Museum Mentors – A Victorian Treat

Artists from our Museum Mentors have been studying Royal Pavilion & Museums’ unique collection of Victorian Christmas cards.

Christmas card showing painting of a squirrel eating a nutMuseum Mentors is a collaborative and inclusive group of artists. Some are marginalised artists who benefit through support and mentoring.  Access to the museums’ collections provides the group with rich opportunities for inspiration and creativity.

The 27 artists share a collective sense of creative passion bringing their own unique style, energy and ideas to the group. Each artist is inspired to express and represent visually, with the ultimate aim of connecting with an audience.

Festive themes?

Members were particularly interested in the themes depicted. There seemed to be a genuine lack of the traditional imagery we all so easily associate with Christmas.

No Christmas trees, no baubles, no presents….most surprising of all….no Father Christmas. ‘That’s fine by me!’ said Simon.

Bird themes prove very popular
Bird themes prove very popular

Group member Jon Hart explained that he enjoyed looking at the cards – he has completed three pieces of artwork inspired by his chosen cards,

“My favourite is the robins” he said.

Jon is a prolific painter. He worked on a community farm for around 15 years, involved in veg growing and wildlife conservation, his passion for nature most definitely reflected within his art.

Sharon shared ‘I really loved how all the cards are non traditional and very detailed, which made it more personal’.

By Sharon Elliot
By Sharon Elliot

Ann Ruane shared ‘A heart filled with warmth & joy is all I need at Christmas’.

The tinsel, glitz and the trappings does not suit us all.

Philip said

‘I chose a card, I like the sunset behind the clouds. I enjoy drawing landscapes and buildings. My favourite medium is coloured pencil, this year I introduced paint into my work. The first time in five years, I hadn’t used a brush for quite a long time.

I enjoy mixing both pencil and paint, I feel like I have discovered new skills, a new approach. I still feel like there’s a lot more to learn.’

Leslie wanted to make a book for her new nephew ‘Teddy’, choosing collage as her medium. ‘I like the crown, Sunny Crowns, Teddy will like that’.

The book includes an abundance of her signature flower motifs. Leslie has been creating repeat flower patterns since childhood, drawing and creating most definitely Leslie’s favourite activity.

Print methods

Members were intrigued by the early print methods used for creating Christmas cards and other ephemera.

Printers constantly experimented with methods of reproducing illustrations, Three techniques were predominant: steel engraving, wood engraving, and lithography.   

Steel engraving involves cutting a design into metal plate. The incised areas hold the ink which is transferred onto paper when it is run through a printing press.

Later in the Victorian period, wood engraving became the preferred medium for graphic reproductions. To make a wood engraving, a craftsman would copy the original drawing onto the face of the end grain of a block of boxwood. An engraver would cut into the block with a v-shaped tool, excising the areas that would not be printed. All ready for the inking process.

Chromolithography began to be employed to print color images in the 1850s. An image would be drawn with a grease pencil or greasy ink onto a flat, porous surface such a stone or a metal plate. The image would be affixed to the plate with an acid bath. The plate would be coated with an ink mixture which adhered only to the greasy portion of the surface, sitting atop the flat surface of the printing plate. Typically, individual colors in the illustration would need their own plates.

Christmas card sale

Christmas card with colourful painting of Father Christmas seated on a donkeyThe group will be selling their designs as printed greeting cards, all at their usual Christmas Card stall during December.

Run as a not-for-profit the proceeds from the card sale will go towards the group resources.

The Christmas card sale will be held every Thursday and Friday during December 2018 in the Brighton Museum Foyer between 2-4pm.

We wish you all a very joyful Christmas time.

Debbie Bennett, Museum Mentors

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