Monday, April 30, 2012

Cool for Cats

Louis Wain is a fascinating character; an illustrator, born on the 5th of August, 1863, who drew cats obsessively.  His work featured in picture books, newspapers, magazines, comic strips, adds, etc.  He was thought to have been schizophrenic but may have been undiagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.  His studies of cats were anthropomorphic, occasionally a little chocolate box at the start of his career but his later work was, at times, psychedelic.  He fell out of favour after his Victorian/Edwardian heyday but was rediscovered in the 1930's thanks to the efforts of H.G. Wells.  Personal intervention by the Prime Minister saw him relocated from the paupers ward of a mental hospital to a pleasant facility with gardens and colonies of cats, where his interest in drawing was reawakened and he saw out his days.  If he had a guardian angel (apart from his friends in high places) it must surely have had whiskers.....  Contemporary collectors of his works include Nick Cave and Tracey Emin.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Muppet Cabaret

It's no secret that I love the late, great Bob Fosse as a dancer, choreographer and director.  When I was in high school I decided to make this poster.  I didn't want to make a portrait of Joel Grey, who played the M.C. in the film, but the man in the poster bore an unfortunate (and completely accidental) resemblance to my school principle......So, this didn't make it into  my end of year show for my art class!

It's no secret that I also love The Muppets.  Who knew two of my favourite things could be combined so brilliantly?  And yet, here they are!
And here's how the same scene played in the actual film:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Same Cat Time - Same Cat Channel

This is Treacle.  Most of the time she spends her days mooching about the place, making a fair bit of noise...

Every now and then she takes a turn for the worse....
It's because the stress of her secret job gets to her....
Fighting evil is a tough job....
But somebody's got to do it...
That somebody is none other than Treacle B. Puddin'....

And here's something very cool: the Batman theme toon and Lego!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Boy with Attitude

After Mike TV finally got to realize his dream of actually being on (in) tv, the Oompa Loompas performed summed up the situation in this way:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Little Old Lady and Sofia Petrillo

Here's something I've been working on lately: a drawing of a little old lady.  I've a sneaking suspicion she might be a little dotty.....

Here's another little old lady.  Occasionally dotty.  Always fierce; in the conventional sense and the Tyra Banks sense.  Sofia Petrillo from The Golden Girls - singing!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Doodle Birds and Charley Bowers

I began to doodle something one day - I had no clear idea of what I wanted to draw; I was just putting lines on the page.  One bird emerged, then another.  I didn't used to work spontaneously - I used to sit down with a project in mind and work out a study in pencil then when I was satisfied with that I would begin to add ink and acrylic and work for hours and hours.  I like to work this way too.  Sometimes it's good to fill a page and then sift through it afterwards - sometimes there's a nice surprise when you're finished - a little character who's been evading you so far has just turned up out of the blue.  One of those "oh, there you are!" moments. 

Here's a short stop motion film by Charley Bowers from 1930.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I was intending to post this before midnight....but here it is now; a quick sketch of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.  It was the centenary of his death ( or not - author of books about the undead and all that....) yesterday.  In all the photographs I saw of him he looked a bit shifty or nervous, as if he was worried everyone would figure out his books weren't all that..... Or, more likely, that he'd forgotten to iron Henry Irving's newspapers and now the great man was going to have inky fingers and shout at him.. I get the feeling he was the Waylon Smithers in the relationship.

Here's a clip from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  I'd definitely go to this musical...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Finished Guitar for Musical Youth Foundation

About two weeks ago I began work on this project.  I am taking part in an exhibition organised by the Musical Youth Foundation, as part of the 6th annual Dublin Soul Music Festival next month (May 24th-27th).  The Musical Youth Foundation is charity which aims to provide every child in Ireland with access to a musical education. 
The brief was to use a guitar as your canvas.  

 The surface of the guitar was sanded down.  I painted it white.   Then I began to draw the figures of the children and decide what each one was doing - playing ball, singing, etc...   When all the figures were completed and the place was decided for each I fixed them to the guitar and finally varnished the whole thing. 

 Then I got to work cutting up pages and pages of sheet music.  I really really enjoyed that part!
 The children I've drawn represent my daughter and her friends... They know who they are....  Each activity represents that particular child's interests/personality.

 I used a different set of sheet music for the neck of the guitar as I knew I wanted a line-up of items on this part and I wanted the contrast of the older sheet music against the newer and brighter page of the background.  The song on the newer sheet music is a song about youth.   
 The brief was to paint the front of the body and neck, but I was enjoying this so much I decided to carry on and decorate the back as well.  This part I covered in sheet music.  
 Here's a detail from the front of the guitar; musical flowers, butterflies, even a happy musical snail!
You can see that I have glued my card to the inside of body - just noticeable through the sound hole.  I wanted to put my stamp on it somewhere but it didn't seem right to scrawl a signature on the guitar after all my hard work.  I noticed that the maker's name, brand, etc., is stamped inside the guitar so that's where my card went.

And now here's another celebration of musical youth; Bobby Benson and his Baby Band!

And another one!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Benjamin cute-as-a Button

My little girl received (among other things) a present of a tiny teddy.  His name is Benjamin and he's more than 40 years old, but young at heart.  Age has not withered his infinite variety and all that... Anyway, he has become a beloved addition to her menagerie of stuffed animals and baby dolls.  In fact she refused to go to bed until his portrait for tonight's blog was completed.  A big thank you to Gordon for giving Benjamin to Gabi.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Swan and T-Rex

This is a work in progress - a friend requested a drawing with a Children of Lir vibe... he's been waiting patiently for a while now - but I did give two other prints, so maybe he won't mind waiting a while longer....

Marc Bolan (he gets my vote for prettiest star) on tv in Paris.  Le wow...

Friday, April 13, 2012

A is for Alex

A is indeed for Alex.  Alex was 5 recently.  I made this card for his birthday.  I know he loves cars and crashing his toy cars together, so I know he will appreciate this post.....

They don't make 'em like this anymore.. for reasons of health and safety mainly....

Wacky Races!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Two Little Girls and Sesame Street

I found some of my drawings I made when I was the same age as my daughter is now.  I think they look quite like what she's drawing now.   Or maybe this is just what a four year old's drawings look like?  The top two are hers - the cat in a silver hat and the house.  The bottom two are mine.  Another house and a fancy lady... In the meantime, however, I will continue to daydream of the day when we are a powerhouse illustrating team....

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dr. T and Monty Burns

This is the best part of the film, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T.  See if you can spot any parallels between this song and the one I'm posting below from the Simpsons (episode One Dozen and One Greyhounds) sung by Mr. Burns!  This film is a musical fantasy by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).  He worked on the screenplay, script and wrote the musical lyrics (but did not like the end result one bit).  This film was panned upon release but found a cult audience over the years.  I'm guessing some Simpsons writers were among that audience.  Film concerns young Bart Collins and his arch nemesis, Dr. T, the director/dictator of a musical academy/prison for boys.  The T is for Terwilliger - that's Terwilliger, not Terwilliker as in Bart Simpson's arch-nemesis, but close!  
They're both great fun, so enjoy!  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hoppy Easter

In an illustration class we were assigned random words and told to turn them in to a drawing in 5 minutes.  My words were "spooky", "voracious" and "rabbit".  This idea came to me straight away.  I've given the black and white version a vignette edging as it gives the impression of an egg shape for a sinister Easter tableau.....
On to what the studio adverstised as "the happiest movie ever made"!  This is an excerpt from Easter Parade, 1940's musical starring Fred Astaire.  Watch out for when he throws the cane into the air and it lands perfectly on his other arm.  Very.  Amazing.
Here's an astronaut doing the bunny hop and singing on the moon!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


My mother received a present of a book of Erte's fashion illustrations when I was aged 8 years old.  I loved drawing but this book was a revelation to me.  I had a collection of picture books and comics but this opened my eyes to what illustration could be;  realistic or abstract, naturalistic or fantasy based - whatever way you wanted to make it.  His work was ingenious and exquisite and fun.  I began to draw properly; faces, profile, bodies (that were clearly recognisable as such!)  after I looked at those drawings long enough.  It felt like a massive development - as if you just discovered that you could walk rather than simply crawl fast...

His life story is fascinating.  He was born in Russia in 1892.  His name was Roman de Tirtoff, becoming Erte (his initials) when he moved to Paris and began his life as a designer in 1915.  He worked as a fashion illustrator, costume designer, fashion designer, movie costume designer, jewelry designer, sculptor, etc.  He even worked in advertising, creating a fabulous add campaign "Glamorous Guinness" in the 1960's.

Over the years that followed I liked to dream that if he were still alive by the time I was old enough to travel by myself then I would go to Paris and meet him or as close as I could get to actually meeting him - hanging around outside his house would have been a satisfactory result as well -although what the man himself might have made of it is anybody's guess.... It didn't happen - although he did live to be 97 and worked more or less until the end, the career he loved spanned about 76 years.  Not a bad result by any standards.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dollie Brasco / Donnie Brasco

My little girl has some wooden dolls.  She was quite little when she got them and when she announced one doll's name it sounded suspiciously like Dollie Brasco.  Maybe we hear what we want to hear.  The name stuck though.  There's a series of dolls with funny names - I'll introduce them all in good time.  
The trailer below is rendered snicker-snort hilarious (to me, at least) by the voiceover at the start.  "When Lefty met Donnie it was MOIDAH"!  At least that's the way it sounds in my head....

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This is an illustration of Shakespeare's Dark Lady, or at least this is the way I imagined she might look.
The film excerpt is a screen test by John Barrymore, Drew Barrymore's brilliant grandfather, followed by an interview with Joan Crawford.  Note her discretion when she's asked about Barrymore's personal hygiene.  Do you see the mask slip just for one moment before she regains her diplomatic composure?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Roald Dahl - How to Recognise Witches. Plus Ronald Searle and Quentin Blake

I'm working on a piece for the Soul Music Festival at the moment.  I've just started and I didn't want to post a photo just yet.

So, tonight I went looking for some Roald Dahl and found this gem.  It's a piece from a South Bank Show Special, in which drives some children to an unspecified location, all the while explaining how to spot a witch, before leaving them to the mercies of none other than Sir Ian McKellan (before he was Sir or Gandalf for that matter).

Here's an interview with Ronald Searle.  He was 90 years old when this interview took place. It was his first interview in 35 years.  Roald Dahl might have known about bilberry juice but Ronald preferred champagne; every day and lots of it.

Then there's an interview with Quentin Blake.  He discusses the nature of illustration as he sees it.  He illustrated most of Roald Dahl's books and Ronald Searle was his hero.  In fact, when Quentin Blake was still an art student he interviewed Ronald Searle (wonder if that had anything to do with the 35 year break that followed....)

None of these men were spring chickens at the time of filming, but they all seem happy and vital.  Maybe that's how it works when you love what you do.