The recent flurry of model-making activity on my work desk has had a fairly gothic flavour, with strong hints of folklore and fairytale in the mix too. One of the reasons for this is that a project I’ll be working on in the coming months, with my friend the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins, is a promotional video to go with the publication of Clive’s new picture-book interpretation of Hansel and Gretel. As I’m now living in Germany, this is a pretty appropriate subject for me to get stuck into! The book is to be published under the Saint Jude’s Prints Random Spectacular imprint; you can read a post about the new book on Clive’s blog here. Clive has been exploring this story over recent years and he’s created a whole host of brilliant drawings, collages, maquettes and even enamelware based on the Hansel and Gretel theme. I think he’s the perfect choice to re-imagine this classic fairy tale in picture-book form.
I’ll be producing some models of the Hansel and Gretel landscape for filmed clips to go into the promotional video, guided by Clive’s evolving ideas and images for the book. Hence the rather dark atmosphere of the models and photographs I’ve been making; after all, like many fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel is a very dark story.
I’m experimenting at the moment with different techniques of construction and decoration for the models. The images in this post are of a model cottage made from paper and acrylic paint with doors and windows pasted on.
Next I want to explore making forest trees, so a little forest is going to start sprouting on my work table over the next few days….
I’m starting a new painting this week, based on the ruined monastery at Reculver on the North Kent coast. It’s just a few miles east from Whistable where I used to live but it couldn’t feel further from that thriving and jolly little seaside town. Despite the imposing ruined towers of the old church Reculver is a bleak and melancholy spot, even in summer. The village and the church were abandoned due to erosion by the sea and what’s left is now shored up by slabs of unlovely concrete to try and preserve the remains. It has bags of atmosphere, though, and the lonely towers, silhouetted against the sea and the sky, make an arresting sight. In 1776 Thomas Philpott described it as ‘full of solutiude, languishing into decay’, which sums it up nicely.
As I’ve started using maquettes to kick off my creative process recently I made a model of the main part of the ruins yesterday. I’ve used a different technique to the tower and cottage models I made recently; these were made of card and overlaid with plaster bandages which produced a very rough and rustic surface. This worked fine for the ancient tumbledown look I wanted for those fairytale buildings, but with Reculver I painted stiff paper and then cut and assembled them into the shapes I wanted, resulting in a smoother finish. The painted paper suited the subject better as I wanted to focus on the geometry of the ruins, which was what gave them such presence, rather than their crumbling surfaces.
Here are a couple more pics of the maquette:
And some photographs giving the place a more gothic look, to start to explore a mood for the painting:
It was my friend the artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins who first suggested I try these techniques as a way of unlocking new creative approaches in my work. Another method Clive has used to brilliant effect is making shapes from wooden building blocks to establish the main volumes of a structure and to experiment with composition. Walking round a flea market at the weekend I spotted a big tub of wooden blocks for a few Euros so I snapped it up and have been playing with them this morning. They’re great because they allow you to experiment with space, volumes and composition without getting bogged down with any detail:
These are my first thumbnails from when I was thinking about this subject yesterday:
Now with the maquette, the blocks and the photos, I can try out some compositions and refine where I want to go with this painting. Today, I’ll prepare a 40 x 40 cm board and start to draw our some trial arrangements – onward!
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks making 3D maquettes of structures out of card, plaster and paint as a way of trying different routes into creativity and image making. Today I starting using the models, and the photographs I made of the models, as starting points for drawing and painting. I’ve not been painting much for the last couple of years and I feel a bit timid with it, so the photographs and strong shapes of the models I hope will prompt me to focus on composition and space in a more direct way.
I had this little 20 x 20 wooden panel in my workspace which has been hanging around for some time so I made a start with some painting with acrylics. It was hard going at first, it so easily tends to veer off into being too fussy and ‘soft’, and a couple of attempts got painted over before I started to get somewhere and retain a bit of freshness at least. I always work very small so I might try something much bigger too as a way of breaking out of being too precious. The maquettes and the photos are great tools though, it’s changed the way I think about making work.
Here are a couple of pics of the basic maquettes before painting , I like they way they look in just the raw plaster covering:
Probably the last photos of this particular set of maquettes for the moment; I’m going to try and make some drawings and paintings of them next week. At the same time I’m going to try some different techniques and different looks for some more models and see what works best. I’m also going to start experimenting a bit with video; so Spooky Village – The Movie, coming soon! It’s a whole new world of shopping opportunities at the art shop :-)
Ooops, don’t you hate it when that happens and you publish the post by mistake before you’re finished! Anyway, here are a few more pics of the addition to the little village – I’m soon going to have to think of a name for it!
I tried a couple of different effects when photographing this time. As well as the ‘noir’ filter I’ve gone for in previous posts I’ve also left some colour in some images and these have the look of a rather faded recording of a seventies animation to my mind, I just can’t put my finger on what it reminds me of: