Patrick Woodroffe

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In my youth, when I was first getting into illustration quite seriously, one of my favourite-ist pictures was Hortus Conclusus by Patrick Woodroffe, who died last year.

Yesterday, I was a very happy person as I finally got to see this oil painting in real life; Falmouth Art Gallery is currently running a retrospective of his work. Also present was the cover to The Sentinel, a gatefold-album by Neo-Proggers Pallas, another notable item from my early eighties experience.

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Patrick employed an almost miniaturist approach to many of his paintings – they are staggeringly detailed and the gallery should have provided magnifying glasses as I strained my aged eyeballs squinting at many of the works . I knew a little about his processes from his book ‘A Closer Look’, in which Patrick reveals many of his arcane secrets in detail. But mere reproduction cannot begin to capture the texture, colour and clock-maker craftsmanship he lavished on his pictures.

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There’s a lot to see in the show; as well as book and record covers, there are etchings, tomographs (Patrick’s painted cut-out puppet thingies) and items from his studio. The event runs until April 18th at Falmouth Art Gallery.

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Spinning Moonlight

Spinning Moonlight

Just finished this today, which is appropriate as there have been other moon-based shenanigans afoot (there was an eclipse in this part of the world this morning).

These are my good friends Eloise and Murphy going about their business, which in this case involves collecting skeins of moonlight, presumably to fashion into a stylish, yet practical, garment later on. Eloise recently packed her job in and has become a full time weaver – you can find out more here, or if you are visiting Widecombe-in-the-moor, pop into the National Trust shop where she has some wares on display.

Here are the relevant stages (or struggles, as I prefer to call them). First, the initial scribbly idea…

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Then the rough with some colour added via Photoshop…

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Next, the pen and ink drawing…

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Then the undercoat, which was particularly fiddly on this one because of all the twiggy nonsense.

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After this stage there was much toothbrush-flicking of watercolour, added colour pencil, paint taken off and put back on again, scanning in and fiddling about digitally to try things out so as not to make too much of a mess on the painting, more flicking of paint and general fixing of things. Business as usual, in fact. This one will probably undergo a bit more remedial work; normally I live with paintings for a while before releasing them into the wild, but there probably won’t be many lunar-centric stories in the news in the next week so this seemed an appropriate time.

Past Lives

The last few days have been filled with reminiscences of things past.

(Reminiscences? Think I might be on dodgy grammatical ground with that…)

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Firstly I was reunited with author Geraldine McCaughrean for an event at my local literary festival. About seven years ago we were involved in the publication of Peter Pan in Scarlet and the subsequent picture-book version. We were spoilt rotten with launch parties, high profile appearances and TV interviews at the time. This weekend’s event was less celebrity-filled, but no less enjoyable; I hope our young audience were inspired to go and write/draw their own stories. Above is the cover of the novel. It was quite a hectic commission as there was little time and I also had to draw a number of illustrations for the inside. Brian Froud was doing the cover originally but he withdrew from the project due to artistic differences with the powers that be. His painting now hangs in the Todd-Jones’ residence (they have been mentioned in past blog entries) as Pan was modelled on a young David Todd-Jones. Google it.

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Back in 2003 I worked on packaging design for the band Arena. The Contagion digi-pack is shown above along with a few of the pamphlet images. It was a staggering amount of work, but highly enjoyable. This week the band were rehearsing nearby in preparation for their upcoming 20th anniversary tour, so I popped over to have a listen. I was in a band with guitarist John Mitchell when we were nippers, in what feels like a previous life. John also has a solo album out called Lonely Robot which I believe he will be touring later in the year.

The approach to the rehearsal rooms…

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And inside, slaving away at the coal-face of progressive rock perfection…

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Lastly, sad news…

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I was lucky to work on many of Sir Terry’s books and related paraphernalia (very often instigated by the lovely Bernard who is on the right of this pic). After I completed my first cover for him, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, he very thoughtfully phoned and thanked me for my efforts, a gesture I appreciated immensely. A lovely chap whose imagination and humour will live on.