As promised to my faithful followers, here are the Tigers pages! This has turned out to be one of my favourite sections of the album, not least because it is one of my earliest and fondest childhood memories. It might seem somewhat out of place to have a section on tigers in a book about my dad, and it was certainly an unusual episode in his life.
Sometime in the mid-to-late 50s, there was a wonderful vet living in Plymouth by the name of Fernley Slee. He specialised in zoo and circus animals and had been consulted by Chipperfield’s Circus, who had in their possession two tiger cubs with congenital cataracts. Not feeling up to performing the surgery himself, he asked Dad to do it, and he readily agreed. Lily and Rajah, the two tiger cubs, were certainly the most unusual patients he ever had.
He took us as a family to see the tigers at Mr. Slee’s house. They were wandering freely about, and even at my very young age I was impressed by the unusual way they walked, with their shoulders moving up and down, and although they were about the size of a large domestic cat, their gait was quite different. They were very friendly, and very interested in everything.
My mother owned a white pigskin handbag at that time, and she put it on the floor beside her chair. The next thing she knew, one of the tiger cubs had got hold of it and was chewing it! When she rescued it, the corner had deep tooth marks that remained in the bag ever afterwards! People would often look a bit oddly at it, and she would say, “Oh, it was bitten by a tiger” which was certainly a conversation stopper!
I am so glad my dad never threw anything away. Going through his study when we had to sell my parents’ house, I was delighted to come across an envelope marked simply, “Tigers.” Inside were the photos which I have scanned and used for these pages.
I recently came across an online image of an art journal where the edges of the pages had been cut back at different lengths, and I decided it would be nice to incorporate this idea into my book. After cutting the pages, I painted the cut edges with black acrylic paint.
A couple of years ago I painted the face of a tiger for my art journal, to go with the William Blake poem “Tyger tyger burning bright.” This painting went across the centre of the book so the photo has a line down the middle.
This is how the tiger painting ended up in the book.
I took the original photo of the painting and edited it in Serif PhotoPlus to get rid of the central join, and printed it out to fit my page. I could have done a fresh painting of a tiger for the book, but decided to use the one I already had, to save time, and also to keep the thickness to a minimum.
After sticking the printed image into my book with regular matt gel medium, I went around the edges with pan pastels to soften and darken the background, to help it blend into the page background. I used more pan pastels to create the dark tiger-skin effect background. This design did become darker and less visible after spraying with the Rustoleum spray seal, but this is what it was like at the beginning.
Starting to work on the tiger picture border.
Working on the Tigers title.
The background for the second page – again done with pan pastels.
Working on the border for the second tigers page, using acrylic paints. You can see the borders I painted on the curving cut-away pages on the right.
The photos stuck down with regular matt gel medium, and work beginning on the border. You can see the operation taking place in the right-hand photo.
The completed title page. Acrylic paints and a combination of black and white pens, and pan pastels. I am very pleased with how the tiger appears to be emerging from behind the border. I photographed these final shots using my new scratch paper as a background. I Use a scratch paper to clean my brushes and rubber stamps onto. It’s amazing how much paint would otherwise end up in the water pot! This way, you get to save paint (money) AND get another piece of art into the bargain!
The finished second page, with journaling to describe the family’s encounter with the amazing little tiger cubs.
Finally, the third page completed.
I think this unusual episode makes a fitting addition to the book, and it’s a nice opportunity to add a bit of richness and colour. I really enjoyed working on these pages, not least because I love tigers so much!