Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Five Paintings

So recently I mentioned that one of my paintings accidentally became a subject of religious focus, see link here.

And there were a few people who said, well then: show us some pictures you've done. 

So here then is a list of five paintings that a) isn't actually entirely a list of paintings and b) doesn't, as is now traditional, actually add up to 5.  These are not exclusively my favourite pictures and I have specifically left off the accidentally religious painting and a few portraits, as i would need permission from the subjects to past them here (NB: the little boxes in corners are to obscure my signature

Disclaimer: I often give my paintings quite silly titles, just to remind myself not to take it all too seriously

 #1: The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown

Acrylics on canvas and an older painting.  A little two-dimensional perhaps, but i quite like the flames and the higher branches

#2: The Battle Of Epping Forrest
Oil on canvas - created on a Bob Ross workshop day (so simple to do that a colour blind hedgehog could create it with both hands tied behind its back).  For those of you wondering - i had the easel set up wrong and by the time I realised the battle had finished.

#3: Purple Haze
Acrylic on canvas - quite happy with the likeness.  For copyright purposes I should state that the above was done purely for my own private practice, is not for sale and/or reproduction

#4: The Power Of Two
Pastels on paper.  Done at a Life Drawing class run by Mad Penguin Lady.  The interesting story here is that the woman had never done modelling previously, and nor had she met the man next to her prior to stripping off

#5: Naked Blue Person #1

Acrylics on paper - also at life drawing course with Mad Penguin Lady

#6: Naked Clay Lady #2
This goes to show that you just never know - I hate getting my hands dirty and wasn't expecting to enjoy this when Mad Penguin Lady announced we were going to do it - but I enjoyed both the sessions

Friday, 23 November 2012

Like An Old Oak Table (Pixie Squared)

'You'll never guess what' says Herself about a week after we moved into Chez Pixie - more than half a lifetime ago now

'What?' says me

'It's our neighbour' says Herself

'We have one?' says me, being the typical bloke quite happy to grunt a general message of greeting at people on the street but otherwise leave them to their own individual lives and take no interest whatsoever

'We have three' says Herself, 'but this one is special.  You'll never guess what his name is'

'Go on'

'No guess'

'Just go on'


Pixie sighs, 'Oh....I don't know....Rhubarb McCrumble'

'Nope...' queue pause to big up the tension, 'his name is Pixie too!'

'Never!' I exclaim

'And guess what' says Herself, 'His partner is called....Herself!!'

'Well blow me down with a feather duster' says I

And to be honest - that was pretty much the extent of my relationship with Pixie 2 and Herself B - I barely saw her and him just to say hi to and refuse offers of cheap cigarettes and DVD's (no questions asked) from

Herself B moved to a place we English people call 'ooop North, leaving behind two cats (Charlie and Willow - who through a long series of events, mostly relating to them deciding they liked all the free food on offer - eventually became our cats) and Pixie 2 with his brother.

Many light years passed.  Pixie 2 bought his house from the council, but became more and more noticable by his absence.  Sure he had talked about selling up and moving away - but what with the housing slump etc

And then a few weeks ago a strange bloke knocked on our door and asked, 'Does Mr Pixie still live next door?'

Being a suspicious type and of a sensitive nature, IE not wanting to send someone around that might be in possession of a handy pair of thumbscrews and a hammer, I cautiously replied that as far as I knew he did, but that I didn't see him much.  This, of course, got Herself's Gossip-o-meter whirring at such a speed that local aircraft carriers had to take large diversions to avoid the resultant turbulence.

However, yesterday after a particularly long period of having vanished (like an old oak table...no...that's varnished...oh well) there was a sudden banging from next door, and a big white van parked outside.

Even I, the usually detached, must admit: I was curious.

Finally the van drove away and I went outside to see a padlock had been added to the door and a notice put up in the window to say that all possessions within, having failed to be claimed by certain date, have been withdrawn by Estate Agents Plc

So it seems that the house has been re-posessed and must now lie vacant until it can be sold.  Which is a rather sad way to end our story of Pixies Squared.  Every time I see an empty building I can't help but feel a little sad that someone's dream has been lost.  Pixie 2 had grown up in that house, and to lose it in that way: with nothing to show for it...well...

I can't help but wonder: had he tried to resolve the situation with the agents before it got too late, was there nothing that he could have done. 

Or did he just vanish

Like an old oak table

Friday, 16 November 2012

Painting By Numbers

Anyone who knows me at all will know that, from time to time, I am likely to produce a new painting and that long suffering friends and relatives are likely to be on the receiving end of uncalled for works of art.

The reason for this is partially that back in 2003 I bought the now infamous book "How To Draw Anything" at a local discount shop (my alternative title "How To Draw Anything, Especially Sheep" as the writer managed to stick something round and wooly into almost every page) - and this re-ignited my interest in art despite all the best efforts of my teachers at school to discourage my interest in, well, anything really.

Since then I've experimented with various things in art: done portrait courses with a teacher who could only hear you if you stood on her correct side, life drawing classes with a Penguin obsessed Dutch woman (Mad Penguin Lady), done several oil paintings via the Bob Ross method (a method of creating great works so easily that they could arguably be done with both hands tied behind your back - but that are ultimately a little generic and soulless as a result) and run out of wall space several times over - hence the unwanted gifts.

If pushed into a corner and forced to make a decision on my favourite painting medium I would admit that whilst I prefer the texture and end result of oil paintings I tend to use Acrylics because they allow me to get a picture done in half the time - I would add that Watercolours may be fine for people that actually know what they are doing, but that I can't cope with them myself.

Anyway - onto the story in hand.

A few years ago we discovered a restaurant which soon became a favorite.  It was an Indian restaurant and several times during my meals there I was convinced that my mouth had died and gone to heaven - it was that nice.  We became friends with one of the waiters and actually ended up inviting him to a family occasion.

So when we heard that he was getting married in India and would then be moving to another branch of the restaurant about 100 miles away I decided that a suitable time to give him a painting would be when the trouble and expense of returning it would be too much - and duly sat down and waited for pictures of his traditional Indian wedding to appear on Facebook.

Finally they did and I set about my usual method: which these days tends to be to print off a scale-copy of the image and draw a grid over that, then draw a grid on the canvas and try and copy the image box for box.  This is a technique known to artists around the world as "cheating", but it works for me

The painting was quite hard to do in fact, as there were a lot of yellows, meaning that i had to do several layers to cover the canvas below and it was sometimes difficult to get shadow and depth into the picture.  Also, because it was all in traditional dress there were a lot of decorations, hairpieces and beads and bangles to incorporate to give it that full feel of India

However, soon enough it was finished and when he returned briefly to the usual branch we took the painting in and handed it over.  I'm not saying that Leonardo DaVinci would have done anything other than immediately looked for a match and set fire to the result - but it was of an acceptable standard

He certainly seemed to like it - showing it to all the other staff and being very gracious about it.

Time passed

A few months later I visited him in his new restaurant - we made a day trip of it and spent some time walking around by the docks before he brought up the subject of the painting again

'Ah Pixie' he said, 'I am afraid that your painting has caused me some trouble'  he paused, 'you see: when i am working in the restaurant I am living above the building with the other workers until my wife arrives from India: so I put your painting in pride of place in the living room.  But the other day I came in and I saw one of my fellow workers and had to stop him'

'Why?' I asked, 'What was he doing?'

'He saw the painting and thought that it was of some family gods: so he had started praying too it.  I said "don't be silly: that's me and my wife!'

So there you go.  Without intending to, and purely by accident, I have created religious art

I wonder what my art teacher would have to say about that

Or my Religious Education teacher, come to that

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Faaahv Huundred Miiles

Doctor's prescription:
To be sung and played at high volume and with dangerous levels of enthusiasm until the world becomes a better place - Scottish accent optional

Sheer bloody genius

Monday, 5 November 2012

Five Touring Problems: Solved With One Answer

So first of all, before we launch into another of my not-five list of fives is to say a big thanks to all of you who commented on my Magpie Tale last week and, as requested, here is the song itself.  I'm afraid that if you can't for any reason use soundcloud then I don't have any other means of sharing it right now.  Still, for those that can - i hope it was worth the wait

Anyway - I went to see a rather excellent band playing at a rather rough venue last week and decided that being a touring band is a pretty hard and not very glamorous life.  Unless you're Pink Floyd, or Phil Collins in which case your journey is probably not quite so grim as those still playing the pub circuit.

So here are a list of touring problems and their easy (if somewhat repetitive) solution

#1: All that equipment
So most bands have three to four members as minimum.  The Police had three - Guitars, Drums and Sting on Bass and vocals - but that was under the average of Guitarist, Bassist, Singer and Drummer.  If your vocalist can't play an instrument then you're probably talking about a fifth member on rhythm guitar and if your playing certain types of music then you may also need a keyboardist and even, take a deep breath and prepare yourselves, a brass section.

That's seven of you now: all shoved in the back of a Ford Transit (assuming that the Driver doesn't come as extra) - and all the associated instruments.  OK, so at some venues you may be able to share a drum kit if you bring your own cymbals, but otherwise its pretty cramped.

Solution: form a Ukulele group.  The Ukulele takes up less than half the space of your average guitar and only requires a mike and a stand to make it audible on stage

#2: Personality clashes
So you're in the back of a van three or four nights a week, every week, with the same seven people.  You can't even read a book because Dave the Drummer has, again, placed his top hat on your Mills & Boon anthology.  Some times you can be travelling a few hundred miles to a gig that doesn't finish until after midnight, at which point you have to drive back again.

So its no wonder that musicians all end up hating each other.  Think about the person that annoys you the most at work, think about their personal habits - how soon would those traits begin to play on your nerves if you were trapped in a confined space with them.  Add to the fact that most musicians are deeply egocentric or else attention deprived and you have a real problem on your hands.

Solution: play the Ukulele.  It's impossible to be angry or depressed when playing the Ukulele.  Ownership of a ukulele would have significantly changed the careers of bands like Joy Division and even Leonard Cohen wouldn't be able to stop himself from smiling when handed one

#3: Tinnitus
You turn up at the gig and nine times out of ten the chap who is sitting at the sound desk has gone deaf due to night after night of people who thought that 11 was the correct setting for an amplifier, meaning that the audience have their innards churn and that you leave the venue every night with your ears ringing like a particularly enthusiastic church at new year's eve. And the more that you do it the louder you need the on stage monitors and the more the ringing increases.  Big bands may well have those little earpieces to avoid all of that, but by the time you've spent a few years on the pub circuit getting to that level then it's already too late.

Solution: play the Ukulele.  If you've never checked out Iron Maiden on the Uke then I can confirm one thing - it's a lot less noisy

#4: Turning To Drugs
This is a real problem for the gigging band and its easy to see why.  First of all: what do you do after a gig?  You've got all that energy in your body from the natural high, so you're wide awake whilst everyone else is asleep.  What else can you do to pass the time other than to move on to a club or find some other temporary high?  Easy: play a uke.

Mind you: Jimi Hendrix's first instrument was a ukulele - so maybe that one doesn't work after all

#5: Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously
It's easy to begin to believe your own myth when everyone around you is telling you how great you are, but let's face it: Elvis, Whitney, Michael et al would have lived happier and longer lives if someone had just told them no occasionally instead of sucking up to them.  Solution: it's impossible to be completely serious when playing a Ukulele, as evidenced by the chap in the video below (not me.  Genius, of a sort, but still not me)

#6: Remember - when the audience would clearly not notice if you spontaneously combusted on stage - it is supposed to be fun
Solution: need I say more?