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Snarks and Boojums

Snark. Dictionary definition… oh codswallop. There is only one definition of Snark that matters and that is the Lewis Carroll version.

Carroll is most famous for Alice in Wonderland, however the Hunting of the Snark is equally delightful. This agony in 8 fits about a Bellman and his crew in search of a snark is a quirky, funny nonsense tale. I’m not sure whether there was any ‘rationale’ behind the Snark story. Certainly Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is filled with characters which are a parody of key figures of the day, or even the author himself. My favourite of Carroll’s subtle jibes is the suggestion that the Lion and Unicorn are representative of the British Prime Ministers Gladstone and Disraeli.

puffer-fish2If I was today going to write a parody and feature our new Prime Minister as a character, I’d have to choice between a Goanna and a Puffer fish – a poisonous toady looking thing. Puffer fish are supposedly more poisonous than cyanide. I think Abbott definitely fits that bill.

Don’t you think the likeness is scarily accurate? True, I’m not sure that puffer fishes ride bicycles wearing a set of budgie smugglers but it would sure be hilarious if they did!

New toy: UP band by Jawbone

Marketing is odd, is it not? You have a band that you wear on your wrist and it helps you monitor your sleep – of course you are going to call that band “UP”. Methinks that whoever was working on the project was playing a frustrating game of scrabble with his or her family, and with the remaining two plastic tiles, named the product.

Name aside, I do like my UP band.

jawbone-up-duoIt records how much deep sleep I get a night, how many hours and the best part – it has a smart alarm that gently wakes me up at the optimum time leading up to my normal alarms. (For example, if I want to get up at 6am, it may wake me at 5:45am if I have in light sleep). The smart alarms seemed cool but I had to experience ignoring the alarm before I truly appreciated them. It woke me about 20 minutes before I was due to get up. I felt really good. So what did I do? Hit a snooze on my regular alarm clock. Twenty minutes later it woke me… and I felt far more sleepy than I had when the UP band first woke me up. Lesson learnt. Smart alarms really are smart.

The Power Nap alarm works in a similar fashion and I must confess to being a fan of the nana nap on a Sunday afternoon so it too will get some use!

I have also discovered that what your mother always told you was a lie – you don’t need 8 hours sleep a night. Pick 7.5 or Pick 9. Don’t pick 8. This is because the typical light/sleep cycle is about 90 minutes long, so sleeping in a multiple of 90 is a good thing. Initially I was aiming for 8 hours sleep. Now I’ve changed to either 7.5 or 9 and my sleep patterns recorded in UP look much better and I actually felt better too.

Andrew tells me that this is all my inner data geek just coming out.

I have bought myself 2 others ‘gifts’. (Can you call them gifts when they are to yourself?).

Alice laptop bag featuring Arthur Rackham Alice Illustration

Alice laptop bag featuring Arthur Rackham Alice Illustration

The first is an Alice in Wonderland laptop bag. I saw one on Etsy a while ago but I couldn’t justify it. But last week, it was on special. SOLD!

I would have preferred the one I first saw that had the black trim but I don’t mind the taupe. I hope when it does arrive that it isn’t disappointing.

The last gift, was a direct response to Andrew’s plea for me to be less ‘beige’. (Billy Connolly’s ultimate insult word).

I must clarify here. He says I am not beige, I am not dull, I just sometimes dress too beige and he’d like to see more colour! Specifically, a brighter lipstick. So, acquire a brighter lipstick I did. I was sceptical. I thought it was a bit too red. Andrew was right, I can get away with red. I hate it when he’s right.

China Red

Rhino on a tightrope


Rhino on a tightrope (unfinished)
Forgive the dodgy photography, for some reason I have trouble keeping my iphone steady at times. It’s been a LONG day, so maybe I’m just very tired.

Here’s the piece I started working on these last few days. I was having great fun with it too until I added the dodo bird. Unfortunately at that point I started to think too hard – what colour is a dodo bird?  Given it’s Tenniel’s drawing of the bird and it is in wonderland, perhaps it could be purple? In wonderland do things really have to be their true ‘local colour?’

I know what you’re thinking – how can a girl who put a rhino on a tightrope be worried whether she is painting a bird the appropriate colour? Well, perhaps my left brain kicked in at that point.

So, I’m having a vote…

Self Portraits

Sketched with paint

A portrait of an old man

My father asked me whether one of my portraits I posted recently was a self portrait. It made me question how bad my wrinkles were getting as it was a portrait inspired by a photograph of a man of about 102 years.

Dad says that my self portraits are quite unflattering. I know that they are indeed not always life-like! I actually never worry about them being life like. I’m sure in some circles that’s an oxymoron: surely a self-portrait should bear some resemblance to the person? Well, I think that depends on what the ‘likeness’ is. I think one can paint an entirely abstract painting and it could still be a self-portrait if it suitably capture one’s mood or personality.

Below is probably the most life like portrait of me: it was drawn by Andrew on a canvas that I had painted. I then continued to paint after Andrew had ‘sketched me in.’

An artistic collaboration

As for a self-portrait, here’s my latest effort. It’s mixed media with the face mainly in pen and the other areas in acrylic, pen and caran d’ache neocolor I’s (fancy crayons). The original is actually rectangular and reasonably brightly coloured. As it wasn’t quite working for me, I photographed it and then played around with that. I like the end result – reminiscent of humpty dumpty in Alice in Wonderland – and we all know that I can’t but fall in love with something which reminds me of Alice.

Mixed Media Artwork photographed in sepia

Mixed Media Self Portrait ala Alice's Humpty Dumpty

Illustrated Wonderlands: The Beauty of Books

After a couple of lousy days, I had 30 minutes of unexpected joy, courtesy of TiVO. In its infinite wisdom, TiVO decided to record Illustrated Wonderlands: The Beauty of Books. Whoever at the BBC chose to make this short program, I thank you for a delightful experience. I even took notes! (Yes, I know I’m a little odd).

It was a double delight featuring the works of not one, but two, of my nonsense heros: Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. I wonder, whether you can get any higher in the nonsense world than the works of these two wondrous men? Actually, no, you can’t.

To start with, Edward Lear loved cats.

He wrote about pobbles with no toes, ‘people’ who went to sea in a sieve, quangle wangles and, of course, my personal favourite, the scroobious pip. Yet as much as I adore the work of the bearded man with the little round glasses, I cannot go past Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

I completely agree with The Beauty of Books assessment that while many illustrators have tried their hand at bringing Alice to life, the original fine drawings of John Tenniel are the ultimate compliment to Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece. When I reflect on it, they are right: it is the partnership of the two which makes it the treasured classic that it is.

That said, I love to see how others have interpreted Alice. I’m delighted that the BBC program mentioned Ralph Steadman‘s illustrations; certainly one of my favourites, not to mention those of Mervyn Peake of Gormenghast fame from 1946. I think both are ‘up there’ among the best Alice illustrators as each used only black and white. In my humble opinion, when a picture ‘sings’ in black and white; it’s a mighty fine picture indeed.

Ralph Steadman's Alice illustration

To my surprise, the program didn’t mention Arthur Rackham as he is one I frequently come across when looking for Alice illustrations. They did feature the work of a gentleman I had not heard of: John Lord Vernon. As the program is from 2011 it seems that he is a relatively recent Alice illustrator. As the show mentioned, he has taken the very unusual step of not including Alice in any of his illustrations. From what I saw on the TV program, I’m curious to see more of his work.

Illustration by Mervyn Peake

If I was at home, I think I’d continue this wonderful Alice indulgence by pulling some of my Alice volumes off the shelf and losing myself in the drawings and paintings of Anne Bachelier, Rodney Matthews and Iassen Ghiuselev among others. As my books are not nearby, I’ve settled for a little internet surfing for Alice illustrations instead. A bloody good way to spend a Saturday night if you ask me!

Isobel’s egg

Alice acquires an egg

Original Mixed Media Alice inspired painting

Thanks to a comment from Isobel, I got very bold and painted over a significant chunk of the Alice painting on the right, so that I may insert an egg. I know that Isobel was demonstrating her sound knowledge of Alice and Wonderland with her suggestion of a rattle or an egg. While humpty dumpty was clearly what she had in mind, an appropriated image from Dali was what immediately leapt into my head. It’s still bothering me though because I feel like the painting is divided in two by the addition of the egg. It is competition with Alice for your attention rather than a complement for Alice. I’m not sure the egg will survive for too long. I’ll sleep on it though. The thought. Not the egg. I don’t fancy a pillow full of eggshell.

Alice in Limboland

Mixed media

While I’ve been racing to the end of the year, Alice has been patiently waiting in my living room. Every now and then I pay her some attention before she returns to being in limboland. I’m hoping that over this Christmas break, Alice will get some of the attention she deserves.

Of course, the answers to a few key questions need to materialise; namely what should I do with that floating owl’s head? I don’t suppose I could claim it was a Cheshire owl?

The ‘blocks’ between the owl and Alice also bother me; as does the fact the cream block lines up with her skirt. I can hear John Salminen from one of my creative catalyst DVDs saying: ‘if they line up, that would be predictable, and predictable would be boring.’ Tedious is hardly a quality I would normally link to Alice; precocious more like.

Perhaps I should swipe out most of those shapes on the right hand side (beneath the owl but above the dragon) and replace them with…?  A racoon? Panda? Porcupine? Snow Leopard or, if I want to be particularly dark, an unkindness of ravens? Then again, maybe abandoning animals in favour of food is a better idea. A toffee apple, some bullseyes, a Brandy Alexander or a beetroot?

If you are thinking I have no idea, you would be quite right. This is probably why Alice has lived in limboland for so long. She has reached the 80% stage. I have filled behind the couch with canvasses nearly all of which have reached the 80% stage. There’s something about that final 20% that is so difficult. Actually, now that I think about it, many things in my life are at the 80% stage. There’s a number of sewing projects; the knitted scarf, the preparations for my February road trip, the de-clutter the filing project and, the most recent effort, the clean my desk at work project! I wonder whether I have an aversion to 85% or 90% and most certainly 100. Why are these numbers so difficult to achieve? I think it’s a lack of goal setting on my behalf. When I have a deadline at work, more often than not, I reach it. Despite the realisation goal setting helps, I fail to apply it to my personal life. Maybe I need a few of those 80% projects to rally together; to form a mob with pitchforks in hand, demanding I reconcile my differences with mister 90%. If the knitting needles decided to propel themselves across the room in a last ditch effort to get my attention, I daresay I’d take notice (or question whether someone spiked my apple juice).

Before I leave off this Christmas day post, it would not be complete without including a brief cat reference. Andrew was particularly clever and managed to combine cats and art into my Christmas present. He got me this fantastic little ‘art mannequin’ – cat style! I love the way I can tilt his head to give him that quizzical look cats so often employ. Thank you 4, a perfect gift for me!

Alice collage


Top left top row: iassen ghiuselev’s Alice in Wonderland and Mervyn Peake’s Wonderland fish messenger. Top left bottom row: Lela Dowling’s comical alice and on the right, one of the paintings from Charles Blackman’s Alice series.

Left bottom – Robert Ingpen’s interpretation of Alice in the pool of tears.

Right bottom – Arthur Rackham’s Queen and King of hearts.

Top right – this quirky creature could only be the work of Ralph Steadman! It’s one of the lesser known Alice books… you come across Rackham, Tenniel and Oxenbury editions far more frequently than a Steadman set. I love that he manages – like Tenniel – to create such a character in black and white pen drawings. I am sure that Ralph Steadman’s Alice drawings might be considered by some parents as downright scary, but I love them!

Alice minus directions

Alice updated
Who knew that a ‘Hare’ and ‘Hatter’ street sign would be so difficult. I can’t decide whether to have a second go or remove it altogether. One thing’s for sure… mum will be please the dark shape that used to sit above the dragon’s head is gone.

Alice the brunette

Alice's slow progressI have it on good authority that Alice Liddell had brown hair. For a moment this evening, my depiction included blue hair as I tried to take the ‘red’ out of the paint I’d put down. Perhaps I’m really trying to paint Alice as a granny!

I felt like I haven’t made much progress on this painting so put together the photos I’ve taken along the way. I’m very happy with the addition of the cheetah and the pocket watch. It seems to give the composition some balance. I also love the lion. The owl I think may be problematic as far as integration is concerned and I’m not happy with the ‘void’ to the right of alice’s back.

The colours here are not particularly realistic at the bottom of the painting as the light was shining on it causing it to dull. The dragon, dark shape and playing card re still as they were previously. Mum, I agree with you that the dark shape is a problem. The new blue shape (which is very hard to see here) breaks it up a bit but I still have to do something with it. So I’m calling for suggestions. I think I need to add a ‘thing’ rather than a shape. Suggestions welcome. Teapots, trampolines, tornados (oops… that’s Oz), bats, cats, slugs, pirate ships, pantaloons, popcorn or protagonists… please send me your thoughts!

Meanwhile over at gallery de Andrew it appears that photoshop is the tool of choice. The picture below is what just arrived on my email. Pickle and banana.