Friday, 31 July 2009

SN: Russia

Here’s another airline wrapper, this time from the USSR. You can probably see that it’s not in very good condition. This is because not long after I boarded the Aeroflot plane I was arrested by the KGB for stealing sugar. However I managed to escape into the baggage hold where a gunfight ensued. The plane was diverted to China but I bailed out over the Himalayas. I only had one packet of sugar for sustenance but managed to make it last for six weeks as I trekked back across the mountains while fending off hungry yaks. This sugar wrapper is therefore a bit tatty, but you should have seen my dinner jacket.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

SN: Netherlands

Here are a couple of wacky packets from the Netherlands - Rotterdam to be precise - from a series called ‘Spreekbeelden’ (‘Pictures speak’, according to GoogleTranslate). The one on the left says (according to GoogleTranslate) ‘The apple does not fall far from the tree’ and the other says ‘We must forge iron when it is hot’ (according to GoogleTranslate). The cartoons are thus illustrating sayings by interpreting them literally – a favourite technique, it seems, for cartoonists everywhere (and other places).

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

SN: Luxembourg

Here’s a nice sugar wrapper from Luxair, the Luxembourg airline. I’ve not been to Luxembourg or travelled on their airline so again I can’t tell you who gave it to me or how old it is (which I’m sure you would really have liked to know).
Luxair was set up in 1961 and seems to have had a sleek abstract birdlike thing for a logo from the beginning. How they chose a fat cartoon bird carrying a daisy to represent them on their sugar wrappers is a mystery. You can’t imagine it happening now.
ps. This might be a rare collector's item as most of their sugar wrappers are cyan blue. Isn't that exciting?

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Sweet nothings: Morocco

Not a lot to say about this one as I can’t remember who gave it to me. It’s from Tetuan, or Tétouan, a town in Northern Morocco, near Tangier and the Straits of Gibraltar. There’s a page about the history of the place here, with, by chance, a link to the Cafés Carrion site, and they’ve still got the same logo.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Sweet nothings: Spain

It had to happen eventually – I’m going to post a few scans of my sugar wrapper collection! (If you thought other parts of this blog were boring this lot will definitely finish you off).
I started collecting when I was about 10 or 11 the year we went to the Costa Brava in Spain. I brought home all sorts of ephemera (junk), but it was the sugar wrappers that I kept and started to add to whenever we went anywhere. Eventually, once friends and family knew about it, people who also went anywhere brought back some wrappers. I can’t claim that I was an obsessive collector and never turned into a ‘sucrologist’. Having amassed about 300 I happened to see an episode of 'Blue Peter' in which there was a collector who had thousands of the damn things, so I pretty much gave up after that. I also gave up having sugar in my tea, which didn’t help. Consequently most of the ones I’ve got are from the ‘70s and ‘80s, though a few still trickle in occasionally.
To start with here are a couple of packets with cartoons on from that Spanish trip. We stayed in a place called Playa de aro (or Platja d'Aro) on a campsite that was entirely for English tourists and only served English food, i.e. chips. My abiding memories include a firework display that set light to several tents, and a torrential thunderstorm one night, which created a river outside our tent.
Like a lot of sugar wrappers, especially old ones, these are particularly badly printed. Don’t ask me what they’re about – GoogleTranslate was no help at all. On the reverse of both is a red and yellow striped shield. No doubt they were part of a vast series but I only got these two - not a good start.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Off the plank: John Ryan

John Ryan died last week. Ryan was the creator of ‘Captain Pugwash,’ which started out as a strip for ‘The Eagle’ comic in 1950 and ended up as an ‘animated’ children’s series of five minute episodes for the BBC, which lasted into the ‘80s. The ‘animation’ was done in real-time, by Ryan himself and helpers, by manipulating cut-out drawings to a tape of the script. The early episodes were performed live.
Captain Pugwash was a pirate who was apparently brave, handsome and clever, but was in fact greedy, cowardly and inept. His ability to come through all his escapades, with his useless crew and ship, the Black Pig, relatively unscathed was always down to Tom, the quick-witted cabin boy, who never got any of the credit. The series was undoubtedly the best thing on TV when I was growing up.
This is a scan from a 1988 Puffin reprint of the first book, ‘Captain Pugwash – a Pirate Story,’ originally published in 1957. The drawings are simpler than in later books, but the stories are full of wit and often very funny.
There’s a bit about Pugwash on Toonhound and there are several clips from episodes on YouTube, but you’ll have to visit here to hear the sublime theme tune.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Honorary cartoonist: Stanley Spencer

This detail is the off-centrepiece of a large painting called ‘Love on the Moor,’ the full version of which I haven’t been able to find. Measuring 79 x 310cm, or roughly two-and-a-half feet by ten, it was painted by Stanley Spencer, on and off, between 1937 and 1955.
The statue is of Hilda, his first wife, as the Goddess of Love, with Stanley himself clinging on desperately to her legs. She’s overlooking a vast scene, set on Cookham Moor, celebrating the joys of sex. Earlier he’d had trouble with the authorities over a couple of drawings he’d done, so here he’s resorted to symbolism and everyone has their clothes on (except the statue). Consequently the painting is like one big cartoon.
The men and women are mostly exchanging gifts, including big knickers, clothes, hats, lilies, and suggestively shaped fruit. The most cartoony idea must be where a cow and a woman are wearing the same outfit (behind the statue).
Spencer was a typical English eccentric who followed what he probably thought was his heart to the edge of reason, thus making life miserable for those around him, including two wives. Most of his paintings involved the reworking of biblical themes set in and around his home town of Cookham. He was an accomplished landscape and portrait painter too, but the humour in his narrative work has often been overlooked.
The painting is in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Bird's eye view

I just know
I'm going to
come up with
a proper title
for this just
after I've
posted it.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Off the shelf: Lear 6

To finish off this set of Edward Lear drawings here’s a preparrotory study of Phyctolophus sulphurous – the Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (now a critically endangered species), done in September 1830 when Lear was 18 years old. The finished drawing was part of his ‘Illustrations of The Family of Psittacidae, Or Parrots,’ which took him two years to complete and was drawn directly onto lithographic stone. This series was compared favourably with Audubon and was an innovation at the time in that Lear drew the birds from life rather than from stuffed specimens; hence the evident parroty personality in this drawing.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Off the shelf: Lear 5

Holman Hunt said this: ‘[Edward Lear] had the most unquenchable love of the humorous wherever it was found. Recognition of what was ridiculous made him a declared enemy to cant and pretension, and an entire disbeliever in posturers and apers of genius whether in mien or in the cut of the coat and affectation of manners.’
But what did he know? Pretentious git.
This limerick is unusual for Lear because the first and last lines don’t end with the same word:

There was an Old Man who supposed,
That the street door was partially closed;
But some very large rats
Ate his coat and his hats,
While that futile old gentleman dosed.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Off the shelf: Lear 4

Lear was too ill to be sent off to school, so he was taught at home by his elder sisters, Ann and Sarah. He wrote later: ‘I am almost thanking God that I was never educated, for it seems to me that 999 of those who are so, expensively and laboriously, have lost all before they arrive at my age - & remain like Swift’s Stulbruggs – cut and dry for life, making no use of their earlier-gained treasures:- whereas, I seem to be on the threshold of knowledge.’

There was an Old Person of Anerley,
Whose conduct was strange and unmannerly:
He rushed down the Strand,
With a Pig in each hand,
But returned in the evening to Anerley.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Off the shelf: Lear 3

Here’s one of the first visual puns I remember seeing as a child, and it’s probably the most familiar of his drawings. I once had it pinned up on my wall, but I used it as a bookmark one day and forgot which book it was in. Now I’ve found it in The Children’s Wonder Book, where it's insinuated itself back into the body of the text.
Lear had a fairly rotten life. Born in Holloway, London, his father was a stockbroker and, because of the family finances, he was brought up in a separate house by his older sister. He began in his teens as a draughtsman for the Zoological Society and became an artist for the British Museum. In 1832 the Earl of Derby employed him to do some coloured drawings of the rare birds and animals in his menagerie at Knowsley Hall. There he started to write nonsense poetry for his patron’s grandchildren, which was eventually published in 1846 as ‘A book of Nonsense.’ He gave a few drawing lessons to Queen Victoria, though that didn’t last long as he was incapable of following protocol. He also travelled widely and produced hundreds of watercolours of the places he visited.
He achieved all this despite being afflicted with epilepsy (which started when he was six), bronchitis, asthma and, in later life, partial blindness. He also suffered from chronic depression and loneliness. Can't you tell from this drawing?

There was an Old Man who said, “Hush!
I perceive a young bird in this bush!”
When they said, “Is it small?”
He replied, “Not at all!
It is four times as big as the bush!”

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Off the shelf: Lear 2

I was going to write some stuff about Lear here, but I'm not in the write mood this morning. I'll leave it for tomorrow.
For a man who studied nature these rabbits are a bit dodgy, but it’s still a great drawing. Here’s the limerick it illustrates:

There was an Old Person whose habits
Induced him to feed upon Rabbits;
When he’d eaten eighteen,
He turned perfectly green,
Upon which he relinquished those habits.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Off the shelf: Lear 1

I thought I’d post a few nutty drawings by Edward Lear.
I’d like to say I’d got a first edition copy ‘A Book of Nonsense’ (1846) on my shelves, but I haven’t. In fact I haven’t got any copy of it at all and I can’t even get it in the local library these days. It's sad. Instead these are scans from a book called ‘The Children’s Wonder Book,’ a 768 page doorstop, published in 1933, which belonged to my dad. It’s full of stories from various sources including the Arabian Nights, Aesop, the Brothers Grimm, Huckleberry Finn, Gulliver’s Travels, Baron Munchausen and so on. There are also poems and lots of black and white illustrations, mostly by Anonymous (who seems to have done an awful lot of work - and leaves the occasional comment on this blog). Then there are eight pages of Edward Lear’s limericks.
When I was young I liked Lear’s poems and limericks alot, but thought the drawings he did were pretty crude. Now I feel the opposite; the limericks seem a bit lame, but the drawings are full of life and lunacy.
At college my early efforts at drawing cartoons were compared to Lear, which I was chuffed about, but my work has since lost that loopy energy. I’m trying to rediscover it but not having much success, probably due to a general lack of loopy energy.
Anyway, the first drawing accompanies this limerick:

There was a Young Lady whose bonnet
Came untied when the birds sat upon it;
But she said, “I don’t care!
All the birds in the air
Are welcome to sit on my bonnet!”

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Part of the furniture

This is another one from my useless 'Withdrawings' series (here's the first one). I was going to redraw it as it's not very good (or interesting), but I find myself with no nothing else to post.
So here it be.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Extinct cutlery

Hunting knife (actually it’s a kitchen knife but don’t tell anyone) on the trail of some prehistoric parsley to chop.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

OTS: Medieval Pageant 5

This is the last one of these scans from ‘Medieval Pageant’ by Bryan Holme. It’s a painting called ‘The Juggler’ by Hieronymus Bosch, late 15th century. Here’s the moderately informative waffle that accompanies it:
‘Jugglers or conjurers, were popular entertainers in the Middle Ages, along with acrobats, contortionists, mimers, clowns, minstrels and others. And at court there was the king’s jester whose act depended on wit, humour and diplomacy, all three in just the right balance for him to be sure his head would remain safely on his shoulders. In the scene above, as in all paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, there is more going on than at first meets the eye. The conjurer has so riveted the attention of the stoutest of his audience that the scoundrel directly behind the bending figure, while gazing innocently upward over the top of his spectacles, relieves him of his purse. Strictly speaking, there were no ‘pickpockets’ in these days because few had pockets to pick, only sacks, bags, or other small receptacles to hold their coins.’
Now my own moderately uninformative waffle:
This was actually painted in the late 1470s and is sometimes called ‘The Conjurer.’ There’s alot of misdirection going on in it – the conjurer is doing a version of the cups and balls trick, the pickpocket is staring into space trying to look innocent, and then Bosch is misdirecting the viewer by making the conjurer the centre of attention. Apart from the wondrous negative space there’s also an owl in a basket, what looks like a baby bird in the rhyming circular window in the top left, and also a little animal that could be a dog but on closer inspection turns out to be a monkey in a jester’s hood. The boy is apparently carrying an air foil which flew when spun. There’s a much bigger and clearer version of the painting here.
And here’s a video of some more misdirection. So many links, so little time - don't you feel misdirected?

Monday, 13 July 2009

OTS: Medieval Pageant 4

Here’s an illumination from the Histoire de Helayne; 15th century French so it says - and no more apart from this:
‘The knight bids his lady farewell. In Europe’s warring and politically violent Middle Ages, husbands and wives had often to part, and a lover’s farewell might so easily be for the last time. Here the lady, Helayne, wears a brave face as her knight kisses her a fond adieu.’
So there you go.
Look at that dog. Isn’t he fantastic?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

OTS: Medieval Pageant 3

This is ‘January: Dinner scene’ from the Da Costa Hours (in the Morgan Library, New York), illuminated by Simon Bening, c. 1515, from Bruges in Belgium. The book is named after its second owner, Álvaro Da Costa, who was armourer to King Manuel the Fortunate of Portugal.
The caption, written to fill the space available for a caption, says:
‘On a cold January night, a blazing fire to sit by and the comfortable thought of dinner! On festive occasions the overhead candelabra might be filled and lit, but in the average thrifty household the firelight and the single lighted candle served for all practical purposes.’
Although this is a cosy domestic scene, for some reason it feels a bit sinister to me. It might be the shifty-looking geezer sitting by the fire with his shoes off, or it might be because it reminds me (vaguely) of the inn scene near the end of ‘Robin Hood’ where the bishop comes to the tavern, sits by the fire and overhears Richard 1, who’s back in England disguised as a monk. Or it might be that incredibly demonic-looking black cat sitting there, with its long shadow and beady eyes, ignoring everything that’s going on. It could be one of Philip Pullman’s Daemons, or from a painting by Balthus.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Off the shelf: Medieval Pageant 2

According to the book this illumination was painted by King René of Anjou, 1409 - 1480, ‘the most remarkable artist king in history,’ and quite an influential dude. He is said to have ridden at the side of Joan of Arc at Orleans and commissioned Columbus’ first ship. He was also a friend of Cosimo de Medici and founded an order of chivalry. This painting is from the ‘Livre du Cueur d’Amours Espris’ or ‘The book of the Heart Possessed by Love,’ an allegorical romance which René wrote in 1457. Here’s the caption explaining the plot:
‘Here René’s heart is portrayed as a flesh-and-blood knight named Cueur. In the scene above, Cueur, after losing a battle with the Black Knight (Trouble) who has pushed him into the Stream of Tears, is rescued by the golden-haired Lady Hope, while his page, Desire, bows to her in homage.’
What I like about this, apart from the feet, is the landscape. If ever I find myself called upon to do a proper background, it usually ends up looking similar to this one. It’s no doubt based on observation, but not very close observation. It's a bit of a cartoon landscape.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Off the shelf: Medieval Pageant 1

Sometimes I buy books just for research, which clutter up my shelves until I rediscover them later. One such I bought years ago when I was working on yet another one of my legion of unfinished projects – a cartoon book on the myth of King Midas (the remains of which may end up on this blog eventually). The idea was that it would be printed in black and gold, so I was on the lookout for books and ephemera that used gold ink.
In a second-hand bookshop that had turned into a remaindered bookshop, thus losing all it’s character and charm, I found a book called Medieval Pageant, by Bryan Holme, published by Thames & Hudson in 1987.
The book, printed in four colours plus gold, is full of really wonderful medieval book illustrations, many of which have been completely ruined by the extra colour. It’s not much good as a source of information about the illustrations either, but these days I look at it quite often as a source for inspiration. I thought I’d post a few of my favourite images from it over the next few days, mostly for their cartoony qualities.
To start, this one, according to the caption, is an illumination from the Breviary of Isabella of Castile, Flemish c. 1497, the original of which is in the British Library:
‘Outdoor concert.
In the Netherlands at this time, a public musical performance would lie almost exclusively in the province of the court or the larger place of worship where a fund might be laid aside for singers and musicians. In this unusual miniature, a large group of instrumentalists are conducted in a free concert on the steps of a cathedral.’
I like the assortment of characters in this and particularly the man in the blue hat, framed by the arch and playing a long trumpet. He looks as if he might be glass-blowing instead.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Off the shelf: Schulz

When I was about 11 or 12 I was out with a friend exploring a den of some kind on a bit of old wasteland when we came across a stash of books and magazines hidden under a plank. The magazines were of intense interest to 11- or 12-year-old boys, being full of naked ladies, and the books were three compilations of Peanuts cartoons by Charles M. Schulz. Somehow, when we divided the spoils, I ended up with the cartoon books, thus beginning a pattern in my life.
The books were all collections of strips (perhaps I got confused about that word) with Snoopy as the star: ‘We Love You, Snoopy’; ‘All this and Snoopy, Too’; and ‘Good Ol’ Snoopy,’ all published by Coronet in the early ‘70s, the contents having been drawn from the mid ‘50s on.
Although they smelled a bit weird (possibly of cat pee) I took them home and read them and put them on my bookshelf. I don’t think I was very impressed with them at the time – they didn’t seem very funny, the characters didn’t seem much like real children to me, and Snoopy didn’t seem much like a real dog. Gradually I’ve come to appreciate the subtlety and simplicity of the drawings and the fact that a small observation can make as good an idea as a big statement (it took me a long time to learn that one). Also it’s impossible not to admire Schulz who worked with the same set of characters for 50 years and produced the most popular cartoon strip in history.
This strip, the last one in ‘We love you, Snoopy,’ is one of my favourites from all three books. One reason I like it is because it doesn’t have any speech bubbles. I’ve preferred silent cartoons from a young age, possibly because I'm deaf in one ear (and stupid in the other).

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Lobster pot

This idea is from a half-thought-out series I half-think about now and then called ‘Flauna’ – half fauna, half flora, only, in this case, half pot too.
It's got nothing to do with Eastbourne.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Seaside attempt 143

I lied yesterday - here’s yet another post about Eastbourne. It’s a British Railways poster with the bandstand and pier on it as they would have appeared in their heyday (I can’t find out the date – somebody might be able to tell from the cars), though possibly a little less stylized. It was painted by Ronald Lampitt, about whom I can also find out very little. Here’s a link to pages from a book he illustrated in 1948 called ‘The Map that Came to Life.’
This is definitely the last one from Eastbourne. Honest.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Seaside attempt 28

To finish off this lacklustre, and seemingly endless, series from Eastbourne here’s a postcard view of the pier with added boys-playing-football-on-the-beach (I didn’t add them myself – they were there when I took the photo).
This was taken in the evening and is quite a long picture because it’s quite a long pier, though not as long as it might have been if it wasn’t for the foreshortening effect of perspective (luckily, as I’ve only got a small camera).
Before I cropped the photo there was considerably more sky, but if you go to Eastbourne you’ll discover that there’s plenty of sky still there; in fact there seems to be more sky than anything else. The rest of it looked pretty much the same as the bit in the photo.
As you can probably tell I haven’t really got anything to say about this picture, but cropping too much sky is simpler than cropping too many words. Please come back tomorrow - you never know, it might be more interesting.
No promises.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Seaside attempt 9

Ladies who Lunch at Tennis Matches were much in evidence at Eastbourne. They probably bought their salads and sandwiches in the local Marks and Sparks then settled down in their seats to eat them and chat about anything other than tennis. These two, however, were sketched off the telly as they lunched at Wimbledon. The inappropriate background is from the Eastbourne practice courts.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Seaside attempt 8

Here’s the sea; it’s had a paint job since the last photo. In front of it are a pebbly beach, a breakwater and some railings. In front of those things is a ballgirl who has escaped from the tennis tournament to enjoy the view. In front of her are some railings, a breakwater, a pebbly beach, and, in front of those things, the sea (it’s had a paint job since the last photo).