30 Jun 2016

June Oak. More loon than bloom.

The month started cold, dark and breezy. I’m in tune with the cold dark bit. Perhaps not the breezy. On days like that my motivation is low, as if painting wasn’t hard enough at the best of times.

I completed my “June Oak” painting within the first week of the month, not pausing for breath after producing the first two illustrations for “my intended novel”. I don’t say this as a good thing. Such pieces normally take two or three weeks, working reasonable hours. I think the result is a good one, but one has to question the self-imposed pressure / isolation. A typical day these past few weeks might be:

Get out of bed at 9.00a.m. Porridge breakfast with Sky News. Small coffee. Check Twitter.

Start painting about 10.30a.m. Break for 30 minute snack lunch as and when. Resume painting and work until about 8.00p.m. Background music is chosen to match any current rock biography reading matter.

Then simple, late night T.V. or a movie on Youtube. Bedtime between midnight and 1.00a.m. Read a chapter on kindle, probably a game of pool on my phone.

And so it goes. It gets things done.

When June did indeed come “busting out all over” it necessitated further visits to the ancient forest of Sherwood. My resources for this series of twelve paintings were mostly gathered in the winter months, and didn’t address the problem of depicting the fresh leaves and foliage now before me; a pictorial challenge I find quite daunting. However, I am really happy with the solution I came up with and look forward to July and August presenting more of the same. Further insight into my technique can be seen on the video below.

June Oak, Sherwood Forest, work in progress video on THIS LINK.

Also this month: Went to see Brian Wilson in concert. Not quite as good as previous shows I’ve seen, but delighted to see Beach Boy Al Jardine with him. Another hero of mine, Muhammed Ali, has died.

And came across no less than two wild bees nests. One in Sherwood Forest, one on Thoresby Estate.  See videos on THIS LINK and THIS LINK.

The end of the month saw a significant event in British history as the U.K. voted to leave the European Union. Purely on grounds of sovereignty, and nothing else, I voted to leave. Of less significance to the country, and a surprise for me, was my mother finding a photo of me and an ex-girlfriend form the 1980s. One for the archive.

25 Jun 2016

My intended novel #3. Chapter 2: "Billy Gordon".

The following are two brief excerpts from chapter two of my intended novel.

Excerpt 1:

He had been awakened by the shrill vibrations of the water pipes in the cupboard just beyond his bedroom door, as they struggled to cope with the clattering demands of the kitchen sink below, demands made all the more formidable by the customary weekend visit of Grandpa Craig, instructing daughter-in-law Mavis as to exactly how he liked his porridge. “Soused overnight, and don’t spare the salt”. The sweet aroma of grandpa’s pipe tobacco was just now reaching Billy Gordon’s door. A veritable giant of a man, with an insatiable breakfast appetite, his Scottish grandpa proved a source of much fascination to the small boy, who was nevertheless most careful to make his observations from a discrete distance during those occasions when adults conversed and children only listened. Grandpa Craig always stood with a perfectly straight back, legs braced, swaying very slightly as might a soldier at ease. But unlike the soldiers that occasionally marched through the village from their nearby camp in the woods, the old man’s cheeks were a constant shade of bright red. All year round. And Billy Gordon hadn’t seen a soldier quite like that. Not even in his toy box. He’d checked.

Excerpt 2:

“Where’s the boy?”  Billy Gordon stepped carefully between a gap in the carnations and joined the already assembled group on the lawn. “Come on Gordon,” that name again, “You stand in front of me”. His grandfather placed a large Scottish hand on each of his young namesake’s shoulders, whilst Big Sister snapped to attention on his left, her gabardine creases glinting under the cloudless sky.

“Now everyone, say Cheeeeeeeeeeese!” And everyone dutifully smiled as his father peered through the little silver square viewfinder and pressed the little silver button on the front of the shiny black box. Small fragments of tobacco ash floated down onto Billy Gordon’s shoulders from his grandfather’s pipe above. Not that he noticed. His mind was elsewhere. He was thinking about the chrysalis.

Artwork & text copyright Ian G Craig.

6 Jun 2016

My intended novel #2. Chapter 1: "Hey Ginger!"

The following are two brief excerpts from chapter one of my intended novel.

Excerpt 1:

“Hey Ginger, I want you!” may not have been the most subtle of pick-up lines a normally shy Private 14246464 could have chosen to call out as he strode past Fourth Avenue’s corner chip shop in the modest English village of Hedgby, no doubt emboldened by the consumption of a few light ales earlier in the evening. But for this nineteen year old wartime conscript, fresh down from the Highlands and a long way from home, the cheers and encouragement it drew from his equally merry army buddies who knew him simply as “Jock”, would alone have made for the perfect ending to the night’s high spirited shenanigans before returning to camp. Little could he have imagined the journey he was about to embark upon as that small khaki clan paused on the street corner, swaying slightly, chattering quietly, in anticipation of a response from the girl within.

Excerpt 2:

His services no longer required, Mr Churchill took the nation’s once great sense of ambition with him when making it official that “Our finest hour” lay behind us. Young marrieds who had spent their late teenage years in battlefields and bomb factories, could now stop watching the skies, confident in the knowledge that bluebirds and not Messerschmidts now flew over the white cliffs of Dover, and look instead towards settling into a new life in a new home. Jitterbugging G.I.s heeding the call to “Yankee go home” became an almost comical memory, their jazzy mannerisms surely never again to influence the more reserved tastes of English towns and villages like Hedgby. Blitzed Sheffield factories that had turned the skies incendiary red now cleverly produced a penny sized steel disc to fill the penny sized hole in Jock’s head, over which his shock of thick black hair would continue to thrive for the rest of his days.

Artwork & text copyright Ian G Craig.

1 Jun 2016

My Intended Novel #1: The illustrations.

Above: Illustrations for the first two chapter of my intended novel.

I’m typing this on a rather cold, dark, breezy, first day of June. But I’m in good spirits, having just completed the first two illustrations for my intended novel. I shall refer to them as illustrations, although they don’t literally depict exact events in the story as much as accompany it. And I shall keep referring to the book as “my intended novel” as a means of taking off the pressure. Above are the colour variations which I can exhibit as prints. The black and white versions, more suitable for Kindle, are slightly different and I shall post them in due course with excerpts from the book.

The “work-in-progress” video below will explain my thought processes in making these works after abandoning the initial idea of producing them as paintings.

Watch work-in-progress video on THIS LINK.

Artwork copyright Ian G Craig.