Inspired by flower forms, this painting took on a life of its own. As with so many of my works, this has been through numerous changes and developments. The canvas was quite a lot larger (90 x 90 cm) originally, but was knocked off the easel by a visiting cat – it received a 3-cornered tear towards one side that couldn’t easily be fixed, so I decided to remove the canvas from the stretcher and restretch it on a smaller frame. As it turns out, the cat did me a favour, the composition hadn’t been right so was improved by the change in size. Later the right-hand side was darkened and the centre made lighter and brighter. The final change, to improve the balance, was the addition of the flower shape on the right hand side. I think it is finished now … maybe.
Oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm
Trial Bay in northern New South Wales houses the remains of a sandstone gaol, finished in 1886 and built by the convicts who were incarcerated there. It is a remote and beautiful spot, overlooking the ocean. The gaol was used in World War I as an internment camp for German nationals.
Visiting there last year I was captivated by a display of some of the convicts’ mug shots, along with their charge sheets, beautifully written in copperplate, listing their crimes, mostly petty – drunkenness, larceny, vagrancy, but some were murderers or charged with assault or ‘wounding with intent to murder’. The faces in the photos were very distinct, ranging from heavy-set thuggish faces to delicate, youthful and frightened ones.
The three images below are based on these, but I have not tried to faithfully capture each one, but to create new characters. They each have some charges listed behind them, intentionally not decipherable. They are miniatures, 10 x 6 cm, pencil on drafting film.
Below are my original roughs – when I am drawing miniatures I usually do large roughs, scan and reduce them, then work from those, adapting them as I see fit. The roughs are about A4, in pencil in a sketchbook.
Some ideas or residue of artworks linger. Several different ideas and earlier artworks have come together in this piece. The beginnings of this miniature book go back to an abstract drawing called Drift (see here) which became small folded squares and ultimately a set of teabag shaped 3D forms (see here) and a tiny book (here). There were quite a few folded squares left over, and I found them forming themselves into an interlocked concertina. As I looked at them, the sense of a dense, thorny hedge came to me, which suggested the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. So, I drew a little spindle on the front in red ink, and from this drew a thread through the twists and turns of the hedge, continuing from one side to the other. It needed words, so I found a copy of the story and took key phrases which I wrote in red ink in very tiny handwriting, following the red thread line. At the end of the front side the hundred years sleep began. On the other side, the prince arrived and made his way through the hedge to waken the princess.
The next stage was to make a container for the book. I decided a folded box would work nicely, so using a slightly larger template than for the boxes I made recently (see here) I cut out the shape from another drawing that was waiting its next development. This was the one I called Fairy Tale (see here). It wasn’t complete as a flat drawing, but now it seems to have found its calling.
The book is made up of 12 double-sided squares, each 5 x 5 cm.