Getting it right



I have repainted the Hewas Inn pictorial sign a couple of times over the years and never been completely satisfied with the result. It’s a nice enough idea, initially worked up in collaboration with the landlord, depicting an agricultural scene set in front of a local landmark. Somehow though it was missing something. Areas of the design were indistinct, and with the passage of time I had lost my original source photographs that I had referred to, resulting in subsequent pictures being painted with only the old faded sign as a guide.

When the sign needed to be replaced this time it was an ideal opportunity to refresh the design and improve it, so this week I dug out as much reference as I needed, both from my own extensive library and online, and set about breathing new life into the old idea. Some time ago I bought a very tired old horse harness so that I could better understand how they work, and this has also been pressed into service as reference material.

The research and sketching side of the process on any project can take a long time as there is seldom a complete image that can be reproduced exactly, and I usually pull in elements of the design from several sources and stitch them together in a sketch. This sketch is then altered and adapted a few times until the composition works for me. This will probably take much longer than I had budgeted for in my quote in this case, but the important thing is to get it right. The time put in is a double investment too, as I am also writing and illustrating a book which has a large horse drawn vehicle in a leading role, so the more familiar I am with heavy horses in harness the better. It’s another example of how everything that I do artistically, whether painting, carving or writing, invariably informs and supports the other projects in some way. No effort is ever wasted.

Over the weekend I will sketch the figures that will be pitching the hay onto the cart, and add them in. I already know roughly where they will be and how they will be standing, but the detail still needs to be refined.

It’s a lot of work for a small country pub, but each job is as important to me as the next whether its for a Royal Household or a local business. To the landlord and patrons of this pub their sign matters. In the end I know the sign will be better for the effort. I will enjoy painting it, secure in the knowledge that it is the best that I can do, and hopefully it will be an accurate depiction of hay harvesting in the early 1900s.