Above: Study for the cover of Marly Youmans’ Thaliad

Sarah Parvin recently commented at the Artlog on a post about the forthcoming print, The Green Knight’s Head Lives.

Paul Jacobsthal writes on the Celtic cult of the head: “Amongst the Celts the human head was venerated above all else, since the head was to the Celt the soul, centre of the emotions as well as of life itself, a symbol of divinity and of the powers of the other-world.”

That brought me up short, because I’ve only recently begun to realise just how much the head has become a recurring motif of my work. Not in the sense of portraiture, which I’m not all that interested in, but as an isolated object, often with a sharp terminating horizontal, as though separate from a body. The head as a subject in its own right.


Study for the illustrated edition of Peter Shaffer’s play Equus, The Old Stile Press

Study for the Green Knight


Study for Marly Youmans’ The Foliate Head


Study for Gawain Transfigured


Paper-cut project in collaboration with Peter Lloyd

Study for Gawain

Page decoration for Marly Youmans Maze of Blood, Mercer University Press

Study for the Green Knight

Gawain Transfigured

Cover artwork for Marly Youmans’ Maze of Blood, Mercer University Press

Cover artwork for Marly Youmans’ Thaliad, Phoenicia Publishing


Decorated page for Marly Youmans’ Thaliad, Phoenicia Publishing

Study for an unmade book

Illustration from The Sonnets of Richard Barnfield, The Old Stile Press

The Green Knight


Unused decoration for Marly Youmans’ The Foliate Head


Page decoration for Marly Youmans’ The Foliate Head, Stanza Poetry

Study for an unmade book


Paper-cut project in collaboration with Peter Lloyd

Cover artwork For Marly Youmans’ Val/Orson, PS Publishing

Poster design for Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale

The Princess from The Soldier’s Tale

Page decoration for the illustrated edition of Peter Shaffer’s Equus, The Old Stile Press


Decoration used on the back cover of Marly Youmans’ The Foliate Head, Stanza Poetry

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


Hervé and the wolf

My father

Peter Shaffer’s Equus

Marly Youmans’ Thaliad

Cut-out shapes


Landscape and building

Barnfield’s The Affectionate Shepherd

L’histoire du soldat

The beautiful boys


Part 2 follows soon

the artist’s sketches and what they led to

Not all of the drawings from yesterdays post came to anything. Some, like the drawings made in the ‘Paris’ sketchbook, were just ways to gather information and help me better understand what I was looking at. (There’s nothing like drawing to help get inside an artwork. I recommend putting the camera away and taking out the notebook and pencil.) But many of the sketchbooks were working toward projects, whether paintings or books, and so here are a few of of the outcomes from images begun in them.

Project Book: EQUUS

The sketchbook was preliminary to work on the illustrated edition of Peter Shaffer’s play Equus. (The Old Stile Press, 2009.) The drawing on the right prepared the way for the following study…

… and then the frontispiece of the finished book.

The portrait of troubled Alan Strang as shown in the initial drawing here, went through multiple incarnations before making it into the book, though the same basic ideas held throughout. Here’s one of the finished illustrations.

Project Book: CARN EUNY

The Carn Euny sketchbook had a massive influence on the paintings that came after it. The one below, a still-life with a Staffordshire ‘Girl and Dog’, recognisably references both landscape drawings of the page-spread.


The Soldier’s Tale project book prepared the way for two forays into the theme, the first of which was a 2012 concert performance of the work in Washington DC.


This drawing of the village of Montclar in Catalunya, was made specifically to take back to the studio to use as background reference for the painting Christ Writes in the Dust, a commission from the Methodist Collection of Modern British Art.


The goat and ‘fish lamp’ in the drawings above, are of terracotta pieces I made in the pottery workshop of Pip Koppel. The ceramics have since frequently made appearances in my still-life paintings.

The drawing of a still-life in front of a seascape is one of a group that led to a series of paintings on the theme. The pelican ceramic is by the artist John Maltby.


The schematic sketches of vessels in this project book, were realised in later still-life paintings. Here’s just one of them.


The character studies for Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale shown in this page-spread of the puppet sketchbook, were developed into portrait images of Joseph and the Princess used in the animated film I made to accompany the chamber-work, screened at the the 2013 Hay Festival.


The frottage drawings in the above sketchbook were ideas toward the cover of a brochure celebrating fifty years of  a youth theatre I’d once been a member of.

Give a Maquette a Home…


Myself, Shani Rhys James, Meri Wells, Stephen West, Gillian Clarke and many others are donating work to a benefit auction in support of the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Campaign Group Legal Defence Fund.

In common with most who saw Peter Shaffer’s play Equus when it first appeared at the Old Vic in 1973, I was in equal parts enthralled by its stage-craft and shocked by the atrocity at its heart. Though I wasn’t to know it at the time, the play would stay with me from that moment on, for the most part lying dormant, but occasionally stirring to take centre-stage in my work. (You can read about my relationship with the play, HERE.)

For the auction I’m offering a maquette of a horse/man hybrid that I made originally as a compositional aid when preparing images for the Old Stile Press 2009 illustrated edition of Equus.

Above: page-opening from the Old Stile Press illustrated edition of the play

After doing stirling work on the edition, the paper horse/man disappeared into my archive for a rest, before re-emerging for an animation sequence in Pete Telfer’s short 2011 documentary about my use of maquettes, which you can view HERE. The same year he was shown at my retrospective at the National Library of Wales. Finally, in 2013 he won a starring role with Penguin Modern Classics on the cover of the re-edition of Equus in a new livery.

So having been central to a significant body of my work, the little puppet has never before been offered for sale. However, funds are urgently needed for this cause, and so I’ve framed him ready for the auction. (He’s held in position under the glass by very light paper tabs, and so anyone wanting to take him out of the frame, perhaps to blu-tack him to a wall as he’s been accustomed to in my studio, could easily pull him free.)

Please come to enjoy the auction and to buy.

If you cannot attend the event, sealed bids can be accepted by Carol Nixon at

carol.nixon2012@btinternet.com or  by post to her at Tyngwndwn, Penuwch, Tregaron, SY25 6RA.

Auction Venue: Y Morlan, Queens Rd. Aberystwyth

Date: 22nd February 2014

Time: 7.30 pm start. Viewing: 6.00pm

 Statement on behalf of Auriel Martin

Auriel is truly grateful for the support shown by the public and the artistic community over the past 9 months. The end is now hopefully in sight with a 28th February date for her return to work pencilled. She would have been unable to defend her position without the support (both emotional and financial) that she received from friends old and new and the artworks that have been donated for auction are a precious resource given in good spirit and received with humble thanks and appreciation.

Equus through the years

While waiting for the new Penguin Modern Classics edition of Equus in a cover by me to finally appear in bookshops, I’ve discovered that there have been many covers for the play over the years. My favourite is the beautiful black and white image designed by Gilbert Lesser that was the original poster for the play, and later appeared as a cover for the paperback. Here are two versions of it that were made for the ‘Bard’ edition.

There are editions that carry photographic images from the film and various stage versions of the play, though relatively few with ‘artwork’. I haven’t been able to track down with any certainty the designers, publishers and dates of the following covers. (I’d need the knowledge of John Coulthart for that.) But as and when I gather any more information, I’ll be adding to this post.

And the most recent, with an image by me.

Equus, at last

Today my copy of the Penguin edition of Equus arrived. It’s been over a year since the publishing house asked my permission to use a horse/man maquette for the cover of the Shaffer play in its new ‘Modern Classics’ livery, and so it’s been a long wait to get a copy in my hand. But here it is at last, and I don’t mind telling you it’s the biggest thrill for me to  see one of my images make it onto a Penguin book. (Especially this book, which means rather a lot to me.)

The maquette was made as a ‘visual aid’ when I was working on the Old Stile Press illustrated Equus. This means there are currently two available editions of the play carrying my artwork on the covers, a fact I’m finding quite hard to process.

Below: cover of the Old Stile Press illustrated edition of Equus

Below: the Equus maquette. You can see a little film with the figure in:


The book is available direct from Penguin, HERE

The illustrated Equus is available direct from The Old Stile Press, HERE.

it’s been a long wait…

… but it’s out at last:

my cover for the new Penguin Classics Equus!


Available HERE.

Above: Maquette for Equus

Good timing in this year of puppets and horses!


To read more about my relationship with the play Equus, click HERE.