‘Bang!’ – Odyssey of the Siberian Tiger

"Bang!", Siberian Tiger, 'In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia', 2013 black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

“Bang!”, Siberian Tiger, ‘In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’, 2013 black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Bang!’ is the second drawing in my diptych, ‘Siberian Tiger’, which is part of my luxury fine English china plate and print series. Inspired by the elusive Amur tiger, stealing through the forests of Ussuriland in Scottish film maker Gordon Buchanan’s beautifully shot film ‘Amba, the Russian Tiger’, 2008, a tiger skull placed beside a walking Siberian tiger is layered with a projected image of a group of revolutionary Red Army soldiers posing with a tiger they have shot.  The target of the sniper rifle in the foliage of ‘Shh, it’s a Tiger! is revealed as the walking tiger in ‘Bang!’ through the symbolic bullet hole in the skull.

'Shh, it's a Tiger!' and 'Bang!', Siberian tiger luxury fine china plate diptych by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Shh, it’s a Tiger!’ and ‘Bang!’, Siberian tiger luxury fine china plate diptych by Jane Lee McCracken

The simplicity of this drawing which juxtaposes the complexity of ‘Shh, it’s a Tiger!’ carries an epic message, unless the illegal hunting of tigers by poachers is halted, Siberian Tigers will no longer roam the forests of Ussuriland.  Around 400 Amur Tigers remain in the wild.  Wildlife crime remains one of the greatest threats to their survival. For further information about the Amur Tiger please click on this link to WWF’s website

'In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia', Luxury Fine English China Plate Series by Jane Lee McCracken

‘In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’, Luxury Fine English China Plate Series by Jane Lee McCracken

For plate enquiries please contact: jane@janeleemccracken.co.uk For plate sales please visit THE NEW ENGLISH

"Bang!", Siberian Tiger, 'In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia', 2013 black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

“Bang!”, Siberian Tiger, Archival Pigment Print

For luxury Archival Pigment prints made to order by the UK’s best master printmaker Jack Lowe Studio please visit my shop Website_header_panel_94ef2d8a-1f22-4c1f-b100-2d63e2e8fe93_1024x1024

Advertisements

The Wolf’s House

"The Wolf's House", 2012, black Biro drawings and mixed media by Jane Lee McCracken

“The Wolf’s House”, 2012, black Biro drawings and mixed media by Jane Lee McCracken

Outside a white-out blizzard howls, while war is waged through it.  Mrs Wolf throws open the door of ‘The Wolf’s House’ and looks out at the soldiers fighting around her cottage.

‘The Wolf’s House’ is symbolically one of the simplest pieces I have created for it simply asks “who is more civilised, man or animals?”.  A take on the iconic cuckoo clock, it was inspired by a cuckoo clock my father brought back to Scotland for me after a trip to Switzerland, when I was a child.

Black Biro drawing of Lily and 'Mrs Wolf'.  'Mrs Wolf' is made from a cast taken of wolf's head from my wedding cake-topper and the body of a vintage Polish Capeila doll as is 'Mr Wolf' who sits by the window.

Black Biro drawing of Lily and ‘Mrs Wolf’. ‘

The piece explores the juxtaposition of the roles of man and animals suggesting the idea of the ‘innocent’ instinctive nature of animals as opposed to the cerebrally determined brutal nature of man.  ‘The Wolf’s House’ is a beacon of light representing civilised society whilst chaos reigns outside; but it is occupied by wolves not humans.

"The Wolf's House", 2013, 'The Woodcutter's Cottage' exhibition, The Mercer Gallery, Harrogate

“The Wolf’s House”, 2013, ‘The Woodcutter’s Cottage’ exhibition, The Mercer Gallery, Harrogate.

Soldiers fight in the snow around the Wolf’s House whilst Mr and Mrs Wolf witness war, as animals of the forest play peacefully inside the house.  However there is an ever present threat from humans.

'The Wolf's House' roof detail, black Biro drawing of Lily on painted MDF

‘The Wolf’s House’ roof detail, black Biro drawing of Lily on painted MDF

Further inspiration for the piece came from a photograph of Russian soldiers fighting through a village towards Germany after the end of the battle of Stalingrad when the tide of war has changed.  I imagined a cottage somewhere in Eastern Europe encircled by soldiers fighting a brutal war.

Official USSR photograph of Red Army in combat WWII, Artist's own collection.

Official USSR photograph of Red Army in combat WWII, Artist’s own collection.

‘The Wolf’s House is a mixed media piece which includes original black Biro drawings of Lily drawn on painted, sanded MDF.  Model railway snow and glitter were used to create the winter snow scene on the roof and base.  Printed transfers on fabric formed the wallpaper of the interior walls, complete with propaganda posters specifically designed for the piece.  I sourced replica Russian F1 hand grenades which were then painted with white enamel as were the model soldiers, German Assault Infantry in winter gear and Russian Army Assault Infantry.  An authentic cuckoo clock chain bought from a clock shop holds the hand grenade weights of the clock.  ‘Mr and Mrs Wolf’ were made from casts taken of the wolves heads from my wedding cake-topper and the bodies of vintage Polish Capelia dolls bought on Ebay.

'The Wolf's House' interior

‘The Wolf’s House’ interior

Mr Wolf sits by the window surrounded by propaganda posters and watches bears, a wolf, a fox and a tiger cub playing together.

'The Wolf's House' interior shot through window.

‘The Wolf’s House’ interior shot through side window.

'The Wolf's House' interior shot through front window.

‘The Wolf’s House’ interior shot through front window.

Their play indicates that each species has it’s own social structure and behaviour which is rarely disregarded but whilst humans have a highly developed sense of morality, the moral codes by which we live are often breached.

'"Save Us!', Propaganda poster for the Wolf's House, photo montage by Jane Lee McCracken

‘”Save Us!’, 2012, Propaganda poster for the Wolf’s House, photo montage by Jane Lee McCracken

Ultimately the futures of many species’ are held in our hands and this is symbolised by ‘The Wolf’s House’ and the ever present battle around the house and its occupants.

Russian model soldiers fighting in the snow around 'The Wolf's House'

Russian model soldiers fighting in the snow around ‘The Wolf’s House’

Luxury Archival Pigment Prints of ‘Save Us!’ made by the excellent Jack Lowe studio are available to order from my website

'"Save Us!', Propaganda poster for the Wolf's House, photo montage by Jane Lee McCracken

‘”Save Us!’, Propaganda poster for the Wolf’s House, Archival Pigment Print

‘Wrapped in Rugby’ – a Scots Memoir of the Oval Ball Game

Douglas S. Bruce at the playing fields of Goldenacre, Edinburgh in 1959

Douglas S. Bruce at the playing fields of Goldenacre, Edinburgh in 1959

When my Uncle Douglas kindly asked if I would design the cover of his first book, a memoir of his life’s passion, the game of Rugby, it wasn’t long before I found the perfect image. During a visit to the beautiful Isle of Skye and chez Bruce, I discovered an old sepia photograph of my Uncle aged 10, oval ball under arm, standing on the playing fields of his Edinburgh school, anno 1959.  Catching sight of the Victorian ‘Red Pavilion’ in the background of the photograph, George Heriot’s cricket club, where the head groundsman and his wife who were friend’s of my father’s lived, pressed the play button in my head and played out a whirlwind of technicolour images of blue faced winged monkeys, beguiling ‘Ruby Slippers’ and dog ‘Toto’ accompanied by the rousing ‘Ride of the Valkyries’; memories of a Christmas visit when I was a child.  A peppering of pigeons flying through a dreich Edinburgh skyline echoed the garden scene through the Skye window, of woodpeckers and blackbirds fluttering around a creatively constructed firewood bird-table, under the shadows of the Red and Black Cuillins.  And the boy, that bonny blue-eyed, hoop shirted child who’s escapades my mother never ceased to amuse my sister and I with, grew into the wonderful uncle who stood beside me in 2012 making us toast.  Reading ‘Wrapped in Rugby’ informed missing generational times before I was born, because this is no ordinary sports book!

Back cover detail of 'Wrapped in Rugby'.

Back cover detail of ‘Wrapped in Rugby’.

I am a football and cricket girl, although would not normally choose to read sporting books of any sort, being most comfortable reading the likes of Roberto Bolano’s ‘2666’ or Maxim Gorky’s ‘My Childhood’.  But even the sections solely devoted to rugby are enlightening for us round ball game lovers, a converting education!  The recounting of a brutal rugby match in the 1960’s on a bleak hung-over Scottish New Year’s Day in the Borders town of Hawick, fought on a frozen pitch turn into literary hilarity,

“The playing surface was like concrete and worse, vehicles had been driven over the pitch when it was muddy.  The tyre impressions were now like a scattering of lumberjack’ hand saws.  It was a suicide mission for both teams if the game was to go ahead.  To go ahead it was (and) like the ANZACS at Gallipoli we did as we were bidden and prepared for suicide.’

There are so many beautiful turns of phrase, metaphors, so much `laugh out loud’ inherited Fife wit I needed a second copy of the book to annotate or the precious signed copy I was reading would have been graffitied all over!

Uncle Douglas and my beautiful late Auntie Rosemary, Wedding Day, 1973

Uncle Douglas and my beautiful late Auntie Rosemary’s Wedding Day, Edinburgh, 1971

Of course I am a wee bit biased, I’m reading a book by the best uncle in the world!  But I hope I’m fair also.   I found it an eloquently written social history of Edinburgh in the 50’s and 60’s, recounting hysterical life stories, stories I hadn’t heard before, relating tenderly and artfully moving tributes to the likes of my Grandfather, all whilst managing to successfully engage a sub-consciously reluctant niece to understand his enormous passion for rugby. Entwining a history of twentieth and early twenty-first century Scottish rugby throughout the book he reveals personal observations of the politically charged scrum from amateur to professional Scottish rugby. There are many people including my father who will remember fondly the game as it was and for them this book is a tribute to those selfless days when rugby was played for enjoyment, camaraderie and passion. For younger rugby loving generations this is a history of the game their forefathers played with carefree abandon, and unrestricted innocence. Also recorded are my uncle’s tireless efforts to bring rugby to smaller Scottish communities and their younger players as well as the Scottish community at large and it’s youngsters spurred by his passion for the game – it is an inspiration and revelation to me of someone I know well under different circumstances, giving back something they love to others. This is an epic memoir in my opinion, honest, affecting, beautifully written by a very humble, funny and passionate man, my uncle.

'Wrapped in Rugby', Douglas S. Bruce, 2013

‘Wrapped in Rugby’, Douglas S. Bruce, 2013

To order ‘Wrapped in Rugby’ please visit Amazon

From Moscow with Love

'The Russian Doll', red, blue, green and black Biro drawing, 2008 by Jane Lee McCracken

‘The Russian Doll’, red, blue, green and black Biro drawing, 2008 by Jane Lee McCracken

The Russian Doll… Back in my home town of Edinburgh in 2005, with money in my pocket and a premeditated mission to visit ‘The Russian Shop’, my target was a Russian doll and successful return to Northumberland the same day with my own matryoshka.

The little shop on St Mary’s Street just off the High Street was overflowing with an impressive array of magnificent Russian dolls, lacquer boxes and wooden toys.  I wanted a special doll, something unique.   All the dolls were wearing coats of glistening varnish, except one which had a matt finish – she had the prettiest face, and on her body was a representation of Ivan Shishkin’s painting ‘Morning in a Pine Forest’, 1889. All her children had Russian landscape paintings on their bodies too and the same pretty face as their mother.  This was my doll!

Russian doll and her four children on 'The Wolf's House', mixed media, 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken

Russian doll and her four children on “The Wolf’s House”, mixed media, 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken

I took her to the counter to pay and the shop owner pointed to a woman I had noticed earlier who was sitting at a small desk painting a lacquer box. “This is the artist who made your doll, she has just flown in from Moscow this morning to give a demonstration of her work”.  Such excitement, such a lovely, gentle woman, we spoke to one another about her art and like a child holding out an autograph book to a living legend, I held out my dolI and asked if she would sign a dedication. “To Jane, with Love, 2005” it says.

'All I have left', 2001

“All I have Left”, 2001

Found objects and my own possessions feature a lot in my work.  I love the simplicity of using what is close at hand, a Biro, my dog Lily, objects I find on Ebay.  Working on  a series of drawings from 2008 called ‘Tales from the East’, I wanted to employ the iconic image of the Russian doll and create my own doll.  I used my Russian/Scottish doll as inspiration and a photograph from 2001 of myself, that was made for a series of digital montages called ‘All I have Left’ .

"Red Riding", All I have left' 2002, digital montage

‘”Red Riding”, All I have Left Series’ 2002, by Jane Lee McCracken, digital montage using artist’s photograph of the Black Forest

Like all my work, the drawing of “The Russian Doll” made with red, blue, green and black Biro acts on several levels and is symbolic of issues relating to war.  The self-portrait layered over the doll’s face, represents ordinary women “like you and me”.

For further information about the symbolism of this piece please visit my website: :http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_4657711.html

Luxury Archival Pigment Prints crafted by http://mrjacklowe.com/  are available from my shop:http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_8181965.html

'The Russian Doll', Archival Pigment Print

“The Russian Doll”, Archival Pigment Print series

Lily White

'"Sweet". Wolves. In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia', 2013. original black Biro drawing

‘”Sweet”, Wolves, In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’, 2013, original black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

Post genesis I wanted a white dog.  Well here she is above, the beautiful, wonder dog, Lily.

Yearnings for a white dog were borne from my early addiction to watching television, specifically foreign import programmes such as the hauntingly scored ‘Belle and Sebastian’, France, 1965 and the visually beautiful ‘White Horses’, Hanns Wiedmann, 1965, Germany/Yugoslavia.   Tintin’s Snowy was a particular inspiration.

Aged two being given my beloved Dirk as a birthday present, a Labrador puppy named after one of my mother’s favourite film stars surname Bogart, presented me with a problem, Dirk was black.  But circumstances did not deter and I seized the chance to create my first white dog in a ‘Frankenstein-ial’ effort several months after my birthday.  The beautiful, black puppy and I were in the kitchen of the family homestead in Scotland with my father who was glossing the doors – white.  The doorbell rang and my father clearly not blessed with powers of the second sight left us unattended with a huge tin of gloss paint and a paintbrush.

I distinctly remember Dirk allowing me to paint him while he lay in his wicker basket, he was the most gentle of dogs.  Thoughts of those white dogs I loved Belle and Snowy, sailed through my mind like white furry clouds at each stroke of my goal.  I remember chirping to Dirk as painting commenced although I have no idea what words of reassurance passed between us to put him at ease.  Having managed to get a good way through blanching Dirk before the conversation at the front door ended, my father finally discovered the white metamorphoses that had been created in his absence.  Tears of horror dissolved into the dismay of ‘what am I going to do?’! What he did – he took turpentine and covered Dirk in it. Naturally the turpentine inflicted some pain.

Dirk took control of the situation, ran into the garden and rolled in the earth.  This stripped the paint from his coat and soothed the irritation of turpentine on his skin.  It took a full year of supplementing his diet with olive oil to rejuvenate his black coat and till the day he died, traces of white paint remained on his basket.  I miss him.

Dirk exacted his revenge for the turpentine bath several weeks later when he frenziedly tried to dig through the kitchen wall removing all the newly pasted orange wallpaper in a ‘left on my own protest’.

Several things were cultivated in those first couple of years, my deep love for animals with their consummate loyalty, honest instinct and heart wrenching innocence and my love of films and musings of travel, all entities that I use today in my work.

N.B.  My husband didn’t deliberately choose Lily as a birthday gift for me (old habits die hard) because she was white.  On the contrary she was born with a dark grey mask but Northern Inuit masks can fade and rather like a cygnet to a swan Lily’s grey mask faded and disappeared to leave her face almost white apart from the palest gold ears that reveal themselves in the winter.

'Lily', 2008, original black Biro drawing of Lily aged 14 weeks by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Lily’, 2008, original black Biro drawing of Lily aged 14 weeks by Jane Lee McCracken

Crafted by master photographer and printmaker http://mrjacklowe.com/ – luxurious Archival Pigment Prints of ‘Sweet’ are available to buy from my online shop.:

http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_11766659.html

"'Sweet', Wolves, In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia", 2013, Archival Pigment Print from original black Biro drawing

Archival Pigment Print from original Biro drawing of “‘Sweet’, Wolves, In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia”, 2013, 44cm x 44cm

Limited Edition china plates will be available soon.

'"Sweet", Wolves, In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia' Limited Edition China Plate Series, 2013

‘”Sweet”, Wolves, In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’ Limited Edition China Plate Series, 2013