peter in art

My first drawing of Peter, a pointillist pen and ink of him as Duke Bluebeard made not long after we had met. (I think it evident from this that I was going through my ‘Edward Gorey’ period!) The drawing belongs to Nicolas and Frances McDowall of The Old Stile Press. Click to get a better view of the sheer mind-numbing number of individual marks that make up this very small drawing.

A detail from The Comfort of Angels Attending the Dying from The Temptations of Solitude series, 2004. Even when I didn’t consciously intend a likeness of Peter he nevertheless frequently appeared, as can be seen here in the angel on the left.

Eight years on from The Temptations and I recast him as the psychiatrist Dysart in my illustrations for the Old Stile Press edition of Sir Peter Shaffer’s play Equus. By this stage I had no need of his modelling services in the studio as his likeness had engraved itself onto my retinas. The above drawing is a Conté pencil study.

The following images are from the finished book. The drawings were made in acrylic paint applied mainly with bristle brushes to animation cel, then scratched through with an engraving tool. I have to confess that the ‘engraving tool’ was nothing fancy, but just a sharp tin-tack with a finger-grip made from Sellotape! The same tin-tack served for the entire project. I kept it safe and sharpened it occasionally on my Arkansas whetstone. I have it to this day, my favourite graver for working on cel.

I’m not the only artist to use Peter as a model. The portrait painter Eugene Fisk has painted him twice. This one titled The Connoisseur is in a private collection.

In the image below is a startling though beautifully realised representation of him by another artist.

Susan Adams produced a polychrome wood-carving of Peter’s head. It was first used as a ‘maquette’ when she was illustrating Duke Bluebeard’s Castle for The Old Stile Press. More recently Susan incorporated the head into a mixed-media sculptural work in which a black fur romper-suited simulacra lies on its back while supporting a stilt-walking female figure towering above it.

At first it can be difficult to see Peter in this image from Susan’s illustrated edition of Duke Bluebeard’s Castle for the Old Stile Press. However once you’ve found him, you wonder why you didn’t spot him immediately. It’s a haunting, masterfully accomplished image.

Seen almost from behind, but still recognisably Peter.

The embossed cover of the book. Peter’s likeness seen through a keyhole.

Another mesmerising illustration from Duke Bluebeard’s Castle.

The man himself.

the theatre of the mantel-shelf

Today on our sitting-room mantel-shelf, sandwiched between Ceridwen’s Welsh dragon and one half of  the pair of Staffordshire King Charles spaniels that once belonged to my mother, two treasures add to the company of players. The beautiful ceramic is by Wendy Lawrence, and was given to me this Summer as a birthday gift.  The Matisse-like wire sculpture is by the painter Sara Philpott, a house-warming gift to Ty Isaf on the occasion of our first Christmas here nearly five years ago. I love gifts that evidence  the skills of the givers, and these two reward in a multiplicity of ways. Wendy’s ceramic has grown large, becoming a megalith in a landscape where Sara’s elegant centaur lassoes down a star from the sky while giant birds gather rowan berries and sway on airy fronds.

the illustrator who mistook his waiter for the devil

Paul Bommer’s wonderful silkscreen print Le Diable is back from the frame shop in Aberystwyth and now hangs at Ty Isaf at the turn of the stairs leading to our bedroom. I should have thought ahead and photographed it before it was glazed, but alas forgot, so I fear the above image is not as true as I would like because I had to shoot it in the shade to stop the reflections from being too disfiguring. Paul says the devil’s likeness was based on a waiter of his acquaintance, though he assures me he definitely didn’t know him quite as well as the print might imply! I had the print generously mounted and framed… frame size 87 x 65 cms… and it looks wonderfully handsome on the wall. The text, borrowed from Dante’s The Divine Comedy, translates as ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter in.’, referring to the warning emblazoned on the gates of Hell.

You can see another silkscreen print of Paul’s that hangs at Ty Isaf HERE.

that face

Since 2003 a friend’s face has regularly been turning up in my work. Visitors to my National Library of Wales Retrospective will have seen him in different guises in several paintings. (Having your likeness borrowed is a fact of life for those who keep company with artists, as Peter discovered when he found himself cast as Dysart in the images I made for the Old Stile Press illustrated edition of Equus!) Given his background it’s hardly surprising that this friend… pictured above… is a marvellous photographer, nor that he has now turned his eye to matters of design. After all, since birth been he’s been surrounded by art of the highest order. It’s in his genes.

You can see his intriguing new website HERE.

the maverick hen, the crazy ewe and the stalking cows!

While Dave Bonta was here for the Retrospective opening, we rose early one morning and had an hour on the hills behind Ty Isaf before descending to the valley and back home along the river path. All the while he recorded our conversation and the encounters we had on our way with neighbours and wildlife. Dave has the born documentary-maker’s skill to put this interviewee at ease, asking all the right questions and eliciting candid responses. I quite forgot that he was recording.  Back home at Plummer’s Hollow Pennsylvania he edited the piece into two episodes and posted them on his blog. Here with his permission are links to the podcasts. I think he effortlessly caught the mood and spirit of the day. (The sharp-eyed among you may notice that it’s not Jack in the photograph above, but his mother Daisy.)

Dave’s Podcast 1

Dave’s Podcast 2

paul bommer and the negative space

Illustrator Paul Bommer and his partner Nick Appleton, an animator, gamely undertook the long rail journey to Aberystwyth for my exhibition opening. With all the guest rooms at Ty Isaf taken, Paul and Nick went to lodge with our friend Pip Koppel at Cwmerfyn. They are a splendid pair, elegantly sartorial and hugely entertaining company, bubbling with enthusiasm and joie de vivre. I loved having them here and I miss them dreadfully now they are back in London. Nick brought a gift of delicious home-made Seville orange marmalade, and Paul a magnificent silk screen print that I’m hugely pleased to have. It’s an endlessly fascinating piece of work, not least because it illustrates that Paul is just as obsessed with negative space as I am. The tattoos seething over the figure’s torso and arms are wonderfully diverse, and the way they jigsaw together is fantastically inventive. Mythic beasts swarm, minotaurs and cockatrices and unicorns and basilisks. Caparisoned elephants, alligators and cephalopoda jostle arachnids, harpies and wyverns.  (That’s definitely my kind of tattoo! Here’s an artist after my own heart!)  I don’t think that I shall ever tire of enjoying Paul’s pictorial inventions in this gorgeous image. Click on it for the treat of a magnified version. (Bravo Paul. You are the biz!) You can see more of Paul’s work if you click on the link to his site in the blogroll at right. You can also read more about him and his work on THIS captivating site.