Thursday, 30 April 2009

Off the shelf: Ungerer 7

Here's a particularly cheery Ungererism for a Thursday (it is Thursday, isn't it?). Fantastic drawing though.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Off the shelf: Ungerer 5

I did say I’d write more about Ungerer in later posts, and this is a later post so here’s some more writing about Ungerer (it might be accurate or it might not – at least it’s spelled correctly (I hope)):

Tomi Ungerer was born in Strasbourg in 1931 and brought up in a small village in Alsace after his father died. There the family endured four years under Nazi occupation and three months with the fighting on their doorstep. After the war he was expelled from school (his school records called him ‘perverse and subversive’) and later from the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Strasbourg. Eventually he emigrated to New York (in 1956) where he quickly established himself as a graphic artist and children's book author/illustrator. Later he moved to Nova Scotia, and now lives in Ireland. Ungerer is perhaps best known for his political posters. He was awarded the title ‘Moraliste Impitoyable’ (ruthless moralist) in 1983, and has won many other prizes for his children’s books. And that's that.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Off the shelf: Ungerer 3

I'm showing this selection in the order they appear in the book so it's purely a coincidence that this one should pop up on a Sunday. Perhaps this enthusiastic gentleman is a Sunday painter.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Off the shelf: Ungerer 2

I like the way the wire doesn't sink until it gets to the middle in this one.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Off the shelf: Ungerer 1

‘The Underground Sketchbook of Tomi Ungerer’ is one of those books that were talked about in hushed tones when I was at college. It was considered to be up there with the best books of cartoons ever published (the others being by Steinberg), but nobody I knew seemed to have a copy. Eventually I stumbled across it, in great excitement, in a second-hand bookshop when I wasn’t particularly looking for anything. My copy (Bodley Head 1964) has no dust cover. It’s cloth-bound in bright yellow with bright red endpapers and is printed in black with occasional red spot colour.

It’s not really for anyone who goes to church on Sundays or has a rosy view of human nature. However I thought I’d post some of my favourite drawings from it this week. This one to start is in amongst the Preface, by Jonathan Miller, who writes: ‘Ungerer’s is a world in which the distinctions between men and the machines they have invented vanish in a chaos of mutual imitation and fierce competition. It is also a world in which men exploit each other like machines, in which men and women use each other as mechanical devices for their mutual satisfaction… He has an excruciating inventive flair, cruelly comic, and those who read this volume…will have enjoyed a sulphuric moral experience.’ I’ll write more about Ungerer in later posts.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Oil's well that ends well 9

I’ve saved this one till last, as it’s my favourite effort. It’s cropped slightly on the left, as it wouldn’t fit under the scanner. It’s the head of Ron, a model with real presence and wondrous skin tones. When he posed I don’t think anyone did a bad painting.

This is the last of my boring paintings, you'll be glad to hear. Intense observation, slowly building up form and colour and gradually learning to control the paint is far more fulfilling and interesting than looking at the finished result. I would recommend it - if you can find any classes left that haven't been butchered by bureaucrats.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The brush off

This was an American model whose name was… no, it’s gone. It was the last painting I did before the group was broken up and we were all ejected from the building.

Out of a class of fifteen eight are now alcoholics, three are on remand for armed robbery, one entered Britain’s Got Talent and was booed off before lifting her paintbrush, and two became conceptual artists. I myself am now destitute and people point at me in the street and laugh at the fool who thought he could learn to paint, one evening a week. Let this tragedy serve as a warning to you all.

(Conceptual artists! - the shame!!)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Shoeshop manager

By his beard shall ye
know him.

This portrait was
not accomplished
by oil paint. It is
not accomplished
in any way. It's
here merely to break
the monotony of
all those paintings.

It's my 500th post.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Filling in 7

This was painted one evening when the model failed to turn up. This woman was a student who offered to sacrifice four hours painting for four hours sitting still. She got paid for it though. Whether I can remember her name or not goes without saying – she was Japanese if that’s any help.

In the last year of the painting class we had an Ofsted inspector come in to inspect us all. She asked people questions and ‘observed,’ as they do. She then took Geoff, the teacher, aside and told him that she couldn’t see any teaching going on, and that several of the students she’d spoken to had told her that they didn’t know what they were doing. He apparently then informed her that she was out of her depth and didn’t understand what teaching was, and that if students knew what they were doing they wouldn’t be in a position to learn anything. The next year the class was no more. One can only speculate as to why.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Pain't misbehavin' 6

Here’s another model from Brazil (almost certainly). I think her name was Claudia, but I’m probably wrong. I was quite pleased with the dreamy expression - boredom - and the number of triangles involved in the composition (they weren't that involved really - they just came along out of curiosity).

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Paint in the neck 5

This model may have been Brazilian, and may have had a Brazilian name. These facts should not be relied upon.

Another unreliable fact concerning this painting is the neck, which looks flat and has a rather ropey sternocleidomastoid.

I can only apologise.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Fainting in coils 4

This is Jackie again (or a painting of her), not looking quite so masculine this time.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Painting by numbness 3

Here’s yet another portrait, this time of a model with a name – Jackie. She looks a bit masculine here, but is perfectly normal when not in my painting. She now does mosaics, as well as modelling, and teaches mosaicing to others. This painting was the first one I did that the teacher thought was ‘good.’

The teacher, by the way, was Geoff Routh. Some of his paintings (of an abandoned maternity hospital, now Stockwell Studios) can be seen here. He also taught me to draw after I left college; a disturbing and exhilarating process that involved mostly unlearning what I thought I already knew. I thought I already knew quite alot.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Watching paint dry 2

This is another early portrait, probably painted not long after the last one. She too has a forgotten name. I hope she’s coping okay without it.
That ear could have done with a bit more work. I spent too much time working on the other ear.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The paint of no return 1

My brain and associated organs are focusing their attention elsewhere at the moment, so the remaining unemployed organs have decided to post some paintings this week. They’re remarkably boring and I apologise profusely, but I can’t be held entirely responsible.

I attended a very good life-painting class for about five years, until bureaucracy killed it last year. Learning to oil-paint one evening a week, even for five years, is not going to produce a painter, but I learned alot and enjoyed the experience. One of the things I learned in five years was that painting is not really my thing.

This painting was done after about a year of evenings and, in case you don't know the jargon, it's a portrait. The model, I’m sure, had some sort of a name – I remember using it several times – but I must have put it down somewhere and forgotten where I left it. She definitely had a face though, and this is a strained attempt at reproducing it in smelly paint. The teacher was particularly pleased with the dark pink brushstroke on the cheek - he didn't say anything about the rest of it.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Grandma's postcards 8: T. Gilson

I can’t find out anything about T. Gilson – not even what the T stands for. He or she seems to have specialized in cute children, often with limited amounts of clothing. This card is another from the 1st World War and is postmarked Jersey, 7th July 1916. It’s from Alf. ‘Glad to hear you are now feeling quite safe,’ he writes. No mention of the weather.

This is probably the last of grandma’s postcards for a while, though there’s plenty more in the box.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Grandma's postcards 7: Tom B. 2

Here’s another one by Tom Browne. Postmarked Southampton, 17th August 1906, this one is again from sister Alice. This time she’s pleased with the ‘long and descriptive letter’ she’s received, but as always she’s not happy about the weather, which is too changeable. Legend has is that Alice was considered ‘too clever for work,’ unlike my grandmother, who earned money for the family as a teacher. She attended lectures on all subjects, had strong opinions and followed the Suffragettes. When their parents died she ended up washing dishes in a restaurant.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Grandma's postcards 6: Tom B. 1

Tom B. was Tom Browne, R.I., R.B.A. There's a potted biography of him here, including the fact that he died when he was 39 years old. This card, with the caption ‘Come along, Pa,’ was published by Davidson Bros. It’s from series 2500.

It was sent by Daisy on 21st July 1904, postmarked Tottenham, North London. It says on the front, ‘I hope you will like this for your collection.’ My grandmother lived in Tottenham too, at 101 Napier Road, which still exists (see it on Streetview - pretend you’re nonchalantly walking by, but don’t stare in the windows). The card must have had a short journey through the post; Daisy could have delivered it herself. That's teenagers for you.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Grandma's postcards 5: Bairnsfather 2

So Obvious
The Young and Talkative One: “Who made that ‘ole?”
The Fed-up One: “Mice.”

This card was also from Alice and was sent on 19th August 1916, only a week after the last one. This time she’s very pleased, having received a card. ‘Hope you are getting better weather than we are,’ she says.

This drawing also appeared in Volume 1 of ‘Fragments from France.’ There’s some more from that series here. Bairnsfather’s own account of his time in the 1st World War, called ‘Bullets and Billets,’ including some of his sketches and cartoons, can be found on Gutenberg.

We’re having delightful weather this morning, but it's a bit cloudy. Rain later.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Grandma's postcards 4: Bairnsfather 1

The Things that Matter
Scene 1: Loos, during the September offensive.
Colonel Fitz-Shrapnel receives the following message from “G.H.Q.”:-
“Please let us know, as soon as possible, the number of tins of raspberry jam issued to you last Friday.”

Captain Bruce Bairnsfather became famous during the 1st World War for his ‘Old Bill’ cartoons, which appeared in the Bystander magazine from 1915 onwards. He was described as “the man who won the war” because his cartoons raised the morale of both the troops and those on the home front, laughing at the sheer horror of trench-warfare and military incompetence. He was also an author, playwright and lecturer, and directed a film called ‘Carry on, Sergeant.’ He died in 1959. This drawing, which doesn’t feature Old Bill, appeared in The Bystander’s ‘Fragments from France,’ volume 1. There's a site with some of his work here, though much of it is 'under construction'.

The card was sent to my grandmother on 12th August 1916, while she was staying in Gorey, Jersey (my ancestors were Channel Islanders). It’s from her sister, Alice, who complains about not receiving any letters. ‘PS,’ she writes, ‘we are having lovely weather but rather too warm.’

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

False Matisse

Matisse had an off day
and went to the zoo -
luckily he took his
scissors. Ha ha.

This is a bit of old junk
I found while looking
for bits of old junk.
It's all I have to offer.

Here's the Blue Nude
from which it is a
superficial rip-off.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Grandma's postcards 3: C Hedley-Charlton

C. Hedley-Charlton, illustrator of this postcard, is something of a mystery to Wikipedia, and other areas of the web. She’s a she, and she was in the Artist’s Suffrage League, which printed and published the card sometime around or after 1907. The League, led by the Arts and Crafts artist and glazier, Mary Lowndes, designed and produced banners carried by Suffragettes in organized marches and rallies before the First World War.
I thought at first it said ‘Votes for Nannies’, but looking at it more closely it's probably ‘Mammies’. The card, which is rather grubby, has no message on the back.
It would be described in the postcard trade, rather movingly, as ‘unsent.’

Monday, 6 April 2009

Grandma's postcards 2: D McGill

This card was sent by my grandfather on 5th November 1917. It’s franked on the back in black by the Army Post Office and in red with ‘Passed by the Censor,’ but there’s no message for the censor to pass – ‘Poor old Charlie’ is the only writing apart from the address. My grandfather’s middle name was Charles.
The drawing is an early one by Donald McGill, famous for his saucy seaside postcards. He produced around 12,000 postcard designs in a career starting in 1904 and ending in 1962 when he died, aged 87 – an average of over 200 a year for 58 years.
In 1941 George Orwell wrote an essay on him, and in the 50s, when he was eighty years old, he was charged with obscenity and made to pay a fine.
This card is no. 1215 in ‘The Front’ series, published by Inter-Art Co. Red Lion Square, London, W.C. (in case you’re interested).

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Grandma's postcards 1

In my grandmother’s day sending postcards must have been the equivalent of texting. You could tell your friends and family (and the postman) what you’d been up to, and include a funny picture or view of the place you’d been. The Post Office was efficient so it was reasonably fast - there were several deliveries a day - and you didn’t have to shout down the telephone.
This card was sent to my grandmother, from Plumstead to South Tottenham, by someone called Lily. The postmark is Woolwich, 10am, 2nd September 1912. The message is partly about where she’d been, but mostly about what the weather was like there.
It’s actually an early Bamforth postcard. This company was set up by James Bamforth in 1890 to make Magic Lantern slides. By 1904 they were publishing postcards and went on to specialize in the saucy seaside variety, eventually producing as many as 100,000 different designs. This one is from series 35, and seems to be by someone who preferred to remain anonymous. Can't think why.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Off the shelf: Walter Crane 4

After numerous incidents involving boys falling off horses, girls spilling ink on dresses and dogs breaking plates full of mince, an eerie calm descends on the World of the Second Primer. This has given Jack time to put his best kilt on, though there’s still the possibility of getting jam on it (according to the giant housekeeper Fanny). There’s also the frightening prospect of an accident with the stilts, but they aren’t mentioned again. Instead, Snap the dog wallows in some mud and jumps on Nan’s dress, a bridge collapses seconds before the boys try to cross it on the horse Dobbin, and the girls have to run away from a charging bull. An average day.
In the top right hand corner is a pale stamp which, when put into extreme contrast in Photoshop, reveals the legend: ‘Edmonton, Silver Street Infants School.’ Sometime in the early 1900s that very school in North London is where my paternal Grandmother had her first teaching job. By the miracle that is Google Streetview, and if the link works, and if you can be bothered, you can see that very school here.
In spite of the fact that my grandmother lived in our house for a while when I was young I remember very little about her, except the way her glasses moved up when she smiled, and she once got bitten by our dog. Rumour has it that she taught me to read before I went to school, but I remember very little about it.
Another inheritance from her was a box of old postcards, a few of which I may post next (on the blog, not at the Post Office).

Friday, 3 April 2009

Off the shelf: Walter Crane 3

Here Pat seems to have abandoned the beach and will probably end up with an ASBO for causing mayhem in the farmyard. On an earlier page Dick was sick and couldn’t get up, but he seems to have recovered quick and is now just as intent as Pat on tormenting the (unnamed) pig with a wig that may belong to the local judiciary. Even the horse (Dobbin) is appalled by their behaviour.
Remember this is a school textbook.
The three ducks with clothes-peg beaks, scrambling to get out of the pond, have stirred up the water and shifted the pig’s reflection to an impossible position, thus balancing the picture.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Off the shelf: Walter Crane 2

Walter Crane was working at the end of the 19th century and is best known (by me) for his illustrations to fairytales such as The Frog Prince. He’s ranked (not by me) alongside Randolph Caldecott for his contribution to English children's illustration, but lacks his sympathy, warmth and humour. He fits in more with the po-faced Arts and Crafts crowd, led by William Morris.
This is the first page of the Second Primer, which covers the vowels ‘i’ to ‘u.’ Illustrating the text must have been quite a task. I wonder how long it took Crane to realise that Neddy was a donkey. Pat may have trouble spinning his top in the sand, and Lily will find it difficult to get a cup of milk to sip at the seaside. Their lives have been made complicated by the suffocating strictures of alphabetic principle and phonemic awareness - poor dears.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Off that shelf again: Walter Crane 1

Over the next few days I thought I’d post some spreads from ‘The Dale Readers, Second Primer.’ This book was written by Nellie Dale and illustrated by Walter Crane, and was first published in 1899 by JM Dent & Co, along with the ‘First Primer,’ under the title ‘The Walter Crane Readers,’ Nellie later took the books to a different publisher and retitled them as her own.
Here’s the title page, which shows some small children being helped up the symbolic staircase towards reading competency. You can probably tell it’s not in good condition - it's been drawn on and it's very grubby - but perhaps that’s because it has actually helped alot of small children up the symbolic staircase to reading competency, taught, as it happens, by my grandmother, whose shelf this was originally on.