Wednesday 27 February 2013

...The Nefarious Neal Adams...!

Just to say this post is a 'blog in progress', since I couldn't wait to get it online, but knew that I needed more time to do it justice. 
So hope you enjoy what you see, and please come back for more...

I'm sitting at my mac in my Norfolk studio - feeling somewhat heady - 40 hours or so after having met the man whose dynamic photo realistic artwork over four decades earlier had blasted the 1969 version of the X- Men into the stratosphere and revolutionized the comic book industry forever. 

I'd seen his work before over at DC Comics (home of Superman and Batman). Although I began reading through brother Lol's stack of DC's - which I thoroughly enjoyed (anyone remember 'Robin Dies at Dawn' or Superman Red and Superman Blue?), I had only to read one or two of the early Fantastic Four and Avengers stashed away to become a devout Marvel Comics fan. 
My twelve year old self had seen his work there and didn't care for it much - and when I opened X-Men 56 the first thought that entered my mind was - and I wasn't pleased about it - 'Oh No, it's that bloke from DC Comics!' 
It didn't take me long to come around. Neal was obviously a force to be reckoned with, and one concerned reader wrote in to the letters page and asked Stan Lee whether he'd swapped Silver Surfer artist supreme - Big John Buscema - for Adams. 
Lee was mortified, not only was Buscema chained to his drawing board, but Adams was now on board the Marvel Bullpen express. 
The floor creaked under the weight of his creative innovation.

Gulp! The Nefarious Neal Adams signing my copy of 'Batman Odyssey'!

'Don't I know you guys?' Neal and Lazarus - what a picture!


Our man in Hilgay - from superfoods to superheroes...

Many thanks to Ian Pinches - our man at Downham Market station's Railway Arms. 
Not only for taking on and promoting my Downham Market 2013 calendar, but also for recommending I contact David Learner at King's Lynn Magazine for possible media support. 

Downham Markets award-winning Railway Station houses the award-winning Railway Bar!

A few days later I telephoned David who kindly listened to my calendar pitch, but responded with a 'probably not' owing to the mag being Kings Lynn based and the calendar's theme being strictly Downham Market. Having viewed and been impressed by my work on my website, David generously offered to put my name in the proverbial hat to be possibly featured in a future edition of the King's Lynn Magazine! 
How would I like them apples? Very much, thanks. 
I received an email  from David saying that I had been selected to have a feature appear in the magazine. What followed was a most enjoyable December meeting with both David and Photographer Holly Milston - more like a casual conversation with tea and carrot cake, about comics, catering and even my Dad's Criterion Cafe for good measure!

Hat's off to both David and Holly for a great article, design and photography - and yes, I think that is my best side...

 ... I particularly liked the way David drew a strong comparison between my two vocations as restaurateur and artist, and also the difference between my fine line and watercolour illustration work and my bold energetic comic artwork.   
Very well done!
Hell, I was so impressed by the article that I would buy a commision and/or print from myself! 
KL Magazine is available at no charge from select local outlets and can also be viewed by clicking the images for a larger version, or online here in the February mag, page 84. It's an excellent magazine - well written and very well designed - well worth the read. 

Thanks again to Ian - and David and Holly - I've always got carrot cake...

Tuesday 26 February 2013

...St Peter's Barn - snow stopped (and started) play...

This January I had been asked to draw St Peters Barn in St Germans, and arranged to take reference photographs in a day or so. It was clear that I would be unable to set up an opposite as is my normal practice, owing to the cold weather. 
If I'm out on location in the winter I generally wear up to at least three layers. When I'm working on the Downham Market square - I can easily give the Michelin Man a run - or more like a steady jog - for his money when I'm all togged up.
With the unexpected arrival of a healthy snow drift I was unable to take photos for anything other than a festive winter's scene. 
Hmm, not the clients brief - nice idea though. 

Work in progress - pencil and ink.

If I recall correctly the snow settled for about two weeks or so, which is how long that particular meteorological spanner was in the works. The snows cleared virtually overnight with the advent of a deluge like rainstorm - much to the disappointment of the county's schoolchildren who'd managed via high weather alerts to get the occasional day off from school. 
I recall when eight year's old, walking with my sisters through the snow up hill and down dale (ok - alleyway), to St Peter's Primary School in Surrey, only to congregate in the assembly hall/vestibule and after due diligence by those in authority, to be sent home early. 
Oh the joy was almost palpable!  
In the 1960's not much would stop you going to school... 
My happiness was redoubled that Tuesday morning when finally arriving home - snowballs having been thrown and snowmen made on the way - that I discovered that week's TV21 Comic had been delivered.  

Prophetic headline from mid 1960s

Back in the 21st century - just so you know - I did manage to visit St Peter's Barn and take plenty of reference shots. I also got a general feel of the place while I was there - I always find I can make a greater connection with a subject when I'm sitting in front of it - a communion of sorts that is absent when working just from photographs. 
Still, as the drawing progressed over a couple of weeks there was certainly no spirit or character missing from the drawing as it approached it's conclusion. 
A winter's scene - St Peter's Barn, St Germans near Kings Lynn.

Unlike 'Border House' where I recreated a summer scene, we decided  to keep St Peter's Barn as an winter scenario with autumnal trees and shrubs. I feel the finished commission acquired an almost 1970's architectural and rustic feel to it. 
As is invariably the case I had no idea how the drawing was going to turn out, and am very pleased with the result. 
What do you think? 

...the Hilgay Art Group returns...!

After a successful bid for lottery funds, the Hilgay Village Hall Committee used their award to carry out essential refurbishment and redecoration to the community hall. 
Recollections about the history of the village hall state that - at one time it  was used as a village school, and also served as the local gaol, not necessarily at the same time I'm sure. Hence the unusually high windows - escape clearly not an option for either prisoner or pupil?!

Whatever it may have been in the past, the hall is a lot more attractive these days - it is used for parties and private functions, art and craft classes, zumba lessons, craft fairs and coffee mornings -serving the best homemade cakes and soups in town, dont'cha know?
The hall until recently also held regular auctions - where else could you get golfing bag and clubs (OK the odd 5 iron and putter may have been missing), for a fiver? However it is best known for hosting Ali Dent's seasonal book sale which, over the years has raised many thousands of pounds for a tremendous variety of charities.  
Well done Ali!
With additional plans in hand, the hall is on course to become a very popular and versatile venue. 

Welcome back HAG poster for the New Year!
Owing to the ongoing refurbishment, the Hilgay Art Group were unable to  begin the year until it's recent completion. The first of hopefully many meetings finally took place on Monday the 18th February, though on this occasion it was probably as much verbal as it was visual - and that's not a bad thing.
We began the year with a small but dedicated group - personal art projects were brought in, alongside 'works in progress' (which can mean anything from a few weeks to a few years. Or more!!). A very handy expression indeed.
I always recommend that you draw everyday if possible - even half an hour is good. So I did four days worth and drew the two still lifes/lives(?)...

 Look forward to seeing you all - sketch pad in hand, on March the 4th. 

Sunday 24 February 2013

...brake for the border...!

I had been asked to produce a pen & ink house portrait of a private residence - 'Border House'. This was to be ready in time to be presented as a surprise gift christmas morning. 
The winter weather precluded the possibilty of drawing from life - brrr -  so I took plenty of reference photos of the house to use in the studio. However, refurbishment and rebuilding works were underway and I would have to revisit the site later on in the drawing to gather additional photos of the finished works, which would allow me to complete my commission.
Unfortunately the poor (freezing), weather brought both the works and my drawing to a standstill.  

'Border House' with pencil construction lines - halfway through the inking stage.

With the promotion and selling of the Cat Tales and Downham Market 2013 calendars, my schedule was pretty full. Alongside my time in the studio, I was also regularly attending the market square on Fridays and Saturdays. In order to complete the drawing on time I knew I would have to apply myself to it exclusively and put the brakes on any other work I had - which included appearing on the market square.  
Which was just as well since the temperature continued to drop!

Refurbishment and drawing works complete - 'Border House' in full summer bloom.

Combining summer reference images with the reference photos I took more recently I could recreate a summer's scene with 'Border House' in full vibrant bloom. 
The final reference photos were taken not long after the cock crowed early Sunday morning of the 23rd and the finishing architectural touches added to the drawing by midday. The finished artwork was approved, scanned by Mike at Downham Market Design & Print, to be framed by Andy at Teddies & Toys for client collection Christmas Eve afternoon. 
Perfect timing.
On a cool crisp Christmas Day a pen and ink drawing of a hotter than July 'Border House' became the most unexpected of festive gifts. 

Thursday 21 February 2013

...silly old Blogger back for more...?!

I know. 
The question you've all been asking is - where have I been?  

OK. All three of you in Spruce Road, Downham Market...
To recap - while organising the production of the Downham Market and Cat Tales 2013 Calendars, I'd already overcome the difficulties of choosing the printer, Peterborough's finest - Print4Business, and also coming to terms with the digital language of file sharing via the wonder that is Dropbox (thanks to Martin Lightburn). 
Although the creation of the artwork may have taken place over a period a few canvases short of five years - along with my weekend presence on the witheringly cold Downham Market place, and with the help and support those good people at The Lynn News, Downham Market Life, and the many merry retailers who agreed to sell the calendar - I was able to shift the bulk of my first print run in the first five weeks or so. 
And just like Oliver - I went back for more! 
A belated tip of Santa's scarlet hat to Ex-Mayor John Doyle who kindly arranged a space for me on the market square to sell the calendars and I'm pleased to report that I have now raised £175.00 to be shared amongst the following Downham charities...
Norfolk Hospice, Downham Market Heritage Society, The Otters Swimming club for the Disabled, John and Pauline's Lifeline4Chernobyl and Silverdale Daycare Centre.

Captured in all my artistic - and optically challenged - finery by Lynn photographer Adam.

A Big Thank You... 
- to all the good people at Reeds, Mackies, Spectacular Opticians, AT Johnsons, Mr Bee/Fotostop, Elizabeth the Florist (which in times past used to be Downham's first cinema!), Burnham Homes, Emporium Jewellery, Downham Railway Station, Denver Mill, Denver Stores, Downham Country Store, Dents Farm Shop, Ali Dents Butchers and Shouldham restaurant Chalk & Cheese!
Thanks also to Karen at Norfolk Hospice, Dave at Downham Heritage Society and John and Pauline at Lifeline4Chernobyl for joining the calendar sales team. 
Plans for the next year's Downham Market calendar are already underway - watch this space!  
I will be back.