Wednesday 2 May 2012

A May Miscellany

A RARE REACH OF SUNLIGHT falls down through our cottage windows, illuminating a year's worth of dust and spider architecture. The rain has been unrelenting lately: crashingly deep rivers cascading down the gutters, and a blanket of grey that never really lightens the day before dark comes again, so this sun is welcome indeed. April showers are one thing but, as May begins, we long for long warm days again, and outside, and summer, and before this sunny respite, we'd begun to stop believing summer would ever come. 

Over the last months, I've been doing lots of little jobs, commissions and creations, had my work included here and there, and have quite a bit to tell. So, taking the opportunity of a sunlit desk on which to photograph things, here, in a sort of spring miscellany of doings, it all is...

First of all, a hinged bell-dancer, a paper painted shaman puppet of many colours...
She was created for an online exhibition of maquettes put together by the fantastic artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins (whose quite wonderful paintings can be seen here). Clive invited a host of artists and creators to contribute maquettes of their imagining to this little exhibition which you can see at his blog in several parts. I'm amazed at my fellow artists' pieces - in particular the work of Jodi Le Bigre, Peter Stevenson, Philippa Robbins and Janet Kershaw. 

I found the process of making these quite interesting - Clive had suggested that the making of movable figures like this really helps in the composition of a painting, and in the end, more dynamic figures. You can play with the positioning and find great personality in altering the movements to express a different feeling. 

The difficult part of making these for me was drawing the body parts separately. I realised I use relative positionings in a painting to evoke feeling, to conjure the character as I build the image; and so making a blasted-apart person forced me to work in a different way, which isn't a bad thing from time to time, is it?

Here the bell-dancer dangles in the momentarily sunny studio window beside fellow puppets and curios...

I also made a kind of wayfarer; he isn't quite finished, as he needs more attachments and accessories which I didn't have time to complete... and with an animation in mind, I left off the split pins and posed him just as he was.

I'm really grateful to Clive's generous spirit for putting together such an interesting collection of artists and encouraging playful creativity like this. Expect more hinged beings in due course, perhaps dancing to a tune or two.

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Next, Unfathomable Baba Yagas...
One of my Baba Yaga illustrations was included in this new book by eminent fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes - The Irresistible Fairy Tale ~ The Cultural & Social History of a Genre, published by Princeton University Press. I'm really very delighted to be included (alongside Paula Rego!) in this exciting new book, and shall add it to my teetering to read pile beside the bed.
(The art on the front cover, by the way, is by Kiki Smith.)

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Third, I'm happy to say that my work has been woven once again with that of my talented friend Polly Paulusma, (whose song The Woods I made my first stop motion animation for back in 2006). Her lovely new album, Leaves From The Family Tree features my painting Anja in the Horse Chestnut, hanging on the wall in the background of the front cover photograph. I also drew some horse chestnuty border designs for the album cover, and the painting is featured in full  on the inside booklet. Do go and have a listen (my favourite is Last Week Me), and should you like what you hear, please consider supporting a self-produced artist and her music.

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Fourth in the bag of miscellaneous doings... a logo for a picture framer. I was asked by Stephen Murphy if I could create a logo for his business that had the feel of a medieval craftsman, a little like the Bagpipe Society logo I created a while back. Here's the original drawing and the stages of it being logoified.

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And then, a painting of dreams... This little watercolour was made for Joy McCall, a regular and supportive customer of mine. She had long imagined these favourite lines by Langston Hughes in a painting and so this is what I made.

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Earthlines is a fantastic new quarterly magazine published by Sharon Blackie of Two Ravens Press, based on a croft in the Outer Hebrides, which seeks to create a platform for wild writing rooted in land and story. This first issue features a wonderful story by my Tom - The Bear Outside, illustrated in ink by me...

I urge you all to go and buy a copy this minute, or even better, subscribe. We're in excellent company in this magazine, as you'll see from the contents page of the first issue. There's an interview with Jay Griffiths, a review of Martin Shaw's book A Branch From the Lightning Tree - Ecstatic Myth & The Grace In Wildness, paintings by Catherine Hyde, writing and poetry by Em Strang and bardic damnation verse by Alastair MacIntosh, to name just a few choice delights. Rarely do you find such heartful, wildful, thoughtful, artful folks' work collected together so beautifully, I almost don't feel worthy to be included, though I hope to be writing a longer article for a forthcoming issue.

One night, Ursula dreamed of the bear. It was made of ice and river-wood and the bones of otters, full of pebbles and pine resin and the lost songs of bees. It towered over the house. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

~ from The Bear Outside by Tom Hirons, published in Earthlines, Issue 1, May 2012

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And now to some forthcoming doings, which I must tell you about...
Next week we're off on the yearly expedition to Suffolk and my favourite Weird & Wonderful Wood fair. Please stop by and say hello at our tent, should you be in the Eastern Angles and wishing for an afternoon amongst dendric delights.

And then later in May - on Saturday the 26th - we're holding a storytelling event at Stone Lane Gardens here on Dartmoor (where I took these photographs of an early flowering pink rhododendron by the water). These gardens are a specialist birch and alder arboretum which transforms into a sculpture exhibition between May and October every year. There are many rare species of birch and alder to wander amongst, collected from all over the world, and for one weekend there'll be parked amongst the trees two restored Gypsy wagons, at the steps of which Tom will be telling stories. They'll be Gypsy folk tales, from lands as far or near as Russia, England, Turkey, Wales, India, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Scotland... and I will be providing the (East European Gypsy) music (on accordion) alongside my talented musical partner in crime, Lisa Rowe of Hazaar (on fiddle and accordion). There'll be delicious food  cooked over the fire and home brewed cider under the sky. If you're in the South West, do grab a ticket, it's going to be a lovely evening. If you're not, cross your fingers for us that the rain stays away.

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As the rain clouds scud away from our skies, and we enjoy the drying puddles, the sparkling blades of grass, and the shadows of window panes across the desk, I'm making lists of What To Take on our journey to the east, and practising tunes, meeting weeds, attending weddings, planning paintings and more besides.  

Macha keeps watch over these hills as the green comes on, as the sun stretches her arms in the once more cloud-free skies and says to us this is May, may it begin...