from OSP can be significantly less expensive than from other sources, even taking account of postage.

  4. Dear Clive Hicks-Jenkins
    Thank you so much for these images
    I’ve been looking at Amazon for Equus, for The Mare’s Tale, for the Sonnets, and for The Affectionate Shepheard, and the hard backs or the leather bound are all out of print, almost unavailable.
    I will have to try specialized shops for rare books, but those are usually so expensive, and the extra price tags do not go to the authors…
    I will go on trying, but it is really good of you to show what we new admirers of yours, would otherwise have missed…

    Next book , I’ll preorder before it even is available in the shops…

    • Dear Maria. Not available from Amazon, but go directly to The Old Stile Press and you’ll find them there. All these books are still available directly from the press, and Frances is happy to ship. The books are expensive because they’re so beautifully produced in small editions, but the craftsmanship is immaculate.

      Nicolas and Frances are very friendly. If you do contact them, tell them I sent you. (-;

      You can find them HERE. Click on the link to the catalogue, and it will offer options to find the books by author or illustrator. You can look at them online, see the prices, and if you decide to proceed, you can contact Frances to ask about shipping costs.

      • Thank you so much.
        Today is saturday, and nobody works, neither do they work on a sunday , but on monday, I shall go there and order the books. And of course I´ll tell them you sent me to them.

        Before Amazon existed, I used to buy from a couple of booksellers in Salt Lake City, but the books had to be second hand. They were not allowed to sell new books. So the wait was long,
        Even in spite of the fact that I was subscribed to The N.Y.T. Book Review, and the TLS, and had early news of what was published. I suspect they sometimes bought and read the books I was waiting for, just to be able to resell them to me…
        Thank you Again

        • The internet has definitely made the frustrating wait for long-sought-after books a thing of the past. That is probably both a good and a bad thing. My most triumphant internet moment came when after forty years of searching for a rare copy of the the history of a branch of my family (the ‘Hicks’ bit) I found two copies in a day: one for my sister and one for me. Bliss.

          Have a lovely weekend. I’m off to a party and must go and get myself presentable.

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