Aug 29, 2014

An English sojourn

Greetings to you, dear and gentle reader.
I've just returned from a three day holiday in the UK, where many things were seen and even more things were done. Here's a sampling of what I got up to...

1. I visited J. R. R. Tolkien's grave.
It has been a wish of mine for some time now to visit my favourite author's resting place. It turned out to be the first thing ticked off the list after arriving at Heathrow airport. The drive up took a little over an hour (thanks to traffic and some pretty heavy rain), but the graveyard was eventually reached without any difficulty and Mr. and Mrs. Tolkien's grave was found soon after.
I must confess that I did shed a tear as I stood there. For the vast majority of my life, Tolkien has been a big part of who I am. So to be standing there, with him resting before me, hit me a little harder than I had expected. But I expressed my thanks to him for all that he had given me, and paid my heartfelt respects.

2. I got up close and personal with Stonehenge.
Well, I would have if there wasn't a barrier erected to stop people from touching the stones. Also, it was severely lashing down with rain. Proper torrential stuff.
You can see the rain in the shadows.
So I couldn't do all of my Spinal Tap jokes. That was a pity...

3. I found River Cottage.
My wife and I have been fans of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's programs since the first River Cottage was aired. So I was able to track down the original cottage's location on a map and managed to follow said map correctly!
This is a pretty magical spot. Hugh no longer resides here, but the place looks essentially the same and I didn't even have to do any trespassing, which is a bonus.

4. I walked through Kensington Gardens.
This was undertaken to fulfil a bit of an Arthur Rackham dream of mine. Rackham, of course, illustrated many books back in the day, including Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.
It's a very impressive place, full of massive trees, people exercising, plenty of wildlife (including geese, pigeons and grey squirrels) and lots of landmarks.
The highlight for me was actually the Albert Memorial, which is just an amazing example of what can be done with realistic sculpture. It is fantastic.
5. I bought stuff.
It wouldn't be a holiday without me buying lots of things and stressing out about breaking or generally damaging them on the return journey. But I'm happy to announce that all items arrived safely. Here are a few choice pieces:

Some Stonehenge swag: The guide book, a commemorative coin and a cheap replica dagger.

Finds from Lyme Regis: A cool little stone sphere and a Trilobite.
Lyme Regis is on the Dorset coast, also known as the Jurassic Coast because of its abundance of fossils. I also visited a sci-fi/paleontology painter by the name of Richard Bizley's store and watched him work on a piece for a while. He has a cool set-up where he actually works in his store. So you can browse his paintings, prints and other items, while he paints away in another section of the store. It's a great marketing idea.

The Natural History Museum, in London, is pretty awesome. It's free to get in, and is probably the best Museum of its kind in the world. I went straight for the dinosaur section and finished up at the gift shop. The badger thing at the right does look like some kind of a coffee mug, but the reservoir is actually quite shallow. I'll probably use it for some artistic purpose, no doubt. Possibly a watercolours water cup.

A half dozen Cretacolor AquaMonolith watercolour pencils in a cloth Derwent pencil holder.
I didn't get much in the way of art supplies while I was there. Though I did visit a store called Cass Art in Charing Cross in London, just around the corner from the National Gallery. They had some great stuff and I would have bought a whole lot more if I had the luggage space.

Knights of the Dinner Table: Bundle of Trouble volumes 2 & 3
I love Knights of the Dinner Table. I first got into them when I was working at Gamer's Realm back in 2002. Anyway, I picked these two books up at a gaming store called Orcs Nest on Earlham Street in London. I already regret not grabbing more copies...

I also visited a glorious bookstore on Charing Cross Road called Henry Pordes Books. Quite simply, it is the greatest bookstore I have ever been in. That is saying a lot, obviously. But there is a justifiable reason for me saying that. It's because that bookstore has the biggest selection of books that I personally want that I have ever come across. Often, when going to a bookstore, I would normally find maybe 2 or 3 books I'd be happy owning. Well, this bookstore had about 30. There was a huge selection of Arthur Rackham early editions, the largest selection I have ever seen in one place, as well as lots of books illustrated by golden age masters like Dulac and the Robinsons, and there were a couple of gorgeous early editions of the Wind in the Willows.
It pained me to leave that store empty-handed, but the cheapest book I wanted was already way out of my range at the time. But the experience of standing there, looking up at a high shelf full of Rackham books was pretty amazing, all the same.

And now I'm back at home with paintings to paint, illustrations to illustrate, networking to network.
My next post should be a bit of an update as to the status of the podcast I keep going on about. It should be up in less than a week.
Chat to you then!

Aug 21, 2014

My Etsy store

I've taken the giant, yet incredibly simple, leap of opening up my own Etsy store. You can find it right here. It is, of course, called RealmsofFaerie.

The main reason I set up an Etsy store is so that I can have a place, aside from this blog and my gallery, where the purpose is to sell artwork.
To be honest, I was never comfortable trying to sell stuff here, as this blog is more about the process of art and the things I like (and often dislike) about it. But when it came to putting a price tag on things, I felt it sorta betrayed the whole reason for doing this blog.
But with the Etsy store, that is not a problem, that's its sole purpose. So why don't you pop on over and take a look-see at my wares. They'll be added to as frequently as I am able with sketches, sculptures, paintings, drawings and whatever else I can cook up.

Aug 15, 2014

A Starting Point

So I mentioned recently that I'm embarking on a change in media from black and white inked work to full colour paintings. I stated that I am going to be essentially beginning from scratch in this regard.
But before I start down this road, I thought it might be a good idea to put a marker in the ground at the start point, a sort of skill-level indicator that I can look back at to see how far along I have come.

So this painting below was produced using all of the current skill and knowledge I could muster.
It's a roughly 90 minute acrylic portrait from my Wednesday night life drawing class, the model's name is Ivan.I would still consider this piece unfinished. It would probably need another couple of hours to clean it up and tighten areas. But for the purpose of this exercise, it's clear enough.

It's not an awful painting, but by no means is it any good. But I'm okay with that. More than okay, actually. It shows me how much I have to learn and what I have to do to get further along the path. And my feet are very itchy...

Back soon with more! Maybe even some actual fantasy or faerie related artwork...

Aug 12, 2014

Lord of the Rings portraits

Have I mentioned before how much of a Tolkien fan I am? Yeah, I'm sure I have.
I love Tolkien to bits and am currently reading Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time. I'm one of those people that reads Tolkien obsessively and tackles LOTR every couple of years. I'm a Tolkien purist, too. That means I don't like the movies in general and consider them Peter Jackson's retelling of the story, not the story itself or how Tolkien wrote it. Essentially, I consider the movies an adaptation of one of the greatest stories ever written.

But here is the dilemma of the Tolkien purist who has seen the LOTR movies. The Peter Jackson dilemma, if you will.
I, like so many others, saw the Peter Jackson LOTR movies when they came out. I even enjoyed them! But time has not been kind to my view of them. I have no intention of ever watching them again and I have thus far given the Hobbit adaptations a very wide berth indeed. But still, it is difficult, when reading the books, not to picture images from Peter Jackson's adaptations as you go along. This is frustrating for somebody like myself who loves the books and doesn't like the movies.
I would like to read the bit about the Mines of Moria and not see Orlando Bloom as Legolas; or when Merry and Pippin flee into Fangorn Forest, I would rather not see Peter Jackson's version of it, nor his Ents, but my own.

But what is the solution to this dilemma? Well, thankfully, there are ways to get around this:
  1. Time heals all wounds. Over the years, those Peter Jackson images have faded more and more, leaving many scenes clear of his input.
  2. There is a funny irony in the fact that Jackson deviated so very much from the original story. The thing that bothers so many of us hardcore Tolkien fans about the movies is also it's saving grace. Jackson famously omitted Tom Bombadil from the movies. Great! That means that the vision of him is unsullied by Jackson's hand! The same goes for Farmer Maggot, Goldberry, the Barrow Wights and so many others. There are whole scenes, characters, settings and plots that are left alone for the reader to create their own mental imagery for.
  3. A solution I have only recently discovered and it only really applies to those of an artistic bent- One can simply draw the characters how they alone see them! This way, they can trump Peter Jackson and any other person who has depicted these characters in the past.
So that's what I have been doing...
A Mirkwood Elf and good old Gimli
A young Frodo, A Moria Orc, Barliman and Khamul.
These little sketches have been quite a lot of fun to do and have been pretty successful in nullifying Jackson's visual influence; but what I really want to do is move up to doing proper painted portraits of some of the characters. I have ideas about how to go about doing that, of which will be covered in a later post, so look out for some painted Tolkien portraits by me in the near future!

Aug 3, 2014

The Other of One

Here's something I've been working on lately-
There's a book that was written by a fellow resident of Galway, Ireland named Brian Burke called The Other of One. It's a fantasy novel in the vein of the Narnia books and The Hobbit and is getting some great reviews.
Not my cover, I must stress!
Brian contacted me a while ago and commissioned me to produce three black & white interior illustrations for it (I'll reveal them when the book comes out soon).
Brian has since gone on to commission me to redo the cover for book 1 and possible book 2, as well as some other promotional stuff.
I'm having a lot of fun doing the work for him and it will be awesome to see the book in print with my cover (still in the works) on it.
Here's a sketch I made of one of the characters. I was going for a sort of How to Train Your Dragon vibe with it, obviously.

I will share more from this project as I get approval to do so.

Ciao for now.