Tuesday, February 14, 2017

'Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same'.

I was thinking about what to post for Valentine's Day when I admitted to myself I can never really get into it.

I tried to contribute some tracks for our recent Valentine playlist and just kept coming up with tragedies and lost loves; Johnny Cash, Tori Amos, Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley...it wasn't happening.
But I slowly began to realise why that might be. My head was filled at the most tender age with its first and lasting definition of love: the greatest love story ever told, Wuthering Heights, watched on TV aged 10 with Grandma and the book consumed greedily at 11. It told me most clearly that real love wasn't Valentine cards and dinners like the adverts on telly - oh no. REAL love meant torment, death, longing, howling in pain, betrayal, grudges lasting generations, exhumations in the rain, and loss. It also meant absolute committal, loyalty for life (and death), and an almost inhuman, animalian love that transcended anything that could be kept on earth.
Ahem. Yes. Quite a lot for an 11-year-old to take in. But take it in I did, and any other love story since (barring, perhaps, Atonement) hasn't quite come up to scratch. I'm fortunate in that (as far as I know) it hasn't left me with any hobbling emotional scars or expectations, but I do have a fierce loyal streak and a tendency for melodrama when the mood strikes.
These drawings were done in my final year of college. Finishing an illustration degree, I decided instead to design a stage production of 'Wuthering Heights' and so my tutors warned me, risk the 'first' I'd had dangled in my face throughout. But, with a fierce and emerging taste for building things, I did it anyway. Thank god that I did, as I would not be where I am today, I'm quite sure of it.
My WH was set in the modern age, in contemporary Yorkshire dialect including all swearing, and featured a black Heathcliff - pre-dating Andrea Arnold's version by 20 years (I was extremely excited about her film). My Catherine wasn't pretty; she had big eyes but a funny nose. Edgar and Isabella were twins too, in my version, and you could only tell them apart because Edgar had a little ponytail in his blonde hair. I first did drawing after drawing of every character I was going to build, so that I had realised on paper how they moved, their facial expressions and traits. I then went on to design a costume for each, make two of them in full, life-size to fit real people, then build /13 life size figures of each one (8 in total) then design and build a stage set, storyboard, do a photoshoot out in the crags with the life size costumes, and finally design the poster for the play.
These drawings are A3 and would never win the Jerwood, characterised as they are by furious enthusiasm and the nervous energy that defined my college years; the urge to get the people out of my head and onto the paper was all that mattered. They were done over a period of about two weeks, as I recall, before I really got going on stuff. I've never committed these drawings to digital so these are the first time they've ever seen the internet.

After a brief spell on display at the Brönte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, with whom I went on to be heavily involved for some time, the figures went into my loft where they sat forever. I decided recently however that I needed the space, and they were starting to deteriorate, and the decent thing to do was return them, Brönte style, to the elements.
And so I did, where the frogs, worms and birds now chat to them daily as they continue their journey back to the earth from whence all the ingredients ultimately came. Time to move on, for all of us! 

"...and (I) wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

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