A Grimm Exhibition

This is recent work displayed in an exhibition at Burslem School of Art in Stoke-on-Trent. Twitter handle: @burslemart

This exhibition is based on the stories that were collected by the Grimm brothers. They were first published in German in 1812 as Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales) but similar stories turn up in folk tales all over the world.

As illustrator Jane Ray writes: “…a ‘fairy tale’ is a tale that has a familiarity to it, a certain shape, and with archetypal characters and situations – the wicked witch, the step-mother, the princess, the poor peasant, castles, towers, enchanted animals and forests ….” (2013: 13-14, issue 13-14).

Archetypes in fairy tales are based on symbols which our unconscious communicates through, as it does when we dream. In our own personal way, all human beings experience dreaming, and also share common behaviour patterns and emotions. This kinship is the reason similar stories arise in different places and have been retold generation to generation.

In these illustrations, I wanted to capture the ability of these tales to travel across cultural borders. To do this I started to look at folk art. It has similar qualities in its use of symbolism and often has a handmade aesthetic which makes folk art tactile and familiar. For this reason, I am trying to formulate ways of reproducing the books by hand which is not too time consuming but will still provide a coloured, aesthetic and legible set of images.

The works on display are some of the first attempts. They are made using cardboard stencils, acrylic ink and toothbrushes to make small spray-painted images. The larger drawings are made with a Chinese calligraphy brush with detail added with sponge and sprayed paint.

I particularly like these ways of producing the illustrations because they are similar to early art forms evidenced in cave paintings (again, found all over the world) and ancient Asian brush painting techniques. These illustrations are my interpretation of the Grimms’ collected tales – I hope you enjoy them!



‘Climb up onto my tail:’ the fox in The Golden Bird is a helper figure. He rescues the third brother [the hero] many times throughout the story. Stencils and sprayed acrylic ink applied with a toothbrush.
The fox in The Golden Bird. Air-drying clay, black ink brush pen and acrylic ink sprayed with a toothbrush.
Hansel and Gretel approach the gingerbread house belonging to a witch. Stencils and acrylic ink sprayed with a toothbrush.
Illustrations for Red Riding Hood (l-r) leaving home directed by her Mother; the forest made from printing with a leaf and Red and her Grandmother in a stomach.
Chinese brush and black ink with acrylic ink [orange] applied with sponge brush.
Chinese brush and black ink with acrylic ink [orange] applied with sponge brush.



Burslem School of Art, Queen Street Burslem, ST6 3EJ, UK

Grimm, Jacob and Grimm, Wilhelm (1812) Kinder- und Hausmärchen Germany

Ray, Jane (2015) Illustration Fairy Tales in IBBY Link, issue 43 Summer 2015


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