hare rabbit bunny victorian drawing keith harrop

Unique Victorian Memories: Alligators in Top Hats & Swans in Long Dresses

hare rabbit bunny victorian drawing keith harrop

An elegant hare stands, relaxed with paws in pockets, and stares at the viewer. Antiqued Victorian-style drawing by Keith Harrop

Imagine that you’re in your attic, whether or not you have one. In the corner, there’s an old box. And inside the box are photos of people from 150 years ago, from the Victorian era of England.

Only they’re not people; they’re animals. There’s an alligator in a top hat. A hare, paws in pocket, with a golden chain to his watch fob. A kingfisher in long dress, sitting by a pond.

Who are these . . . people? Are they relatives? And if so, from mom’s side or dad’s?

kingfisher bird dress pond drawing Victorian keith harrop

In the perfect hat and elegant dress, a kingfisher sits with pole by the pond. Victorian-style drawing by Keith Harrop.

You have just entered the Anicurio Collection of Keith Harrop, a North Idaho artist who, since his childhood in Stoke-on-Trent, England, has peopled his world with unique characters from his imagination. As a young boy, he worked under self-enforced weekly deadlines, creating comic books that he published for an audience of one, his older brother, Steve.

Determination and Imagination

“My family was poor,” Harrop remembers. “But oddly, I never actually realized we were until many years later. I know that may sound strange. But we were so loved and cared for by our parents that it was never relevant. We just accepted what we had.”

And while what he didn’t have a lot of were artist materials, that lack didn’t stop him from spending almost every night drawing and painting.

“I didn’t have a sketchbook, so I would spend a lot of time drawing on the back of long pieces of old, rolled up wall paper.

“I do remember my first sketchbook. My Dad, who worked for a bus company, made it for me. The pages were old bus timetables, blank on one side and print on the other. A cardboard cover and shoe laces holding it together. I filled that book from beginning to end with ideas and sketches.

two swans dresses sisters hugging keith harrop

Sisters? Friends? Two swans in elegant dress stand side by side for the camera. Victorian-style drawing by Keith Harrop.

“But I packed my creative side away as I grew older. England has a way of doing that to you.”

Upon emigrating to the U.S. in his adulthood, however, Harrop picked up pencil and paintbrush again, reconnecting with his old self and making art a central part of his life. He became art director and creative director in the places he worked, and eventually transitioned to full-time independent artist.

The Anicurio Victorian Collection

“My paintings deal each with one moment, one story, or one emotion only,” Harrop says. The Anicurio Collection, which he developed last year, grew out of his enthrallment with old, stained, and aged Victorian and Edwardian photos.

“I’m fascinated with the introduction of photography to the Victorian Era. It was the first time that people of all classes could enjoy equality because previously, only the rich were able to present themselves in portraiture, via oil paintings.

alligator-top-hat-elegant-pose-keith-harrop-drawing

The top of fashion, an elegant alligator sits with cane and smile. Victorian-style drawing by Keith Harrop.

“But now, if only for an instant, people of all classes could wear their nicest outfit, stand in front of the same backdrop, and present themselves in their best light. Almost eliminating social class.”

And so he created his own Victorian and Edwardian images, with the unique twist that his subjects are animals. Well-dressed animals.

“I want this series to suggest something that was rediscovered by the viewer. An inherited artifact from a mysterious benefactor?” Or something stumbled upon in that musty attic, laying at the bottom a chest, buried beneath old dusty clothes and fading hand-written notes.

“Each original illustration is carefully hand drawn in pencil,” Harrop says. “Once finished, I age and treat them with various dye methods, to resemble an old, dusty, antique, Victorian photograph.” Tea, coffee, soy sauce, or lemon juice and a heat gun transform a drawing finished five minutes ago to an historical image long buried in an aging chest.

A Positive Reception

Harrop introduced the collection in the second quarter of 2021 by sending out postcard samples. Gratified by their reception, he developed a line of prints and post cards. He recently showed these at the Museum of Art and Culture in Spokane, in conjunction with the Downton Abbey exhibit there. He sells his work throughout the U.S., as well as to collectors in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Denmark.

Like people in old photographs, each character in Harrop’s Anicurio Collection has a story. And, like the people who discover those old photos, we often don’t know what that story is, who those . . . people are. That’s the delight of it — creating the stories, using our imaginations, joining with Harrop in exploring this magical, mythical Victorian world.

But first, it would be good to determine: are they from mom’s side, or dad’s?

Wenaha GalleryKeith Harrop is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from December 1, 2021 through January 3, 2022.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

 

 

angel girl string thread art card kneeling lois hemphill

Creative Threads — String Art Cards by Lois Hemphill

string thread greeting card art butterfly lois hemphill

Created in string, a butterfly is an inviting and joyful image by Dayton artist Lois Hemphill

Human beings were given hands and hearts, eyes and brains for a reason. We were born to create, innovate, try and fail, and try again until we achieve what we’re aiming for.

angel girl string thread art card kneeling lois hemphill

Using different weights and colors of thread, Hemphill creates a sense of light shining. Angel, string art card by Lois Hemphill.

Dayton, WA, artist Lois Hemphill fully understands this process, because it’s what she does all the time. With a focus on making folded greeting cards using combined mediums and different techniques, Hemphill uses not only paper, ink, and stamps, but also punch needle and thread to create one of a kind, intricate images on stitched cards.

“Some people call it string art, others call it pricking, pin, or thread art, because you create points or holes in the paper first,” Hemphill explains. “You can use a hatpin or something like that; I actually have a utensil that I bought that punches the holes.”

Drawing with String

Using a computer software drawing program, Hemphill designs an image for a card. She then punches precisely placed holes in card stock, after which she strings thread, in varying colors and thicknesses, between the points to fill in the design. The result is a textured two-dimensional surface, with a finished image composed of a series of straight lines, geometrically composed. It takes time, a steady hand, and a willingness to start all over, if necessary, if the thread and the points get off.

“I like to say that there is no mistake, only an opportunity for embellishment,” Hemphill says, explaining that she and the various people she gets together with through the years from the craft group she started in 2007, decided to accept that human error occurs, and it’s part of the creative process.

“When we started looking at it that way, we found that the process of correcting the mistake often resulted in something better than we originally planned.

“We also found that we weren’t so afraid about making mistakes.”

Pushing Past Fear

Fear suffocates creativity, and learning how to push past it is a huge benefit to not only artistry, but living in general. Hemphill recalls an occasion, shortly after she was given a bridal shower, when her then fiance, now husband, used creative thought to conquer fear. It was a life lesson that has inspired her through the years:

stained glass thread string art greeting card lois hemphill

The colorful design of stained glass shines through Lois Hemphill’s string art card, Stained Glass Cross.

“We were washing the cookware and dishes that I had received at the shower, and I was very quiet. He asked me what was wrong and I said, ‘Nothing.’

“He knew me well enough to know something was bugging me, so eventually I said, ‘I’m afraid I won’t be able to cook good enough for you,’ (because he was always talking about what good foods his mother would fix). And then I started to cry!”

The next day the couple went to the store where David, her fiance, invited her to choose the cookbook of her choice and he would pay for it.

“I chose the 1962 edition of good Housekeeping, which I still have today. Years later, all three of our children wanted me to find the exact same edition for each of them — which I did.”

What she also did was learn to cook, to the point that her prowess is now so advanced that she is repeatedly asked to publish a cookbook of her own. But it took pushing past the fear. It’s what makes a good cook, a confident person, and an artist who is willing to try out new techniques and master them.

A String of Projects

strawberry jam string thread greeting card art lois hemphill

Culinary art requires creativity and fearlessness. Strawberry Jam string art card by Lois Hemphill of Dayton, WA

Hemphill works out of her house’s large recreational room, which contains all her crafting supplies. Through the years, she has taught people how to make both stamped and string art cards. She usually works on several projects at a time, and in addition to selling her cards in local venues, she has donated them to the Dayton hospital gift shop. Her next project, in addition to putting together that cookbook, is building a website to showcase her card artwork online.

“My mind is always thinking of things to do, and I don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything,” Hemphill says.

“Fortunately, I only need 6-7 hours of sleep, which helps some.

“My sister has told me more than once that I will still be creating and trying out new craft ideas and recipes up to just before I die.

“It keeps me young at heart!”

Wenaha GalleryLois Hemphill is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from March 23 through April 19, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.