Monday, 27 May 2013

David Bowie is... dead?

I am coming to the end of two weeks of annual leave and have just returned from a trip back to London. While there I was fortunate enough to visit the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A museum (with friend and awesome upholsterer Louise Boyland). We spent nearly 90 minutes cavernous halls filled with the props, costumes, artwork and ephemera associated with the artist's forty-year career.

I left the show with a slight sense of being overwhelmed (in a good way, you understand). The exhibition is far bigger than any temporary collection I've ever seen before, filling three large rooms with some smaller spaces too. The sheer volume of material, most of which I presume Bowie himself has saved, is awesome. Many rooms feature multiple AV exhibits, and while the Sennheiser audio guides are clever, mine often cut-out for reasons best known to itself.

Although one gets the impression the curators have consciously tried to evade it, the reverence of the tone leads one to feel that Bowie is a dead saint. This struck home when I saw the tissue smeared with his lipstick saved from one of his shows. It sat in a cabinet beside items of his apparel, complete with description and date, like the finger bone of a saint.

The show is entitled David Bowie is... The name is spot-on. Although his fictional personas are explored in great detail, one comes no closer to getting any sense of exactly what kind of a person the real-life David Bowie is. The reflexive question is posed right at the start, when Bowie is quoted on his reception theory of art, that all meaning is in the eye of the beholder. In all likelihood the public will never know who he really is, and we'll be collecting his discarded tissues until he is resurrected.

Images from here, here and here

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Doorway in Nottingham

I passed by this amazing facade yesterday.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Interior of Circomedia, Bristol

Drawn during a performance of Vaugan Williams Fantastia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. Circomedia is a training space for circus skills in the deconsecrated St Paul's church.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Giant Irish Deer skeleton

This was a drawing I did in the Bristol City Museum. Its a shame these deer are extinct - I bet they tasted good. You could make an amazing hat out of those antlers too.

“But it’s those Tron bastards I really hate..."

And now for some comic relief. Click here to read the Daily Mash's hilarious take on modern sci-fi fan culture.

“It would have been a massacre except a bunch of hobbits turned up and started twatting everyone with sticks"


Image via

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Giovanni Belzoni and the tomb of Seti I

While in Bristol last weekend I was lucky enough to catch an exhibition of watercolours by the early 19th century proto-archaeologist, explorer and strongman Giovanni Belzoni. A colourful character if ever there was one, 'The Great Belzoni' was one of the first Westerners of the Enlightenment to document with a degree of seriousness the ancient monuments of Egypt. The science of Archaeology had not yet been formulated at the time, and although the Occident had been fascinated by Classical and associated culture for a while, the physical exploration of sites was more akin to what we might call 'looting' today (I am looking at you, here, Lord Elgin).

In 1817 Belzoni discovered the tomb of Seti I and produced a series of watercolours documenting the murals within it. These wall paintings depicted the passage of the pharaoh through the afterlife and so give us a valuable insight into the death-cult of Ancient Egypt. Belzoni's delicate brushwork reproduces the hieroglyphs and frescoes with great clarity.

My favourite is the drawing below. I love the architectural/infographic nature of the piece and the way it represents the convoluted interior of the tomb. Indeed, the image below is a print. The original in the Bristol City Museum has more annotations, with certain reference numbers crossed out. It seems there was some confusion as to which of the rooms in the plan are those in the elevation. One can only imagine the excitement and fear of those early explorers as they clambered through the winding insides of these tombs, sealed and undisturbed for millennia.

The sarcophagus was removed in 1824 and is now in one of my favourite museums - the Soane Museum in Lincoln's Inn, London.

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things

TUAoDT is the title of the latest show at the Nottingham Contemporary. Curated by Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey it is a disparate collection of objects loosely themed around technology. They have been chosen because of their ability to communicate and bring magic into the world. The artist feels that these objects signify an event horizon where technology will become sentient and, in so doing, inspire the kind of animism imbued into the natural world by our primitive ancestors. Cyberman masks rub shoulders with models of internal organs while Chris Cunningham's Windowlicker plays in the background.

Apologies for the offending black smudge - alas my ninja skills at clandestine photography failed me on this occasion.

David A. Smith's 'Born and Raised' artwork

Traditional etched glass craftsman David A. Smith shares his (really quite mindblowing) skills in the video below. He has recently designed album and single covers for John Mayer, and in this video he is seen making bespoke glass signs for the singer. What is really interesting is that, although Smith is clearly an extremely talented craftsman, he seems to have chosen to make the album cover digitally in Adobe Illustrator. He worked from very detailed pencil drawings, but I can't help but wonder what the cover might have looked like if it had been entirely analogue in its rendering.

The Making of John Mayer's 'Born & Raised' Artwork from Danny Cooke on Vimeo.

 Via Juxtapoz Magazine

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

My childhood

I have a vivid memory from my childhood involving a terrifying, bloody, skull-faced creature and cereal. It's only now been reconciled thanks to my recent purchase of a fantasy art compendium.

Back in the 80s Shreddies (I think - I might be wrong here) produced a series of trading cards which came free in their cereal boxes. Each card featured a horrible monster complete with equally gruesome name. Clearly the task of selecting the art was left to some joker, as he chose a gut-wrenching portrait for one particular card, and dubbed it 'Blood Skull'. I remember this semi-crustacian terror quite vividly, it being a visceral nightmare of fangs and drool. Way to go, Shreddies.

My cards are now long lost but I have occasionally searched on the interwebs for the Blood Skull. Until recently this only resulted in failure, but I am now happy to report that the culprit has been found - it's Jaws by Melvyn Grant.

In the Paper Tiger compilation Dream Makers, Grant talks a little bit about this piece. He says it resulted from his reaction to seeing the creature in Alien and wondering if it wouldn't be more sensible for the two sets of teeth to be at right-angles to one another. He then goes on to say that he feels his painting works because most of the critter is hidden by the crop, and the mist and drool serve to heighten the anticipation of what the rest of the beast might look like.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Michael Kaluta's 'Metropolis'

I have only just discovered Michael Kaluta's work, thanks to picking up an old compilation of fantasy art published by Paper Tiger. He has a wonderful, organic pen and ink style which reminds me a lot of Mucha. I was excited to learn that in 1989 he published an illustrated version of Metropolis. I have not managed to pick up a copy yet, but from the images I can find it looks stunning.

Lang's film is based on a novel by his wife, Thea Von Harbou. She wrote the book with the intention that it be filmed, and later went on to pen the film's script. It is this literary version that Kaluta has used for his illustrated book.

I like the way Kaluta has clearly drawn on the designs employed by Lang, but evolved them in a stylised manner. Weirdly his vision feels even more Deco than the movie. The film is quite stark and  Brutalist in its set design. Arguably Lang eschewed the popular Deco style of the time for a more progressive aesthetic in order to make his film feel more 'futuristic' to its initial audience.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Amazing retro book covers

Out and about in Bristol and just seen this beautiful array of vintage paperback covers. 

Daft Punk unobox the new album by Daft Punk


Thursday, 9 May 2013

Life drawing

One of the really awesome things about the company I work for is that they put on life drawing sessions for staff. Given we employ professional artists this is a very worthwhile resource. I've been taking advantage of these classes for a couple of months and I think I am making progress.

I have been using a quick pen and watercolour wash technique. The penmanship is quite consciously inspired by Moebius (in his looser form) and Makoto Kobayashi. I use a 0.3 UNI permanent pen, a small Winsor & Newton travel watercolour pack with a larger travel brush or a Pentel Aquash. This all wraps up into quite a small pack which is very portable. The shadow you can see on the left of these scans is because I work in a landscape Moleskine watercolour book.

I spent a while using watercolour pencils, but of late I have forgone them in favour of the more traditional watercolour pans. These give a looser, more 'traditional' result which I prefer.

More to come...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

"Desert Mirage Lizard" Nikon

Alexy Joffre Frangieh is clearly a man with some talent. He's custom airbrushed his Nikon kit in military tan. As a result he's bestowed the slightly incomprehensible (and perhaps Aztek-inspired) name of "Desert Mirage Lizard" onto the gear. Despite its unwieldy name, his efforts are certainly impressive - the coverage of the paint is great while the masking is superb. No doubt the paintwork will scuff and chip with a bit of wear, but I think I might almost prefer the weathered look to this 'factory finish'.

Pro customisation like this really inspires me and I am reminded of The Sandbenders in Gibson's Idoru. A colony of artisans, they produced custom cases for electronics made from precious and rare materials. In these days of mass manufacture and democratisation of the cutting-edge, the transformation of the common into the unique will perhaps be the future of high-end technology.

Via Nikon Rumors

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Combat Mecha Xabungle

You don't get a prize for guessing the improbably named Combat Mecha Xabungle is a Japanese anime series featuring giant robots. The cartoon ran from 1982-3 and spawned a line of model kits from Bandai. There doesn't seem to be a whole heap of concise information on the interwebs about these models. They went on sale at the same time the series was broadcast and, since then up to the present, there have been a series of kits marketed under this brand.

The reason I am blogging them is for the aesthetic value of the mecha and the packaging they come in. I love the simplicity and 80s chic of the Iron Gear in particular, and the restrained use of logos. Mecha kits today tend to have massively rendered logos plastered over their boxes. The flat, clean artwork is also refreshing and very typical of sci-fi renderings of that era. It does justice to the blocky, geometric forms of the robots which are, again, typical of their time.