Out of the Woods: part 1

Although I made a first pass at the dummy copy of Hansel & Gretel quite a while back, I’ve been re-visiting it and making significant changes. (It always pays to sleep on things for a while.) This is to be a picture-book, and the images have to carry the narrative.

With such an iconic story, there must be a balance between relying on what viewers already know of it, while not taking too much for granted. Plus there is the dream-like element that I envisage, and the surprise twists of the story that need to be conveyed without over-burdening the images with explanation.

I’ve restored the ‘bad mother’ theme. It seems that when the collection became popular, parents were uneasy with such notions, and the Grimm brothers obligingly excised them from subsequent editions.

But it seems to me that in fairy tales, the horrors lie not just in the realm of the unknown outer world, but in the familiar places that should be safe. What could be more horrific than an uncaring mother who puts her children in the way of a predatory cannibal witch?

From my workbook.

There is not enough food to go around.

This mother is implacable, and her meaning is clear.

The father is weak, and says nothing.

The Witch’s cottage has been through many guises, from brutal modernism… a concrete bunker bristling with lollipops… to gingerbread gothic. This is how it looked in the Hansel & Gretel piece I made for Random Spectacular that led to the current project.

More recent images from my workbook.

I envisage it hyper-coloured and sweating sugar-syrup!

I’m constantly paring back and simplifying. This…

… became this. The small format works better with cleaner outlines.

A dried plant stalk, picked on a mountain walk last year, has become a model for trees in the witch’s wood.

A threatening forest also recently appeared in the Dark Movements toy theatre…

… and something like it may well find its way into Hansel & Gretel.

More soon.

8 thoughts on “Out of the Woods: part 1

  1. Your little horse is immortal and will gallop across hearts, minds, imaginations for as long as people have the ability to enjoy and look and love what they see.
    Scary mothers are a vital truth, however they are felt, carrying, as they do, the shadows of all of us professing and hopefully being, caring and loving mummies (or daddies.)
    Sending hugs and kisses
    ‘Mummy’ Bernie xxx

  2. What a feast indeed. I so appreciate looking through the stream of images created over time, seeing how they develop, how you refine your vision Clive, how other influences emerge and feed into the creative current. I’m glad to hear the haunted wood may find it’s way into H&G, it’s fabulous, and I’m loving the latest incarnation of the witch’s cottage 🙂

    As for the thief, the gingerbread zombies will sort you out, so, if I were you, I’d give it back, or I’d advise not closing your eyes for a moment, you never know when those little critters will come for your brains!

    • Phil, vengeance by gingerbread zombie is quite a force to unleash, and I think I may have to reserve it for those who really piss me off.

      Being their creator is not without its responsibilities. I can’t just open the gates, say the words and set ’em loose. Once they’re out there, well, they’re pretty unrestrained. There could be collateral damage, if you get my drift. Not exactly housetrained! Just saying’.

  3. Lovely to see your diversity, Clive, your mind is so packed with ideas, the drawings are wonderful as always, I love the witch, and as Sarah says, what a terrifying mother!! Sorry to hear about the little figure being stolen, as you say, let’s hope an overwhelming desire was the cause, so they may tire of it and be good enough to put it back. Hmmm… there could be a story there, like the one about the little tin soldier………xxL

    • Thank you, Liz. It was the right thing to put the little horse on show, even though it was stolen. I console myself with the notion that it was irresistible to someone who genuinely loved it. However as Peter has pointed out, the more likely scenario is that it was pocketed by a kleptomaniac who spotted an opportunity. My sadness is that the people into whose care it had been entrusted… the staff at the Arts Centre… feel terrible about the theft. The culprit is, has made everyone very sad.

      The little horse belongs in the toy theatre. It was the final addition to it. I would be enormously obliged (and heartened) if whoever took it would return it to where it should rightfully be. It would be the kind thing to do.

      So if the person who took it is reading this, please return the horse to the Arts Centre. If you pop it off its wire-slider and put it in an envelope addressed to me left at the main desk in the foyer, I can restore it to the toy theatre, where it belongs. And if you were really brave, and returned it openly, I would contact you to thank you in person, and make you a replacement that you could keep. Today’s best offer!

  4. You have provided us with a visual feast today Clive. It’s good to see the return of your Hansel & Gretel project to the Artlog and I am very much looking forward to owning the finished result.

    As for the addition of “The Bad Parents” to your interpretation, one thing I do know for sure is if I had a mother who looked as terrifying as the one you have created, I would be heading for the woods without so much as a backwards glance!!

    • When putting a project on hold for a while, on returning to it you bring the experiences of what you’ve most recently worked on. Dark Movements had a fair sprinkling of Hansel & Gretel in its toy theatre and haunted wood, and now that will have an influence on the picture-book.

      Funnily enough, on the very day I’d decided to put the sheeted horse of the toy theatre into the travel episode toward the end of H&G, I had a call from the Arts Centre to tell me that the little figure, which was only a few centimetres high (and a photograph of which I’d used in this post) has been stolen from the toy theatre in which it stood. The gallery is closely invigilated, and no-one is to blame but the thief. Moreover I knew there was a risk in something so small being uncased, and on balance I took it. It was more important to me that there wasn’t glass between the toy theatre and gallery visitors, than any risk of theft. Moreover the loss has determined me to use the ghostly horse in the picture-book, to commemorate what has been stolen.

      I should probably see this as a compliment. I just hope that whoever took it, did so because the little horse was so desirable.

      • I’m so sad to hear that your little horse has been stolen, as I loved this miniature version of the Mari Lwyd, In my eyes, the shroud had become a horse blanket and the grey mare felt like a truly benign presence on the “Dark Movements” stage.

        As Liz points out it does feel like we have entered a Jenksian re-telling of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” with your news. Is it too much to hope for a happy ending? (-:

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