Friday, 19 June 2009

The LaBaL Competition

In the July issue of the The LaBaL I am sponsoring a competition where one of the readers can win a paperback copy of A Briefe and Pleasaunt Treatise Entituled Naturall and Artificiall Conclusions by Thomas Hill, the text of 1581. For those who do not know, The LaBaL is one of a handful of British magic magazines which are independent of any magic club. With the demise of Abra in March of this year and The Magician Magazine last year, we are left with only four such magazines in the UK (I would be glad to hear from anyone that can name more British based magic magazines which are independent of any magic club). They are Jerry Sadowitz’s The Crimp, Mark Leveridge’s Magicseen, Benjamin Earl’s Gambit Magazine and Al Smith’s The LaBaL.

Each magazine is very different. Magicseen deals with the subject of magic in a general way touching on all or any news items, interviews, reviews, etc. Gambit’s sole concern is card magic. Both Magicseen and Gambit have their own websites where copies can be bought. The Crimp is filled with Sadowitz’s caustic humour. It is only for sale to people whom Sadowitz considers to be trusted magicians. The LaBaL is the creation of magician Al Smith.

Al Smith was the editor and publisher of Abacus, a magic magazine that went out monthly for ten years. After finishing his time with Abacus he wanted to edit a less demanding periodical and so he created what he calls a “now and then quarterly”, The LaBaL, which is now in its sixth year. He calls The LaBaL a ‘Magzine’; note that it is not a magazine with an ‘a’ but a ‘Magzine’ with the letter ‘a’ missing. Al Smith has taken the words magazine and fanzine and crushed them into one word: Magzine. It is a good description for The LaBaL. It has some of the qualities of a fanzine, a no frills spiral bound A4 periodical published for and contributed to by those who share a love of a particular interest; at the same time it has the editorial standards and number of pages of a magazine, along with the fact that some of the contributors are professional practitioners of that shared interest. Each issue contains news, reviews, tricks, etc.

If you are a subscriber to The LaBal then be sure to look for the competition in the July issue. If you are not a subscriber but are interested in The LaBaL, then you can buy a single issue or take out a subscription directly from Al Smith. He can be contacted by writing to A. Smith, 17 Osbert Road, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, S60 3LD, UK.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Tying Together Loose Ends

It has been a busy number of weeks for me; however, some of the main tasks have been completed or are near completion. One task was redesigning my main website to give it a few extra sections which would bring together various items on the web related to me. There are now sections on art, photos and videos. They do not contain everything that is on the web to do with me, just a reasonable selection making it easier to view things without going to the trouble of visiting a list of sites to see what is new. There is a new section on books. This is not been fully added yet and only lists some of the books available from one of my internet bookshops. When it is complete, there will be books listed there which are not available in my other shops and which can only be purchased through the main site. I am being encouraged to do the same with some artwork but I am against the idea at present.

I have received some questions asking why I have not posted any more videos of art on YouTube since last month. I have reached the stage on the Magicians project where I am now working on paintings as well as drawings. I am not making time lapse videos of the paintings and so there is nothing to post on YouTube or my main site. I still have a list of drawings to do and videos of those will be posted on the net as usual as and when they are done. Something that should be kept in mind is that all the videos pertaining to the Magicians project will be removed from my YouTube channel and my main site shortly after the project is completed. Once again I would to thank the people that have been kind enough to contact me and write nice things about my art. It is very much appreciated.

Another task which is nearly complete is the corrections to text and cover of A Briefe and Pleasaunt Treatise of Naturall and Artificiall Conclusions by Thomas Hill, the text of 1581. The proof copy of this book highlighted errors which had been missed at the editing stage and so I have been glad of the opportunity to deal with them and finally get ready to put the book on sale.

Thomas Hill was a compiler of books on various matters such as dreams, gardening and almanacs. One book stands out however and that is his Naturall and Artificiall Conclusions. It was, as far as we know at present, the first book in English to include some conjuring tricks. Aha, some of you might be saying, is not Reginald Scots’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft the book that has claim to that accolade? It was, until someone pointed to Hill’s book as having an earlier date of publication. Trevor Hall, a magician and bibliographer, researched the matter carefully and showed that Hill’s text predates Scot’s not merely by a few years but by several decades (for more on that, read Hall’s book Old Conjuring Books).

For some people, however, magic is not the sole interest of Hill’s book. The book includes items in many fields of interest amongst which are metallurgy, chemistry, botany, biology, and crackpotology. Yes, that is right, crackpotology. Hill includes a number of crackpot items that even he probably did not believe and some he certainly knew could not possibly be true. The book has relevance to the history of all these areas and even to the history of religion in the United Kingdom. Hill’s book was published during the turbulent century of the beginnings of the English Reformation and two of the items in his book may therefore have been very controversial: how to walk on water and how to change water into wine. Both are literal attempts at each task, showing that each can be done by non-miraculous means.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Being Awkward About Exhibitions

The Youtube videos of my pen sketches of magicians and the few details about the exhibition to feature them has led to my receiving various communications, most frequently involving four types; therefore, I thought it best to address them here.

The first is from the people being very kind and paying me compliments about my art. I have tried to answer the emails of as many of you as I can but the point has been reached where all I can sensibly do is say thank you to everyone by using this blog and apologise for not being able to directly contact all of you.

The second is that many people have asked if they can buy some of the portraits featured in the Youtube videos. The answer is a polite no; they have been commissioned and therefore unavailable.

The third is regarding those asking to host an exhibition of my work. These inquiries have been of the kind where someone wishes to host an exhibition of my work on the premise that I only receive any form of payment if any of the artwork sells. The answer to all and any inquiries of that sort is a polite no. My artwork for others is done on a commissioned basis only. I am commissioned to do a project, I complete the project and I get paid. Whether or not someone exhibits the final project is up to them. I will not be involved by that stage. That is what is happening with the Magicians project. I will not be attending any of the venues of the exhibition. Should a client make a profit in selling any of the artwork commissioned then that is fine with me; that is what happens in the art world anyway. (Anyone wishing to commission art work is welcome to contact me but I advise them to be sitting down when they hear the price.)

My reasons for working this way are many but here is one of them which is self-explanatory. Take a look at this picture:

It is a study in pencil of a bronze by Rodin. This was one of thirty such studies of sculptures by Rodin. Note the word ‘was’. I have three left; the other twenty-seven were stolen in an exhibition. Or so I was told by the person hosting the exhibition. It was the only time I said yes to a gallery that exhibits art with a view to selling it on behalf of the artist. After much effort, I made no profit and lost twenty-seven items of financial value. It will remain the only time that I have said yes to a gallery that exhibits art with a view to selling it on behalf of the artist.

Now we move on to the crackpots, the conspiracy theorists, etc. It has reached the stage that I delete all emails and messages of this type without reading them. For those of you wondering what sort of lunacy these emails contain, I can say that the small number that I read when I first started to receive them were of a very imbecilic nature. The subsequent ones that followed were no different. It is very sad that some people have gone to the trouble to learn to read and write and yet have not bothered to learn to think, making the whole process a waste of time.

I hope that covers most people’s inquiries. Sane and sensible people are still welcome to contact me. I cannot guarantee a reply but will try my best in most cases.