Literature

The Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad. Painting

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

A short book and one of two books of Conrad’s, that I have read. I struggled with one other longer novel of his, Lord Jim.

A brief synopsis. Often described as being the first modern novel, The Heart of Darkness as a story,  can and is read on a number of levels including,  a critique of 19th century imperialism and European racial prejudice; a classic tale of hypocrisy, greed and exploitation; a commentary on the shallowness of Western Civilisation and its pretence of what constitutes civilised behaviour; a retelling of the archetypal hero’s journey; and a metaphorical journey into the primal heart of humanity  (The Heart of Darkness).

Creatively, however, and the reason for my wish to illustrate episodes from Conrad’s short story was his use of the contrasting qualities of light and dark as a leitmotif not only to describe the physical external world. but as a metaphor for the complex often contradictory nature of humanity’s internal space- the light and especially, the darkness, that is  within us all.

The bright light of the African sun-  the terrible primal, darkness of the jungle and the river,  the racial contrast between the whiteness of the, supposedly superior, colonial Europeans along with their apparel set in contrast to the blackness of the subjugated, exploited, Congolese. Then there are numerous references to shadows- the place where things are hidden and danger lurks,  the oppressiveness of the sun and its exposing/revealing light along with its oppressive heat. All rich material from which to extract out ideas for pictures.

I originally completed 10 paintings- sold 5, lost two and mislaid 3- probably either in my loft or at some relative’s house. The images are photocopies of originals so some scan lines may be observed.

Original. Acrylic on stretched canvas

To kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was one of a number of books I read after graduating from art school in the late 1990’s and to which I turned to for inspiration and subject matter for my illustrations/paintings. Like so many others who have read Lee’s, until recently, only novel, I loved the book. It is beautifully written, poignant with a serious and disturbing main storyline which is viewed and told  through the eyes of a child, Scout Finch. Yet it is also funny, and in the inspirational character Atticus Finch (Scout’s father), it has provided me with one of my three literary heroes.

The paintings formed the bulk of my first  exhibition held in Gallery 96 on Kings Street in Cambridge (sadly since closed). I enjoyed taping into the rich visual opportunities provided by the period the story is set that of 1930’s, depression era, Alabama, in America’s south, and I indulged, and mined, freely from the written and visual art of the period, including the works of John Steinbeck, Ben Shahn, Romare Bearden, Dorothea Lange and of course  the movies of 1930’s Hollywood.

All paintings are acrylic on stretched cartridge paper. Series painted 1999.

Advent Panels. Foreshadowing. Series 3

Images created using a process which involves collage use of a flexigon, Photoshop and Ipad app (Snapseed)

Advent panels

For a number of years I have been commisioned by St Pauls Church here in Cambridge, to produce 5 advent images for presentation on each Sunday  service in that season up to and including Christmas day. Each year the vicar, Rev Micheal Beckett, comes up with a serious of themes which he develops in each service with the aid of the accompanying image.

I use these commision to develop ideas around techniques, composition and effective visual story telling. There is always a deadline one that gets smaller and smaller as  Christmas day approaches, due in the main to me spending a lot of time on the first two illustrations leaving very little time for the final three. On average each take around 4 days to complete (on and off) from initial sketching out of ideas  to sending the complete image to the printers. The final images are printed on to foamboard and are A1 in size. They are wrapped up in Christmas wrapping paper. Children are invited to unwrap the image in the service.

I try and do a fair bit of reading around each theme and hope they do the job that is asked of them.

Click on images for more informtion

Biblical stories. The Nativity. 2015 Series.

Image created using a process which involves collage, use of a flexigon, Photoshop and Ipad app (Snapseed)

Advent panels

For a number of years I have been commisioned by St Pauls Church here in Cambridge, to produce 5 advent images for presentation on each Sunday  service in that season up to and including Christmas day. Each year the vicar, Rev Micheal Beckett, comes up with a serious of themes which he develops in each service with the aid of the accompanying image.

I use these commision to develop ideas around techniques, composition and effective visual story telling. There is always a deadline one that gets smaller and smaller as  Christmas day approaches, due in the main to me spending a lot of time on the first two illustrations leaving very little time for the final three. On average each take around 4 days to complete (on and off) from initial sketching out of ideas  to sending the complete image to the printers. The final images are printed on to foamboard and are A1 in size. They are wrapped up in Christmas wrapping paper. Children are invited to unwrap the image in the service.

I try and do a fair bit of reading around each theme and hope they do the job that is asked of them.

Click on images for more informtion

My Boy Jack- Rudyard Kipling

‘My Boy Jack’ 

1914-18

“HAVE you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide.

Rudyard Kipling

Leafs Lament. Andrew Fusek Peters.

The Leafs Lament by Andrew Fusek Peters.

Said the leaf to the sky,
I would learn how to fly,
But I’m shaking like a leaf do I dare?

Said the sky to the leaf,
It’s a matter of belief
Just jump into my blanket of air!

Then the sky sang,
Then the leaf sprang,
And the trees were empty and bare.

Illustration in Black acrylic painted with card and worked in photoshop. Image inspired by seeing a tree when walking along Englands Coastal path in Dorset. It was incredibly windswept and sheep were sheltering under it from the strong winds blowing in from the sea.

Out of School by Hal Summers

It’s the summer hols! College  term has finally finished and this poem captures fantastically well that feeling of running out of that playground gate (or office door), and knowing your time is now your own. Whether aged 11 or 51 I have never lost that feeling the only difference is I now tend to spend the first 3 days of my hol’s in bed, exhausted, and recovering from the ravages of the preceeding term.

Out of School by Hal Summers

Four 0′ clock strikes,
Theres a rising hum,
The doors fly open,
The children come.
With a wild cat-call
And a hop-scotch hop
And a bouncing ball
And a whirling top,
Grazing of knees
A hair pull and a slap,
A hitched up satchel,
A pulled down cap,
Bully boys reeling off
Hurt one sqeeling off
Aviators wheeling off,
Mousy ones stealing off,
Wollen gloves for chillblains
Cotton rags for snufflers,
Pigtails, coat-tails,
Tails of mufflers,
Machine-gun cries,
A kennel full of snarling
A hurricane of leaves,
A treeful of starlings,
Thinning away now
By some and some,
Thinning away, away,
All gone home.

Illustration; pastel

Hal Summers, was a senior British civil servant. He was private secretary to  Aneurin Bevan while he was minister of Health seeing the National Health bill through the House of Commns in 1945. He wrote verse, publishing several books of poetry during the 1940’s 50’s and 60’s.

Fear. Ciaran Carson

This is my illustrative response to a poem that I have found personally illuminating. The poem says a lot about the relentless nature of anxiety. When in an anxious state of mind there’s always something you can find to worry about. That’s my experience anyway. Drawn using wax crayon, chalk pastel and coloured in Photoshop.

Fear

I fear the vast dimensions of eternity.
I fear the gap between the platform and the train.
I fear the onset of a murderous campaign.
I fear the palpitations caused by too much tea.

I fear the drawn pistol of a rapparee.
I fear the books will not survive the acid rain.
I fear the ruler and the blackboard and the cane.
I fear the Jabberwock, whatever it might be.

I fear the bad decisions of a referee.
I fear the only recourse is to plead insane.
I fear the implications of a lawyer’s fee.

I fear the gremlins that have colonized my brain.
I fear to read the small print of the guarantee.
And what else do I fear? Let me begin again.

Ciaran Carson