Thursday, 31 July 2014


A maritime, shipping and cargo themed RSVP pattern.  Count the ways I say it.

... please do!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Reinstatement and Reissue

Cowering unloved behind a red curtain for the last 20 years because it went ‘out of fashion’, the mural has been quietly waiting to be brought back into school life.
There you have two familiar stories:  the neglect of decorative art in public buildings and the eventual exoneration of mid-century themes and styles.  [And there you have a fine dissertation title.]

Something sharp behind the arras:
Gordon Cullen's Greenside Mural.
This Saturday, 10th May, at at Greenside Primary School, London, Gordon Cullen's restored 1952 mural for the school will be celebrated.  The attendant festivities include a film about the mural; maypole dancing; the 20th Century Graphic Art Fair; vintage this-and-that and a new old Eric Ravilious print.  The quote above comes from the press release.  All Things Considered (St. Jude's) has a good write-up.

I didn't know about this story until recently.  The Greenside Mural Facebook page documents the gradual fundraising and restoration over the past few years.  Other murals, like Edward Bawden's at Morley College, were lost to unkind decades before the artists' reappraisal came around.  Ravilious has been gathering adoring book-buyers in the new millennium.

Nairn's London.
The other overdue celebration this weekend is that of the topographical writer Ian Nairn at the Festival Of Ideas in Bristol.  On Sunday, at The Watershed, a few of his TV films will be shown, with discussion between Owen Hatherley (of A Guide To The New Ruins Of Great Britain), John Grindrod (of Concretopia) and others.

The forgotten 1966 hit "Nairn's London" is to be reissued, following another slow-growing campaign of small voices in the wilderness.

I will be at the art fair with some of my own work (I'm still putting a bundle together), hoping to get the commemorative letterpress poster and maybe copy of Gordon Cullen's Townscape.  Here is a good guide to buying mid-century prints at Mid Century Magazine.  My partner Adam will be at the Nairn event, having campaigned for that reissue - but we'll each wish we could be at the other one too.

Finally, the winning entries for this year's Serco Prize For Illustration show a love of old transport posters and architectural guides - particularly the pieces by Eliza Southwood and Gill Bradley.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

St George's Cakes

"The cakes of England" are many and varied.  The named ones are not quite so evenly distributed.

I left out lots of savoury things (Dorset Knob, Bedfordshire Clanger) and sweets (Pontefract Cakes and Kendal Mint Cake.  Saint George (credit to Uccello's Saint George And The Dragon) is interested only in sweet cakes, buns and biscuits.

If there's one thing that makes me get a piece of work done it's St George's Day.  Last year's is here.  I made plans and demonstrations for this one some weeks ago, and wanted to get it all printed this week.  Yesterday morning I found that the date had crept up on me.  Over breakfast time, and feverishly, I cut most of the cake shapes.  Over lunchtime (the lunch break from jury service) I inked them up and got some prints.  The text came together in time for supper.

As I write this, I've just been asked if I know any St George's Day songs - specifically ones that are suitable to teach to a class of six-year-olds.  Do you know any?

More importantly, have you ever seen a Kentish huffkin?

Happy Saint George's Day!

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Treasures Of Jordan

My sister is flying to Jordan right now, to visit a friend in the capital, Amman, and see the many historical sites.  I knew nothing about Jordan, so I'm looking forward to hearing about it.  In preparation, here is the sum of what I've looked up this morning, based on my sister's plans and other itineraries that are available - ancient sites on the Kings' Highway; crusader castles; snorkling...

The start of a learning journey about Jordan.

A search throws up some great mosaics in Madaba, and the fact that King Abdullah had a small part in Star Trek Voyager.  My apologies to the Jordanian interior and for any names that are wrong.  Oh, and once again I've skirted with potential offence by trying to draw Arabic text.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Fruits Of The Press

My badge.
Two weeks in a room full of presses had to result in a few things to show, printing from lino, card and silkscreen.

As I have a supervisory rôle, I needed a badge to adorn my apron, to accustom the student body to my capacity and to show that I mean business.

Rebecca said that, upside-down, it looked like a toothy grin.

Painted pebbles.

The shelves and sills of my family home used to be dotted with painted pebbles.  My mother had picked out nice round ones and painted detailed butterflies.  Now they are outside the back door, in a little bed of varnished stones, and butterflies have given way to flowers.

That became a little lino print for Mothering Sunday.  It was quick and sinuous and simple.

Vegetables and fruit.

Now that Adam and I have an allotment, I expect its produce to creep into my work.  By the end of the year I will be drawing only squashes and peapods.

Working with card on card (for super-embossment), on the etching press (which required some tinkering with the Big Spanner), this piece is a quick celebration of our new endeavour:

broccoli, tomatoes, courgette (or marrow, depending on depth perception), onions, pumpkin, carrot, runner beans, chillies and rhubarb (or chard, depending on preference).

Silchester walk in detail.

The three-colour screenprint of a walk near Silchester fits into this post, although I wrote about it last week.  Here is a crop.

If you like a neat rural jumble, or the silent brashness of a farm field, look at the work of Carol Lander and Carry Akroyd.

As for screenprinting, the lesson to learn is to think about registering the layers.  To think about it early and to keep thinking about it at every stage.

Three little cakes.

Finally some card-cut cakes, which are a test piece for something to come.

Any other projects are under my hat for now.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


Silchester must be Hampshire's largest Roman site.  Calleva was a Roman town on the road from Londinium to Sorviodunum (Salisbury).  An uneven octagon of low walls filled with farm fields and abandoned excavations might not be the most potent historical experience.  Still, it was a satisfying goal-post for a country walk.

Starting at little Mortimer station, the route wove along the border of Hampshire and Berkshire, skirted the edges of farm fields and passed under lines of pylons, over stiles and along deep-set drovers' paths.  The Roman road marked on the map appeared to run under a field.  Most of the trees are still bare but the oilseed rape is beginning its display and the hedgerows are coming to life.  Fairly early on a sunny Saturday morning, everything was quiet except for chattering pheasants, shouts from riding practice, the distant rushing of trains and the trilling and mewing of what might have been a buzzard.  A red kite flew up right in front of us; a snake hissed and slid gracefully into the grass; sheep's wool fluttered from where it had snagged on a fence.

My screenprint of a walk near Silchester. 

I put this print together yesterday.  I almost threw it together and I'm glad of the urgency in the drawing and the registering.

Here is Adam's lifestyle photo of tea from a thermos outside the Calleva Arms ("4 Michelin Tyres!") in Silchester village.  We went in and had their stilton chips.

Tea in the sun at Silchester.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Working 5 to 9

Back in print.
Look who's back in the printroom!

Solent keeps the facilities open late for the busy illustration and graphics students preparing for their degree shows.  I've been given a supervisory rôle.  On weekday evenings I hold the keys and wear the apron.

When I've told people about the new job, half of them aren't sure what I mean:  it's not about toner; it's not the art collection of a Regency mansion (almost equally desirable).

It means making a mess with the intaglio inks, mopping up the leaking water from the hose cabinet; operating heavy presses...  and, if you've ever seen the sink in an art room, you can imagine the splattering and grime, which I particularly enjoy scrubbing.

When I'm not doing that, or helping students, I can get some of my own prints done.

The university website has an interactive tour of the art school - see here - including a blurry shot of me, a year or two ago, waving some big sheets of paper about.