Today I completed my final work for English Heritage on the year-long Telling Tales project that arrived entirely unexpectedly just before Christmas 2018.
It began with a commission via English Heritage Magazine to make an illustration of Saint George for a series of articles on English myths, legends and folk tales, and ended today with the last in a group of paintings commissioned as prizes in the five categories of a short story competition for young people, for which I made an illustration for each winning story.
One of the winning competition stories tells of an unhappy young Princess who makes friends with a fierce and much reviled fire-breathing beast, so my year with English Heritage began and ended with dragons.
Throughout it there has been a relentless schedule of deadlines. The first was to conceptualise and then complete all the visuals for an interactive ‘Myths Map’ that required daunting quantities of artwork from me, including producing thirty drawings of EH sites and designing and building the many puppets required for the map’s animation sequences.
Following that I designed retail products and produced illustrations for EH Magazine, for several educational projects and for the anthology of short stories titled ‘These Our Monsters’.
In November 2019 much of my output was on show in Grand Tour: Works Commissioned from Clive Hicks-Jenkins by English Heritage at Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff.
In some ways producing illustrations as prizes for the Telling Tales short story competition winners was the most challenging part of the project, because there was the added responsibility of wanting the experience for the young writers to be the best.
Telling Tales was English Heritage’s theme of 2019, designed to promote interest in the many sites around which the project had been built. Had it come a year later things would have turned out quite differently as right now all the sites are closed until future notice, and their retail outlets with them. Most of the EH team I worked with are on furlough. Even so a few weeks ago it was suggested I work on an extension to the project, and while pleased and flattered to be asked, I declined. Any commission is hard work, but this one was particularly challenging because the briefs were demanding and I was answerable to a great many stakeholders over a long period. Sustaining concentration and the energy to deliver to schedule throughout it was exhausting, and while I greatly appreciated being the artist entrusted with the challenges, now feels like the moment to be moving on.
What a wonderful body of work. You truly are amazing. Do you ever sleep?! I have occasionally browsed through the EH site, knowing that the delightful map and drawings were executed by My Friend Clive. I can see why they want you to do more. The images and the map itself are absolutely perfect. They lend such a unique flavour and individuality to the EH site. Each detailed illustration beckons you in to discover more, and the viewer can pass a very pleasant hour or so scouring the map and entering into magical worlds of myths and legends. It makes for a very pleasing pastime.
Much love from lockdown France. We have a date for lifting the locks. May 11th here we come! XL
Oh Lizzie, thank you for those lovely comments. It all worked out pretty well given the speed I had to bring the project in at. There were just three days to freehand draw a detailed 6ft high outline of the UK. I did it by eye, copying it from many pages of an Atlas while using callipers to check my accuracy. Definitely old school. (The west coast of Scotland was the biggest challenge!) The site icons, of which there were just under forty, had to be made at the rate of four per day to meet the deadline. Whenever I fell behind I’d do an all-nighter to catch up. The speed made me inventive. Needing large areas of texture to relief-layer the map, I took to making rubbings of the awful artex plaster on the walls of my studio. I’ve always hated the damned stuff, but gosh I was glad I hadn’t knocked it off because it was a godsend.
I look at it now and I’m proud of the achievements. Listening carefully to the briefs and then interpreting them was quite a challenge as there were many stakeholders I needed approval from for every aspect of the project. Nor was it just English Heritage that needed to be happy throughout, but I had also to produce the artwork as proscribed by the digital agency Gravitywell, who were assembling the map and building the means of its delivery to the public. Everyone was acutely aware that it was going to be representing English Heritage in all its aspects, and so we had to get it right, even though the time to do so was in short supply. While I felt the strain of expectation and schedule, I was curiously confident and sure of where we needed to go to make the project work visually, and so it was more a case of finding strategies to produce the sheer volume of work in the time.
I’m really glad I did it, and I’m so pleased that you like what I produced. You have such a very good eye that your approval is reassuring.
Sending love to you and G from Ty Isaf. XXX
And you thought you left the madness of theatre and it’s all-nighters behind you! It sounds like an absolute nightmare of logistics, but an exciting and exhausting time altogether. Well done, I’m so full of admiration! XxxL
I just noticed that one of your images on ‘These our Monsters’ looks just like the Corona Virus logo that’s being used. Hope you copyrighted it 🙂
Made back last year when none of us had even heard of Coronavirus!
Holy mackerel! All of this is fabulous but I’m frankly astounded at the value of the prizes for the young writers! Thank you for the thought and effort you put in to this. Those young people have been most beautifully rewarded for their writing efforts.
Judy, my original suggestion when approached was to make small black and white vignettes as the prizes. When EH requested elements of colour in them, I agreed that I’d make each artwork in a limited palette. However when it came to producing the illustrations, I found it hard-going to be attempting vignettes for the stories without first having gone through the usual processes of making many preparatory studies. In the end I felt the right thing was not to hold back in any way, and so I did all my usual prepping, and then made a full colour, A4-size illustration for each story.
My usual process of illustrating a book is to put in as much preparatory work to develop the visual themes as the deadline for completion allows. The vignettes tend to come toward the end of any illustration project, so it’s not possible to shortcut to them without having properly developed the ideas. I was aware that I’d very likely have to put in more work than the education team approaching me realised, but I liked the notion of making images for young writers, so with the job coming at the end of the project when I wasn’t so pressurised, I hunkered down to do things properly.
Amazing. Well done, you. They will be treasured pieces.