My father used to tell my brothers and me as children that one branch of our family tree had its origins in Ayrshire, Scotland, where the famous poet Robert Burns (The Bard) came from. Having spent quite some time on my family history, I’m yet to prove him right. All the same, that supposed ‘fact’ being part of our family legend for decades – and the family having a Collie named after the poet – fostered in me a curiosity that blossomed into a love of The Bard’s poetry (even when I had to continually look up the Glossary for the meanings of the Scottish words!). So, when I spied a call for art ‘Inspired by Burns’, my interest was piqued.
The poem that grabbed and held my attention was ‘Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn’. A chord was struck in more ways than one. The imagery depicted by The Bard’s words immediately brought inspiration. As did, that from a very young age my most favourite of instruments has been the harp. Reading Burns’ poem I could literally see the old bard sitting beneath the oak tree, grieving for what was lost – a dear friend and patron. I could almost hear the notes as he plucked the strings. I didn’t discover until later that the bard written about in the poem was Burns himself. I doubt my bard looks anything like the famous poet, but that’s okay. It was the words that inspired the image.
I chose to do a woodcut, as I felt the medium lent itself to the theme and the era. The print was created in the reduction method – sections of the block carved away as each of the thirteen colours were successively printed. The print is hand-pulled using a wooden ladle to transfer ink from block to paper. An edition of only two prints were produced, and two artist’s proofs. It’s a print I enjoyed doing, immensely, while listening to my favourite harp music (though I had to down tools when the playing of Maire Ni Chathasaigh‘, an amazing Irish harpist, and her offsider Chris Newman, a virtuoso guitarist, threatened to melt the cassette player with the speed of their fingers, and I just had to jig).
This print didn’t do any good in the Inspired by Burns competition, but it did win best Works on Paper in the recent South East Art Society Open Art Awards, currently being exhibited at the Riddoch Art Gallery in Mount Gambier. That print is also, apparently sold.