"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Saturday, 21 December 2013

“you could draw us - the small dragon - on your church spire ...”

Yes I could…with pleasure.

This comment was left on my blog after my last post: Puppets and Dragons.

I wrote:

“It makes you wonder about the “real sightings” of dragons.
On this black windy night we have just been for a walk. Fast dark clouds race across the face of the moon, twisted branches of bare trees flicker in the intermittent light. It’s easy to stumble, to lose your way, to misinterpret the wind shearing through the branches for something else.  In a flash of moonlight did I see a small dragon twisting itself around the spire of our village church?…Who knows.”

Diana commented:

“you could draw us – the small dragon – on your church spire….”

I am not one to shrink from a challenge. This is for you Diana, my faithful blog reader!

Initial thumbnails….

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The pencil sketch

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The ink sketch.

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Ahh black and white heaven. There is nothing this girl likes better than getting out the black ink and the old dip pen

Dragon on the Spire of All Saints Grafham …. almost done…

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I was just going to post this when I realised the small dragon seemed to be looking for something. But there is nothing there. To land on an unknown church spire on a dark winter night seemed a lonely prospect, so I added a welcoming figure.

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That’s better.

A Small Dragon seen on the the spire of All Saints Grafham Cambs. Recorded faithfully by Val Littlewood on the 15th Dec 2013

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Happy Solstice to you all….

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Puppets and Dragons

I am so delighted to be involved in the Puppet Challenge. The theme comes at such a good time for me as I have been researching aspects of folklore for some work for a while now. And both of my other projects will feed into the puppet project too.

I have never made a proper puppet but in my past work I used quite a bit of puppet/toy imagery and as dragons have been on my mind, I decided to base my dragon on the Henham Dragon.  A dragon reputedly seen in the Essex village in 1669. “Real” documented sightings are always so fascinating and Henham Village website has not only a splendid image of the dragon but also the front of the pamphlet which was published to describe the beast.

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Sighting were many and various but from what I have read, it seems the dragon was never killed, which also appeals to me.

This may be because it could have been a hoax. Reading more on the website I see that recent evidence from Alison Barnes suggests it might have been a hoax dragon made by a William Winstanley who,

" created a hollow nine-foot wood and canvas dragon or "flying serpent" activated by a man which made fleeting appearances in and around Birch Wood, Henham throughout that summer and caused great excitement and mystification in the neighbourhood."

So in effect this dragon was a large puppet. A perfect starting point for me. More of this wonderful Henham Dragon as I go along. Henham is also close enough for me to visit.

The 17th C seems to have been a good time for dragons in the UK because another was recorded in Sussex in 1614,  the St Leonard’s Dragon. The accompanying pamphlet from the Harleian Miscellany is  titled:

"Discourse relating a strange and monstrous Serpent (or Dragon) lately discovered, and yet living, to the great Annoyance and divers Slaughters both of Men and Cattell, by his strong and violent Poyson. In Sussex, two miles from Horsam, in a Woode called St. Leonards Forrest, and thirtie miles from London, this present month of August, 1614".

There will be more fascinating research to do. I see that Dr Andrew Hadfield has written a paper on the Sussex Dragon which I hope to read, and more.

Exactly what sort of puppet it will be I am not sure yet but I will be starting off with some drawings.
I don't think I am quite up to the full size Henham Dragon. But the description is reminding me of the wonderful Chinese New Year Dragons from the parades. I illustrated them years ago..so they too will be in my mind and, as a new printmaker, pamphlets appeal greatly to me.

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A Pencil Margin Book Illustration

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Half a full page spread, with the Dragon Head
Mine definitely won’t be on this scale.

It makes you wonder about the “real sightings” of dragons.
On this black windy night we have just been for a walk. Fast dark clouds race across the face of the moon, twisted branches of bare trees flicker in the intermittent light. It’s easy to stumble, to lose your way, to misinterpret the wind shearing through the branches for something else.  In a flash of moonlight did I see a small dragon twisting itself around the spire of our village church?…Who knows.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Looking Forward: Dragons, Pigs, Black Dogs, Puppets and more

In a weeks’ time the year will be on the turn and we will be going forward to light and spring. Wonderful!

And there will be much to do in this coming year because behind the serenity of my occasional blog posts there is lots of frantic paddling.  As always, so much more is happening than my limited typing and blogging skills can keep up with.

I am very excited about a couple of collaborative projects, an online shop and a contribution to an online puppet making challenge.

Project One: I am getting together with another artist friend to start a year of “Beautiful Beasts”, drawings paintings and prints with some poetry thrown in. Lovely bees will be there of course.

Project Two: Is a Transatlantic ideas exchange with another artist friend. A wonderful opportunity to make some work in response to the same inspirational source. We come to this from different perspectives so the results will be fascinating.

Puppets? Hmmm… it will be my first attempt at making a puppet and I am thinking simple… very simple! But it ties in with both of my collaborative projects, things I have done in the past and will be something different. So I am joining Clive Hicks Jenkins and Peter Slight for their Puppet Challenge. The theme is Myth and Legend and so I have decided on a series of simple animal puppets, starting with a dragon continuing to black dogs and other wonderful creatures. A dragon may seem a bit obvious but dragons have been on my mind recently see “Small Dragon” and I have a dragon print on the drawing board right now. And if I needed further justification my Chinese Birth sign is the Dragon.  More of the Dragon Project. Its whys and wherefores  tomorrow.

Pigs:  Salute the Pig drawings continue…it’s Saddlebacks next!

Busy, busy….just how I like things to be.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Broken Bottle

Number Three of my Lost and Found Treasures.
I tend to pick things up from my walks round the reservoir, as I am sure many people do. Together they form a particular idea of what I see and what interests me. Other’s would choose different things.
The shore line of a reservoir is not quite as exciting as the sea shore so perhaps we reservoir dwellers have to regard ordinary things as extraordinary.

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The muddy broken bottle and the sketches.
This is a very ordinary bottle but still capable of throwing some great shapes! 
See other still lifes at #stilldecember on Twitter.

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Found Treasure 3:  Broken Bottle

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Small Gouache Sketch 3 x 2 inches

Monday, 9 December 2013

Small Dragon

This month is #stilldecember (still life) for the Twitter group of artists. So I am taking the opportunity to make some more sketches based on some of my lost, and some, found, treasures.

This small ceramic dragon was a companion to Pig in Jacket and both pigs and dragons are going to feature in a future project so they fit in well with general plans.

Lost and Found Treasure 2:  The Small Dragon 

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……..with a little added fire and yes, print to come …

Friday, 6 December 2013

Unexpected Silver

On this bleak grey day I walked down to the reservoir. The storm has ripped most of the remaining leaves from the branches and the sky was leaden. It looked like snow. Then suddenly the sun came out and illuminated the water. At this time of the year the sudden light on the water is dazzling and brilliant. The shining water was visible through the trees by the shore, a seldom seen glimpse of silver from this particular path

I made some quick sketches and notes but it was too cold to stay long.

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There was a single white feather caught in the dark branches and many inky black coot on the shoreline.

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Sketchbook pages A4

Back home I made some black and white sketches:

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Sketches 6 x 4 inches


It’s dark at 4.30….

Monday, 2 December 2013

Pink Pig, Yellow Pig

I have made a few lino print cards (strictly speaking “vinyl” prints) based on my Pig in Jacket sketch. Progress was slow and success rate rather low due to being a bit ambitious and trying a 3, 4 and 5 colour reduction print with a very small block. Each new colour printing is accompanied by yet another possibility for error. There were many. But I have about 20 cards. I recorded the process over at Printdaily.

They are small. The image is 3 inches square.

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Four Colour reduction print Pink Pig. Image 3 inches square

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Three Colour Sunny Pig with three different plates. The blue here is what was left of the reduction plate.

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A few cards almost ready to go..