Sunday, 31 January 2010

Child Prodigies and Doug Hyde

The latest child prodigy artist to come to (in the UK) light is seven-year-old Keiron Williamson

Impressive stuff. I observed the irony that one of the most successful British painters in recent years is Doug Hyde, who paints like an average seven-year-old! (When I worked in the local art gallery, I used to joke about dear old Doug with the manager, along the lines that the supposed author of these smiley face pictures was actually a grim tyrant who had a basement full of captive kids whom he forced to paint the pictures for him. The website of infamous child-snatcher and slave-master Dough Hyde may be viewed here: ). On the subject of child prodigies like Keiron Williamson and America's Akiane, a friend of mine also remarked that 'figurative art is unfashionable anyway, so those brats aren't such geniuses after all!'

Artist's Colony

I noticed my little work area was looking rather picturesque (if a bit untidy) with works in progress and multifarious books stacked around... Here can be seen two commissions presently under way: a Nativity scene, and a new version of Blue Mermaid.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Delacroix 'Taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders'

I thought I might blog about various masterpieces of western art, and the responses I find they provoke. I'll start with Delacroix's famous painting 'Taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders', also called 'The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople'. The painting was exhibited in the 1841 Salon. I have a special interest in the subject-matter of this one, being interested both in medieval Crusade history and in the Romantic movement.

The painting depicts a generic scene in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, in 1204. The Historian Sir Steven Runciman wrote in the 1930s that there 'never was a greater crime against humanity than the Fourth Crusade.' The Crusades had been launched, in the first place, partly in the name of bolstering the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire against the Turkish threat. Just over a century later, an army of Crusaders captured and plundered the Byzantine capital- the Queen of Cities- the greatest metropolis in Christendom, and subjugated the people they were supposed to defend. The knights of the Fourth Crusade had ostensibly set out to recover the Holy City of Jerusalem (won for Christendom by their First Crusade ancestors, but lost to Saladin in the 1170s, and still in Muslim hands despite the best efforts of Richard I and the Third Crusade). The original strategy was to have been an attack on Egypt to weaken the Muslim power and to secure the return of Jerusalem. However the Crusaders first fell into debt to the Venetians and then became embroiled in a dynastic feud among the Byzantine royal house. The outcome of all this was the diversion of the Crusade and the capture and colonization of Constantinople. Famous relics and treasures were looted or lost as a result of the capture, and destructive fires raged. One of the Frankish Barons, Baldwin of Flanders, was duly crowned the first Emperor of a new Latin territory. This territory was not destined to prosper, and only distracted from the cause of the Crusades. The episode caused lasting resentment of the west by the Greek Christians. Though the Greeks temporarily recovered Constantinople they would never regain their previous strength or glory. The Fourth Crusade therefore contributed the final collapse of Eastern Christendom, which may account for the harsh verdict from Byzantine-admirer Runciman.
Delacroix's depiction of the scene is somewhat more ambiguous in its verdict. This is understandable given his nationality, and the fact that the Fourth Crusade was a largely French affair. His crusaders, in their theatrical panoply, and with their streaming banners, are undeniably triumphant in the scene- but, with their grim, shadowed faces, hardly seen heroic. The viewer's sympathy is with the frightened and desolate Greek citizens; much as it is in Massacre of Chios- an 1824 painting of a contemporary event, revealing of the artist's pro-Hellenism. As with this picture there is an almost sensual approach to the depicting of the female victims of the violence, which was also part of the Romantic/Orientalist approach, again evident in Delacroix's Sardanapolus. Sardanapolus is another piece of Byronic inspiration (where the dying despot looks on as his concubines- and his horses- are put to the sword). These death orgies are not exactly comfortable viewing, and yet they contain moving beauty as well as eroticism, and inspire pity. The combination of opulence, languor, drama, suffering and tragedy was a hallmark of Delacroix. The voluptuousness is also present in the Constantinople piece (for example the bare-backed woman mourning over the body of another female in the foreground), but the over-riding sense is of bitterness. The painting evokes a bitter episode, and therefore has to be a little repulsive. It may be remarked that the behaviour of the Crusaders in Constantinople was no worse than their forebears behaviour on the first Crusade, such as the massacres in Antioch and Jerusalem. The fact that the Fourth Crusade culminated in a great betrayal and an assault on fellow-Christians, however, somehow makes it stand out for its ignominy. As befits its subject, Delacroix's painting leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

The Fourth Crusade was called by Innocnet III (my least favourite Pope, with the possible exception of Clement V). In 1209, Innocent summoned the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in Southern France. This campaign came to be dominated by Simon de Montfort, who had quit the Fourth Crusade after disagreeing with the decision to accack Zara for the Venetians, before the move on Constantinople. I have produced a painting of De Montfort at the siege of Carcassonne, which can be seen here...
Siege of Carcassonne CS by *dashinvaine on deviantART

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Gladiatorial Sketches

From a gleaming gladius to a Gallic gladiator... Or a man in a nappy killing cybermen (as a dear friend has just summed up one of the pictures for me!)

These were done with the character of the week challenge on in mind- in this case a veteran Gladiator of Celtic origin. Of course I'm not yet rivalling Jean-Leon Gerome when it comes to Roman Arena paintings, but it'd definitely a standard to aspire to!


A sword, a spade and a thought should never be allowed to rust. (James Stephens).

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Creature Retread Retread

Looking at the entries for the Assassin Devil (Creature Retread) challenge, (which are all very good) I see that I overlooked the stipulation that the image was to be a vignette. I've got so used to Epilogue and ConceptArt encouraging the inclusion of backgrounds. Anyway, for the sake of belated conformity, here is how Her Spikyness would look if she were vignetterized...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Mary Making

Today I started on a new oil painting of a Nativity scene. In the absence of models I had pose as Mary myself, in front of a mirror, wrapped in a duvet cover, (to get the folds of drapery right) and holding an old teddy of my sister's, which was standing in for the baby Jesus. Fortunately there is no photographic evidence for any of this. Art can be a drag.

Board to Death

I've just updated my redbubble clothing store with the image 'Board to Death', which was done with gothic teeshirt artwork in mind.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Fata Morgana

James Gurney recently devoted a blog entry to the illusuion known as Fata Morgana

This reminded me of something I once heard about mythical mushroom-shaped islands. The thought inspired an idea for a scene whereby one such island has broken at the stem, as it were, and toppled, with the ruins of an ancient city discernible on the now-sloping upper face. My first experiment with the idea in photoshop resulted in the attached image, not a great success (environments aren't within my comfort zone) but maybe I will return to the idea later on.

A Dog in Winter

A Dog in Winter
(To the tune of 'Men of Harlech', which is apt as my dog comes from Wales.)

Who would have a dog in winter?

Not as bright as Harold Pinter

In the arse it's like a splinter

At this time of year!

Buster's not my buddy

When he gets so muddy

He is no confederate

He's just a filthy beastie

Walking is like trudging through a

Vile and putrid open sewer

And to have a dog a dog in winter

Is a bad idea!
(Aww, I don't mean it Buster)

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Miniature Icon

I did a quick miniature painting last night, experimenting the Byzantine iconographic style, 2.5x3.5 inches in size. (6.5x9cm). Didn't turn out too badly. May try to refine it a little more if I can find a finer brush.

Saturday, 23 January 2010


I finally succumbed to the tweeting meme, to juxtapose a couple of neologisms, and have joined Twitter. I'm not sure if the website is anything more than a giant support network for people with too much time on their hands, but as if it's good enough for Stephen Fry it's good enough for me. I'm on there at Down the line, I'm hoping that it will prove useful for art and illustration related contacts.

I might just hop back and tweet something about my ebay auction, which I may possibly have mentioned before on here.

On Mornings

I just heard a good quote from Andy Hamilton on QI: I'm a writer, getting up in the morning isn't really part of my job.' I like that. Same could go for artist- or this one anyway, who is also a writer. I always said my muses work the night shift, whatever they are inspiring me to do. For example last night I sent off a completed set of illustrations for a certain commission at 2.11 am. I'm going to have to marry a vampire.

Templar Art?

I noticed in Chris Hodapp's blog a story that got I missed first time around from August last year. The discovery of a 'Knights Templar tabernacle', (or the painted door thereof) by antiques dealer Martin Roberts, who supposedly found it in a car boot sale and traded it for a Victorian trunk.

Perhaps I'm overly incredulous after writing about Shaun Greenhalgh yesterday, but I have to say this find rouses suspicions, especially as Roberts has already made an extraordinary find similarly involving a supposed Egyptian antiquity. There is a further parallel with these objects coming to light from obscure country house collections. Likewise congruent is the finder's professed ignorance concerning the objects uncovered.
Regarding this 'tabernacle', there seems little to link it to the Templars, although it does resemble somewhat the icons produced in St Catherines's Monastery in Sinai during the crusader era (and strongly influenced by the Byzantine style, as was much early crusader art- the Melisemde Psalter notably). The St George figure on the new find looks rather like another Sinai example which was similarly linked to the Templars on the somewhat flimsy basis that the saint carried a banner with a red cross.

Regarding this new find, something about it doesn't quite ring true to my eye, something about the grouping of the saints... I say no more.
The story of Roberts' find as reported in the Independent may be read here:

Friday, 22 January 2010

Forgeries and Farces

Having studied history, I recognize that forgery does some damage to our knowledge of the past, and that it is something to be wary of. However, to make art forgery a crime, and to impose relatively severe prison sentences on art forgers seems to me to be disproportionate. Art forgers do less damage to knowledge than the forgers of documents and charters. (In order to be convincing, a faked artwork generally has to accord with what is already known about the genre being forged). I have long admired how Shaun Greenhalgh and his aged parents contrived to fool many so-called experts with the artifacts and artworks produced by Shaun in his Bolton garden shed; including most famously a sculpted Amarna Princess, valued at £500,000. This evocative treasure was supposedly crafted in Alabaster in the Egypt of Akhenaten, in the 1300s BC. In fact it was made of Calcite, rather more recently, and rather more locally than the museum curators imagined.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of forgery, to lock someone away with rapists and murderers, for four years and eight month, just for making art, seems to be absurd and shameful. Shameful too is how those who sung the praises of Greenhalgh's works when they believed them to have been crafted in antiquity soon changed their tune when they were revealed to be fakes. These experts, indeed, were at the same time exposed for what they are!

Art forgery, to my mind, should be no-more criminal than, say writing a dodgy book in the pseudo-historical genre. The Da Vinci Code, and some of the supposedly factual books that informed it (notably the work of Baigent, Lincoln and the late Leigh, and the still-with-us Picknett and Prince) have done much more to spread false impressions of history, for example, but none of the aforementioned have been dragged before a court. (Except when Leigh and Baigent tried to sue Dan Brown for plagiarising Holy Blood Holy Grail). There is something wrong, here. False claims about real artworks and historical events are just as spurious as fake artworks, after all, and to write one of these books requires less skill and effort than successfully forging a Leonardo or an Amarna Princess! Personally, I would not stoop to art forgery, even if I reached a point where I thought I could get away with it. Similarly I have resisted suggestions from the publishers of two of my books on the Templars, that I should 'sex up' (horrible phrase, which I can't avoid) my latest historical work, a study the cult of St Mary Magdalene in the medieval period, to make it more commercial. No doubt as a result of the Da Vinci Code fad, there is an expectation of conspiracy theories, and a presumption that the Templars were great devotees of this saint, and custodians of secret knowledge concerning her, and her special position in the Apostolic church. Thanks to the likes of Baigent, Lincoln, Leigh, Brown, Gardner, Picknett and Starbird this misconception is fairly widespread, and unsuspecting people have been misled and parted from their money. If an art forger like Greenhalgh should be in prison then so, really, should these disreputable authors! (More so because most of them have also libelled the Catholic Church, a far-from-innocent institution which nevertheless never did the things that these history-manglers allege). These authors propagate a modern myth which was predicated on forged documents (concerning the supposed 'Priory of Sion') and carried this charade on for pecuniary reasons long after the hoax had been thoroughly exposed. To be sure it was a fairly obvious hoax. I wrote in 2003 in 'The Rise and Fall of the Knights Templar' that the sources on the Priory and its famous Grand Masters 'seemed mere jokes'. This suspicion has been more than vindicated since then, and still Dan Brown made his mint.

But I digress... It was most unfortunate that harmless craftsman Shaun Greenhalgh ended up in prison. I hope the recognition which he was denied beforehand, and which he is no doubt due, will make up for it when he is released will compensate for losing the past few years behind bars. I've submitted a petition on the 10 Downing Street website, which will hopefully be approved to appear on there, calling for his early release. It would seem suitable now that his forged creations are being exhibited- see. (The story of the forging family is fascinating and incredible, as is the diversity of the artworks and antiquities of different cultures which Shaun fabricated). There is a facebook group similarly calling for Shaun's release, which you might like to join if you feel as I do...

Speaking of Amarna Princesses, an Amarna princess genuinely produced by me is among the paintings I presently have up for auction on ebay. The auction can be seen here

The princess painting is also shown above right. 20% of any sales goes to the Disasters Fund for Haiti.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Ebay auction supporting charity

I'm auctioning a number of recent paintings and some drawings on ebay. These include some of my best works to date. 20% of any sales will go to the Disasters Emergency Committee for the Haiti earthquake. The rest will help keep a roof over my own head and the dog in the manner to which he's become accustomed.
My ebay page is at

Inspiration and discipline.

revised version of my Ten Commandments...

Thou shalt not waste time criticizing others instead of doing your own work.
Thou shalt promote thyself.
Thou shalt go to bed by 1.00am.
Thou shalt not argue on the internet.
Thou shalt remain calm.
Thou shalt not procrastinate or make excuses.
Thou shalt not fear to embark on ambitious projects.
Thou shalt paint.
Thou shalt learn web design.
Thal shalt not suck.

Alternatively, some more affirmative and inspiring statements courtesy of Christine, aka
which I feel the need to copy out (if only in order to avoid painting for a little longer):

Litany of the Artist

Sometimes I feel illbut I paint
Sometimes I am depressed but I paint
Sometimes I am lonely [and thank God] I paint
Sometimes I have no inspiration but I paint anyway
Sometimes I curse and swear because I paint badly but I continue to paint
Sometimes I have not ime to spare, but I find some way to paint
Sometimes I am utterly broke but I paint
Sometimes I am sad and lost but I paint
Sometimes I no longer know why I paint but I paint

Each time I am so grateful and happy I can paint

Every time I feel saved because I paint.

Miscellaneous other good tips I have heard in the past:

1. Buy low, sell high/ shop around for good deals on art supplies.
2. Be prepared to work a lot.
3. Cast net widely, look for work.
4. Be prepared to drop everything and work 24 hours straight
5. Draw, and don't moan on the internet, whatever the temptation. Channel online activities to what is good for business.
6. Be positive.
7. Motivate self. Enjoy self.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

More New Progs

I've found a load more art programmes to install on an DVD from ImagineFX issue 50, including (ironically) another ArtRage.
One that I didn't have was Paint.NET, which I've just installed and had a quick play with. I'm not sure it can do anything useful that Photoshop can't, although there's a nice lasso thing, and an option to fill spaces (or paint) with various patterns, which may come in handy. It may be quicker to use for colouring - in flat areas the scenes I've been doing for a certain web comic. I also installed a trial version of Corel Painter, but I haven't ventured into that yet. I may as well upload the nonsense thing I've just done in Peint.NET, meanwhile, as well as a snowman resulting from my second experiment with ArtRage, which may have a certain naive charm. (The real snowman is no longer with us, sadly.)

Friday, 15 January 2010

Demon design

Just finished this piece (coloured in photoshop), inspired by the character contest on the ArtOrder blog of Jon Schindehette

I pretty much followed the brief for this female demon character (although it didn't say whether she should have hair or a tail). It's my first entry for one of these challenges. It will be interesting to see the other entries.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

ArtRage discoverey while fodjucking.

I was rearranging the office end of the living room today, and started to sort out the chaotic draw of mostly unlabelled CD Roms and computerie stuff. (Incidentally my mother once coined the phrase 'fodjucking' for the compulsive activity of moving and shuffling things around and sorting through boxes and draws of stuff - with the vague intention of de-cluttering- instead of getting on with more urgent work). Anyway in the course of this particular fodjucking session, I found the programme ArtRage 2.5. (A proper one, not pirated). I didn't even know it was there, it must be a late present from the elves. I've just installed it and had a play. My first foray into ArtRage resulted in an Abstract Expressionist masterpiece. It seems a very good programme for replicating some traditional painting effects (I gather there is a much newer version out which has received mixed reviews). In the future I can see myself using it in conjunction with Photoshop to produce some more characterful digital pieces.
Sometimes these magical materializations vindicate the activity of fodjucking.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Dr Evil of Dinosaurs.

On James Gurney's blog, he recently included an odd quote, apparrently from the National Geographic website, that 'If dinosaur evolution were an Austin Powers movie, T. rex would be Dr Evil'.

For a start this statement fails (as Gurney pointed out) because the T. Rex was only an animal striving to survive, like any other. Secondly, it seems to me, a T. Rex lacked long-enough arms and sufficient digits to do the Dr Evil trademark hand gesture. Actually it seems that what they've found is a tiny T. Rex, not the Dr Evil but the Mini-Me of dinosaurs, if anything....

Sunday, 10 January 2010

CG Hub

I discovered CG-HUB today, and created a gallery there. It contains 22 digital pieces so far. It can be viewed here:

Christopher Burdett on Getting Serious

Monster man Christopher Burdett has posted an article on getting serious in the illustration business, which is worth linking to so I can find it again...

Some good advice to bear in mind, eg having an efficient portfolio website containing only the best examples of one's work. I've got to get on with my Adobe Dreamweaver & Flash course (and get my head around CSS, which is more exacting than Latin) so that I can give my website an over-due revamp, and turn it into a more viable showcase featuring better and more recent work on. (I should probably set up a second site especially for my historical writings, and keep my two spheres of activity more distinct.
The subject of specialization also arises in Burdett's article, in terms of illustration style and subject matter. At the moment I have projects on which couldn't be more different. In some ways it is good to have a variety, and to supply more than one demand. Hmm.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

I'm snowed under figuratively and literally. There is a snowman in the garden who somewhat resembles Winston Churchill.
I'm presently doing some traditional paintings of imagery for Christmas card, having secured representation by Image By Design Licensing. I've already done a sample nativity with shepherds, (digitally). Some wise men on camels should be arriving soon (bearing some singularly inappropriate presents for a baby, which Mary and Joseph will probably be putting on ebay).
For something completely different, I've also worked on illustrating some horror comics including paid and grace-and-favour jobs. I've also done some concept art lately including character design.