Christmas Raffle

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In the lead up to Christmas, Penfold Press is running a competition. Anyone purchasing The Tiger’s Bride via the Penfold website between now and Christmas Day, will automatically be entered into a raffle to win this original study that I made preparatory to the print.

Measuring 20 x 20 cms and made in coloured pencil and ink on paper, the drawing has been mounted ready for framing. It shows an example of the ‘popular art’ so loved by the Victorians, those picturesque castles, follies, houses and cottages mass-produced by Staffordshire factories, their gleaming white brightened with vibrant brushstrokes of colour. Often made as spill-holders, pastille-burners or stands to hold pocket-watches, they embody a decorative charm that despite the fluctuations of times and tastes, has always found favour in people’s homes. Whatever the realities of life, a bit of Staffordshire can lighten the heart and add a splash of fairytale to a dark winter’s day.

The drawing was one of many made prior to my final work for the print. In the finished print I added a painted Polish folk-art bird to the left-hand tower. I love Polish folk-art and have a fairly big collection of these charming little birds, still made in rural areas of Poland.

The winner will be contacted via email. Good luck!

You can go direct to The Tiger’s Bride page of Penfold Press from HERE, and for anyone interested in Polish Folk Art and the little painted birds in the images above, Zara of the online shop Frank & Lusia always has a good selection in stock HERE. (Or has them for as long as the trade deal holds.)

the artist remembers

Today, two small, still-life paintings of Staffordshire figures, made at Penparc Cottage in 2004. A bonneted Highland shepherd-boy with a ram, and a girl perched sideways on what must be a spaniel the size of a Saint Bernard. I’m not at all sure where the paintings are now… sold I’m quite sure, though I’ve no idea to whom… and I don’t think they’ve ever appeared on the Artlog… or anywhere else for that matter… before today.

I like their roughness and the way the paint becomes something tangible and almost separate to the paintings themselves. I’d been looking at Bonnard and at Winifred Nicholson, both painters I greatly admire. (In the early days I taught myself ‘colour theory’ armed with a catalogue of Winifred Nicholson’s work!)

Here’s a second painting of the Highland shepherd, one I’ve shown on the Artlog before. It was painted at the same time, and clearly I was working a theme. The painting belongs to the artist and curator Frances Woodley, and it’s to appear in an exhibition she’s preparing for Bay Arts in Cardiff later this year, titled All Coherence Gone: Historical currents in contemporary still life.

I didn’t own the figurines, and they weren’t even present at the time of painting save in brief sketches I’d made of them earlier. Interesting that they look so plausibly present in their environment. I did place a stand-in Staffordshire figure on the table, just to get the sense of what the light from behind did to the glaze and colour. But really, although they don’t look it, each of these three paintings was an ‘imagined’ still-life. Not even the striped curtain was real. At that time there were still the rather fussy floral-print curtains left up from the previous owners of the cottage. I painted a notional curtain that I imagined made-up from a fabric I once used for a stage costume. It was gauzily transparent with satin stripes running through it, and I always thought it lovely. Perfect for being ruffled by a warm sea breeze through an open window. Whatever paintings may be for the people who love them, purchase them and live with them, for the artist, or at least this artist, they’re repositories of moments of remembered delight.

Below: from my design portfolio of 1982, textile samples pinned to a costume-fitting photograph taken at the wardrobe workshop of the Bristol Old Vic.

Gown of pale pink on white toile with a satin-striped-gauze-over-silk underskirt, the memory of which surfaced in the painting at the top of this page. The costume was for dancer Sandy Hamilton, who worked regularly with me throughout my career as a choreographer, though this was not her at the costume-fitting, but a maker from the wardrobe department standing in for her. The genius of a wardrobe supervisor working with me at the time was Terry Parr of the Welsh National Opera, who I adored. It was she who taught me this trick of layering transparent fabrics over silks and satins, so that when the dancer pirouetted her skirts would fly and the slippery layers slide against each other to create shimmering effects of light and movement. Later, when I went to Theatr Clwyd to direct and stage-design for the company, Terry came with me to be my costume designer.

those of us who love staffordshire china…

… and paint it.

A still-life with a Staffordshire huntsman. Pastel by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

When you start looking there have been quite a number of 20th century artists who’ve been drawn to paint Staffordshire china, and there are a few contemporary artists, including me, who continue to be fascinated by the strange worlds that the figures evoke.

Staffordshire dogs by Enid Marx (1902 – 1998)

Many favour the iconic King Charles spaniels that have book-ended so many mantelpieces and dressers.

Contemporary artist Alice Patullo’s wittily named Staffordshire Figurines for the Clumsy, are made out of printed and stuffed calico

Staffordshire dog in a painting by Christopher Wood (1901 – 1930)

Contemporary artist Rob Ryan’s take on Staffordshire cats

The spirits of Ravilious, Nicholson, Wood and Wallis echo in the work of contemporary British artist Jonathan Christie. He uses chalky paint rubbed back, together with sgrafitto to create beautiful surfaces. Staffordshire figures are often a feature of his still-lifes

Staffordshire in the work of contemporary painter Emily Sutton. Emily uses starved brush-work in the manner of Ravilious, but her work also reminds me of another woman artist who had a love of the ‘unsophisticated arts’, Barbara Jones

Staffordshire group by contemporary artist Laura Knight

My friend, contemporary artist and illustrator Paul Bommer, here paints Staffordshire dogs onto a faux Delft tile

While I’ve painted quite a few Staffordshire equestrian and equestrienne figures, for me it’s the weird juxtaposition of children with dogs the size of Shetland ponies, and shepherds and shepherdesses with sheep of Brobdingnagian proportions, that have proved themselves the subjects that I find most rewarding.

Staffordshire dog with a boy in a Welsh landscape. Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Staffordshire dog with a girl in a Cornish landscape. Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Staffordshire horseman in Winter Garden. Clive Hicks-Jenkins

A Staffordshire shepherd in The Boy and his Sheep. Clive Hicks-Jenkins

I have some more Staffordshire still-life works coming along for my next exhibition, so watch this space.