The Cartwheeling Dean–an old friend returns

The Cartwheeling Dean

I did this painting in 2011, the year of the Royal Wedding, when William married Kate in Westminster Abbey. You may remember after the ceremony, that the Dean of Westminster did a cartwheel down the aisle, after the royal party had left, of course. Just something he did out of pure joy I imagine

The village of Pirbright, not far from where I live, and where I paint from time to time, used to put on an annual scarecrow festival, and the skill and artistry that went into making these scarecrows had to be seen. Tableaux usually of different things, book titles, events etc. In the parish church, a complete tableau of the wedding was created. It was amazing. I didn’t take a picture. I wish I had

Included in the scene, was the cartwheeling dean. I did photograph him and painted him later. I took him to local exhibitions, thinking someone would want him but nobody did. Eventually I sold him online and he went to someone in the north-east, and how strange is that. The man who bought him, wrote to me, and told me that he looked at this painting every morning and it made him smile. It was worth painting him just for that.

However, years later someone in the village is writing a book entitled ” Pirbright in Art”, and artists have been asked to submit paintings of, and around the village. I have sent in a selection, including the cartwheeling dean. It would be nice if he was included. We shall have to see.

Book Illustration… the continuing story

The Three Mice Witches

I referred to the illustrations I have been doing in a previous post. I have enjoyed doing these, and as always when you try something different, you tend to surprise yourself.

John the author, a professional actor, whose tour has been interrupted by lockdown, which as everyone knows has closed theatres throughout the land, produced delightful sketches and memories on social media. Such was the response, that he collected them together into an anthology. I was asked to provide illustrations for the various chapters, just as visual footnotes, which I hope has done justice to the book.

The works of Shakespeare, as with many other well known pieces, crop up often. The Scottish play is no exception. Why is it unlucky to mention that play by name? Theatre folk are notoriously superstitious. Who else would say “break a leg” to someone just going on? I don’t know but must check it out before going further

One view put forward is that Shakespeare used actual spells during the witch’s incantations, by which I mean spells that witches used. I am not able to say whether they worked or not. It has also been pointed out that MacBeth, being a short play, was put on, at times of emergency, such as sickness amongst the cast. It came to be associated with misfortune. That sounds more feasible, but we don’t really know

As you can see the three witch mice are in full incantation. They are wearing their masks or their ‘blinds’, and they are looking convincing. If they are not convincing, they certainly look frightening. I wonder if we shall see them in print. I believe there is interest from two publishers, but of course it will depend on the deal. We shall have to see

Changing tack for the moment, I sold Horses in the Wetlands yesterday to a buyer in America. Always an extra buzz when the sale is international, I’m not sure why. Anyway the picture was picked up at lunchtime, and is probably going through Heathrow as I write this. In a year when real exhibitions were not possible, online sales have proved a godsend . I will leave with a reminder of the image

Horses in the Wetlands

Book Illustrating-a fresh departure

Three Blind Mice

A good friend of ours, a professional actor and director, asked me if I would do some illustrations for a book he was writing. Only once before had I done that sort of work, so I was apprehensive, but still said yes

Covid 19 hit the acting community hard, as theatres were closed. John was on tour for the second year of the Mouse Trap, which had had a very successful first year. The decision to cancel the tour was quick. This all happened as we moved into Lock Down 1, which seems a long time ago now, March/April I think

A gloomy time. We, my wife and I were classed as vulnerable and had to stay in. Food was brought to us by family and friends and where possible in food boxes from businesses that sprang up to cater for the need. Queues at supermarkets became normal, as did senseless shortages caused by panic buying. Our health service was overrun, and staff close to breaking

During this miserable time, social media inter alia provided light relief. People wrote poetry, some painted and so on, and put their offering on Facebook or similar, just for us all to read something light

John was one of those who posted regularly. Poetry, quotations, charming anecdotes from his boyhood in Swansea, and with his gift for characterisation, the people he wrote about came to life. We started to look forward to his readings, as by now he was delivering them in person. As time went on friends suggested that he compiled these readings into a book and so he began to do just that

This is about the time that I started to get involved. We none of us knew where to start. I read his first posting again. It dealt with the cruel blow of the tour closing abruptly. Theatre lights were turned off, technicians and actors said an emotional farewell, or else did what actors always do and went down the pub. The idea came up of Three Blind Mice running through the book as a themed image. If you remember the play, this haunting tune is played from time to time and runs through the background. It was so very apt

I did some sketches and put them up for the team to comment. We had a team by now of talented people all making contributions. I refined the sketches until we were all happy. Thus started a very happy and productive collaboration.

My first finished drawing appears above. This was a bleak time. The theatres are closed and the tour is cancelled. The mice are on the streets and forced to beg. Later on we learn that the mice aren’t really blind, as the glasses and blindfolds slip off, but for now times are hard

Later as we go through lock down, things become more hopeful, and some optimism returns, but anxiety is never far away, as we all know. Now we go into a second lockdown, not as severe as the first, as we learn all the time, but nevertheless worrying. The manuscript is with publishers, and who knows but certainly this charming book will delight many if it is given the chance

Two White Rabbits

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The two white rabbits

This was a project miles away from my usual comfort zone

I was asked if I could provide an illustration for a children’s story, which was flattering in itself, as not really something I am known for. I am usually doing something architectural. Occasionally I paint animals, but this exercise was rather different

The stipulation was to paint or draw two white rabbits, a mother and child. They were to be white but set against a white background, so tricky in itself. The storyline dictated that the picture had been painted by a child, albeit an art prodigy, as an entry to a competition. How to look through the eyes of a child? Not something I have ever been good at

After the drawing, which was simple enough, I shaped the rabbits with shading in a very pale blue. I think I used Cobalt as that is fairly flat anyway. White rabbits tend to have pink noses andĀ pinkĀ inside their ears, which I added with very dilute Crimson

To give the forms some sort of identity, I washed round the edges with again very dilute green gold, which gave a little bit of a lift, without straying far from the original specification

So that the images didn’t float in mid air, I did put some darker green as grass, but otherwise stuck to the original premise

I am pleased to say that the young boy won first place in the competition, so all was worthwhile

The story is called The Poisoned Apple and is serialised on Pinterest

two white rabbits