Re-making the Fairy Tale

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Daisy Wynter wrote to me at Instagram re. Hansel & Gretel:a Nightmare in Eight Scenes:


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“I love your work so much, I can’t stop looking at it and the wonderful textures you produce. Is it colour pencil or some kind of printing technique for these images?”



I replied:

“The drawings were made in black Faber Castell pencil on either paper or lithography film, with occasional use of collaged textures that I produced myself by various means.



I made separate ‘stencils’ in crayons and paints on lithography film for the colours. The layers of drawings and stencils were assembled digitally by the book’s designer Laurence Beck, which is the point at which the colour was added.


We did it this way so that we could experiment with the colour palette, and this turned out to be a great advantage because along the way we radically changed our ideas to those we’d set out with.


The overall intention was to capture something of the golden age of lithography printing. I’m not keen on illustrations that are essentially photographs of painted artwork reproduced on coated art paper. We planned on uncoated paper and a matt finish throughout the book, and the slight mis-registration that can be one of the delights of lithography and screen printing.


The images and text feel integrated in this way, especially as we added colour to some of the text to denote which characters are speaking.”


Below: several layers of pencil and crayon on lithography film. These were separately scanned and assembled in the computer…


… at which point colour was digitally added.


Below: the tailpiece of the book.

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Frances and the Paper made of Iris and Reed



Frances McDowall, who died on Friday morning, has been much on my mind. Twenty years ago Frances played a significant role in bringing the Old Stile Press edition of Richard Barnfield’s The Affectionate Shepherd to fruition. Every time I open my copy of the book Frances is present in it, our work together literally bonded into the pages.

Nicolas McDowall had been taken by examples he’d seen of the printmaking technique known as Heliography, and asked me to produce images for the Barnfield project by those means. He felt the process might be an interesting way to capture much of what he’d been so attracted to in my drawings. As I proceeded with the work I discovered there were endless difficulties that Nicolas hadn’t identified at the outset, and as I struggled to originate drawings by his suggested technique of scratching into emulsion-coated sheets of glass, Frances began the epic task of making the paper for the entire edition of 200 books.

Below: a surviving fragment of a glass plate and the image as it appears in the book.


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Frances was heroic. It took forever to complete the vast amount of papers required and the processes were painstaking and physically exhausting. Later Nicolas too ran into problems at the press, so it might be fair to say that on The Affectionate Shepherd we all three suffered for our arts. (For a couple of years I was never without elastoplasted fingers because the thin glass plates persistently shattered under the pressure of my styluses. By the end of the project I had broken approximately eight glass plates for every one brought to completion.)


Though the journey was fraught with problems at every stage and it’s a fact that we never again made a book in that particular way, somewhere along the pathways of agonising frustration, wrong turns and undependable techniques, the magic began to happen. Today when I look at the book, Frances’ ravishing sheets, striated and wrinkled and patterned with the marks of the organic ingredients and the drying processes, make a wonderful ground to the meanderings of my lines impressed into their surfaces. In a raking light the marks of my hand and her craft merge into a book the like of which I’ve never seen before or since. Sometimes the ink lines look almost like dark hairs looped and curved and trapped into the paper.


In the colophon at the back of the book, the paper is described thus – perhaps by Nicolas or perhaps by Frances:

“All the paper used in this edition (including the endpapers) was made by Frances McDowall. The furnish used consisted of a mixture of Abaca and Jute, with an admixture of reeds and irises for the endpapers.”


It’s a crisp and matter-of-fact account of a process that was fuelled by energy, passion and the overwhelming imperative by all of us to create something beautiful to frame Barnfield’s poem. Published originally in 1594, the only surviving copy of the first edition of The Affectionate Shepherd available in the UK to view is at the British Library, which is where I went at the outset to examine it. ( I had an alarming encounter there that nearly scuppered the entire enterprise and that you can read about here:…/…/10/birthday-boy/ )

To my knowledge the Old Stile Press book published in 1998 is the only illustrated edition of the poem.



Below: pencil study made in preparation for The Affectionate Shepherd

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‘The odds are high in the making of any book: here the choices entailed a far greater than usual amount of experiment and work by the artist, paper-maker and printer. The result of their collaboration is a triumph.’

Jeremy Greenwood for Parenthesis Magazine.  1998.


Hansel & Gretel is Coming!

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The Premiere at the Cheltenham Festival is on July 7th.

Box Office open from April 4th.

Words: Simon Armitage
Music: Matthew Kaner
Visual Direction: Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Dramaturgy: Caroline Clegg
Producer: Kate Romano for Goldfield Productions


Puppets: Jan Zalud

Model Sets: Philip Cooper

Shadow Puppets: Peter Lloyd

Puppet Wardrobe Supervisor: Oonagh Creighton-Griffiths



Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: fourteen paintings

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For every one of the fourteen screen prints in the Penfold Press Sir Gawain and the Green Knight series, I first made many sketches before producing at least one preparatory painting, and sometimes several. Here are fourteen of the paintings produced toward the printing process. Some are in private collections, and others will be in the forthcoming exhibition at the Martin Tinney Gallery.


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Above: Christmas at Camelot. Private Collection

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The Green Knight Arrives. 2016. Private Collection

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The Green Knight Bows to Gawain’s Blow. Private Collection

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The Green Knight’s Head Lives. Private Collection


The Armouring of Gawain. Private Collection


The Travails. 2016. Gouache and pencil on board. 55 x 55 cms

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Fair Castle: Study for Gawain Arrives at Fair Castle. 2018. Gouache, ink and pencil on board. 55 x 55 cms


Reynard and the Slaughtered Peacocks: Study for The Three Hunts. 2017. Gouache, ink and pencil on board. 55 x 55 cms

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The Happy Rabbits: Study for The Temptations. 2017. Gouache, ink and pencil on paper. 55 x 55 cms

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Vessel: Study for The Exchange. 2017. Gouache, ink and pencil on board. 55 x 55 cms

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The Source: Study for The Green Chapel. 2017. Gouache, ink and pencil on board. 55 x 55 cms

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Suit of Lights: Study for Gawain Staunches the Wound to His Neck. 2017. Gouache, ink and pencil on paper. 55 x 55 cms

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Out of the Fire: Study for Morgan le Fay. 2017. Gouache, ink and pencil on board. 55 x 55 cms

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Shadowed: Study for The Stain of Sin. 2017. Gouache, ink and pencil on paper. 55 x 55 cms


Clive Hicks-Jenkins and the Penfold Press: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – Part II

The Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff

10th January – 27th January 2018

Private View Wednesday, January 10th, 6 – 7.30pm


Print No. 13: The Sorceress

Morgan le Fay is the architect of magic in the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green knight. Here she evolves from drawing through the multiple stencils that will produce the layers of colour in the finished print.

The drawing is made on board and underlies the transparent stencils throughout the process of rendering them, providing me with a guide so that everything aligns. The plastic layers are held in place with alignment pins and punched tabs.


I make textures using a scalpel to cut through lithography crayon.


Opaque red oxide paint is used to create flat areas of colour in the finished print.


The colour samples will guide Daniel Bugg when mixing the inks for printing.


Texturising the beast’s pelt and modelling with shadow.


When overlaid the layers of stencils get very dark. Everything will look completely different when printed in colour.


The outlines of Morgan le Fay, her beast, the flames springing from the beast’s feet and the flowers diapering the composition, have to be carefully drawn around in order to create the background. Because the background is to consist of three layers of colour, the process has to be completed three times, which is both time consuming and a tad boring.



The flames are rendered to lend form.


Here the image has been photographed with just three layers of stencils. There are seven stencils required for the finished print, but when the seven are layered they become so dark that the image doesn’t photograph well.





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 …


… 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.


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.


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.


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)…


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


…. 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.




up in ‘the battery’…

… the floor is littered with drying book-plates for Marly Youman’s Thaliad, awaiting only a trimming. (The air at Ty Isaf is ripe with the smell of oil-based printing-ink and white spirit.) These were promised over at Phoenicia Publishing to the first fifty purchasers of the book, and I regret to report that I’ve been unforgivably tardy over getting the job done. Still, they’ll be off next week. I’ll send all the ones for recipients in the US to Marly or Beth for re-posting, but shall forward the UK bookplates directly. Apologies to everyone for my slowness with this. I’ve been away in the Land of the Mari!

Above: trying out  a print made on coloured paper in another Marly Youmans book, The Foliate Head. The turquoise looks pleasingly jazzy against the red endpapers. I’ll cut a rubber-stamp for my name, as I think the chunkiness of the relief print needs bold lettering for ‘Hicks-Jenkins’ in the space at the bottom. And as I’ll be using this plate in many of my books, a stamp will move things along a bit.

making a cover for Thaliad: the publisher and the artist in e-mail correspondence

Elizabeth Adams to Clive Hicks-Jenkins: 15 June 2012 15:52:42 GMT+01:00

‘Dear Clive, Thaliad will be 6 inches wide by 9 inches high. I haven’t decided yet if we’ll do a hardcover edition as well; I’d like to. The one I did for Dick Jones’ Ancient Lights worked out well, and since this will be a special book — and is, after all, an epic in the long litrary and cultural tradition– collectors might be willing to spring for the hardcover. In that case there will be a jacket with end-flaps, but there’s no possibility within this printing method of doing anything with the endpapers themselves. However, there could be a decoration on the first page, or even an allover pattern if some aspect of your artwork lends itself to that. We don’t need to worry about that at this point, it’s just something to keep in the back of our minds.

Thank you so much for sending the pdf of The Foliate Head. It’s even more gorgeous than I had imagined, and I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands and see those lovely pages on paper. The typography is very beautiful, and the “heads” are fabulous – each breathes with its own internal energy and spirit. It’s going to be a glorious book.

I’m mailing cheques today, including yours.’


Clive Hicks-Jenkins to Elizabeth Adams: 16 June 2012 13:19:58 GMT+01:00

‘The cover for Thaliad is well underway. For a couple of days I made drawings that pursued the fatal fight between Samuel and Ran, because it was the episode that most caught at my imagination in graphic terms. Striking, though I was uneasy that it was rather too male and tough. But then suddenly the sense of nature and of knowledge learned and stored that’s at the heart of Thaliad gripped my imagination, and the cover image became something far more life-affirming and mystical. It is a portrait of Thalia, but not as you might imagine!!! More to do with inner worlds than outer ones.

I shan’t send an image yet, as though the idea is strong the single preparatory drawing dashed off is a fragile thing. However I think the finished image will appeal to both of you, and moreover it has a timeless quality and will definitely catch the eye. To me it is overwhelmingly suffused with Marly! Hope to send you a large file in the next few days.’
Clive to Beth: 16 June 2012 17:23:35 GMT+01:00
‘The ground is going to be very dark. Probably a deep blue/green with a couple of puffy clouds. The head is a silhouette in reverse, and so will be white against the dark. Within the outline of the head there will be a riot of foliage and birds in red, blue, green and yellow. Intense and life-affirming colours. A feel of medieval mille-fleurs and early stitch work. The eye will be painterly… not too flat… and collaged in to make the heart of the image.’
Beth to Clive: 16 June 2012 17:23:35 GMT+01:00
‘Clive, I couldn’t be happier. I think you’ve grasped the essence of the book, and I feel confident it will come across here. The foliate “embroidery” reminds of the New England/colonial tradition of crewel-work, and will be a reminder of that period. It goes back to medieval times, but is still very much alive in many people’s homes. And quite an interesting tie to the Farmers Museum/Fenimore House which are so much a part of Cooperstown. I’ll have a look at some links for you. Not something to go into too literally – since we’re in the future — but a reverberating echo.’

Clive to Beth and Marly: 20 June 2012 08:24:54 GMT+01:00

‘Beth, Marly, there’s an image of the final paste-up on the Artlog today, though I plan on re-making the Y of Youmans to be a little ‘brighter’. Peter will photograph the artwork under proper lights when he returns tomorrow evening. This has all gone relatively smoothly, hasn’t it? Nothing like the clock ticking to concentrate the mind.

A good time to thank you both for passing this my way. It’s not often these days that artists get the opportunity to make the type of hand-crafted imagery for covers that I so enjoy producing. Photographs and photo-shop seem to have taken over at the big publishing houses, and to my eye the results are too often characterless. I guess I’m a dinosaur here, one of the old brigade.

The back cover artwork will follow later today. Quite simple, with plenty of room for blurb etc.’

Comment from Beth at the Artlog: 19 June 2012 15:17:14 GMT+01:00

‘Clive, we will do our best to make sure the book is indeed beautiful to look at, and does justice to this wonderful artwork. I too despaired of what to put on the cover, because the poem covers such a span of time and change. I had hoped you might settle on a portrait of Thalia, but didn’t suggest it — isn’t it odd how things work out? One of the aspects of the illustration I love the most, and was surprised by this morning, were those bright red lips. For me, they connect with the fruits– for Thalia represents life, and growth: sustenance received and sustenance given — but she also grows from girl to woman. Clive, it’s perfect, thank you so very much!’

Thaliad is available as a paperback or hardback, and may be purchased from the following sites.

Order from the Phoenicia Publishing online store

Order from

Order from Amazon.UK

Order from Amazon Europe

in today’s post…

… a copy of the paperback edition of Thaliad.

Beth’s design for the book is beautiful. She has such a fine touch in the matter of how the poetry sits on the page, and she’s been most sensitive to the reproduction of my images, which have a lovely, silvery delicacy. The cover art too, has been handsomely reproduced, and will hopefully do its job of attracting the eye wherever the book is displayed in bookshops, or whenever an image of it is used for online reviews or promotional purposes.

Now I await my copies of the hardback edition, which are currently en-route from the US.

Meanwhile, after yesterday’s disaster of forgetting to reverse the image before cutting it, at my desk I’m underway with a new block for the bookplate that is to accompany the first fifty copies of Thaliad ordered, paperback or hardback. When complete, the plates will be forwarded to their new owners, ready to adorn their copies of the book. A little Christmas present from Marly, Beth and me.

The drawing transferred in reverse onto the lino-block. This is the crucial stage that caught me out yesterday, when I transferred and then cut a positive image onto the lino.

Scratching selected areas of the block with an etching needle will lend tone to the finished print.

I regularly check on progress by making Conté pencil rubbings on thin paper placed over the block. These give a rough idea of how the work is shaping up.

Furious Embrace: Clive Hicks-Jenkins and Damian Walford Davies in conversation

Damian and I have been booked by the Contemporary Art Society of Wales to speak on the 1st December in Cardiff about the interface of poetry and art. What’s planned is a dialogue between the two of us, peppered with readings and accompanied by a rolling display of paintings on a screen. Furious Embrace is the Hervé and the Wolf painting title that Damian borrowed last year for his chapter on poetry in my monograph, and it energetically… and of course poetically… captures a spirit of what it can feel like when the painter and the poet engage creatively. The offspring of such couplings can occasionally take even the participants by surprise, as offspring have a way of doing.

The event has been arranged by CASW for its members, and I believe is already fully subscribed. But perhaps it’s an idea that Damian and I might be persuaded to air on another occasion, as we’ve already been approached by a bookshop here in West Wales to do something similar.