From Stage to Page

 

 

 

This short film was made as the Introduction to the Design for Today book launch of Simon Armitage’s Hansel & Gretel: a Nightmare in Eight Scenes at the splendid Artworkers’ Guild in Bloomsbury on the evening of May 22nd, 2019. The film illustrates the journey of the project from stage production to published edition of the poem that was its libretto.

PastedGraphic-2 (15).jpg

Live music for the launch event was provided by the splendid Alex Barrow on the accordion. There was a pop-up exhibition assembled by Joe and me of the mid-century Russian illustrated books, tinplate clockwork birds, model theatres and folk-art-inspired toys that had influenced the illustrations and design of the book. The highlight of the evening was Simon Armitage’s reading of his entire poem, proving yet again that he’s a mesmerising presence when presenting his work. It was a ticketed event that quickly sold out, and was a resounding success.

IMG_7684.jpg

Above: the Russian clockwork ‘singing’ bird from the stage production, meets her illustrated counterpart in the finished book.

Below: the transition from stage to page.

IMG_4814

PastedGraphic-2 (16).jpg

 Hansel & Gretel: a Nightmare in Eight Scenes by Simon Armitage is published by Design for Today, and copies may be purchased

HERE

 

Clive1 (3).jpg

Acknowledgements

My regular collaborator, Pete Telfer, worked with me on all the film and animation footage seen in last year’s stage production of Hansel & Gretel: a Nightmare in Eight Scenes. The clips in the short film to promote the book are courtesy of his Culture Colony archive, and he was cameraman on the new animation that makes up the last third of the film.

IMG_4882.jpg

I couldn’t have made the stage production of Hansel & Gretel without Pete. He’s the facilitator who gives me the freedom to experiment with film and animation, while keeping a gentle eye on things to stop me from making a complete and utter hash of the job.

IMG_7546

My thanks to Simon Armitage, who wrote the words that became the libretto to the stage production. Thereafter he suggested we make a dedicated illustrated edition of the poem, and then gave me the freedom to figure out the best way to do it.

Clive3 (1).jpg

Working closely with Simon, first at Faber and then at Design for Today, on two texts so close to my heart, has been the most wonderful experience. I wish I could find better words to express what it’s meant to me, but I hope he knows.

Joe Pearson at Design for Today unhesitatingly agreed to work with Simon and me. His deep knowledge of twentieth century book design and his enthusiasm and passion for the project, saw it through the many stages to the perfect conclusion. He was unstoppable, even in the face of the 2018 New Year’s Eve fire that consumed the Design for Today warehouse and destroyed his entire stock of books. The man is a giant!

My thanks to Laurence Beck, our brilliant designer. Between Joe and Laurence, nothing was overlooked. I have never seen any book go through so many stages to bring it to perfection. No tweak or adjustment I requested was too much trouble. They were inspiring. Meticulous. Tireless.

PastedGraphic-14 (3).jpg

Print-maker and toy theatre seller, Benjamin Pollock has been an inspiration throughout my life, and my work over the past few years with Louise Heard at Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop underlies much of what appeared in both the stage production and the book. My thanks to Louise and her team for their unflagging enthusiasm and support for what I make. Louise kindly gave permission for an image of the Hansel & Gretel Toy Theatre I’d designed for Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop, to be used in the stage production, and further permission to adapt the Pollock’s H & G Toy Theatre for the ‘Intermission’ page in the book.

52348504_10157080294578436_4550672834006876160_n

Before Hansel & Gretel Dan Bugg and I had a three year collaboration making the fourteen-print Penfold Press Sir Gawain and the Green Knight series that was used in the 2018 Faber & Faber illustrated edition of Simon Armitage’s translation of the poem. It was a given we wanted to work together again in some way on  Hansel & Gretel, so Joe Pearson commissioned Dan to produce the two ‘Lebkuchen’ prints that accompany the ‘special edition’ of the book. Dan and I also produced the Penfold Press ‘Gingerbread House’ enamel-pin that celebrates the book’s publication.

Penfold Press Horse (1).jpg

60553503_353745148827292_2780006054367330304_n (1).jpg

Special thanks to my trusty band of collaborators on last year’s stage production. Puppet-maker Jan Zalud far exceeded my hopes for what Hansel and Gretel might be, and Oonagh Creighton-Griffiths gave the children the tenderest backstories encoded into her beautifully detailed costumes for them.

2018_CF_Music_PAC_Hansel_Gretel-244K2A8036 (1).jpg

Peter Lloyd created magnificently detailed shadow-puppets that were a joy to animate.

ORG__DSC7027 (1)

 

IMG_4380

Phil Cooper was associate designer and my second-in-command in terms of the way the production looked.

IMG_4808.jpg

I completely trust his eyes and his artistry. He danced effortlessly between his many tasks, creating the ‘building-block’ models seen onstage, painting the filmed backdrops (see above), and designing and ‘baking’ the mad, wonky, witchy ‘Lebkuchen’ biscuits that we later animated in a ‘tribute’ to Hollywood choreographer, Busby Berkeley!

IMG_4304.jpg

It was Phil’s bone-white ‘Witch House’, with its incinerator-like chimney, that visually defined the ‘toy building-blocks’ aesthetic I wanted for the stage production, and thereafter his Lebkuchen ‘Gingerbread’ version that I carried forward into my illustrations for the book.

Below: production designer Phil Cooper, puppet costume supervisor Oonagh Creighton-Griffiths, and lead puppeteer for the audition day, Diane Ford.

IMG_2443 (2).jpg

 

Image-1 (2)

IMG_5546 (1).jpg

As if all that weren’t enough, Phil also assisted me with the animation sequences.

I am indebted to artist/embroideress Chloe Redfern, who later took Phil’s ‘Lebkuchen’ House, and re-booted it into something beautiful and transformative for the conclusion of the book.

IMG_6075 (1).jpg

Above, Chloe’s embroidered Lebkuchen Witch House, and below, my translation of it to an illustration.

PastedGraphic-1 (21)

I’m particularly indebted to Jonathan Street of the Moth Factory, Bristol, who kept me grounded and focussed during an insanely difficult three-day marathon of film editing. His thoughtful work on Pete Telfer’s gloriously atmospheric ‘Psycho Witch Doll’s House’ footage, was a triumph. Jon was vision-mixer for the tour, and was cameraman of the live footage streamed to a projection screen above the performers.

IMG_4881 (2).jpg

My warmest thanks to puppeteers Diana Ford and Lizzie Wort. They were not only massively contributive creative geniuses on the production, following me fearlessly into sometimes choppy waters, but they are also damned fine people to be around. The three of us work hard but laugh a lot! In the photographs below you see them at the Cheltenham Music Festival for the May 2018 premiere of Hansel & Gretel: a Nightmare in Eight Scenes, and then at the May 2019 London launch of the Design for Today illustrated edition of the book. They topped and tailed the stage-production-to-book journey, and I couldn’t have had better company on the adventure

Group4 (1).jpg

 

60782307_2590870120924423_4028440819819085824_n.jpg

Jan, Oonagh, Peter, Phil, Jonathan, Diana, Lizzie and later Chloe, whether they knew it or not, helped light the path for me from stage production to book. Their visual creativity was always present while I worked alone in my studio conjuring images out of Simon’s words. I’m the book’s named illustrator, but their influences are scattered like fireflies throughout its pages.

My love and gratitude in equal measure to my manager in all theatre matters, Susan James. We’ve known each other since we were teenagers, and I count myself fortunate to have had her wisdom and patience to guide and steady me. Hers are the eyes in the back of my head. She’s fearless, riding shotgun and being wing-man, seeing the bigger picture and the smallest details, talking me down whenever the frustrations of getting a production to the finishing-line catapult me into stratospheres of frustration. I doff my cap and bend my knee to her. She is ‘The Guv’nor’!

And finally, my love and thanks to Peter Wakelin, for his unstinting support throughout the long and occasionally rocky Hansel & Gretel journey, and to my friends James and Sarah Joseph. (They know why.)

 

IMG_6572 (1).jpg

Sugar Rush

PastedGraphic-2 (1).jpg

Above, the Witch meets a bad end, shoved into a cauldron of molten Foam Shrimps, Jelly Beans, Glacier Mints and Liquorice Allsorts!

My task of illustrating Simon Armitage’s poem Hansel & Gretel: a nightmare in eight scenes, has been completed. It has been the most exciting work, especially coming at the conclusion of rehearsals for the stage production of Hansel & Gretel that I directed for its six month tour with the Goldfield Ensemble..

One of the things about any text presented on a stage, is that there never seems quite enough room within the short duration of a performance – especially one in which the words are set to music – to explore it as thoroughly as can be managed in a book. So the Design for Today edition of the text is my opportunity to really foreground Simon’s magnificent wordplay. A couple of weeks ago I carried all the original artwork in portfolios to London to deliver to Joe Pearson at Design for Today, and everything is currently being scanned, cleaned, layered and coloured by Joe and his assistant, Laurence.

I’m cock-a-hoop with the design for the book, which is just perfect. It’ll be out in the Spring. Stay tuned for updates re. pre-ordering, plus news of the special edition. (Which will come with two additional images printed by Dan Bugg at Penfold Press.)

IMG_5552 (2).jpg

 

 

 

 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight at MoMA Mach

1 (1).jpg
The Temptations. 2017. Screenprint. Edition of 75.

Please join us for the official opening by

Simon Armitage

of

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: 14 prints on the theme of a poem

at MoMA Machynlleth 

Saturday 24th March at 12.00

Celebrating the collaboration between Clive Hicks-Jenkins and The Penfold Press to make a series of 14 prints inspired by the Faber & Faber 2007 edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Simon Armitage, who will be opening the exhibition and reading from the poem.

Included in the exhibition will be sketches, maquettes, proofs and studies for the series, alongside the 14 prints. An illustrated catalogue with a text by the art historian and curator, James Russell, has been published to celebrate the completion of the project.

Cover 060318.jpg

Farewell to 2017

2017 was jam-packed with work and events from start to finish. In the Spring the Música en Segura festival took me to Andalusia for Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time concert, for which I’d made images to be screened during the performance.

CHJ 3a

Back in the UK at the Lotte Inch Gallery in York, there was a two-person exhibition with my friend Sarah Raphael-Balme, and in Wales an exhibition at Oriel Tegfryn of all the drawings I’d made for the Random Spectacular Hansel & Gretel Picture Book published in 2016.

dsc07469-1

Below: specially-bound cover of Hansel & Gretel made for me by Christopher Shaw

23471946_10155283727148198_747285183068623931_n

The Hansel & Gretel Toy Theatre I’d designed for Benjamin Pollock‘s Toyshop in Covent Garden was launched, alongside a beautiful pop-up card based on the theatre and a handsomely packaged game of Hansel & Gretel ‘Pelmanism’.

19030587_1449361821795520_5059693892201099472_n (2)

DSC00107 (1)

IMG_0504 (2)

memorygame

I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by Southampton Solent University. I lectured and/or taught at Southampton, Hereford and Cambridge, and these were wonderful interludes in an otherwise gruelling schedule of project deadlines. I guest curated an exhibition, Imagined Realms, at the Royal Cambrian in Conwy, and was able to invite a spectacular array of artists I both admire and love, to take part.

6367e244-4249-40e3-bead-acf66bbec509.jpg

 

By far the lion’s share of effort went into completing the fourteen screenprint series in collaboration with Penfold Press, based on Simon Armitage’s 2007 translation of  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, in time for the forthcoming exhibition opening on Jan 10th at the Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illuminating text from curator and art writer James Russell.

 

Clive Happy New Year 2018.jpg

Below: separations on lithography film for The Exchange, and the completed print.

21192606_10155109699543198_8015247474490610860_n

FullSizeRender (32).jpg

Below: Gouache, ink and pencil work on board  – The Stain of Sin.

FullSizeRender (34).jpg

More news about what’s planned for the Gawain series to be announced shortly. News too of Hansel & Gretel, who are about to embark on a thrilling journey in the company of a whole bunch of old and new friends with whom to enjoy the adventure!

DSC00242.jpg

I’ll be making a visual accompaniment for Daniel Broncano’s Música en Segura 2018, this time to the music of Stravinsky –

DSCF7407

– and there’s to be a sweetly pretty new Pollock’s Toy Theatre project.

DSCF2680

In the US Marly Youmans has produced a scintillating new collection of poems that I’ll be making a book cover and decorations for, and there’s to be an edition of Jeffery Beam’s Spectral Pegasus poems, illustrated with my series of paintings from the Dark Movements series.

2018 is set to be a year of seeing long term projects developing in ways unanticipated at the times of starting them. Plenty of challenges ahead, then. And deadlines, of course. Always there are the deadlines.

 

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

The Making of Gawain

The first maquette for the  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight project that I’m working on with Daniel Bugg of the Penfold Press, is finished. Articulated, two-dimensional maquettes… rather like painted versions of the shadow-puppets used by the great animator Lotte Reiniger… have evolved as my compositional aids in the studio. They also serve at the outset of any project as the ‘playtime’ that gets me exploring and into the spirit of things. Decisions get made in them that would be difficult to reach a conclusion on were I to face the choices head on. They simplify my ideas and prevent them from becoming too complicated by concentrating on shape and form. They help me find the subject.

For this series of fourteen editioned prints, I’ve set myself the task of using images to tell the story. The poetry is is glorious. I could make a hundred images for it and not do justice to the beauty of the words. The translation/re-working of the poem I’m using as my reference/inspiration for the series, is the 2007 one by Simon Armitage. But here’s a snippet describing King Arthur’s attiring of Gawain, from a translation by Paul Deane made in 1999.

Then he held up his helm and kissed it in haste:
It was stiffened with staples, padded with stuffing,
Sat high on his head, and buckled behind
where the neck-guard was graced with gleaming silk
bedecked and embroidered with the best gems.
There were birds on the seams of the broad silk bands:
painted parrots on a field of periwinkles,
turtledoves entwined with truelove blooms too thick
to be sewn by many women in seven winters’
care.

Yet nothing half so dear
brought color anywhere
as the circlet’s bright and clear
diamonds in his hair.

It’s heady stuff, all that description. And it works wonderfully in the context of a poem. But it’s the death-of-a-hundred-cuts to the artist, because it’s too detailed. There is too much description. It weighs the illustrator down with information in a way that it doesn’t weigh down the reader. And so for the most part, I eschew the detail of the description, and put myself into the role of ‘illuminator’. My goal is not to illustrate what the poet has conjured, but to help illuminate it with images that aren’t repetitions. I have to build with different blocks.

The maquettes help me in this editing process. They get me away from the descriptions, and into a different space.

But most of all, they immerse me in a world where colour, shape and form become intensified.

Pattern-cutting Gringolet, Gawain’s horse.

The Penfold Press ‘Gawain’ edition of prints.

The collaboration between me and Dan Bugg at Penfold Press to produce a series of editioned screen-prints  on the theme of the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is underway.

The prints are to be produced and made available for purchase sequentially. I spent some weeks working in detail through Simon Armitage’s 2007 translation/re-working of the poem, making notes and finding the passages that spoke to me in visual terms. While I could happily have made a series of forty images, on the principle that less-is-more, I whittled it down to fourteen.

Developmental sketches of the decapitated Green Knight holding aloft his own severed head

I’ll hold back from sharing with you the aspects I’ll be illustrating because Dan and I want there to be the element of surprise as each new print is editioned and launched. I recently showed the completed list of fourteen titles to Dan and to Sarah Parvin. (Sarah was the moving force behind this project, coming up with the idea and then teaming Dan and me.) With the ‘list’ agreed and signed off by all concerned, I’ve started a workbook to begin building the images.

Dan and I will shortly be producing  Man Slain by a Tiger, a print inspired by Tipu’s Tiger/ The Death of Munrow that we’re using as a dry-run for the Gawain series. After that, the great work will begin.

Preparatory colour sketch for Man Slain by a Tiger

Rendering in lithographic crayon on True-Grain

Below: study for Gawain from my notebook for the fourteen prints.

Watch this space.