The Puppet Challenge Part 9: Shellie, Leonard and the unknown Claire

Shellie Byatt, Leonardo Greco and Claire Crystal

Shellie Byatt: The Wolf, the Egg-Thief and the Surprise in the Shrubbery

Little Red Riding Hood and The Wolf

Above: Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

I wondered whether any Puppet Challenge participants would produce works in miniature, but the reality was that only two did. (And no-one elected to make their own version of a Juvenile Drama of the type produced by Benjamin Pollock, which came as a bit of a surprise.) Rachel Larkins and Shellie Byatt created small puppets of great charm and imagination. Rachel made her delightful Thumbelina-in-a-Tulip… seen in Puppet Challenge Post No 2, while Shellie let rip with an entire finger-puppet cast for Red-Riding-Hood, with extra characters thrown in for good measure. I love her Wolf beefed-up like a weight-lifter on steroids. Look at those shoulders!

The Wolf

The Wolf

In recent years Shellie, a painter, has been making ‘medallions’ that she has cast in bronze at a foundry, and so she’s regularly been working on three dimensional forms, though on a small-scale. I like the fact that with these puppets she’s continued at a scale comfortable to her, and yet has made the great leap of working in-the-round, and I long to see this fairy tale band of actors evolve into her easel work.

The Wolf in the woods

The Wolf in the Woods

The Woodcutter creeps up on The Wolf

The Woodcutter Creeps up on the Wolf

The Woodcutter

The Woodcutter



The Egg Thief

The Egg Thief

Surprise in the Shrubbery

Surprise in the Shrubbery!

Leonard Greco: The Hero-Twins

Leonard writes:

“As might be suspected, I am further exploring the exploits of the ‘Hero Twins’ in the underworld of Xlbalba. I made a cast of characters: the aforementioned twins, Hinahpu and Xbalanque, their unfortunate father the Maize God Hun Hunahpu, the God of Death Mictlanteluhtli and the World Tree, the Axix Mundi… more a prop than a puppet. I also painted a backdrop of the underworld, Xibalba.”

As a painter Leonard has been exploring the themes of Mesoamerican mythology with tireless curiosity. In so doing he has forged an extraordinarily vibrant and consistent visual style, that while drawing on European traditions of art, has retained a quality that is uniquely his own. (see below)

Below: the puppets

Above and below, The Hero Twins

Above and below: Mictlanteluhtli

Below: the Maize God, Hun Hunahpu

Below: creating worlds

When I was a boy I was never happier than when creating entire worlds. Toy theatres complete with full sets for various narratives crowded my bedroom shelves. There were the Norman castles and the Roman gladiatorial arenas, the haunted woods and the Carpathian ruins that fascinated me, the dinosaurs, mythic creatures and the gods and goddesses of ancient cultures all mixed up with elaborate dioramas of my favourite superheroes. I was never happier than when working with Plasticene, cardboard, Balsa wood, paint and wire. I see this same, ferocious ‘child-creator’ outpouring in Leonard, undilute and joyful, and I think it’s incredible he’s held onto it in a way that is entirely intact and untroubled by the later concerns… and influences.. of life. Most of us get all this stuff beaten out of us at some point, but Leonard has held fast to his ‘worlds’, and made them realities.

Claire Crystal: a late arrival

Claire Crystal

Rachel Larkins, who made the Thumbelina puppet in Post No 2,  wrote to me:

“I am sending you some images by one of the students of the Extended Diploma course of the university where I work part-time. Claire happened to be working on her own puppet project – an imaginary/mythical creature- during the summer term. This was her first foray into puppet-making, and she documented it brilliantly, and so I am sending an image of that too, just in case you’d like to include it.”

Claire’s puppet, with its green eyes and gentle expression, is beautiful, and I’m happy to include it here. I know nothing about Claire save what Rachel told me, and I fear Google hasn’t yielded any more information. Here’s the image Rachel included of Claire’s workbook.

Claire Crystal sketchbook

Alphabet Soup: Meso-American macabre and Greek ghoulish – Leonard Greco and Glenn Carney

This might be seen to be where the exhibition turns a little dark.  Some of these images may not be for the faint-hearted.  But then, who wants to be among the faint-hearted?

Leonard Greco has been steeping himself in the history and mythology of Meso-America, that is to say the Aztec and Maya cultures of Central America.  His alphabet idea is for a Primer of New Spain.  He said at the outset:

 My conceit is a primer of New Spain to be presented to Charles V, I want the frontispiece to be full of that overblown false modesty and groveling  found in  period documents.

In the six months or so since starting on the primer, Leonard has produced nearly half the letters, as well as plenty of other artistic and creative projects, which is impressive by anyone’s standards.  Here are:


A is for Axis Mundi

B is for Bats

Loenard C

C is for Climate Change

Leonard D

D is for Dogs

Leonard G

G is for Gold

Leonard H

H is for Hun Hunahpu

Leonard K

K is for Kukulcan

L is for La Llorona

Leonard M

M is forMictlantecuhtli and his lovely bride Mictecacihuatl

N is for New Fire Ceremony

Leonard O

O is for Owls

X is for Xquis

The detail and draughtsmanship of these is remarkable, one can’t really do justice to the content here, but if you don’t already know Leonard’s work, it really is worth visiting his blog and reading the posts that go with them, all of which can be accessed here, tagged ‘Primer of New Spain’. They are rich in information and reflections; there is humour along with the horror, compassion as well as cruelty.  Judging by his output so far, I’d be willing to bet he’ll complete his primer, and it will be something to see!


Glenn Carney blogs at Glennthebrushes, where he periodically posts his chunky, luminous, expressive landscapes largely inspired by South Wales where he lives and works.  A long time  Hellenophile, he opted to represent letters from the Greek alphabet, and somewhat surprised me with this scary collection of faces.

Glenn says:

 ‘Since school days I have loved to doodle repellent, atrophied faces.  They may appear vacant or possessed but, for me, they are fond representations of car crash magnetism, superstars plucked from the underbelly of my imagination!’ 

Glenn's alphabet 001

Glenn's alphabet 006

Glenn's alphabet 002

Glenn's alphabet 003

Glenn's alphabet 004

Glenn's alphabet 005

(I’ve not tried to caption these, as it’s hard work with the character map, and Glenn prefers not to try to transcribe them into phonetic English, as that is never exact and, he says  ‘ I’m terrified that a genuine Greek will see it and make a corrosive correctional remark!’)


Well, I hope we won’t have given you nightmares!  Two more alphabet days left to Christmas…

the artlog exhibition of maquettes: part two

Welcome to the first exhibition at the Artlog. It evolved out of the interest of regular visitors in my practice of making articulated paper maquettes for use as compositional aids.  A few of them felt encouraged to produce maquettes of their own, and thereafter everything just blossomed.


Jodi le Bigre: metamorphosis

Leonard Greco: raising the dead

Chloe Refern: all the pretty little horses

Sally Wakelin: unfolding forms

Jodi le Bigre: metamorphosis. I’m interested in the way Jodi le Bigre’s meticulous draftsmanship extends even to the laying out of the beautifully drawn elements of her maquette on a single sheet. It seems almost an act of  vandalism to cut up such a lovely and intriguing thing, but since it’s the artist doing so, we must accept her choice. Some might be inclined to make a scan of the original intact sheet and cut up the copy, but Jodi’s finished maquette is of course even more precious for being constructed from the original painting. The artist has had some unexpected upheavals in her life recently, and this inventive and moving maquette has emerged from what must have been a difficult time for her, both personally and creatively. She wrote to me of  the experience of making the maquette:

‘Actually, I was happy to work on this, it was a good project to concentrate on through everything. I decided to use this as an opportunity to invent something that would bring me through hard times, something from a harsh and airy place that could pierce through any difficulty. It was lovely to have the changeability that a maquette affords.’

See more of Jodi’s work at her blog, HERE.
Leonard Greco: raising the dead. Leonard’s astonishing outpouring of maquettes has been a revelation. Every day at his blog new figures appear, and as this repertory company of maquette actors has grown, he’s assembled increasingly elaborate arrangements of them as his compositional blueprints for planned paintings. Leonard’s explorations draw on the Maya resurrection myth of the Maize God and his post-dismemberment fathering of the Hero Twins on a passing princess. There’s grand guignol and snaky priapism aplenty here, and so those of a nervous disposition may wish to avert their eyes.
See more of Leonard’s work at his blog, HERE.
Chloe Redfern: all the pretty little horses. More connections here, as it was Chloe who I turned to last year for the Christmas gifts Peter and I gave to our friends Liz and Graham Sangster when we visited them for the holiday. Chloe has been making beautiful horse maquettes and charting the process on her blog at Slightly Triangle. When she’s not making paper maquettes she produces delightful painted and stitched hanging decorations that you can find HERE, though she will make horse maquettes to order if you have a mind to ask her.
At the last moment Chloe sent images of this spirited hare, and he’s just too good to miss out.
Sally Wakelin: unfolding  forms. Sally is a jewellery maker and artist. She’s also a talented website designer, producing sites for a good many artists, mine included. You can see her silverwork HERE.
Just one of the aspects I’ve always loved about Sally’s jewellery is her skill at making jointed collars and bracelets of silver in which the interplay of individual elements is invariably beautiful and ingenious. She has the engineer’s gift of being able to envisage her creations at their earliest stages in three dimensions, an inheritance perhaps from her sculptor/architect  father, Dick. Her silver works are objects that ask to be touched and explored. The clasps are always cleverly hidden, and I once tried on a Sally Wakelin bracelet only to find I couldn’t get it off again until she showed me where the connection point was.
For this exhibition Sally has produced a paper maquette for a linked collar/bracelet that is as much a piece of sculpture as an item of personal adornment. This is something that my fingers would itch to play with were it to be lying on a table in front of me.
More Maquettes in Part Three, soon.