Painting paper and animal alphabets.

I visited the 18th century Warwickshire house and gallery Compton Verney this week, to see their final exhibitions of the year. Curious Beasts is a large exhibition of animal prints from the collection of the British Museum, investigating the importance of prints as an aid to document and understand the natural world from the 15th to the 19th centuries. This wasn’t just a collection of pretty pictures; it was a complex mix of images exploring our knowledge and treatment of creatures as well as some glorious natural history scientific illustrations, and some political comment from the 18th century which is relevant still today.

Compton Verney also houses the Marx-Lambert collection of folk art. I particularly enjoy the work of Enid Marx, a designer and illustrator working during the 20th century. Many of us will have sat on her designs, as she produced many patterns for transport seating; the tube, buses and so on, as well as gorgeous block printed wallpaper and fabric. In another exhibition on the animal theme in the temporary exhibition galleries, it was good to see her animal alphabet lino cut prints exhibited. They were fresh and vigorous, and supported in an adjoining gallery by an exhibition of contemporary printmakers with their take on the theme of animal alphabets. So of course I want to make one too, now.

Many years ago I bought a small dog eared book in a second hand bookshop in Dolgellau, Wales, called Birds of the Sea, unaware that its front cover was her work. It is my favourite book, and if I could save only one book in the event of some sort of catastrophe it would be this one. I also recently bought her book, written with Margaret Lambert, a social historian, called English Popular and Traditional Art, published in 1946. This is part of a quaint series called Britain in Pictures. I have English Villages from the series too.

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IMG_1073A rare day; no rain…Compton Verney, viewed from the lake, above and below.

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IMG_1080I was away teaching for a couple of days last week, at the Bramble Patch in Northamptonshire. I had a lovely group of invigorating students, and we made pieces of work based on recycling and the rainforest, using fabrics and papers coloured and printed with acrylic inks and paints. I have been screen printing and dyeing for some time now and it was good to get back to acrylics for a change; it made me realise I won’t be dropping them from my repertoire just yet.

So when I got home I decided to get going with painting and printing some paper, for some new work, and for teaching next year. It is quite possible that the work just may be that animal alphabet I’ve been inspired to make; a theme is so good to get you going, isn’t it?

I use Khadi paper, and here is a a selection of the pieces I made. Most will be used as collage paper, to be cut up and layered, with some painted maps, printed pages and music too, quite possibly. There are one or two more obvious background pieces at the end, but who knows, they too may be cut into collage elements.

I’ll be printing more papers later today, after we’ve been shopping, moving into using thermofax screens and procion dyes, and this will be followed by experimenting with coloured pencils and Inktense pencils, graphite blocks and my favourite, Indian ink.

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Some of my ancient but trusty print blocks, and below, papers drying in my work area.

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6 thoughts on “Painting paper and animal alphabets.

  1. I just love the yellows and orange…so vibrant! And I do have a question that you may or may not be prepared to answer. How on earth do you keep your windows so clean?! Mine always seem to attract insects and flying things that leave their marks. Also love the view outside of the clean windows as much as the view on the inside…

  2. Thanks Bonnie, I am trying to produce some jollier coloured materials, be it paper or fabric, but I love blacks and greys and they will creep in.
    I love that you think the windows are clean! They may have been cleaned this year on the inside, but as I can’t actually remember that probably means they haven’t. They’ve not been properly cleaned outside, for, let’s think, well, ever. I did hose them down once this summer, but carefully as I was worried about the spiders. It’s not a job I ever get round to doing properly [ in this I do not take after my mother. ] It does rain a lot though, so it could be that that keeps them looking acceptable, well, good enough at least…

    1. Hi Margaret, they are made from funky foam, wood, glue, core board and there’s an empty paracetamol packet too. There are some old Perspex samples, simple and effective, and they have all been very well used by myself and many students over the past three years or so, along with quite a few other equally battered looking blocks, not in the photograph.

  3. I’ve been away on a weekend course and one of the other participants live sin Warwickshire. She was telling me about the exhibition at Compton Verney as she visited last week. I went there a couple of years ago to see a Folk Art exhibition and I really enjoyed seeing the Enid Marx collection. Is that book a King Penguin? She designed a few covers for these editions and my favourite is the one she did on British Moths. I should think that one would be right up your street Steph! I remember seeing a copy of an alphabet primer she produced and think it might be all animals but I’m not completely sure of that. I really like the idea of a complete alphabet. Good luck with it.

    1. Yes it is a King Penguin Lesley. My friend has the moth book, I am quite envious as you can imagine. The alphabet project will hopefully happen; it may be part of an exhibition I am in next year, here in Birmingham. I’ll check your blog to see how the course went. Have a look at Lesley’s blog at Printed Material, on my side bar, folks.

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