Thursday 26 April 2012

...Lee & Kirby burning bright...

Avengers 1 - Marvel Comics
On the day of the release of what is possibly the ultimate superhero movie, why don't we take a look at who we've really got to thank for the oncoming spectacle.
Nowhere were the flames of comic book creativity stoked more fiercely and with greater love and passion, than in the ten foot 'Dungeon' studio of Jack Kirby.

Jack in his basement studio
The white hot almost alchemical fusion of Kirby's power and creativity, with Stan Lee's humanistic characterisation, humour and goldanged irrepressible hucksterism, created a brave new world of superheroes. 
Stan and Jack's multitude of Marvel Comic characters continue to edify and entertain us, and influence and inspire us fifty years on into the 21st century!
Stan and that month's Marvels
In popular culture terms Lee & Kirby were the comic book industry's Lennon and McCartney - they revolutionised the worlds of comics and entertainment. 
There isn't a thank-you big enough, but thanks. 

Wednesday 25 April 2012

...Castle Acre spring fairs and summer fetes...

Writer Sue Welfare kindly suggested I contact mosaic artist Carolyn Ash regarding her networking Spring Fairs at the Castle Acre Village Hall. 
Without hesitation I signed on the dotted line and will be appearing with a full stall of cards, prints, calendars, comics  and artwork. 
I'll also be dishing out to one and all - or anybody who will listen - pen & ink drawing tips and any advice regarding digital artwork and reproduction. 
I'm looking forward to it, see you there! 

...a giraffe a bat, a lorry a cat - a squid a shark, a lark in the dark...

When I was asked in 2011 whether I could help Hilgay School's Year 6 produce an end of year mural, I thought -'Well I normally work with perhaps the smallest drawing implement (a dip pen), and generally no larger than A3 or A2 - that's about 24" x 17" in english, but what the heck! - it sounds like fun'.
I discussed ideas with the headteacher and then produced a rough design which was then passed over to the pupils.  
A week or so later I spent a morning with the kids - they had already each produced drawings of their own animals and fish to populate the jungle scene. We agreed we would create a feeling of depth making use of foreground and background elements in the picture.  
The children blew up their drawings on the school photocopier until we were able to produce a small proportional layout which Helen at the Ryston Print Centre scaled up to a whopping two metres square! The full size animals were cut out and then traced in place onto the surface.  
With paint donated by the King's Lynn Recycling Centre we began to block in the larger shapes, applying the detail and texture as the work progressed. The students all applied themselves to the task with plenty of energy and creativity - it was clear that up to a point I could pretty much leave it up to them - after all it is their mural.  
It was apparent from an early stage that the natural amazon environment had been displaced somewhat by the appearance of the cabin of a rather large Heavy Goods Vehicle. Not sure about the fuel emissions, but you can't say it's not realistic...

On the day of the unveiling the Year 6 children, after a flurry of Lynn News photography, were each presented with a 'Mega Mural Artist Supreme' certificate in recognition of their vision and hard work.
It had been suggested that perhaps the school would make this an annual event, with a new mural painted each year by the outgoing  students. A year 4 pupil asked me if she could include her teddy bear when she painted her mural - why not?
The students kindly presented me with a gift certificate which I promptly spent on art supplies. Many thanks Hilgay School!

...a drawing of your wife sir? Are you sure sir?...

A big thank-you to Tom Brooke for one of the most enjoyable commissions of last year. This is a piece of work that became known as 'Kitchen Carnage'.
Tom wanted to present wife Emma with a birthday gift of one of my drawings. They already had one of my Pen & Ink illustrations and liked the idea of a family comic strip. The brief essentially was to draw Emma as a superheroine overcoming insurmountable odds, i.e. getting the kids ready for breakfast on a school morning.
I'd like to see world savers Spider-Man and the Human Torch tackle that problem - although Mr Fantastic is married with kids... 
Anyway - with a suitable story, I had a go at the 'Breakfast Adventure!'
I prepared a rough preliminary layout, and this was the script -
'Kitchen Carnage' - marker rough

Panel 1 - Scene setting long shot of your home/Hilgay village
Panel 2 - Close up - Emma blissfully asleep
Panel 3 - Same shot - Emma rudely awakened by crashing sound effects      off panel 
Panel 4 - You guessed it - Kitchen Carnage! long/medium shot - Josh and Finley doing everything but getting ready for school. Remote helicopters and paper airplanes flying out of panel, cereals and lamp also flying...(please advise if these are things they have/would do, or suggest alternatives - Millennium Falcon?). 
Panel 5 - Whoa! Enter Emma - wearing dressing gown/pajamas - perhaps she shouts Josh! Finley! -boys freeze in mid motion 
Panel 6 - Flash of lights, Emma transforms into 'Super Emma' (this outfit or costume can be what ever you want, so ideas please), amidst all the Mary Poppins like breakfast preparations (toast buttered, milk on cereals, juice poured, books/schoolbags packed), and other 'tidykinetic' events, the helicopter and plane come in to land. And I'm sure Emma managed to telekinetically make herself a cup/mug of tea/coffee. 
Panel 7Longshot - Josh and Finley all dressed and ready for school look at each other thinking 'That's our 'super' mum!' Emma stands triumphant - another school morning successfully dealt with - back to bed? If only...
If there is a next issue/week/final message blurb what might it read? 
TOMORROW - 'Kitchen Carnage 2!' 'Back to bed' ' SuperEmma to the rescue... 
Anyway - that was the general idea...
'Kitchen Carnage' - pen & ink
Tom kindly provided numerous photos for reference and we came up with the finished article as above.  
I offered to produce a hand-coloured watercolour version, but they had already cut out the middleman and given the kids photocopies and crayons - 'What the..!?'
If there's any doubt, I think we know who the real superheroes are...
Thanks again, Tom and Emma. 

...HAG...we're looking for people who like to draw...

- Nordelph goes vintage with Three Artists and a craft fair -

'Downham Market 2013 Three Artists' 2013 Calendar
How could I resist an invitation to take part in the first Nordelph vintage Craft Fair?
The Nordelph Committee promise a craft fair with a difference promoting a Twenties' musical theme. Popular crafters Belles and Whistles will be participating alongside handmade jewelry, bespoke woodturning, pottery and ceramics, greetings cards, watercolour artwork, and last - but never least - homemade cupcakes! 

'Moat' - pen and coloured pencil by Richard White
I'll be showcasing my latest calendar hot off the Dolphin Graphics presses. 'Three Artists 2013' presents my work alongside the delicate penmanship of dad-in-law Richard White and the lush pencil and pastels of wildlife artist David Goddard.
'Three Artists 2013' features two images from each artist, and presents two months to a page. It's a spiral bound calendar and is printed on 350 gsm stock - each print quality picture can be mounted and framed at the end of the year - if not sooner.
'Lions' - pencil and pastels by David Goddard
What am I thinking? Did I forget to mention driftwood art, face painting, textiles and collectibles. Must be the Martini...
The Craft Fair will be take place at Nordelph Village Hall on Sunday the 6th of May, from 10am to 3pm. Refreshments will be served all day. Join us for not only a trip back to the roaring Twenties', but also an opportunity to grab a gift for someone special - and maybe that's you!

On a more sober note funds raised will be applied to the Nordelph Village Hall, and a stall will be held by charity Lifeline 4 Chernobyl.
You bring the Sobranies' - I'll brush up on my Charleston.
 And no sign of Hugh Grant...

Tuesday 24 April 2012

...village teas, superheroes, and greek coffee...

Yiayia's House - Pera, Orinis  Cyprus
Little did I know that by taking part in the first Hilgay Village Craft & Art Fair, that by the end of the day I would be transported not only to the Mediterranean, but also back in time to the dry sepia days of 1956. 
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Thanks to organisers Gerry and Arijs, I was able to set up my stall the day before and stroll in Sunday morning raring to go. Although the craft fair itself was steady, the cafe served a heroic amount of teas, homemade cakes, and ploughmans' lunches! Perhaps in this instance I shouldn't have switched from catering to drawing?
Early in the day I was pleased to see Glenda and John again, who were responsible for the original Northwold art group. They not only commissioned from me my first 'Superhero' demo, but also showed us all how an art group should be run. 
Yiayia's House - Pen & Ink
Alongside selling cards and prints, discussing potential commissions and offering drawing tips - I was promoting the 'Hilgay Art Group' and was pleased to see the growing interest and response. I guess 'all' I need to do now is set up the group's first meeting, and see what happens...
One of my works on display was a recent drawing completed for my mother's eightieth birthday. A pen & ink drawing of my grandmother's home in Pera - a small cypriot village south of Nicosia - 'Yiayia's House'.
Austin Pearce, a local watercolour artist whose work I knew from various craft fairs throughout the year, recognised the architecture and asked me the location. Soon we were exchanging memories of the Island of Aphrodite. He had served in Cyprus in the mid-fifties, and as an eighteen year old, had often spent his free time painting and drawing the cypriot coast and landscape.
Bapou's kouzo for removing wine from the well
Austin's work became very popular and would soon be pinned up in the Dhekelia army base - it was either given away or sold to fellow soldiers and officers. Although he had visited the greek islands, he has not returned to Cyprus since 1956.
Naturally I offered to bring him back a packet of greek coffee (decaff), next time I was in London - "Yiasou, file mou!"
Coincidentally the very next day I would receive an email from art marketing advice guru extolling the virtues of face to face networking. 

...swimmin' an' ablowin', warpin' an' aweavin'...

'Silverfish' - pen & ink and watercolour
Just beyond the Isle of Eels, in the Cambridgeshire village of Haddenham there is  a doorway which leads you into the vivid markets and bazaars of Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and all points east. A veritable Alastair's Cave - if you will - of hand carved furniture, tribal masks, exotic musical instruments, lavish rugs and kilims. 
Alastair Hull's Haddenham Gallery also has an art gallery showcasing the talents of local artists, a sculpture garden, a workshop, artists studios' and - phew! - an exciting gift shop. Amongst the handmade jewelry, ceramics, and textiles, the gallery also sells greetings cards, original artwork, and limited edition prints.
'Denver Gatehouse' - pen & french sepia ink
Having sent off a sample package of selected cards and prints to the gallery a week or so ago, I was pleased to receive a phone call from Melinda last Friday. Deluxe editions of my prints such as 'Silverfish' and 'Denver Gatehouse' can be now be purchased alongside curious articles and artifacts from far flung Asia!
How could I forget the tea shop? 
Where else - immersed in all this paraphernalia - can you enjoy mediterranean paninis and tortillas, homemade cakes, scones and flapjacks, fairtrade coffee, and not only imported Kandula tea from Sri Lanka - but also english builders' tea?
 And, yes - all ingredients locally sourced.

Sunday 22 April 2012 a brick studio in a garden not so far away...

'Cara's paklava' - pen & ink and watercolour
How come when you've been looking for a piece of artwork high and low for the past 20 minutes - that needs sending off shortly - just when you think you're going to have to turn the studio upside down - and baffled since you'd set it aside  'just the other day' so that you wouldn't forget it - that you finally remember, via a series of totally unconnected thought processes, that you placed it in the scanner...? 
Pictured above is the illustration in question - ' Cara's paklava'. 
Greek Easter was imminent and my daughter Cara chose to make this well known greek pastry.  This is no mean feat considering that owing to the labour intensive nature of this recipe, even my mum - Cara's yiayia - had not made them before.
Happy Easter, or as they say in Cyprus - 'Kalo Baska!'