The Knight and the Virgin

Making a screenprint.

Rough sketches. There were several of these, but the one below was the guide to the study painting.

Below: working the face in some detail on mountboard before beginning to lay on paint. The drawing disappears almost completely under the first layer of gouache, but by that time it is already ‘locked’ in my head.


The Virgin and child painted onto the lining of Gawain’s shield begin to take shape.


Gawain’s helmet plume. Gouache and pencil.


Camelot, worked in sgraffito and pencil. The ground is heavy, acid-free mount-board that allows for the inscribing with a needle.

Rendering in gouache and pencil.

The finished study. Gouache, pencil and sgrafitto on board.


The composition re-drawn as a ‘master-drawing’ to guide the process of making stencils on separate layers of transparent film. Each stencil represents a single colour in the printmaking process.


Camelot rendered in wax crayon on transparent film. In the study, the ‘etched’ look was created by using a needle to ‘indent’ the card, and then working pencil over the top. With the stencil I had to use a technique more akin to scraperboard, wielding a needle to clear areas of the wax drawing. It was massively time consuming as the sticky wax detritus had to be constantly brushed away before it got stuck back down by the pressure from my hand resting on the surface. This stencil, which is a small section of the composition, took two days to complete.


Layers of transparent film create the quality of mark and tone Dan and I were looking for. The stencils are all made in black and red. No point in working in colour at this stage. It’s easier to see what’s going on in the layers by simplifying. The pattern on the inside of the shield was particularly taxing. In the painting the pattern was made by using yellow ochre whipped in with a fine brush over the top of the red. For the printmaking, the ochre has to under-print the red, and so all those pattern marks on the stencil had to be painted around. A long day’s work.


More layers of stencils. Even though they’re transparent/translucent, eventually it becomes hard to see what’s underneath the top five or six layers.


The stencils fixed in place with registration pins to assure correct alignment. The colours at right are the guide for Daniel Bugg. Each corresponds to a layer of stencil. The big brush is to dust the stencils and keep them free of detritus, though usually a few stray hairs from Jack end up in there.


This is how Gawain looked when composed of all the layers of stencils. Quite sooty!

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Proof stage by Daniel Bugg. The two stencils for the colours shown here have been processed as screens by Dan. Each screen is made of microfine mesh stretched on a frame, through which the printing ink is squeezed to make the impression.


Proofing stage.


Adding one of the black screens to the proofing stage, to check how things are looking.


Another proof, this time adding shades of ochre before laying in the black. Red and cobalt teal laid over each other make a rich, bruised purple.


Below: the finished print.


The Armouring of Gawain. 2016.

Screenprint. 55 x 55 cms. Edition of 75.

Opening 8th September at the Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff

Gawain and the Green Knight: Clive Hicks-Jenkins and the Penfold Press.

Prints, paintings and drawings exploring the medieval poem

10 thoughts on “The Knight and the Virgin

  1. Hello Clive,
    Do you know if all of the works for sale from the exhibition will be listed on the Martin Tinney website? as I would really like to buy something from the series (budget allowing!)

    P.S.I’m really enjoying my new job thanks, but I look a bit like a stick man on steroids, due to my tiny bulging muscles! ha ha

  2. I love this one SO MUCH! The way you have played different layers of the “reality” of the piece, it’s just perfect! And this intense coloring, wow wow wow. Thank you so much for what you share here, for those of so far away!

  3. Marvellous! I love that icon-style Mary…she looks very tender. I’m interested in your use of a needle for sgraffito – I scratch through paint to underlying paint on mountboard (or use a blunt point to press into the board) but have never thought of using a needle to actually ‘bite’ into the board. What sort of needle are you using? and how does it affect the board in the long term? Sorry to be so nosey! Gorgeous work as ever, Clive. xx

    • Shellie, the stencil of Camelot was made using the sgrafitto technique. The ground is a plastic film that I work over with a greasy lithographic crayon. Then I scratch into that with an etching needle, taking care not to press too hard because I don’t want to distort the plastic.

      The drawing on board is not really sgrafitto because there’s no scratching through pigment. I use various tools to ‘indent’ the mountboard that I favour as a ground. Then I gently rub the side of the pencil ‘lead’ over the indented marks. The pigment stays on the top, leaving the indented marks as fine, pale lines. It takes a bit of practice to get the pressure right. It’s important not to press too hard when making the indented lines because you don’t want to tear the surface of the board, neither must you press too hard when afterwards adding the colour, or the lines will start to fill in. I find that a low-angled strong light helps me ‘see’ the otherwise invisible ‘drawing’ as I make it.

      • What a twerp I am….sorry! I got so caught up in the images that I didn’t read the text properly *blush* Thank you for that patient and courteous reply!! πŸ™‚

  4. Magnificent Clive, and looking at all these sketches and proofs and stencils you can see how beautiful it is at every stage of the process; all these images are marvellous!

    • You’re very sweet, Phil. It’s been quite a challenge, ‘learning how’ while simultaneously working at such a reckless pace. But sometimes that horse just HAS to gallop, and there’s nothing to do for it other that to grip with the thighs like hell and hope to stay on!

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