I need to boast about a monster achievement...
I have been ignoring my blog for a long time, and here is one of the reasons why: my shiny new book just delivered ! I think this must be the first picture book illustrated in egg tempera since the Middle Ages. It is a bi-lingual story (English/German parallel text) for children of all ages. The Monster of Millstatt is a thirty-foot scarlet dragon who has been hibernating for a few hundred years in the mountains behind my house. When he finally emerges from his den he goes on the rampage and creates a load of comical trouble for the locals round the lake, till he is finally brought to heel and instated as a member of the community. The text and illustrations are all my own, though naturally I had a deal of help with the German. British humour is not easy to translate, it seems. The whole idea first grew out of a school cultural project frustrated by Corona restrictions. I thought it was a shame to waste a good idea, but it took over my life. I'm not a fast worker, and I quickly gave up counting the hundreds of hours spent on the pictures. Then when I realised that hiring a graphic designer to help with the layout was unaffordable, I had to set about learning all the software skills to do it myself. As for the printing, since I first approached printers for a quotation, costs have risen exponentially thanks to a world paper shortage. Reader, be warned! If ever the fancy should come over you to produce a book, have a little lie down and let the feeling wear off. Now comes the work of shipping 500 copies out of my cellar and on to the coffee tables of Carinthia - not a small task for a sales-shy artist operating in a foreign language. But I think that luckily the book has appeal both for locals and tourists - a souvenir with local flavour which is neither kitsch nor too heavy to pack in a suitcase. And the book has already been adopted as an event in the Millstatt Music Festival for next summer - a reading with musical interludes, along the lines of Peter & the Wolf, orTthe Carnival of the Animals. Local music director Stefan Hofer will compose the music:, and I am so looking forward to hearing what comes - my only stipulation was that he must include bagpipes and alpine horns, Fortunately he has both those instruments at his disposal. -Millstatt has everything.
Copies available direct from me at €20 each (order form here).
Other than the massive embroidered wall-hangings I used to make years ago, my work is generally pretty tiny. But I used all the lovely space I had during my artist residency earlier this year to paint something much bigger (120cm wide including the integral frame). And correspondingly more expensive of course, though as I painted every inch of the piece with my usual attention to detail, there weren't really any economies of scale - rather the reverse, in fact. I've had it hanging on my own wall while I dithered about it, but finally it's hanging 'on appro' in a client's office and hopefully growing on him. He's a bird watcher as well as an art collector, and tells me he has counted over fifty birds in the tree....
I'm considering getting some posters made of this image: if you have any technical wisdom on the subject of digital reproduction, please let me have the benefit of your experience!
This is the slowest moving series in the history of art, but every so often I feel like painting a wonderful old tabby tom just like the one called Tim which my grandparents had years ago. This sneaky fellow stalking in the long grass is waiting for a frame. One of his former incarnations is in Australia now, where he can stalk more exotic prey than ever frequented my grandparents' suburban garden.
More than seven years on, and mindful of the old adage about the cobbler's children going unshod, I decided it was time I made a crucifix for our own home. Most things I paint are commissions or are for sale elsewhere, so no sooner do we get used to something being on the wall than it disappears. I'm glad of that really, it gives me the chance to try again. Though I shan't be trying again with a crucifix unless I can buy a ready-made blank. I had forgotten how difficult a shape it is to cut without specialist equipment. Casting around the internet for my inspiration, I ran across some wonderful images from the Franciscan museum in Zadar, Croatia. Another one for the bucket list.... If you make it there before I do, please abandon the beach one day in favour of this place and report back. Croatia is a bit of a hybrid East-meets-West place, iconographically speaking. A largely Catholic country, but with many influences from the East. The 11th century cross which I took as my chief model shows Christ standing rather than hanging, calm and strong. He is not twisted and emaciated or smothered in gore. Instead of a loin cloth he sports a rather fetching sort of brocade kilt which I lifted wholesale. But what I really wanted - and failed - to recreate was the magnificent face of Christ in my second, black and white image below. Also from Zadar, from a nunnery destroyed by Allied bombing during the second world war, tragically this partial photo seems to be all that remains of this most haunting icon.
The view from my desk
Current work, places and events, art travel, and interesting snippets about Christian icons, medieval art, manuscript illumination, egg tempera,, gilding, technique and materials.