First Appearances

IMG_3615

It’s always been my custom to share day-to-day design progress with the team during pre-production, not because I’m seeking comment or contribution, but because by the time we get to the rehearsal room I want everyone to understand how the visuals have evolved. The idea is to give everyone a chance to see the ingredients before we begin to cook the meal! Nevertheless, sharing design work-in-progress can create problems, and it’s a fact that the shadow-puppets of the Mother and Father that were being prepared for the stage production of Hansel & Gretel, caused consternation in my producer when first she saw them.

IMG_3614 (1).jpg

Peter Lloyd, our genius paper-cutter, had been ‘briefed’ with loose sketches I’d provided to define the ‘characters’ of the parents. Illustrated above are a couple I made of the Mother.

I told him that within the basic framework of the character design, he was free to develop and elaborate as he wished. And that’s exactly what he did. When he sent me snapshots of the paper-cut puppets under construction, I knew I’d been right to choose him for our team.

 

29340768_10160014443500462_1403097507_n

 

28945268_10160014443440462_884407794_o (1)

 

Some minor changes were made to her mouth in order to better define it, and later, transparent swivelling bars were added to facilitate easier animation of her eyes.

IMG_4261.jpg

Everything in the stage version of Hansel & Gretel, is as seen/imagined by the children. They use the contents of their toy box to act out and reinvent a chaotic world into one they can better understand and control. While the children are beautiful creations by master-carver, Jan Zalud, brought to life by onstage puppeteers, the baker/Mother, woodcutter/Father and forest-dwelling Witch are shown only as animated silhouettes projected onto a large screen.

 

IMG_4290 (1)

IMG_4690 (1).jpg

From the moment I read Simon Armitage’s script I knew that the parents needed initially to be as unfathomable to an audience as they clearly are to their children. Gretel in particular constantly mis-hears both eavesdropped conversations and what people say directly to her. (I do even wonder whether she’s perhaps a little deaf.) This results in the children misconstruing their parents concern for the family’s safety in a war-zone, into a more sinister plot to be rid of them.

IMG_4292.jpg

Above: at the shadow-screen, assistant animator, Phil Cooper, makes minute changes of position to the articulated puppets between shots.

In order to ensure the viewpoints of audiences would align with those of the children, the parents needed to be unconventional, strange and unreadable. On the surface they’d appear as peasants, almost bovine with their expressionless faces and physical stolidness. Peter Lloyd caught this completely. The stoutness and the mask-like, weathered faces are off-putting, but nonetheless arrest us and make us pay attention. And gradually, we begin to see these people for what they more truly are, which is careworn and deeply loving. In this case, first appearances have been misleading.

Peter Lloyd’s remarkable skill as a paper-cutter gave me everything – and much more – that I needed in terms of appearance. But having meticulously reproduced the fixed  attachment points of the tiny arms and legs I’d indicated in the first drawings, those limitations severely hampered expressive movement, a fact immediately apparent once I had the puppets in my hands and could play with them. So I spent a day re-configuring the joints using transparent plastic to make swivelling and elbowed bars allowing a much wider range of movement, and by the time the pair went in front of the camera, they were flexible and up for anything. Walking is always an indicator of how well a shadow puppet is performing, and the test shot of the Mother walking from edge of frame to centre, illustrates her dainty gait. (See it at the foot of this post.)

For the illustrated book of Simon Armitage’s Hansel & Gretel poem that I’m currently working on, due for publication by Design for Today in Spring 2019, I began with a trial image that was a fairly close adaptation of the shadow-puppet Mother. She even retained the articulation points of a shadow-puppet.

IMG_4420 (1).jpg

But as I came to grips with fitting together images and narrative in print, I realised that with only three appearances scattered through the book, I’d need to express everything about the Mother in some kind of shorthand: one image to introduce and establish her, a second to demonstrate her tenderness toward her daughter, and a third in which she’s dead and in her coffin. To this end, the design evolved for a third and final time, and the Mother became slighter and more youthful, though still retaining the strangenesses – bifurcated nose, cheeks oddly marked with the outlines of scallop shells and a heavy Kahlo-esque monobrow – that had defined her in the animations for the stage production. Here she is in a rough sketch, recalling her first pregnancy. (There’s no indication in Simon’s text, but I’ve always sensed that Gretel is the elder by about a year.)

IMG_4125 (1).jpg

And here the finished illustration, though minus the colour.

IMG_5290.jpg

The book’s final image of the Mother shows her shroud-wrapped and in her coffin. It was a hard one to pull off, because it had to be shocking and yet tender. This is the coffin illustration in the process of being made, together with some preparatory thumbnail sketches.

IMG_5873.jpg

To her credit, Kate our producer revised her initial response to the shadow-puppet, and in the end grew to love and be moved by Peter Lloyd’s interpretation of the character. The shadow-puppet gets quite a lot of screen time in the production, and in the last scene, appears not as a corpse – as she does in the book – but as a fretful, glimmering ghost. I too have grown to love her in both her forms of shadow-presence and illustration.

 

 

 

Animation made for Hansel & Gretel.

Shadow-puppet: Peter Lloyd

Animation: Clive Hicks-Jenkins and Phil Cooper

Camera: Pete Telfer of Culture Colony

The Serpent’s Bite: a natural history of the witch. Part 3

After nearly two years of preparation, in 2018 rehearsals began for an adaptation of Hansel & Gretel into a new performable work, with a score by composer Matthew Kaner and a text by the poet Simon Armitage. What’s so extraordinarily clever about the text – which was written before the music – is that in it Simon presents the siblings as close-to-starving child-migrants escaping a war-torn country, their journey hazardous in ways echoing the Black Forest wildernesses of the Brother’s Grimm, and yet with contemporary references that bracingly season the old tale with with a dash of darkly glittering folk/horror. The music was written for the Goldfield Ensemble line-up of five musicians, and the work was commissioned and produced by Goldfield Productions, helmed by producer – and Goldfield clarinetist – Kate Romano, who’s definitely a woman-of-many-skills.

Below: Narrator Adey Grummet fronting the Goldfield Ensemble. (Photograph courtesy of Still Moving Media.)

2018_CF_Music_PAC_Hansel_Gretel-44K2A7830.jpg

Peter Lloyd was among the small group of artists known to me who were invited to work on the design and visual effects for the production. He would make the paper-cut ‘shadow’ puppets of the witch. These proved too elaborate and large to be operated live on a shadow-screen, and a plan evolved to instead film them as stop-motion silhouettes on a light-screen/animation table. In performance the film is projected onto a large-scale screen behind the small puppets of the children. However before Peter could begin work on the witch, I had to provide him with guideline studies. My sketches were intentionally rough, meant as starting points for the character. Peter was briefed to ‘freely elaborate’ on what I’d produced.

The first drawing was much influenced by Goya’s naked witches. I guess I knew from the outset that the idea wouldn’t get to the finishing line, but I needed to try it out.

IMG_3662 (2)

Peter was very keen to be given a design that would enable him to be freely creative with his paper cutting. He was scornful of the second image I produced that made her a bag-lady like an overweight sparrow in layered cardigans. (And he was right!)

 

IMG_3663

So I returned to the illustrations I’d made for the picturebook. In those I’d used the notion of the witch being short-sighted, her apparel sewn with eyes as an expression of sympathetic magic. (Simon’s libretto makes great play of the witch’s near blindness.) But we also wanted to make a slow reveal of her true appearance, and so her garment became an all-enveloping cloak to obscure her hybrid anatomy.

IMG_3694 (2).jpg

When I suggested to Peter that the design might include a crustacean’s carapace, like a spider-crab, he was off like a rocket! A tail was discussed, along the lines of a scorpion’s stinger. Thereafter he was keen to give her many arms, but I declined the idea because I knew the filming schedule was going to be very tight. Another four arms plus hands and all those extra fingers could have added days of work to the witch sequences. As it was, her mere ten spidery digits monopolised the lion’s share of her studio time.

IMG_3696.jpg

IMG_3698 (2).jpg

Peter Lloyd’s translation of the drawings into witch silhouette-puppet number 1.

30825346_10160170988160462_1594570988_o

Witch silhouette-puppet number 2.

30945320_10160183189755462_1303579259_o

When the puppet arrived for filming, I made only small changes to it, though significant ones in terms of movement.  I hid a sliding-bar attachment for the hips behind the puppet, so as to give her more flexibility, and changed her knees to backward facing (see below), so that her gait would be weirder. It made her much more interesting to animate.

IMG_4931

The superb quality and detail of Peter Lloyd’s paper-cutting really came into its own with the large head and hands he prepared for the close-up sequences. The hands were particularly good, with secret eyes embedded in the fingers and forearms. The jagged, slash-like cuts in her face loaned a wonderful texture to the puppet. Phil Cooper, model-maker and scenic painter on the project – and also my assistant animator – cut upper and lower eyelids to add to the puppet, so that we could make her blink. Blinking is a great way to add life to an animation.

IMG_4731.jpg

The stop-motion sequences of the witch were reversed to negative at the editing stage. We felt that she was much scarier when bone white against a dark background. Peter Lloyd provided her with an almost prehensile tongue.

IMG_4805.jpg

The pupils of her eyes were made in two sizes, pin-prick tiny and enlarged, again to add expressiveness.

30121860_10160095630095462_1620947150_o

IMG_4380

Click on the control bar below to see the Witch in action in this extended stop motion animation sequence. This was a first edit that I made with Peter Telfer, who filmed all of the animation sequences for Hansel & Gretel.

 

 

 

Below: on stage the witch’s nose sails into view, dwarfing the puppets of the children looking up in awe at it. (Photograph courtesy of Still Moving Media.)
2018_CF_Music_PAC_Hansel_Gretel-234K2A8033.jpg

Here the witch unfolds from her carapace and stretches her arms, legs and tail like a vulture waking from an afternoon nap. It’s a shot we didn’t use in the production, though I liked it a lot. Matt Kaner produced one music sequence in which strings create an unnerving sense of edginess, and it perfectly matched the restlessness of the witch’s hands, which are never still.

 

 

Photograph taken by Phil Cooper of me working at the light-box/animation table. The tape marks edge of frame, so that Phil and I knew the points at which to enter and depart a shot.

ORG__DSC7027 (1).jpg

The hands were wonderful to animate, more like insects than I would have thought possible. Their articulation was enormously elaborate. An animator’s dream!

29134103_10160005351310462_705624523_n

The witch’s house in the production is fluid and shifting, as though the magic holding everything together is unreliable and certainly illusory.

Below: salt-dough Lebkuchen made by Phil Cooper.

IMG_4276 (1)

What starts as an iced Lebkuchen biscuit resolves more corporeally into a slightly grubby construct, perhaps made of  children’s building blocks, or maybe from congealed sugar. Ominously, the out-of-scale chimney looks as though it would be more at home on an incinerator.

Below: Model designed and made by Phil Cooper and built from a combination of contemporary and vintage building blocks.

Image-1 (2)

Later, when the children make a tour of its interior, we’re transported to the rooms of a sinister doll’s house, decaying and mouldy. Nothing in this world quite fits together. It’s dream-like and fractured. The words and music that accompany us on this estate-agent-from-hell’s tour of the grim spaces, is the bone-chilling heart of the production.

Below: doll’s house built by Simon Coupland and Jana Wagenknecht, with contributions from Stephanie Davies and painted by me. Lighting by Pete Telfer.

IMG_4881 (1)

IMG_4865 (1)

(The full story behind the building of the ‘Witch Doll’s House’ is one that requires more space than I can spend on it in this post, but I will be returning to the subject later, to give the whole picture.)

IMG_4877

Hansel & Gretel is currently on tour. Details of performances are below. Contact the venues for ticket availability.

H&G flyer design pure white on black.jpg

Clive, Aleksy and the Green Knight

img103

The Green Knight Arrives, by Aleksy Cichoń

As Dan Bugg and I work over the summer on prints two-to-seven in the Gawain and the Green Knight series, in Poland, Aleksy Cichoń is going to keep pace, making a corresponding drawing for each print, conjuring his own vision of images based on the text. As the work unfolds, we’ll discuss the various ways in which we approach the themes of Gawain and the Green Knight. Here the conversations begin.

 

Clive:

Aleksy, what a wonderful image to find in my inbox this morning. This is a beauty.

I was trying to think of a word to describe how you draw, and fluency is the word that keeps coming to mind because it expresses the quality of being at ease in a language, and you draw with exceptional ease. Compositionally it is enticing and mysterious. The Green Knight doesn’t emerge through the door sitting high in the saddle, blazing with energy. This feels like old magic, something that starts slowly in darkness, stirs, rises and grows in strength, uncoiling into the light. I’m drawn by his averted gaze, the slumped body, his arm outstretched with palm uppermost, the sprig of holly held lightly between his fingers, and the energy in the horse’s stance, balking at the threshold and the throng of the Christmas revellers out of sight of the viewer. All these are unexpected choices that work wonderfully well. But particularly strange is the fact that he sits sideways on his mount, rather than astride. It’s entirely unexpected, visually arresting and psychologically intriguing. This green man doesn’t have to master his green horse the way mortal men master their beasts, between strong thighs and with commanding hands. These two, are as one, and whatever passes between them requires no signals or physical control. I’m touched that you made and shared this drawing with me.

One of the reasons that I wanted to be a painter rather than an illustrator, was because I feared illustration might turn out to be a job where I would only gain employment if I produced to order, which I felt I had neither the skills nor temperament for. So I made my way as a painter who exhibits and sells in galleries. But now, perhaps because of my profile as a painter, I occasionally get asked to make book covers. I’m quite sure I couldn’t make a living at it, but I like that my work as an artist has reached out and created these opportunities, because I have always enjoyed the art of the paperback book cover, particularly in the European tradition.

The poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is full of descriptions. Pages and pages of them. The poet offers forensically detailed accounts of what people wear, and the Green Knight’s appearance is described down to the the embroideries on his garters. So as I work on the print series, I avert my eyes from those descriptions, because the words make evocative images in the imagination that don’t need realising in the illustrations. Instead I make accompanying images to the text that prompt different trains of thought, opening unexpected ways of seeing.

In your drawing, you have done the same thing. You’ve created an image to make the reader turn his eyes away from the text, and toward something inward looking. It’s emotionally powerful in the way that a description of the Knight’s wardrobe, is not. This, for me, is the great skill of the artist/illustrator confident and skilled enough to rise to the challenge. I would love to see you express further ideas based on this text. Judging from your first drawing, you would find surprising solutions!

Do you know the work of Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956), who was a painter, illustrator and muralist? Your drawings remind me a little of his.

 

Frank Brangwyn drawing of a leadworker

You have the same ease with a pencil, making lines flow across the paper with mesmerising energy. I can see connections, too, with the great illustrator Arthur Rackham. (1867-1939)

Arthur Rackham illustration for Aesop’s Fables

Aleksy:

Dear Clive,
Your proposition of The-Green-Knight-Challenge is so great! I’ll participate in it with pleasure! It’ll be an antidote to my laziness in drawing. This is an amazing theme to explore. Furthermore, my last readings’ll not go to waste. What a good news.

I hope you’re well and many thanks for nice words about my knight. (You might know what my reaction was.) Sadly I had only shitty Xerox paper, but it was very relaxing for me – I hope that I’ll paint something bigger and better based on this sketch.

Brangwyn! (funny thing – I was thinking about adding some ink to this pencil piece) I know some of his paintings – especially the one with shirtless workers. I like his applying of paint: thick and bold but without fatal manner of Leyendecker, for example. Leyendecker stuck in “everything satin” style of painting, extremely fashionable in his time. Certainly he would be something like Sargent in illustration but without success and … without talent. Leyendecker is wildly weak and still idolized by crowds of contemporary illustrators – let’s try to guess why. Just terrible example of popular artist.

I understand very well your dilemmas about being illustrator, especially when you starting career straight as illustrator – you’re required to do job just like more advanced storyboard maker. In Poland this is daily situation and it looks like you’re not professional who knows what to do – you’re only man-machine doing exactly what they want. No risk, only conformist form of everything. Few years ago I was working as illustrator for Cracow’s University of Agriculture – some pictures illustrated collection of polish agricultural proverbs. One of them was about goat killed by wolf. Right, interesting for every draughtsman. So I did one inky picture and author of book refused to publish it. “Too sexual!” she said. Haha, OK, your loss! By the way – the bigger copy of this piece is hanging in the office of the director of publishing house. Too sexual for book but not quite for the office.

Detail of a screenprint stencil in progress for The Green Knight Arrives, by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

So, you’re ‘approved’ painter and you’re becoming an illustrator… OK, hold on – I know nothing about it but when I’m looking at examples of covers made by you – I’m impressed. And I’m happy that you’re doing exactly what you want to draw/cut/paint. Because of that, these books are unique, well-designed and beautiful as objects.

Yesterday I showed your works friend of mine – in one word: she was chuffed! She’s studying fashion and business (really terrible mixture) in Denmark and she day by day write to me that she suffer because of all contemporary things. Not only rags, but art at all. So I’m some kind of super hero who brings cure for her pain – great pictures. This time the great ones were yours. She greets you and she told me that she’s happy because good painters are rarity. Especially with that power of colour!

And about your prints – are they lithographs? I’ve never did anything ‘really graphic’, expect one linocut – so you must forgive my question. I ask because the colours are extremely vivid. I associate litho with gentle palette.

Clive:

The Penfold Press specialises in screenprints. However, I’m making the separations on True-Grain, which is a transparent, granulated plastic film that was invented to replace unwieldy lithography stone. I work on the grainy surface with lithography crayon, which is why you might mistake the prints for lithographs.

Detail from Christmas at Camelot by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, editioned by Daniel Bugg at the Penfold Press.

Below: working on True-Grain film at the Penfold Press.

 

 

Peter and Clive and the exquisite corpse: Messaging 1

Peter Lloyd kick-started the Exquisite Corpse project just before Christmas during a first visit with his family to Ty Isaf. We’d hatched a plan to get together to swop some work. (More about that in a forthcoming post.) From the moment he and his wife Sharon arrived here, together with their children Theo and Rowan, everybody got on famously. Jack soon had Theo and Rown engaged in games of throw-and-fetch and hide-and-seek, and conversations between the adults were breathtakingly lively and diverse!

I have no idea whether Peter had been considering a papercut project for a while, but then decided while he was here that we might collaborate, or whether he dreamed up the idea at 5 am in our kitchen as we sat talking over tea. But after the weekend, it certainly wasn’t long before he messaged me with his plan for the project.

1044165_10156299670715462_7923192777521329638_n

05/10/15

Peter Lloyd
Hi Clive:) Are you in North or South Wales? Love your work, I’d swap in a heart-beat if you fancied:)

Clive Hicks-Jenkins
West Wales, Peter, just outside Aberystwyth. Big old house in four acres.
The notion of a swop is heart-stopping (in a good way) so YES YES YES. Thank you. That’s a ‘yes’, in case you were wondering!

11/12/15

Peter L
Hello Clive:) I am just planning the Lloyd decampment to Liverpool for the festive period and wondered if we might be able to stitch a Hitch-Jenkins sleepover onto the end of the itinerary? Just to say hello and swap some lovely pictures. If you’re both willing and available then we could arrive on 27th then leave on the 28th Dec? No pressure at all Clive

Clive H-J
Oh Fuckbuckets!!! We’re away those dates, staying over Christmas at Lincoln with an old friend. I am sick sick sick at this. We would have LOVED having you. Oh FUCK!!!!!!

Peter L
Hold on to your fuckbuckets Clive… what about if we arrived on the 20th and left 21st Dec?

Clive H-J
That’s a deal!
GREAT!!!!

1544328_10156299670395462_896903477263720757_n

15/12/15

Clive H-J
I’m in a complete quandary about the print I’d like. I have a number of favourites. Might it be possible to bring these four, for us to select from?
a) Lord Muck
b) Weekend Warrior
c) Natural Disaster
d Stocks and Shares

The very last sat nav instruction will tell you to take the left fork off, but ignore it and continue along the lane.

Peter L
I’ve been forked off in much graver circumstances:) We’re wellied up and really looking forward to visiting! Very good choices, I’ll delve into the studio and see what I can channel from the plan chests. Really looking forward to meeting the three of you.

DSC06532

21/12/15

Peter L
Arrived home, safe and sound:) We had a brilliant time and we’re really grateful for the beautiful prints and the opportunity to spend some time with Peter and yourself. Thank you X

Clive H-J
We loved having you, Sharon, Theo and Rowan here, and we had a wonderful time. (Jack too!) I’m feeling buzzed by our conversations and the ideas we shared. And I REALLY want to do that papercut/’Exquisite Corpse’ thing with you. We love our Mexican wrestler prints and I’m going to be STRAIGHT down to the framer with them after the holiday!

1236190_10156315543775462_2627543582589441497_n (1)

24/12/15

Clive H-J
I keep looking at the wrestler prints in the dining room, and smiling with pleasure!!!
You and I SO have to do a book together. That Exquisite Corpse idea is nudging away in my grey cells!
Have a GREAT Christmas. Love to all. xxx

Peter L
Ha ha, I am so glad to hear that:) I never wake up early Clive, but something clicked that night and I just had to be up and about on the off chance that we might ‘make’. I’ve got an idea for a theme, I’ll run it by you later.
The Ty Isaf effect didn’t just rattle my creative cage, Rowan has constantly drawn since she left the house; in a way that she’s never drawn before?? You, Peter, Jack, the collection or the house is/are magic and have had a very welcome and profound effect on us all! X

DSC06529

28/12/15

Peter L
I’ve been thinking about our exquisite corpses. Papercut would be ideal because it’s accessible, easy to post and will look unified when we slot them together or print them or laser cut them or whatever we end up doing with them. You okay with Papercut as a process?

Clive H-J
You bet!

Peter L
In terms of a theme I wondered if we might invent a series of contemporary Folkloric characters? Beasts or people in ritualistic dress. I noticed that you had a copy of Arcadia Britannica, these are fantastic images but, as with a lot of Folklore, it harks to the past and relates to the countryside. Could we create a folklore for the city that deals with contemporary concerns and first world problems?

12524052_10156339596115462_5615952960943271556_n

Starting points for our creations could include…
The Mobile phone (it’s a God. We talk to it everyday, we invest and entrust our closest secrets to it and with faith and patience it solves our problems and helps us find our way in life. Amen to that.
Online dating (a wonderful minefield full of pathos, happy endings and lunatics)
The Proliferation of screens (smart phone, iPad, iWatch, desktop, laptop sat Nav, TV etc. Too many screens or not enough eyes? We could fix that…)
Connectivity through Satellites (we can connect directly from our front room to the celestial heavens and how do we harness this gift? we use it to order Chinese, buy off eBay and find the nearest cash point or greasy spoon)
Time (or the lack of it in our busy lives)
Social Media (it’s a many headed beast; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc.)
Sexting (our folkloric menagerie wouldn’t be complete without a bit of how’s your father)

Clive H-J
HA HA HA!!!!!
Well haven’t YOU the fertile imagination!!!!
Yeah, I’m up for all of that. I don’t have smart phone… though I know I should have… and will get around to it. My little Orange pay-as-you-go, that doesn’t even have a camera, is OK for letting Peter know where I am, or calling for help when the car breaks down, but I ache for something that’s less stone-age.
Interestingly, social media has been where some of my most interesting collaborations have begun. I LOVE it. Have a fantastic thing going with the American dancer and film-maker, Jordan Morley. We got very creative in ways I hadn’t at all expected. He was the model in all the Dark Movements images, and a damned enterprising one, too!
So, bring it on!
You’ve kick-started something here. It all sounds right up my street.
Juicy!

DSC06493

To be continued

Colourised

DSC06611.jpg

As Peter Lloyd and I produce paper-cut elements toward our Exquisite Corpse project, Peter has been playing with a digital colouring app. The image above is of three cuts made by me (head, text and fetish-boot), put together as a part of the process of trying different juxtapositions. The images below are the results of Peter playing with the image.

12625944_10156388375730462_808515743_n

This is all still at a stage of experimentation and development, and although we have ideas as to how we might take things forward, we remain pretty free-flowing while in the the process of creating the paper-cut building-blocks. Usually on projects I have very clear ideas of where I’m going, but because Peter and I have no expectations or deadlines with this, there is a wonderful lack of pressure, and an exhilarating sense of creativity and fun.

12647869_10156388345065462_1730913128_n

12665628_10156388407550462_1488622017_n

Here’s a ‘colourisation’ of a couple of Peter’s cuts.

12665880_10156388310650462_1171849124_n

Project status: ongoing

 

Space Face

Here’s my latest papercut head in the Exquisite Corpse collaboration with Peter Lloyd.

DSC06619.jpg

I always loved playing with my Mr Potato Head when I was a kid. I thought it was great, the variations you could get by simply changing the arrangements of the same few elements.

On the web, people present themselves the ways they want to be seen. Images are photoshopped, or even stolen to give new identities to those who want to present themselves as being more attractive than they really are. (Or think they are!) Nothing is as it seems. Straight women have online identities as gay men, and silver-backs enter chat rooms masquerading as teenagers.

DSC06621.jpg

So here we have a face made from a vintage space-age ‘Mr Potato Head’ box. (And yes, there was such a thing, and I found a picture of one on Etsy!) Here the man/woman of the future is a series of disconnected parts put together to suit the mood of the moment. It’s retro, with the hipster’s post-modern nod to a naive past when we all thought that by the twenty-first century, space travel was going to be the equivalent of the rail network.

DSC06620.jpg

Instead we remain earth-bound, though we use satellites as the highway to carry our endless chit-chat. We present ourselves at a distance. No direct contact, just images and words through the ether. Moreover, when the box has been emptied of all its plastic parts, it’s just a void with a picture on a lid. Hey ho!

I have no Mr Potato Head any more, so now I play with Mr Peter Lloyd. Our scalpels are sharp and so are our wits, and our heads are full of pictures.

DSC06622.jpg

Peter Lloyd: All that thinking, all those connections and personal observations tied together, practically and conceptually in the scaffold of a simple Papercut. What other process would allow us to knit these disparate thoughts together into one unified image? What a weird, surreal thing you have created, unlike anything I’ve seen you make to date… you’re there Clive…

Clive Hicks-Jenkins: What have you done to me?

Peter Lloyd: It’s what Bowie would have wanted!

Clive Hicks-Jenkins: Then all is as it should be. (Sigh!)

Below: the cut in progress

DSC06617.jpg

After making a swift sketch of the layout on the black paper, I launched in with the scalpel. Had I thought about it too much… which bits would be black on white and which the reverse… I think I never would have even started. Instead I cut away like a man demented. I find it’s the same when reverse-cutting blocks for printing. If I think too much about the process, I just get tied up in knots. Sometimes I find it’s best to work out the problems while getting on with the job. Too much planning can knock the momentum and energy out of it. If it goes wrong, you can always make another.

post-439-047056800 1290696195

‘Paper-cut Progress’ or ‘Dicing and Splicing With Peter Lloyd!’

DSC06534.jpg

Making drawings of planned paper-cuts is all well and good, but it’s only once the cutting begins that you really get to grips with the challenges. Figuring out how to make everything hold together by ensuring ‘connection’ points is a learning curve, especially when the scalpel slices a little too far and your long-laboured-over sheet of filigree falls apart. (I should probably just tape up the mistakes, but the obsessive/purist in me takes the upper hand, and I always start over again.) However, I’m getting more proficient as the project advances, and it has to be said that my love of ‘negative space’ is a strength when dealing with these images made only of black, connected shapes, against a white ground.

Peter Lloyd is a force of nature, and his scalpel is flying over the cutting board.

12509732_10156334804790462_7142063873042011150_n

Here is an album of the finished component cuts to date, both Peter Lloyd’s and mine. (We haven’t started ‘stitching’ them together yet.) Interesting how our styles have become unified by the paper-cutting technique.

DSC06607.jpg

1236190_10156315543775462_2627543582589441497_n (1)

DSC06550.jpg

DSC06546.jpg

12400445_10156339596090462_818921073382647414_n

Peter Lloyd writes of his image above:

‘It’s a hairy beast, representing our animalistic tendencies. It could also be on fire, representing passion and the ill advised hot headedness that can sometimes end in a regretful text or photo. Lots of duality going on- the beast is a conjoined twin, male and female. It’s a lovely/nasty issue, hence the thorns of the beautiful rose. The beast holds a mirror up to the sext and all that is reflected is bad luck and break up; the 13, the broken circle (or possibly a wedding ring?) and at the base of the handle is a skull, contained in the shape of a house- one slip could destroy the happy home! The edge of the mirror has a black and white chequered pattern, for who hasn’t lived a life without some sort of chequered past? We all dip through our moments of black and white…’

DSC06532.jpg

12507405_10156339596195462_8660715277820365676_n

DSC06594.jpg

12524052_10156339596115462_5615952960943271556_n

DSC06604.jpg

Peter Lloyd at work, sharing a table at Southampton Solent School of Art, Design and Fashion with the wonderful Charles Shearer, who’s busy making a block for a print.

12472402_10156334804690462_4689950471017100923_n

From Peter Lloyd’s notebook:

12606948_10156342957260462_181648634_n