Swanage concept artist Lewis Peake, who’s helped create TV worlds from Bridgerton’s Regency London to the Game of Thrones universe, has brought his own world view to The Mowlem in Swanage, Dorset.
The New Worlds exhibition is being showcased by Mowlem Visual Arts until Tuesday 12th December 2023, a title which tells a story both about the images and their creation, a merger of raw clay from Sheps Hollow in Swanage with the latest in digital art technology.
Digital prints of 3D computer models originally made from Swanage clay
Lewis’s most recognisable creation so far – the TV home of Lady Bridgerton
TV credits like Dracula and His Dark Materials
Large scale digital prints show images containing elements of unnerving creatures and architecture which could have come from lost civilisations or other worlds, all formed from wealden clay through which prehistoric animals once moved.
Lewis, whose television credits include Dracula, Bridgerton, Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, His Dark Materials and Batman prequel Pennyworth, said it was his move to Swanage which sparked a new direction in his work.
He and his partner Eleanor left London seven years ago for a better quality of life, and on family walks along the beach Lewis became intrigued by the local clay, which led to experiments with a more physical art form.
Lewis Peake at work on his laptop digitising images of his clay models
Some early sculpts made from Swanage wealden clay
Videos on how to process wild clay
Lewis Peake said:
“I had been absolutely obsessed with digital tools and 3D software, but coming to Swanage I had a craving to get my hands back on real paint, real clay and really use my hands, which I seem to have forgotten about.
“Down at Sheps Hollow I saw what I convinced myself was clay, feeling that I could take a clump of it and use it myself – making sure not to pull out a chunk of rock and create a landslide!
“I eventually did that and processed it myself, having watched a few YouTube videos on how to process wild clay, as they call it.
“It’s not true clay, as I later discovered, but wealden, which is sandy and chalky and grainy and not particularly pleasant. If you let it air dry, it becomes very powdery and dusty, but it is quite satisfying to carve, like carving chalk.
“I was interested in trying to create some kind of artefact out of that which someone might dig up as a relic of a lost civilisation more advanced than us, playing with a scifi theme with a very old and almost a living material.”
Lewis’s art is on show at The Mowlem until mid December 2023
Clay created with help of a coffee filter
The process to make Swanage wealden clay useable involved breaking down the soft rock in a bucket of water, sieving it through an old coffee filter, leaving the liquid in a jar to separate and eventually rescuing the clay deposit and drying it to a point where it could be worked.
Once his sculpt was finished, Lewis then used a phone app called Polycam which scans the figure from all angles to create a sphere around it, ending up with a digital 3D object which can be manipulated through computer programmes.
One piece of art which didn’t make the exhibition was a twisted, hooded cave from Swanage clay which was then manipulated with the graphics software tool Blender and then having a paint over in the graphics editor Procreate.
Concept art produced for His Dark Materials was imagined based around Durdle Door
The art version of the Witches’ Council location which BBC bosses eventually chose
Moving to Swanage had a massive impact
“I was delighted to be invited to show at The Mowlem as part of the art initiative curated by artist Tim Edgar and used images which incorporate local clay sculptures, 3D scans and computer models.
“The title was collaborative between me and Tim, we came up with ideas about alien artefacts and lost cities, but New Worlds spoke to me because moving from London to Swanage has made a massive impact on me.
“Oddly, work had been very patchy and a bit of a struggle in London, but then we moved to Swanage, the phone started ringing like crazy and I’ve been working ever since.”
The first break for Lewis came in 2018 on a production called Bloodmoon, the Game of Thrones prequel where an entire pilot was filmed before HBO decided they weren’t keen on it after all and pulled the plug on it.
Concept art which Lewis produced for Daphne’s dream in Bridgerton season one
A Disneyfied version of Regency London – concept art for the ball in Bridgerton season two
“Bridgerton feels like my baby!”
“I did concept art on that with two others who absolutely blew my head off with their ability and skills, which gave me a four-month long anxiety attack, to be honest, it was so frightening.
“I saw it through and the designer and art director were an absolute dream to work for, but the turmoil was inside my mind and I was so self critical I couldn’t really enjoy the job.
“Then Bridgerton came along and I’ve now done four seasons of that, it feels like my baby! It’s really garish and over saturated, a Disney interpretation of Regency London, Americanised and stylised – I love it!
“Although historical drama is really not my style, it’s fun and I’ve really got into the architecture and the period details which we were all going crazy with.”
Lewis’s concept art for the sarcophagus used by Dracula in the 2020 TV show
One of the props imagined by Lewis for Pennyworth is a precursor to Batman’s grapple gun
Sworn to secrecy about House of the Dragon
“The shows have been growing since then. I had the best job of my life earlier this year, as concept artist for the action props in season two of HBO’s House of the Dragon, the prequel to Game of Thrones.
“Although I am sworn to secrecy about details, we had a small team managing an absolutely gargantuan task working on key props which drive the story line, items carried by major characters which get a lot of screen time.
“If we were talking about Star Wars as an equivalent, these would have been lightsabers – I can’t describe how excited I will be to show the world the part I played in that!”
The New Worlds exhibition is open at The Mowlem on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am until 1.30 pm, and on Monday to Saturday evenings between 5.30 pm and 9.30 pm, or whenever The Showbar is open.
Concept art for props in the BBC’s His Dark Materials season two, The Subtle Knife