Who are these characters?

Dr Sketchy’s was themed on characters from Quentin Tarantino films.  That would be those films I have never watched.  Even with months of notice, I never found time to work through the canon.  So from tagging on facebook and a little searching online, I can tell you that these are (in no particular order) Santanico Pandemonium, Mia Wallace, Stuntman Mike, Mr Pink, Jules and Vince and these are played by Liberty Pink, Mysti Vine, Kitten von Mew and Trampy Holford.

I cut down my drawing kit to Ingres textured toned paper, graphite stick, conte crayons and black ink brush pen.  Stuntman Mike was the last and most sparing of the images.  Mr Pink (Liberty Pink in false beard) was the first.

I drew the two ten minute poses by Kitten von Mew side by side.  After these I started working larger.

Mysti Vine (posing with her green companion “Sid”) gave me a challenge – skin reflects light with so many more hues than do clothes. I struggled to simplify this to two or three tones which would have been more effective on the dark blue paper.

The diminutive Liberty Pink posed as hired thug Vince (John Travolta in Pulp Fiction) and Mysti Vine as Jules declaimed from the Bible before shooting us with a banana.

I am not sure who was the gun toting bloke who warmed up before Liberty came on to sing at the start.

Dr Sketchy’s yesterday migrated unexpectedly and with an hour or so to spare up the road to CherryReds café.  The food looks great: I’ll make a point of going back sometime.  Despite this (and it must have been a real challenge to the organisers), as always the team put on a great act.  I saw lots of interesting good sketches round the room.

Revels of the recently risen, as the cold ones plight their troth

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Dr Sketchy’s, themed on “Brides and Prejudice and Zombies”, at the Victoria pub in Birmingham last weekend.

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Humour and imagination and hard work has gone into the into costumes and prosthetics, selection of music, script for the marriage service and backing images.

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Ten to fifteen minute poses, drawn in pencil, ink, conte crayon and watercolour

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I abandoned accuracy, drew with abandon and made up the details as I went on.

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Exaggeration and anatomical distortion were pretty inevitable.

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Credits to Lisa Troth, Trampy Holford, Steve Pledger, Liberty Pink, Kitten von Mew, Tiffany Beau and others.

low wall, Skye

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Here is another small sketch, started in the café during my son’s swimming lesion, using conte crayons and a cool grey brushpen.  Later, I re-suspended and covered the dry pigments in white gouache and scraped back into this to build the sky and loch.  I recreated the white highlights and the bright white wall with knife and eraser, lifting off the paper surface.

The photograph is nearly 60 years old, monochrome of course, and shows my mother, perhaps on honeymoon, in Scotland.

The wisdom and humanity of old men

I first caught up with the music of Leonard Cohen about 4 years ago, finding by chance a broadcast of his live compilation video, Songs from the Road.  I was captivated from the start, as the camera pans across the applauding crowd in night time Tel Aviv and Javier Mas builds on the opening chords with a solo on the mandolin before Cohen starts singing.  As they pass the music between them, from verse to instrumental solo and back again, Mas is caught on camera shooting Cohen a look, as between two old men in hats playing dominos outside a bar.

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Cohen’s latest album seems prescient (he died just days before the neighbouring USA elected Trump on a white supremacist misogynist platform).

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

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Because I first found Cohen so late in his career, it feels to me that all his life he wrote poetry that was waiting for his old man’s voice of gravel, rich with humanity and experience.  The song, Suzanne, was written when I was a small child but I came to it fresh when I was myself beginning to become old.  It has so many beautiful and intriguing lyrics: “And she feeds you tea and oranges,  that come all the way from China” captures a sense of transitory seduction.  The second verse makes no sense as a narrative but seems to reveal some profound truth, borrowing and warping Christian imagery “And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water, and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower, and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him, he said, all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them.  But he himself was broken long before the sky would open forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone.”

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I have long intended to draw from this album.  This week, I have spent a few minutes late at night revisiting the video and trying to capture his face in ink, knife and crayon. I have also been reading The Pigeon Tunnel, reminiscences by John le Carre from a long life collecting material for his diverse novels, from the spies fighting the Cold War to post-communist Russia under criminal gangs, to the bite of big corporations on the powerless.

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Early in life he witnessed the cycle of pigeons trapped on the roof, channelled through tunnels, emerging in sunlight in the sight of the sportsmen’s guns, the survivors returning to the only home they know on the baited roof.  His horror at life as a rhythm of hopeless struggle in the face of uncomprehended powers runs as a thread through his anecdotes and creates humanity and wisdom in his novels.

Dr Sketchy: Steampunk IV – windswept

The Victoria pub sits on a bend in the road.  The wind is channelled straight to the front door by the elevated highway running alongside.  Sitting outside the pub were hardened smokers, plus the two of us having a drink and warming up to draw, and the Dr Sketchy’s performers posing for photographs before the show.

My sketch, drawn between gusts, is not very good, offers a poor likeness and will cause me some grief for posting it here.

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My second drawing was from the imagination, starting with random doodles.  There is a bit of punk but little steam about this picture.

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Dr Sketchys: Steampunk III

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She harvested moonlight broken by droplets scattered by flying fish, and the phosphorescence left in their wake.

He scooped up after-images of butterflies in sunlight, the glisten of dew on beetles’ carapaces, the warning shock of wasps’ weeds.

From this they wove a cloth so fine that a bale of the stuff could fit in a razor shell.

They pitched their iridescent tent at twilight, at the surf’s edge, between silence and laughter.

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Credits

Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, The Victoria, Birmingham.  24th September 2016

The Sea Hunter – Kitten von Mew

The Land Gatherer – Richard von Mew

Dr Sketchy’s: Steampunk II

This house was made for happier times, with wide windows looking onto landscaped gardens. The walled terraces, the tromp d’oeil, the stone grotesques and the hedged maze all obscure direct vision and advantage that which hunts by smell.

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Twice we have been saved by the Duchess’ toys and eccentric hobbies. The cracked fogged lenses of her eyeglasses give clear sight of what is true and in that way we recognised and repelled the thirteenth guest while twelve of us yet lived. Concluding the last assault, the copper wires round the spinning lodestone powered a crackling energy that caught the creature between hindquarters and tail and held it off the ground, howling, outlined in sparks while its bones glowed green. When it fell, it scarpered on two legs, shouting curses as he went. That has given us brief respite, until the waxing moon gives him again its predatory shape. But we must keep the contraption continually charged, and coal for the steam pump is nigh exhausted.

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The Duchess has taken up her cross, its stock made of tensioned hawthorn, the bow seeming spun of fine black metal, the string she says is maidens’ hair, and the bolts are bone. We, she has drilled as a hunting party and equipped from her eclectic store. We have swords and silver stilletos, and wide bore muskets loaded with exotic shot. The curate offered to bless water to load into cartridges. She cursed him for a fool and he sulked, became neglectful and so was taken.

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I count myself a brave man. I have revelled in pain and see my own death as but a stepping stone.     But tonight my mouth is dry and my bowels are loosed, my heart is rattling its cage. I do not know what frightens me more, the horror outside, or the quiet exaltation of the Duchess as she prepares to meet it.

 

Credits

Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, The Victoria, Birmingham.  24th September 2016

The Duchess – Rebecca Thompson

The Veteran – Trampy Holford

Dr Sketchy’s: Steampunk I

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This is not real but is the fantasy of the hysterical mind.  There are treatments: electrocution, laudanum and, failing all, arsenic.

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Dr Sketchy’s, Victoria pub, Birmingham 24th September.  Ten minute poses by the wonderful and astounding Time Healers, Joanne Hemlock Wenlock and Richildis Mary Tonks.

Momentum rally

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Last Saturday, I went to the Momentum rally.  We were told Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was coming straight from Glasgow, from speaking at the memorial for Keir Hardie, founder of the party and our first member of parliament 132 years ago.

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The square was filling up with the several thousand-strong crowd of supporters and interested passers by.   Too distant from the podium to capture the warm-up speakers, I seemed mostly to sketch the backs of people’s heads.

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I moved round to the other side to try to get closer but now was blocked from the speakers by the deaf translator in a check dress, signalling animatedly and passionately.  The organiser tried to whip up religious passion, wanting us to sing “Jez we can” to the non-tune of the crowds’ chant “here we go”.   Diverse though the crowd was in many respects, in this they were English to the core.  She failed utterly.  By contrast, my drawing lost all sense of proportion and the Sikh sound engineer appeared in my sketch to rise god-like from the masses.

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Jeremy had arrived and was eventually allowed to speak.  His voice keeps the same pleasant pitch and randomly rises and falls in volume, without obvious connection to the points he is making.  He is the anti-demagogue, the opposite of populist, using his non-eloquent skills to provide a masterclass in un-rhetoric.  He whips the crowd into an intense absence of frenzy.  What comes across is an honesty, humanity and approachability that has us cheering every point.

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End of the afternoon

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When the procession of cars had left, I took a few moments alone by the graveside.  As a way to focus on the moment, I drew these lines in a pocket book and later added crayon.  I should have drawn fewer lines: it would have worked better, meant more.

My mother lies in that earth, in a coffin of woven banana leaves, covered by flowers taken from our gardens, lowered there by us who then scattered soil and petals and rosemary.  She will have a plaque flush with the ground and within a season her resting place will be overgrown by tall grasses and wild meadow flowers.  She chose to be buried at the top of a slope, so she might have a view.

In all the years, I  have only drawn her twice.  The sketch below was sometime this year and, inevitably, at a pub meal.

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Preparing for the funeral, we unearthed dozens of old photographs.  Over the coming months I hope to re-imagine family from old images, not as copies but as new art, as remembrance.   I would welcome links to your pages if you have done this too.