Saturday 24 November 2012

Charity Auction

Around 10 years ago I volunteered my services to a charitable group by offering free artwork for their worthwhile cause only to have my offer declined, then having criticised my style they approached an ‘established’ artist who gave them a half hearted computer generated image. To say that I was disappointed would be putting it mildly, suffice to say it made me wary of offering ‘free art’ to charity. HOWEVER, I have been deeply moved by the work and efforts done by the Chernobyl Children's Project (UK) a charity that provides support for the children and their families in Belarus, most affected by the Chernobyl disaster.  Their hard work and dedication inspired me to want to help in some way, so I painted ‘The Cooling Pond’ to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster back in 2011. It featured in the Voices from Chernobyl art exhibition held in Los Angeles and now I am donating it to the Chernobyl Children's Project (UK) charity with 100% of the proceeds going to this wonderful charity. Helping children with disabilities, cancer or diabetes and delivering humanitarian aid to them and their families. It is now listed on ebay, so please check out the link and place a bid on it, the sale ends on the second of December so lets hope we raise a great sum in time for Christmas!

© Arfon Jones 2012. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday 16 November 2012

Comic Consciousness: D. C. Thomson

I thought I would write another of these reflective/ nostalgic posts as they, much like my previous ‘Monster Memories: Spooky Chews', post offer some insight into my work. The subject of this post, comics, or more specifically the comics of D. C. Thomson. I have been reminiscing more than usual about these comics since they announced that the Dandy will cease publication on its on its 75th birthday this December unsurprisingly the news has touched many a nostalgic nerve in Britain. Many mourn the loss of a childhood heritage while others say the blame falls squarely on us for not buying the comics and supporting them in the first place. I agree, but my conscience is partly clear however, because I was always a Topper reader and they stopped publishing that back in 1993. (Although I still bought the Dandy from time to time if only to see how Beryl the Peril was getting on). Never the less it will be sad to see it come to an end, if not for the people the comic employs but for the next generation of readers. The future Brits no longer able to go to their local newsagents and pick up the latest exploits of Korky the Cat, Bananaman and of course Desperate Dan.

Comics have always played an important part in my life, whenever I am asked who my first was DC or Marvel? I always answer D. C. Thomson! This Dundee based publisher was always an essential part of my childhood providing me with weekly adventures and colourful characters.  
As I mentioned previously I was a Topper kid, my father would buy it for me every week. Being a huge comic fan, with what pocket money I had I would also buy The Beezer along with (‘Hoot’ anyone?) and of course The Beano and The Dandy. (Whizzer and Chips, Buster and Oink… but those are other publishers and a blog entry for another time).
When I wasn’t gorging myself on weekly comics I was making full use of a vast back catalogue of D. C. Thomson annuals that I had at my fingertips. These once belonged to my parents and went as far back as the mid 1960’s so I was able to follow the adventures of characters unheard of by many of my fellow 1980’s readers! This collection of annuals would grow with each passing year, as there was always at least one new one waiting for me under the Christmas tree. Despite the Beano and Dandy being the clear nation’s favourites my loyalty remained with The Topper and Beezer throughout the 1980s and in to the 90s, but by then sales had slumped. Children's television and video games were blamed for poor sales and with that D. C. Thomson decided to merge the Topper with the Beezer. This decision suited me just fine, I was now able to read two of my favourite comics for the price of one in between watching television and playing video games! But like all good things it came to an end the comic fizzled out in 1993.

Throughout my time growing up, reading the comics I dreamt of some day working for D. C. Thomson. I imagined myself drawing my favourite characters as my career in animation took off… Having sent examples of my work to D. C. Thomson much like my career in animation it wasn’t to be I received a nice letter (which I still have to this day) followed by a telephone call from then Beano editor Euan Kerr. He kindly explained that ‘ghost’ artists needed to draw established characters as close as possible to their regular art style, “I’m afraid this is not the case with your drawings. Your own style, good though it is, is much too evident’ and that was it… One of the few times in my life where I accepted defeat and gave up, I often locked horns with my tutors at art college but in this instance I simply accepted it, as he was the editor of the Beano he knew what he was talking about!  But I often wonder how things might have turned out had I been accepted. Never the less the comics have remained with me throughout, and despite succumbing to the siren call of American superhero comics I remained true to D. C. Thomson. I still have my comics they are filed in order on shelves alongside alphabetised annuals and their influence regularly emanate from me through something that I do (you should see how I serve Bangers & Mash). It has been reported that the Dandy will still exist online, which is something I suppose but a web site can’t hold that same glorious feeling of opening the latest issue and feeling the freshly printed paper and ink on your finger tips! But then, books are going through the very same woes… I sincerely hope that the cancellation of the Dandy will at least stir some public support to assure that it doesn’t happen again, because it’s all up to the Beano now!

© Arfon Jones 2012. All images are copyrighted throughout the world

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Boffin Board Game Bonanza! 1:David Bellamy’s ‘Save The World!’

As we approach ever closer to Christmas and the days grow shorter this means only one thing… BOARD GAMES! So, I thought I would create a mini feature for the blog, which allows me the opportunity to share some rather obscure board games with you. These games are from my own collection they both appeal to my sense of design and nostalgia and celebrate the ‘tv boffin’. I shall highlight a few on here in the hopes that it will both fascinate and encourage you to seek out these obscure, lost games and enjoy them for yourselves! 
Today I shall start with David Bellamy’s ‘Save The World!’ game, Produced by Crown & Andrews in 1989 this game was endorsed by botanist/conservationist David Bellamy who informs us that. “Save the World is the most important game you will ever play, not just for fun but in real life, your real life.” (They rather naughtily change ‘play’ to ‘buy’ on the cover of the box). Growing up in the 1980’s I was and still am a fan of David Bellamy and his crusade so I was intrigued by this game. Clearly created to educate families on environmental issues when the UK started to take an interested in such things (ah, I remember it well). David Bellamy elaborates on the lessons that can be learnt on the information sheet, “The more we all know and understand about the problems and what we- yes little, old or young, you and me- can do, the easier it will be to put the earth back in working order. I have learned a lot helping to prepare all the questions. You may not agree with all the answers so before you start to play Save the World appoint an ombudsperson, someone who will have the final say. Hoorays and boos are all right- the house plants need the carbon dioxide you breath out. But no hot air, remember the greenhouse effect.”

The game can be played by up to six players and requires the players to move around the board and answer questions relevant to the category decided by the square they land on. Answer the question correctly and you win a token tile the first to collect all five tokens, wins!
The game consists of a wooden dice and six coloured pawns with a game board decorated with various animal species and their corresponding environments along with squares labelled by the categories that match up to the question cards.  The categories are Atmosphere, Environment & People, Forests, Rivers & Oceans, Landscape & Plants, Wildlife and Chance. 
The questions on the cards were complied by the Conservation Society and edited by David Bellamy and David Shreeve and they all relate to several environmental concerns, the information sheet points out “the answers are those decided by a panel of enthusiasts at the time of publication. Have a great game, learn a lot and help Save the World. There is no more time to waste in argument.” It also encourages the players to seek out further information from any of the organisations mentioned on the cards.

We have played this a few times now and found it to be a fun little game that doesn’t require much of your time think of it as a sort of environmental Trivial Pursuit. Although I’m not entirely sure that its suitable for the age suggested (9 +) as some of the questions relate to statistics, (which also probably dates the game somewhat) I am sure that they can be adapted if needed. I found it endearing that the product was reportedly made from recycled board and paper but the thing that struck me as we played was the genuine attempt to educate by means of fun with its mixture of scientific questions and challenges. All involved must have hoped that children would learn about these important issues while being entertained seeing their parents chirp like a bird or try and spell BREAM backwards! Whether it worked or not remains to be seen. Some of the methods may have changed since the 80’s but the mission remains the same so check it out! If not for the entertainment or nostalgic value but for the environment you help preserve by saving unwanted games from landfill sites. 

Next Time’s Boffin Board Game Bonanza Patrick Moore’s Astronomy Game 

© Arfon Jones 2012. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Franktastic Christmas party poster

It’s been over a year and no Frank Sidebottom related threads! Must put that right… I was recently asked by the Frank Sidebottom Statue Fund to create some artwork for a poster advertising the ‘Franktastic Christmas party’ to raise money (the Fund is trying to get a statue of the late Frank Sidebottom erected in his hometown of Timperley). I was delighted to put pen and brush to paper and create a poster for this fantastic cause. The image is based on artwork created by the man himself for his Christmas record ‘Christmas is really fantastic’ only with frank wearing a Santa outfit (I fondly remember him wearing this at one of his pantomimes!) and the proposed statue inside the snow globe.
The event held at the Night and Day Cafe, Manchester on Saturday 15th of December promises to be an evening of music and celebration Frank Sidebottom style! Featuring music by The Stags, The Freshies (with Harry Sievey) and Hank Sidebottom and the Hellrazors’ (Rockerday Johnny & Bale and Frank Sidebottom’s long lost elder brother). Please check out the link and buy tickets and help get the statue up in the New Year! Thank you!

© Arfon Jones 2012. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Hallowe'en 2012: All Hallows' Eve -eve

Hallowe'en is here again and as usual it’s a busy time in the studio! I am just adding the final touches to ‘Slaughter House Farmmy latest collaboration with Hellbound Media before changing into my best suit for tonight’s ‘Zombies from Ireland’ premiere. An exclusive viewing for cast and crew that promises to be a evening of red carpet and glamour complete with television crews and media!
So, I shall update this blog as the day progresses!

BUT, before I do anything else “Happy 20th Anniversary Ghostwatch!” It simply wouldn’t be Halloween without Ghostwatch ah, twenty years since this chilling drama etched itself on to my impressionable little psyche! Speaking of which the upcoming retrospective documentary Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains should hopefully be announcing it’s releases date soon so be sure to check in for updates on that. If you read my ramblings on a regular basis you will know that I have been watching this project for many years with great interest. So I am really looking forward to seeing the finished documentary which I am privileged to be associated with by means of the poster art I produced for them.
Don’t forget to join the 2012 National Séance! A chance to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Ghostwatch's first broadcast by taking part in a 'live' simultaneous repeat viewing! All you need is a Ghostwatch dvd and a Twitter account…Set your Ghostwatch dvd to start at 21:25 (the time it originally aired in 1992) and then tweet comments and share thoughts on the proceedings as it plays. I have been advised that you should provide #Ghostwatch at the end of every Tweet for maximum efficiency. Until then please check out the Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains teaser trailer!

Hallowe'en  2012 part 2: All Hallows' Eve –ning out
Right, back from the premiere and what a great evening we had, It was a delight to be amongst such excitement and enthusiasm, as we ‘mingled’ I would spot the occasional zombie that I had featured on the poster. It was wonderful to be able to catch up with people that I had met at the bridge scene last year and others that I had not met before but wanted to tell me how much they liked the artwork! Everyone was hyped and eager to see the film and once we had taken our seats, director Ryan Kift made a very short but sweet speech before declaring “roll ‘em!”
As I am not actually a film critic and I have no desire to give anything away I shall avoid any details regarding the actual film itself BUT I will say I thoroughly enjoyed it! As a fan of the genre and a local to this area I found it to be terrific fun, it has a distinctive style and a lot of heart to it and I recommend you check it out when it becomes available for public viewing. I extend my heartiest congratulations to Ryan and Sian, their hard work and devotion has paid off and I look forward to seeing what the future brings!

 Having returned home with scarcely an hour of Halloween left I took my bow tie off, ate some ‘Terror Eyes’ (that I had bought at the bar of all places!) and ended the evening watching Ghostwatch… Back to work tomorrow! Happy Hallowe'en!

© Arfon Jones 2012. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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