Anne Bronte p.200 exhibition: A step by step guide

The inspiration for my piece and how it was created

The exhibition involves 200 artists and 200 hundred pages of the classic novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, celebrating the bicentenary of Anne Bronte’s birth. Each artist was given a page at random, to illustrate in whichever way they wanted, the only restriction being that we must use the original page in some way and the artwork must be the same size as the original page. The event has proved so popular that it has attracted the attention of the BBC and you can read their article here

I knew which page I wanted and didn’t think for a moment that I would be lucky enough to receive it, but I did ! The particular line of text I was interested in illustrating was ‘No, Arthur, it was not a dream, that your conduct was such as to oblige me to leave you’.

This line of text became the main inspiration for how the illustration developed and why I made each decision. I wanted to show that Helen had told her husband that she was justified in leaving and capable of taking her son, little Arthur, to a new life within the beautiful grounds of Wildfell Hall, surrounded by trees, and with this chapter of her life behind her.

The first few images show that I began by gluing the original page to sturdy watercolour paper and made registration marks. I then roughly drafted out my idea, the composition and began to plan where this particular line of text would fall within the illustration by using the registration marks and marking the position of this line of text on the roughs. I had initially thought that I might wrap this line of text around her waist, but as you can see from the photographs, I changed my mind and placed it below her, symbolising what was past and Wildfell Hall was the future.

I used four separate images to create the drawn part of the illustration: one of little Arthur on his trike, one of Helen, and two of Wildfell Hall and grounds. I quite liked the idea of little Arthur whizzing along the path on his trike to his new home and being happy. I then began to draw and colour the image in graphite pencil and coloured crayon directly onto the page, and when I’d got the basics laid down I stopped so that I could work on the textile part of the finished piece. The inspiration for using textiles was to enhance the feeling of being shielded by trees, immersed in nature and the beauty of the natural world, which is very much part of my usual work, but also because the grounds of Wildfell Hall are particularly stunning, and I wanted Helen and Arthur to be safe.

A sheet of glass was placed over the illustration and I used tin foil to describe the 3D form of trees in the foreground, this was taped into position on the glass. Cotton thread was sewn by machine onto dissolvable stabilizer and this was positioned onto the tin foil. I then lightly sprayed it with water so that the glue in the stabilizer dissolved and absorbed into the cotton thread. Whilst wet, I manipulated the cotton form into position using the reference material I had and my illustration that I could see through the glass. I then picked up the glass with the cotton form attached to it, set it aside to dry and continued working on the drawing. I was able to replace the glass over the illustration to check that the colour and strength of line would work with the textile form.

The cotton dries very stiff and doesn’t stay in position as it dries, it then moves out of place as it’s removed from the tin foil form, so some adjustment was needed using scissors to open up gaps to create the shape I wanted. The textile form was then stitched into position on the illustration and trimmed to the correct size using my initial registration marks on the watercolour paper.

I very much enjoyed the project and am grateful that I was able to take part and hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about my ideas and creation of the piece. There are many more events which have been organised by the curator Lindsey Tyson and you can follow the link to the website here for information and booking details.

If you would like to see the illustration the exhibition is on now at:

Woodend, The Crescent, Scarborough, YO11 2PW until February 8th

viewing will not be possible on Saturday 17th after 12.30 pm

Please check gallery opening times on 01723 384500

For further information about Woodend follow them on facebook at this link here

My piece, along with many others, are for sale and purchases can be made by contacting the gallery directly. It really is a stunning collective exhibition and well worth seeing if you are in the area as photographs never provide a full representation. Woodend is a fantastic gallery with much to see, free to enter and has a great coffee shop with comfortable seating areas.

Thank you for reading.

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