Monday 26 February 2024

'Twilight Tales' - The creation of a concept

When Iacopo Meille asked me to collaborate with him on the cover of his first solo EP, the answer was, of course, an enthusiastic 'Yes!'
We began the process with me sending images of various past pieces of artwork to Iacopo for him to judge what kind of cover it might be possible for me to create, and potentially spark some ideas.
Quite quickly he identified a past piece which spoke to him and resonated with the songs and their atmosphere. 

This artwork was 'Strawberries and Cream', which was an interesting piece in particular for Iacopo to feel a connection to. I created the painting in 2020 during the pandemic as a reaction to a personal research project I had begun into English graveyards and their history. During the work visiting hundreds of churchyards and cemeteries I unexpectedly discovered in many of them, growing between the graves were; wild strawberries.

This sweet, unexpected sight was such an interesting juxtaposition between life and death that I went back to the studio and designed 'Strawberries and Cream'.

In a world where at the time in the midst of covid death had become a global fixation (thanks to oversaturation in the media), it was important to remember that life surrounds death.

For me, 'Strawberries and Cream' represented that even in the face of death there was beauty and hope, if you dared to look for it. And of course one of my favourite ideals; that from all death comes life.

At around the same time, over 1000 miles away, Iacopo was having his own creative reaction to the global situation and covids impact on his life. During this isolated time he began writing the songs that would form 'Twilight Tales'.
The idea of these two reactions to such an unprecedented, life changing event coming together was immediately appealing. Both created entirely independently, yet somehow echoed the same sentiments, like some sort of inexplicable fated union.

After working through the composition together and discussing important themes within the songs that should be featured on the cover it was decided that the basis for the artwork would largely be the original composition of  'Strawberries and Cream', but with some additions essential to the subjects of the songs. The theme of mortality in the original painting already captured the spirit of the songs, in particular 'Just Breathe', which with lyrics talking of 'piles of dust' you couldn't get a closer interpretation. But some small changes would truly tailor the painting to the songs in a way which they deserved.

The feather is one of the most important additions, inspired by 'Feather in the Sky'.
While other elements may be more subtle, they're just as integral to the identity of the piece. The Death Head Hawkmoth was chosen for obvious visual and symbolic reasons. The broken glass was requested by Iacopo, relating to 'Have You Read The News?' and was based on ancient Roman glass discovered at an archaeological site at Fiesole. 
Mushrooms were also a specific request, and one I'm always more than happy to feature in any work.
Ensuring all these components worked well together was essential and took considerable planning which was worth every ounce of deliberation.

Adding the title and ensuring it had the right amount of emphasis within the cover was a particularly tricky element. After much sketching and pondering, suddenly the perfect solution presented itself, as is often the case; quite unexpectedly.
Scrolls, parchment and crossed bones were all rejected in place of a single femur. The moment I saw the arrangement sketched out in full I knew it was a perfect fit and enhanced the composition way above 'Strawberries and Cream'.

When painting 'Twilight Tales' I placed particular pressure on myself to ensure that it was a big improvement on 'Strawberries and Cream'. I was driven by the idea of creating an embodiment of the music Iacopo had created, but also to create a superior artwork. I wanted 'Twilight Tales' to better 'Strawberries and Cream' in every way. Better colour representation, more accurate textures, finer details. I have always prided myself as an artist who wants to constantly improve and learn and this was finally my chance to prove myself.

I couldn't be more proud to have collaborated with Iacopo on this project and bringing to life a visual embodiment of his creation has been a total honour. This unlikely union of two different ways of coping with a global pandemic has fluidly formed a cohesive piece of expression which, in my opinion, is far better together than apart.
'Twilight Tales' is now available for streaming on all digital platforms
  Youtube, Deezer.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Rollright Stones

For some time now I’ve wanted to visit the Rollright stones in Oxfordshire. Ive watched Documentaries on the stones, read about them and seen lots of photos, but I hadn’t yet had the chance to pay them a visit myself.
Because 2020 has been the strangest of years to say the least, there's lots I was planning to see and do that probably has little to no chance of happening this year.

However, not one to be easily defeated, the Rollright stones are in a reasonably comfortable driving distance to visit in a day (a 200 mile round trip for me). So, I decided seeing the stones was one goal I wasn’t willing to let slip away this year and headed down to Oxfordshire on a sunny August day to wander the Cotswolds and see these magnificent stones.

One of my main concerns (which led to hideous indecision right until the final moment when I jumped in the car) was how busy the stones might be, but my concerns weren’t met with too much horror when I arrived, and found only 4 people around the Kings men. During the few hours I spent at the stones, there was a steady flow of people coming and going. Seemingly most of them just passing by on the busy road running between the King Stone and the rest of the complex. Most appeared to just drop in for a brief look and head off again, it wasn’t until past midday when a huge group arrived with tables and chairs to have a picnic I decided it was time to move on as things were getting too busy for my liking.

The story of the stones echoes that of many stone circles in Britain. Living souls turned to stone in a series of dramatic events. Often dancing and merriment is involved, but on this occasion, a witch and a would be king falling foul of spells and supernatural form a truly fascinating spectacle.
The folklore which has grown up around Bronze Age and Pre-Historic sites is incredibly interesting and truly demonstrates their relevance and importance in society through the ages, even after their original religious and ritualistic meaning had been lost, they maintain a strong position within the community, and although their narrative may have changed over the centuries their significance has not diminished. 

As ever when I visit these sites I find myself filled with wonder. And leave with far more questions than answers. What took place here thousands of years ago? What did this site mean to the people who built it, and to the generations that followed? Bronze age Britain is my great historic passion and has been for many years. Partly because of the different and fascinating world that existed at that time, and partly because we will never know all of the secrets and mysteries of that ancient time. Only echos of this ancient past remain, some above ground, others below. Everything else is lost to time, eternally.