Wednesday, 31 March 2010

RIP Mograt, 1992-2010

It's turning out to be my month for digging holes. Our cat, Smokey, aka. Mograt, aka. the Kidder, died today. He was going on 19 years old, and was a definite presence and fixture around these parts. Something of the end of an era. He looked strangely peaceful and content in death, considering how angry with everything he ususally looked while alive. The dog will miss his little pal. Even I might miss the old devil a bit.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

West Wycombe

I went to the Dashwood Mausoleum and the Hellfire Caves in West Wycombe today. I wanted to get ideas for the setting of something I'm working on. The weather was a bit stormy at the time, so it was more than usually atmospheric, if rather slippery on the way up to the monument. The dog insisted on coming, which was unfortunate for him as he had to wait tied up outside the caves, (unfortunate also for the back of the car). Due to the bad weather outside, I had the cave to myself, where once met the notorious Hellfire Club. They consist of deep artificial passages with Gothic arches, and various chambers and cells carved out of the chalky rock. Very spooky, sending the imagination into overdrive about the dark doings that may have gone on there during the hayday of Hellfire Club in the mid eighteenth-century. Here the 'great and good', aristocrats and members of the government of the day, indulged in debauchery, tomfoolery and blasphemous ritual, along with local wenches. The ringleader was the local toff Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer, who had an interesting life. It is said that he has the caves dug out to provide work for unemployed tenants. This, however, strikes me as an attempt, on the part of more recent Dashwoods, to put a positive gloss on his motives of their notorious ancestor.

Another prominent member of the secret society was the Earl of Sandwich, who apparently received a shock when another member unleashed a baboon at him, which the earl mistook for the actual Devil, come to claim his soul. The artist Hogarth was also said to be involved, as was the political radical John Wilkes. Even Benjamin Franklin dropped by... Naturally there is a lot of talk about the caves being associated with the occult and the supernatural, but I didn't see any ghosts when I was there.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Moving Experiences and the Problem of Chivalry.

Today I went into London, to help my sister move to a house several blocks away from her old one. (There didn't seem much point taking the car in so I went by train and bus). I took a carry- suitcase along to help shift her stuff. After the third or fourth trip, lugging that thing between hosues, I left it at the new place knowing that the next time there was a big wicker box of stuff to pick up. Walking back I was temporarily unloaded, while my sister was pulling a wheeled suitcase with nothing in it. Some bloke in the street told me off saying 'you should be pulling that!' What a time to encounter the manners police! I suppose if I was caught actually being chivalrous I'd have been taken to task by the feminist mafia and accused of patronizing patriarchalism.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Seven Ages of Britain: the Age of Twaddle

I was annoyed by the last in David Dimbleby's otherwise watchable series on the BBC Seven Ages of Britain .

Regarding the function of art in the modern age, the fallacy was advanced that since the horrors of the First World War figurative art has been inadequate to express the realities of the world, somehow. Actually the most evocative painting related to the Great War is probably Sargent's 'Gassed'. This epic work of painterly realism is beautiful and tragic and encapsulates the misery and futility of the conflict, and does not seek to depict the illusory glory or glamour of war. If this work had been featured it would have demolished the case for ragged abstraction as the best means of representing a shattered and broken world.

Things got more depressing as the programme went on, especially as the sillier 'art' manifestations of more recent times came under the spotlight. I think we should be able to do better than that as the culmination of 1000 years of culture.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

In Print

I got to see my artwork in print twice this week,first in a textbook to help Germans learn Latin, 'Latin Kreativ: Ovid, Ars Amatoria'. A digital painting of Mary Magdalene was included among the books many beautiful illustrations. Thanks to Rudolf Hennebohl for sending the two copies (I thanked him in an email in my own malum latinum). This morning a back issue of ImagineFX (Issue 53 from February) arrived including a feature of my paintings 'Tamlina and the Dragon', and 'Alien and Skull'. Thanks to all concerned and again to Elandria for the heads-up about that.

It's funny that I had a digital piece published in a work dominated by tradional paintings (inlcuding many reproductions of Old Master works on clasical sujects) and some oil paintings reproduced in a magazine dominated by digitalia. Each medium has its pros and cons. Yesterday I was painting a face in oils, and did a particularly nice job (though I say so myself) on the eyes. The only problem was that one of the eyes three millemeters too low, so I had to obliterate it and paint it all over again that bit higher up, only to realize that it probably looked better before and that the acutal model has wonky eyes! The day Adobe can make a select>cut/copy>paste function for traditional paintings will be the day I buy it!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


I went on a research mission to Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum today, to gather some inspiration for a project I have on. The Museum has had a major revamp since the last time I went, which was decades ago. Had a little look in the Queen's House, too, which has some impressive paintings, especially those by William Hodges, who accompanied Captain Cook's early voyages to the South Seas.

Monday, 15 March 2010

A horrible interlude

I have been busy lately with a number of on-going illustration and design projects. I had an unpleasant interlude today. A young bird (I believe it was a thrush) fell out of a tree in the garden and broke its back, requiring me to clobber it with a spade and put it out of its misery. It's the first warm-blooded creature I've had to personally dispatch at close quarters, and I wouldn't enjoy having to do that on a regular basis.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Ning Thing

I've joined the new ArtOrder network on Ning which shows signs of evolving into something good. Also on there are a number of fantasy artists whose work I admire.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Portrait study finished.

Completed this one, done in order to improve painterly realism in oils...

Portrait Practice by ~dashinvaine on deviantART