The Armouring of Gawain: thoughts on print No. 5

All the images are preparatory studies for The Armouring of Gawain, or details from stencils prepared for the print.

Gawain must seek out the Green Knight’s chapel, where he is oath-bound to submit to a blow from an axe that will very likely kill him. Everyone at the court witnessed the challenge from the Green Knight that led to this pass, and no-one believes that Gawain will return. So the acquitting of him in fine armour is a bit of a hollow pretence, a show of largesse from a King gilding the sacrificial lamb. (It was Arthur the Green Knight had in his sights, but young Gawain stepped in to be his champion.) Clad in chased and burnished gold, radiating light like Apollo, the young man’s gaze turns to the image of the Virgin he’s had painted onto the lining of his shield. She alone must steel him for the travails ahead.

In the distance Camelot, compromised by the moral bankruptcy that will one day see it fall, is already dark, as though light has departed with the last good man.


A savage wind has tugged locks of Gawain’s hair from his helmet and set them streaming with his dancing crest of plumes. He’s locked in this metal suit, living and perhaps dying in it unless he reaches a trusted place where others may be relied upon to uncase him. Shining and jewelled, the armour is both protection and prison. He must cook or freeze in it as the weather dictates.



Below, the application of greasy, lithography crayon and opaque fibre-tip pens on layers of granulated Trugrain.

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15 thoughts on “The Armouring of Gawain: thoughts on print No. 5

  1. I very much like the handling of the Virgin, the simplified face (bit of a Modigliani vibe there) and the jagged halo effect from the trim of her robe, the Medieval look of the crease handling. She’s almost rock-like, which seems apt.

    And I like to think that this Camelot is just off the margins of “My Dream Farm,” and occasionally a farm duck finds a swan’s egg in its nest.

    7th down for you and Gawain and the flip side of the shield:

  2. These studies are so beautiful Clive, the expression on Gawain’s face is perfect. He looks so human, even encased in all that gold and finery; resolute, but frightened too, finding himself in an extraordinary train of events and not being sure of the outcome.

  3. I love the intimacy of this portrait of Gawain. He feels very real to me. I interpret golden Camelot falling into darkness behind Gawain, as an outward manifestation of one young man’s feelings, as he sets off on a perilous journey, voluntarily exiling himself from hearth and home.

    The expression on Gawain’s face is the hauntingly familiar one of a young man facing an uncertain fate, as so many have done throughout history. I do think it’s the sign of a great piece of art when it speaks a universal truth.

    Recently, I was very moved by the artist Jeremy Dellar’s ‘we’re here because we’re here’, a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, which honoured a generation who did not return home. I hope you don’t mind, but I have included a clip from the memorial here, as I think the ‘golden lad’ you have portrayed would not look out of place among the ranks of the young soldiers remembered here:

  4. This is no ‘meek holy mother’ but one helping him stay focused upon the task at hand, go Gawain!
    Power to him…and you.
    B xx

  5. Wow what a great story and photos of your brilliant work! It is good to see you again, Clive. I am wondering also if you have any idea whatever happened to Steven at Moodsaplenty?? I was e-mailing with him a long time ago and then he just never responded and I noticed his blog is gone, too. Just concerned here. Thanks.

  6. There’s such a story behind each piece, it’s something that a lot of people don’t realise, they see the finished piece of visual art and have no idea of the story behind it….

  7. My heart leaps with joy when I read your posts about your work. What you create has such depth and breadth: a wondrous distillation of understanding/empathy, information, visual references, using such skill, such eye, hand, and mind. It takes me back, and it takes me forward. Brilliant. It is the encounter with artists like yourself which makes this technology more than worthwhile. Thank you.

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