About Clive Hicks-Jenkins

I am a painter, born and living in Wales. I show with Martin Tinney in Cardiff and my work can always be found at his gallery. (Click on second link)

The Tailor and the Penfold Printer


In Beatrix Potter’s favourite of the books she produced, an ailing tailor hurries to complete the intricate embroidery of the Mayor of Gloucester’s wedding waistcoat. When the tailor, too ill to continue, leaves the unfinished waistcoat and takes to his bed, the mice emerge from the wainscot to complete his work for him. I have always loved the story, Potter’s shimmering, dancing prose, and the wonderful illustrations that accompany it.

Right now I feel like the old tailor, while Dan Bugg is playing all those mice, with their busy paws and meticulous workmanship.


I am new to screen-printing. My first print at the Penfold Press was Man Slain by a Tiger, and the experience was entirely a happy one. Dan guided me unerringly through the processes, which was by way of a preparation for the ambitious fourteen-print series we plan on making together, based on the medieval poem, Gawain and the Green Knight. The first in that series will be out in time to make it into the Christmas stocking of anyone interested. Titled Christmas at Camelot, it shows Arthur, Guinevere and Gawain on horseback, hunting with hawks. I started with a coloured pencil study, made as a guide. Here is a detail of the drawing.

Next I made the four separations that would be transferred to the screens ready for printing. These were made as layers, in paint and lithography crayon on TrueGrain, a granulated, transparent plastic.

In Yorkshire, Dan and I had two days in the studio getting playful with the printing process. It soon became apparent that my original plan to print just in grey, green, black and red, was not working as well as I’d hoped. There was a dry, constrained quality to what was emerging. I thought I might have to start my work again, but Dan was adamant that he thought the composition and drawing were beautiful, and that we just needed to enliven the print with some more layers.


He encouraged me to add another two separations, and this time, advised by him, I worked in paint and brushes, and I kept the mark-making gestural. (See the image above.) I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing, but Dan watched and encouraged, and promised me that all would be well.

At such a stage, when things seem to be getting out of control, you can do one of two things: have a meltdown, or trust and surrender to the collaborative process. I chose the latter.


I left Dan with what seemed to me to be an almost unreadable tangle of marks. When I’m at the easel in my studio, I work my way methodically through such muddles, but in this case I was having to leave Dan to to sort things out. It would require a huge leap of the imagination on his part to understand what I was aiming for in terms of mood, colour, balance and coherence. But Dan has such skills in bucketloads, and soon he was producing images that made complete sense.





Dan continued to print in my absence. We messaged:
23/11/2015 19:16
Daniel Bugg
I hope you don’t mind but I’ve had real fun with the images. As you are at a distance from the studio I decided to work through any colour combinations I could. That way you can see what I see as I print.
23/11/2015 19:16
Clive Hicks-Jenkins
You’ve been a busy boy. Suffice to say that I won’t lose sleep over these, the way I would have done over the first ones we did. Things are looking so much more exciting! Thanks, Dan. Most heartening! And I don’t mind at all. Why would I mind when you make my work look so good?
23/11/2015 19:22
Daniel Bugg
I spend so much time with the images I can’t help but play, as it’s so easy for me to make changes during the printing. I’ve always worked this way. I see it as my job to give you options and yours to tell me to bugger off if you don’t like them! Some of the most interesting prints I’ve made were informed by a collage approach to various proofs. When you receive the images we’ll talk through some of the options. Of which there are many!

This is an entirely collaborative process. The fact is that Dan knows what will work better in terms of a print, than I do.  He knocked me into shape in the studio in double quick time. He shook me until my brains… or what passes for them.. rattled, and all the change dropped out of my pockets. It was terrifying and rewarding. It still is. All the marks in the images are mine, but the ways in which they’ve been layered are down to Dan’s skill. At this stage we’re still playing, and the final decisions have yet to be taken. It’s an exciting time.


Please forgive the length of time between the last post and this one. My Mac had a mechanical breakdown and had to be sent away to have a new drive inserted. Back to normal again now.

A Dream Come True

Above: Set of Green’s wings from my collection of toy theatre ephemera

When I was a child, I was given a stack of yellowing toy theatre sheets by a friend of my parents, the actor and playwright Bill Meilen. They were mostly scenery, consisting of backdrops, wings and ground-rows. I had no toy theatre stage, and so I made one. (Probably out of a used cereal pack!) Bill encouraged me to cut the sheets, to colour them and use them, and to my everlasting regret as an adult, I did. I wish I wish I wish that I had not, and had stored them away somewhere safe. Instead, I cut and played with them, and there must have been some pretty potent magic in the fragile sheets, because here I am, over fifty years later, still in thrall to the wonders of the toy theatre.

Toy theatre in my studio, made from wooden building-blocks

The gift of Juvenile Drama scenery sheets from Bill, cut and pasted and gracing a toy stage of my own making, vanished, together with the other toys of my childhood, when my parents moved house. They left the rented Edwardian terraced property I’d grown up in, and moved to a small, modern flat. I was away at school in London at the time, and my bedroom in the old house, airy and packed with so many things I treasured, was ‘downsized’ to fit into the box-room that would thereafter be my bedroom in the family home. The theatre and its scenery vanished, alongside much else that I would have wished to keep. They were good parents in so many ways, but they weren’t sentimental about such things.

Yesterday, I made an agreement with Pollock’s Toy Theatre shop in London, to design the next title in their series of model theatres by contemporary artists. I’ll produce Hansel & Gretel to join the two ahead of me, The Snow Queen and the recent Beauty and the Beast. In 2016, not only will I be producing my first picture-book, thanks to Simon Lewin and his Random Spectacular imprint, but I’ll also be producing a model theatre for the shop bearing the name of the man who has been a beacon of creativity for me throughout my life, Benjamin Pollock. More here about this exiting project before too long.

Moving Toward a Print

Above: detail of a coloured-pencil study for Christmas at Camelot

The past couple of weeks have been spent preparing studies and then colour separations for the first in my Gawain and the Green Knight series with Daniel Bugg of The Penfold Press. Titled Christmas at Camelot, it’s been a tough one, not least because it’s such a complicated composition, showing King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Gawain, each on horseback in a wintry landscape.

The carefully worked, coloured-pencil study, although different in many details from the way the final print will look, nevertheless has been a crucial aid in making the separations. It shows how the four colours of the print should work together. For instance, if you closely examine the mail on Gawian’s head, arms and leg in the image above, you’ll see that green, red and black are used in the mark-making, each colour of which requires a separate transparency. Without a colour guide to help me, the job of making the separations would be even more confusing than it was.

The separations are made on sheets of transparent polymer called True Grain. Later, the finished print will be in cherry red, emerald green, a warm grey and black. Because True Grain has a rough texture, when worked on with lithography crayons the resulting marks have a pleasingly grainy character.

Below are some details of the coloured study, the simple pencil-line guide-drawing, and the finished separations. The five separations, plus the simple pencil-line guide-drawing for them, will now be delivered to Daniel at his studio in Selby, where they’ll be used to make the ‘screens’ ready for printing. It’s a relief to get to this stage. This one has been keeping me awake at night!

Details of a coloured pencil study on card.

Detail of a pencil drawing placed under the layers of True Grain to guide the rendering of the image.

Details of artwork made in lithography crayon, ink and paint on True Grain.


To take the photographs above, I held the five layers of drawing on transparent film, against a light. The image isn’t rendered in the colours it’ll be printed in, a peculiarity of the process that I find takes a lot of getting used to. In your head you have to constantly transpose what you’re drawing, into the colours you envisage in the printing process. I tell you, it’s a mind-fuck!

Christmas in Camelot is due to be published soon. Look out for it at

The Penfold Press

In Love With Red: iconic film moments. 2: Coppola’s ‘Dracula’

Red is the theme as Winona’s Mina goes mouth-to-mouth with Gary’s Count in Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Frances Ford Coppola’s film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (and what an indigestible mouthful the title is), is a mixed bag. Fatally compromised by most of the leading players and by Coppola’s direction of them, it remains a feast ravishing on the eye, but agonising on the ear. The colour is gorgeous throughout, the costume designs by Eiko Ishioka lending much of the visionary strangeness that stays in the mind long after viewing. Hers are the sumptuous reds underlying the central themes of blood and desire. But the actors, no matter how imaginatively garbed, fail to hold everything together. They are its fatal weakness. So much so that there have been times when re-watching it, I’ve mentally turned it into a silent movie accompanied by music and a few text cards. Now that would be a good film. As things stand, we have to endure the director’s endless gaffs.

Winona Ryder, tiresomely arch and weighed down with ennui as Mina, struck lucky when the attention of critics was diverted from her performance by Keanu Reeves… and the least said about him, the better… though her accent, seemingly learned from watching too many British films of the 40s, is almost as irritating as his. In the book Mina is a school teacher, but for Winona the lure of gorgeous costumes clearly clouded her judgement of the character, and she’s all gussied up like a Paris fashion-plate from start to finish, thanks to Eiko Ishioka’s shimmering designs. She preens and pouts her way through the proceedings, looking a good deal too pleased with herself. She brought the project to Coppola, and so had a vested interest in it, as well as star-power, but a school mistress she ain’t!

Anthony Hopkins storms and blusters like a bad actor from a Victorian Drury Lane pantomime, while his co-players stand around looking dumbstruck by his antics. (Who would not?) It’s a performance that unbalances everything in its orbit.

But the worst of all the director’s offences, is the bum-steer Coppola gives to Sadie Frost, cast as the ‘virginal’ Lucy Westenra. The whole heart of the tragedy should be Lucy’s corruption by the ‘undead’, but here she’s leery with desire from the get-go.

Instead of moving from the pure to the fatally tainted, Frost slams her foot on the accelerator, moving from being sexually predatory before her run-in with Dracula, to a heated frenzy of desire-turned-to-the-bad after it. There are no nuances and no losses. There can be no tragic theft, because there’s no innocence to steal. It’s a horrible experience watching Frost salaciously writhing on her bed in a peachy-ginger fright-wig, urged to excess by whoever was directing her off-camera. (It’s said that Coppola was uncomfortable discussing sexual desire with such a young actor, and relinquished the task to others.) It’s not just that this isn’t how Lucy is presented in the novel, but it makes no emotional sense within the narrative of the film. It plonks her in the role of those endlessly sexualised cheerleaders in slasher movies, who ‘put out’ for soccer jocks, and then get punished for doing so by men in masks with knives and hatchets.

In the middle of all this, Gary Oldman brings a genuinely interesting twist to the role of Dracula, and he has the acting muscle to pull it off. In the novel Stoker has Jonathan Harker describe the Count as an old man, “cruel looking”, with an “extraordinary pallor”. While Oldman’s youthful incarnation owes almost nothing to the author, he’s nevertheless cinematically engaging. When he arrives in London, a dandyish John Lennon lookalike, down to the shoulder-length hair and and wire-framed blue-tinted spectacles, his is an arresting and darkly romantic presence.

Moreover he’s been set down in the fin-de siecle that birthed cinema, right at the moment the art of illusion was being wrested away from the stage magicians who’d held sway before the Lumiére brothers brought about the entertainment revolution that would change the way audiences viewed the world. Coppola clearly relished the notion of the old European ‘supernatural’ order finding itself able to hide in plain sight, because people were learning to mistrust their own eyes. Well, just ponder on it for a moment. These days, were you to spot a dinosaur marching through your local shopping precinct, you wouldn’t think ‘Oh-my-gosh-a-prehistoric-creature!’. More like ‘Oh, a puppet!’, while casting your eye round for the camera crew.

The Count’s first appearance at the time Harker visits him in Transylvania, is a knockout. It’s eerie and compelling, and earns the film’s place as the second of my In Love With Red series of posts. This Count Dracula, ancient, reptilian and ornately coiffed in the style of the eighteenth century, has a whiff of embalming fluid about him, underlined by his slightly puffy skin. He crawls, spider-like, on ceilings, a trick Coppola borrows from Japanese ghost films.

Above: the Count furtively gets licky with Harker’s blood-slicked razor. House-guests beware!

The actor’s movement is stylised, his pointy-nailed hands a nod to Max Schreck in the silent film, Nosferatu. The Count’s shadow has an independent existence. (Nice touch.) He seems more animated corpse than man, his physical corruption in contrast to the searing vibrancy of his heavily embroidered crimson gown. It’s as though the garment is the blood reservoir of the parasite who wears it. He’s become a bloated tick so replete that he smears a bloody trail in his wake.

Coppola was greatly inspired by Jean Cocteau’s film of La Belle et la Bête, made in 1946 on a tiny budget and using largely practical and in-camera special effects. He showed images from the film to his crew to help them understand what he was aiming for. In imitation of Cocteau’s simple special effects, Coppola eschewed post-production ‘opticals’ for Dracula, opting instead either for practical effects created on set during the filming, or the in-camera effects of double exposure. He ran sections of film backwards to render strange the vampire-Lucy’s descent to her tomb. He made extensive use of models, puppets and forced perspectives throughout, and all this, coupled with the lush design and cinematography, lends the production a theatricality that is more akin to grand opera. Dracula’s three brides manifest out of the dishevelled bed-sheets, thanks to the technique Cocteau devised for Josette Day’s Belle to pass through a wall, and it’s weirder… and more elegant… than any optical jiggery-pokery.

It’s for the operatic vision that the film remains with me, despite its faults. All credit to Copplola’s team for this, not least the production designer, Thomas E. Sanders.

In Love With Red: iconic film moments. 1: del Toro’s ‘Crimson Peak’

It’s a fact that I love red. I use it in my paintings. There are even those who refer to ‘Clive Hicks-Jenkins Red’, though of course there is no such thing, no such magic formula. Just an obsessive exploration of cadmium red in all its forms. Any magic is down to the the way it responds to what accompanies it. Blues, greens and yellows all work wonderfully with red. The possibilities are pretty endless. Here is the first of my selected cinematic moments that rock with the red.

Lady Lucille Sharp in Crimson Peak

In director Guillermo del Toro’s gothic chiller, Crimson Peak, the first sight of Lady Lucille Sharp, played with icy hauteur by Jessica Chastain, is of her back as she plays the piano at a society party. Her gown is a staggering creation, a shimmering silken red, elegantly and ingeniously overlaid with complex folds and pleats. It’s an insect carapace, a sinister pupae constructed from origami.

The director on set with Chastain

The camera glides, closes on her, focusses on the geometries of the bustle and train, and then more closely on a ridge of elaborations designed to camouflage the fastenings of the boned bodice, while conjuring an effect of the wearer’s spine laid bare like an anatomised corpse. (A visual trope explored more obviously and viscerally elsewhere in the film.) It’s an exquisite moment of cinematic beauty… just one of many in the film… that plunges the audience into conjecture of what the garment is designed to reveal about the character.

Costume as art. Jessica Chastain with the red gown worn by her character in Crimson Peak. The film’s costume designer is Kate Hawley.

Chastain is clearly a trooper. She magnificently rises to the challenges of her elaborate and cumbersome wardrobe throughout the film. Not everyone knows how to work a bustle and corset. Moreover many actors become clothes-hangers for garments such as these, whereas Chastain owns them, and works them to to the max. In the final fifteen minute she sprints like a greyhound while wearing enough billowing silk to furnish a regiment with parachutes, and does so with impressive grace.

See the film. And if you’re not convinced by my recommendation (and I confess that I would pay the price of a ticket just for that iconic ‘red dress’ moment with Chastain), then read the erudite praise on this most estimable blog!


My Illustration Heroes. Part Three: Weisgard and Tokmakov

Leonard Weisgard was an American illustrator much-loved by all those raised on copies of the books he produced in the iconic Golden series. Weisgard had a talent for capturing ‘spirit of place’. In Pantaloon (1951), a black poodle aspires to be a baker, and the illustrations have a Gallic charm leaving me yearning for the patisseries of Paris… their windows crammed with artfully mouth-watering displays… for pavement cafés, the morning  scent of fresh bread from the many boulangeries, and for a soundtrack of Maurice Chevalier!

In his images for Mr Peaceable Paints, published in 1956, Weisgard employs the idiom of American folk art to capture the toy-town colonial vistas of red brick and white-painted clapperboard.

The vivacity of his colours in the Mr Peaceable illustrations is a delight. He brings the same attentive eye to his contemporary subjects, populating the seaside community of Pelican Here, Pelican There (see below) with fishermen, a painter and decorator on a ladder, and even an artist at an easel on the beach. (It’s an idyll that Hitchcock subverted so mischievously in his ‘nature-attacks-man’ chiller, The Birds, and Weisgard’s charming coastal scene has a touch of the fictitious ‘Bodega Bay’ about it.)

Below: Pelican Here, Pelican There, 1948

I acquired a copy of Pelican Here, Pelican There some years ago, having long admired the illustrations in it. The artist has a marvellous skill for simplifying town and landscape into flat planes, inviting the viewer to walk around the buildings and terrain by using a forced-perspective, elevated viewpoint. I never saw the illustrations when I was a child, but I know that I would have loved and studied them endlessly, imagining myself in them. They become both views and maps.

I have one book by the Russian illustrator, Lev Tomakov, and it’s his Fairy Tales About Animals, published in 1973.

Although Tomakov adopted different styles for the many books he produced, there is an underlying calligraphic fluency to his best images. Judging from the flat, opaque brilliance of his colours, I imagine that he worked in gouache, loading brushes with multiple colours to make single, deft, thereafter unmediated strokes. There is a delight taken in the simple arabesques of the wolf’s legs in the image below, and no less delight taken in the single hairs fringing his tail, painted dark against light and light against dark.

Tomakov’s sense of design may be formal, but the spirit of fun in the fox eyeing up a  grouse on top of a conifer tree, or a cat someone has rubbed up the wrong way,  is unbridled.

Likewise a fox curled in its’ den in the void beneath a sawn-off tree, while almost abstract in approach, is compelling in the use of shape and space. We’re invited in by the artist, who has cut the den in half to afford us a view. I love the way the tail pokes out above ground, like an exotic bottlebrush plant.

Tomakov’s fluency with brush and paint means that even the simplest of page decorations become intensely beautiful.

A goat is conjured out of disconnected shapes, each one pleasing, and a tabby-cat rides it using the horns like the handlebars of a Vespa! Swift, shimmering, inspired. The work of a master.

My Illustration Heroes. Part Two: Alexeieff

Above: Alexander Alexeieff illustration from Danilo the Luckless in Russian Fairy Tales

Alexander Alexeieff, as with Viera Bombová in my last Illustration Heroes post, is present on my list for a single book: Russian Fairy Tales, published in 1945 by Routledge. There are other books he illustrated, some of which I would give much to own. (I particularly love his illustrations for The Fall of the House of Usher.)

Above: from Two Ivans, Soldier’s Sons in Russian Fairy Tales

But it is the Fairy Tales that I have a copy of, a book that gives me endless pleasure and is the reason for the artist being on my ‘list’!  Despite my esteem for him, I suspect that to most Artlog readers Alexeieff’s name and work will be unfamiliar, and so I’m dedicating this post exclusively to him.

Above: from Go I know Not Whither, Bring Back I Know Not What in Russian Fairy Tales

My research yields no other book from the artist that uses the ‘style’ he adopted for the Russian Fairy Tales. While the images have a folk-art quality, and clearly draw on Russian visual traditions of illustration and toy-making, they also take a wonky spin through what feels like Surrealism, and with maybe even a nod to the Bauhaus.

Above: from The Cat, the Cock and the Fox in Russian Fairy Tales

Unique both to the artist and to the art of illustration, I wish only that Alexeieff had made more images like these, and more books to sit alongside the Fairy Tales. I want more of this sublime invention, because in it he created a complete and compelling world, a coherent universe that’s consistent throughout the book’s pages.

Above: from The Maiden Tsar in Russian Fairy Tales

It seethes with pattern-making. The cat in The Maiden Tsar, is marked with glowing yellow ellipses that mirror the rug on which it sits, as though the pattern has been absorbed into its fur. A cat/chameleon hybrid, contentedly cat-napping.

Above: from Ilya Muromets and the Dragon in Russian Fairy Tales

For the reader it’s rather like boarding a train, passing through a tunnel and arriving in a fully-realised and alternative country. Moreover it’s one I’d happily stay in. The limited colour of the illustrations is one of the books strengths, and the vibrancy of pink, blue and primrose against the paper, makes it glitter like sunlight through a prism.

Above: from Koshchey the Deathless in Russian Fairy Tales

By comparison to these scintillating images, the artist’s ‘drawn’ illustrations for Gogol seem restrained and wan. But in the Russian Fairy Tales he really lets rip, giving free-rein to his inspired interpretation of Russian folk-art, and we can ride his coat-tails through a kingdom of delights.

In some respects it’s for the pioneering animation technique of ‘pin-screen’ that the artist, and his creative collaborator Claire Parker are most celebrated. Pin-screen works on the same principle as replacement cel animation, except that instead of drawings on transparent film, steel pins are employed, stuck into a board and then raised or lowered to make images in large part conjured from their shadows. Each frame of film requires an adjustment of the pins. The screen constructed to make Alexeieff’s and Parker’s pioneering animated film, Night on the Bare Mountain, contained one million pins.

Still from the 1933 pin-screen animated film, Nuit sur le Mont Chauve (Night on the Bald Mountain) set to the music of Mussorgsky.

It sounds bonkers and must be agonisingly slow to accomplish. But the results are ravishingly atmospheric like no other animation technique I’ve seen, and it comes as no surprise that stills from Alexeieff’s and Parker’s films bear a striking resemblance to the aquatints Alexeieff produced both as stand-alone etchings, and as illustrations. However, the artist was forced to abandon etching when vapours from the nitric acid used to make them destroyed one of his lungs. After two years spent recovering in a sanatorium, Alexeieff turned instead to the medium of animation, the art that preoccupied him for the rest of his life.

Alexeieff Illustration for Les Nuits de Siberie

Here are some of Alexeieff’s aquatint illustrations for Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. Beautiful work!

Part Three of Illustration Heroes coming soon.