17 March 2014

THE STORY OF STONE ROSIE PART 2




Its been a long 6 months since I posted  THE STORY OF STONE ROSIE PART 1  and during all that time the life-size version of Rosie the elephant has been touring the shopping centres of Britain (strictly speaking only the ones owned by a company called Intu). Sadly Intu don't own any in Birmingham so the city of my birth has missed out on my proboscine achievement. (Proboscine is to elephant as lupine is to wolf I just found out. I'd have thought it would be pachydermine but apparently not so.) I prefer pachydermine.

After completing the tiny elephant I was cowed by the thought of doing it all again on a vastly bigger scale. I was hoping though that it would be easier working big, much less fiddly and easier on my eyes. Needless to say it all turned out very different...


Wainsgate Chapel is a slowly decaying listed building on a pot-holed lane up a steep hill heading up into the moors. I'm lucky enough to share a quiet painting studio there with my friend Sarah. There are beautiful views nearby, this one from the road looking across to the hill top settlement of Heptonstall and the moor beyond.


I  imagined Wainsgate would provide an ideal environment for decorating Rosie.  Unfortunately however, although the fibreglass Roly Poly could get through the front door, she was too fat to pass through the door to the studio. This meant she had to be painted in a very dark and chilly corridor, with stone flags, between the toilet and the studio doors. Even when it was hot and sunny outside I needed 3 jumpers on and insulated shoes.


To see anything I had to use an army of plug-in lamps bouncing light off the ceiling - a right performance as nothing much to hang them on and we are not allowed to put in screws or heaven forbid nails. 


I will never forget the freezing feeling of those stone flags which I had to grovel on to paint Rosie's under parts. Its amazing how actively you can grow to hate a corridor. But the sweet expression on Rosie's face always cheered me up. In this photo she looks like one of those Galloway belted cattle, apart from the red toenails.  The intention was always to paint them gold and red makes the best base colour.


I'm not even going to mention the fiddliness of painting round those red hearts of her ankle bracelet, no wonder many other Elephant Parade artists just paint over them.


Fitting the flat design onto Rosie's bulging belly involved a real challenge to ensure the circle stayed perfect. And then there was the other side to do exactly the same - whose idea was this! It turned out that the shape of the big elephant was significantly different to the small one and required a lot of adjusting.


98 double Tudor roses needed to be painted if you include the giant ones on her rosy cheeks. When I first had the idea for my elephant design I didn't realise how intricate the Rose Window at York Minster really is. Maybe I should have modified it for the elephant, but I became fixated on producing an accurate transcription of the original.


And then they all required a fine black outline to help create the illusion of stained glass. So much work and very tiring on the arm muscles.


The artists acrylic paint has a subtle sheen and the mars black pigment I used is a very warm black which seemed appropriate to the subject somehow.



To make the blue at the centre of the rose window more intense I used a range of different blue paint pigments.


Even though we had warm weather I needed a fan neater to help dry the paint so I could keep working in the icy corridor.


It is important to me that Rosie should have appealing eyes and I'm pleased with how they turned out.  Medieval stained glass made use of cobalt and soda-lime to achieve blue but in the Western painting tradition ultramarine blue, being the most expensive and beautiful colour, was reserved for the most important subjects of the painting such as the holy family and Mary in particular. I made Rosie's eyes blue to express her spiritual nature.


At last Rosie gets to peek out of the big entrance doors at Wainsgate chapel and to admire the gentle Yorkshire rain.



Here she is waiting for the truck that came to take her off on her adventures away from innocent, peaceful Wainsgate to the hectic frenzy of the herd at Kings Cross Station concourse and far beyond.




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