Peter James Field Exhibition and Book Launch

Posted at 6 pm on August 1, 2011 by

Posted in: Events, Galleries and Exhibitions, News, Pencil Illustration

Last autumn, Peter James Field very kindly put together a tutorial for Ape on the Moon, taking us step by step through his process when creating one of his finely detailed pencil illustrations.

Now, after diligently working on what he describes as the largest and most challenging illustration he’s ever attempted, he’ll be exhibiting the three metre-long piece and launching the accompanying limited edition book. Both the large print and book will be on display in a shared exhibition with Craig Oldham at the KK Outlet in Hoxton, London, running 5th-27th of August, with the private view this Thursday at 7pm.

The ‘Peter Andre Saliva Tree’ is an ambitious project, painstakingly illustrating celebrity connections via their relationships and dalliances, compiled out of hundreds of beautifully drawn pencil portraits. Here, Peter goes into more detail about what he does and the arduous work that went into the tree.

I draw in an analogue fashion, usually using a 2B retractable pencil, with occasional help from a 4H. I also work in coloured pencils and sometimes acrylic paint. I sometimes scan these in to produce much larger compositions in Photoshop.  

The print connects Peter Andre, via marriages, divorces, affairs and offspring, to a staggering four hundred famous people, including a former US president, the King of Pop, and a host of stars from the golden era of Hollywood.

The first version of this print was made for a display at Nolia’s Gallery back in 2007 – and was headed up by Loose Women’s Carol McGiffin, linked to 100 other famous people in an interlocking tree of marriages and affairs.

That print was featured on Loose Women (click here to view) – you can read a longer account of its genesis here.

It had always been my intention to make a larger, wall-sized tree of connections and I’d been gathering notes in an exercise book over the course of the intervening four years.

Earlier this year I was offered the chance to participate in ‘Telling Tales’. a group show at the arts centre in East Grinstead – which gave me the opportunity (and more importantly the sheer expanse of wall space) to contemplate a new, no-holds barred saliva tree.

First things first, then, why Peter Andre? For a start, I figured the tree would have real impact only if I could succeed in connecting a UK celeb to the golden greats like Bogart and Sinatra. I chose Andre because he fitted this bill, and was also a local resident (he’s got a place near East Grinstead, I believe). As with Carol McGiffin, the choice of celeb isn’t ironic, I thought I might as well head the piece up with someone who does genuinely seem like a nice bloke.

After the East Grinstead exhibition, I was honoured to be approached by KK Outlet in Hoxton, who offered me the chance to display the tree in a shared exhibition with artist Craig Oldham (whose excellent Hand-written Letters project goes on show the same night). I took this opportunity to update the tree once more, adding another hundred faces to the previous work.

The KK show is also accompanied by a limited edition, hand-finished concertina book – which contains an abridged, 250 person strong fold-out tree. The souvenir book presented its own unique challenges. Originally I’d intended to make a poster set, but it was difficult to resolve. The obvious solution was to make a long, fold out, shrunk down version of the tree. This didn’t turn out to be easy by any means. Printing it on a single sheet of paper (well over a metre long) would have been prohibitively expensive.

At this stage I approached The Entente, aka Brighton designers Anthony Sheret and Edd Harrington, who’d printed my ‘Numbers’ book in 2009 in-house on their risograph machine. They suggested once again that we print the pages at their studio, and get them folded and stuck by professional book-finishers.

A few price quotes later, we realized this was also a prohibitively expensive undertaking. The only solution was to take on the job of assembling the books ourselves.

The original 2007 Saliva Tree.

Anthony and Edd devised a system of three tabs per book, each of which needed to be scored, folded and have double-sided tape applied. Only then could the books be assembled (with infinite care, mind you, to ensure the saliva lines matched up across the folds). It was quite a daunting task, not least because double-sided tape obviously can’t be re-positioned when stuck. Still, this was home-grown publishing at its most exciting – the whole edition being admittedly rather an experiment. How many would we mess up? How long would it take us to join over a thousand glue points? It was thrilling but I also lost quite a bit of sleep over it.

I can’t praise Anthony and Edd highly enough for their determination and attention to detail through the whole process – I also have to off my cap to some friends of mine who volunteered their evenings, and put many hours into the production of the final book; Keeley Smith, Steph Burnley and Hannah Forward. It eventually took five people working flat out about ten hours to complete the edition (or so I thought).

The final hiccup took place the following week when we realized the books, with their unusual glue system, could not be trimmed in a large industrial trimmer. Again, my eternal thanks are due to Anthony and Edd for their diligent patience in doing a small test on 10 books – otherwise the whole edition might have been ruined even at this late stage. It did mean, though, that I was forced to trim each copy of the book top and bottom with a stanley knife – and at last, another seven or eight hours later, the edition was complete. My hands are blistered and my shoulders ache, but we got there in the end.

The book will be officially launched this week at the KK Outlet private view – but it’s already up and ready to order on my website shop.

© Peter James Field, 2011.