Thursday 17 December 2009

The 2009 end of year full circle revue

A review of the year is an excellent way to share some of the highlights of 2009 and allow me the opportunity to include some events that accrued before I started this blog in September.

I would start each New Year vowing to see the Mona Lisa before I was 30… Cutting it a little fine Beth and I visited Paris a week before my 30th birthday! I had visited France before but I never had the opportunity to visit the sights of Paris so, we spent a magical weekend there, wandering the corridors of the Louvre and the snow covered embankments of the river Seine.
The Louvre delivered all the riches of Renaissance that I expected. I wandered in awe amongst all the works housed within this magnificent building, the perfectly sculpted figures reflected in the marble floor pointed the way to the famous Venus de Milo. I have always admired the Renaissance particularly the paintings of Botticelli and Da Vinci which I had appreciated for many years, it was marvellous to able to study them so closely in such relaxed surroundings! We then spotted the Mona Lisa the same way one would spot a familiar face in a crowd. She remained a safe distance from the visitors but not so far that we couldn’t experience that famous smile for ourselves, she certainly was worth the trip!

Of course no visit to Paris would be complete without visiting the Eiffel Tower. Not being particularly hard to find, we made our way along the snow-covered streets of Paris, weaving amongst the beautifully historic buildings. A well-earned crepe and hot chocolate soon brought warmth back to our faces as we admired the iconic wonder of 19th century French architecture that is Tour Eiffel! As we made our way back along the Seine occasionally glancing back at the tower that slowly began to light up the Paris sky.

Having sampled various styles throughout the ages, Sunday morning seemed the best time to experience the gothic beauty of the Notre Dame Cathedral. So fantastic was this building that we felt compelled to walk round it several times to be sure we hadn’t missed a single detail. The snow crunched underfoot as we admired the famous gargoyles that have looked over Paris for centuries, wondering what the ones that had broken or weathered might have looked like. Until the bells chiming the 12th hour reminded us that we had to bid 'au revoir’ to Paris and make our way back to the airport and return to old Blighty!

A return visit to London and to one of my favourite locations, the Natural History Museum, for an evening of good food and live music offered in the museum’s central hall. We sat under the famous Diplodocus skeleton’s tail and raised our glasses to Charles Darwin whose statue had been moved to the central hall in honour of his 200th birthday (One can only imagine what Richard Owen would have said!). Having finished our meal we had a wander around the Mary Anning Room to marvel at the great specimens on display including the Ichthyosaur, the Plesiosaurus and the Rhomaleosaurus and another favourite of mine the Megatherium or Giant Sloth. One of the largest mammals to ever walk the earth sent over from South America by Charles Darwin and examined by Richard Owen.

I attended a lecture given by the great professor Heinz Wolff who was invited to speak as part of Shrewsbury’s celebration of Darwin’s 200th anniversary. Professor Heinz Wolff BSc. FIEE. FIBES FRCP (hon) FRSA is the world's first bio-engineer. He was director of the Division of Biological Engineering at the National Institute for Medical Research and Clinical Research Centre of the Medical Research Council. He also founded the Institute of Bio-engineering at Brunel University for over 30 years he has been involved with Television and Radio, mainly being remembered for 'The Great Egg Race', 'Young Scientists of the Year' and 'Great Experiments, Which Changed the World'.
As Professor Wolff remarked, he had been invited to speak about Evolution but pointed out that he couldn’t perform experiments in evolution, it would take many centuries and no one would be prepared to sit through it! But instead he gave a fascinating lecture about ‘The evolution of photography’ and William Henry Fox Talbot the pioneer that revolutionised the world of photography which paved the way for microchips and the making of the 20th century.
As expected from the Professor, he performed several experiments during the lecture. He demonstrated the photographic process using a replica studio camera made from a box, tubing and a lens having taken a photograph of a member of the audience he proceeded to develop the photo, mixing the chemicals needed as he gave the lecture. Then moving on to the development of the digital camera a process he demonstrated using a 48 pixel camera he made from Ping-Pong balls, photo sensitive circuitry and a box! A fascinating lecture, that made the information accessible to everyone in the audience.

We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing.
To mark this occasion a limited edition postcard was produced ‘July 20 1969’ was painted to mark the anniversary of the first manned mission to the Moon and their safe return to Earth. The painting both depicts the Apollo 11 taking off from Earth with the Moon in the night sky and man’s first steps on the Moon with the Earth in the distance. The painting has a British ‘take’ on it as it also features Sir Patrick Moore toasting the mission representing not only the voice that commentated on the live pictures for the United Kingdom but also acknowledging his involvement in the mission by providing the maps used by NASA. Signed, numbered and a limited edition of 30 a few remain and are only available through ebay

I experienced the marvel of ‘Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular’ at the Liverpool's Echo Arena. Based on the award-winning BBC series, Walking with Dinosaurs was a stunning theatrical event. Narrated by Huxley the on set palaeontologist the show recreated the 200 million-year reign of the dinosaurs using both costumes and animatronics. Beginning in the Triassic period we moved through to the Jurassic and on to the Cretaceous. We watched the first flowers bloom and wither before our eyes as the animals fought for survival and supremacy until their demise!
We were introduced to several dinosaurs such as the Ankylosaurus, the Brachiosaurus and the Stegosaurus to name but a few. But undoubtedly the star of the show for me was the Tyrannosaurus-Rex! She pounded on to the stage to protect her young to the amazement of the audience! Driven on wheels and operated by three people controlling body movement she was an amazingly convincing site as the roared over our heads! An amazing show ‘Spectacular’ was an understatement!

© Arfon Jones 2009

Sunday 13 December 2009

Operation Christmas Duck

I am happy to report that Operation Bath Duck is going very well. The project has received a positive response from many contributors from across the globe! So much so I decided to address this and make it the feature of this years Christmas ‘card’.

Christmas ducks were created in the same manner as Scout ducks. A festive edition of 20 complete with Christmas red plumage and wearing a pretty green bow! A Christmas card with a difference these ducks not only look cheerful they can also be placed on the mantelpiece and will not fall off if a sudden draft should occur. Each duck supports a label that both wishes the recipient seasonal greeting and invites him or her to photograph the duck in a Christmas setting special to them to be posted on an online ‘festive foto gallery’

To assure maximum ‘Christmasy-ness’ each duck had its bow tied on individually to the sounds of ‘Come all ye faithful’ and Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ in the light of a festive fragrance candle. Once all the bows were tied and each hand written Christmas greeting was added the duck was then carefully wrapped and placed in a box along with a traditional candy cane to the sounds of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ and Bing Crosby’s ‘Let it Snow, let it snow, Let it snow” Each box was then numbered and labelled then stored underneath the Christmas tree until they could be delivered.
For progress please read this post Operation: Christmas Duck ‘CONCLUSION'
© Arfon Jones 2009

Thursday 29 October 2009


Saturday October 31st 1992 was a memorable day for me. I had always been an avid supporter of Halloween particularly the custom of ‘Trick or Treating’. Being 12 I (reluctantly) announced that this was to be the final time and I was retiring from ‘Trick or Treating. But, as there was no school the next day I could stay out as long as I wanted! The night was mine and this was going to be the big one!
However, I decided to be back home by 9:00pm because there was a television show that had caught my interest it was called GhostWatch.

Having previously viewed the BBC's CrimeWatch and Badger Watch we thought this show was in the same vein. And so with the faint smell of the turnip jack lantern’s candle burning out in the air we sat down as a family to watch the show. We missed the credits at the beginning believing that the show was ‘live’ were convinced that we could see the shape of a figure behind the curtains. I remember being engulfed in the show, turning to my parents and saying, “If this is real we are watching television history!” As the show progressed and Pipes unleashed his power and all hell broke loose it became apparent to us that it wasn’t real but we enjoyed the programme nevertheless.

I was right though, it did make television history. Stephen Volk’s Ghostwatch became one of the most controversial British television events ever. The BBC was undated with phone calls and letters from viewers both angry and scared. They were criticised by the newspapers for terrifying the Nation and so the BBC after assuring everyone that Michael Parkinson and Sarah Greene were safe vowed to never repeat the show again. After many years of wishing that I had recorded it and discussing it with others that also remembered it I was delighted to discover that British Film Institute had released it on DVD! 17 years later I was finally able to sit down and watch it again, all the memories of that Halloween night came flooding back to me!

There are behind-the-scenes information on the dvd along with a photo of actor Keith Ferrari made up as Pipes in all his glory! I couldn’t resist sketching him standing behind Michael Parkinson on the Ghostwatch set, and so ‘Ghostwatching’ became my little tribute to my favourite Halloween special.

Fans of the film will also be interested to know of filmmaker Richard Lawden's project Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains a retrospective documentary about the programme that is currently in production.
Show your support and visit the site, share your memories of October 31st 1992… Happy Halloween

© Arfon Jones 2009. All images are copyrighted throughout the world

Thursday 15 October 2009

So long and thanks for all the fish…

Courtesy of the Guardian
Sunday the 11th October Beth and I embarked on The Southbank Centre in London wearing dressing gowns and carrying towels. We attended Hitchcon 09 an event celebrating 30 years of the ever-popular sci-fi comedy, The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and its creator the late, great Douglas Adams. Commemorative towels with “A hoopy frood always knows were his towel is” printed on were given to the first 150 fans that arrived in their dressing gowns we were then invited to join the largest-ever photocall of Hitchhiker’s fans outside the Centre. We looked over the Thames as the press photographed everyone in high spirits holding out their thumbs and waving their towels in the air. Having had a cup of tea we then entered the Centre where an exhibition of Hitchhiker’s memorabilia and props from the TV series were on display accompanied by the Bath which Douglas Adams claimed he would lie in when he was stuck for ideas. I had the pleasure of meeting the man responsible for the animated sequences in the TV series Mr Rob Lord who kindly signed a picture of a Babel Fish for me. We then took our seats for ‘The Douglas Adams Chat Show’ hosted by Clive Anderson who interviewed a panel of Hitchhiker’s experts and friends of Douglas Adams Simon Jones (Arthur Dent) Simon Brett (producer of the original radio series) Dirk Maggs and Ed Victor (Douglas Adams' agent) they shared fascinating stories about the great man, his work and his legacy. Simon Jones was then on hand meeting and greeting and signing autographs.

Eoin Colfer author of Artemis Fowl was commissioned to write a the sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s series which he had gladly accepted. He gave an exclusive reading from And Another Thing… at the event he later signed copies of the book offered to fans a day before the official release date. Then came the main event! The original radio cast of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy were reunited for a special one-off performance adaptation by Dirk Maggs! Joining Simon Jones were Geoffrey McGivern (Ford Prefect) Mark Wing-Davey (Zaphod Beeblebrox) Stephen Moore (Marvin) and Susan Sheridan (Trillian) accompanied by Andrew Sachs as the narrator and Harry Shearer as Slartibartfast with Dirk Maggs providing the sound effects! The cast re-created classic moments from the saga delivering fan favourite lines and singing ‘Marvin The Paranoid Android’ The show ended with the cast taking their bows acknowledging a photograph of Douglas Adams projected overhead to a standing ovation from the audience. A truly magical performance enjoyed by all.

© Arfon Jones 2009. All images are copyrighted throughout the world

Thursday 24 September 2009

Handel Evans: Artistic Roots

I was recently asked if there were other artists in the family. My second cousin once removed was an accomplished artist his name was Handel Evans (3 April 1932- 5 January 1999) in his lifetime he created an extensive body of fine paintings, etchings and drawings. That moved from figuration to abstraction with a figurative element. Though success in Britain eluded him he had greater successes overseas, particularly in Germany. I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I was able to learn a great deal about his work through his mother, my great aunt Marian Evans-Quinn who passed away in 2006. Two years before she died she presented me with a catalogue documenting Handel’s work that I will always treasure as she had written inside;
“ Arfon, this clever and very delightful artist to whom I am dedicating Handel’s catalogue of three decades, will live from strength to strength through his chosen career”

Handel Cromwell Evans was born in Pontypridd, Glamorgan Wales. He was named after the famous composer after his father Joeseph had conducted the Messiah a few days before his birth. Joeseph was a licentiate of the London College of Music who had descended from a family of singers and was said to have had a baritone voice. He had however failed to win a scholarship for his singing in 1934, prompting a nervous breakdown and vowed "never to sing another note in my life". His mother was a designer and fitter from the West End couture houses. The love of music was passed to Handel at an early age and was taught music. He passed his piano exam at the age of four, he was so small he had to be lifted onto his stool by the examiner!

Despite his skills in music he decided to concentrate on his art he studied painting at Cardiff collage of Art from 1949 to 1954, taught by David Tinker and Eric Malthouse. His early works ranged from carbon portraits to gouache. He never strayed from music however as he became a licentiate of the Royal Academy of music. Mentoring under Clifford H. Lewis, who urged his parents to sell everything if necessary to fund his study of the Alexander Technique, to improve his posture.

'The Vaults' by Handel Evans © University of Wales 1989
Having completed his studies he later moved to Grenada in the Caribbean and from (1959-61) where he developed his style and taught art. Producing such complex works as 'the Caribbean Village'. He avoided the 'Avant Guard Hype' He later held a one-man exhibition at the institute of Jamaica, in Kingston in 1962. After his return from the Caribbean, his work changed direction. He was fascinated by the technological advances that had been made while he had been away. The increasing interaction between man and his invention intrigued him, believing that it had become the characteristic phenomenon of the 20th century, and with its formidable potential for good and evil was presenting a great dilemma for our age.
He produced a series of 100 drawings entitled 'Employees' demonstrating sympathy for man's machines and also man's rejection of them. After a period in Germany and Italy he attended the prestigious British school in Rome until 1963. After further painting in the West Indies, London, Italy, the US and Canada. 1968 he had an exhibition at the Lyford Clay gallery in the Bahamas.

From 1975 - 76 he studied etching with Stanley Williams Hayter at Ateleir 17, in Paris. In 1978 Dr. Eugene Garfield founder of the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) in Phildelphia, commissioned a portrait. Handel created'Interpenetrations'. A study painted in oil and canvas Handel remarked that the painting was a,"visual metaphor of the relationship between mind and information"

"lnterpenetrations" by Handel Evans © University of Wales 1978
He then moved to Germany to be close to nature and its respect for the arts, as his work never really ‘took off’ in Wales, the galleries were never interested in his work. And being in the centre of Europe meant he could keep close contact throughout the world. He was fluent in German and would make puns from English/ German vocabulary. In 1984 Handel exhibited his work at the kleine gallery in Cuxhaven, and was firmly established in Germany by 1990. Still keeping close contact with his mother whom made all of his clothes. Handel died at the Thanet hospital on January 5th 1999 and was buried on Febuary 27th at Ramsgate Kent.

Shortly after his death a memorial show was held at the Korbach Museum in Germany. In 2001 he was posthumously awarded the first Contemporary Culture Award by the National Welsh-American Foundation. In 2004, The Handel Evans Collection, Archive and Trust Fund was established at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth ‘Interpenetration’s was donated by Professor Eugene Garfield and added to the archive of a thousand items ranging from paintings and drawings along with his two pianos (One believed to have belonged to a high-ranking Nazi Party official).

Described by close friend, professor of Art in Wales Dr. Alistair Crawford as a "tall, erect, elegant, handsome man with a well groomed beard. A charming, debonair man with an inner attraction."
Fondly remembered as an artist often having spurts of vegetarianism, who would ask for the return of his packing materials, often hiding his strict personality. A ruthlessly self-obsessed man, sometimes bitter about 'celebrated' artists. A closet workaholic, driven by obsession, a highly disciplined artist, and an absolute perfectionist.

© Arfon Jones 2009. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday 18 September 2009

Published Works

This was a very exciting week as we saw the releases of ‘Sarkylocks and the Three Bears’ written by multi-award winning comedy writer Dean Wilkinson and illustrated by yours truly. It’s always gratifying to see ones work in print and this was no exception. Sarkylocks and the Three Bears is the first title in 21st Century Fairy Folktales series. Short, illustrated, comedy books aimed at 9+ readers. They are modern re-workings of traditional tales, each with a social message.
The book teaches us that ‘It’d be a very boring world if we were all exactly the same, and one young girl finds that out in this hilarious new take on the classic fairy tale. Sarkylocks comes to realise that it’s wrong to lower someone’s self esteem by making jokes about them just because they’re different to what you think people should be like. Sarky learns that differences are to be celebrated, and you yourself will feel a lot happier and more confident if you make someone else feel the same way. One nice word is worth a million nasty ones. The book can be enjoyed at home or in a school environment as each story has it's own set of free lesson plans and lesson fillers for teachers on-line.

Dean Wilkinson has a long successful career writing for British television comedy he was the creator and writer of CBBC TV’s Bad Penny and the smash hit sketch show Stupid. His writing credits include The Big Breakfast, Zig & Zag, Byker Grove, Timmy Towers, Comic Relief, Harry Hill’s Shark Infested Custard and Planet Sketch to name but a few. He was Ant and Dec’s writer and scripted the multi award winning SMTV Live and Chums and he also wrote material and Stephen Fry’s scripts for the Sony game LittleBigPlanet. For more information about the book and to order your copy please visit wilkinsonpress the book is also available through Amazon.

ChinaBridge 2009 by Lindenblatt, Gunnar was also released this month a fascinating inter-cultural guide to investment between China and Central Europe (Austria, Germany and Switzerland) As the book explains that
China is the “workbench” of Europe. Following the big industrial enterprises, now more and more medium-sized companies are locating into China. For years, the Chinese economy has been enjoying annual double-digit growth rates. Conversely, Chinese business people are dealing more confidently in the European market and introducing their own brands. The question remains for those yet to make such a leap weather to conduct a business venture across the divide or not? The first part of this book answers this question and gives specific instructions, not only regarding economic issues but also covering cultural differences, providing knowledge which may be essential to the success of such a venture. Examples of successes and failures in China/European business relationships are found through the publication with many key analyses of the positive and negative aspects and experiences covered. The second part lists companies and institutions, which have already successfully finished the “bridge building” between East and West, from banks to export companies to suppliers.
Also available through Amazon.

Ancient Lights By Sir Patrick Moore
Written by legendary Astronomer, National treasure and all round gentleman Sir Patrick Moore when he was just twenty years old but remained unpublished until now! A wonderful adventure yarn set in a bygone era. Published by STAR-Distribution only 500 were printed each serially numbered not available in the shops only available through STAR-Distribution

© Arfon Jones 2009. All images are copyrighted throughout the world

Thursday 17 September 2009

Cerebration and Celebration: Off to the Asylum!

Organised, by the Victorian Steampunk Society The Asylum was the first Steampunk Convivial in the United Kingdom. Held at the Lawn in Lincoln a former psychiatric hospital opened in 1820 the event promised an entertaining weekend Steampunk-ness and they certainly kept their word!
On the Saturday morning I unveiled my latest invention and entry for the grand exhibition’s contraptions contest ‘The Cellular Condenser Ray’ specially constructed to help the naturalist to decrease a dinosaur in its tracks! Once the animal has been reduced it can be contained in a brass cage (also included) assuring high number of live specimen at a fraction of the storage space. The gun seemed to go down well (helped partly by the caged demonstration Tyrannosaurus Rex).

As the public viewed the inventions Beth and I attended two fascinating lectures presented by Physicist/ Astrophysicist Dr Emma J King PhD entitled ‘Electromagnetics: The Science and Mystery of Electromagnetism’ and ‘Only Forward: The Physics of Time Travel’. We followed this with a spot of lunch as we watched other attendees play croquet. Having perused the Bazaar Eclectica we then ventured outside and discovered The Sir Joseph Banks Conservatory named in honour of the great British explorer/ naturalist. A truly wonderful place to visit that offered us an excellent opportunity to photograph our costumes in a tropical environment! A cup of tea beneath the palms proceeded with a stroll around the green and then a rest under a Horse-Chestnut tree. We managed to tear ourselves away and enter the hall for the costume competition I did not envy the judges, as they were all amazing.

We all reconvened at 7:30pm to attend the Empire Ball. Everyone dressed to impress attractive ladies wearing beautifully made dresses and ball gowns accompanied by gentlemen wearing equally impressive attire as the writer Robert Rankin later commented that we were the best dressed people in the country! Greeted by the organisers of the event and we then took our seats for an evening of live entertainment…and a few glasses of wine. The winners of the Contraptions Contest were announced and I was awarded the Brunel award for Ingenuity (of which I proudly excepted!) I wore my medal with pride as I waltzed with my beloved to the music of Ghostfire before the night drew to a close. And so ended a truly spectacular weekend of art, science and technology! Surrounded by likeminded folk, history and creativity! Met lovely, interesting people saw amazing works.

© Arfon Jones 2009. All images are copyrighted throughout the world

Operation: Bath Duck

The idea I had back in 2002 was a simple one. 100 plastic bath ducks complete with a web site information dropped into the sea where they would be carried by the current and would eventually be washed ashore at a different point on the globe. Anyone that discovers a ‘scout duck’ would then log on to the address provided were they would learn of my work and then ‘register’ their duck on the web site. I would have a business card with a difference, one that grants me world-wide adverting. “Why a duck?” I was asked well. Aside from being buoyant a bath duck is also ascetically pleasing guaranteeing that a member of the public would notice it on a beach pick it up and take it home with them a sure way to prevent polluting the beach it was washed up on. Two ferrying companies were contacted and asked if they would participate in the experiment allowing the use of their vessels to introduce the ducks to the ocean. Both declined, expressed concerns about “dumping” plastic into the ocean (although, they would not object if I were to throw a bottle) I pointed out that a member of the public would pick up a duck. They didn’t want to know. The experiment was put on hold.

2009, Operation: Bath Duck was still an idea on paper. On reflection I had grown concerned of the environmental risks poised to marine life, which may try to eat the ducks before they made it ashore. Having reviewed the experiment I was confidant that that a bath duck would be taken home if located so I decided that the ‘scout ducks’ would instead be strategically placed around the globe. These were ‘business cards’ after all, and business cards are usually left or given to another! Now living in an age were we all have cameras in our phones and photos can be uploaded to computers I decided that having discovered the duck the new owner could also submit a photograph of the duck’s new home when registering it. Operation: Bath Duck was in effect!

The success of the experiment depended largely on the internet, I decided to use the social networking sites and invite people to vote for the most eye pleasing colour for a bath duck, this being an important factor as they needed to be noticed by a member of the public. The colours were ‘classic yellow’ or ‘green’ interestingly the winning colour was green. Scout Ducks were to be green wearing a tag with the experiment written out on one side, contact details on the other with a serial number located on the base.

That was 2 months ago, Operation Bath Duck is in effect. 4 Scout Ducks have reported back. Images are being uploaded to the gallery and a group has been set up on facebook allowing its members the opportunity to monitor progress, and upload other photos of their scout ducks adventures.

© Arfon Jones 2009. All images are copyrighted throughout the world


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