Wednesday 25 May 2011

Struggle of a 6ft Tall Ape Descendant

Tomorrow is Towel Day! Celebrated every 25th of May the day pays tribute to the late author Douglas Adams. Fans around the universe carry a towel with them in reference to ‘The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy’. It will be 10 years since Douglas Adam’s untimely death to commemorate this and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the BBC television series I have created, ‘Struggle of a 6ft Tall Ape Descendant

Painted in acrylic on card we see Arthur Dent (played by Simon Jones)’s reaction to the Heart of Gold’s tea as Douglas Adams watches over him. I started the painting in 2009 that same year Simon Jones signed the piece at Hitchcon 09. It has been incorporated with Douglas Adams’s signature.

The piece was selected to feature in The Jaggeroth: Online Sci-Fi Art Exhibition a permanent exhibition dedicated to Sci-Fi art launched in conjunction with Hitchhiker’s Week.

© Arfon Jones 2011. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Waltz on the Wye

This month I had the privilege of being invited to Waltz on the Wye, Wales’ first Steampunk/ Neo Victorian Weekender/Festival. Based in the beautiful medieval town of Chepstow, located on the River Wye on the England/Wales border. It promised an opportunity to gather as a community, dress up to the nines and have great fun! I had never been to Chepstow so I was really looking forward to this. On the Friday night everyone gathered on the Riverside Gardens alongside the Wye where live music was provided on the Victorian themed bandstand cutesy of Ellethia and band Pocketwatch.
Conveniently placed next to the bandstand were the Strumpets with Crumpets who were on hand to provide delicious crumpets and hot tea. Once we had wiped the jam from our chins we made our way to the Drill Hall for a magic lantern show courtesy of The Travelling Light Magic Lantern Company! We all watched in wonder, as the itinerant projectionists shared his collection of authentic Victorian/Edwardian slides many of which were hand painted and capable of movement each one accompanied by live music and performance it was a truly amazing show.

Saturday, having donned my new lab coat we made our way Chepstow castle as my collection of shrunken, frozen dinosaurs were required once more for the event’s contraption exhibition. With the ‘Cellular Condenser Ray’, ‘The Glaciation Ray’ and ‘The Patented Cryo-preservation Curiosity Cabinet’ on display I was able to explore the amazing of array of contraptions on display. The first exhibit was the brilliant Jarkman’s ‘The Eyes! The Eyes!’ a single mechanical eye contained within a box that followed anyone its eye line delighting the crowds stopping only for the occasionally blink! Then there was Roseanne Wakely’s gorgeous, fully working street organ, with a beautiful peacock adorned the front. When Roseanne gave a demonstration of the organ it drew hordes of people into the room to investigate further, along with the organ Roseanne’s steampunk kaleidoscope was on display as was her 1:25 Scale model of a submarine. Illuminating the contraptions was organiser Andy Dingley’s Pufferfish lamp which both horrified and entertained visitors. It was nice to see the nixie clock and rocket pack again. Andy’s perpetual mobile stopped many in their tracks eager to unlock the secrets of its perpetual spinning!James Richardson-Brown’s contraptions graced the windowsill, sitting proudly amongst his fine works was K-1909 a steampunk variant on the Doctor’s faithful robotic companion that appealed to visitors old and new.Last but not least was Matt McCall’s beautiful display of contraptions and inventions, the corner they occupied was often frequented by steampunks eager to acquire his beautifully made devices! There was an amazing atmosphere in the contraption room as steampunks and the general public (visiting the castle with no knowledge of what steampunk was) weaving their way around the room. I was pleased to see them take an interest and discussing the pieces checking to see if the ice was real, at times a gust of wind would cause the fog to rise from the cabinet, which added an extra thrill to people observing it at the time.The contraption contest was a public vote, visitors were encouraged to vote for their favourite device the winner was James Richardson-Brown’s K-1909. The dinosaurs came second with Roseanne Wakely’s organ coming third. After the contest was over I was given one of the voting slips by the organisers which I was absolutely delighted with. It was a delightful exhibition I was honoured to be amongst such creative people some of whom I was able to catch up with at the Waltz on the Wye Cabaret and Ball that evening.

‘The Cellular Condenser Ray’

‘The Glaciation Ray’

‘The Patented Cryo-preservation Curiosity Cabinet’

Compere Miss Lily Belle introduced the crowd to a the musical talents of Jarmean?, The Great Dandini, Matt Pang and Pink Kitten Dance School Can Can Troupe with burlesque performance by Velveteen Hussy and Lily Belle herself rounded off by Rogora Khart played out the evening. It is no wonder that the following day we decided to take it easy! After an early lunch we explored the castle and the town’s museum followed by a walk along the Wye it was impossible to not admire something along the way! After another visit to Strumpets with Crumpets and once again wiping the jam from our chins we made our way to the Drill Hall to look around the Mechanised Market! It was impossible to not admire the fine craftsmanship on offer, every stall lovingly decorated with attention to detail. After a sampling some of the products available on Prof. T Bottom’s stall and finally settling on a bottle of Wenches Mead the raffle was announced… imagine my joy on winning a crossbow and a of carpet bowls! We had a fantastic time in Chepstow, we met a great many interesting and creative people and saw wondrous things and we thank the organisers Rachel and Andy for a fantastic weekend, see you all next year perhaps?

Incidentally, Crinoline Robot has a far better written review with much nicer photos taken by Peter Gettins here
© Arfon Jones 2011. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday 16 May 2011

The original Fozzie Bear

I found these photos on my old camera taken back in 2006 at the Teddy Bear Museum in Stratford-upon-Avon (now relocated to Polka Theatre in Wimbledon). As we made our way through this lovely museum (created by Gyles Brandreth and his wife) there, above the door was the original Fozzie Bear! donated to the museum by one of my childhood heroes Jim Henson! I have always loved the Muppets and the Henson legacy and Fozzie has always been one of my favourites so much so that I was completely taken aback when I saw him! I looked up at him with my mouth open in awe and then I did something that I shouldn’t have done… I ignored the “no photography” sign and took a couple of quick shots!
I quickly put my camera away again and walked out through the door as the curator (Mrs. Brandreth?) who had undoubtedly seen the camera flash proceeded to gave me a ‘long hard stare’. I’m not proud of what I did, and I apologise here and now, but give me a break! THE Fozzie Bear!

© Arfon Jones 2011. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Comic Consciousness: A Comic Festival Flashback!

'Comics 99' was devised and produced by Kev F Sutherland and held at the Watershed Media Centre and Swallow Royal, Bristol the first of five annual events devoted to comics that ran until 2004. I hadn’t been to convention for over 3 years and was eager to go to one again, and so embarked on the long train trip to Bristol with my good friends Dave and Dan in April of 1999. Had a great time too but sadly my attempt to document it went awry, the photographs didn’t turn out so well with only this one being clear ‘ish’.
Never mind we will always have the memories. Here are six of those memories from Comics 99…

1) The World's Biggest Comic. Produced especially for Comics 99 the world's biggest comic featured the work of 100 leading comic artists of the time. It featured on Blue Peter the week leading up to the convention and at the end of the convention the artwork used for each panel was auctioned off individually with all proceeds going to charity. 

2) One Cosplayer! We didn’t even call it that back then! I saw one woman dressed as Catwoman and that was it!

3) Staz Johnson seemed annoyed with me. *
At least I thought so at the time, I hope I was wrong. Mr Johnson was signing and sketching for fans and very kindly drew a lovely sketch of Poison Ivy for me. As he worked on the sketch I asked if I could take a photo (I was documenting the trip for art college) he looked up and asked me why? “To prove that you did it” I said, “To who? Why do you want to prove that I drew this?” he asked. A little intimidated I clamed up, he agreed and I reluctantly took the photo as he finished the sketch. My friend suggested afterwards that he might have thought I intended to sell the sketch and was using the photo as providence. I wasn’t, and still have the sketch to this day (right). 

4) The comic-movie screening. To save money on accommodation (all of us students at the time) we bought tickets for an all night screening of comic movie adaptations that where running through to the next morning. I recall it starting with Spawn and eventually falling asleep during Prince Valiant. The organisers of this event were not happy that we were doing this and so kicked us out at around 5am we spent the rest of the morning on benches reading comics waiting for McDonalds to open so we could have breakfast.  

5) Drawing of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner by Chuck Jones in the cafĂ©. During a break between the aforementioned movies I went into the canteen for a cup of tea and to my delight I discovered that I was sitting underneath a framed drawing of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner by Chuck Jones! Having been a fan of his work all my life I was in awe, I had never actually seen his work ‘in person’ before.

6) Alan Grant was a very nice man.
Alan Grant was giving a talk, being a fan of Batman comics I was a great admirer of his work but sadly couldn’t afford the seminar (students…). However, one of the organisers allowed us to go in and meet him in exchange for manning the door.  He very kindly signed a comic for me and gave us signed copies of The Bogie Man.

* UPDATE 2015: Staz Johnson speaks!Interesting, sorry if I was a bit offhand to you back then. Your mate might have hit the nail on the head though. It was around that time that I discovered a lot of the free sketches I'd been doing for 'fans' had turned up on Ebay & as a result, I have been charging for sketches at cons since the Bristol show in 2000. Either that or I was just not happy about having my photo taken... something I have never liked. :-)” I’ll have to seek him out at my next convention as he’s promised me a better reception second time around! 

© Arfon Jones 2010. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Operation Bath Duck Update: Scout Duck: 019

Scout Ducks continue to report in from across the globe each one with a wonderful tale to tell but I simply had to tell you about Scout Duck: 019 who reported in yesterday from Codfish Island, New Zealand. Apart from holding the record for being the furthest travelled scout duck his location is also rather amazing as he reported back from the New Zealand’s Kakapo Program!
The Kakapo also known as the owl parrot, is a large, flightless nocturnal parrot or as Douglas Adams once described “'the world's largest, fattest and least-able-to-fly parrot”. Native only to New Zealand and listed as a critically endangered species (at the time of writing this there are only 131 known to be in existence) it truly is a remarkable bird. Its not only the heaviest parrot in the world it’s also believed to have a life expectancy of 90 years! When the continents shifted and New Zealand broke off, their habitat had no mammalian predators, this resulted in the Kakapo loosing its ability to fly. When humans arrived on the islands centuries later they took advantage of this bird’s inability to escape, harvesting the birds. They also introduced predators such as cats, rats and stoats to the island worsening the situation for the ground nesting Kakapo who was almost wiped out. Despite conservation efforts made in the ninetieth century, numbers continued to dwindle, then in 1989 the Kakapo Recovery Plan was implemented. All surviving Kakapo were transferred to two predator-free islands, Codfish and Anchor where the bird’s breeding is closely monitored by a group of scientists, rangers and volunteers, tirelessly safeguarding the remaining 131 Kakapo in the world.
I commend their efforts in preserving this magnificent species, wishing them every success in their conservation work and thank them for taking part in this venture by homing, scout duck 019.
To find out more about the Kakapo and the conservation work please visit their site or make a donation towards Kakapo recovery programme.

© Arfon Jones 2010. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Rhyl's Palace of Pleasure (or... Rhyl's Rusty Lady)

The Palace of Pleasure (or ‘Palace o leasure’ as it was later renamed) was an amusement arcade in the seaside town of Rhyl, North Wales. I first noticed this building and its wondrous state of disrepair back in 2003. Both my friend Dave and I delighted in its creepy run-down look and felt that it had an air of Joker’s hideout about it (the Joker would often occupy an abandoned amusement buildings or ‘fun’ related factories or warehouses). I was passing through again in 2006 and to my delight it was still there, and as I happened to have my camera with me this time round I pulled over to take some photographs. There seemed to have been an attempt to bring a touch of Las Vegas glamour to Rhyl but to no avail, and not even 'Herbie Cabs' could save this sorry looking building from its inevitable fate.
As the years rolled by bits continued to fall off as the rust and cold winds from the Irish Sea ravished its structure. I made two more stops before the palace was eventually levelled in 2010 to make way for Rhyl’s newest development plans. I wish I could accompany these photos with one taken during its heyday, to provide a comparison to how it looked before it was left to rot. If anyone out there has a photograph of Palace of Pleasure and its rusty lady during the glory days please get in touch as I would love to be reminded of how it once looked.


© Arfon Jones 2011. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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