What I’m not

I’m often asked what kind of art I make. I know my face clouds over when the question comes, because the answer isn’t simple. Easier, perhaps, to say what I’m not.

I’m not a landscape or a still-life artist …

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… though earlier in my career I painted both.

I’m not a portrait painter and never have been, though everyone tells me they recognise Peter in my drawing and paintings.

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I’m not an abstract painter, though I love abstraction.

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My painting doesn’t aspire to realism, but rather to inner truth.

I’m not an illustrator though I make covers for novels and poetry.

Recently I’ve made my first picture book, though it’s not a children’s picture book.

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I’m not a print-maker, though I’m currently making a fourteen print series of screenprints with Dan Bugg of Penfold Press on the theme of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (Based on the translation by Simon Armitage.)

Penfold C cmyk-2While I’m an atheist, my work often explores biblical and faith based themes.

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I’m not an animator, though I made the animations for the 2013 stage production of The Mare’s Tale (composer Mark Bowden and librettist Damian Walford Davies)…

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… I was commissioned to make an animated film to accompany a performance of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale at the 2013 Hay Festival…

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…. and last year in collaboration with artist/model-maker Phil Cooper, film-maker Pete Telfer and composer Kate Romano, I created an animation as the online trailer for my picture book Hansel & Gretel. (Published by Random Spectacular.)

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Sometimes it’s not possible to make a simple answer.

 

 

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Realising the Green Knight: Clive and Dan on messaging at Facebook

09/02/2016 12:32
Clive Hicks-Jenkins
I think I may have gone a bit mad with the cutting and taping. Does this look OK/do-able to you?

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Daniel Bugg
It looks great and should work fine. How many colours do you plan in total?

Clive 
Ummm, that depends on what you think. The main gold/green looks to me as though it might be done either in two passes with a light blue and a yellow, or one mixed colour.
So, the colours would be:
1) a mixed gold green or a light blue (to be printed under the yellow to get gold green)
2) a mid green ‘shader’
3) red
4) yellow to put over/under the red for brightness, and perhaps to use as a mix for the main green
5) grey or silver for the tattoo
6) black
7) strong blue for background.

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Does that sound about right?

Dan
That sounds about right. I think that should give us what we need and there is always the chance to add more. I was asking for mundane reasons really, I’m preparing screens today, working out my printing schedule for the next month or so. I’m allocating screens to different jobs.

Clive
OK. I’ll bang on.

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09/02/2016 16:48
Clive 
Thought you’d enjoy these pics of the separations. I took them by a really low light just before finishing work today, mainly to get something on screen to check how the clarity of composition was holding together. (I find that it can be easier to judge an image on screen at the end of a long day. It seems to condense everything and give a better overview.) Anyway, they turned out rather beautifully. Not particularly sharp, but the colour is intriguing, together with the soft graininess of the image.

Dan
The soft colouring looks beautiful. Like most things the interesting developments often come from unexpected sources. That’s why I enjoy printmaking so much. The chance discovery. It almost reads as a completely different image.

Clive 
An illusion really, coloured by light rather than by pigment. But it brings you up sharp when something suddenly starts speaking an unexpected language. Feeling excited about it right now.

Dan
True. I’m just sneaking a quick bit of reading in whilst the screens dry. I’m reading The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro in which Sir Gawain makes another appearance. I was bought it for Christmas without knowing the story. It’s funny but Gawain seems to be following me.

Clive 
WOW! I’m reading it too! It was my Christmas present from Peter. Synchronicity!

Dan
That’s funny. I guess those near and dear to us are keeping Gawain with us.

Clive
Slightly spooky!

Dan
A little like the book. Like most of his work it feels very cinematic. I almost see it as an enlarged film script.

Clive
Our next project!
Ha ha!

Dan
Moving through the literary world like the two cultured gents we are.

Clive 
I’m off for hot whiskey and lemon juice. Have a good evening. Love to all.

Dan
Enjoy!

Moving Toward a Print

Above: detail of a coloured-pencil study for Christmas at Camelot

The past couple of weeks have been spent preparing studies and then colour separations for the first in my Gawain and the Green Knight series with Daniel Bugg of The Penfold Press. Titled Christmas at Camelot, it’s been a tough one, not least because it’s such a complicated composition, showing King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Gawain, each on horseback in a wintry landscape.

The carefully worked, coloured-pencil study, although different in many details from the way the final print will look, nevertheless has been a crucial aid in making the separations. It shows how the four colours of the print should work together. For instance, if you closely examine the mail on Gawian’s head, arms and leg in the image above, you’ll see that green, red and black are used in the mark-making, each colour of which requires a separate transparency. Without a colour guide to help me, the job of making the separations would be even more confusing than it was.

The separations are made on sheets of transparent polymer called True Grain. Later, the finished print will be in cherry red, emerald green, a warm grey and black. Because True Grain has a rough texture, when worked on with lithography crayons the resulting marks have a pleasingly grainy character.

Below are some details of the coloured study, the simple pencil-line guide-drawing, and the finished separations. The five separations, plus the simple pencil-line guide-drawing for them, will now be delivered to Daniel at his studio in Selby, where they’ll be used to make the ‘screens’ ready for printing. It’s a relief to get to this stage. This one has been keeping me awake at night!

Details of a coloured pencil study on card.

Detail of a pencil drawing placed under the layers of True Grain to guide the rendering of the image.

Details of artwork made in lithography crayon, ink and paint on True Grain.

 

To take the photographs above, I held the five layers of drawing on transparent film, against a light. The image isn’t rendered in the colours it’ll be printed in, a peculiarity of the process that I find takes a lot of getting used to. In your head you have to constantly transpose what you’re drawing, into the colours you envisage in the printing process. I tell you, it’s a mind-fuck!

Christmas in Camelot is due to be published soon. Look out for it at

The Penfold Press

A Gawain and the Green Knight workbook

Gawain

Work-books are mostly for play. Of course serious stuff gets done in them, too, but all under the general banner of play. So in this little Moleskin book, I’ll make image after image, most of which won’t have any function other than to serve as warm-ups to the main feature, which will be worked out elsewhere in much larger sketch-books.

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So far I’ve only made tiny portraits, though details of costume and armour will also be worked through in the pages, including deciding on whether I’m going for a fourteenth century ‘Age of Chivalry’ look, with Le Morte d’Arthur knights in shining armour and plumed helmets, or take the more austere approach of an earlier age. (Possibly even with a nod to Byzantium.)

Anyway, here’s my starting point.

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Variations. Here Gawain wears a coif-de-mailles under a bascinet with a simple, shield-shaped face-guard that lifts up on a hinge.

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Soon I’ll be building complex maquettes: Gawain on his steed Gringolet, and a Green Knight with a removable head for the decapitation scene! There is also going to be a model of Camelot. It’s all go!

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Centre: Dan Bugg of Penfold Press at the opening of Dark Movements on June 10th.

I’m pleased to announce that I’m about to embark on a long-term project to produce a series of editioned prints on the theme of Gawain and the Green Knight, a narrative that I’ve been exploring ever since I first read the Simon Armitage translation of the poem published in 2007.

Below: Gawain and the Green Knight, explored at my easel over the past seven years.

Dan recently spent time at Ty Isaf attending the opening of my exhibition, Dark Movements at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Around that event we walked my dog Jack along the banks of the River Ystwyth, and thumbed-through Gawain-themed sketches in my attic studio while discussing the way forward for the series, which we envisage as telling the story from start to finish in pictures. Although I’ve occasionally made lino-prints, screen-printing will be new territory for me. But with Dan to guide me through the processes, it looks fair-set for some creative play at the Penfold Press.

Gawain and the Green Knight sketches have long been tacked to my studio walls.

In addition to the Gawain series, Dan will be producing silk-screen prints of tattooed fishermen for my Skin/Skôra exhibition next year.

My thanks to Dan for his enthusiastic embracing of these projects, and to to my friend Sarah Parvin of The Curious One for initiating them.

on the studio walls: part 1

My studio walls are densely papered with sketches that I’ve blu-tacked onto them over the years. Scraps flutter and seethe when the windows are open and the wind blows through. Projects once current lie under the many that came later, so the walls have become layered repositories of the raw materials used to produce myriad paintings, exhibitions and illustrations.

I rarely take anything down, but just add more over the top. Today I took a turn around the space with my camera, and snapped away. I found plenty that took me by surprise, dislodging memories of finished works long vanished out into the world. Nearly all of the drawings are small, no more than a few inches square, and each one was stuck to the wall at a time when it was needed as fuel for endeavour at the easel or work-table. Here are the young warriors and green knights, the bruised boys and their beasts, the enigmatic angels and the anchorites, the sideways-slipping still-lifes, the simplified landscapes and the cut-outs I sometimes make to try out new shapes or notions in compositions before committing to changes made with paint. They were never intended to be seen by anyone but me. They are my laboratory.

Gawain and the Green Knight

Study for the cover of Marly Youmans’ novel Val/Orson

Still-life

Hervé and the wolf

My father

Peter Shaffer’s Equus

Marly Youmans’ Thaliad

Cut-out shapes

Jack

Landscape and building

Barnfield’s The Affectionate Shepherd

L’histoire du soldat

The beautiful boys

 

Part 2 follows soon