I had long had it in my mind to utilise an old wooden box that had contained an acrylic paint set, perhaps in connection with a booklet or augmented book – somewhat akin to a medieval diptych and illuminated devotional book. But I have also long pondered on created, or (it came belatedly to me) crafted worlds.
And then my eureka moment, though in the shower: craft worlds in the old paint box.
I massively overestimated what I could actually fit in the box I had, as usual, and had to refine down what I wanted to do to what could be contained there. But it was quickly clear which two areas I would concentrate on: a model steam railway and a representation of a medieval scene. For, though there have always been other places of my imagination, the scenes I depicted needed to be fashioned in a sufficiently competent way that I would feel confident about them if/when they went on display. This ruled out the more childish ones of roadmaps on paper, and Lego; there are practical considerations for dens and Meccano and Subbuteo; and my more sophisticated fantasies of Kolchin already have forms and outlets. So I returned to those worlds I had considered as a young adult.
I had some old N scale model railway pieces and that scene came together pretty quickly; the medieval one took much longer, partially because I would need to make it from scratch, and partly because I could not settle on a view. It is usually difficult, I find, to recall the mental process by which I come up with ideas and conclusions, but in this case I remember remembering James Branch Cabell’s The Cream of the Jest (read when I was nineteen or so) where (as I recall – with whatever degree of questionable accuracy) a scene of the high towers of a castle in a warm, still night. Perhaps my dream of the protagonist’s dream. And with memories of Blue Peter, sponges, and kitchen and toilet rolls away I went.
I have called it Relief, both for the nature of the piece and because of what drifting into these other worlds has meant for me from childhood onwards.
I was originally going to include a Front Piece, given below, but have now decided against it, feeling that Relief is better with less on the outside, that it is better with less visible when the box is closed. It is an essentially bland exterior behind which are hidden my imagined worlds of beauty, colour and vivacity.
The Front Piece itself is made of a combination of scanned images, newspaper collage, paint and pen, and pulled together on the computer.