Alphabet Soup, the first course: Outdoors and In – Stephanie Redfern and Philippa Robbins

Clive has very kindly entrusted me with the keys to the Artlog, not for a wild party but for the on-line open exhibition of alphabet-based art, which with his support and with participating artist Shellie Byatt,  I’m very honoured to curate.  I feel rather as though I’m stumbling about, trying to work the appliances without breaking anything!  (It will appear at the top of the posts that they are from Clive, but in fact they’ll be posted by Lucy.)

The call for submissions for this was back in June, and we really have received a marvellous and very varied response, which we shall  attempt to post every day here until next Monday, Christmas Eve.  So here goes.

Lucy Kempton.


To begin, two contrasting submissions,  first from mixed media and textile artist, Stephanie Redfern, who has made five pictures on a natural theme: Beach, Moon, Red Sky, Stone and Winter Storm.  These are painted and stitched textiles.






(we will be featuring submissions from Stephanie’s daughter Chloë later in the exhibition).


Philippa Robbins has been putting her alphabet primer together in book form.  She says:

We’re currently having building work on our house and the back wall of the kitchen is to be demolished. It has stood for 120 years. This alphabet primer details some of the events it has witnessed or objects it has shared the kitchen with over those years.

 Here are the pages she has completed so far:











Philippa goes on to say:

 If the primer is finished in time it would be nice to seal it in a cavity behind a new wall for the next 120 years.

Which seems a beguiling if rather drastic course of action, though at least there will be a record of it!


Many thanks to Stephanie and Philippa for their beautiful submissions, and congratulations for keeping so successfully to the black-and-white-and-one-optional-colour brief.

More tomorrow…


on cats and their names

e-mail date: 30 November 2012 09:31:17 GMT. Clive to Phil Cooper.

Phil, my sister-in-law Christine, on holiday in Germany recently, showed her German friends online images of my Hansel and Gretel alphabet. The friends were rather taken aback at M ist für Muschi, explaining that I should have use the word Miezkatz, as Muschi refers to pussy as in vagina! Could you run it past Jan for me? I’m rather surprised, as none of my German-speaking friends have said anything. (Perhaps they thought I was being mischievous!)

C x


e-mail date: 30 November 2012 09:47:44 GMT.  Phil to Clive.

Lol, well you are a bit mischievous, but in a good way of course. Jan loved the images and I asked him about Muschi, he said that it was used for both pussy-cat and pussy-vagina. He felt it had the same tone as Mrs. Slocombe’s pussy references  in Are You Being Served, so that, while it would always raise eyebrows in some quarters it’s actually pretty tame stuff. A senior politician in Germany recently referred to his wife, affectionately, as Muschi, and Jan’s dad did the same. Some people thought it rather coarse but Jan feels you’d have to be pretty prim to really object to the use of this word. Not sure if that helps but basically most people will smile and a few will object. 

e-mail date: 30 November 2012 10:01:33 GMT. Clive to Phil.

Ha ha! The perfect answer! I shall leave the Muschi image exactly as it is. A bit of vulgarity is always to be desired.

C xxx

C is for


haus aus zucker

I was holding back from revealing ‘das Hause der Hexe’ in its entirety, having previously shown only a detail. But what the heck, here it is. I’ve done a couple of double-page spreads for the Alphabet Soup project (clearly thinking in ‘book’ terms here) this being one of them. I like the bit of twiggy photo-collage in the H of Haus, and in the canopy of the tree to the right of the tall tower.

Above: detail from the image.

Design for an enamelware plate…


… and the plate itself!

My original witch’s house… designed as a plate decoration for the Hansel und Gretel enamelware service… was rather austere and narrow (see above) but I got more elaborate with the double-page  ‘German Alphabet’ version. I also changed it from L ist für Lebkuchen, because I wanted to reserve ‘Lebkuchen‘ (German for gingerbread) for my ‘zombie gingerbread men’! And those gingerbread zombies really are being reserved for the big reveal in the online exhibition!

eve and her avian alphabet

Young Eve, whose work has previously featured HERE on the the Artlog, was invited to take part in the Alphabet Soup exhibition. She’s been busy preparing her ingenious alphabet of birds, and today I’m posting her mirrored S is for Swan drawing by way of an encouragement to those of you who have yet to complete (or even start) your submissions. You have just a week to the deadline, and so if you haven’t already done so, take a lead from Eve, put your skates on and get alphabetting!

the alphabet and the fairy tale

I hope I’ll be able to make a few more in this series before the deadline is over, but this is how things stand at the moment for my Alphabet Soup submission. The weather conditions have been poor for daylight photography over the past few days, and I’ve been getting some very strange results. (Everything from a ground the colour of sun-browned newspaper to the blacks coming out as blue!) This morning I caught a few moments of clear-ish sky, and the following images, while not perfect, better convey the collages as they appear to the human, as opposed to the camera eye.

Can’t decide between the V ist für Vogel images, and so I’ll include both. This being a work-in-progress, I don’t suppose that Lucy and Shellie will object to two versions of one letter. If I do manage to squeeze in another letter or two, you’ll have to wait until the exhibition to see them, as I should hold back something in the interests of ‘surprise’!

And while we’re on the subject, visitors interested in Alphabet Soup might enjoy clicking HERE for news of an exhibition in Berlin that has taken to the street! My thanks to Marta for this.

Working on these two Hansel & Gretel projects…the  enamelware and the alphabet… have made me realise just how much I’d love to illustrate a book of fairy tales. No offers for such a venture have ever come my way, but you never know. Here’s hoping!

today’s alphabet letter…

…was inspired by the winter-flowering jasmine in the garden!

Today, in an attempt to unify my Alphabet Soup images, I re-photographed all of them. However the low, bright  Winter sun has tinted the white paper with a yellowish hue that’s defied adjusting in i-photo, and the results look like old newspaper. I’ll try again tomorrow.

mein deutsche hänsel und gretel alphabet

I have only until the weekend to get my Alphabet Soup submissions finished because other deadlines are calling, and so this week I’m snipping and pasting for all I’m worth. K ist für Katz has given way to M ist für Muschi, which translates back into English as P is for Pussy. This being collage, lots of attention can be given to the mark-making. Feline scratches score the lettering of Muschi, and the M has been painted to suggest the markings of a tabby cat.

I’ve scrapped the primary colour accents of my first attempts, and gone instead for a more subtle palette. The cadmium red H of the unpasted stage (see below) has been changed for a fleshy if unhealthy pink. I liked the notion of a photo collage of raw meat, but wasn’t able to find anything suitable in my ‘collage’ drawer so went with what you see. I have yet to start working with onscreen systems, and I should probably get cracking on that front! I’ll always draw by hand, but I like the idea of being able to ‘process’ images with a computer programme.

a final sprint to the hansel & gretel alphabet

The deadline for Alphabet Soup is nearly upon us, and yesterday I pulled out the box file of images I’d made for it. Collage is a wonderful medium, but sometimes images can get overworked, especially if they go through multiple stages of design, as these have done. (They were conceived as designs for a Hansel & Gretel nursery dinner-service, and then evolved into the subject matter for my Alphabet Soup submission.) Looking again at my first attempt at H ist für Hexe …

… I could see that it was missing the vitality of the first design I’d made for a plate.

Above: design for an enamelware plate

Above: the finished plate

So I got painting and snipping again…

… and I’m halfway to finishing a new H ist für Hexe with a bit more vim and verve than her predecessor.

Small adjustments can greatly improve dynamic. In the image at the top of this post the witch is standing. She could be waiting for a bus, or paused in thought. In the second and third images she’s clearly walking. But in the fourth she’s scuttling along at speed, and that impetus propels the character and invests her with sinister purpose. “Must get home! Must get that boy in the oven!”

I’ve knocked the letters off kilter to add energy… she might be impatiently kicking them out of her way in her determination to hasten home and start cooking … and I might yet re-cut the H to make it bigger. Though the pieces aren’t glued down yet, I can see the new collage is a significant improvement on its predecessor.

Another Alphabet Souper in progress, A ist für Asche.