miszek makes a hat for clive

It takes imagination, skill, muscle power, sweat and wool to make the hat…

… and a mysterious drawing.

When it’s half done, Miszek teases Clive by sending a photo in which the hat can’t be properly seen.

Later, the finished hat travels from Gdansk in Poland to the Ystwyth Valley in Wales…

… snug in a neatly packed box.

The hat has been sleeping, but wakes up when the box is opened.

Jack investigates the hat. The hat smells interesting. It smells of Miszek…

and of Fisieńka Ćmieleska!

Here is the hat. It’s the best hat in the world!

It springs a wonderful surprise, having not one…

… but two faces!

Miszek writes to Clive:

‘So here it is – your protection from the cold and what’s more important – protection from all the evil lurking in the woods. From now on you are perfectly safe.’

He’s right. I do feel safe with this Janus hat that keeps an eye on where I’ve been as well as where I’m going.

It takes imagination, skill, muscle power, sweat  and wool to make the hat. But most of all it takes a big heart, and Miszek has the biggest. Thank you Miszek for the-hat-that-keeps-me-warm-and-safe. This hat makes me very, very happy.

miszek makes a hat: explicit wool

My friend Miszek in Poland is an artist whose chosen medium is felting. (You can see his extraordinary creations if you if you click on the link to his site in my blogroll.) Over the past weeks there has been much e-mailing between us because Miszek is making me a hat. The original idea was that it would be a bear hat, simply because I loved the bear hats I’d seen on his blog. Here are Miszek and Robert being bears in a wood.

However the spirit led Miszek in another direction, and he must have divined that my totem animal is not a bear, because although the finished hat has not yet been revealed to me, I know from this little drawing there are antlers!

From Miszek to Clive  

Gdansk. 22 October 2011

The hat is ready

at its readiest

I am pleased with it. At some point it’s just ceased to be a hat and has become the unexpected. But you will see it after the hat arrives safely in Ty Isaf.

Leaving for Chojnice in the morning. I’ll spend the weekend teaching students financial analysis. Not in a mood for 2 x 10h marathons. I just know I will be dead after that. But it’s only 3 weekends this year so I cannot complain.

You may put the pictures on your Artlog, of course – I’d be delighted.

Here’s the first batch of “the making of”

explicit wool.

From Clive to Miszek 

Llanilar. 22 October 2011

Miszek, this has been a truly thrilling way to start the morning, seeing images of the felt being born.

I had no idea the process was so sensual, so hard-core, so furiously energetic and visceral. I had thought… because I had never experienced such a thing before… that it would be a wrestling-match. But in fact it’s far beyond anything so clumsy. It’s ‘creative surgery’.

The way you plunge your hands into the slippery, emerging fabric brings to mind childbirth, or as I’m sure can’t have escaped you, wild sex. The kinetic energy is staggering.

And there at the end of it, like the coat of a foal licked clean by its mother after the tumult of blood and afterbirth, that wonderful, sleek, manicured nap of the finished felt. This isn’t a hat. It’s a universe!

I’m completely blown away by the photographs, by the notion of felting. Blown away too at the skill and power of your hands at work. This, like all the crafts still practised by hand, is a timeless, window into the past. a thing of beauty. I’m so happy.

I can see that ‘Miszek Makes a Hat’ will require two posts. Or more. I think too that you are reserving the full ‘reveal’ in a photograph until after the hat arrives here, so that when I open the parcel it will be my first experience of it. You have the skill of a director Miszek, and a feel for the rightness of things! (-;
I hope that your weekend is good, and that your students will be attentive. Direct your energy well and wisely, and please do not be ‘dead’ at the end of it. 
Journey safely my friend.

zoe and the tango dancers

My good friend Zoe Blue has been busy busy busy with paints and scissors. I’ve been giving Zoe an on-line maquette-making tutorial and today she’s sent me photographs of the figures she’s created that have absolutely blown my socks off! I think that my work here is done because she’s already made the technique completely her own, romping away after a hesitant start to create these lovely, lively dancers.

Brava Zoe. I greatly look forward to seeing how you use the maquettes in your drawing practice. Ten out of ten for these creations. You’re clearly my star pupil!

paul bommer and ‘det sjunde inseglet’

Print-maker and illustrator Mat Pringle has produced the second  issue of  what I understand to be an occasional publication, the ‘Mat Pringle Zine’. The first was ‘The Music One’, followed now by ‘The Film One’. My friend Paul Bommer is one of the contributors, and has produced a short essay to go with his delightful image (see above) celebrating Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal.

Mat writes of  the publication: ‘Twenty six artists, illustrators and designers have all submitted artwork inspired by their favourite film. In addition each contributor has written a few words as to their film choice. From high brow to low brow and back again just the way I like it…


Paul Bommer, Andy Votel, Lizzie Stewart, Lewis Heriz, Henry St Leger, Jake Blanchard, Lord Bunn, Richard Sanderson, Josceline Fenton, Mitch Loidolt, Eleni Kalorkoti, Peter Locke, Sam Brewster, Freya Harrison, Dominic Dyson, James Fry and Suzi Arnold, Stewart Easton, Joseph Blakey, Graeme Ross, Martin Jones, Rob Johnson, Alex Dimond, Paul Bareham, Matthew Williams, Damon Unwin, Mat Pringle.

The zine is a tome-like 56 pages, A5, featuring high quality greyscale printing throughout on 100gsm paper with a digitally printed thick card cover. The initial run of 300 features Stewart Easton’s ‘Wicker Man’ submission.’

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.