Wednesday, 23 November 2011

WIP Wednesday

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Cassilda: Indeed, it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tyger Version 2

Now finished:


Looks far better this time. 'Spears' is a very pretty work (last six stitches/characters of the longest line). 'tears' (last five of the line below spears) is pretty, too, of course.

Now begins the Iliad.

Friday, 18 November 2011

WIP whenever

There was no point in a WIP Wednesday this week, because I'm just working on another draft of The Tyger. At the moment I've only done the black, or half the black, anyway. So it's not even as if I can show how different it looks this time.

But I figured I'd share some rough experiments this time, so here are two "canvasses" where I was trying to explore meta-text-art. I was going to extend the work with two more canvasses to explore translation issues, too.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Tiger (version 1)

And here's the finished thing. It's a good job I did a test, because the colours are all wrong. Retrospectively I should have realised before ever putting needle to aida that using the pale pinks for the three most common letters wasn't a good idea. I'll be trying again, again with the tiger, with slightly more sophisticated methods of colour selection. It fits rather well do to another version of The Tiger (and actually, I have a final piece of aida left of just the right size, so I might even do a third version) since each printed version Blake produced would have subtle and deliberate differences in illustration, colouring, etc. I'm just following his lead.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

WIP Wednesday ( what do you mean, it's Thursday??)

So in an attempt to help me keep to some sort of regular schedule, I decided to dedicate one day each week to showing WIPs. This piece is something I'm working on as a test before I begin a much larger project of the same type so I can work through all the unforeseen problems in advance.

But what is it? It's William Blake's poem The Tiger in in cross stitch, with each letter of the alphabet substituted for a different colour. I'd chosen a red pallet for the larger work, so The Tiger seemed a good choice to try it out on, as the pallet seemed to suit this poem, too. Then I thought 'hey, if I stuck black lines in between the text it'd look like a tiger!' and since this is just a test, well, why not try it out? But how to decide the length of the black lines?

In the end I turned to Blake's companion piece to The Tiger: The Lamb. The Tiger poem appears in a book of poetry called 'Songs of Experience' which is a companion, and juxtaposition to the poems in the ion 'Songs of Innocence', in which the poem The Lamb appears. Since Ny interpretation or translation of one poem would be incomplete without the other it seemed appropriate to try and get The Lamb in there somehow. So the length of the black lines is dictated by the length of the lines of The Lamb, excluding spaces and punctuation, which is also missing from my translation of The Tiger.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Better than Nothing


Once again trying to get into the swing of this 'frequent update' idea. I'm just not good with this kind of thing because I'm a perfectionist. I always put off making a post because I just want to get a better photo first, or if I wait a few days longer I'll probably have finished the project and then I can... etc. etc. etc. And I'm just not that good at kidding myself that anyone actually cares what I write here, and, well, I don't really need this for my own benefit. But maybe I should try and use it for my own benefit – sort of like a logbook. Ho hum.

The above illustration is the only other original picture I managed to complete for the previously mentioned Portfolio contest. The rest of it I filled with old stuff. This is a picture I started over 2 years ago, in a completely different style. It wasn't photo-realism, but it was a lot more realistic, and played around a lot more with light. But I just couldn't get it right. As far as I can figure, my biggest problem was the combination of the composition and the style. I was working from a reference, so the chin and lips were definitely in the right place, but without the rest of the face to give a better perspective, and context the chin just looked huge. And for some reason I didn't have the confidence to say 'well, I'll carry on painting in this style, but just move the stupid chin'. When I eventually went back to it I started changing one thing then another, and finally ended up with this. I still have the original half-finished painting so maybe one day I'll finish that. Or not. I'm not good with finishing stuff.

The theme this piece was done for was 'Silence'. The title of the illustration is 'You Make Me...'

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Reviews for Fables from Ovid

A few months ago a fellow MA student (Helena Hoyle) and I co-wrote a drama: Metamorphoses: Fables from Ovid. It's been performed twice now by the All-Female Hecate Theatre Company. Watching something you wrote being performed is well... weird. I had no idea what it would look, sound, or feel like in performance and the depth of characterisation presented by the actors was well beyond what my feeble imagination had managed to conjure. Does that make me a really bad playwright? Is that normal? obviously we didn't write stage directions for every emotion the character's should display or feel; very few scripts do... but still. It was odd. I guess I'd just never considered that aspect of a play before from the point of view of the writer.

Anyway, I wanted to share some of the reviews for it because, well I'm proud. Not just of my work, but of Helena's, and the actresses, director, composer and, well, everyone from Hecate Theatre.

Audrey Tang on Remote Goat gave us a four star review. Her most interesting comment for me was that "The opening with the beautifully voiced "Invocation" into the faux childishness just seemed a little jarring." The invocation is the beginning of Ovid's Metamorphoses translated into English. Pretty sure they were using A.D. Melville's translation, used in the Oxford World's Classics Series. I rather liked the juxtaposition it created – jarring changes aren't always bad. They shock, make you think, they're fittingly Ovidian. The play does rather swing between extremes of comedy and horror. I certainly hope Ms. Tang didn't find the stories of Myrrah or Procne & Philomel marred by "faux childishness".

Rebecca Tatlow writing for Cherwell also gave us a positive review, so I'll just about forgive her for using the dread "comprised of" ('comprised' does not take 'of', people! It consists of x & y, it comprises x & y). For me, her most interesting comment was this: "Occasionally the dialogue seemed as though it was trying too hard to shock and modernise these ancient fables, but this again evoked the uneasiness and desire to impress experienced by teenagers desperate to prove that they've left childhood behind. The presence of the matron's character throughout as an often silent observer was a useful way of generating leniency among audience members at crucial moments." It interests me because I'm not really sure what to do with such feedback. It seems to say "this part wasn't great, but worked anyway." She seems to suggest that it appears to the audience that the character's are trying too hard rather than we, the writers and actors. But as a writer I'm aware that this wasn't an impression I was consciously trying to give, so it must in fact have been me trying too hard. Some of the content is shocking stuff, and I wanted to generate a sense of hysteria, that this acting was actually getting out of control without it always toppling over into farce. I don't know if her comment shows that I/we succeeded in that or not, or whether I perhaps need to rethink certain parts.

The final review is by Sam Rkaina of This is Bristol I don't know where Rkaina got the idea that there are only fifteen stories in Ovid's epic from (well, okay, I suspect I do. There are fifteen books in the epic, but certainly more than fifteen stories), but my favourite line from the review just has to be: "Don't be fooled by the fresh faces and lily-white dresses, this play's themes make the Saw films look like Dora the Explorer." Rkaina's most interesting comment, though, was "Perhaps unsurprisingly for students, some of these re-interpretations feature a healthy dose of Monty Python – the Castle Anthrax sequence from Holy Grail especially." Interesting because whilst writing, Monty Python had never crossed my mind, and I have to admit, I struggle to see the connection to Castle Anthrax (though I'm guessing it's the behaviour of the girls when trying to convince Matron to let them tell more stories. In which case, I'd say Kitty and Lydia in Pride and Prejudice are more probable sources of inspiration. Ditzy girls were around long before the Pythons – Maybe Kitty and Lydia influenced them, too?). Obviously Monty Python is part of our cultural background, and I certainly don't find comparisons to their work insulting, but it did catch me off-guard. Perhaps the Python's influence on my generation is so pervasive it's not even conscious most of the time.

Our lecturers also seemed to like it, which is good. So I think, officially, we have "academic acclaim". There were suggestions that we should take it to the Edinburgh Fringe, but that didn't happen this year. But perhaps it will next year. Helena and I were both too busy before to really be able to put any energy into making that happen, and the performance and following suggestions were done too late to try and get any funding from the university for it. But we might try and make it happen for the next festival.