Last summer, we spent a week on the east coast of Yorkshire, England. For most of the time, the weather was warm and reasonably sunny (about as sunny as it gets on the east coast of Yorkshire!) but on one particular morning, the sea fret was so thick that we couldn’t actually see the shoreline from our position on the beach. It was warm, however, and our little boy was digging happily in the sand but there was a stillness rarely found on a beach at the height of summer. Every so often, figures would come out of the mist, walking towards us as they came back from the water’s edge. It was a moment I had to try and capture.
CP Studio Exhibition
My most recent commission was working with a group of 6 other artists, providing pieces based around the vast collection of artefacts held by the Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham. ‘CP Studio’ was set up by artist Paul Evans, and features five ‘Cabinets of Curiosity’ – along the Iines of the so-called ‘cabinets’ (though they were often actually whole rooms) which generally housed “rarities and curious objects from natural history”, started around the 1500s and continuing in popularity until the early 1800s.
As a group, we visited the museum a few times and had a number of ‘Ideas Jams’ before going away to work on our interpretations of the theme. I played with the idea of scale and weight, producing the pieces seen above, based on fossils, Neolithic finds and a Green Man mask. All the pieces were made to look like stone using Modroc and stone-effect spray paint. A phrase used as the title of a film made by artist Neath Champion-Shorr was “False Narratives” and it was this that largely informed my work – trying to keep the viewer guessing about whether the objects were real or false. Two of the pieces give the game away (if you know how to read Oghams) with inscriptions actually stating ‘This is fake’. It was such a pleasure for me, not only to work with other artists for a change, but also to move completely away from printing for a while, and get back to sculpture.
The exhibition is housed in the Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham and runs until the middle of May.
Really, the main reason for this landscape print was that it took me ages to carve the tree for a previous print (Sleeping Dragon) and it seemed a shame to not use it again for a perhaps more ‘conventional’ image. So, I re-carved the tree, added it to a new foreground and used another block of Lino for a fairly generic background that isn’t based on anything in reality but that appealed to me. However, when I inked up and printed the background, I was quite taken with how serene it looked, to the point where I wasn’t sure whether I should put the tree on or not. In the end, I left half the prints with no tree and printed up the others with a tree. There are also a number of different background colours too. I am intending to make both available in my Etsy shop later this week.
Hard Man, Lover
Sometimes I know where the inspiration for an image comes from, and sometimes I have absolutely no idea. This is one of the ones that I have no idea about. It could be something I heard someone say, something I’ve read, something I’ve seen – I just don’t know. I did once write a song called “Fifteen Feet” (to be found on the ‘Music’ page of this site) that has a chorus with the lines, “Well it’s knuckles that say Love, and a heart that’s full of hate” so perhaps it was remembering that which sparked off the idea. Either way, I quite like it. It’s a nice change to do a simple, one colour print. It’s also available in my Etsy shop.
There is a tree, in the car park at Sitwell Infant School, Rotherham, which has a root system that has started growing out of the ground, and looks just like a dragon, curled around the base of the trunk. On the many occasions when I have been waiting to pick my little boy up from school, I have studied the shapes and eventually, felt the need to draw it with a view to creating an image. I remembered a few years ago when I visited Malham Cove in Yorkshire, and took a photograph of the tree on top of the cove (the tree that almost everyone with a camera will take a picture of!) which sits on the limestone pavements. The dragon needed a better tree than the one in the car park, so the images were combined to make the one shown here. More out of idleness than anything else I guess, I didn’t want to carve all the limestone rocks and crevices so tried using the teeth of a tenon saw to scrape fine lines leading towards the focal point ie. the dragon. This worked pretty well (if a little inaccurate) apart from slicing my fingers to ribbons by holding the blade of the saw! (see next post) The image seen here, fits nicely into an A4 frame – a bit bigger than is unusual for me.
You Can Just…
Whilst researching old steel workers and coal miners in South Yorkshire, and particularly Rotherham, I came across some footage of workers at Parkgate Iron and Steel Company, Rotherham from 1901. The footage shows children and adults smiling and playing up for the camera, some dancing, some apparently fighting and just generally looking quite happy, if puzzled, about the cameras actually being there. The blurb that accompanies the film talks about the smiling faces but, it says, some people were angry and some even fighting. However, the two men ‘fighting’ are obviously laughing and the young man who flicks a V sign at the camera is clearly not angry but is full of devilment, and probably doing it for a dare. This is the moment I screen-captured for this print; in my opinion, typical, down-to-earth Northern humour.
It did start me wondering, have there always been those in society, either really or metaphorically flicking a V sign, whilst everyone else follows the general pattern of behaviour? When Stonehenge was being built, or the pyramids being constructed, was there always at least one man who stood back and, sticking two fingers up, said, “Fuck off! What are you doing that for?” Are those people the artists?
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.
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.
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.