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May 28, 2006

Penguins can't juggle

The phone rings and a voice says "hello", and sort of guess who this is, and I get it in one. Haven't spoken to him for years, yet I recognise his voice instantly. Our ears are keen, or rather our audio memory is sharp.

They say, on the frozen ice of the Antarctic, a returning penguin can pick out the squealing of their particular baby penguin amidst a colony of thousands of squealing baby penguins, and hell, one squealing baby penguin must sound like all the others. Well I knew it was Alan, straight away, partly because he doesn't sound anything remotely like a baby penguin, and partly because he is an amazing man with a distinctive soft voice.

I bet a penguin couldn't tell us apart though. It's what your used to I guess. Apparently our brains hold all the information we've ever received, it's just accessing it that's tricky. Our brains are designed to discard most information as useless and unnecessary to our continued survival.

An artist has to tune in to some of this useless information to give them a head start. Alan has a wonderful mind that sees the world in a particularly interesting way - he can't juggle though, but then neither can penguins.


Posted by john at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2006

The joy of drawing

Amy had a good time by the look of it:


Posted by john at 11:03 PM | Comments (0)

From time to time

From time to time I get to pass on some of the things I discover while scratching charcoal across the paper. From time to time Amy comes down from Barrow-in-Furness and wants to do some drawing.

This is a Good Thing. Amy can draw better than any of us, she can see and gauge the difference in an instant. But she has never been allowed to play. So I try to get some drawing going in a different way, letting go of preciousness and unleashing Amy's prodigious talents.


Amy's just beyond the age where she can join the Public Library and her enthusiasm and skills put us all to shame.


Posted by john at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2006

Drawing what isn't there yet

I have of late, through no fault of my own, got into drawing houses that haven't been built.

I am asked by the developers to do an illustration of a building, working from their plans. An Artist's Impression if you will, though that term carries the stigma of 1970s felt pen slickness. I don't do 1970s felt pen slickness.

I get this:


and then, with the help of some photographs of the site [hence the tree] I draw this:


Thanks to Ron Maris and the late John Shaw for teaching me perspective on Foundation. Skills like this are no longer taught at art college, which is a shame because it helps you earn a living as an artist.

Posted by john at 10:03 AM | Comments (4)

May 19, 2006

it's grim up there

Today we have plastic ducting and electric motors and ventilating rooms is a relatively easy job. But two centuries ago it was a much more brutal affair, involving big tin pipes and large holes in the ceiling and walls.


I found this under a dust and grit filled zinc mesh as I was clearing the ceiling so it can be re-plastered. Two centuries' muck fell on my head. Oh! the joys of building and punctuation.

Posted by john at 03:42 PM | Comments (1)

May 16, 2006

building bathrooms

No entries for a while because I'm doing some work in The Last Hippy House in Leeds [and maybe England]. Basically building bathrooms and getting down in amongst the floorboards and lead pipes.


In a rubble-filled corner of the attic I unearthed the old rockers and wires that would have rung the bells in the servants' quarters when bell-pulls were pulled in the downstairs drawing rooms.


I'll get back to painting in a bit I guess...

Posted by john at 06:33 PM | Comments (1)

May 06, 2006

Canít draw wonít draw

If I had a pound for every time someoneís told me they canít draw, Iíd have...well, several pounds,

I once told a singer I couldnít sing. She plucked a string on the guitar she was holding and asked me to sing the note, which I did, and wasnít too far off pitch by all accounts. She then told me that it wasnít that I couldnít sing rather that I didnít know the notes. A bit like trying to read a poem in a language you canít read.

And so it is with drawing. People canít draw not because there is pathological or physiological impediment, but merely because they donít know the notes. The notes in the case of drawing being the structure. The language of drawing is the shape of the thing youíre drawing.


John Kricfalusi, the man who created Ren and Stimpy, has some good things to say on his site, about drawing for animation Ė donít try and draw a cartoon until you have constructed the shape. That is: donít try and run before you can walk.

The same can be said about life drawing, donít attempt to draw the figure until you know how it fits together. Iíve studied anatomy, muscles and bones, to understand the shape of the body and how it all fits together, essential for drawing.


Posted by john at 12:01 PM | Comments (4)

May 05, 2006

The Arts and The Crafts

Over on My Dadís a communist, Daphne asks: ďwhat's the difference between art and craft?Ē

Itís a loaded question - thereís a lot of rivalry betwixt the arts and the crafts movements, craftsmen wanting to aspire to the Arts and artists not wanting to be thought of as mere craftsmen. And itís all the fault of Joshua Reynolds.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Self-portrait when Young, courtesy of the Tate collection

Artist comes from the word Artisan, meaning a skilled person working with his [or her] hands, which is a good description of a craftsman, and is what artists used to do, until Conceptual Art dawned and Artists started working with their minds - not a good day for the Arts Movement perhaps.

In 1768, due some artistic infighting between two architects [Sir William Chambers and James Paine being the main protagonists], the Royal Academy was founded. The first president was one Sir Joshua Reynolds. He was hell-bent on raising the role of artist from artisan to intellectual. So he plucked the humble artisan from the high street, where he was minding his own business painting portraits and religious iconography for whichsoever wealthy patron popped into his shop Ė his workshop that is, and placed him in a garret [and let him starve].

Starving is obviously an envious position for, from this point, craftsmen [and craftswomen] everywhere wanted to ascend the steep stairway to the garret and there to starve, as an Artist.

Posted by john at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2006

Turpin abroad

When not bandaging royalty and generally painting them white, I've been getting on with Dick Turpin's adventures in Amsterdam.


The last of the Dutch illustrations perhaps, though I'm going to Amsterdam next week, so there may be some more input.

Posted by john at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2006

Painting Royalty

One of the girls who sits for me from time to time, experimenting with Unstuckness, has just told me she is Alfred the Greatís great34 grand-daughter. Fantastic Ė I think you can see the Regal bearing in the shoulders.


Posted by john at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)