Apr 21, 2014

In the meantime... Faerie Books!

Ooooh, busy times at the moment. I've picked up a couple of illustration jobs recently that are keeping me rather busy at the drawing board. It also means that I can't show any completed work until each project gets published. So apart from the odd landscape sketch that I manage to still squeeze in, I fear there will be little new artwork to show for the next month or so.

But I can't stand to see this blog going long without a new post popping up, so I thought I might share with you all a few Faerie related books I've purchased recently.

First up is a book I just adored as soon as I held it -

Title: Trolls- An Unnatural History
Author: John Lindow
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: 24/2/2014
ISBN: 9781780232898

This is just my kind of book. The gorgeous John Bauer cover aside, it is a lovely little hardcover with about 160 pages of serious scholarly research into the mythological being, the Troll.
I've read a lot of books on Faerie and its denizens, and most of the time I come away disappointed. They tend to be light on research and cater to a person not quite so invested in Faerie Lore as myself. So when a book like this comes along, one that is written for the serious Lorist, it should be celebrated!

I've always had a love of Trolls, and cannot stand the modern usage of the term to refer to somebody who makes trouble on internet chat rooms. This makes me grumbly.
The really fantastic thing about this book is that, though it is in many ways a scholarly work, it is accessible and an enjoyable read too. I think it is terrific, informative and definitely worthy of fitting nicely next to the Faerie Lore of Evans-Wentz and D.A. MacManus.

Next up is a very recent purchase-

Title: Strange & Secret Peoples- Fairies and Victorian Consciousness
Author: Carole G. Silver
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 12/10/2000
ISBN: 9780195144116

This book is actually now POD only. POD (Print On Demand) means that a single copy of the book in question is printed off to meet the demand of that particular order. So basically, you order it - they print a copy of it for you.
I haven't had a chance to read this book yet, but I am very much looking forward to it. Again, it is considerably more meaty than your typical Faerie book, which is what drew me to it in the first place, I just can't believe it took me nearly 14 years after its publication to discover it!


Next up, here's the book I am currently trying to read-

Title: Faery Tale- One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World
Author: Signe Pike
Publisher: Hay House
Publication Date: 16/5/2011
ISBN: 9781848503724

As I mentioned, I'm crazy busy at the moment, so I really don't have much time to read. Which is a shame, because I would normally devour a book like this pretty quickly. But maybe it's a blessing too, as I can really only afford to read a handful of pages a day, it almost feels as though I'm following Signe's journey in real time.

This is the story of a woman who leaves behind her life in America to essentially go looking for Faeries. But it's also about self-discovery, the healing of wounds caused by great loss, overcoming fear, and allowing magic into one's life.

It is probably the most 'girly' looking book I have ever bought; and the premise, on the surface, could lead one to think it is a mushy tale full of lovey-dovey feelings and wall to wall flower fairies. But it really isn't. Signe Pike writes with a wit and a wink that makes her come across as supremely relatable and down to earth. She is open about her feelings and doesn't appear to embellish her experience or her character in any way.
I've had this book on my 'get to eventually' list ever since it came out. I'm really glad I got to it. I think it helps that I can relate in many ways to Signe's experiences and motivations. But saying that, it's also just an interesting memoir, well told. I'd recommend it to any Faerie fan. It's probably actually required reading for a Faerie fan, come to think of it...


Finally, here's the book that I've just recently ordered-

Title: Elves, Wights, and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry: Vol. I
Author: Kveldulf Gundarsson
Publisher: iUniverse
Publication Date: 27/2/2007
ISBN: 9780595421657

I think this is another POD title, so it might be a little while before it gets to me. It looks to be another very involved work. I'll be approaching it from the perspective of a Faerie Lorist, as the whole Heathenism thing, while interesting, isn't for me at this time. I have been a pagan in the past, and still hold many pagan beliefs, but it was always a very personal, insular and entirely solitary pursuit for me.
But I'll do a review of this book once it has been consumed.

And that's it for now. I'm hoping to follow this post up with some more book reviews in the coming weeks. I have managed to lay claim to some very nice instructional art books that I think are worthy of writing about.
So I'll be back soon with that, see you then!

Apr 10, 2014

Artistic inclinations

It's a hard thing to pin down. It is fraught with pitfalls and foibles, charms and delights. It can drive you mad with frustration, or set you free like nothing else can.
Pure art is about creation. Pure art is unsullied by greed or jealousy. Pure art is about being at one with your mind, your skill, your vision.

Art can also be a very ugly thing. It can attract vultures. People who use artists and their creations for their own greedy needs. Artists themselves can be really nasty toward other artists too. I include myself in that list, by the way. I cannot, and will never, understand the attraction to Henri Mattisse!

Being an artist is all about personal taste. I love the work of figurative and semi-realistic artists such as Frank Frazetta, Arthur Rackham, Larry MacDougall, Greg Staples, Brian Froud, Alan Lee, Jean-Baptiste Monge. This is my taste. I like artists that are highly skilled and stylistically refined. They have immense talent, but have a foundation of solid draftsmanship and steadily accumulated skill.
I do not like the work of 'artists' such as Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread, Gary Hume and unfortunately, the majority of the modern art world. Again, this is my taste.

My taste shows in my work, I believe. I am attracted to artists whose work I admire, but also wish to produce my own work of a similar aesthetic taste. This is not to say that I want to copy or emulate. It means that I look at the work of somebody like John Bauer, with his dark and moody forests, unusual creatures, cute heroes and heroines and expertly executed style, and these things are exactly what I want to do with my own work. I want moody forests, unusual creatures, etc. But is that copying? Not at all. That is sharing artistic desires and tastes.
Many of the artists I like and follow will never be accepted by the mainstream fine art world as one of their own. There has always been that divide between what is perceived as the 'serious' arts and the lesser kind. I'm kinda okay with that though. It has been my experience that artists who like to get mucky in the lesser arts, be it comics, illustration or whatever, tend to be far less pretentious and much more talented!

But does that mean that the mucky arts and the fine arts are mutually exclusive and the walls between are impassable? Not in the slightest. Many artists have mastered both, and have been accepted into both. Sometimes this is good (Durer, Pyle, etc.) but it is often less to my liking. There seems to be a wave of modern illustrators, what I would call 'abstract illustrators,' that produce work almost diametrically contrary to the illustration tradition of figurative skill and storytelling ability. I'm no fan of it and I don't want it in my house!

Personally, I'm all for a bit of high and low art. The majority of my work would be considered low - the Faerie art, the fantasy stuff. But I would also like to be a good landscape artist; portraiture would be something I'd like to have the skill to do well too. And why shouldn't I? Why can't I have my artistic cake and eat it too!? There's an Irish artist, called P J Lynch, who has it right, I think. He produces spectacular work in the world of illustration like this-

And is also a master painter-

That's the way to do it, I think, to be open to new media, new approaches, new disciplines. All in the pursuit of art.
I am a Faerie illustrator, but I am also an artist. I will mostly be producing artwork like this-

But I want to do more of this sort of thing too-
The Pillars. Acrylics on Board. A3ish.
Any objections?

Apr 6, 2014

Bliary Entry #9: A Sketchy Saturday in Galway

Things are really heating up in the Galway art scene at the moment. Maybe it's the onset of slightly milder weather (I daren't say actual 'nice' weather yet), but there seems to be a really positive buzz about the place. There's lots happening at the moment, too. Our little band of merry urban sketchers are getting out there as often as we can, there's serious talks of getting some life drawing classes up and running, and the Galway Pub Scrawl group is going from strength to strength.

And yesterday, on a muggy and wet Saturday evening, the second Dr. Sketchy's Galway branch event took place!

I missed the first event due to work commitments, so I was rather excited to be able to attend this one. A bunch of us purchased our tickets prior to the event taking place, so we got lovely seats right at the front.

the gang's all here (almost, anyway...)
And then it was down to the drawing. We started off with some quick poses from the two models, stage-named Azaria Starfire and Kerri Katastrophe.
I always struggle with the quick poses, I invariably end up going for just a face shot because I don't seem fast enough to be able to do a quick, full figure gestural pose in a short amount of time. The problem being, one or two minutes isn't really any time at all to try and get a reasonable likeness down when doing a face shot either.

So, yeah, I won't be showing any of those attempts!

But as the evening went on, the poses got longer and my drawings got better.

Kerri - 10 minutes
Azaria - 10 minutes
It was a really fun event. Each model did a cabaret performance, and there were prizes given out for winning artwork based on challenges. I may not have gotten a prize (a choice of a shot of tequila or an awesome donut from Dungeons & Donuts), nor got to pop a balloon, but it wasn't about that at all. It was about having fun, drawing with friends and meeting new people. Well, maybe I'm a little bit hurt too...
Here are the final two drawings I produced for the evening:
Kerri - 20 minutes
Azaria - 20 minutes
This is only the second life drawing 'class' I've done in the past decade and a half, but I want to do a whole lot more of it in the future. Nothing beats life drawing for skill refinement. Even over the span of a couple of hours, your skill can sky-rocket. I'm still nowhere near happy with what I produced, especially in the cold, harsh light of the next day, but I can see improvements. And that is the important thing.
My thanks go to the two performers, Azaria and Kerri, organiser Scarlett Nymph (sorry about my bad joke at the end!) and the Dr. Sketchy's Galway crew, and our hosts, Kelly's Bar.
See you next time!

Apr 2, 2014

Bliary Entry #8: Energising Edinburgh!

The wife and I are back from a 3-day holiday in Edinburgh. By my count, it's the fifth time we've been there together and it really never gets old. There's always something new to see, but even just the old haunts seem to retain their appeal, somehow.

Misfits, all.
Thanks go to our bestest pals, Gordon & Ruth, for both giving us a place to stay and for sharing a great weekend full of delectable food, big laughs and fun times.
I've mentioned my buddy Gordon many times on this blog. He's rapidly becoming a really fantastic artist, and it was a thrill to see some of his work in the flesh. Go check out his blog right here.
His wife, Ruth, is my wife's oldest friend, and she is a great artist in her own right. She currently has a lovely Etsy store called Felt so Fancy with lots of very beautifully crafted felt objects for sale. I suggest you buy them!

So here's how the holiday went...

Straight after I got home from work on Friday evening, we took Louie to the dog minder and made a dash for the bus going from Galway to Dublin airport. The bus journey, while considerably quicker than it used to be thanks to better roads, still takes the better part of three hours. So we didn't get to the hotel we were staying in until about 11pm. The actual flight from Dublin to Edinburgh wasn't leaving until the following morning, but with me being an Australian citizen still, we would have had to have been at the airport very early, and on a bus from Galway at a ridiculous time. So we stayed in a hotel near the airport instead. This way, we wouldn't be walking zombies already by the time we got to Edinburgh.
Here's a sketch I did on the hotel's paper before hitting the hay on Friday night:

Could that be a new signature style?
It was just before lunchtime that we got into Edinburgh town on the Saturday. Gord and Ruth were waiting for us at the station in the heart of the city and we took the bags back to their place and got introduced to their two kitty cats, Connie and Lizzie. They're mad.

We feasted at Pizza Hut like kings and queens. Our waitress was a new girl called Nicola and we can't have made it easy for her (especially when my wife, after hearing that they only had Pepsi, offered to pour coke from the bottle in her bag into the glass instead...). We then walked around to Ruth's work, which is a Paperchase store, pretty much heaven for me.

I'm a bit of a sketchbook fetishist. I'll admit it. I seem to be always on the lookout for a sketchbook that is a good combination of size, aesthetics, paper quality, durability and usability. Some sketchbooks can be too rigid, especially when you try to open them flat, making the act of actually drawing in them uncomfortable. Others can be the perfect size, but the paper is rubbish. Other times a sketchbook can have everything going for it - the paper is good, the size is right, it can open flat, the cover will last, but it's ugly as sin.

I think I'm good for sketchbooks that tick all of the boxes for the foreseeable future, thanks to Ruth's store:

objects of great beauty

Here we have...
#1: A4 Green Recycled 150 page Perfect Pad.
#2: Kraft square cream notebook. 180 pages of both cream and brown craft paper. Awesome.
#3: A5 Green Recycled 150 page Perfect Pad.
#4: Kraft cream exercise book. Cream and brown paper again. Sweet.
#5: This one I got from the art supply shop, it has all craft brown paper inside. Noice.
Aren't they gorgeous?

That evening, we stayed in, watched some telly, played some card games, had a good laugh.

Sunday was a funday too. We were out and about in the Grassmarket area for a lot of it. We visited Mary's Milk Bar, which is run, not surprisingly, by a lass called Mary. It's a gourmet ice-creamery/café sort of place, and it has a really nice charm to it. I had a cup with two different scoops of ice-cream in it - choc-orange and coconut. I said it at the time, and have subsequently said it several times more, and will do so again now: these two scoops of ice-cream were the greatest two scoops of ice-cream I have ever tasted. And, believe me, I have eaten a heck of a lot of ice-cream in my years on this planet. This is the stuff of the gods. It's as though Mary is the re-incarnation of a somehow forgotten goddess of ice-cream. It sound like an exaggeration, but it really isn't.

We also went to the National Gallery on Sunday. Steph and I used to go and visit these two pictures a lot back when we briefly lived there back in 2001:

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Sir Joseph Noel Paton

The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania by Sir Joseph Noel Paton

Last time we were in Edinburgh, these two pieces weren't currently on display, so it was good to see them out again this time.

Gord and I strolled around for a while, too, looking at some truly remarkable paintings, wishing and wanting to do things like this ourselves (more on this soon)-

Wandering Shadows by Peter Graham
You swear those light spots are actual spotlights in the gallery pointed at it.

Autumn in Glencairn, Moniaive by James Paterson
This is how I want to paint. The trees are incredible.
Inverlochy Castle by Horatio McCulloch
Best reflected water ever. Mesmerising.
We also went to Gord's work on Sunday, which just so happens to be the National Museum of Scotland! They have everything there, including gigantic Claymores, a creepy executioner mask, some nifty gems, and a whole wing dedicated to natural history. I love dinosaurs, but I cannot recall ever being in the presence of a full dinosaur skeleton. This is what is at the entrance...

It was a fantastic place to be, there was a whole lot to see and the taxidermy was pretty spectacular.
Also on was the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. This was my favourite piece:

Last Light by Mateusz Piesiak
We had Haggis for dinner that night. I don't care what anybody says about it, Haggis is delicious and I want more of it. We watched a few TV shows that evening, including Archer and Bob's Burgers. Why hasn't anybody ever told me that H. Jon Benjamin is in these shows!?! I love him, I've been a big fan of Dr. Katz for many years...

Unfortunately, Gord had to work on the Monday, so I left the girls to it and went walking on my own. Here are some snappy-snaps:


I met up with Gord during his lunch break and we went art supply shopping! You may recall me mentioning an Art Supply store that I bought my Karisma white pencil from years ago. That store is just opposite the Museum. And Gord gets a discount! It's called Greyfriars Art Shop. Unfortunately, those Karisma pencils are no longer available anywhere, but we did pick up some brushes, quills and some paper. Fun times.

Then I went off on my own again. I did a bit of shopping and even managed to find time to do a quick charcoal pencil sketch of a view of a section of the castle:

yep, that's a new signature style all right...

I haven't used charcoal in a very long time. I used to hate the stuff, but this little sketch has renewed my interest in it. Hopefully there'll be more to come like this.

The, before we knew it, we were on the bus to the airport and on our way home. Sad.
Here's some pics of other things I picked up on the trip:

 Precious trinkets! I picked these up at a great little store called Helios Fountain in Grassmarket.

These are all from one of my favourite shops, Mr. Wood's Fossils.
#1: Pyrite (Fool's gold!)
#2: Shiva Lingam Stone.
#3: Garnet. Couldn't help but think of Skyrim. I really want some Malachite now...
#4: Pyrite Ammonite. Just cool.
#5: A Mosasaur Tooth. YES!!! One of my favourite dinosaurs.
#6: Apatite

So there you have it. A whirlwind weekend, for sure. Man, my legs are sore, Edinburgh involves A LOT of walking.

Gord and I got to talk in detail about what we want to do in the future with our art, which I'm really excited about. We have plans to become better artists and we will be formulating systems of how to improve methodically and from the ground up. But I'll write more about that in another post.
I also have a couple of new illustration jobs on the slate at the moment. So there'll be plenty of drawing to do in the near future. I'll talk about that soon as well.

Ciao for now.