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.

BONUS INCLUSION FOR EAGLE-EYED SPOTTERS:
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.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Rose For St. George

I was late beginning work on a piece for St George's Day this year.  It has been a weekend of morris dancing around the Meon Valley in Hampshire, with two sides visiting from Devon.

The jaunt was full of things to draw:  there were bells, sticks, hankies, tankards, hats, tabards, badges, drums, squeezeboxes, pies, cutlasses, hats, ribbons, flowers and a nice green vintage bus.  Saturday ended with songs being shared - oh, and some more dancing.  John wrapped the session up with a song I didn't know called Saint George.  The chorus knocked all my other ideas for six and I even got a little emotional.

For St. George's Day 2017
It became an on-the-morning piece, drawn first thing this morning between getting up and going to Oxford to watch more morris dancing at the Folk Weekend.

You will see featured figures George and Guy, respectively leaping in a jig and playing the melodeon.

Here's that process in full:

  • Go over jig videos
  • Sketch
  • Draw
  • Colour
  • Drying time!
  • Rub out
  • Scan
  • Whack it on the Twitter
  • Dash to the station


Happy St. George's Day!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Clock Tower and NST City

Axis Towers:  my screenprint for a weekend of two tours.
At the weekend I went on two tours in the cultural quarter:  two places that form an axis around Guildhall Square, as shown in this quick print in honour of the two.

First, Southampton's long-talked-about new arts centre.  While the complex will hold a few different arts organisations, the one on show was NST City, the Nuffield Theatre's new venue in the city centre, in addition to the copper-topped wonder remaining up at the university.

It's really a lot grander than I expected and, although it's not finished yet (we were in hard hats) I was impressed by the ambition.  There are two theatre spaces, rehearsal spaces, a bar and cafĂ© and lots of room for milling about.  It's a full-sized regional theatre and genuinely exciting to see, in advance of its opening later this year.
The entire development, Studio 144, is up for an award (Daily Echo) and it's being talked about in lists of new developments in the art world (The Arts Newspaper).

Being on second and third floor level, overlooking Guildhall Square, afforded views not seen since Tyrrell & Green closed, across to the side windows of the art gallery and council offices.  I got that view in reverse the next day on a tour up the Civic Centre clock tower.  These run one or two weekends most months and can be booked through Sea City Museum.  I won't spoil it too much - there were all sorts of stories.  It's spiral stairs from one level to the next, up to the inside of the clock and then up to the bells.

I've been looking at the clock tower all my life and I've drawn it many times, often trying to find new ways to represent the Civic Centre's many aspects in one image.  Here's one, from a Christmas card design in 2013.

My Southampton card design, with the Civic Centre on the right.

Just a few pictures from the clock tower tour - you can go on a sunnier day and take better photos.