A map of the stars – an early Christmas present.

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.

 

V0025744 Astronomy: a star map of the night sky in the northern hemis

This historical astronomical map comes from the Wellcome Library.


My most recent map honours the historic tradition of charting the constellations and how they all fit together in the skies using not only notes as usual but images as well.

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.

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The Making of an Exhibition.

It’s been a long hard slog of a month but finally the exhibition (my first solo show and book launch) of ‘Hand Drawn Maps’ is coming together…

I started planning the window display in late May. I wanted something to stand out, advertise the exhibition and get visitors in as the show only lasts for a few days….

These were the thumbnail prototypes for the window display:

 

I then chose a design in consultation with the gallery and created a very basic mock up on Photoshop…

A mock up of the window installation for the gallery using Photoshop.

Most of the signs had already been created but I had some hand lettering to do and some tweaking…

Red arrow looking slightly wonky before it got a strong and stable backing…

 

A ‘hand’ sign done by hand…

A sign I gave up on because of it’s illegibility….

That’s better. Something a little cleaner…

Next a few hours moving signs around till I got the best arrangement. It took longer than I expected and taking into account the gallery framing system, I used some easels and a wooden box….

Planning how the window installation will look in the studio…

Paperwork needed to be sent to the Gallery including a price list and my artist’s blurb. All done along with the poster and invite, also designed in late May. The latter were sent out to my mailing list and to free online listing sites locally alongside Facebook, Instagram (@helencannart) and Twitter (@helen_cann) in early June.

From this, I got featured in a lovely preview piece written by Peter James Field for the Brighton Source.

Prints had to be printed and framed images protectd with bubble wrap. Some trusty friends were organised to help me carry my framed pictures, prints and window installation signs to the gallery. They were amazing and on one of the hottest days of the year…

Trusty friends…

So now it’s two days before the exhibition. Advertising – check. Marketing – check. Delivery of artwork to the gallery – check. Paperwork to the Gallery – check. Beer bought for friends – check.

Fingers crossed that the show goes fine and is a fitting launch for ‘Hand Drawn Maps’. And hopefully more beer will be enjoyed in celebration.

Hand Drawn Maps

22nd-25th June

O N C A Gallery, 14 St George’s Place, Brighton, BN1 4GB

www.onca.org.uk

 

Buy my prints at the Onca Gallery Christmas Ecoextravaganza!

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.
Birds live in nests
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.

Map of the Moon

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.

Framed map of Brighton
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.

We Dream of Blue Whales triptych 72

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.

Email: info@onca.org.uk

Website: www.onca.org.uk

Address: ONCA, 14 St George’s Place, Brighton, BN1 4GB, UK

Telephone: 01273 607101

 

 

 

 

What I get up to in my studio…

Studios are forever fascinating to the general public.  For some reason, friends and acquaintances of mine love to visit me in my place of work and I’m sure this wouldn’t be the case if it was an office.  The arcane and unusual happens in studios.  They are filled with mysterious objects far from the mundane and peopled with bohemians and artists dancing on the edge of craziness…. They are Romantic-with-a-capital-R and are almost always in garrets.

My studio (on a tidy day)

My studio (on a tidy day)

Don’t be slightly disappointed if you make your way up the scruffy staircase above the milkshake shop and enter into a bright, white and very workmanlike workspace.  Definitely not even the hint of a garret.

Yes, it is filled with the art equipment of my trade – the paint boxes, coloured pencils, acrylics, inks and a huge collection of collage papers – collected over the years from around the world; paper bags, origami papers, wrapping paper and wallpaper semi-overflowing from colour coded boxes.  But there are also the printers, computers, staplers, tape-dispensers and paper clips necessary for the most everyday of businesses.

Studio art paraphanalia

Studio art paraphanalia

The studio chill out zone. Just switch on and enjoy...

The studio chill out zone. Just switch on and space out…

The studio drink cellar. For those late night deadlines...

The studio drink cellar. To get you through those late night deadlines…

I share my space with two others – currently with Clive, who is another artist and Alistair (creative but non-professionally creative) who works for a charity spreading positive policies around the world.  None of them are outwardly bohemian or even remotely crazy.  We share biscuits and coffee and go out for an annual Christmas drink.
Mostly it’s me who makes the coffee….

Can't go wrong with a High School Musical mug and some coffee.

Can’t go wrong with a High School Musical mug.

It’s been a space that has allowed me to get as messy as I like and pursue projects outside of my illustration commissions.  Occasionally I have been employed by my local arthouse cinemas (The Duke of Yorks and Dukes@Komedia) to make props publicising upcoming films.

A pop-up book to promote the horror film 'The Babadook' commissioned by Dukes@Komedia.

A pop-up book to promote the horror film ‘The Babadook’.

A pop up cinema (made from a cheap gazebo) which showed black and white films for the Kid's Club at Dukes@Komedia cinema.

A pop up cinema within a cinema which I made from a cheap gazebo to show black and white films for the cinema Kid’s Club.

A huge papier mache head promoting the film 'Frank Sidebottom'.

A huge papier mache head promoting the film ‘Frank Sidebottom’.

You definitely have to try it for size...

Apparently it was very difficult to breathe in.

When I have time, I work on my fine art practice – painting or making artist maps.  Although my illustration is very established, I am slowly building up my fine art career strongly supported by Onca Gallery, where I have exhibited regularly.  You can find out more about my fine art by visiting here.

We Dream of Blue Whales

We Dream of Blue Whales (a mapping project first shown at the exhibition ‘The Whale Road’.)

Chinese emperor mid painting.

Chinese emperor mid painting. Originally commissioned by The King’s Head pub in Dalston, London.

But most importantly, the studio keeps me sane.  I like people so solitude doesn’t suit me. Being able to talk to my colleagues about the night before or the burning issues of the day, hear the buzz of the street, knock back an occasional milkshake or complain about the relentless busking outside the window gives me a tremendous feeling of contentment and belonging. Regardless of whether my studio truly is a Romantic-with-a-capital-R place to work, this is what makes it most valuable to me…

cheeky Helen

 

We Dream of Blue Whales

image

My maps are finally ready to print!

In the Summer of last year, I took part in an artist’s residency across 1300 miles of the North Atlantic in a sailing boat mapping whales for an international maritime conservation database.

The resulting work was the triptych, ‘We Dream of Blue Whales’ which was shown in the exhibition ‘The Whale Road’ alongside work by the three other artists on board. You can read more about this huge adventure on my fine art website, about the journey itself, my work process shortly afterwards, and the final pieces and exhibition… There are tales of drownings, hurricanes, smuggling, ghost ships and the hunt for some very elusive sea monsters and finally about the inspiration behind ‘We Dream of Blue Whales’…

I am very excited to get the prints back from the printers so please feel free to contact me on here if you would like to know more.

Illustrated artists map of the flightline of a single Barbastelle bat.

An artists map commissioned by ONCA gallery in collaboration with Sussex Wildlife Trust for the exhibition ‘Making Tracks’ in July 2013.

The map is based on the flightline of a single Barbastelle bat – Starbeard 3 – from a roost in Butcherland, Ebernoe Common in Sussex using data from a SWT field survey. I was interested in how bats use echolocation to navigate; they effectively shout and listen to the echoes returning to locate themselves. With that in mind, I included echoes of the people and history of the Wealden landscape that you can still see if you look closely too. I learnt lots about that area: – the old days of charcoal making, forest glass and limestone kilns and the fact that there are 30 words for the word ‘mud’ in Sussex dialect…

The long shape of the map is based on the original English strip maps of the first days of mapping.  You can see a larger and complete version here.

The name Starbeard comes from the translation of Barbastelle – Beard: barba and Stelle: star.

The exhibition opens on July 5th 2013 and continues for two months in Brighton, UK.

echolocation72part1echolocation72part2echolocation72part3echolocation72part4