Sharing my creative process: focus on subtle pencil into strong new woodcut

Creating ‘The New Creation’ a journey from pencil sketch into colour and wood

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know all about my current obsession with dragons. It started around the time I visited Coventry Cathedral and so many George and The Dragon motifs!

Charlie Kirkham SGFA drawing at Coventry Cathedral 2021
Drawing at Coventry Cathedral as part of a Society of Graphic Fine Art Drawing Day

Previously, I’d copied National Gallery’s Uccello and Southwark Cathedral with the same motif. However, something about the motifs captured me in a new way when I combined the ideas with the books on feminism and soil preservation, I was reading at the time*.

Working in strange formats is a weakness of mine, which leads to all sorts of drama when packing work. For the George and The Dragon series I’ve worked almost exclusively in circle format.

The New Creation pencil drawing on mountboard by Charlie Kirkham
‘The New Creation’, pencil on mountboard, 30x30cm, Charlie Kirkham

I imagine the Dragon as a character on a journey, in the same vein as knowing from the Prologue the tragic fate that awaits Juliet and her Romeo, the legend of Saint George and The Dragon is familiar to the English subconscious. For anyone out there who doesn’t know, George slays the Dragon, saves the town the Dragon has been terrorising and, in many versions, rescues a princess for good measure.

The Dragon is a mysterious character in many ways. How did they come to be eating sheep in a distant village? What journey led to their end?

Here, I’ve retraced the Dragon to their very first home, the Garden of Eden.

Mystic commentaries on the Bible tell of the first humans, ‘The New Creation’ referred to here, as being covered in scale-like skin. As their innocence fell so did the scales, leaving only small reminders on the fingers and toes. I loved this idea of a scale covered humanoid, joined at the back, emerging from paradise. This Garden of Eden is filled with innocent and curious dragons, unafraid of the new creature that unleashes the beginning of the dragon’s own ruin.

The pencil sketch is on mountboard, which is very forgiving of erasures. It creates a subtle line which is hard to capture with photography.

Charlie Kirkham the new creation two layer template papercut in magenta and green
Magenta pink and forest green papercut test, two layer templated cut 30x30cm

I moved straight from pencil into digital work and simplified the forms to create a papercut template.

Charlie Kirkham the new creation two layer template papercut rose pink on brown
Same papercut this time in two layers of rose pink on brown

The papercuts are wonderful to do, but oh so delicate.

I missed creating work that could be thrown into a bag and worked on out and about, which is why I moved into laser cutting the image onto wood.

Charlie Kirkham laser cut wood the new creation garden of eden artwork
Laser cut wood 30x30cm ‘The New Creation’ birch ply by Charlie Kirkham

Papercut, pencil or wood…which do you prefer?


REFERENCE LINKS

Coventry Cathedral has a fantastic chair in the Unity Chapel with a medieval motif carved into stone set into a wooden circle https://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/

One of the most famous depictions of George and the Dragon by Paolo Uccello https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/paolo-uccello-saint-george-and-the-dragon

There’s a wonderful wall panel in the cathedral that depicts an armour clad horse riding George defeating a very reptilian Dragon https://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/

*To clarify it was two books, one on feminism Caroline Criado Perez’s ‘Invisible Women’ https://carolinecriadoperez.com/book/invisible-women/ and the other was on soil preservation David R. Montgomery’s ‘Growing a Revolution’ https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/388720.David_R_Montgomery

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