One of my favourite parts of working on new projects and collaborations is the time spent researching the subject. As with any of my previous works, I love to spend my time thoroughly investigating the subject matter, though visiting relevant sites, museums, galleries and libraries, building up my understanding and vocabulary and developing a clear vision of what I would like to create.
As part of my current collaboration with Isobel Dixon, I have been spending time researching and collecting at the British Library and the Horniman Museum in London.
The entrance courtyard of The British Library
I always feel that to do justice to a project, you have to fully understand your subject matter, have a confident and balanced working relationship with your collaborators, and be clear on what you are both trying to communicate to your audience. As I’m working my way forward with the new works, I am constantly discussing the ideas with Isobel, and refining and developing the art work to fit with the ethos of the collaboration.
My current research has taken me on a journey into the vast treasury of books that is housed in the British Library, particularly the work of one of my favourite illustrators, American artist Rockwell Kent.
We have become accustomed to most of the information we look for being documentary and lacking in any artistic license and interpretation. I am trying in the new bodies of work to get back to the more illuminated period of our artistic and literary history, when what was important to the authors and artists was to make the work elegant and decorative, and to mould the creatures in their work to convey the psychological attitude of the animal in the context of allegorical, moral, theological or narrative purposes.
Researching Rockwell Kent’s illustrations for Herman Melville’s classic novel, ‘Moby Dick’.
My understanding of the cultural context of using animals, birds, fish and flora in art is growing more and more as our project is developing, and hopefully will enable me not only to make the correct choices in how I depict the creatures and plants in my own work, but that I will, in my own small way, maybe add another layer that will help our audience enhance their understanding of this age old method of story-telling.
The 'infamous' Walrus in the Horniman Museum, London