John Elwyn was born (John Elwyn Davies) in 1916 in Newcastle Emlyn in rural south Cardiganshire where his father ran a woollen mill, one of many that once flourished on the banks of the Teifi. After spending two years at the Carmarthen School of Art, he went on to the West of England College of Art in Bristol, where he was awarded an Exhibition tenable at the Royal College of Art in London. In his first year there he studied architectural drawing, still-life painting and life- drawing, and enrolled in an evening class at the London College of Printing in order to learn engraving.
His facility for figure drawing attracted the attention of Gilbert Spencer, the Professor of Painting, who described the young Welshman as one of the best students he had ever had the good fortune to teach. One of the influences on Elwyn at this time was the Euston Road School of painters; he was also deeply impressed by the Cezanne centenary exhibition of 1939.
John studied at Carmarthen Art School in 1933-37, Bristol College of Art in 1937-38 and Royal College of Art in 1938-39 and 1946-47.
I like the carefree, colourful feel to these paintings from the early sixties.
I would guess, what he learnt from painting these early floaty, globular landscapes, somehow helped to both stimulate and create a visual subject matter for his later work.
His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war later that year when the Royal College moved to the Lake District. Having already registered as a conscientious objector, he was directed to work in forestry above Pont-rhyd-y-fen in the Afan Valley, where he remained for four years, painting a scarred industrial district dominated by the steelworks of Port Talbot in a Neo- Romantic style which owed a good deal to English artists such as Michael Ayrton and Graham Sutherland. It was not until 1947 that he was able to resume his studies at the Royal College.
From 1948 to 1953 Elwyn taught at the College of Art in Portsmouth, and began exhibiting his work from 1948 regularly at the Royal Academy, New English Arts Club and in exhibitions arranged by the Welsh Arts Council and the Royal National Eisteddfod. His first London exhibition was held at the Paul Alexander Gallery in 1949 and it was at about this time that he began making engravings for Radio Times. Encouraged by Winifred Coombe-Tennant, a wealthy landowner and generous patron of young Welsh artists, to paint what he knew most about, he now returned in his imagination to his halcyon childhood in Cardiganshire, finding in it the subject-matter which he was to spend the rest of his career exploring.
Some of my favourite paintings are featured below, which detail everyday life in the village community.
He was a keen observer of life … in the villages, the colourful seasons and changing landscapes, he recorded and painted them all.
The visual drama of the Welsh industrialised landscape soon replaced the tranquillity of the chapel paintings as John Elwyn focused his attention on the miners and their landscape near Pont-Rhyd-y-Fen where he had lived when working on the land during the war. Across open wasteland, scarred by industry, he witnessed miners descend steep roads in pouring rain from a sky into which distant chimneys at Port Talbot belch their sulphurous waste. Such picturesque urban romanticism was a rare departure from the concerns of mainstream British painting; few artists were recording the industrial landscape in 1951.
In September 1953 John Elwyn moved to Winchester, there his paintings followed a new line of enquiry, this time drawing upon his wide experience of the working life of the countryside. Paintings of the cattle pastures, farm yards and barns of the Teifi and Ceri valleys and upland rural areas of Cardiganshire record activities in the countryside at different times of the day and as they vary from season to season. They present a panegyric of country life, labour is seen as pure and dignified. Figurative subjects, however, increasingly gave way to pure landscape – the patterned meadows, organised and divided into fields with hedgerows and stone walls dappled with sunlight display a strong sense of genius loci. The debate between the advocates of abstraction and those of more representational modes of painting, created a dilemma for the traditional painters. John Elwyn began to use nature more selectively, his compositions gradually became more economical and the formal passages more predominant. Liberated from pure representation, he used colour more symbolically.
He won the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod in 1956, held one-man exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries in London and was commissioned to make lithographs by the Curwen Press and to illustrate some of the Shell Guides to the Countryside. In 1962 he started a series of large abstract compositions which eventually formed solo exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries in 1965 and 1969, both were a financial and widespread critical success.
Beautiful colours, perspectives and shapes here.
A man of peaceful temperament, John Elwyn remained modest and unassuming about his own work and always ready to praise that of others. His retrospective exhibition at the National Library of Wales in 1996 was the final accolade for a Welsh painter who had practised his art with unswerving devotion and great distinction.
It was way back in 2010 that I first featured the work of Lisa Larson on my site. Since then, I keep being reminded of how much I like her ceramics, when coming across images of her work online. So I decided to group some more of her fab animals together for an update, starting with her famous Cats. I love they way these skulk about on their little legs.
There appears to be many versions of the same animal with different glazes or colourations. Again this probably helps to keep them highly collectable.
A few animals from the hedgerows.
From the fields to the prairies, the plains to the mountains too, she’s covered them all.
Even those from the zoo !
We all know that dogs come in many different shapes and sizes. Her ‘pom-pom’ poodles and gruff bulldogs both made me smile.
A few of her pots and vessels.
In the last few years, Tokyo has been so inspired by her work that not only is Lisa having exhibitions there, but a company called Powershovel has started producing towels, toys and books for a new generation to appreciate.
The T-shirts are sold through Uniqlo.
Also a collection of keyrings, presently retailing for about £25 ! Keen prices for a keen market.
Such a talented lady.
If you enjoyed this post you may also like the work of Jonathan Adler.
Peter Donnelly is an Irish illustrator and art director. His work displays a love for folk art and vintage print design. He works in a variety of media including screenprinting, drawing and digital. His background is in animation where he originally trained under 1950s UPA studio artist, Harry Hess, then he ran an art department for Don Bluth in 20th Century Fox and continued on for spells in Dreamworks, Hahn Film and various other companies in Europe. Since returning to Dublin in 2000, Peter has gradually stepped away from film and thrown himself more into illustration. What a great landscape to behold below.
Peter tells Yeller website “I always try to introduce a narrative into my work and then leave the door open a little for the viewer. Sometimes it comes natural, while other times I have to work hard to find that right combination. I’ve always found illustrations that go beyond just an appealing looking image much more interesting. If my work can hold someone’s attention for more than a minute, then I feel I’ve achieved something in that piece “
Peter’s distinct style attracts creative agencies and clients from Ireland and the UK through Europe and the United States. He has been awarded by The Creative Quarterly Journal of Art and Design, American Illustration, and the 3×3 Professional Illustration and Children’s Book showcases. You can buy a print from his Society 6 Site.
Whether it’s food….
or Music … (the food of love according to Shakespeare) … you can find it here.
Here’s a little advertising work.
I love the fact that Peter shows his doodles and sketchbook work on his blog. He says on Yeller ” I made a conscious decision about two years ago to introduce more hand craft into my illustration. There is a lot of good work out there but much of it looks the same to me and unfortunately it becomes boring. I experiment with linocut and study old printing techniques. I try to bring that into my work to give it an identity. Fifty percent of what I do is in the pencil work, it’s my favourite part of the job, it’s where the ideas get fleshed out and I find the solutions to my briefs. The other half is working digitally “
On receiving a new brief he initially cleans up his desk, re-reads the brief a few times and then writes down a list of words that come to mind from the brief. He says ” If there’s time, I’ll give it some space then come back to it with a pencil and begin sketching ideas down. I still get a rush when I read a brief, partly fear, partly excitement ” (Yeller)
Here’s he is working hard surrounded by his many sketchbooks of ideas.
Peter has illustrated over thirty books for clients including, Little Red Riding Hood, Fras na nGaeilge, Leabhar Breac, Mentor Books and the Educational company of Ireland. You can see more of his individual projects over on his Pinterest site under the title of donoart.
Here’s a commission for a children’s room.
He has some great advice for new illustrators hoping to get into the industry. ” First of all you’ve got to LOVE it. If you do, it will show in your work. If you go in half way your work will look half baked. Work hard, its like every other thing in life in that you’ve got to nurture it. Have patience, it takes time to develop a style and a body of work. When you look at someones work that you admire, try and figure out what makes it successful and why it works. Adapt that information rather than copying the work straight off…otherwise you will only be a second rate them. Finally and most importantly don’t work for nothing, even if its only a small reward, you’ve got a duty to educate people that what you do is your job. People need to learn to respect that ” ( Yeller )
Superb work Peter, it certainly keeps me smiling anyway. Many thanks.
Welcome back to part two of my visit to this years Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair last week.
One of my ‘favourite stand awards’ goes to my first entrant, Ceramist Penny Withers. Her beautiful studio ceramics are first thrown on the wheel, leaving the ridges as a feature and later reformed to a different shape when a new base is also added. They are then fired and glazed and finally re-fired to reach their finished forms. Lovely crackle glazes and subtle colours made these firm winners in my mind. Penny was lovely to chat to and also runs pottery courses in Sheffield too.
How well these chinese lanterns compliment the shape and colours in this piece. Wow !
Elizabeth Terzza has taken the seeds of nature as the inspiration for her delicate silver jewellery. Her tiny cones and sycamore seed necklace, are stunning pieces.
Detailed and friendly animals on Julia Smith’s Ceramics.
I discovered two familiar faces from the stands of Fiona McIntosh of Tessuti Printed Textiles and James Donald of Pick One, both of whom I know from selling my work through their boutique gift shop in Edinburgh called Concrete Wardrobe. I loved these new scottie dogs in fiona’s fabric, they work very well. A fab and colourful stand full of soft woolen weaves from James too, hope you both had a good show.
Manchester based Willow weaver Cherry Chung has made some lovely baskets and bowls that combined her stoneware bases and the dyed or natural willow surround. She has been commissioned to make huge storytelling tree or magic tree puppet theatre like the one below. Cherry also runs local courses (info on her site), if anyone fancies trying this out for themselves.
Lovely to see how Tone Von Krogh‘s new work is getting larger and larger. Look at these stunning vases, what a centrepiece they would make.
Lastly I spotted the felt work of fibre artist Valerie Wartelle. Her textile landscapes with their dyed and embroidered surfaces were like textural snapshots of the countryside. Sadly I didn’t get to speak to Valerie in person as she was busy with a potential customer but I wanted to include her beautiful work in my post.
A fab and busy show, congratulations to the organisers and to everyone who took part and made the exhibition the event it was.
Thanks again to everyone who generously gave of their time and let me take photographs to show you all. Here’s to the next one !
Some time ago I discovered the illustrator Nikki Dyson on Twitter and have long since admired her work. It’s full of fun and vibrancy and has that wonderful mid-century nod, that always makes my heart beat a little faster lol
When I asked Nikki about the American style to her work (for a UK artist) she told me ” I’m really influenced by american animation art like UPA, Maurice Noble, Chuck Jones and especially from early Disney…that’s how I discovered Mary Blair‘s work and that led onto discovering more amazing artists that were involved in the concept art for the films ie Gustaf Tenggren, Alice and Martin Provensen and Al Dempster ! All of whom have illustrated Little Golden books so that led me onto knowing about these little gems and being hugely influenced by them in my work too.
Lovely modern renditions here of 1950’s and 60’s traditional travel posters, cleverly turned into post cards. Love the knotted hanky : )
It’s difficult not to smile looking at these colourful images.
Some greeting cards.
Nikki has an impressive client list too, she’s worked with names such as Usborne Books, Macmillan Children’s Books, Walker Books, National Geographic Kids, Macmillan Education as well as the famous Random House (Little Golden Books). Here’s a few of her books.
For those of you old enough or English enough to remember the children’s programme “Vision On” and its presenter Tony Hart then you’ll also be amused by Nikki’s Art Gallery section on her blog (make sure you have your sound on for the full effect lol)
I mentioned this to Nikki and she said ” Haha yes, I can’t forget my british roots too ! So the theme is a tribute to Tony Hart as I adored watching him as a child and loved the gallery sequence and would always try and create what he did on the show (though not to the same degree of success!) I also admire the work of Quentin Blake, Judith Kerr, Shirley Hughes all amazing inspirational people ! “
All of this amazing work comes from such a wee little workspace too, small but very productive I think ! Great illustrations Nikki, keep up the lovely work.
Welcome back to part two of the graphic and advertising illustrations in the Modern Publicity Annual from 1950 -51. No surprises how many of the illustrators use animals to help add interest to their message.
Who wouldn’t remember a giraffe on the phone.
Or this fab kangaroo in a box !
A couple of record covers.
And a little colour to finish with. These eskimo blankets do look warm and inviting, but I’m less convinced by a smoking Walrus… each to their own I suppose !
You can find more posts and illustrations in this series by typing the words Modern Publicity into the search function on the right of this post. Don’t forget to share it and tell your friends about Fishink Blog. Thank you.