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jubilee painting with rolf harris!

Edit: I've had a HUGE number of enquiries about the plate featured on the show. Here's the BBC reply!: The Rolf Paints…The Diamond Jubilee china plate (with his painting of Windsor Castle printed on) will be available later this year through Children In Need. Please keeping checking our website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/rolfpaints- for further details/updates.

Here in Britain, it's almost the Diamond Jubilee weekend! And what better way to celebrate than to make a lino cut print of a mad corgi? Here you go: In corgis we trust. That's written in my best fake Google-translator Latin. I made this for the BBC! Well, actually, this was a practice run, the night before. I got a call awhile ago from producer Veronica Thorne, asking me if I wanted to spend a full day making a picture of the Queen to celebrate the Jubilee... with Rolf Harris!

Oh my. Funnily enough, because I grew up in America, I didn't really know much about Rolf Harris, except that he had painted a portrait of the Queen. And he's consistantly rated Britain's most popular artist (which irks the fine arts establishment to no end, so hurrah, good for him!).

I thought I'd better look my best for telly, so I bought a new work apron and stamped the corgi onto the front of it. The ink on it was still wet the next morning, so I tried not to touch it, then rub my nose and wind up with a smudgy face on the Beeb.

The Fleece Station studio has a proud history of monarch-related activities, generally involving yarn or silly wigs. So I figured I had everything I needed to do a good job on set.

Oh, and a new fancy hat. With which I surprised Mr Harris when I met him at breakfast.

When I told people I was meeting Rolf Harris, they all reacted very animatedly, and several people mentioned videos I absolutely had to go watch. Here's one from 1969, Jake the Peg. Poor Gary had to listen to me keep accidentally singing this in the studio for the next couple days. So fabulous.

And here's an episode from The Goodies, when they breed Rolf Harrises in captivity and they escape. The guy's originally Australian, but he's a legend here in Britain. (If you like, you can watch that Goodies show from the beginning here.)

So here was our set-up! We filmed in the vaults of the Old Vic, under Waterloo Station. Which was a bit tricky for the camera crew because the trains kept rumbling overhead. But they set up the area like a street party and it looked very welcoming and festive. They'd invited 60 artists in total, one for each year of the Queen's reign.

If you're interested, you'll be able to watch the whole show, Rolf Paints, on Tuesday, 5 June, BBC1, 6:30-7:30pm.

One of these artists was Anneka Rice. She was another person I didn't know much about, but Stuart told me she'd hosted a show called Treasure Hunt and another called Challenge Anneka. (She has a bunch of videos posted on her YouTube channel.)

And another one of the participants was fab comics artist Steve Marchant! Steve was the one who tipped off Veronica to me when she rang up the Cartoon Museum asking for tips on artists. So thanks, Steve! Steve doesn't need to wear a fancy hat because his excellent hair does the same job that all my feathers do.

Steve showed me a comic he'd been working on with schoolkids, having them write and draw them comic, then he colours their comics, adds the lettering and prints up all their comics as a book. I said that the kids must be awfully proud to see their work published like that, and he gave me a big grin. (Click here for a close-up of the comic.)

So the way it worked was that we were divided into groups of ten, with each group taking a decade of the Queen's reign. Here we are, listening to directions.

My group got the '70s, and since that stretch included the Silver Jubilee with all its memorabilia, we were given this assortment of stuff to paint. I think the producer was expecting us to do still life pictures of the actual objects, but she had said we could just use them as inspiration, and only one person painted an actual still life.

Anneka modeling with our cardboard cutout of the Queen. You can't see the assortment of ceramic corgis at her feet.

Most people did stuff that was quite painterly. I like the one in the centre, it's all made out of ripped-up Beatles paraphernalia and has nice colours.

I thought that since I'm always wanting to do more with lino cut printmaking, I had a whole day to indulge myself. So the week before, I went to Intaglio printmaking supply shop on Southwark Bridge Road and stocked up on some better equipment, such as a decent roller and oil-based ink instead of the partially dried-out water-based stuff I'd been using for my Greenwich tree prints. So here's my lino cut in progress:

I was including some text in my picture, so I was willing myself to remember to write backward, so it would come out the right way. I had this horrible fear that I was going to be on camera and peel back the paper, to discover that all my lettering was reversed.

So here's what a linoleum block looks like when I ink it up with the roller. The next thing is to put a sheet of paper on top of the inked block, then rub the back of it with a spoon to press the ink into the paper. Then I carefully lift the paper, hoping it won't smudge as I pick it up off of the inky block.

And here we go, the first print! I used the teapot and corgis from the still life display, but since it was the '70s, I threw in a Space Hopper and put a three-legged Rolf on a Chopper bike, with a didgeridoo on the back. (My pretend Latin says something like, All hail our queen on Space Hopper and royal Chopper.) We had six hours to work, with a nice lunch fitted in there somewhere, and the lino block took me the whole six hours to cut. I was really having to zoom along at the end to cut out the lettering, chop chop.

So here's the final picture... TA-DAH!

And here's Steve, working away on his drawing. This is the pencil rough.

And the final inked artwork. Well done, Steve!

I wasn't very good about catching names, but here's a 'before' shot of the blank canvas...

...and the finished canvas. It's a lovely picture, I like how the Queen looks slightly Afro-Caribbean.

And here was my neighbour, 90-year-old Mr George. I wish I'd had more time to talk with him, he sounded like he had a lot of good stories to tell.

Here's a picture he made of the Queen Mum, and the nice letter she sent back. (Click on the picture to see the letter enlarged.)

And my other neighbour, another Essex lad named Keith. He painted one of the memorabilia plates.

While we were focusing on our artwork, what we were really doing was making a television programme. So there were lots of starts and stops and retakes. But it was good fun watching how they do this whole filming malarky.

Here's the finished Beatles paraphernalia collage:

Here's Anneka working on her painting, with a painting by Rolf just behind her.

It's funny, one of the other '70s people also did a Space Hopper. They're just so iconic of the '70s. I used one in my pages for our NELSON book, which were supposed to be set in 1973.

Here's a guy who did a sort of 3-D tiled collage piece:

And some more artwork:

Here's the producer lady from the BBC who invited me, Veronica Thorne, who was ace. Thanks to her, Sophie Guttner, and her co-producer and all the people who made the day so fun!

So I think a good day was had by all! Speaking of the Queen and fancy hats, you can visit the blog of my fellow CWIG committee member, Helena Pielichaty, to hear her account of this year's Queen's Garden party here.

Happy Jubilee Weekend, everyone!


( 51 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 31st, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
"Rolf Harris [is] consistently rated Britain's most popular artist (which irks the fine arts establishment to no end, so hurrah good for him!)."

Heh - at least one fine arts establishment isn't irked, as the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool is having a Rolf Harris exhibition (including the Queen's 80th birthday portrait).
May. 31st, 2012 11:33 pm (UTC)
Fabulous! I just watched the video, he's such a sweetie. :) And that's funny he's painted a grand piano. Yay!
Jun. 1st, 2012 02:02 am (UTC)
backwards and forwards
Congratulations, Sarah! You're impressing me backwards and fowards! That's an amazing linocut for just 6 hrs. They're HARD to make! (i've tried.)

I didn't know anything about Rolf Harris -- thanks for the video clips! Leeann has been watching shows about QE this week, mostly showing her as reserved and not granting interviews. Seeing her personality come out a bit while painted by Mr. Harris was a real treat.

Most of what I know about the queen comes from the movie: "The Queen". I liked learning that she was a mechanic during WW2. It makes her seem more like a real person to me.

I love all the photos (esp Manga Life!) -- thanks, as always, for allowing me to live vicariously in London and its environs!
Jun. 1st, 2012 07:13 am (UTC)
Re: backwards and forwards
Yay, thanks so much, David! And I'm glad Leeann's enjoying all the Jubilee stuff going on. A lot of my friends are pretty sniffy about the Queen, they don't like the idea of a monarchy, but I think she's pretty amazing, how hard she works even at her age. Events are fun but very tiring!

And yes, I was really worried I wasn't going to finish that lino cut! Fortunately lettering in lino cut looks kind of cool when it's hacked out at great speed, possibly better than if I'd been all tidy-fussy about it.
Jun. 1st, 2012 06:49 am (UTC)
ROLF! Awesome! He is SUCH an icon...

Will have to remember to record that program, I hope they will let us have a good look at the art and not whiz the camera away too fast...

Loving the corgi and the lino cut - have never tried making one of those but now I want to... looks like the tools are basically similar to woodcarving gouges? (I love my woodcarving gouges...) Or I suppose you could use the same technique with wood anyway...

Thanks for the inspiration!
Jun. 1st, 2012 07:17 am (UTC)
Yay! Lino cut is such fun, have a great time with it!

I got a little board called a 'bench hook', which catches on the edge of the table and gives me something to push against at the top, kind of like this one: http://www.lawrence.co.uk/acatalog/Bench_Hooks.html
That should help make it a little less dangerous. (But the lino I was using on the Rolf show was too large to fit in the board, so I was worried I was going to bleed on telly, eek!)
(no subject) - jabberworks - Jun. 1st, 2012 08:18 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bunn - Jun. 1st, 2012 07:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 1st, 2012 08:00 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks! I feel like I've missed out, coming to him this late! But I'm having fun catching up. :)
Jun. 1st, 2012 12:19 pm (UTC)
Some lovely stuff there! I agree about the slightly afro-caribbean queen, good look on her! Steve Marchant's t-shirt is aces too, and the Beatles collage too. But I think I have a particular soft spot for your linocuts.
Jun. 1st, 2012 02:18 pm (UTC)

And now I have earwormed myself. No, not Jake the Peg.

"Caribbean queen / Now we're sharing the same dream..."

I'm not sure if the earworm is made better or worse by only being able to remember those two lines.
(no subject) - jabberworks - Jun. 1st, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 1st, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
That all looks aces. Look forward to seeing the programme. Love the lino corgi.
Jun. 1st, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Selina! :)
Jun. 1st, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
I'd never heard of Rolf Harris before but now I don't think I'm ever going to get "Jake the Peg" out of my head. Oh well.

That's a splendid linocut! It doesn't get more regal than this.

Space hopper were really a thing in the 70's, then? I remember, as a kid in the 80's reading comics from the 70's featuring them (like here) and wondering what they were, since they had since gone out of fashion.

I like the part in this video where Rolf Harris is making a portrait of the queen, when he mentions a cannon being shot earlier in the day, and she asks "do you know for what it was? -No, i don't. -Nor did I, I had to look it up" I like the idea that the royal family has a very limited control over what goes on in Buckingham. There, like in many other places, middle management is really in charge.
Jun. 1st, 2012 08:06 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, I know, that song is SO addictive.

I put a space hopper in my Nelson pages because it was the only thing I definitely knew Britain had in the 70s. I had something like it in the early '80s, but it had a horse's head and handle and it was called a Hoppity Horse: http://p2.la-img.com/747/14786/4747956_1_l.jpg

And that's funny about the cannon, I hadn't really thought about it, but you're right. It's probably a whole city of things going on in that place.
Jun. 1st, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC)
That's a lovely lino cut. God Bless Rolf (oh, and her Maj. And the corgis and dorgis)
Jun. 1st, 2012 09:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you! And yes, bless them dorgis.
Hi again - (Anonymous) - Jun. 5th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Hi again - jabberworks - Jun. 5th, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 5th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
I just saw you on TV! really enjoying the show. Congrats. :D
Jun. 5th, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC)
Yay, thank you, Becky! x
Jun. 5th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
Anneka rice painting iPod app
Anyone know what app Anneka Rice used on her iPod when she drew Zara with the Olympic torch ??
Jun. 5th, 2012 10:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Anneka rice painting iPod app
Oh gosh, I'm not sure! You could try asking on the BBC message boards and see if anyone might be able to help you! http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbpointsofview/NF1951566
Jun. 5th, 2012 06:43 pm (UTC)
Rolf harris's plate
Hi where can we buy the plate designed by Rolf please.
Jun. 5th, 2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Rolf harris's plate
Thanks for leaving a comment, I've had a lot of people get in touch asking about the plate! I don't actually know, but you might have some luck if you pose the question on the BBC message boards: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbpointsofview/NF1951566

Funnily enough, they didn't mention the plate to us while we were filming. I just thought the big painting was painted for itself, and was surprised when I saw the plate pop up on the telly!
Jun. 5th, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
Rolf Harris Commemorative Plate
Does anyone know if you can buy the commemorative jubilee plate that rolf harris has designed for charity yet from anywhere. I would like to purchase one, but it didnt say at the end of the show if they were available to buy and where from yet or when they would be. It was great and great some of the money is going to charity. Thanks
Jun. 6th, 2012 11:08 am (UTC)
Re: Rolf Harris Commemorative Plate
It will be by Aynsley China.

We have a story going up on our website later today - take a look at www.tablewareinternational.com in an hour or so :)
Re: Rolf Harris Commemorative Plate - jabberworks - Jun. 6th, 2012 01:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 5th, 2012 07:04 pm (UTC)
Rolf Harris Commemorative Plate
Like namy other people. Where can I buy the Rolf Harris Commemorative Plate
Anyone got any ideas as to where I can buy one.

Jun. 5th, 2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
Commemorative Plate
Like many, many others. Where can I buy the Rolf Harris commemorative Plate

Anyone got any ideas as to where I can buy one?

Thank you.
Jun. 5th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
I to would like a plate it was beautiful
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( 51 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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