I was recently one of five artists commissioned by ROAR (Rotherham Open Arts Rennaissance) to produce a ‘Trail’ that would give people the opportunity to explore the local environment, whilst helping with their physical and emotional well-being. I decided to try and get people to look around at the decorations and embellishments found on many buildings in the town centre, drawing them and building them into a composite Green Man figure. (Rotherham Minster has a renowned example of a Green Man carving) Whilst planning the trail, I was actually inspired to do the activity for myself – something I found hugely enjoyable and which resulted in the image shown. The project is called RothTrails and can be accessed from the ROAR website.
This image started life as a drawing of an Asrai – a sea creature with webbed feet and hands, that is occasionally but rarely seen by man. However, half-way through the designing process, I decided to change it to a mermaid as this is an image more people would be familiar with. The design is printed using Traditional Gold Ink on blue, Japanese Washi Paper.
Continuing the series of prints based on the children’s book, “A Stranger Came Ashore”, the image above is from the part in the story where the so-called ‘Guizers’ are dancing from house to house, bringing good luck (Earth Magic) to all and suddenly, everyone is stilled by the awe-inspiring sight of the ‘Merry Dancers’ or the Northern Lights.
The image below is how I imagine the Great Selkie’s Palace; a place under the sea where young, golden-haired maidens have been lured by the Great Selkie to live as his queen, but where ultimately, they will die and their hair be used to make the palace’s roof. This is one of the many stories Old Da tells his grandson Robbie, much to the consternation of the rest of the family who believe the old man, rather than just passing on old legends, is actually ‘filling the young lad’s head with nonsense.’
In my previous life as a Primary School teacher, I always put great value on the reading of stories to the whole class and would choose them carefully. One story on which I took a risk was, “A Stranger Came Ashore” by Mollie Hunter. It was a risk because it isn’t funny, it isn’t in the modern day and it is set in the Shetlands – an environment totally alien to the children I taught; the school is in the middle of a tough, inner-city housing estate. However, the story is so beautifully written that it is able to transport the children into another world and it was the only story I haver ever read, in over thirty years of teaching, where the class involuntarily clapped the ending, smiles all over their faces.
I have decided to take various sections of the story and try to represent them in print. To me, the themes of Old Magick and the supernatural, are very much in keeping with the majority of my artistic output. This first image is of the small, fictional village of Blackness where the story begins and where it is mostly set.
For some time now, I have been wanting to make a print of the magical stones to be found at the World Heritage Site of Avebury – one of the biggest stone circles in Europe. Having tried (and failed miserably) to do a collagraph print, I settled back on a lino cut. However, this time I used sponges rather than rollers to apply the inks to give it more of a textured finish. Whilst there are undoubtedly some flaws evident, I am generally very pleased with the finished result; there is a very graphic quality to the image but that reflects my drawing style, which has always ended up with quite well-defined, thick lines, even when I try not to!
For the November round of the “One of Many Postcard” initiative, I decided to take the image of the Green Man that can be seen carved at the top of one of the columns inside Rotherham Minster. The original carving has the traditional vines issuing from the mouth but I wanted to isolate (and flatten) the face. The postcard version was slightly cropped to fit the card size, but here is the full, uncropped version. The background was made using sponges rather than a roller.
Having come to the end of their time in the chapel at Wentworth Woodhouse, I was delighted to be asked if I would consider placing them in the ‘Forest Classroom’ at St Thomas’ Primary School in Rotherham. Of course I agreed, and spent a wet morning positioning them appropriately. It was quickly apparent that this was where they truly belonged; nestled amongst the trees and bushes, enhanced by, and enhancing the natural setting. I realise that, being made from MDF, the panels probably won’t last very long before rotting, but that too seems an appropriate end to their life.
At last, now the Wentworth Woodhouse Media wheels have started to turn, I can reveal that I am one of the lucky few artists to have received a commission to display my work in the chapel. You may (or may not) know that Wentworth Woodhouse, built in the 1700s near Rotherham, England, is the longest stately home in the country and is in the lengthy process of being renovated; something that will take many years. The chapel is in the main body of the house and is a particularly beautiful place to exhibit.
I decided to create an installation called, “Outside In” that recreated a stylised sacred woodland glade, as would have been used by ancient people, inside the chapel – thus bringing together not only the outside and the inside, but the old and the new – ancient symbols, including the Green Man and a Sheela-Na-Gig seen in a place decorated with images of Christian worship.
The 2 metre-high panels were all carved using a hand-held jigsaw. At the end of the chapel can be glimpsed an altar-like area, with a lighted box – revealed only after having passed through the panels.
The installation runs until the end of October.
Whilst it might seem to some that this print goes against my self-imposed remit of “Contrasts and Anomalies”, the very fact that it is not obviously in keeping with my other work is actually a contrast! However, I would maintain that a black cat easily falls in with my other work, in that it is often the subject of other-worldly superstition and legend, much like the Green Man figure. The picture is of our own cat, appropriately named Salem, and she does look in a somewhat sombre mood. The registration isn’t perfect and I am intending to hand paint the eyes next week, but I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out. It is printed on 7×5″ cards and on a limited run of A4 Hoshi paper. They are for sale, please get in touch – through my Instagram page (@grooveware_art) is probably the easiest way, as I haven’t got around to setting up a shop yet. I will soon.
In an effort to redress the balance somewhat, I have carved and printed my version of a Green Woman, or Mother Nature. The idea is that the face is seen in a tree branch, surrounded by foliage. I have printed this image on white A6 cards and on brown, recycled paper. I am planning on reprinting the image but with a background texture, printed from a highly grained piece of wood.