Canus Lupus Familiaris…or Impossibilius?

November 1, 2016 § 3 Comments

canus-lupus I just read about a mother being told she couldn’t breastfeed her small baby in ‘Mothercare’, a shop which, I think, would like itself to be a well known store for mothers and, erm…babies, those noisy little things that occasionally need food! Well, good luck to her, when we seem to live in a world where companies claim this and that for retail purposes, and yet act in an entirely contradictory fashion in terms of genuine empathy, help and support. What has happened? Store assistants, if we are going to be ‘american’ about it, are there to provide something called ‘assistance’ which is meant to be helpful, I think. Any new mother who has been out with a small child knows the stress, the feeling of disapproval, when one’s child becomes noisy. Yet getting a breast out, in the real world, however discreetly, is somehow controversial. Better to conjure up some formula ‘milk’, made from the eye sockets of tuna fish and other waste products, YUM!

Whatever it is that Mothercare sell, I hope they provide it free to the mother concerned, and a door to door service for the next 12 months, that is the least they can do. But the reason I am writing this is because I felt very similar sentiments when I travelled a considerable way to see a remarkable exhibition. I am not going to advertise it as it might contravene their privacy policy, but suffice to say I am studying some animal anatomy for a project I am working on and the exhibition in question is in Newcastle, currently, and is a global phenomenon, (quite rightly because the science involved is really astonishing, as are the results). I looked up their policies online before going, and it mentions that still photography is permitted, but not of the one human body on display, which I thought quite reasonable. The trouble started when I got a sketchbook out. To draw. This is an activity which involves observing a subject, a drawing tool of some sort and a surface on which to record the observations. Archaic, I know, but it is what I do. And it is how every artist worth their salt has learnt to draw, from life models and from cadavers. Being a complete amateur myself, having skipped art school, I am always catching up. But in twenty five years of drawing in exhibitions, to learn about what I am looking at, I have never been hassled, or, as in this case, asked to leave the exhibition to fill out a form, and provide all my personal details ‘for the records’. I wouldn’t mind if this was specified on the website of the venue where the exhibition is currently on display, (‘no artists please’, something like that would get the message across), or if it wasn’t for the fact that every other visitor, without exception, wandered in with various forms of mobile technology, photographing and filming the exhibits, even the one that had a notice clearly displayed saying ‘photography not permitted’. I wouldn’t mind filling out a form and wearing a sticker if it wasn’t for this, but as it was I had limited time to get some (dare I say) ‘work’ done, having young children with me, a broken down car outside, and a long journey home.

I feel sorry I didn’t attend The Slade all those years ago, like my excellent and unbeatable counterpart Justin Mortimer and various other proper artists I know, because it seems that the way the world is going, in terms of corporate blockbuster exhibitions where artists are unwelcome; the education of young children who used to be allowed to ‘make a mess with poster paint’ but aren’t anymore, and that of art students attending colleges whose tutors don’t know how to draw; there is no hope for people like ‘us’ anymore…

As you can tell from the above image, I didn’t get any decent drawing done, I could blame it on the fact I spent most of my creative energies filling in forms, but maybe it is just down to the fact I don’t get to do any proper drawing anymore…it’s bollocks, and not the dogs’ either!

From Wellies to War Horse at Paxton

September 13, 2016 § 3 Comments

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An exhibition currently running at Paxton House, until 31st October, celebrating the book ‘Where My Wellies Take Me…’ which I was commissioned to illustrate by the writer Michael Morpurgo in 2009.

As well as the fifty or so framed works, which include original spreads from the book, etchings and paintings, there are several display cases with work in progress…

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The original ‘mockup’ book

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…experimenting with a little paper engineering!

Having never illustrated a book before, I did everything the wrong way, including making a full size mockup of the book to work out how many pages the finished thing would be.

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Work ‘from the field’, quite literally!

I also went camping in Devon, to do my research, part of which was mapping out the local landscape which is the geography of the book itself.

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Always keep your paintbox clean…

The best thing about the book is that it is written and drawn (I supposed) by an eight year old, so it was a fantastic opportunity to learn about all sorts of things like wildlife, and erm, how to draw…(not mastered that one yet, but keep practising!).

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Copperplates and Matchboxes

In the display cases are things no-one normally sees, all to do with how the book was made including some etching plates, which I used for some of the pages, and also one of my favourite things, the matchbox that Michael lent me when I was camping in their garden. I later painted this matchbox in the book…

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The Blue Cross Safety Match, thank you Michael!

By a series of misfortunes I was lucky to land myself in the lap of the villagers and to get to know many very kind people, all of whom helped to a great extent with my work on the book, and some of whom even modelled for characters in it,  so thank you once again to the good people of Iddesleigh!

All this, and the finished article, is now on display at Paxton House. For more information please get in touch, www.paxtonhouse.com

There is also a wonderful Michael Morpurgo exhibition on at Seven Stories in Newcastle, also featuring some of the ‘Wellies’ & ‘War Horse’ work. Please visit www.sevenstories.org.uk

 

 

 

Vasalisa’s Garden

September 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

image Artwork for Slightly Foxed Autumn Edition 2016. The brief was to create an Autumnal local landscape, preferably with a fox in it somewhere, and that it should be apolitical, so I desisted doing something to do with the hunt, and did this instead.

I hope the Slightly Foxed readership approve, and, after receiving several enquiries, I am pleased to say that there will be a print available of the original. More details at http://www.alisoneldred.com, coming soon.

Whatever The Sea

August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

imageimageWhatever The Sea’, another Scottish Poetry book, by Polygon, an imprint of my favourite publishers, Birlinn, in association with The Scottish Poetry Library.

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An anthology of poems reflecting on age, by 35 of Scotland’s best-loved poets. Several of the poems refer to the sea, and sailing boats…

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This is the poem from which the title was taken, and one of several which I chose as motivation for the final artwork.

At Eighty

Push the boat out, compañeros,
push the boat out, whatever the sea.
Who says we cannot guide ourselves
through the boiling reefs, black as they are,
the enemy of us all makes sure of it!
Mariners, keep good watch always
for that last passage of blue water
we have heard of and long to reach
(no matter if we cannot, no matter!)
in our eighty-year-old timbers
leaky and patched as they are but sweet
well seasoned with the scent of woods
long perished, serviceable still
in unarrested pungency
of salt and blistering sunlight. Out,
push it all out into the unknown!
Unknown is best, it beckons best,
like distant ships in mist, or bells
clanging ruthless from stormy buoys.

Edwin MorganIMG_3777

The proofs & finished work are on display at the workshop: www.lomenechgill.com

For more information about the book: www.birlinn.co.uk/Whatever-the-Sea.html

And to find more poems like this: http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk

 

‘From Wellies to War Horse’ at Paxton House

July 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

Paxton-inviteI am delighted to announce that Paxton House are hosting an exhibition at The Hayloft Gallery, Paxton House, Berwick Upon Tweed, TD15 1SZ, from 29th July – 31st October 2016.

The exhibition focuses on illustration work from the book ‘Where My Wellies Take Me’ and  for the concert and reading of ‘War Horse’, both commissioned by the author Michael Morpurgo who will be coming to do a talk at Paxton House in October.

For anyone wanting to make a day trip, Paxton House is a beautiful venue in the Scottish Borders, with a fascinating history, some great examples of the Scottish National Art Collection in the main house, and, for those who know their chairs, a particularly good collection of Chippendale and William Trotter furniture. Also there are lovely grounds to explore, with play facilities for families, and most importantly, a good tearoom!

http://paxtonhouse.co.uk/history-collections/

The Exhibition Opening is on 28th July, please get in touch if you would like to receive an invitation. Friends and family welcome.

 

Bonjour Brexit

July 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

falcon356.jpg

Stirling Acquisition

July 7, 2016 § 1 Comment

Bonniest-Companie-proof-No1-med The University of Stirling has a fantastic art collection, https://www.stir.ac.uk/artcol/artist-list/ and I am delighted to have recently had a piece of work acquisitioned, one of the two existing proofs created for ‘The Bonniest Companie’, Kathleen Jamie’s recent anthology of poems, published by Picador, 2015. The proofs were created using a combination of drypoint, chine colle, pen & ink and gouache. The ‘blue’ I created by hand-colouring Japanese tissue paper in an attempt to capture the oceans of school atlases, in the days we still studied ‘geography’….

Bonniest-Companie-proof-I-300 The first proof.

Bonniest-Companie-final-artwork-flat The finished work. Private collection.

…PS. The in-flight bird featured is not a Storm Petrel or a Skewer, or whatever else someone thought it was, it is a Leach’s Petrel, a small seabird which comes to breed on offshore islands of the UK including North Rhona, a suggested map of which is layered into the above work.  I was introduced to this species through Kathleen’s writing.