Friday, January 28, 2011

The Ride Journal - Bonk!

The Ride Journal - Bonk!

A piece I did a month or two back for the wonderful cycling journal The Ride, created by the brothers Diprose and launched last night in London at Look Mum No Hands!

Sadly, due to work commitments and a doggedly persistant chesty cough, I wasn't able to make it along. Damn!

This was for a piece about what cyclists term the 'bonk', a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by precipitous fatigue and loss of energy. Milder instances can be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. The condition can usually be avoided by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, maintaining glycogen levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity.

The term "bonk" for cycling fatigue is presumably derived from the original meaning "to hit", and dates back at least half a century. A recent DVD issued by the British Transport Films Collection contains several old films, one of which entitled "Cyclists Special", a colour film produced in 1955, tells the story of a party of cyclists touring the English countryside. At one point they stop for refreshments and the film's commentator states that if they didn't rest and eat they would get "the bonk".

Here, the author is helped along his way not by rest or an energy bar, but by the heartening rasp of his cycling companion breaking wind as he overtakes!

The Ride is available to order online or from many good cycle shops. It was very favourably reviewed in yesterday's Independent newspaper!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Seventh Seal/ Det Sjunde Inseglet

The Seventh Seal/ Det Sjunde Inseglet

This was something I've just done for a zine being put together by good friend and great illustrator/ printmaker Mat Pringle.
Mat asked a number of artists, including my good self, to contribute an image showing, or inspired by, their favourite film - I chose Ingmar Bergman's 1957 classic The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet). No, its NOT Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey!

Here I have shown the returning and world-weary crusader Antonius Block (an unfeasibly blond Max Von Sydow) confronting the black-cloaked figure of Death (Döden in Swedish), played with great menace and humour by Bengt Ekerot. Block challenges the Grim Reaper to a game. "You play chess, do you not?" inquires the Knight. Death replies "How do you know that?"

I don't often work in just black & white, but I think it both mirrors the film and conveys well its stark supernatural message.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Burns' Night - 25 January

Burns' Night - 25 January

A Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems. The suppers are normally held on or near the poet's birthday, 25 January, sometimes also known as Robert Burns Day or Burns' Night (Burns Nicht), although they may in principle be held at any time of the year.

Burns suppers are most common in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but occur wherever there are Burns clubs, Scottish Societies, expatriate Scots, or aficionados of Burns' poetry. There is a particularly strong tradition of them in southern New Zealand's main city Dunedin (the Scots Gaelic name for Edinburgh incidentally) of which Burns' nephew Thomas Burns was a founding father.

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) (also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply The Bard) was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a "light" Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these his political or civil commentary is often at its most blunt.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay celebrations (New Year's Eve), and Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today include A Red, Red Rose; A Man's A Man for A'That; To a Louse; To a Mouse: The Battle of Sherramuir; Tam o'Shanter, and Ae Fond Kiss.

A Burns' Night supper usually consists of a Haggis, served up with great ceremony, and accompanied by neeps and tatties (boiled swede and mashed potato). Some believe that a haggis is a dish containing sheep's 'pluck (heart, liver and lungs), minced wth onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with stock and traditionally simmered for up to three hours, but it is in fact a wild creature found in the Highland hills. There are in fact two types; one with a longer left leg and the other with a longer right one. This makes them perfectly suited for running 'round and around mountains, but sadly means that the two sub-species cannot interbreed without falling off the mountains to their doom.

Here I have shown young Rabbie tickling the chin of an unsuspecting Haggis, whom he flatters and entraps with his famous 'Address to a Haggis'. Looking on in the bottom right-hand corner is the field-mouse Burns described as a 'wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie'!

Happy Burns' Night!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

City of Glasgow Coat-of-Arms

What with Burns' Night this coming Tuesday my mind has turned to Bonnie Scotland and all things 'albannach' (Scottish in Scotch Gaelic).

Last week I was waiting for Nick outside a pub called the Wheatsheaf on Rathbone Place (Oxford St), just across the road from where we was working and where my friend Hele used to work part-time all those years ago when we were engineering students at Imperial. I noticed that the windows of this mock-tudor watering hole had stained glass windows, featuring, what it transpired were, the arms of various Scottish cities.

The shield for Glasgow (meaning 'Green Hollow' in Middle gaelic) fascinated me the most. Here above is my interpretation. Heraldically it is described as follows;
Argent; on a mount in base Vert, an oak tree Proper, the stem at the base thereof surmounted by a salmon on its back, also Proper, with a signet ring in its mouth Or; on the top of the tree a redbreast and in the sinister fess point an ancient hand bell, both also Proper.
(Argent means silver or white, Or means gold or yellow, Vert is green and Proper means painted as it appears in life).

A popular rhyme in the city describes the coat-of-arms

Here is the Bird that never flew
Here is the Tree that never grew
Here is the Bell that never rang
Here is the Fish that never swam

Glasgow's Coat of Arms dates back to 1866 when the Lord Lyon first granted the city its patent. The emblems depicted within the armorial bearings go back much further in history, representing legendary incidents in the life of the city's founder and patron saint, St Kentigern, or as he was more affectionately known, St Mungo, meaning "the dear one".

The Bell is believed to represent the one given to St Mungo by the Pope. Until the 16th century St Mungo's Bell played an important role in the life of the city, tolled regularly as a reminder to the inhabitants to pray for his soul. A replacement was purchased in 1641 and now lies in the People's Palace. Inscribed on it is the city's motto: "Lord let Glasgow flourish through the preaching of thy word and praising thy name." - often shortened to: "Let Glasgow Flourish". The fate of the original bell is unknown.

The Tree - although depicted as an oak - represents the hazel branch which the young St Mungo miraculously set alight when the holy fire of the monastery at Culross was mischievously extinguished by the other boys.

The Bird represents a robin brought back to life by the young saint after St Serf's disciples had accidentally killed it and blamed Mungo.

The Fish refers to the story of Queen Langeoreth, whose husband King Rydderach Hael, suspected her of infidelity. Knowing she had given her gold wedding ring to her lover, King Hael took the ring from the knight as he slept and threw it into the River Clyde. Challenging her to produce the ring, Langeoreth sought help from the knight who, through his confession to St Mungo, was instructed by the saint to take a salmon from the river. To the king's amazement, the ring was discovered in the salmon's mouth. A great story, but a pretty hazy moral. Cuckolding your husband's fine so long as you've a saint on hand to cover your tracks!

Twitter Ye Not

A piece about how figures in history might have twittered or tweeted or whatever, had they the chance, inclination and technology.

Here, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth I on 15 January 1559. Sir Walter Raleigh looks on, getting in a crafty tweet mid-bow.

I have been pretty accurate with the setting and costumes, although a contemporarily miniature marking the day shows Goode Queen Bess with her long red hair down. But I thought folks mightn't recognise it as her, without her later high-cut poodle perm!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A very desirable slipware Owl

Burn's Night supper - Name Cards

These are a few (there are 19 in toto) of the name cards I was asked to create for a(n early) Burn's Night celebration to-night at my friend Angela's house.

Sadly due to poor health Nick and I cannot make it, which is a real bummer. But the place cards will!

I took the Royal Standard of Scotland, a red Lion on a yellow background, as the inspiration for the colours.

Restaurant Magazine - February 2011

Restaurant magazine - February 2011.

Another job for regular client Restaurant Magazine.

This was a piece about how the North-South divide in England was very much in evidence with restaurant and hospitality trading over the festive period.

Down South business was booming, with signs of growth apparent. Up North, sadly things were much grimmer, with many businesses having to close their doors. It was suggested that part of the divide was down to the atrocious weather we had in December which was markedly worse in the North and made eating out, etc. very difficult for many people.

My image shows a poor Northerner (and his shivering whippet), skinny and skint in a cold closed-down landscape. Below him in the sun is a fat smug Southerner with a dining table creaking under the weight of food and drink. Sorry for the stereotypes, but that's what the client wanted. Besides, clichés & stereotypes are an illustrator's stock and trade!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Museum Journal - Part 9

The latest installment of the Museum Director's Diary by regular client Museum Journal (MJ).

Here our man, the MD, goes to a government meeting where he is greeted by a chimp in a suit!

Again very small - only 3 or 4 cm square! - so necessary to keep the whole thing very simple.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Plough Sunday

Plough Sunday is a traditional English celebration of the beginning of the agricultural year that has seen some revival over recent years. Plough Sunday celebrations usually involve bringing a ploughshare into a church with prayers for the blessing of the land. It is traditionally held on the first Sunday after Epiphany or Twelfth Night (6th January), which this year fell on Sunday 9th January 2011.

According to the tradition, work in the fields did not begin until the day after Plough Sunday: what is referred to as, wait for it, Plough Monday!

As well as a ploughshare, in rural areas it is common for local farmers to attend the service with their tractors and other machinery.

The two characters here depicted are Piers and his cousin Cuthbert, medieval ploughmen of Babbingford Magnus, Tatshire. Their old plough (plow) is pulled by two of their heifers, Colman and Drogo. The composition is based on an image from the Luttrell Psalter, an illuminated manuscript written and illustrated circa 1320 – 1340 by anonymous scribes and artists, and now housed in the British Library. It was commissioned by Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (1276-1345), a wealthy English landowner who lived at Irnham, Lincolnshire.

Happy belated Plough Sunday!

Monday, January 17, 2011

January Blues

January can be bleak, there's no getting 'round it sometimes. The January Greys can all too easily lead to the January Blues.

Where I live in north-east London throbbing blue lights still hang forlornly across windows and naked and needleless spruce trees stand by every bin, beside the damp sagging mattresses that seem to live there all year long. Under a lead-grey sky that seems to sit upon the terraced house rooftops and cold dark rain lashing down without a pause it can seem an unpromising start to the year.

But that my friends is Winter - just go with it and it will pass soon enough. A good time for soup and woolly jumpers and hefty blankets and candlelight flickers and oven-roasted roots and the company of good friends and cuddles with your loved-ones.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bon Anniversaire à Moi!

This day,
many many long moons ago,
I was born...

Although it was over two score years since I was found in the cabbage patch I still, to this day, retain a cabbagy quality.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Museum Journal - Part 8

Museum Journal - Part 8

Part 8 of the Museum Director's Diary for regular client Museum Journal.

Here our man recounts his meeting with the Director of a Scottish museum. All was going swimmingly until he mentioned the English 'Victory' over the Scots at Culloden. Then for some mad reason she flipped. Our hapless antihero put it down to too much espresso!

I love this client, its a lovely job. Only downside is the printed image is only about 3 cm square so I need to keep the design pretty simple.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Civil As An Orange #2

'Civil As An Orange' #2

Walking into Leila's Shop off Arnold Circus yesterday I noted, with delight, the arrival of this year's Seville Oranges. Way too bitter to eat, but most excellent for marmalade. I like to make a huge batch every year - last year it lasted me almost to August, even with us giving heaps away as gifts.

It reminded me of this image I created just before Christmas. It is a reworking of an idea I have done before, that was to be used for a promotional t-shirt design to launch Blue Moon beer. The gimmick with this is that this witbier is drunk with 'an orange serve', which is to say a slice or wedge of orange in it. Sounds pretty ghastly, but I haven't tried it, so who knows, it could be delicious. I doubt it somehow, but you never know.

The whole thing smacks of BS to me actually. The beer sells itself as being a wee independent micro-brewery with loving attention to detail, but is in fact brewed by the Molson Coors global brewing giants. Who in my opinion make some of the worst beers on our beloved planet. Its kinda like the Sofia Coppola of the beer world - making out its all arthouse and independent but in reality back by millionnaires and just playing the part for kudos.

The design is based on one of my favourite Shakespeare quotes, from Much Ado About Nothing. A pun on the bitter and largely unappealing (outside its sacred marmalade vocation) Seville Orange.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hampton Court Beestes, name cards

These were part of a job I did for a wonderful woman called Maria Jordan late last summer.

Maria, who works in the conservation departments of Hampton Court & Kensington Palaces, had seen my Oranges & Lemons print at the Pick Me Up exhibition at Somerset House in the Spring, and asked me to create an invite (and later the menu and these place cards) for her and her husband's joint 50th birthday celebration.

The meal was to be held at Hampton Court's marvellous (georgian?) Banqueting House, so we themed everything around the venue to some extent. For these place name cards we thought it would be nice to use the 8 heraldic 'Kynges Beestes' that Henry VIII had set up on either side of the Palace's main entrance.

The Beestes represent the heraldic motifs of his various ancestors and used, in part, to emphasise his family's somewhat dubious claim to the English throne.
They are:-
the White Greyhound of Richmond,
Richard II's White Hart,
the Black Bull of Clarence,
the Silver Yale of Beaufort,
the Lion of England,
the Red Dragon of Wales
the White Falcon of the Plantagenants
and the Panther, 'incensed' with flames issuing from his nose and ears.
A Yale, for those who don't know, is a mythological beast, with the body of an antelope, spotted, the tail of a lion, a goat's beard, a boar's tusks and horns that swivel in all directions to fend off attackers! Now you know.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Laird of Glencairn #4

A portrait I painted for the January 2011 window display of Alex Shaw's marvellous Laird of Glencairn hat shop on Columbia Rd, London, E2.

One of four portraits.

This fine fellow is wearing a flat cap or casquette.

Acrylic on masonite (mdf). 12" x 16"

Laird of Glencairn #3

A portrait I painted for the January 2011 window display of Alex Shaw's marvellous Laird of Glencairn hat shop on Columbia Rd, London, E2.

One of four portraits.

This fellowsport a brown darby or bowler.

Acrylic on masonite (mdf). 12" x 16"

Laird of Glencairn #2

A portrait I painted for the January 2011 window display of Alex Shaw's marvellous Laird of Glencairn hat shop on Columbia Rd, London, E2.

One of four portraits.

This fellow is wearing a dark blue homberg.

Acrylic on masonite (mdf). 12" x 16"

Laird of Glencairn #1

A portrait I painted for the January 2011 window display of Alex Shaw's marvellous Laird of Glencairn hat shop on Columbia Rd, London, E2

This fellow sports a tweed hunting flatcap.

Acrylic on masonite (mdf). 12" x 16"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

Yet another belated Twelfth Night greeting! My computer and phone connection are all working fine now (it appears, fingers crossed), so I'm in serious catch-up mode.

Of course, many know the expression Twelfth Night from the Shakespeare play of that name. I am a huge Shakespeare - I'm no expert and there's a lot I haven't seen, but what I have I like. The man was a genius and so much of the English we use to-day comes from him.

Here I have mocked up a poster for a Polish production of the play, performed at (or by?) the Teatr Novy (New Theatre). Why you ask? Well, two reasons - one, I adore Polish and Czech film and theatre posters and wanted to produce something graphic, in a similar vein. And secondly, of course, I am also terribly proud of my Polish ancestry (especially as just before Christmas I discovered that during the First World War my Grandfather was in Haller's Blue Army, fighting with France, and instrumental in the formation of the modern Polish state immediately after the war. Before that Poland as an idependent nation had not existed since before the time of Napolean).

I have tried to distill the whole play into a single figure or scene. The drapes at the top obviously signify a play ('We shall draw the curtain and show you the picture', Act I, Scene 5). But they also double as clouds, with rain-drops - a nod to the fool Feste's closing song 'heigh-ho, the wind and the rain'. The drops might also be tears, or even blood, hinting at the piece's bitter-sweet undercurrent. The yellow-stocking'd and gartered leg, Twelfth Night's key motif, refers to the trick played on the countess Olivia's puritan steward Malvolio. But within the heavy trousers and being a very feminine leg it also suggests both the boistrousness of Sirs Toby Belch & Andrew Aguecheek, and Viola's cross-dressing masquerade as the page boy Cesario. I have also included the play's most famous line (in English!) - 'If Music be the Food of love, play on', sighed by a love-sick Duke Orsino for the unattainable Olivia.

The only things I have left out, that I thought of including, were shells and/or sand on the foreground to represent the shores of Illyria where Viola is washed ashore after her ship is wrecked at the play's opening, and a bottle of Sack (sherry) to show the drunken mayhem that runs through the piece!

Remember this: 'Love sought is good, but giv'n unsought is better', Act III, Scene 1

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Epiphany - Twelfth Night

Unfortunately, because of on-going connection problems, I have not been able to post much this last week or so, so would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a belated Feast of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night (6th January) - the day that in the Christian calendar traditionally signals the arrival of the Three Kings or Wise Men at the stable in Bethlehem.

During the Middle Ages scholars and heralds attributed Coats-of-Arms to many historical, supernatural and mythological figures, including, amongst others, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, the Archangels, Prester John, the Knights of the Round Table, even Satan had his blazon (Gules, a bend Or, three frogs proper Vert).

Shown here are the attributed arms of the Three Magi - Kings Melchior, Kaspar & Balthazar. I have also shown the Arms of the City of Cologne (Köln), where the tradition holds the remains of the Three Kings are buried and which to this day incorporates their three crowns in honour of that tradition.

In some countries, particularly Latin and Slavic cultures, January 6th is the date when children get a visit from the Magi and receive presents or sweets if they've been good - and lumps of coal if they have not!

Happy (belated) Epiphany!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Buying Plants on eBay

Buying Plants on eBay

A piece I did a while ago for a gardening article about buying plants off the internet, and eBay in particular, and a woman who was obsessed with doing so.

I've shown the lady in her potting shed, surrounded by the accoutrements of her passion - dippers, seeds, manuals (my favourite 'Mulch Ado'!), trowels, trugs, &c..

The famous auction site's logo is spelt out in pot plants.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Restaurant Magazine - January 2011

Restaurant Magazine - January 2011

A piece I did just before Christmas (during the mad rush of my Advent Calendar) for regular client Restaurant magazine.

It was an article about the Restaurant industry in Dubai, which, despite the down-turn in the global economy, seems to be going from strength to strength, with more and more international food chains opening branches there every week. The author, Mark Stretton, credits the deep pockets and tireless support of Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, for this unceasing growth.

The editors suggested the famous palm tree islands for the design, each peppered with hotels, cafés and restaurants, but I wasn't really happy with the idea given the very small scale of the final printed artwork. I came up with the idea of relaxed and benevelent Sheikh Mohammed rubbing a magic lamp à l'Alladdin, with all the restaurants billowing out like genies, and they went with that!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Il Pete Plus Haut...

This is a screen-print of a design I put up before.

Its a charming french expression for someone who thinks more highly of themselves than they justly deserve, or to up oneself, as they say - literally, He farts higher than his arse! hehe.

Two colour silkscreen print, 300 gsm (sadly I can't recall what brand of paper), 25 cm wide, approx. 34 cm deep, limited edition of 5, Artist's Proofs. Only 3 left! And I'm keeping one of those for myself! £30 incl. p&p ( in the UK).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Russell's 50th

This is the design I did for my partner's brother-in-law's 50th Birthday celebration this coming May.

They have a place in France where the party will be held. I chose a coq motif to symbolise France (symbol of France/ Gaul since Roman times) and wine to denote Party. Plus of course they represent Coq au Vin, that burgundian speciality!

I created this as I would a screen-print, with three separate colour separations (blue, yellow and red) and then printed each in turn on canford card, using my Canon inkjet printer. I set the print quality to a hi photo setting which gave it a lovely blobby print quality. Love the over-all effect.

Happy Hogmanay!

A day late I'm afraid, but my first attempt a couple of days ago was a complete disaster and yesterday, for some bizarre and unknown reason, I didn't really feel very creative!

Hogmanay, for those who don't know, is what the Scots called their New Year's Eve and is one of Scotland's greatest feast-days.

In Scottish folklore, the first-foot is the first person to cross the threshold of a home on New Year's Day and a bringer of good fortune for the coming year.

Although it is acceptable in many places for the first-footer to be a resident of the house, they must not be in the house at the stroke of midnight in order to first-foot (thus going out of the house after midnight and then coming back in to the same house is not considered to be first-footing).

The first-foot is traditionally a tall, dark-haired male; a female or fair-haired male are in some places regarded as unlucky. The first-foot usually brings several gifts, including perhaps a coin, bread (or sometimes shortbread), salt, coal, or a drink (usually whisky, the 'water of life), which respectively represent financial prosperity, food, flavour, warmth, and good cheer. In Scotland, first-footing has traditionally been more elaborate than in England, and involved subsequent entertainment.

This fellow here, Tam McMurdo, carries a lump of coal in the one hand and a wee bottle of single malt in the other.

Lang may yer lum reek (wi' ither fowk's coal! ). Long may your chimney smoke (with other people's coal)!

Happy Hogmanay!