Sunday, 15 January 2012

gwendolyn and the space between

Good morning to you lovely readers, and happy Sunday!

After an overwhelming response from my friends and readers on facebook this week, after my last post on Rosa and the subject of fairytales, I'd like to introduce you now to Gwendolyn.

This was a piece included in my December show, 'Strange Creatures, Sweet Allsorts', and you can see her all framed up with the rest of the collection if you click on the 'exhibitions' button to your right.

Gwendolyn's story is, as always, very much a part of me; she stands as a metaphor of childhood books and fairytales, and celebrates the very act of reading:

Growing up as an only child is a lesson in resourcefulness. After cats, books were my best companions. While other girls of eight were obsessed with horses and dolphins, I was collecting myths. Weekends were spent sitting cross-legged on the study floor, surrounded by encyclopaedias as I chased up one reference after another to the many wives of Zeus, to the sad fate of Persephone, to the birth of comely ladies on the froth of yonder seas.
Of course, I was lucky enough too to grow up with the wonderful school adventures of a certain young wizard named Harry. Younger generations are relieved of the agony we endured in the wait between instalments, but robbed of the delicious moment when, after another twelve months (twenty years in kid-time), the piggy bank was gleefully smashed and another tome was yours for the relishing. Lewis Carroll, Enid Blyton, Antoine de Saint Exupery and Shaun Tan were just a few of my favourite authors growing up; all masters of pens that wrote words that took you somewhere else while you sat in your comfy chair, all offering up a wonderful parallel reality that you could live in long after the last page was turned.
'Gwendolyn' was an interesting and at times frustrating painting to create. I experimented quite widely with new techniques like scratching, and to a braver extent this time with optical blending (you can see in some of the last progress images that Gwendolyn's hair takes on much warmer browns and reds to create greater harmony within the image).
Compositionally, I set myself a lot of challenges as well. Because the fence and birdcage both involve sections of negative space, creating a sense of foreground and background within these two elements took a bit of fiddling blending-wise. You might also notice parts of this image are much more textural than the style I've been developing these past few months, and while I'm not altogether sure I'd necessarily use as much of these hatching techniques in future, I think they work well to create the atmosphere particular to 'Gwendolyn'.
It's funny how some images don't turn out at all how you expect them to, and I am learning to let go of this a little more. I don't necessarily mean in a bad way, just sometimes that you can't always predict the end result. Some paintings start out as an excercise in taking a paintbrush for a swim! I think the best illustrators always aim to keep fresh, and the only way to do this of course, is to try new things as often as we can.
And I say- experiment! Celebrate the resulting- and inevitable- flaws! Relish in cack-handedness! If experimentation serves as a stepping stone to greater quality and consistency- why not? Really, it's only the significance we give to perceived visual typos within our work that make them so.

Happy travels my pets,
Mel x


  1. This is such a beautiful piece. Sweet and lovely!

  2. thank-you so much, i'm glad you like her.

  3. Could be Rose's sister. LOL She is sweet.

  4. Thanks so much! Yes, it certainly is a big fairytale family at Grumpy Star Studio! x


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