a phoenix for marly: part II

Throughout today I’ll be posting various versions of the phoenix ‘imprint’ I’m making for Marly Youmans. Marly’s internet server doesn’t like e-mails with attachments at the moment, and so this is a rather public way of getting images to her. Tune in from time to time to see what’s developing. All the images will be unfixed collages, so that I can get Marly’s views and only paste together a fixed version when she’s made a final decision. (Please excuse the uneven tone of the images. I’m snapping in daylight  and it will be changing all the time.) Here’s the first image.

Phoenix and Leaf: unfixed collage. 13:33 GMT

Phoenix and Leaf rearrangement. Radiance: unfixed collage. 14:25 GMT

No tails in these two images… even though phoenixes are known for their elaborate tails in states of decorative conflagration… but that’s because I’ve left the tails out so there’s room for the radiance of those flames. But for anyone thinking that a phoenix should be more decorative than a stout little quail, the tailed version is on its way!

In the first image the phoenix is ignoring the leaf tumbling to the ground beside it, but in the second the leaf has become a passing cloud that the bird seems hypnotised by. I wonder what will happen next?

Phoenix and Leaf rearrangement. Smokin’ hot: unfixed collage. 13:59 GMT

Below: making papers to cut and collage. 16:18 GMP

The tail unfurls!

Phoenix in a rustic hoop with a storm of leaves: unfixed collage. 16:55 GMT

Phoenix and Leaf in a rustic hoop: unfixed collage. 17:06 GMT

Mmmmm. Think this might be it.

Phoenix and Leaf: unfixed collage. 17:12 GMT

Another framing device.

Phoenix and Leaf in a dark frame: unfixed collage. 18:16 GMT

Below: the same frame with ‘broken’ corners, which makes the whole thing a little airier.

Time for Mme Marly to have her say. Then I can get pasting.

Below: thumbnail sketch made at the outset.

a phoenix for marly

I’m designing an imprint for my friend Marly Youmans. It’s to contain a phoenix. Just to get myself started I roughly assembled a collage borrowing the design of a bird I’d made for Glimmerglass.

The bird was distinctly un-phoenix-like, a fact not improved upon when I added to its nether-region something that resembled not so much a flaming tail as jet-propulsion!

Starting again, I turned for inspiration to another Glimmerglass vignette, this time the little finch in a rustic hoop that that I like so much.

The finch is even less like a phoenix than the previous bird, but I was less interested in the bird than in the hoop, which I thought a nice little containing device for an imprint. I made the roughest drawing substituting the finch with a phoenix sporting a modest scrolled and fiery tail echoing the curve of the rustic frame, and with a jaunty crest on its head. Not an extravagant Chinese phoenix this, all trailing peacocky plumes and sinuous neck, but a distinctly Clivean bird, solid, foursquare and reliable! (I borrow a Marly word here. She invented ‘Clivean’)

The next stage was to make a very rough cut-out shape, just to see if the design might be made to work as I hoped. (In collage, cutting the shape always better indicates whether the design is working than any drawing.)

Then I made up some papers worked in black paint and got down to the serious business of cutting and pasting the image. Tomorrow I shall photograph and show the completed design.

just a glimpse…

… of a Glimmerglass ‘decoration’ in progress.

Out of many scraps of painted paper…

… and a thumbnail sketch to guide me…

A little robin begins to take shape.

Just the snow and his legs to add, and then he’ll be pasted down onto a dark ground shaped to be a chapter heading or tailpiece. Looks simple, but there will some thirty-forty pieces patch-worked together in this tiny work when complete, to ensure lots of interesting mark-making. Pen and ink, brush and paint, frottage and crayon. I work with with tweezers to get them all in place, and it’s damned fiddly. I often end up with tiny bits of paper pasted to my fingers, rather than to the illustration they belong to.

UPDATE: the finished collage, at about the size I think it might print in the book.

the art of the poster and channelling saul bass

Above and below: preliminary graphics for The Mare’s Tale.

Today I turned my mind to the graphics for The Mare’s Tale. These are just first passes and I’m going to be trying out many more ideas before reaching any conclusions. I’m considering a more fractured image and more jagged, chaotic lettering, while still retaining legibility of course.

Above: Conté pencil study for The Mare’s Tale graphics .

Images going through my head are Saul Bass’s credit sequences for Psycho and Anatomy of a Murder. Mr Bass is the benchmark by which I judge all graphic images. I grew up on him! He is ‘The Master’!

phil cooper and the art of the collage

Red Island Night. Collage by Phil Cooper

I’ve been watching with fascination my friend Phil Cooper’s explorations of the medium of collage at his blog Hedgecrows. Recalling Phil’s early efforts, which I’d thought promising enough, it almost beggars belief to see the incredible progress he’s made in just nine months, because he’s now regularly creating images that are quite simply masterful. Today I popped in to find the glorious piece posted above. Fantastic work, brimming with character and ‘spirit of place’. Below are a couple more that I greatly like. Phil divides his time between the UK and Germany, and for me some of his strongest images are of  buildings in Berlin. I love the textures of these pieces.

Zitadelle Spandau. Collage by Phil Cooper

Die Alte Kindl Brauerei, Berlin. Collage by Phil Cooper

In the year he’s been running his site, Phil has regularly posted about his progress in the studio. By scrolling back to when he started, you can see for yourselves the wonderful journey he’s been on. I’m filled with admiration for his remarkable achievements.

a review from the red room

There’s a glittering review of Thaliad at the book blog Tomcat in the Red Room. Tom writes with a depth of knowledge that deftly contextualises the poem by explaining its literary precedents, and yet offers his insights with such a light touch that any reader, no matter how new to narrative poetry, will feel safely guided through the unfamiliar territory.

Marly has recently been canvasing for suggestions as to how Thaliad might best be described, and Tom has surely added to her shortlist with his summary of it as a ‘mythopoeic epic poem’. Click on the above link to read his review of Thaliad. As a little taster I offer here an extract from it about my contribution.


‘It would be remiss of me at this point not to mention Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who as well as designing the book’s cover, has illustrated small iconographic vignettes that head each of Thaliad’s twenty four chapters (note: the same number of books divide The Iliad).  These striking black and white collages definitely influenced my conception of Thaliad’s world, and the grey-tone in which they’re rendered acts as a satisfying visual call-back to the descriptions of ash and rubble that dominate much of the poem’s imagery.  As well as being unusually beautiful, Thaliad’s artwork is loaded with symbolism and connotation.  The image that heads chapter twenty three, for example, depicts two of the children (now fully-grown) fighting over Thalia.  The icon itself is a silhouette-esque depiction of two men locked in combat, with their swords provocatively placed so as to resemble the positioning of erect phalluses in a way that alludes to the lust that is the deeper subtext and reasoning behind their combat.’

 Tomcat in the Red Room

An anecdote: the late, great Lizzie Organ, who ran the Kilvert Gallery in Clyro and was the first person to show my work, once surprisingly announced… surprising because it was apropos of nothing at all we’d been talking about…  “Clive, I always look for the penises in your paintings, and I never fail to find them.” I replied “Sorry Lizzie, you mean the penises in the paintings of nudes?”  “No, I mean in all your paintings. In the still-lifes, in the landscapes, in every one there’s a penis, and moreover an erect one!” Her partner Eugene Fisk looked aghast. “What on earth are you talking about Lizzie? There are no penises in Clive’s landscape paintings.” “I beg to differ, Euge…” Lizzie shot back, “… they’re in all his paintings and I always find them.”  Bewildered silence from Peter, me and Eugene. “I don’t know why you’re all looking at me like that.” she exclaimed, before bringing the subject to a close with her final word on the matter: “I like them!”

countdown to the london art fair…

… opening this evening.

Detail from: The Greening of Gawain

Clive Hicks-Jenkins RCA
Collage of acrylic paint, coloured pencil and ink on paper – 2012 – 62 x 57 cm 




16 – 20 JANUARY 2013


Tuesday 15th January 6.30 pm – 9 pm  (invited guests only)

Wednesday 16th 11 am – 9 pm

Thursday 17th 11 am – 9 pm

Friday 18th 11 am – 7 pm

Saturday 19th 10 am – 7 pm

Sunday 2oth 10 am – 5 pm

arts alive fund-raising auction

Green Head/Red Branch. 2012
Clive Hicks-Jenkins RCA
Acrylic paint collage.
17 x 15 cms

Arts Alive is a small though well-established charity working out of Crickhowell, that uses the medium of art within the community to examine and support issues of the environment, health and well-being. On the evening of Friday March 15th… the day before my weekend Masterclass at Arts Alive… there is to be a fund-raising for the organisation in the form of an auction of fine art at the Angel Hotel, Abergavenny. It is a ticketed event with wine and tapas.

The artwork that I’m donating to the Arts Alive fund-raising is the original collage I made as the cover-design of a collection of poems by Marly Youmans, The Foliate Head, published in 2012 by Stanza Poetry.  The collage is presented in a grey-painted frame made of a deep tulipwood moulding manufactured to my design.

To be included with the framed collage is a copy of the book, illustrated throughout with black and white ‘foliate head’ images. The book has been signed by me, though not alas by Marly Youmans, who lives in Coopersville, New York.

Below: the book

Below: some of my illustrations for the book

Any money raised by the sale of this artwork will be donated in full to the charity. Enquiries about tickets for the auction event should be made directly to Arts Alive on: 01873 811579

Greg Langley’s review of The Foliate Head can be found in the January 12th online edition of the Baton Rouge AdvocateHERE.

a reminder

Arts Alive Wales is delighted to welcome Clive Hicks-Jenkins RCA to host a unique Masterclass in March 2013. The Masterclass is open to professional, practicing artists, working in any medium and at any stage of their career.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of the Green Man. Long ago, before I became a painter, I made foliate masks out of thin papier-mâché that I surfaced with metal leaf. Later I produced a series of works based on the medieval poem of Gawain and the Green Knight. In another series of paintings I explored the legend of Saint Kevin and the Blackbird, who was said to have held in his outstretched hand a hen bird in her nest while she incubated and hatched her eggs and then reared her young until fledged and flown. In the early paintings Kevin’s hand stretches out like the branch of a tree to hold the fragile cargo of life, and in the later ones, when the nest is empty, his skin becomes laced with the inky shadows of branches and leaves, as though stigmatised by foliage.

This year sees the publication of two poetry books with ‘foliate’ themes that I’ve illustrated, working through the medium of collage to make the images. Over the weekend of the Masterclass, participating artists will be encouraged to examine ‘green’ themes in literature and the visual arts, and then give expression to their ideas using various techniques, including collage, drawing, simple printmaking and paint.”

– Clive Hicks-Jenkins 2012

Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th March at Crickhowell.

10am – 4pm

£60 for the weekend, includes a materials allowance of up to £40.

Places are strictly limited to 8 artists only. TO APPLY:

Please contact Rebecca Spooner, Arts Development Manager, email: rebecca@artsalivewales.org.uk with the following –

  • A brief statement (no longer than 250 words)  describing your artistic practice and why you would like to take part in the Masterclass.
  • An up to date artistic CV (no longer than 2 sides of A4) including full contact details
  • A link to your website or up to 3 relevant digital images in JPG  format (no bigger than 600kb each)

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS: Friday 1st February. Selected artists will be informed by 8th Feb.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins has shown with the Martin Tinney Gallery since 1997. He was born in Newport in 1951 and currently lives in mid Wales. His work has been critically praised in The Independent, Modern Painters, Galleries and Art Review. Shelagh Hourahane, in Planet, has called him ‘an inspiring and masterly painter’, and Robert Macdonald described his Mari Lwyd sequence as ‘one of the most powerful series of paintings and drawings produced in Wales in recent times’. He is an Honorary Fellow of Aberystwyth School of Art and has been a guest tutor at the Royal College of Art. Hicks-Jenkins was winner of the Gulbenkian Welsh Art Prize in 1999 and a Creative Wales Award from the Arts Council of Wales in 2002. He has had exhibitions at Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford, The Museum of Modern Art Wales, Newport Museum & Art Gallery and Brecknock Museum. A member of The Welsh Group and 56 Group Wales, he was elected a Royal Cambrian Academician in 2008. His illustrated edition of Peter Shaffer’s award-winning play Equus was published by The Old Stile Press in 2009. His paintings, prints and artists’ books are in numerous public collections and a major retrospective of his work was mounted by the National Library of Wales in 2011. In March 2012 his images for Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat will form a visual display to accompany a concert performance of the piece conducted by David Montgomery in Washington DC.

For more information about Clive’s work visit: www.hicks-jenkins.com


Above: Clive Hicks-Jenkins. The Greening of Gawain – 2012. Mixed media: acrylic paint, crayon and collage. The Martin Tinney Gallery. Below: Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Cover image for Thaliad by Marly Youmans, published by Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal – 2012. Mixed media: acrylic paint, crayon and collage. Martin Tinney Gallery.

a time of gifts

Earlier this year the artist and illustrator Ed Kluz contacted me to ask about purchasing a piece of my work as a birthday gift for his partner, the curator and art historian Simon Martin. However after some discussion, we agreed instead on a like-for-like transaction. Ed selected an acrylic study of an unused illustration, Fallen Conquistador, made for the Old Stile Press 2009 edition of Peter Shaffer’s play Equus. Later I selected a collage he had made, Dean Terrace, Edinburgh, as my Christmas gift to Peter. This is one of  the most delightful perks I can think of as far as being an artist is concerned, the happy exchange of artworks between  those who admire each other. I’m relieved to report that both recipients loved their presents!

Ed’s Dean Terrace, Edinburgh, selected by me for Peter.

My Fallen Conquistador from Equus, selected by Ed for Simon.

Merry Christmas to you all!