Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Museum of Bath at Work

On Saturday Jill and I visited The Museum of Bath at Work. The main exhibition is of a Victorian business named J. B. Bowler & Sons. The business was a curious mix of an engineering works and a soft drinks factory. At first, that may seem a strange combination but the enjoyable and informative exhibition (using audio commentary) explained the sense of it all. Once we had seen the Bowler exhibits there was more to peruse regarding the history of work in Bath.

The entrance fee is probably the lowest of all the fee on entry type museums and exhibits in Bath, the staff are friendly and informative, the refreshments area is quiet and cool (which was appreciated on a hot day) and near the refreshments area is some amusement for young and old alike. An assortment of Victorian costumes, along with false moustaches, etc, are available for those who wish to try them on and even photograph each other in costume. The costumes easily fit over your clothes. Above is a photo of Jill in one of the costumes she tried on; I’ve given the picture a sepia tone.

If you want to visit the museum then consult their website (and even a Google map) to be sure you know how to get there. It isn’t that far from The Circle or The Costume Museum but can be easily missed because the entrance is not on a main road.

A FOOTNOTE to my previous blog entry The Old Masters: In reply to the most popular question on anatomy, I recommend Anatomy For The Artist by Jeno Barcsay. Having said that, there are alternatives and this book is not for the beginner. If you do choose to use this book, be sure to avoid the small sized publication. Get the large version (24.5cm x 32.7cm x 3.2cm); if you buy the small one you will need a very large magnifying glass or bionic eyes to appreciate any of the detail that you will be trying to learn from the book.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Old Masters

I received an unexpected present from my wife yesterday. Jill bought me the anniversary edition of How To Paint Like The Old Masters written by Joseph Sheppard. This is an unusual and yet popular book. It has been around for thirty years and is in no way intended for beginners. If you cannot already paint a portrait there is no point buying this book (the publishers might tell you different). Even then, the book has a value more for Art History than practical application.

For in this book, Joseph Sheppard takes the reader through a detailed process of describing how paintings were done in previous centuries. His example artists are Dürer (1461-1528), Titian (c.1488-1576), Veronese (1528-1588), Caravaggio (1571-1610), Rubens (1577-1640), Hals (1580-1666), Rembrandt (1606-1669) and Vermeer (1632-1675). Instead of taking the usual route of other art books, where a painting of the artist is shown and then a less than helpful whistle-stop tour of technique is given, Sheppard paints a portrait from scratch and gives photographs of each stage. That may seem simple enough but the techniques and styles of painting have changed so much that the methods given in Sheppard’s book may astonish the young modern artist.

Most modern artists use the alla prima method. Alla prima means ‘all at once’ and describes how the artist begins and finishes a painting in one sitting. It is a loose term because sometimes two or three sittings may actually be needed. In alla prima what is central is that the colour and tone is built up all at once and not in layers, usually varnished layers.

That is how the old masters did it: in layers. Paint a layer. Wait a few days while it dried. Varnish/glaze it. Wait a few days for that to dry. Paint the next layer. Wait some more days for that to dry. And so on. A single painting may take weeks to complete and along the way the look of the painting might perturb a viewer. The flesh colour appears in a portrait during the latter half of the painting as a translucent wash; before that, the subject may appear very grey or silver in one method because those are the colours used in the primary layers. The final result is worth it if you have the patience, or rather, if your client has the patience.

Another set back for the novice with this book is the necessity of making your own paints and preparing your own linseed oil. The painting methods can be done with paint from a tube and bought artists linseed oil but the end result can be hit or miss. Sheppard is somewhat upbeat on the point and encourages the reader to make up his/her own mind. However, way back when, many years ago when I received training from Ed Howard, I spent a lot of boring hours preparing oil paint from scratch. I also did what is called ‘washing’ the linseed oil to take out any colour from it that ruins the delicate colour of a thin translucent layer of paint. Even the artists’ linseed oil bought from art shops does not match this and tends to have the colour of honey rather than having a clearer look about it. The home made DIY method is troublesome and boring but produces a better quality of paint and final picture. However, the difference is hardly visible in a photograph or print and so the modern, quicker methods prevail and with some sense when art is now more commonly seen by the public in printed mediums.

Even if you cannot paint, have no intention of learning to do so but have an appreciation of 16th and 17th century art then Sheppard’s book could be useful to you in deepening your understanding of the trouble that Titian, Rembrandt and others went to in order to paint a single portrait

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Weird Book Room

Due to illness there was no main blog post last Friday. Please accept my apologies. I am still not recovered and so this will be a brief blog entry; what energy I have is being used on meeting deadlines.

I am looking forward to seeing Derren Brown’s The Event. There is not enough magic on the main TV channels in the UK (if you have gone digital in the UK then you have more opportunity to see magic programmes - but not much more).

There is only a matter of days left in The LaBaL competition, so if any of The LaBaL’s readers want to make a last minute entry then now is the time. The winner will be announced in the next issue of The LaBaL.

And finally, in this brief entry, I leave you with a novelty I enjoyed yesterday. It is the Weird Book Room on Abebooks. Here is a list of some of the non-fiction titles of real books featured on that web page:

Doga: Yoga for Dogs
Bombproof Your Horse
The Great Pantyhose Crafts Book
The Lost Art of Towel Origami
(I’ve ordered my copy)
The Thermodynamics of Pizza
Do-It-Yourself Coffins
How to Survive a Robot Uprising

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Results of Oil Painting Poll

Some weeks back I put a Poll on my blog asking people to vote for the next magician to have their portrait painted in oil paints. The Poll ended this week and I now have the results:

David Devant - 54%
J. N. Maskelyne - 23%
Harry Blackstone senior - 15%
Houdini - 8%

So, at the end of the week, I shall begin a portrait of David Devant. A video of the final picture will be posted on You Tube near the end of September. However, you will not have to wait that long for new videos of other artwork to appear on my You Tube Channel. Next week, I will be posting some videos of my new project The Dead.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Update on The Sherlock Holmes Museum in London

Back in February of this year I wrote a review of The Sherlock Holmes Museum in London (You can read it in this blog by clicking this link). I gave reasons why it was a very good place to visit; I did, however, add a few criticisms. Well, recently, John Aidiniantz of the museum added this comment to my blog entry: "This is a good and well-balanced review of the museum and the criticisms have been accepted and addressed by the museum." Because the blog was so many months ago and therefore people may not read Mr. Aidiniantz's recent comment, I thought it was only fair to include it in a new blog entry highlighting that the museum has replied. After all, if one of the people involved in the running of the museum can take the time to reply, providing an update on the points made in the blog, then it should get a mention.