Winter is upon us. There’s frost in the morning, the light is a soft blue in the daytime. In the evening, the moon shines hard and white. If you are lucky (and live somewhere in the wilds), on a clear night you can see the stars. One of the highlights of my year so far was to see the Milky Way. I was lying on a sunlounger at midnight in the middle of the Dorset countryside looking up at the constellations and trying to remember their names. It really got me thinking about a map of the stars.
Man has documented the stars since the stone age but the age of the enlightenment saw a boom in astronomy maps. I love how the traditional constellation forms were described through illustration – no cold Scientific digital maps here.
A Map of the Winter Constellations in the Northern Hemisphere (or Winter Star Map for short) is a circular map on midnight blue mount board. It’s drawn in white ink and the original has been handfinished with genuine silver leaf to pick out the stars themselves (NB : the prints available are simple blue and white). The notes tell some of the legends behind the constellations which vary from culture to culture. What we see as the Great Bear can be understood as a wagon, a skunk, a canoe, a camel, a shark and even a coffin by other peoples for example. Other notations include folk beliefs associated with the constellations and interesting facts about the history of astronomy and contemporary astronomical thinking. Belief and the idea of the ‘fact’ is constantly changing as time gallops forward.
Giclee prints can be bought exclusively from ONCA Gallery in Brighton in person or online for £65.00. They’re printed in archival ink on heavyweight paper and measure 40x40cms unframed, meaning they can fit into a standard off the shelf frame easily.
I’m pretty sure they’d make a great wintery Christmas present for someone forever wondering about the stars and the legends behind them.
It’s way too early for Christmas (is it??!!) but this is a short post about a poster I did for a little indie film, ‘Home for Christmas’ a few years ago that has now been bought up by Amazon Prime and trending as I speak…
The film – a Christmas romcom- was made by Jump Start films based in Brighton on a very tight budget. Much of the work was volunteered and it was made often using local actors in Brighton itself – my flat even starred as a location at a couple of points.
Any money was crowd funded through donations, events and raffles:
There was a premiere at the famous historic Brighton cinema – The Duke of Yorks – one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK. The cinema plays an important part in the storyline and I happened to have a few shifts tearing tickets there at the time alongside the Director, DoP, and Sound. It was fun to be involved in the making of a feature film and see behind the curtain of what it takes to pull something like this off.
The illustration for the poster was hand drawn in black ink and shows some characters from the film and elements from the cinema, almost a character in itself. Colour was added digitally at a later date.
It’s taken a few years for this little film to get to this point and I’ll look forward to seeing where it goes next.
It’s December, Christmas is jingling fairly insistently now on the far (snow laden?) hills and you have finally got round to thinking you should buy some Christmas presents…. How about one of my prints from the new Onca Gallery print collection, launched at the gallery in Brighton on the 14th at a truly spectacular Christmas Ecoextravaganza?! As it’s the Season, I’m going to sprinkle this with a good ole cliche and say that there’s something to suit all pockets….
A cute present for adults and kids alike, pick out a print from my children’s book illustration portfolio. ‘Birds live in Nests’ is small but perfectly affordably formed and is taken from the work in progress called ‘In My Garden’. The original was painted in watercolour and gouache and includes elements of collage from my vast collection of patterned papers. Like all the prints available at Onca, it’s printed on quality heavyweight paper in archival inks so won’t fade in sunlight.
Or before the publication of my book about maps in 2017 (Thames and Hudson) secure a map of the moon print for the astronomical geek in the family? It’s covered in fascinating lunar fact and fiction notes – for example, did you know that Ting Fang of China first recognised the moon was spherical as early as the first century BC or that English tradition declares that the man in the moon drinks claret (presumably along with the cheese he eats…)? An elegant giclee print of the original drawing in white ink on a slate grey with a black background, it looks great with a black mount and a boxy black frame.
Or there’s my best selling map of Brighton print, ideal for someone who lives in or has a connection with the city. Or indeed has a fascination with town planning…. First shown at the ‘Tracks’ show at Onca, like the moon map, it’s covered in handwritten notes. A previous customer recently told me that she has it in her kitchen and still finds new things whenever she looks at it which is lovely to hear. As a suggestion, I framed the original in a white mount and boxy white frame contrasting the classic Victorian inspired cartographical elements with contemporary minimalism.
There’s also the chance to buy a triptych of prints of ‘We Dream of Blue Whales’ – An unusual present for sailors and lovers of the sea. Dotted with painstakingly detailed illustrations of boats, marine creatures and fabulous sea monsters, the map charts the stories heard on a journey across the North Atlantic searching for whales. It’s an ideal size to fill a feature wall or chimney breast. First shown at Onca in ‘The Whale Road’ show, it definitely would make an eye catching statement piece in any room with a maritime flavour.
I’m honoured to be sharing a place in the collection with the work of Peter Driver, Fiver Locker, Kate Walters, Hannah Alice, Kittie Jones, Sarah Gittins, Gary Parselle (The Private Press) and Dopple Press.
It will be launched on Wednesday 14th December 2016 at the Onca Gallery Christmas extravaganza from 5pm. Mulled wine, mince pies and cheesy Christmas music are promised alongside stalls showcasing work by Onca members and supporters such as the very cool Ernest Journal and What You Sow. The famous Onca Christmas window display is being created by internationally renowned performance artist Clare Whistler and designer Tamsin Currey. Eco friendly gift wrapping will be available, and if you’re feeling creative there’s a chance to design and make your own – sounds like a good way to have fun and make your gifts properly personal….
Hopefully see you there but if you can’t make it, the work will be available to buy at the gallery till the 23rd December and then as part of a planned online gallery shop at a later date.
Oh – and last but not least, have a very happy Christmas!
Christmas extravaganza: 14th December. 5pm onwards.
Address: ONCA, 14 St George’s Place, Brighton, BN1 4GB, UK
Telephone: 01273 607101
So the faint jingle of Christmas can be heard over the hilltops and ‘Manger’ is finally coming into it’s own. It’s been available to buy now since the crisp days of Autumn and the reviews are whooshing in! Some are from readers’ blogs, some from poetry enthusiasts and others from publishing and trade magazines. I’ve included a few comments here…
‘The illustrations by UK artist Helen Cann are stunning, composed of rich, deep colors of cobalt and emerald, wheat and crimson. Handsome animals in starlit settings, these are so splendid, you will want them as prints for your walls. Oh my gosh. Just check out her website for more gorgeousness. Even the endpapers are lovely. Just an all-around beautiful book, new this year.’
‘Glorious illustrations in saturated colors compliment a sweet collection of Christmas poems.‘
‘Cann’s illustrations are lovely with rich colors and fine details. They show the animals clearly and also the wonder of the nativity on each page whether they are fish, fowl or mammal.’
‘ This beautiful book gathers together 15 poems reflecting the animals that might have been present at the birth of Jesus. These masterful poets convey a sense of wonder, awe, and humility that is echoed in Cann’s rich illustrations.’
From Kirkus Reviews:
‘Intriguing collage illustrations using watercolor and mixed-media elements provide an elegant accompaniment to the short, quiet poems. Unusual perspectives show a cat from behind, a cow arching her neck and an owl in midflight seemingly ready to swoop off the page. All the animals gather around the manger in the final illustration, with the comet again shooting across the sky’
From Publishers Weekly:
‘This joyful collection of new and previously printed poems features creatures great and small heralding the arrival of Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve during the one hour, as legend has it, that God granted them the gift of human speech. Each of the brief entries—from Alma Flor Ada, Marilyn Nelson, Alice Schertle, and others—appears on its own spread, nestled alongside one of Cann’s (Brigid’s Cloak) watercolor and mixed-media paintings, whose detailed feathers, scales, and shaggy fur lend a realistic air.’
From Poetry for Children:
‘Beginning with gorgeous endpapers, we journey through fifteen beautiful double-page spreads each featuring a lyrical poem from an animal’s perspective about the arrival of Jesus as a baby in the manger. Beautiful pictures, beautiful poetry, beautiful moments to savor. And it’s not just an artful, contemplative book, it’s also very child-friendly, perfect for sharing with a little one on your lap or with a group of kids sitting around you on the floor.’
Wishing you a merry Christmas and peaceful New Year!
It’s a nativity book with a difference – told from the perspective of the animals round the manger! There is a legend that describes how, at midnight on Christmas Eve, all creatures are granted the power of speech and these poems are told in the voices of the cat, the cow, the spider and the llama (?!) amongst others.
I really enjoyed illustrating this book as I was allowed to pretty much design it myself. Given that kind of freedom, I can produce images that totally represent my style – classic but contemporary without any preconceptions of what watercolour illustrations should look like.
Lee Bennett Hopkins has collected together a beautiful and sensitive set of poems for ‘Manger’. He is a renowned poet and anthologist in the US with the honour of being recognised in the Guinness Book of Records as ‘the world’s most prolific anthologist of poetry for children’ ! In fact, I have even heard him described as the ‘Pied Piper of Poetry’. I had several e-mail conversations with him and it has been a pleasure to work with him.
Thanks so much to Eerdmans for asking me to illustrate this project. You can find out more information about ‘Manger’ and also buy a copy from their website here.