Monday, 23 April 2018

St George's Day 2018

I have only minutes to make my annual post in honour of St. George's Day.

Busy with long walks, printmaking with students, the whirl of the morris, baking, squash, coastwatch and plumbing, I didn't put the time in for my national saint until about an hour ago.

Well, before the day ends, here it is, torn from the pages of the local paper of my mind.

Hooray for England and Saint George!

Friday, 30 March 2018

Hot Cross Buns

Buns as tiles.
Easter is imminent. It wasn't when I started thinking about hot cross buns.

Medieval clay tiles are a favourite feature of a trip to many cathedrals. They're in countless churches, abbeys, palaces, castles and sundry other edifices in the heritage oeuvre. The ones that I know best are at the east end of Winchester Cathedral. Some are in carpets of a repeating pattern; others patches are a jumble of motifs.

Last May I learnt a bit about the process behind medieval tiles at a one-day medieval tilemaking course - run by the Company of Artisans, at Weald & Downland Museum in Sussex. I got to reproduce a historical design and make a few tiles of my own.

All through the day, the tiles made me think of food. In their unfired raw clay form, they looked like chocolate slabs. Fired and unglazed they looked like the best gingerbread. In a glossy ensemble they reminded me of batches of buns. It's since then that I've been thinking about buns and how to make them look like medieval tiles.

Winchester Cathedral tiles
from my fish-eye phase.
I'm no great baker and my experience with yeast is limited, so don't expect too much. Improving something over several attempts is something of a new experience.

I focused on the topping (which is a piped mixture of flour and water and some colouring) but in each batch I tinkered with the spices and orange rind and the balance of fruit (NB. 80s funk band?).

Here are the developmental stages that have formed a wave, torrent, barrage, parade, season and surfeit of buns: my bunsperimentation.

Touching but not close enough.
(I'm not showing you the first batch)

A repeating tile pattern, before baking - and a little too tight.

Slow piping work, copying a section of Winchester's tiles.

Browned and blobby and in need of refinement.

The final batch isn't the apotheosis of the fine art bun but it's my last before Easter and I dug a duvet cover out for presentation, so here's the peak of my medieval encaustic tile hot cross bun phase for 2018.

The ultimate (if unglazed) bun batch.

There aren't any crosses (although some designs have certain elements in fours or fives, which can have a religious significance) and a lot of the time the buns weren't warm - so perhaps they should be "not cross buns".

Excuse the crushing wit and excuse my excursion into recipe blog territory. Happy Easter and enjoy your hot and/or cross buns!

My tiles after glazing and firing by the Company of Artisans.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Caper, Caper, Clash

The year since I took up morris dancing has been long enough only to encounter a fraction of its tradition and lore.  There's a deep mine of colourful customs; a wealth of very specific and subtle differences.  It has linked up titbits of folk history half-remembered from museums and children's books.  I'll be a beginner for a long time.

This week the year's complement of dancing events begins - at least for me.  I'm going to a school hall in Hampshire to see bunch of morris sides from across the south, many of whom I hadn't heard of despite the many events last year.
Twelve morris men... who will know what I got wrong!

I'd like to get the quirks and character down in ink on paper.  Sketching at an event is a laudable aim but not for me and not for a night of drink and dance.  What I like better is a good stint of research and time to think of things to pick out and fit in.

Here's my page showing the sides who I was told may be represented on the night.  I combed through pictures and group websites for the specifics of each group's kit and colours.  The result is a bunch of made-up figures, not real people from photos.

This sort of thing helps me to learn what's what in a complex oeuvre.  I feel a bit more prepared for what I'll see, even if things turn out to be wrong (such as Winchester's eight-foot jig champ).  It's no document, just a cheerful array of ribbons and bells, hats festooned with flowers and tin badges, tabards, baldricks and belchers.

Bonus list:  some of the best names of dances from Lionel Bacon's "A Handbook Of Morris Dances", known as "The Black Book":
Bare-footed QuakerBluff King HalBuffoonCaptain With His WhiskersCurly-headed PloughboyDevil Among The TailorsGallant HussarHunting The SquirrelLollipop ManLumps Of Plum PuddingOld Woman Tossed Up In A BlanketRoast BeefShave The DonkeySwaggering BoneyThree Jolly Black SheepskinsTravel By SteamWalk Of The 2d PostmanWebley Twizzle

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Odds And Ends

It's the time to gather up loose fragments and offcuts for slightly mystified inspection.  Before I get stuck into my seasonal artwork campaign (by which I mean complicated Christmas cards), I've looked through a variety of pads and books from this year to collect some snippets, drawn for a variety of purposes.

A bunch of sketchbook oddments from this year.

Next up are a couple of Autumn sketches.  This week I spent a couple of days scrub-bashing with the countryside team in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, between Portsmouth and Petersfield.  We were lopping and sawing thorn bushes from the sides of a combe below Butser Hill and rolling them down to the valley, over rabbit holes in the damp grass.  I drew this in situ over lunch and coloured it at home, hoping to reflect the colours of the trees the other side of the A3.

Scrub-bashing on Butser Hill.

A few weeks earlier I wandered across London's Primrose Hill, into Camden and to the Cecil Sharp House, home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.  I have been in there once, a long time ago.  It's smart and slightly grave behind the rapidly thinning plane and birch.  It's good to get out and draw before breakfast - well, sometimes.

One of North London's mysterious gems, the Cecil Sharp House.

Here's to next year's drawing.  I think sketchbooks should be on my Christmas list.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Bonfire Night Sparklers

Last Autumn it was conkers that got me excited.  This year it's sparklers.  (Will it be mittens on elastic next year?)

They're probably what I look forward to the most at a firework display and I have fond memories of sparklers in dark, damp back gardens.

First of three linocuts:  three scintillating sparklers.

I had fun producing these lino images of coruscating sparks, harsh but tamed, between bonfire smoke and one's own breath, the sharpness of the sparklers matches the crispness of the air.

Second linocut:  two sparklers and a November moon.

The prints are in three different shapes and on two types of lino (one being quite rough and misty), with aspects of monoprint and a fade from blue to black.

Third linocut:  a single sparkler in a smoky garden.

Having got these together during the week, I had my humble back garden firework party last night, with a full moon, as foretold in art.  They sparkled and went out - a tantalisingly transient pleasure.

The same again but in real life!

I think they're better in print than in photos.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Romsey Cards At Rum's Eg

Just a quick one to say that, as of last month, my cards are on sale at Rum's Eg in Romsey.

You can buy them and then tour the town to identify each piece of the drawing.

Nearly everything in Romsey!

You might not find the hockey stick.

Friday, 26 May 2017

A Flag For Riverfest

Up in time for Riverfest:  my flag at Riverside Park.
Ace local jamboree Riverfest is on tomorrow (27th May) at Riverside Park in Southampton.  Here's the website.

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to come up with a design for a flag!  My artwork has often been about Southampton (see these drawings for a songbook); I love fitting local detail in and I'm all about activities on the water (even if I haven't participated in a while), so it was a perfect job for me.  Plus a flag is a step up from bunting (see my hand-printed bunting for the mayor).

Ideas for the Itchen
The brief:
  • a flag
  • the S shape of the Itchen
  • the bridges
  • activities on the water
  • the communities either side of the river

I tried a few things with layouts, borders and text.  The bottom right one looked best, albeit without the area names and "Riverfest" and with colours to match Riverfest's existing graphics.
What to put where

Now came the proper layout - what to put where; which of the various little drawings I had tried to fit in where.  The colours were to be applied on the computer, so I drew in black but the green, yellow and pink had to be balanced right.

Here is the list of real things shown or at least represented.

In the river:
Dinghies, a barge, a rowing boat, kayakers, ageing hulks, swans and fish.

The pen drawing
Around the river:
Kayaks, fenders, Woodmill, more hulks, a lifebelt on Cobden Bridge, the railway line, buoys, the marinas, the cycle path, the ancient Cross House, the willows of Riverside Park, the miniature railway, the strange castle house, the ruins of Roman Clausentum, a pear tree (for Peartree Green, up the hill), the Woolston Ferry (the "floating bridge" that was replaced by the Itchen Bridge in the 1970s), a rope and a chain (so nautical), gulls, a dog and a duck.

To the west:
The 1960s buildings of Southampton University (Maths and Faraday), City Gateway ("the fag butt"), one of the gasometers  and St. Mary's Stadium, the mosque and churches (Highfield and St. Mary's (and St. Denys, which I now realise has no spire)) and various generic residential and business areas and parks.

To the east:
The clock tower at Bitterne Triangle (it was originally in the city centre), the Centurion industrial park, the new development at Woolston, the obelisk in Mayfield Park, the towers of Thornhill and Townhill Park and more churches (Ascension and Peartree) and other buildings of all sorts.

In the corners:
Oak, hawthorn, bracken and nettles.

The flags in the wavy divides either side of the river spell out (as well as they can in only black and white) RIVERFEST and SOUTHAMPTON!

In full colour:  the Riverfest flag ready to print

The final image went off to the printers last week, to be put on a flag of six by four feet.  Today I was glad to see how well it worked blown up from A4 size.  The parks team came and put it up on the flag pole and here I am holding it!

Flying my flag
See you at Riverfest.