If God Invented Owt Better…

For many years now, I have kept a little book in which I note down anything I hear people say or anything I might read that either amuse me or that I just want to remember. Quite obviously (I hope!) based on “Absinthe” by Edward Degas, the idea for this image came to me as we were setting our gear up on the stage for a gig at Maltby Catholic WMC a couple of years ago. The concert chairman climbed into his little box at the side of the stage, took the first sup of his pint of bitter (beer), smacked his lips and said, “If God invented owt better, he hid it.” He undoubtedly said this every night but it amused me and the phrase had to go into my book. There was a later conversation across the room when he asked if a lady had any plasters in her bag as he had cut his finger. She answered that she hadn’t, so he asked what he was going to do. Her answer also had to go into my book – “Tha’ll have to bleed to death won’t tha’!” It was all very light-hearted and full of laughter, typical Northern humour.

Sheffield – My Home Town

Back when I was at university studying art, I based a series of prints on Park Hill Flats, in my hometown of Sheffield. Many considered them to be an eye-sore but I always loved the lines and angles and especially how the new mixed with the old – quite a common feature of the architecture in the city at the time. I took many photographs, this being one that I never actually used at the time. The current government has an obvious disdain for the North of Britain, and clearly don’t care or really know anything about the region in which I live, the pandemic heightening this utter disregard. I have always been a reasonably proud Yorkshireman but never quite as much as I am now – angered and saddened by the aforementioned lack of thought about anywhere north of Watford. I am made in Sheffield.

These were the background layer but I think I actually prefer them in some ways to the finished image with all the detail.

Faces Everywhere!

If you’d asked me to draw a picture of Bacchus (Roman god of wine and pleasure – originally of fertility) I’m not sure what it would have come out like, but this face is taken directly from a knotty lump on a tree in Clifton Park, Rotherham, that just shouted out “Face!” at me! I quickly drew it, cut and printed it, only then realising that it was exactly how I imagine the god Bacchus to look – bucolic, laughing and with an ever-so-slightly manic look in his eyes. I usually try my very best to not have the surrounding background ‘chatter’ or ‘noise’ in a print, but on this occasion felt it somehow added to the laughter emanating from his face.

Skater Girl

A one-off print for a very special little girl’s third birthday. She is already skating and loves being on the ice. The colour has been chosen specifically as it has a link to her name – other colours are available!

Castlerigg Stone Circle

I’ve been wanting to make a print of this for some time now. It is taken from an original photograph of mine, which was taken early one morning at the site, high up on the hills near Keswick in the Lake District. It is a very beautiful place and can often be quite busy, but get there early and you can have the place all to yourself, as we did on this occasion. I tried to keep the print simple, focusing on the actual stones rather than the surrounding hills. The colours are nothing like representative of what is there, but I’m pretty happy with the result.

Busy, Busy, Busy

I have been neglecting my blogging duties lately, mainly because I have been desperately trying to get various ideas out of my head and onto paper! The first two images shown were inspired by a visit to St Peter’s Church in Conisbrough; one of the oldest buildings in South Yorkshire. This visit had been inspired by reading the book “South Yorkshire Folk Tales” which mentions what is thought to be either a Viking or Saxon tomb cover that can be seen inside the church. The stone is carved with what appears to be a figure, possibly St George, defending a cowering Bishop from a dragon. I took the theme and researched examples of knights, bishops and dragons depicted in Medieval art to make a composite image. The smaller “face” print is a two dimensional representation of a carving to be found on one end of the same tomb cover.

We spent some of the Summer holidays in Northumberland and on the East coast of Yorkshire. I took photographs of images I already had prepared in my head (from previous visits to these places) to produce the prints of Lindisfarne Castle and a couple of small fishing boats in the harbour at Staithes near Whitby. I also have a couple more prints ready to go when I get a lull (haha!) You see, I can’t even switch my mind off when I go on holiday! I am currently working on three images, one at the carving stage, one at the inking stage and one at the initial drawing stage.

Wistman’s Wood

Another two block, reduction print, but this time using Ternes Burton registration pins – a world of difference and how on earth I managed before, I really don’t know! This is the first time ever that I have started on a print run of ten and ended up with ten good prints – hurray! The image is of Wistman’s Wood, a particularly twisted and tangled woodland in Dartmoor, in places so dense that it is almost impossible to get through. Everything there seems to be green – the mossy stones, the leaves, the tree trunks – hence the overall green colour of the print.

A Stranger Raven

This is the latest image from my series inspired by the children’s novel, “A Stranger Came Ashore” by Mollie Hunter. In this, the finale, Robbie is standing on the edge of a ‘voe’ (a bay or inlet in the Shetlands) about to be beaten by The Great Selkie when, as promised, his school teacher Yarl Corbie appears in his ‘other’ magical form as a gigantic Raven, and attacks the Selkie, gouging out his eyes and sending him off into the ocean, never to entice the young girls into his underwater palace again.

This was quite a tricky reduction print, using two blocks and a lot of fingers-crossed guesswork! I did also cut a larger (A4) version of the raven to be printed independently.

Tools of My Other Trade

Ordinarily, my job as a musician runs alongside my work as a visual artist. However, these are not ordinary times and, as such, I haven’t been able to perform with the band for almost a year now. In light of this, I decided to try and get ‘close’ to my instruments again and represent them in a lino print. This is the result – intentionally black and white and intentionally simple. I do play guitar as well but another instrument would have affected the balance of the image.

Little Mester

Possibly the most abiding memory of this current pandemic for me, is just what utter disregard the London-based politicians, particularly Boris Johnson and the Tory party, have for the people in the North of England. All data and apparent reactions to data are clearly based on the South (London of course) and the Home Counties, and us Northerners can effectively go to hell! I have always been quite pleased that I am a Yorkshireman and was born and brought up in Sheffield, but this has all served to make me positively proud of those facts. This picture is a result of that feeling. I am descended from a long line of Scissor Makers and cutlers based in Sheffield, where many of them were known as ‘Little Mesters’ – independent craftsmen in small workshops throughout the town. There are a number of Cadman Streets and Cadman Lanes (my surname) named after my ancestors. This design was adapted from a couple of the sculptures on the front of The White Building in Fitzalan Square which is in the town centre.

‘Mester’ is the way a typical Sheffield would pronounce the word ‘Mister’.