Sunday 22 December 2013

Wonderments and Atrocities: Mounted Furby Trophy

For ten years I managed to steer clear of the sold-out Christmas toy scenario reminiscent of Jingle All the Way but last Christmas my preparation plans went somewhat awry and I found myself trying to locate a Furby two weeks before Christmas. It seemed to be that year’s ‘must have’ toy and as I searched the Internet I was struck by how many refered to the process as “hunting”. I would look through eBay sales and most of the sellers taking advantage of the rush would write “happy hunting” underneath their extortionate asking prices. In one instance I visited a toyshop and a staff member wished me “good hunting” as I left! So, I gladly excepted the challenge and went ‘hunting’ for a Furby and managed to successfully “bag” one of the beasts. Although it was in no way as comical as  Jingle All the Way I did however manage to successfully secure one a week before Christmas at a fraction of the cost and frankly I was quite pleased with myself. This feeling was highlighted and underlined by my daughter’s happy face on Christmas morning when she found Furby under the Christmas tree. True the memory of her happy face was reward enough, but I decided to mark that December ‘hunt’ the only way I knew how… Adding it to the ever growing collection of Wonderments and Atrocities.
Merry Christmas everyone!

My sincere thanks to Rachel White for helping me track down this particular specimen.
© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Ultimate Greeting Cards

As the rush to get Christmas cards out to people before the 25th rages on I thought I would mention that it’s not too late to order some of my Ultimate Greeting Cards because unlike other cards on the market these can be used 12 months of the year!

Inventor Sir Henry Cole introduced the world's first commercially produced Christmas card back in 1843 and now I Arfon Jones bring you the Ultimate Greeting Card designed to cover all greetings and special occasions for anyone that is constantly on the go! Why commit to just the one special occasion? These cards allow you the luxury of sending them out any time of the year and they are easy to use! Simply tick the appropriate occasion(s) (save even more time and money by ticking several in one go!) add any additional messages at your own discretion in the comment section below and sigh! No fiddly envelopes that won’t stick, just add an address and a stamp to the back of card itself and post! Order a pack of six here or here.

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday 2 December 2013

Mystery Painting

This post has a loose art theme to it but it mostly regards television. I have become somewhat disillusioned with TV of late, I can’t really explain why but I find that they rarely make programs that interest me these days. So now I turn to my dvd’s for my evening television fix. Immersing myself in classic television shows, programs that I feel “got it right” case in point Columbo, the undisputed classic. It seldom gets better than this, I have been a fan of this show for as long as I can remember. I love everything about it, the premise, the stories, casting and above all the character of Columbo, Peter Falk’s gift to the world. As far as I’m concerned Falk’s acting was flawless and his devotion for the character shined through. BUT this post is not about that.
I would instead like to direct your attention to the season 3 episode "A Friend in Deed" from 1974. In which Columbo matches wits against a deputy police commissioner (played Richard Kiley). When Columbo visits him in his office, you will note that there is a painting hanging on the wall behind him. I believe it to be Westminster Bridge (a nod to Season 2’s "Dagger of the Mind" from 1972 in which Columbo visits London perhaps?) “So what?!” I hear you ask well let me move on from a well loved Universal Studios classic to a horribly under rated one…

Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Darren McGavin plays Carl Kolchak a Chicago newspaper reporter who investigates mysterious crimes involving the supernatural or the unexplained. Sadly the series only had one season and it’s only claim to fame was that it was cited as the inspiration for The X-Files.
But if we watch episode 13 "Primal Scream" from 1975 in which Kolchak tries to uncover the truth behind rampaging prehistoric primates we see one particular scene involving the reception area of a PR’s office… See it? It’s the same painting as the one we saw in Columbo! Different frame but without a doubt it’s the same painting. Some of you may well be still asking “So what?!” both shows were made by Universal and so their props must come from the same warehouse. Well I love this sort of thing! It connects my favourite shows.  Since making this discovery both Mrs Jones and I have been looking out for it in other episodes, didn’t take long though, as a matter of fact it only took six more episodes…

Episode 19 "The Youth Killer" Helen of Troy drains the youth from the unsuspecting people that sign up for her dating agency and in her office we see the painting again! So, was it used in any other Universal programs? I will keep this post open in the hope that some of you out there might be able to name other Universal Television show’s or movies in which this painting featured! Perhaps even provide some information on the painting itself or the artist? (I hope so because I have a perfect spot to hang a print of it!) Any information or comments leave them at the bottom of the page or contact me directly and I will update accordingly!

Update: 20/02/2014 Well, the mystery painting turned up yet again in another of my favourite TV shows The Rockford Files! The brilliant, James Garner plays Jim Rockford a Los Angeles-based private investigator in a show, which ticks all the right boxes for me! In Episode 2 of Season 5 "Rosendahl and Gilda Stern Are Dead" from 1978, Rockford tries to help his friend Rita Capkovic prove her innocence when she is accused of murdering a prominent doctor and as they sneak into the office of Dr. Russell… There’s the painting again! Albeit very briefly but its undoubtedly the same one and in the very same frame as its previous cameo!
The search continues...

All images belong to Universal Television, no copyright infringement intended, in fact I urge you all to buy Columbo, The Rockford Files and Kolchak: The Night Stalker dvd’s right now!
(everything else however) © Arfon Jones 2013.

Friday 22 November 2013

My Morgue

Back in 1990 I bought and read ‘The Cartoon Book’ written by Australian cartoonist James Kemsley. Although I was unfamiliar with Kemsley’s work I found the book to be very helpful as it offered hints on drawing caricatures and comic strips. Of all the advice it provided, two stuck with me throughout. No1 “Practice, Practice, Practice!” and No2 “Keep a Morgue” he elaborated on this rule, “As far as a cartoonist is concerned, a morgue is their reference library. Something they can’t do without. From today onwards start a file of photographs, illustrations, cartoons and newspaper and magazine clippings of just about everything.”  “Some lucky people can draw almost anything from memory or imagination. The rest of us aren’t so lucky. But once you’ve set up a complete morgue, your worries are over.” So that was just what I did, each week I collected photographs and clippings from old issues of Your Sinclair Magazine, Look-In, TV Times, Radio Times, Video World Monthly, Doctor Who Magazine, Fangoria, SFX and Games Master Magazine and stuck them in my Morgue for 20 years. As the years passed by a new scrapbook would be started and attached to the last, I amassed thousands of pictures of the obscurest of things over the years, things that must have interested me at the time. Game and video covers, comic panels, celebrity obituaries, Batman movie casting news and a few girlie pictures for good measure. Even the ‘The Cartoon Book’ itself ended up scattered within its pages and then in 2010 I finally excepted that Google image was far superior for sourcing reference images and I closed the Morgue forever. But I refuse to get rid of it though, you never know when you might suddenly need a picture of the Gladiators or a Saga Mega CD system..

Dedicated to James Kemsley OAM (1948 –2007)
© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

"Wonderful chap. All of them" A Doctor Who 50th anniversary special

The amount of hype generated around Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary has been astounding! Between each tantalising still from Mark Gatiss' An Adventure in Time and Space to that epic Doctor Who: 50 Years' trailer. The special online episode The Night of the Doctor marking the return and departure of Paul McGann's 8th Doctor and the discovery of the missing Troughton episodes The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear have had me, for want of a better expression “geeking-out” for weeks!  Funny how things can change in ten years though when you consider how for the 40th all we had was a weekend special on UK Gold and four alternative covers of the Radio Times to look forward to! (12 Radio Times covers this time round!) It was during the 40th anniversary that I first embarked on my mission to obtain as many Doctor and companion signatures as possible on my ‘Time Gentlemen 1963- ‘ painting. It hasn’t been easy, some continue to elude me a minor set back caused by the series’ global popularity. I’ve travelled many miles, made many friends and enemies along the way, encountered joy and hardship making it a real adventure, one that I have no intention of giving up on just yet. So, to celebrate the programme’s 50th anniversary and the project’s 10th I have created 11 hand drawn/painted replicas of each Doctor as depicted in the painting and scattered them through time and space… Who knows where they will end up?
Happy 50th anniversary Doctor Who!

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

“What are you wearing?” # 1 & 2 The “Quincy Combo”

From time to time I am asked about the things I wear (honest). Granted, more often the question is directed at me, “What are you wearing?” but never the less I am asked, and seeing as blog posts devoted to people’s wardrobes are popular I thought I would have a go myself… First up, the “Quincy Combo”. But what is the “Quincy Combo”? Well, I’m a big a fan of the television series, Quincy, M.E. I have a vague memory of it in my early years, I was an avid fan of it during my Art College days and I regularly watch the dvd’s today. Anyone watching the end credits will notice, “Mr. Klugman's Wardrobe Furnished by Botany 500”. Botany 500 was a brand name owned by the Botany 500 Group of New York. H. Daroff and Sons manufactured their men’s suits and sport coats in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and they provided the wardrobe for many television programs. Universal was no exception Botany 500 Furnished the Wardrobe of Telly Savalas on Kojak, and Jack Klugman on Quincy, M.E. I like wearing tweed jackets, this is a Botany 500 jacket. Having furnished Jack Klugman’s wardrobe for most of the series Botany 500’s name disappeared from the credits of series six, this time reading, “Mr. Klugman's Wardrobe Furnished by McGregor Sportswear” (Botany 500 returned for the last two series). Once described as the leading American men’s sportswear manufacturer McGregor Sportswear had been producing quality casual clothing since 1921(originally trading as David D. Doniger & Company). This is a McGregor Sportswear Tank Top (or “sweater vest”) having always been a fan of the tank top I always wear one when a waistcoat is deemed too ‘formal’ or it’s not cold enough for a cardigan. I like to combine a jacket with a tank top and so naturally I would only want to wear the very finest, and endorsed by the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office’s very best!

Mr. Jones's Wardrobe Furnished By Botany 500 and McGregor Sportswear

Also pictured, my 33 Million year old pocket watch charm

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

These are a few of my favourite things … that people made

I know many creative people and having written a review for my friend Lee James Turnock’s comic Honk! last week I thought I would write about other nice things that my friends have produced… 
Morse Code Mitts
I mentioned these last year but seeing as I am wearing them as I type this entry I thought I would mention them again! I love Miriam’s work, I loved her ankle-less socks and I love these. On the left-hand you find (dot-dash-dot-dot) for 'L' and on the right-hand (dot-dash-dot) for 'R'. As Mim put it, “geeks will appreciate the joke and most other people will simply see a nice pair of mitts.” It can get a little chilly in the studio and my hands and fingers are the first to feel the cold, gloves can at times restrict movement, but not with these! Check out her blog for more details about them, a free knitting pattern and other general cool knitwear blogging!

Infostatical Cuff-links
On the subject of amazing things that I have mentioned in the past lets not forget Jarkman’s fantastic QR sterling silver cufflinks! Apps for scanning codes on smartphones have made QR Codes more common place in recent years making them a fantastic promotional aid. So now thanks to these beauties I can send any owner of a smartphone directly to my home page with a flick of my wrist!  Check out Jarkman’s web site see the amazing way these were created and order some for yourself. You will not be disappointed!

Replica Yeti footprint
I’ve also mentioned Paul Glover’s excellent Bigfoot and Orang Pendek footprint casts in a previous post, this time I would like to showcase his replica Yeti footprints! Based on the Eric Shipton footprints found on the Menlung Glacier at an altitude of 18,000 feet in 1951. They are made from resin making them stronger and lighter than plaster casts.
Hang them on the wall, a guaranteed conversation piece.

Laser etched Nikola Tesla Souvenir of Wardenclyffe Vase
A Wondrous souvenir of Nikola Teslas Wardenclyffe Laboratory! Wardenclyffe Tower sometimes referred to as the Tesla Tower was Nikola Tesla’s early wireless transmission tower, which stood in Shoreham, New York until it was eventually demolished in 1907. Although it was never fully operational I still adore it and all that it stood for, in my wildest dreams I have a replica of it constructed on the roof of my home, much the same way as Blackpool created their own Eiffel Tower. My dear friend Andy Dingley of Your Laser. has created these 22cm high x 10cm x 8cm thick walled glass Wardenclyffe vases featuring Leo Blanchette’s illustration of the tower and Tesla's own handwriting etched on with lasers. Photos do not do this piece justice, (I know because I have tried to photograph it) after Andy very kindly presented Beth and myself one as a wedding gift! It has pride and place in our living room. This is but a small sample of Andy’s work, follow the links and look through his work, it’s marvellous.

Barry Barmcake ‘Never Mind the Bread Rolls’ & ‘Anarchy With a Uke Eh?’CD's
I’ve posted a few blog posts in the past about Neil Baxter and his work on "A Statue for Frank" and his Youtube characters Norman the Northern Zombie and the great Barry Barmcake. Barry Barmcake is from Wigan in Lancashire he loves Marmite, Bobcaps and going to the chippy but He also does ukulele covers of famous songs, such as ‘The Ace Of Spades’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. He recently produced two CD’s, ‘Never Mind the Bread Rolls’ & ‘Anarchy With a Uke Eh?’ which gave me a fair few chuckles. But all joking aside, Neil is a terrific performer so follow the link and find out more!

Blarg Nards
I first discovered David Rutter’s work on Deviantart interestingly David says that he’s not an artist and that he just makes stuff that people like. As far as I am concerned he IS an artist and a rather good one at that. You will soon be able to see one of his brilliant dolls heads in the up and coming independent horror film Torture Chamber until then I would like to bring his Blarg Nards to your attention. These 3” zombie face magnets which are hand made using Amazing Sculpt or Apoxie Sculpt 3" and had me harking back to franchises from my childhood like Boglins or Madballs. As I said, each one is hand made and has its own character and I dare you to look through the gallery and not pick a favourite.

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday 8 November 2013

A Review: Honk! #1

Occasionally something comes along that despite my not being involved with it I feel the need to tell others about it. My good friend, underground comix artist Lee James Turnock having a new comic out is one of those instances! Since discovering Lee’s blog I have followed his work with great interest. Much like myself he is clearly influenced by the works of Robert Crumb and although I am big fan of Crumb and his style I can only take so many stories about drugs and the 60’s, so Lee allows me the opportunity to enjoy that style of drawing and story telling but about issues that interest me, things such as  80’s television, The Goodies and Who Framed Roger Rabbit to name but three. So when I received HONK! in the post I was really looking forward to reading it, as is often the case with comics the work benefits greatly from being printed. Turning a page, feeling the paper on your fingers and ‘discovering’ the next page is far more interesting than scrolling down a screen and suits this type of comic and Lee’s style to the ground. The drawings are flawless, he has clearly poured his heart and soul into this work and I can only commend his attention to detail. As for the content I found the story to be entertaining and the characters maintained my interest throughout and I also ‘got’ all the references. One of the things that has always struck me about Lee’s work is the way he shoots the things he hates down in flames as he gives a nod and a wink to the things he loves, and this comic is no exception, as it deals with topics such as Disneyfication, Hooters and The Raccoons!
Please note this is and Underground Comic so ADULTS ONLY! Assuming you are an adult I advise you buy a copy and then pootle over to Lee's site and tell him how great he is, he won’t listen to me…

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday 4 November 2013

Timperley is really fantastic: A statue unveiling

Frank Sidebottom always told us that Timperley was really fantastic and although I knew this to be true it has now been made official! I say this because on Sunday the 20th of October 2013 at 11:37am Timperley did something really fantastic, they unveiled a life size bronze statue of Frank Sidebottom in the centre of their village as a tribute to the great Chris Sievey, sadly lost to cancer in 2010.
My wife, daughter and I travelled up from North Wales to join the 1,000 other people, who had amassed on the streets of Timperley that day for the unveiling. There were also many reporters and camera crews there asking the public’s opinions.  Local councillor and one of the key organisers Neil Taylor told one of the reporters that the statue was going to put Timperley on the map and suddenly I found myself reminiscing back in 1988 when Oink! released their holiday special which contained ‘Frank’s Timperley Bike Race Game’ an intricately detailed map (drawn by Frank) of the village for readers to cut out and make a board game. This map forever remained in my memory and played a big part in my pilgrimage to Timperley for Frank's Magical Timperley Tour in 2006. When we joined the man himself on a tour of his beloved home seeing the sights such as Timperly Station, Timperley Aquatics (where I got Darwin the Tortoise, more on him in a future post!) and the two Timperley post-boxes!

 The location selected for the statue was on the corner of Stockport Road (opposite the Stonemason’s Arms Frank’s “local”) marked by a Sidebottom-esque shed which the crowd formed around as we drew closer to 11:37. With so many people gathered, some of who wore Frank heads and with the brass band playing in the background I was reminded of the last time I was in Timperley when we marched through as part of ‘Frank’s Army’ in the 2011 Altrincham Festival. Raising awareness of the plan to raise the funds needed for getting the statue erected in the village. Being just as keen to make the statue a reality I tried to do my bit by donating my ‘The Indestructible Frank Sidebottom' artwork from the Frankophilia! Exhibition and the artwork used for last year’s ‘Franktastic Christmas party’ poster to the cause.

When the time came tributes were paid, a cheque for £1,137.00 was awarded to Marie Curie made up of what was left over from the statue fund before Chris’s friends and family moved in to take the shed apart in sections as the band played. The crowd looked on, as the sections came away like a large Frank themed game of ‘pass the parcel’ the statue was unveiled to glorious applause and camera flashes! The magnificent bronze statue designed by sculptor Colin Spofforth and made by Paulina Skavova in the Czech Republic perfectly captures Frank adopting a trademark thumbs up. A wonderful design that allows generations of people the opportunity to have their photograph taken with Frank and that’s just what happened once the railings were removed! We stepped back to allow the crowd to settle and caught up with good friends and fellow Frank’s Army troops Barry Barmcake and Chonkin' Les. I recently created the cover for their CD "A Statue For Frank" which was a follow up to their 2011 release "Let's Get A Statue For Frank" which also helped raise money for the statue appeal. They weren’t the only musicians amongst the crowd, Mike Joyce of The Smiths and Badly Drawn Boy where there too. Last time we saw Badly Drawn Boy was at ‘Frank's Fantastic Farewell’. As we moved closer in I was able to fully appreciate the work that had gone into this piece, I was delighted to see it become a reality and naturally I had my photo taken with it! The nicest touch had to be the plaque underneath which reads, “As Long As I Gaze On A Timperley Sunset, I Am In Paradise” a reference to his song ‘Timperley Sunset’ a cover of The Kinks' ‘ Waterloo Sunset’ song. We made our way back along the high street passing the points of interest depicted on Frank’s Timperley Bike Race Game twenty years ago adding the statue unavailing to my list of endearing Timperley memories made up of Magical Tours, Festival Marches and Christmas Pantomimes.
Its worth noting that no public funding was used in this venture, Frank Sidebottom fans paid for the statue, fans that wanted to remember this ‘one-off’, so all concerned should be immensely proud of what was achieved. If you are ever in Timperley be sure to check it out and see it for yourselves.

I doubt this will be the last Sidebottom related post I ever write for this blog there is still the 'Being Frank: The Chris Sievey story' documentary in production so the Chris Sievey/ Frank Sidebottom legacy is far from being over. But now at least, thanks to the efforts of all the Frank Sidebottom fan’s out there, there is a fitting tribute to his work which will very likely spark an interest in future generations to seek out his work and be equally inspired.

First photo cutesy of Martin Unsworth
© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

New Book! Till Pyramids Decay

Till Pyramids Decay is out now on Amazon Kindle! This historical fantasy novel is written by Patricia and Lionel Fanthorpe with the cover and inside illustrations provided by me. Till Pyramids Decay joins an impressive bibliography of around 180 novels and short stories written by Lionel (including his work for Badger Books under various other pseudonyms) over the years so it’s been a genuine pleasure collaborating with him on his latest title.
Please go check it out, enjoy it and let others know about it.

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday 21 October 2013

The Blue Peter Garden

Beth and I recently found ourselves wandering around Salford’s MediaCityUK searching for an iconic point of interest, a small piece of popular British culture, arguably one of the most famous gardens on the British Isles, the Blue Peter Garden!
Always a regular viewer of the program I had aspired to one day visit it and see where George the Tortoise (1920 – 2004) once roamed, this was that day!
Designed by Britain's “first celebrity gardener” Percy Thrower MBE (1913 –1988) back in 1974 and later adapted to an Italian sunken garden in 1979 the Blue Peter garden has remained as much a regular feature of the program as the advent crown. The garden flourished over the years, despite several vandal attacks (the most notorious being the 1983 incident) and when the program's production moved from London Television Center to MediaCityUK in 2011 the garden too was relocated and officially reopened to the public by HRH the Princess Anne in 2012.

The garden still contains elements of the past as seen in this article from the 24th -30th edition of the Radio Times from 1982 (right)  within it such as the impressions of Percy Thrower, Lesley Judd, John Noakes and Simon Groom along with the pets Shep, Goldie, Jack and Jill and Freda the tortoise! It was amazing seeing them in person! Standing in the corner, standing guard almost was what I especially wanted to see the bronze statue of Petra, Blue Peter’s first pet. As I have previously mentioned I was a regular viewer of show, tapering off at around the time of the unearthing of the Blue Peter time capsules. However my earliest memory of the program was the time they relocated the Petra bust from outside BBC Television Center into the garden and from that moment on I have always admired this magnificent statue. 

(Top Left) The impressions of Percy Thrower, Lesley Judd, John Noakes and Simon Groom along with the pets Shep, Goldie, Jack and Jill and Freda the tortoise. (Bottom Left) Impressions of the Blue Peter presenters at the time of the garden’s relocation Helen Skelton, Barney Harwood, gardener Chris Collins and Barney the dog.

The statue regards Petra the dog who first appeared on the program in 1962 winning a special place in viewer’s hearts, so when she died in 1977, a special bronze bust was commissioned from Blue Peter artist William Timym MBE (1902-1990). Timym had worked as a syndicated cartoonist for many years but more famously worked on ‘Bengo’ and the 'Bleep & Booster' series, and which featured on Blue Peter in its early days. A skillful sculptor Timym had created a miniature of Petra and a lion’s head for the Zoological society of London in 1976 (he would later create the life-size sculpture of 'Guy' the Gorilla for London Zoo in 1982). The bust of Petra was to be erected outside Television Center as documented by Peter Purvis’s ‘Goodbye Petra’ article in the Fifteenth Blue Peter book, “As she’d come and gone through the main gates of the BBC’s Television Center every week for most of her life. We could think of no better place for Tim’s bronze than just inside those gates, next to our Blue Peter silver birch and the box we buried for the Year Two Thousand which includes her photograph, as well as those of Jason and Patch. The article also documented the producing of the sculpture (right). Using several drawings he had made of Petra over the years as reference, Timym sculpted the bust from clay on an armature. Three weeks later the sculpture was taken to the Sculpture Casting Studio near High Wycombe to be cast in bronze using his trademark  “lost wax” process. Once the bust was complete markings were added using acid and a blowtorch.
When it came to the plinth several people contacted the Blue Peter office wishing to donate granite to the cause when it was suggested “on the air” that concrete would have to be used as it was all the program could afford. Although they were offered granite from the original London Bridge, they went with the first offer they received by Gelli Stone, a quarry in South Wales, which had the appropriately named Blue Pennant stone on offer (which had also been used to repair the Tower of London). Once the right piece of stone had been selected the quarry’s most experienced mason, Des Wilkins cut the plinth to size adding the inscription and Blue Peter ship before transporting it to London. Then on the 23rd of March (Peter Purvis’ last episode) the bronze was erected. With Lesley Judd pouring the concrete onto the top of the plinth as Peter Purvis and John Noakes lowered the head on. It stood outside BBC Television Center until 1984 when the building was extended when it was relocated (along with the 1971 time capsule) to the safety of the garden and it has been a part of it ever since.

When I heard that the program was being relocated to Salford I wondered what would become of the garden because I’m like that, I become concerned over what many others would disregard as simply sentimental nostalgia. But seeing it living on in another part of the country, I found it reassuring and surprisingly moving. I highly commend the ones responsible for preserving the garden and making it available for the public to visit. If you ever visit Salford’s MediaCityUK be sure to go and visit it.

 © Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Prop Work: The Hellbound Hockey Stick

Slaughterhouse Farm continuing to impress its readers with Shock Horror Magazine rating it four stars adding, "Argh - this comic is so awesome!" I was especially pleased with their “North Wales has never looked so bloody creepy!” comment. With the second issue currently in production and the first issue reaching limited numbers of its first print run you might like to order your own copy and check it out for yourselves!
In the meantime I thought I would share with you my latest Hellbound Media collaborations this time for their upcoming Dawn Keenan/Kiss Me Deadly project. I was hired as Dawn's quartermaster providing her trademark hockey stick decorated with flame motif, scoring notches and damage sustained from her encounters with the undead!

And here is the prop in use! 
 Photo courtesy of Hellbound Media, Amymodel and Fidster Photography 
(links may not be entirely NSFW)

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

A Statue For Frank

Well, we did it! The money has been raised, the bronze Frank Sidebottom statue has been completed and it will be unveiled in Timperley on Sunday the 20th October 2013 at 11.37 am PROMPT!
I can't wait to see it in all its glory, well done to all involved for raising the money to celebrate the life of Chris Sievey. Speaking of unveilings It gives me great pleasure to show you the cover for Barry Barmcake and Chonkin' Les’s latest, brilliantly catchy song "A Statue For Frank"
Back in 2011 they released "Let's Get A Statue For Frank" CD single to help raise money for the Frank statue appeal and to celebrate accomplishing this they have updated the song and made it available as a free download. I was asked to provide the artwork, seeing as this is a proud moment for all Sidebottom fans I decided to paint Frank as Obi Wan Sidebottom proudly watching from the wings a la 'Return of the Jedi'… 

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

TOGYG Artcard

I recently joined several artists in an ArtCard fundraising event. Each of us anonymously donated a postcard-sized piece of work to the Old Goods Yard Artists Group, or TOGYG to be sold in a silent auction to help raise funds for developing their new community print centre. Offering facilities and courses in various different processes of fine art printmaking to local artists and the community. Providing both the opportunity to extend their current practice, or the opportunity to learn a new skill within a professional artist studio complex.
I submitted “Patty” created with acrylic and pen on card. She was beautifully displayed along with the works of over 100 other artists. I was invited along to the TOGYG Print Studio Bangor launch party, providing me with a great excuse to get out of my studio and into the studios of other artists as part of this year’s Helfa Gelf art trail. Congratulations to everyone involved do please check out the TOGYG link(s) and find out more about this venture.

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monster Memories: My 10 favourite mutant movies

October, the time of the year that many people devote their blog sites to all things Halloween related, to be honest the whole year is like that for me.  As I have said before I have a devotion to vintage horror and science fiction movies, or the so-called ‘B’ movies (or “low budget” for a more accurate description) and I always have them playing in the background as I work. If a film features a rubber monster, chances are I have painted along to it.  That in mind I was recently asked to name my favourite mutant movie, I was unable to pick just one, instead I reeled off a list.
 So, allow me (if you will) to stray from directly discussing my work instead focusing on influences and run through a random list of 10 favourite mutant movies from my own dvd collection. I have tried to steer away from the obvious titles and will not give too much away ‘plot’ wise in the hope that if this article doesn’t present an insight into my work it should at the very least provide you with some great movies to seek out and enjoy! So, in no particular order…

Them (1954) The finest of all the ‘giant bug’ movies and an absolute classic of the Atomic age- I saw it first in my early teens I loved it then and I love it now! Dr. Medford from the Department of Agriculture assisted by his daughter Pat is called in to advice on a situation involving a nest of ants that have increased in size due to atomic testing and in turn save the world from the invading giant ants! A film with wonderful writing and characters you actually care about with amazing effects (for its time) and a striking music score that much like the fantastic sound the ants make builds suspense! No mutant collection is complete without this gem, At Christmas Edmund Gwenn is Santa Claus in our house but for the rest of the year he is Dr. Medford!

Humanoids from the Deep (1980) following a tried and tested format the story tells of a cannery that experiments with growth hormones and Salmon. The experiment goes awry when their specimens escape into the ocean and mutate into a new form of life that terrorise the local fishing community in a rampage of murder and rape! Amongst all this depravity and gore we have Doug McClure trying to make sense of it all and protecting the villagers preparing for the Salmon Festival! If that doesn’t reel you in (pun intended) I don’t know what will! I thoroughly enjoyed this film, so much so I saluted it in a painting. Admittedly the mutant’s need for buxom beach goers will put some people off watching this film… it didn’t for me I thought the story was rather good and the creatures looked great!

Piranha (1978) directed by Joe Dante this story has (to date!) been remade on two separate occasions confirming what a great premise it is. An insurance investigator, investigating the disappearance of two teenagers finds a fish hatchery owned by Doctor Robert Hoak (played by Kevin McCarthy) she releases the hatchery’s contents, only to discover that it was a school of bioengineered piranha designed for the cold waters of the North Vietnam! The story follows Heather Menzies and Bradford Dillman’s valiant attempts to reach down river to warn the local summer camp and water park as they avoid the government who funded ‘Operation: Razorteeth’. Sometimes compared to Jaws, I feel that Piranha holds it own with great pace and good acting with a sense of fun that comes through at the right time but to be honest you had me with ‘mutant piranhas’…

Hammerhead (2005) A fairly modern film considering the other titles on the list but lets face its Jeffrey Combs and a mutant shark-man need I say more? This Sci-fi channel movie tells the tale of one Dr. Preston King who tries to save his dying son by adding shark stem cells to his DNA.  The result, a mutant shark-man ruled entirely by instinct! The Dr takes time out from his unsuccessful attempts to mate his son with unsuspecting females to exact his revenge on his former employees that wronged him (along with his son’s ex-fiancĂ©e played by Hunter Tylo). With a generous balance of both shark suit and CGI we see the mutant pick off each victim as they try to get off the island with Jeffrey Combs doing what he does best playing a mad scientist observing his shark-spliced son with both scientific curiosity and glee.

The Horror of Party Beach (1964) Oh do I love this one! I have watched this one many times over and is a rare example of a movie that can be entertaining with or without the MST3K rifting!
 The by-product of dumped radioactive waste combined with shipwrecked bodies and the plants on the ocean floor cause havoc, murder and mayhem as romance between Hank and his boss’s daughter Elaine blossoms! A beach party horror film that claimed to be the first ever horror musical features the musical talents The Del-Aires who perform songs such as "The Zombie Stomp" "Wigglin' Wobblin'" and “Elaine” as the mutant creatures come ashore to claim victims!

Alligator (1980) One of my absolute favourites, I watched it when I was younger and I have no doubts that it was responsible for fuelling my fascination for reptiles. Police Officer David Madison discovers that an alligator ended up in the city’s sewer system after being flushed down a toilet 12 years before. In that time the alligator survived by feeding on the remains of discarded dog carcasses left over from growth formula experiments, causing an increase in the alligator’s size and appetite! Madison along with love interest, reptile expert (not to mention former owner of the alligator) Marisa Kendall try to save the population from the giant alligator forced up to the surface to feed it ravenous hunger!  
Clearly another by-product of the Jaws craze of the 1970’s Alligator retains interest throughout with a great mix of horror, drama and comedy.

Zaat - The Blood Waters of Dr. Z (1971) Talk about a movie that has everything! Dr. Kurt Leopold a Nazi mad scientist that vows revenge on his former colleagues by turning himself into a walking catfish! As the authorities and ‘experts’ try to catch this half man, half monstrosity he launches his attack, killing those who wronged him, poisons the local water supply and kidnaps women in an attempting to convert them for mating!  Much like ‘The Horror of Party Beach’ this film is equally as entertaining without the MST3K commentary. Delivering all sorts of mad scientist/ rubber monster delight, an absolute must see!

The Killer Shrews (1959) A simple mission to deliver supplies to a group of scientists on a remote island goes horribly wrong when captain Thorne Sherman discovers that the island is inhabited by ‘giant’ killer shrews! He hides in the house and falls in love with the daughter of the scientist responsible for the mutations a by-product of an experiment into solving world hunger! Drinking, smoking and jealous rivalry as they try to keep out the shrews which are trying to chew their way inside! The film is notorious for its use of puppets and actual dogs ‘disguised’ as shrews, I have a real fondness for this one I have watched it several times over, as serving suggestion watch it back-to-back with ‘The Giant Gila Monster’ also by the same producers Ken Curtis and Gordon McLendon.

Octoman (1971) Yes! Another film that features an aquatic/fish mutant!  A scientific expedition investigating an unhealthy amount of radiation in the river of a Mexican fishing village face the wrath of a seven-foot tall walking killer octopus! The expedition team comprising of scientists and side-show entertainers and local villager try to make sense of it all while the Octaman tries to protect (its?) young and make off with the leading lady! Rubber monsters a plenty in this film as the movie makes no attempt to follow the ‘less is more’ rule proudly showing off its title monster (in-famously created by Rick Baker) every few minutes! Not that I have a problem with that I rather liked the creature…

Night of the Lepus (1972) stuck for a film to watch over Easter? Not anymore! Science lets us all down by making a overpopulation of rabbits ten times worse by unleashing thousands of mutated- carnivorous giant, killer rabbits on a small Arizona town!! But in fairness it serves more as a lesson in keeping children out of laboratories than ‘tinkering’ in god’s domain! Adapted from the science fiction novel ‘The Year of the Angry Rabbit’ it’s a film that you will know for certain if you have seen it before or not. Great fun lots of “what have I seen him in before?” and of course giant ravenous rabbits!

Sting of Death (1965) seems only right that I end this with another fish mutant… This time our monster comes in the guise of a half man, half jellyfish creature! Not only that but, we also get pool parties and a musical number called "Do the Jellyfish" by Neil Sedaka! So even if watching a vengeful mutant jellyfish man chasing partygoers and stinging them to death isn’t exactly your cup of tea you will still have fun doing the jilla-jalla-jellyfish afterwards!

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday 3 September 2013


I was suitably impressed with Youtube’s ‘Geek Week’ videos and why wouldn’t I?  Being notified by Kryten of Red Dwarf that there was a new episode of Knightmare with Hugo Myatt returning as Treguard along with Stuart Ashen(s) donning "The Helmet of Truth" this I had to see!
I adore Knightmare, its right up there amongst my top 10 favourite television shows. Watched its entire run as they went each year out and was sad to see it end. In fact I recall one of the first things I did when I had the Internet at home was sign a petition to bring it back! So with this renewed interest in the programme courtesy of above mentioned Youtube episode I thought I would dig out this painting that I did last year. I had intended to add more elements to it at a later date, along the lines of my Ghostwatch painting. But at the moment it features Treguard watching over a dungeoneer equipped with the helmet of truth, eye shield and knapsack as his life-force slips away…

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Mary Hughes 1907-1993

I once dedicated a blog post to my second cousin once removed artist, Handel Evans and if Blogger statistics are anything to go by it’s a fairly popular post. With that in mind and the fact it will be 20 years to this month that she passed away I decided to dedicate this post to my great grandmother Mary Hughes. Formerly Mary Jones, the daughter of a stonemason she was born in Nefyn, North Wales on the 17th of March 1907. Although not an artist she was a regular figure in my life and inspiration to me. I find that the enclosed photo taken in 1927 is the best example of the kind of woman she was, a keen motorcyclist she once came first in an all-male motorcycle race at Black Rock Sands.
Growing up I was fortunate to be living next-door to my grandmother so would see her almost every day throughout my childhood. In fact her former home is now my studio so I often find myself remembering the tales she used to tell me of her trips around the British Isles. Having married my grandfather, Cyril Hughes in 1929 she formed a haulage business, which she ran for over thirty years, driving the length and breadth of the country. Quite a feat when you consider that during this time she also managed to raise five children and maintain a full board guesthouse as well! In her later years she often recounted her trips around the British Isles once claiming to have seen Adolf Hitler in person at a garage when his car was fuelling up during a pre-WW2 visit to the British Isles. Although I have been unable to verify this story I was able to verify another incident that occured which Hitler had a hand in. She made many trips to Liverpool, more so during the war when she would transport rabbits when the War Office/Ministry of Food encouraged the consumption of rabbit to compensate for the meat shortage. She once told of the time she was delivering cargo to Liverpool when the John Lewis 's department store was hit during an air raid. She recounted seeing the blaze and the firemen trying to control the fire. What stood out in this story was that apparently amongst the panic and confusion she said that there were monkeys leaping about! Thanks to the Internet 20 years later I learnt that Lewis's department store actually had an exotic animals department, which was located on the top floor of the store.  Sometimes referred to as a rooftop zoo or ‘roof menagerie’ they sold exotic animals to members of the public (even selling the animals that had grown too big to Chester Zoo). On Saturday May 3, 1941 during a week of intensive bombing which were later dubbed the 'May Blitz' (making Liverpool the most bombed area outside London) Lewis's department store took a direct hit.
She stopped driving lorries in the 1960’s but would still embark on her trips, It was not uncommon for her to take a day trip to London and end up in France. This time favouring her trademark green Triumph as transport (until one day as she was driving along a lane and a cow leapt on it from a hedge writing the vehicle off!) To accompany my grandmother on these trips was an adventure in itself my mother recently recollected the time she was chased out of Kew Gardens by a staff member after “nain” tried to pilfer one of their plants! Everyone that knew her described her as a one off and this is absolutely true. As I mentioned previously her former home is now my studio, and has been for the last two years, not a day passes that I haven’t thought about her, remembering the times I would come in and see her after school. I still miss her to this very day and consider it to have been a privilege to get to know her for the first 13 years of my life.

2019 Edit: Hear her recount some of these stories on this clip taken from a 1986 episode of BBC Radio Wales’s show 'Roundabout'.

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Saturday 13 July 2013

The Wedding of Mr & Mrs Arfon Jones

Well it’s official I am now a married man, Beth and I were married on the 15th of June.
I normally refrain from posting ‘personal’ blog entries, instead focusing on my creative/ artistic pursuits or influences (and lets face it the last thing the Internet needs is another blog about weddings!). But saying that creativity and customisation was called upon on numerous occasions in the planing and execution of what was to be one of the single most important collaborations of my life. A venture, which much like my work was made up of elements and influences from the past in preparation for the day this artist, married his muse.So, I thought I would start by recounting how it all started, the engagement. True, this subject was covered in my “2011 end of year full circle recap” but it seems that some of you hadn’t been paying attention…

The Engagement, Friday the 18th of November 2011 Beth’s birthday, we were all set for a return trip to Selsey to visit Sir Patrick Moore for super.  Last time we had been to visit Patrick was to celebrate his 88th birthday in March so we were both looking forward to going back to West Sussex to see him again. Having finished loading up the car the first stage of my plan was initiated a Birthday dedication courtesy of BBC Radio 2’s Ken Bruce who kindly granted me the opportunity to declare my love of her via his show!

Having safely arrived at Patrick’s home we had a lovely home cooked meal before going out into the garden to use Patrick’s famous 15" Reflector to view Jupiter. The garden was busy that evening as the Adur Astronomical Society were holding their monthly meeting with John Fletcher of Mount Tuffley Observatory. As everyone piled into the observatory to observed deep sky objects I seized the opportunity and walked Beth over to the 12" Newtonian telescope (used by Patrick for his historical lunar mapping work). Ironically a street light proved to be most useful for this amateur astronomer as it allowed me to be see and be seen as I knelt down on one knee! Beth who had no idea what I was up to looked on in bewilderment as I produced my specially made ring box complete with hand crank when wound played Elvis Presley’s ‘Love Me Tender’… Knowing that Beth would instantly recognise the tune I let the music box ask on my behalf and to my delight (not to mention relief!) she said yes! A kiss and a reassurance that I was serious later, we went back to the house to let Patrick know the outcome of our plan! A champagne cork pop later we shared our news with all in attendance receiving many kind well wishes from the Adur AS and John Fletcher whom logged the event in the telescope logbook!
As a playful nod to the recent royal engagement we had our own ‘official engagement photos’ taken the following morning before making our way home to announce the news to family and friends and make the necessary arrangements.

Once the date had been set and venue confirmed we turned our attention to the little details first things, first the invitations. Beth and I are fans of Jack Vettriano’s ‘Singing Butler’ and for some time I had wanted to create something based on the image of a couple dancing on a beach, with grey skies on the horizon which was once described by the artist as an “uplifting fantasy". It seemed perfect for our wedding invitations, customised to reflect our own tastes of Pterosaurs, tea and Belgian buns painted as closely as I could to Vettriano’s style the invitations were posted out informing potential guests of our ‘big day’ on June 15th.
As the weeks passed by and the R.S.V.P’s started to come in we prepared for the wedding. I wasn’t surprised to find that weddings require a bit of organising but what surprised me was how much of these preparations are completely unnecessary. We looked through a few wedding magazines and attended a wedding fair for ideas and were amazed at how overcomplicated and unnecessary most of it was. We learned that wedding planing is a lucrative, cut-throat industry of table tops and seat covers and amongst all this madness we managed to find a few wedding  “must-haves” or in this case “must-makes”.
One of the rare ideas that we thought would be rather nice to have was a wedding post box. Placed on a table at the reception that post box securely relieved guests of any envelopes they might have for the Bride and Groom. I opted to make one that addressed our love of classic design and nature that would ‘thank’ anyone that posted a card for us, so I created a Singing Sparrow post-box! Simply post the card or greeting through the slot and the Sparrow is activated and sings proving a little fun for the reception.

The Wedding, the big day finally arrived and thankfully all our plans, ideas and arrangements came together. Everything had been set in place as we convened at the Bangor Town Hall at 11am.
The Town Hall otherwise known as Bishop’s Palace is a Grade II-listed building dating from the 16th century and the oldest surviving building in Bangor , after the Cathedral. Beth walked down the isle to the Jurassic Park theme, we made our vows exchanged rings and left the building as Mr & Mrs Jones. The Town Hall stands in the shadow of Bangor Cathedral, 10 years ago I stood in its grounds dressed in a cap and gown having received a University of Wales degree and since that time I have had a fondness for this place. Attending its services at Christmas and Easter with Beth and my daughter this building has been a place of worship since the 6th century and houses wonderful examples of art and architecture. Separating the Cathedral from the registry office is the “Bible Garden”. The Bible Garden has examples of every plant, mentioned in the Bible planted in it, wanting to bring a traditional aspect to our day this tranquil place served as the perfect location for a
wedding blessing performed by our good friend the Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe.With the Cathedral serving as a backdrop, surrounded by family and friends the sun shone down on us as Lionel delivered a blessing, as he did so a gentle breeze lifted and the trees showered us with flower petals nature's very own confetti. Professional photographer Arfon Edwards used the location to the fullest capturing the whole day for us. Photos taken we made our way to our reception at the Eryl Mor Hotel which overlooks Bangor Pier, the Menai Strait and just in the distance Puffin Island another beautiful location that Beth and I had sailed around the week before. With such a fabulous view, good food, surrounded by family and friends and my wife by my side I was immensely happy and a shame that we had to have to leave, but the adventure had only just begun, we needed to set off on our honeymoon!

The Honeymoon, 30 years ago my grandparents (frequent visitors to Scotland) presented me with a plastic Nessie. Already fascinated by dinosaurs this made an impression on me, as it seemed to imply that some dinosaurs had actually survived the ice age. This fascination was spurred on by Peter Maddocks’s ‘Family- Ness’ cartoon and any books I could find on the subject and ‘The Unexplained’ magazine. Watching Michael Aspel’s ‘Strange But True?’ repeats of ‘Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World’ and of course Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe’s ‘Fortean TV’. Yet despite my lifelong fascination with this location and its supposed inhabitant I had never been there, unlike Beth whom had been to Scotland several times in the past, I hadn’t even crossed the Scottish border! So for our honeymoon there could be only one location to visit… Loch Ness during Nessie’s 80th anniversary year!
Having arrived at Scotland we immersed ourselves in the tourism aspect of Loch Ness (haggis for breakfast, Tartan carpets etc) and visited the Drumnadrochit Hotel, which is now the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre. This fantastic museum was designed and narrated by Loch Ness Project leader, Loch Ness documentary regular, monster hunter, naturalist, (not to mention a hero of mine) Adrian Shine.
Having taken a tour of the history of Loch Ness I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Mr. Shine and had a “wee blather” with him. Fascinated by the legend of the Loch Ness Monster in the 1960’s he started investigating Loch Ness in 1973 hoping to photograph the famous monster with no success.  Later constructing an underwater observation chamber yet despite several dives and risk to his-own life made no findings. In 1981, he and a volunteer crew began a 24-hour sonar exploration of the Loch, followed by the famous "Operation Deepscan" in 1987 followed by the world’s media, obtaining the first complete mapping of the Loch. After debunking the famous "surgeon's photo" in
1994 he has since published over a dozen scientific papers on his researches on the loch and the unusual surface wave patterns and it was a delight meeting him.We then made our way to Urquhart Bay Harbour for our very own Loch Ness Expedition. Boarding the appropriately named ‘Nessie Hunter’ skippered by George Edwards the longest serving passenger boat skipper on Loch Ness. Equiped with Radar, Colour Sonar, G.P.S. and underwater cameras Mr Edwards provided an informative commentary about the Loch Ness phenomenon as we sailed past the historic ruins of Urquhart Castle (which we also visited later during the day). We sat on top taking in the grandeur that is Loch Ness, taking photos as we went along before making our way back to shore for lunch (stopping off at Nessie Land for a barrage of souvenirs!). Loch Ness delivered everything we had hoped for we had an amazing time I think the great Tim Dinsdale summed it best in his book, ‘Project Water Horse –The true story of the monster quest at Loch Ness’ “I had never been there before, and yet I knew it. The dark and mysteriously beautiful scene was entirely foreign to me, and yet I recognised it” We reluctantly loaded the car to return back home to North Wales.
I will add this, I mentioned that my grandparents were frequent visitors to Scotland, my grandfather more so, as he used to drive holiday coaches. When I learned of his trip to Loch Ness in the early 1990’s I asked him to bring me back a water sample from the Loch (he instead opted to bring me a souvenir pen which was gratefully received!) As we were leaving we pulled up by the water side for one last goodbye and a photo of the misty Loch, I collected a small sample of water as a little salute to my younger self, forever fascinated with this Loch and its mysteries.

To break the monotony of a long trip back to North Wales we decided to stop off and spend the night at the Schooner Hotel located on the coastal village of Alnmouth in Northumberland. This listed 17th Century Coaching Inn is reportedly the most haunted hotel in Britain. Countless paranormal investigations have been performed here over the years suggesting at least 60 individual spirits.
Being an inn with a long history associated with smugglers, murders, suicides and the massacre of a family, tales of strange goings on are inevitable and reports have become more frequent in more recent years totalling over 3,000. All the rooms at the hotel are reportedly haunted with room 28 being the most, this is the room where the massacres of a family was said to have occurred. Over the years guests have reported hearing children crying, women screaming and an unseen presence and feeling of unease that have even been felt by staff who claimed that they saw a dark figure darting out of room 20! Figures have been seen standing at the end of the beds in room 16 and 17 while the presence of a young boy has been detected outside in the corridor believed to be responsible for the accounts of door knockings. Along with reports of a soldier in an another corridor, feelings of dread
and sound of whispering in rooms 28,29,30 and the presence of a maid on the stairs this is not a place for those of a nervous disposition but ideal for a spot of ghost hunting! Having checked in I had a wander around on several occasions, taking pictures as I went along through corridors, which seem to spiral off in each direction like a carpeted badger set.  I must confess to feeling a sense of unrest. But aside from the clanking of coat hangers when a bus went by in the morning and some inconsiderate door slamming guests in the other room there was nothing to report, apart from that feeling of unrest that we both felt which was curious.  

So there you have it, the wedding of Arfon and Beth Jones. Hope that was of interest to someone… Our sincerest thanks to all that played a part in it and thank you to everyone for all the lovely cards and well wishes.

 © Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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