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Creativity Art Blog

Art & Crafting Hints, Tips & Discussion

  • Bookbinding Techniques - The Basics

    Make your own sketchbooks with this guide!

    General Terms and Tools

    Signature - is a set of papers folded in half once.
    Book block - is a set of signatures glued or sewn together; they make up the inside of the book.
    Endpapers - are the signatures attached to the front and the back covers.
    Headband / tailband - is a band looped around a strip of leather or rope.
    Hinge - is the part of the book near the spine where the book folds open
    Rib - Ribs are the thickening part of the spine - they are either created naturally by the ropes holding together the book block, or by using plastic 'fake' ribs.

    bonefolder
    bodkin
    sewing needles
    waxed thread

     

    Bookbinding types

    In the following articles we'll introduce you the these popular bookbinding techniques:

    Pamphlet binding

    Coptic binding

    Japanese binding

    Concertina

    History

    The first books were clay tablets from around 3800 BC Babylon era. Other different materials included Palm books made out of palm leaves or strips of bark.

    The next major type was the papyrus roll or scroll. These were made out of plant stems that were cut into fibre strips, soaked in the Nile and dried. After that they were hammered into sheets and whitened with ivory. They were really brittle, and could only be stored rolled up.

    Clay Tablet

    Wax tablets were another commonly used writing surface in Antiquity. They were made out of wood. Covered with a layer of wax, making it reusable and portable.

    Wax tablet and a Roman stylus

    The paper we think about nowadays was invented in China around 200 BC. The manufacture process was adopted by the Arabs and thus gradually spread to the west. The first paper mill in England was established in 1496 near Stevenage.

    A palm leaf Hindu text manuscript
    St Cuthbert's Gospel, the oldest surviving Western binding

    Bookbinding and paper was revolutionised by the invention of printing presses and printing, the invention of German Johannes Gutenberg (1456).

    The first printer in England, William Caxton, followed in less then twenty years.

    As printing increased the number of books, binding became a separate occupation. The 16th century saw the golden age of book covers as new fine tools made it possible to create exquisite designs.

     

    Contemporary use:

    Fine art/ artist books
    Handmade sketchbooks, journals
    Repair of antique books

    References

    • http://www.bookbinding.co.uk/City%20&%20Guilds%20Course%20Notes/July%202014%20Inroductory%20Lesson.pdf
    • http://www.studentbookbinding.co.uk/blog/types-of-binding
    • https://issuu.com/casatallerlasartesdellibro/docs/bookbinding--a-manual-of-techniques----pamela-rich
  • Bookbinding Techniques 1. - Make a Pamphlet

    Pamphlet Binding

    In the series of Bookbinding Techniques, the first one introduces the Pamphlet binding. This is a good beginner technique that is also a classic  - with a few easy stitches you have a small booklet, which is also the base for more advanced techniques.

    You will need:

    Method:

    Before stating the booklet, it's a good idea to make a template that you can use to determine the position of the holes on each folio(paper folded in half). Grab a piece of paper that's exactly the same length as the 'spine' of your folio. Measure 3, 4 or 5 holes (2 towards the top and 2 towards the bottom of the spine) depending on the length of your paper. Then pierce the paper where you marked it with the awl or an embroidery needle. Next, you can place the template and pierce each folio with the help of the template.

     

    The stitch with 3 holes 

    Pierce three holes using the template.

    Measure the thread that should be three times the length of your signature ( multiple folios that you want to stitch together). Pull the thread through the 2nd hole, but don't tie a knot on the end yet.

    Continue towards the 1st hole, as show on the photo below.

     

    Next you want to pull the tread out at the 3rd hole...

    ... then pull the thread through the 2nd hole again. Tighten the thread and

    And lastly, tie the thread around the one running along the spine and then cut off the excess thread.

    Pamphlet stitch is a great beginner technique, and it's good for poetry or artist books or zines. You can also use many different types of paper for this technique, from transfer paper to watercolour.

     

    References and Photos:

    • http://www.designsponge.com/2013/03/bookbinding-101-five-hole-pamphlet-stitch.html
    • https://www.loc.gov/preservation/resources/educational/bookarts/pamphlet.pdf
    • http://www.reframingphotography.com/content/book-making-pamphlet-stitch-book
  • Amsterdam Acrylic Inks - Available Now!

    What are the Amsterdam Acrylic Inks like?

    What are Acrylic Inks?

    Acrylic inks are in-between materials – you can use and think of them as liquid acrylic paint, or thicker watercolours, however the big difference is that once they are dry, they are permanently dry! We are really excited as this year (2018) we have finally got them listed on iartsupplies!

    The Royal Talens Amsterdam Acrylic Inks have 46 different colours (metallic and fluorescent as well!) that are just the same as the acrylic markers, spray paint and acrylic paint the brand does, making the colours fully interchangeable

    What are the properties of Amsterdam Acrylic Inks?

    • Acrylic ink is the closest in to the Amsterdam Acrylic Markers. They are more liquid than regular acrylic paint, but thicker than watercolour or ecoline
    • Brilliant & Vibrant colours with intense pigments
    • Waterproof once dried
    • Water based and can be mixed with other water based paints
    • Highly Lightfast
    • Odourless
    • Can be combined with Amsterdam acrylic paint, spray paint or markers, as the pirments are the same used in each paint type
    • Can be used on different grounds like paper, canvas, cardboard, wood, plastic and metal (if primed first)
    • Good for pours

    Techniques / How to use

    Drawing / painting 

    Acrylic inks can be used as any other regular ink or paint, with dip pens or with the drop.
    As they dry waterproof, you can easily create layers of lines and washes, as they will remain visible under the fresh layers. Why not try using a dip pen with acrylic ink? Its is also a good idea if you want to write / draw with mixed colours!

    Make marks with a brayer

    Another good idea by Kim Dellow is to use a brayer to make different patterns with acrylic inks.

    Why not Print on fabric/paper?

    Yes, acrylic inks are even suitable for printmaking, whether the surface is regular paper or fabric!

    Washes

    Acrylic inks are also suitable for traditional watercolour techniques like washes. However, due to its different properties, acrylic inks make it possible for the lower layers to stay visible.

    Drops/splatters/ spraying water

    As Acrylic inks stay waterproof after they dry, you can create nice layers of drops and splashes that will stay visible even if you add more layers or spray the surface with water.
    Also a nice technique to try and add water to the inks once they are on the surface - or perhaps to spray them with water which creates nice patterns and washes. To further experiment, you can try to spread the inks or water.

    Pours/ Cells effect

    Acrylic inks are excellent for pours and creating cell effect. Mix each colour with a few drops of silicone and floetrol and pour them in the same cup one by one. Place the canvas (surface) on top of the cup and flip. Wait for a few minutes before lifting up the cup, and just let the ink flow. If it doesn't cover the whole area, just help it by lifting the surface a little. If you add silicone, it will help the colours to separate, creating interesting cell-like patterns.

    References and Photos:

     

  • How to present your Artworks

    Good presentation makes a big difference to your artwork, especially when it comes to exhibiting them.

    However strange it may seem, you don’t need to be a professional framer in order to give a ‘professional’ touch to your art – and it can be done by some simple tricks!

    Mounting

    Mounting your artworks doesn't only make them look 'professional' and exhibition ready, but helps protecting them as well!  There are two main ways to do it, depending on the type of art you have.

    Floating mount

    Good way to present your works that are either not in the middle of the paper, or where the edges have an importance / look good with the artwork.

    Floating mount has a telling name: the work attached to the mount board will be slightly 'floating' off. To achieve this effect, you attach the work with adhesive tapes in a T shape:

    Window mount

    The other popular type is the window mount, where the artwork is surrounded by a frame of mount board. The perfect choice for displaying prints and photos.

     

    Find what you need on our website:

    References:

    • https://www.diplomaframe.com/chc-blog/tips-for-float-mounting-artwork/
    • http://www.grignonsart.com/instructions/howtomountart.html
    • https://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/conservation/matting/matting-hinging-project.html
    • http://www.sheffield-photographer.org.uk/downloads/HOW%20%20TO%20%20WINDOW.pdf
    • http://www.fineart.co.uk/buying/Framing_Info_Advice.aspx
    • https://www.artistsandillustrators.co.uk/how-to/framing-varnish/215/ten-framing-tips-from-eframes-jayne-lowther
    • http://www.widewalls.ch/collectors-tip-how-to-frame-an-artwork-readymade-or-diy/page-2-try-it-out/
  • The Art of Chinese Calligraphy Painting

    Chinese Calligraphy Painting

    Calligraphy is the art of writing Chinese characters and especially refers to the rules of writing with a brush. The art originated in China around 4,000 - 5,000 years ago and spread to other parts of the Orient with Chinese culture

    Calligraphy and painting are regarded as two treasures in China. Together with Qin, the ancient Zheng, and Qi, the chess, they formed the four skills for a learned and elegant scholar to pursue in ancient times. They were also held as a good exercise to cultivate one's temperament.

    Chinese Culture

    Chinese culture is full of symbols and signs of good luck, and objects that stand to prove that culture and art  play a very important role in the country’s future. Traditional handicrafts often represent a nation’s beauty, and the Chinese are set in this belief.

    Materials for Calligraphy Painting

    Chinese history is known for its highly stylised form of writing, developed and shaped by calligraphers throughout the country. Even today, the four treasures of study – ink stick, ink slab, writing brush and paper – are tools that calligraphers are seldom found without.

    Chinese ink sold in solid stick form is lavishly decorated. The ink is made from pinewood soot mixed with gum resin. Ink stones are hard, flat and dabbed with water for use.

    Strokes

    There are seven standard strokes, called the Seven Mysteries. They consist of the horizontal line, the dot, the sweeping downward stroke, the sharp curve and two forms of the downward stroke: one with a hook and one in a 45-degree angle.

    There are five major styles of Chinese calligraphy: Zuan, Li, Tsao, Hsin and Kai. With all, the palm may not touch the brush, which is held vertically to the paper.

    Chinese Calligraphy in Different Styles


      

    Chinese Characters

    If you’re interested in learning Character strokes, you can check out  the written Chinese dictionary that has stroke animations for 1000s of characters.

    Just like working on anything else, practising calligraphy requires unremitting efforts. If you’re interested in it, you may start practising with a professional Chinese calligraphy teacher.

     

    References:

    Billeter, Jean François. The Chinese Art of Writing. New York: Skira/Rizzoli, 1990.

    Harrist, Robert, and Wen Fong. The Embodied Image: Chinese Calligraphy from the John B. Elliott Collection. Princeton: Art Museum, Princeton University in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1999.

    Kraus, Richard Curt. Brushes with Power: Modern Politics and the Chinese Art of Calligraphy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

    Sullivan, Michael. The Three Perfections: Chinese Painting, Poetry, and Calligraphy. Rev. ed. New York: George Braziller, 1999.

    Yee, Chiang. Chinese Calligraphy: An Introduction to Its Aesthetics and Technique. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973.

    Links:

    https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chcl/hd_chcl.htm

    https://asiasociety.org/education/chinese-calligraphy. 2018.

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/culture/art/2016-12/29/content_27802189.htm

    http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/calligraphy.php

  • Eco Friendly and Vegan Art Supplies

    How can art supplies be vegan?

    Believe it or not, art supplies aren't an exception when it comes to using animal ingredients. In this article we collected art materials and products that contain animal ingredients, and those that are free of them.

    Eco friendly art products are made out of recycled materials, or pencils made out of bamboo instead of wood, etc. Artist tend to use environmentally unfriendly and even harmful products in their practice, therefore being a little bit more environmentally conscious where you can is advised!

    Animal products in Art Supplies:

    • brush bristles are traditionally made with animal hair
    Hog bristle brushes

    Sable brushes

    • Shellac , a material made out of the secretion of the lac insect, is used as binder in inks and for a glossy finish
    • Ox gall is a watercolour medium that improves the flow of the paint, and is made of animal protein
    • Cochineal is the secretion of insects that is used in the making of carmine dyes.
    • Bone black is a very strong black, made from the charring of bones.
    • Tempera paints contain egg as a pigment binder.
    • Gelatin is made by boiling animal skin and bones in water, used to size paper and canvas.
    • Casein is a binder, made out of cow milk protein that can be found in pencils.
    • Rabbit skin glue is used in the making of gesso, a glue in bookbinding and as a sealant.
    • Beeswax, found in crayons and pencils.

    Art Products and Brands free from animal ingredients:

       

    As well as graphite, charcoal, Damar Varnish, all Strathmore Watercolour paper (except 'Gemini'), all Fabriano paper (except: 'Roma', 'Esportazione', 'Secolo'), all Canson 'Heritage' and 'Montval' range, St Cuthberth's Mill Bockingford paper.

    Hopefully this was a useful guide for those who want to remain cruelty free in their art practice as well. And most importantly, even if your supplies aren't completely eco-friendly and vegan, always make sure you dispose of turps, paint and dangerous chemicals properly!

    References:

    • http://emptyeasel.com/2009/01/29/the-vegans-list-of-art-supplies-art-products-free-of-animal-ingredients/
    • http://www.artdiscount.co.uk/blog/vegan-vegatarian-and-eco-art-supplies/
    • http://www.veganwomble.co.uk/wordpress/veganartandcraftsupplies/
    • http://www.colorsofnature.com/VeganCrueltyFreeArtSupplies.html
    • http://deliciousliving.com/blog/10-things-you-thought-were-vegan-arent
    • http://artonthefridge.com/animal-free-art-supplies/?i=1
    • https://www.hahnemuehle.com/en/digital-fineart/digital-fineart-collection/matt-fineart/p/Product/show/8/6.html
  • Pre-Raphaelites

    Who were the Pre-Raphaelites and what did they do?

    A little bit of art history doesn't hurt anybody!

    What does Pre-Raphaelite mean?

    The term Pre-Raphelite comes from the name of the Renaissance painter Raphael (1483-1520), and refers to the 19th century painters' ideology, as they intended to reject the artistic ideals presented by the time of Raphael until their contemporaries.

    Raphael’s painting, titled ‘The Transfiguration’ served as their example for the rejection of artistic ideals. As Hunt summarised, “its grandiose disregard of the simplicity of truth, the pompous posturing of the apostles and the unspiritual posture of the savior.” Their idea was to paint authentic, natural world – their mission was to advocate genuine expression of purity, morality, piety, relationships, “free from academic affectation”.

    Transfiguration. Raphael. 1516–20

    The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

    The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1829-1896) and John Everett Millais (1829-1896). It was a group of (mostly) painters and poets, including a wider circle of many more important figures of 19th century England, such as James Collinson, William Morris, Algernon Charles Swinburn, Christina Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown, and later Edward Burne-Jones and John William Waterhouse.

    William Holman Hunt
    Dante Gabriel Rossetti
    John Everett Millais

    Key ideas

    Their major starting point was to reject the British Royal Academy’s teaching of typical Victorian subjects and painting methods. They preferred to show naturalism, even if it meant the presentation of ‘ugliness’. They wanted to create a modernised type of art that was free from the strict arbitrary rules of the Academy and the convention of contemporary art. Their main innovations included:

    ‘Ecce Ancilla Domini’ (Behold the handmaid of the Lord), Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1850

    Rejecting the way painting was taught in the Academy. Their compositions didn’t include the rules of (1) grouping figures in a shape of a pyramid, (2) one major light source, (3) emphasis on contrasts and dull colours. Instead their paintings were crowded, evenly lit, bright-coloured.

    The Shadow of Death, by William Holman Hunt

    The representation of their subjects was almost photographic; even if the convention was to put emphasis on the ‘important’ parts and blur the ‘less important’ surroundings.

    Love Among the Ruins. Wightwick Manor. 1894. Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

    Their subjects were often figures from poets like Tennyson, Keats, and Shakespeare.

    Hylas and the Nymphs, by John William Waterhouse

     

    Sir John Everett Millais, Bt Ophelia 1851–2

     

    Lizzie Siddal, the "Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel"

    Self portrait 1853-4

    The well-known subject of Millais' Ophelia, and many more Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Lizzie Siddal was more than a popular model. Her association with the brotherhood allowed her to practice art and poetry herself, that wasn't  a possibility for most women around that time.

    Interesting

    References:

    • http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/prb/gray.html
    • http://lizziesiddal.com/portal/about-elizabeth-siddal
    • /http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/prb/1.html
    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-Raphaelite_Brotherhood
  • How to Make Your Own Paint

    Oil Paint Colour

    Now, after the  INTRODUCTION TO OIL PAINTthe next challenge is to try making your own!

    Oil paints are basically the mixture of pigments and oil. Their popularity is caused by their qualities to dry without changing shape and colour, as well as their archival properties, meaning that the oxidised oil binds the pigments, making it possible to keep the painting intact for hundreds of years.

    Making your own oil paint allows you to experiment with the consistency of the paint, as well as the colours. Pigments found in nature can even be used to create your own unique colours.

    What do I need to make your own Oil Paint:

    • mortar and pestle
    • muller and glass slab
    • palette knife
    • linseed oil ( cold-pressed, raw or unrefined)
    • refined beeswax
    • pigment(s)
    • paint tubes (optional)

    The Method

    First of all, you will make a small pile of pigment on the glass slab, and make a small gap in the middle. Pour a bit of oil there and start mixing with a palette knife or spatula. Don’t worry if it’s not easy to mix, and only add a small amount of oil at a time, as you want the mixture to have the smallest amount of oil as possible.

    Start grinding the mixture with the muller in a circular motion, spreading the mixture gradually on the slab. The idea is to try covering every pigment particle with the least possible amount of oil. From time to time, scrape the paint off of the muller and start grinding again, spreading the paint. Do this until the mixture reaches a ‘paint consistency’, as it varies from pigment to pigment.

    Fillers and Binders used in Oil Paint

    Fillers tend to be seen as not good, but they have certain advantages. (the only thing you don’t want is more filler than pigment in the paint!)

    Barium sulphate and aluminium hydroxide are two common extenders, which are used to increase the volume of the paint without altering the colour. (it’s advised not to add more than 25%, as it may effect the colour)

    Beeswax acts as an emulsifier that helps strengthen the bond between pigment and oil, as well as a thixotropic agent that keeps the pigments evenly distributed.

    Storing Oil Paint

    You can choose from storing the freshly made paint in a glass jar, or in pre-made paint tubes. The latter will have an open base with a plastic cap on the other end. You can put the paint in with a palette knife and when it’s filled, squeeze the paint in the cap side of the tube in order to get rid of air bubbles. Don’t overfill the tube, as you need to leave a bit so as to roll up the excess. You might want to use pliers to fold it over. When it’s done, label the tube with the media, pigment and date of manufacture.

    Videos

    References

    • http://www.earthpigments.com/artists-oil-paints/
    • http://www.sinopia.com/How-to-make-Oil-Paint
    • http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-Oil-Paint/
    • http://www.artpromotivate.com/2012/07/how-to-make-your-own-oil-paint-home.html
    • http://www.paintmaking.com/grinding_oils.htm
    • http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/intro/oil.html
    • http://www.kamapigment.com/en/demonstrations/demo1_01.html
    • http://www.kamapigment.com/en/information/how-to-make-your-paints.html
  • Edward Lear

    EDWARD LEAR

    Biography

    Edward Lear was a British poet, painter and illustrator, known for his absurd wit. He was born on the 12th of May, 1812, in the London suburb of Holloway, the twentieth of twenty one children, born to Anne Skerrett Lear and Jeremiah Lear, a stockbroker. Many of his siblings did not survive past childhood. Lear was the youngest to survive. His health was always delicate, even though he managed to live to the age of seventy five, and he suffered from chronic respiratory problems and had poor eyesight. When he was five he had his first epileptic seizure. Lear saw this “demon”, as he referred to his affliction, as a mark of shame. His wish to hide his condition form the people whom he loved, resulted in his self imposed isolation from them.

    In the previous years to the onset of his epilepsy, another trauma occurred when Jeremiah Lear suffered heavy financial losses. Later Lear would tell his friends that his father had gone to debtor’s prison, although there is no evidence to back this claim. The Lears were forced to rent out their home, ‘Bowman’s Lodge’. Edward’s oldest sister, Ann, was charged with his care by their mother. When the family resumed their financial stability, she never acted as his mother again. Ann became a devoted surrogate mother to Edward for the rest of her life, but he never got over the hurt of being rejected by his real mother, often seen in his equivocation of mother figures in many of his poems.

    His sister tutored Edward at home and encouraged the obvious talent for drawing and painting he had showed from an early age. Lear had little or no formal education. In 1828, his father, Jeremiah, retired and moved South of London. Edward and Ann remained in the city, in lodgings off the Gray’s Inn Road. Sixteen year old Edward sold sketches to support them. He produced anatomical drawings and later to illustrate natural history books. In 1832, he had a volume of twelve folio lithographic prints of parrots published by the London Zoological Society, ‘Illustrations of the Family Psittacosis’. The book was noticed by the 13th Earl of Derby, who was looking for an artist to draw the animals in his menagerie at Knowsley, his Derby estate in Lancashire. The Earl invited Lear to stay at the estate, which he did until 1937.

     

     

     

    The Beginning of Lear's Travels

    The English winters and Lear’s failing eyesight and lungs, meant that Lear had to give up his detailed natural history work, and in 1837, the Earl enabled Edward to become a painter of topographical landscape in Rome, by providing him with both funds and introductions. He travelled extensively throughout Europe and Asia between 1837 and 1847, where he also first established himself as a nonsense poet, and where some of the deepest of his many close friendships began.

     

    The Illustrated Travels of a Landscape Painter

    In 1842, Lear commenced his travels in Italy, travelling through Rome, Lazio, Abruzzo, Molise, Apulia, Calabria and Sicily. He recorded the Italian way of life in notes and drawings, of folk traditions and the beauty of the ancient monuments, buildings and landscape. One of his favourite places was Abruzzo, which he visited in 1843, through the Marsica and the plateau of Cinque Miglia by an old sheep track of the shepherds. After returning to England, Lear’s travel journals were published in several volumes as ‘The Illustrated Travels of a Landscape Painter’. They were extremely popular and well respected at the time, but were largely forgotten in the 20th century.

     

    Introductions

    His days at Knowsley had a profound influence on Lear’s career. Under the patronage of the Earl of Derby, Lear met and charmed many aristocrats, who went on to buy his paintings and was offered an opening into a world that his middle class upbringing would have otherwise denied him. Whilst there, Lear produced drawings, poems, menus and alphabets to entertain the children of Knowsley. These ‘nonsenses’ and Lear’s charming conversations and piano recitals, made him highly popular with both the children and the adults.

     

    A Book of Nonsense

    In 1846, he published his first book of poems, ‘A Book of Nonsense’, for the grandchildren of the Derby household, under the pseudonym, Derry Down Derry.

     

    The Modern Limerick

    Lear is recognised as the creator of the form and meter of the modern limerick. The Learian limerick is focused on a single individual – an old or young ‘person, ‘man’, ‘woman’, distinguished by unusual appearance, dress, behaviour, diet or talents. Most typically it will concentrate on their eccentricities, their dwelling place and their distinctive features. It then goes on to explain the consequence of their peculiarities and ends with an apostrophe.

     

    There was a young lady of Norway,

    Who casually sat in a doorway,

    When the door squeezed her flat,

    She exclaimed “what of that”?

    This courageous young lady of Norway.

     

    .

     

    The modern limerick has an unexpected punch line at the end, Lear’s limerick repeats the final word at the end of the first line at the end of the last.

     

    A theme of Lear’s limericks is anyone with a feature slightly different from the masses, such as the oversized nose and spindly legs he gave himself in self deprecating caricatures and his affinity with all animals other than dogs, seeing them as a sharer of his misfit status. He also shows Victorian children examples of bizarre, misbehaving adults, their morality often depicted in terms of eating habits. Food is often used symbolically in Lear’s poetry – sharing food indicating selflessness and affection, gluttony on the other hand showing lack of thought for others and egotism. Gluttony receives harsh punishment.

     

    There was an old man of the South,

    Who had an immoderate mouth,

    But in swallowing a dish,

    That was quite full of fish,

    He was choked, that old man of the South.

     

    Book of Nonsense

    In 1845, the year before publishing the ‘Book of Nonsense’, Lear became friends with Chichester Fortesque, who later became Lord Carlingford. Their charming and delightful letters were compiled in two volumes and are the largest collection of letters published by Lear. In 1849, he met Alfred and Emily Tennyson. Lear greatly admired Tennyson’s poetry, setting several pieces to music and leaving an unfinished volume of illustrations of the poets’ work at his death.

    Unrequited Love

    Lear’s most painful relationship was with Franklin Rushington, a young barrister, whom he met in Malta in 1849 and who he toured Southern Greece with. Lear was passionately in love with him, but his feelings were not reciprocated. Even though they remained close friends, the unrequited love tormented Lear until his death.

    10 Year Painting Course

    In 1850, Lear started a ten year painting course at the Royal Academy Schools, to improve his figure drawing skills and his untrained oil painting technique.

    Accomplished Musician

    He was an accomplished musician, playing the guitar, flute and accordion, but mainly the piano. He composed music to accompany Victorian poems, but was mainly known for his numerous musical settings of Tennyson’s poetry – the only musical settings that Tennyson approved of. He also composed music to accompany many of his nonsense songs, including ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’. Only two scores have survived, the music for ‘The Courtship of The Yongy Bongy-Bo’ and ‘The Pelican Chorus’. He never played professionally, but would perform his own nonsense songs and his settings of other peoples’ poetry at social gatherings, often replacing serious lyrics with nursery rhymes.

     

    The Owl and The Pussycat

    Despite producing beautiful watercolours in both his illustrated travel journals and his work for the London Zoological Society, Lear is best remembered for his numerous poems, notably ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ and as the creator of the modern limerick. Although his poems vary greatly, both in form and subject, they can be characterised by his irreverent view of the world. Lear poked fun at everything, including himself. Many critics view Lear’s loyalty to the ridiculous as a way of coping with and undermining the rigidity of Victorian society. The humour of Lear’s poems has proved to be timeless. His work along with other Victorian nonsense writer, such as Lewis Carroll and Thomas Hood, helped the twentieth century aesthetic movements such as surrealism and the theatre of the absurd. It was an expression of the longings, frustrations and dreams of a lovable, intensely loving man, who although being loved by relatives, friends and readers – both adults and children alike – never found the constant, intimate love he so desperately desired.

     

    Last Words

    Lear was never free from physical and emotional pain. His health grew steadily worse and he died of heart disease, alone except for a servant, on the 29th of January, 1888, in his villa in San Remo. His last words expressed his gratitude for the kindness of his absent friends. He is buried in the cemetery Foca in San Remo. His headstone is inscribed with the words from Tennyson’s poem, To EL (Edward Lear), On His Travels In Greece.

     

    All things fair,

    With such a pencil, such a pen,

    You shadow forth to distant men,

    I read and felt that I was there.

     

     

    Article written by Mary Aitken

     

     

     

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