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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Da Vinci

Catch him while you can!

Last week I finally visited the ‘Leonardo da Vinci: A life in Drawing’ exhibition at the National Museum & Art Gallery in Cardiff and it just so happened I was visiting on the actual day of the 500th anniversary of his death.

To mark the anniversary art galleries across the UK from Cardiff to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester (just to name a few) held a simultaneous exhibition of some of his fascinating work.

As I walked into the building I was met straight away with the sight of a large banner advertising the exhibition, showing just a glimpse of one of the pieces that I soon found out was on display. What became evident to me almost immediately was that our native language was also used (and I’d soon see more of this throughout the entire exhibition). I feel the National Museum & Art Gallery value heritage and encourage visitors to be curious about our past culture. In the gift shop you’ll find a host of treasures giving a nod to Wales, from traditional gifts such as Welsh love spoons, to Welsh language books.

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The exhibition itself was situated in a somewhat small room off from the main gallery and was guarded carefully by a member of staff. Tickets had to be bought before-hand in the gift shop and punched before you could enter (adult tickets £5, £4 concession, children free). Although I’m personally happy to support educational public spaces such as libraries, museums and art galleries, I wondered if some people may be put off by the price, particularly given the fact that we were given a limit of half an hour to view the pieces. That being said, I feel the majority of the visitors to this exhibition understood that to see first-hand some of da Vinci’s work is a rare opportunity. I should also mention that purchasing a ticket in Cardiff meant half price off your ticket if you visited Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

The layout of the exhibition was fairly well thought-out given the slightly cramped space and it was nice to see ‘extras’ such as a corner dedicated to books on da Vinci, an interactive board and activity booklets for children (or big kids like me!). I feel like the exhibition was curated for a wide range of ages, though perhaps not very young children.

Whilst we were there we encountered a group of school children enthusiastically trying to re-create some of da Vinci’s pieces in their sketchbooks and I liked the fact that they were free to pick up magnifiers and activity booklets (though the magnifiers were so badly scratched it did very little to help see the pieces clearer). However, as there were a lot of people in the room it was very crowded and small queues had begun to form around paintings. I feel it would have been better for large groups to have been able to book in advance to avoid this.

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The free booklet managed to pack in several suggested activities, whilst also revealing a bit about da Vinci and the way in which he worked. I felt this was a good way to get children participating in art and engaging with the exhibition. The reverse side of the booklet was in Welsh.

In addition to the pieces on the walls there were two plinths, one with a piece showing a technique da Vinci used, which was described in the information board below. I feel there was the right amount of information throughout the exhibition, with small descriptions next to each piece, but larger boards giving more in-depth details, such as da Vinci’s background and most interesting to me, the materials he used.

Although the 12 nationwide exhibitions have now finished it’s not too late to see da Vinci’s precious works. From the 24th of May to the 13th of October over 200 of da Vinci’s drawings will go on display at The Queens Gallery (link).

Overall, whilst things were a little cramped, I’m glad I saw this exhibition. I feel as a former art student (though still a student in some ways as we never stop learning) this was one exhibition I shouldn’t miss.

 

 

Resurrecting the old

Recently my focus has been a bit all over the place when it comes to where to direct my creative energy. I’ve been dipping into my children’s illustration course then reviving old projects and feeling the need to work on those. Over a year ago I started an autobiographical piece that after a bereavement I felt unable to complete. I thought that that would be that, I’d never have the inclination to finish the piece as it reminded me of a difficult time in my life. However, the other day the urge to get back in to some….forgive me for this term….’serious’ art overwhelmed me.

It’s been a little while since I did what people in my life know me for, which is more fine art (not including the still life we had to do for one of the units in my course). As some of you may know over the past year I’ve been turning my focus more to less precise work and embracing the freedom of illustration but I do miss that feeling I get when I get really engrossed in detail. I’m having mixed feelings about beginning work on this piece again but I have this feeling that right now I’m supposed to be out-letting some emotion with it.

The other project I’ve brought out again is one I worked on years ago after the loss of my beautiful Springer Spaniel. Wanting to create something good from something bad I used the box her ashes came in to create a piece of work that had meaning behind it. I called it ‘The Fairy House’, but in a way it’s like a memorial piece. A lot of the materials I used represent something meaningful.

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‘The Fairy House’ by Hanna-Mae Williams

 

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‘The Fairy House’ by Hanna-Mae Williams

In addition to the box that made the main structure of the house I used twigs collected from places I visited regularly with my dog. The field I used to walk in with my Nan (who has also now passed), moss which I dried from places we’d also walked, and even the shells on the roof have their own story. Many years ago on freecycle someone was advertising a box of craft materials that had belonged to their late wife. They wanted them to go to good use as his wife had spent many hours enjoying crafting with them. I promised they would and so they became part of the Fairy House.

Some of the elements are handmade too; I used polymer clay to make tiny mushrooms that are ‘growing’ out of the roof, the blanket in the shell bed was knitted and the little pillow was a section of an old teatowel that I embroidered. A lot of work went into this project, yet for the past year the Fairy House has been sat in a shed. Now feels like the time to tidy it up a bit and decide where it belongs.

I’m enjoying my volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society and am incorporating my love of craft and all things creative into the session I’m doing. I feel like getting creative can have a positive effect on our wellbeing, even if only for the time we’re doing it.

I’m yet to visit the Da Vinci exhibition in Cardiff (I mentioned in my last blog about the nation-wide exhibitions that were being held to mark the 500th anniversary of his death) but as it’s running until the beginning of May there’s still plenty of time to get there. Since I started researching the Italian Renaissance during my A levels (13 years ago) I’ve had an interest in the subject and artists from that time. I love the use of symbolism and considered using this era in my dissertation but opted for the Symbolist Movement (late 19th century)…you can see why.

This week I’m allowing myself to just be creative in whatever way I feel. How much I create and how much I engage with my work is often dependent on how I’m feeling. This week I’m feeling in need of some freedom, to outlet emotions with whatever project feels right at the time.

 

 

 

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