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 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.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Games Cupboard

It's the night before the night before Christmas and I'm looking forward to some comfy evenings in with home-made biscuits, a wide range of cheeses and a well-stocked games cupboard.

Here's a quick array of some of the games that must be brought out from some nook for the holidays.  There should be travel sets and novelty cards and battered heirlooms held together with yellowed sellotape.  I don't understand cribbage, canasta, bridge or backgammon, but you can always play with the pieces idly, and their presence is comforting somehow.

Good old games, from bridge to yahtzee.

Only a few weeks ago, I discovered the chess & bridge shop on Baker Street.  It's curiously entrancing, even for someone who plays neither game (at least without getting frustrated), and a warming presence in a famous but quiet part of London.

Now, as the weather outside truly is frightful, I wish everyone safe journeys and warm firesides.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Where I Work

For the past three months I've had a desk at The Design Chapel.  It's one of the little cemetery chapels in Southampton Old Cemetery, converted for office use, with an upper floor installed.

My desk is behind those shelves, by the perpendicular piping.

Over the past week I've made daily sketches of the inside, picking views where the office furniture contrasts with the Victorian gothic walls.

Looking up from my desk to the dove window.

Upstairs, by the stained glass window.

The altar of printing.

The kitchen, built against the arches.

At this time of year, the owls are hooting and screeching outside by the end of the working day.  In Summer there are bats:  I don't know if they make use of the chapel, but it does have a little belfry.

The outside of the chapel is rich with detail, so I'll make a study of its Romanesque columns and medieval-y gargoyles before long.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Southampton's Coat Of Arms

Southampton's coat of arms.
Here are the arms of my home town:  three roses...  red and white...  hearty and unfussy.

Of course, the coat of arms is displayed here and there around the city.  I remember staring at the one on the wall of the scout hut, with a strange woman rising out of the top of a castle.  You can find several versions online (including this page of postcards and cigarette cards).  There are a few variations, chief of which is the ambiguity over which way round the red and white are, with the counter-charged roses.  I've seen a description that left the matter open, to the effect of "three roses on a shield that is half red and half white":  with three roses divided between two halves, you can go either way.

The official description, here at the council's website, is more specific, and blames a seventeenth-century herald for drawing it up wrong and causing confusion.  But is the figure on top a queen, or is she Lady Justice?

Recently it has been my turn to draw the coat of arms, on a Christmas card for the mayor.  In the past I've made a few experiments, such as this linocut for a border, showing the elements of the coat of arms - the roses, lions, ships-on-a-sea, castle-on-a-mound and the "quene in her splendour" holding a sword and scales - all processing out from the shield.

My linocut of the figures from Southampton's crest.

Drawing the whole crest involves working out the mantle (the fabric floating either side of the helmet) and getting the ships and lions right.  Having spent seven months in Venice, and possibly spent a total of seven months of my life looking at books on heraldry, I might have hoped to be better at drawing lions by now!  The final piece includes six in total - including the two that are smaller than a fruitfly, either side of the dome of the Royal Pier building.

The project took a few drafts and conversations, concerning what the mayor wanted and what I like drawing.  We ended up with an array of buildings around the crest.  I can't draw a bunch of local buildings without including Wyndham Court, and I was sad to have no space for the Harbour Lights cinema.  The quarter-jacks of Holyrood Church are a favourite; the Red Lion pub's half-timbering is fun to draw [an aside:  last night I enjoyed Jonathan Meades' 1998 programme on Worcestershire - here is his barrage of half-timbering].  Buoys and container ships are another essential element.

The bridges circling the coat of arms are the Itchen Bridge, Cobden Bridge and the old Redbridge.

Southampton!  The mayor's Christmas card for 2013.

To finish, here are two of the various old badges available for the London & South Western Railway Company, using (without permission!) the arms of London (top left), Southampton (bottom left), Portsmouth (bottom right), Winchester (centre right) and Salisbury (top right).

Now it's time to make my own Christmas card, and I must live with the niggling fear that I got something wrong in the crest.

(two days later)

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Sea Inside

Philip Hoare in the my work last year.
With apologies.
Philip Hoare's "The Sea Inside" was published this Summer.  As he's from Southampton...  and the book is about the sea and Southampton...  and Southampton is all about the sea...  and illustrators are all about the sea...  a project came about, involving the school of art at Southampton.

(Last year, when I hadn't met him, I included him in the "writers" section of my "People Of Southampton" piece.  It's not a great likeness.  I gave him the tail of the whale, for his celebrated book "Leviathan - or The Whale")

The exhibition came together in time for the start of the new student year, but it began in March or April.  It was a bit hush-hush at first, because the book wasn't out yet.  We had excerpts to work from...  I'll give you the description from the exhibition:

The Suburban Sea is a collaborative art project between three organisations:  Red Hot Press, Southampton's Open Access Print Workshop; Southampton Solent University's Unsinkable Press and Students at Norges Kreative Fagskole in Oslo, Norway.

Taking inspiration from the opening chapter of The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare, artists from each organisation were asked to respond on a single sheet of Somerset Paper.  This was then passed on to the next organisation and given to an artist or student to work on again - this time responding to both the initial extracts of the book and the work that was now on the paper.  After the second artist had worked on the paper it was passed on again.

It proved to be an interesting and, at times, challenging project asking artists to work blind, to challenge their existing practice and to explore new mediums of working.

We hope that you like the results.

My "first layer" of a collaborative piece.

"Working blind" really is a strange challenge - leaving space for the next artist, who might respond differently, and hoping that they wouldn't obscure what I'd done.  Working on top of someone else's layer was even harder.

I picked the excerpt that described swimming in Southampton Water (he does it every day), and fleshed it out with vignettes of life on the waves:
"The water is so clear it scares me.  Fish jump up as though they'd dropped out of the clouds.  Everything is rising to the surface, summoned by the light, slowed to the sea's heartbeat.  The water brims like an overrun bath.  I push out through the stillness of the standing tide, my hands creating the only ripples."

The piece on the wall with another layer on top.

Only at the exhibition / start-of-term celebration did I get to see what happened.  Some of the pieces (including two more that I worked on) had three or four layers.  My first had only one layer on top, which I'm pretty sure is Jonny Hannah's work.

Experimental illustration from Southampton School Of Art & Design!

A few of the collaborations in the exhibition.

Look at Philip Hoare's blog - Leviathan Or The Whale.