Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Arfon’s Studio: My New Arcade Machine! Polybius

For 35+ years I’ve always wanted my own arcade machine and I recently found one listed on an old warehouse clearance site over in the states (turns out it’s cheaper to bring one over from the US than it is to buy from a dealer in UK!) I wasn’t fussed what game it was, just as long as it was from the early to mid 1980’s (this is from 1981 so I'm happy!) I must confess I’ve never heard of this game so let’s unwrap it and hook it up to a US adapter, position it in the studio and see what it’s like!

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Monster Memories: Madballs!

Ah Madballs, if you were a kid during the 1980’s you will know exactly what these things are if not... Madballs were a series of toy /rubber balls released in 1985 by AmToy (a subsidiary company of the American Greetings Company responsible for Care Bears, Get Along Gang and Popples). Designed by James Groman (who also designed AmToy’s My Pet Monster) Madballs were a series of  8 ‘gross’ rubber/ foam bouncing balls, each one with  its own unique face and design they were Screamin Meemie, Slobulus, Aargh, Horn Head, Dust Brain, Oculus Orbus, Skull Face and Bash Brain. Aimed squarely at boys “Gross for one! Gross for all! We play with our... Madballs! the line did reasonably well for AmToy and so a second series of 8 characters followed called Snake Bait, Freaky Fullback, Splitting Headache, Bruise Brother, Wolf Breath, Fist Face, Swine Sucker and Lock Lips before being followed by a sub series of ‘Super Madballs’ which were larger versions of the original balls shaped like other sports balls, such as the American-football called Touchdown Terror, the soccer ball named Goal Eater, and basketball named Foul Shot perhaps not as popular in the UK it was a hit in the USA and AmToy licensed countless other Madballs products including Head-Popping Madballs figures (posable figures with ejectable/swappable head ) Madballs- Slimeballs a hollowed version that could be filled with slime “Gobs of Goo means fun for you! a Marvel comic and also two direct to video animated shows  (a 22-minute episode called Escape from Orb and Madballs: Gross Jokes a series of jokes and skits) before they faded  away, only to ‘bounce back’ courtesy of toy company Art Asylum in 2006  and Just Play, Inc. in 2017. Premier creators of limited edition art toys  Kidrobot produced a few  Madballs items such as foam Madballs, enamel pins, Madballs art figures, Madballs key rings and a Madballs blind box vinyl miniseries and this is where I came in,

I had some Madballs back in the day, but because they were made of foam rubber they will perish over time and so I sold them on, but when Kidrobot released fifteen vinyl figures based on the original designs (sadly they didn’t bring Splitting Headache back instead creating a “uber-rare” mystery figure based on Kidrobots’s own character which doesn’t interest me) I was delighted as I could re-introduce the Madballs to my collection of 80’s monster toys without the worry of them crumbling to dust overnight!   

© Arfon Jones 2017. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Artistic Influences: Sarah Bailey- Caricaturist

The second edition in a series that explores and acknowledges my artistic influences over the years highlighting those that have played a part in my career, today’s edition Sarah Bailey- caricaturist. I first met Sarah back in 1994 when I was 14 at the Royal Welsh Show (once an annual family trip for us) I saw a large crowd of people, curious as to what was going on I went over to look and there was a woman sitting in a chair drawing caricatures. I was fascinated to see someone drawing people in seconds and being paid for it! This was Sarah, I was enthralled by the speed she worked at and how great the likenesses were. I hung around for a while, trying to pluck up the courage to introduce myself (contrary to popular belief I’m rather shy) and tell her how I too was an inspiring cartoonist. I soon ‘latched on’ to  her and spent the week  standing in the wings and watching her work not only studying how she captured facial details, the materials she used but also her wit and her rapport with the public. She was very patient with this 14 year old lad that loomed over her, asking questions – and when the show was over we kept in touch. After returning home I worked on likenesses and when I went back to school I used my teachers as test subjects (a great tip for any budding cartoonist because teachers think you’re taking notes!) and this is an important point in my career as people’s likenesses continues to be a major factor in my work.  As I left school and enrolled in art college I continued to write to Sarah who in turn continued to guide me, also teaching me of the importance of self promotion. During my college years I worked as a quick fire cartoonist at events and parks and without a doubt it was Sarah’s practices that I errr... ‘Borrowed’.  I’m happy to say that we are still in contact and she’s still creating quality caricatures in her studio but who is she? What’s her story?

Sarah Bailey- Caricaturist, 1994.
As previously stated Sarah is a caricaturist that hails from Coventry who proudly boasts, "Twenty years of caricature and never been sued!" who has long been into drawing in fact she told me that she wasn’t, “long out of diapers” when she started and that it was more of a, “compulsion to draw rather than a simple hobby”.  Her drawing surfaces included standard paper, pavements, walls... anything that happened to be near her crayon! She became particularly interested in faces and all the different expressions, angles, beards, glasses + varying permutations and  would spend many a happy hours doodling people, without them realising in restaurants, shopping precincts,  classrooms (in turn improving  the speed of her drawings, something that would prove to be vital in her profession) and apparently she would get  into trouble when teachers discovered that she had in fact been doodling them instead of writing notes on the Battle of Hastings! She attended a girls school, which was horrible by all accounts as during her final years the art teacher  who had taken a dislike to  her did everything she could to undermine her confidence instead nurturing her talents. Yet despite this she attended Art College in Nuneaton which proved to be great experience for her because they had encouraging lecturers there she told me, “ I didn't shine particularly but I did enjoy learning new skills and trying new mediums  including sculpture, photography, pottery, fashion etc” and once she had acquired a diploma in art she decided to “lay down my drawing tools to expand the mind a little!” and went on to higher education, achieving degrees in English ,drama, psychology and media studies. However the drawing tools didn't lie idle for too long, she  found herself doodling her fellow students and lecturers ( she found it easier to concentrate on a lecture while drawing) “It was like a nervous tic that I couldn't control, Luckily,  my disorder was appreciated by the people around me”.  She did a bit of busking during the holidays, drawing caricatures in Torquay and Stratford then temped for a few months to pay off her college debts before setting herself up as a full time caricaturist in 1990, travelling the country attending the craft fair/agricultural show circuit, drawing quick caricatures from life and offering coloured caricatures through the post from photos before hiring herself out as party entertainment at weddings, barmitzvahs, private parties and corporate events and she’s never looked back.   entertaining guests and providing them with a unique memento of that occasion.
Sarah Bailey- Caricaturist & Arfon Jones- Protégé, 1994.
As mediums changed she has embraced social media and now uses a tablet for creating portraits touring the nation on what she calls, “a one-woman crusade to make people see themselves in a whole new light
When asked about what she remembered about the time we met back in 1994 she answered, “While I was at a welsh agricultural show I met a cute young kid named Arfon who stood glued  to my side for 4 days chatting and observing me at work. He was bright and entertaining + useful -translating the Welsh heckles into English! I saw in him the same seeds of art enthusiasm that I had had as a youngster- but he had far more talent!” (Her words not mine!) Either way I thank her, for the kind words and inspiration, wisdom and guidance over the years. Be sure to check out her site and see her work for yourself, you can also find her on Facebook and YouTube or better yet hire her for your event! Tell her Arfon sent you!
Sarah's portraits of me over the years. 
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Monster Memories: Frank-N –Stein Bar & Grill

Scream Queen Brinke Stevens as an “Elvira-type mascot” for 
Frank-N –Stein Bar & Grill, 
Femme Fatales magazine, Spring 1994.
Not really a monster ‘memory’ as such as it seems it never actually existed but I was intrigued by this article which featured in the spring 1994 edition of Femme Fatales magazine featuring scream queen legend Brinke Stevens and a proposed restaurant called Frank-N –Stein Bar & Grill.  Writer/actor Delbert Winans is the founder of the Frank-N –Stein Bar & Grill, “A restaurant that serves as a historical overview of horror and science fiction films.” Winans negotiating for Burbank location, intends to “decorate the facilities with classic posters and authentic film props. The more graphic stuff- Things from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and likeness of Linda Blair, hanging from the ceiling in a re-creation of The Exorcist- Will be limited to the bar area. Life-size wax figures will be sculpted by Henry Alvarez, whose work has surfaced in The Witches of Eastwick, The Thing, and three Robocop movies.” Brinke Stevenshas  has been brought in as an Elvira-type mascot. Fans who would like an illustrated brochure should send a sase to: Wolf’s Head Productions, 1540 West Gaylord, Long Beach, Calif. 90813-1233.” This place sounded amazing! I hadn’t heard of it before and so I turned to the internet, and yes, you guessed it... Nothing! Well, not much at least as it seems it never actually got off the ground, a real shame as I think this place would have been fantastic!  The only thing I could find was an article on the New Jersey Real-Time News website written by Donald Wittkowski posted on March 5, 2011 entitled, Atlantic City may get horror-themed wax museum and restaurant and it mentions, A development group hopes to capitalize on the public's fascination with the lifelike qualities of wax figures by combining a wax museum with another public obsession — eating. The waxworks-themed restaurant concept is being pitched to casinos in Atlantic City as the developers narrow their search for a location.” A gentleman called Joe Camarota, an engineer and former casino construction official was part of the development group said to have been working on the idea of melding the horror genre with a restaurant to create something called the "Hollywood Horror Cafe" since 1995 having teamed up with renowned West Coast wax sculptor and special effects expert Henry Alvarez and movie fine arts collector Delbert Winans to pursue a similar concept. What is particularly interesting about this partnership is that this group had formed after they were all introduced to each other through Sara Karloff, the daughter of Boris Karloff and as if that wasn’t enough their legal assistance was provided by Bela Lugos’s son, Bela Lugos Jr  a California attorney! It seemed that both Sara Karloff and Bela Lugosi Jr. had also agreed to help the group through their entertainment industry contacts and with licensing deals for horror memorabilia from the Karloff and Lugosi estates! Sadly Winans passed away in 2009 before seeing his vision become a reality but Alvarez and Camarota were continuing the partnership. The article explains how during the project’s development the company had originally been called  Gothic Entertainment Group and explains that before settling on the name "Hollywood Horror Cafe it had also been called " the "Gothic Grille" and "Frank-N-Stein Bar and Grille" (I believe ‘Monster Beastro’ was also used). It seemed that Alvarez was convinced that a waxworks-themed restaurant would be a popular with tourists in Atlantic City believing that a multimedia attraction would help pull the city out of its four-year economic slump, "For me, it's a big tourist area. They're trying to regenerate interest there. People are always interested in going to a wax museum to see celebrities." So how are they getting on? Does anyone out there know how this project is progressing? People are missing out on an amazing attraction here! Comment below or e-mail arfon@arfon.net if you have any additional information!

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

NEW! Sutekh the last of the Osirans figures!


I’ve wanted to share this project with you all for some time! One of my all time favourite Doctor Who adventures is the classic 4th Doctor story ‘Pyramids of Mars’ from 1975 so when I was invited by my good friend Brian Ugor in collaboration with Etc Toys to provide the backing board artwork for a limited edition Sutekh the Destroyer figures I was delighted! I’m sure you will agree that the finished product looks amazing!  Handmade and individually produced, even Gabriel Woolf, Sutekh himself approves and the first batch is all set! 
E-mail Brian for more information at 
themaster78@optonline.net 
and tell him Arfon sent you!

Glows in the dark!

Sutekh himself Gabriel Woolf!
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Sir Patrick Moore's Wax Figure

Clearing out some things in the studio I found a London Planetarium visitor guide from 1996, sadly not from actually visiting there but from a charity shop... I had always wanted to but the opportunity never presented itself to me, so I had to make do with the visitor guide. I read through it a fair few times and found it to be a great source of reference for my work but there was one photograph in particular that intrigued me, located at the bottom of the pages 2 and 3 was a photo of Sir Patrick Moore with a waxwork likeness of himself, which he had unveiled at Madame Tussauds back in April 1992 to be displayed at the Planetarium. I’m not even sure why this particular image stayed with me but for ten years I vowed to make visiting the London Planetarium a priority but alas it was not to be and by 2006 it was too late, when the London Evening Standard announced Madame Tussauds‘s plan to stop showing astronomical presentations as it had done continually since 1958. Instead replacing it with a show devoted to the world of celebrity! Schools and astronomical organisations (myself included) despaired when Diane Moon of the Planetarium said that the newly named London Auditorium would be transformed into a show that would "get into the heart of celebrity”.
It seemed that despite the Planetarium’s upgraded to a full-colour Digistar 3 system back in 2004 it had failed to attract the public’s interest. Patrick himself concerned that London was now the only major city in the world without a Planetarium spoke out about the announcement to the BBC saying it was, “most regrettable" while Madame Tussauds attempted to smooth things over by permitting free entry to the Planetarium during its penultimate week offering one last hurrah before it would be replaced by a show about celebrities made by Aardman Animations. Although I missed out on experiencing the ’Laserium’, the Digistar II or III I did however get to see that wax figure in 2006, not in London but 89 miles away in Chichester, West Sussex. 

The South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre in Chichester,is an educational facility run by both volunteers and astronomy enthusiasts and it was opened to the public on the 30th July 2001. Patrick had been a keen advocate of the project, serving as one of its patrons while working at having a star theater constructed and installed.  It contains a Viewlex-Minolta S-IIb star projector (dating from 1977) that had been retired by the Armagh Planetarium (where Patrick was served as director). The projector had not been used for some years but Dr John Mason (a former president of the British Astronomical Association) was able to put it back into working order and it’s well worth a visit!  Professor Brian May once described this building as, “one of the best possible living monuments to Patrick’s lifelong commitment to Astronomy” and I very much agree with this statement as it inspires the next generation of Astronomers each year just as Patrick did for over half a century and I very much urge you to visit. As you walk in, there to greet you is Patrick’s wax figure! So, I might have been robbed of my chance to visit the London Planetarium, but I got to see a star show and Patrick’s wax figure courtesy of the South Downs Planetarium.
With the wax figure at the South Downs Planetarium, 2006.
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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