Sunday 31 March 2013

Wonderments and Atrocities: Iron Eaters

One of my previous posts goes into far greater detail about my love of D. C. Thomson comics and the annuals that I have amassed over the years. The annuals feature mostly comic/ cartoon based stories but they also contain three or four adventure-based stories too and even though I tended to favour the humour-based stories there was one adventure story that I remember fondly, The Iron Eaters! Illustrated by Ken Hunter (1917 – 2008) for the Beezer. The Iron Eaters story ran in the comic from 1963 to 1964 and told of pink, extra terrestrial sponge like weeds that devoured metal!  It was the 1966 annual that introduced me to this amazing series reeling me in with this fantastic hook!
Months had passed since the Iron Eaters invaded Britain. Weeds from outer space, they were, strange, sponge-like objects that had descended like a plague of iron eating locusts. In a week they had paralysed the country. But all that was over. Every Iron Eater in the land had been wiped out- or so folk reckoned. They were wrong. One had escaped. In a disused old warehouse in Hartford town, where the iron eaters first appeared, lay a solitary space sponge- a giant of its kind, bloated by the iron it had gorged in the warehouse, too big to leave by the window it had entered. So there it lay, covered by cobwebs, for month after month after month…”  

Each story started with a similar back-story that would also introduced us to our characters “Strange iron-eating weeds from outer space had invaded Britain. For many months they had caused chaos up and down the country. But a team of scientists led by Professor Jim Robertson had worked long and hard to rid the country of the menace and now it looked as if they had succeeded. No Iron Eaters had been seen for days…” In all the stories I read it seemed that it was the professor’s son Tommy that did most of the work, which usually revolved around an Iron Eater showing up and causing all manner of chaos until Tommy captured or destroyed it. The image of these sponge like beings have remained with me ever since, as a child it would be inevitable that I would take a ball of Plasticine and pierce it several times with a pencil to make it resemble an Iron Eater! So, with such an endearing memory my collection of artifacts would simply not be complete without an Iron Eater specimen amongst it so here it is, preserved in a Perspex container (safety precaution) with a label that reads,  ‘Iron Eater’ Donated by Mr. Ken Hunter of D. C. Thomson & Co Dundee, Scotland 1963.
EXTRA: Also in the collection is an Iron Eater that once belonged to Tommy Robertson!

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

Monday 18 March 2013

Bangor Science Festival Weekend

Yet another weekend out of the studio (This is starting to become a habit!) a weekend of both business and pleasure (but mostly pleasure). Visiting two of my favourite locations in Bangor, having returned home I attempted to sum up the weekend on Facebook. Thinking a list would be boring I wrote, “A marvellous weekend of science history and art, very pleased with how it all turned out”. Moments later it was suggested that I was somewhat “mysterious” by my dear friend Rachel White! Explaining how I thought a long-winded run-through of my weekend would be boring to read she answered, “you're wrong matey!” So, if that’s the case please permit me to run through my Bangor Science festival weekend for you all!

Bangor Science Festival Weekend: Day 1 Saturday 16th 2013
School of Biological Sciences. Brambell Building, Bangor.

Bangor Science Festival is part of the National Science and Engineering Week organised between the Dr Tom Parry Jones Endowment Fund, (Established by Dr Tom Parry Jones OBE, inventor of the electronic breathalyser to encourage young people to develop careers and entrepreneurship in science and technology.) and Bangor University. Each year they offer something “for everyone, with activities for families and schools groups, adults looking for entertainment and stimulating debate, or professionals interested in the latest research.” With that in mind off we went my family in tow.
First stop, the Basement floor where we were treated to a guided tour of the University’s aquariums, a genuine treat, as it’s not usually open to the public. Living within the countless tanks were a wide array of species found in the Menai Strait along with tropical fish, guppies and cichlid fishes from Africa. (I was equally interested in the archaeological finds discovered at the bottom of the Menai displayed around the room!) Studies were being conducted on the behaviour of fish. One such experiment into their mating habits had Beth comparing it to a form of piscine speed dating…


The marine biology theme continued on the ground floor as we were invited to ‘dip’ into a rockpool, visitors were offered the opportunity to handle species found living at the bottom of the Menai Strait including the Sea Mouse, Porcelain Crabs and Sea Stars! We also saw a row of shark egg cases displaying the various stages of development complete with shark young!
Then on to the next desk, which I had spied on the way in, I was eager to check it out as it had a replica T-Rex skull balanced on it. Scattered alongside were various fossils along with the opportunity to excavate an Ichthyosaurs fossil, which my daughter and I did. I was then challenged to name all the dinosaurs on display, so I did just that.

We had the opportunity to look at snake fangs under the microscope before crossing over to the Natural History Museum collection. It was nice to finally be able to show the collection (which had been updated) to Beth and my daughter who were equally impressed as I was several months back, this lead us rather aptly to the ‘Hidden Worlds: Hidden Artists’ exhibition.

Hidden Worlds: Hidden Artists’ Exhibition
I mentioned my involvement with this project in the last post but, for the last 5 months I have been visiting the Natural History Museum collection with other local artists, drawing inspiration from the exhibits and we presented our work for the Science week festival.
I was recently quoted by the University’s events page to help promote the exhibition, "'it has been exciting being able to leave my studio and sit amongst all the wonderful specimens housed at
the Brambell Building museum, long may it continue to educate and inspire others as it has me
". The pieces I exhibited were “Philip J. White (1862- 1926)” a portrait of the first curator of the Zoology Collection Professor Philip J. White (and 18 specimens from the collection) and by popular demand ‘Womblus Wimbledon Vulgaris’ who watched over the works of Julie Gritten, Lisa Hudson, Harri Carmichael, and Lindsey Colbourne. Each piece reflected our take on this collection. It seemed well received by all that wondered in to have a look. My fellow Hidden artists did an amazing job, it was a delight working alongside them

Julie Gritten
Harri Carmichael

Lindsey Colbourne
Lisa Hudson


Bangor Science Festival Weekend: Day 2 Sunday 17th 2013
Treborth Botanic Garden, Bangor.

When I discovered that Treborth Botanic Garden was opening its doors to the public I was delighted, having visited before I wanted to further explore the grounds! This beautiful location located next to the Menai Suspension Bridge crossing was originally developed as a Victorian tourist destination, designed by the great Sir Joseph Paxton. However funding issues resulted in the project being abandoned leaving the grounds to revert to pasture and woodland until Bangor University bought the land in the 1960’s making it the beauty spot it is today.
So we returned to Bangor to explore Treborth’s Glasshouses for ourselves. I rarely have the opportunity to post about my botanical pursuits on here (I hope to rectify that in a future post). I have had a long-standing fascination for Ferns and Insectivorous Plants, so naturally making my way around Treborth’s glasshouses was a pleasure. The icing on the cake had to be various species of reptiles on hand, to my delight one of them was a Chameleon who will soon be moving into the glasshouse!

Equally interesting (for a nerd like me) was being allowed to visit the Rhizotron! This newly refurbished underground laboratory allows for easy access/ viewing of the soil and root systems. Also on hand were several microscopes that we couldn’t resist looking at! I had a marvellous time, I hope to go back there again very soon. And that was Bangor Science Festival Weekend, we all had a wonderful time and I was privileged to play a (granted a minute) part in it. If you are a nerd/geek like me but you didn’t make full use of the festival this year be sure to look out for next years to assure that you too have a “A marvellous weekend of science history and art”!

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

Thursday 14 March 2013

Professor Philip J. White

I documented my visit to Bangor University’s natural history collection back in June. Well, I have since made several return trips as part of a small group of local artists that meet once a month at the museum to create art inspired by this magnificent collection. These pieces will be exhibited in the Brambell building as part of Bangor Science Festival on the 16th of March between 10:00am - 04:00pm.  Come along and see our work and take advantage of this opportunity to visit this amazing natural history collection for yourselves along with the University’s aquarium and microbiology labs!
The piece I have created for this exhibition depicts the first curator of the Zoology Collection Professor Philip J. White (1862- 1926). As I worked on this piece I was fortunate enough to learn a great deal about this interesting individual and his work, harking back to my Science Spotlight series produced in 2010. Most of the information was obtained from the Gwynedd Museum & Art Gallery and the Bangor University Archives so I have decided to present my ‘findings’ on here along with the portrait in the hope that it will be of interest.

Professor Philip J. White (M.B. (Edin.), F.R.S.E., F.Z.S.) was Born in Aberdeen in 1862 Philip J White was a fellow of The Royal Society in Edinburgh and in 1889 was appointed lecturer at the agricultural department at The University College of North Wales (now called Bangor University) the first of its kind in Great Britain.
He was passionate about zoology and strived to educate others on the subject and was commended for his efforts in bringing his beloved subject to the public. In 1895 he lectured on Agricultural Zoology at Bangor, Caernarfon, Conwy and Pwllheli, sometimes to audiences of two hundred and fifty in a bid to raise awareness in agricultural science. He was well known for his research and promotion of sea fisheries in North Wales and his efforts for the inauguration of the Marine Biological station on Puffin Island. His collection of “fishes, shellfish and fishing gear” were shown, at the Yachting and Fisheries Exhibition, London in 1897, (and at the National Eiesteddfod in 1902 and 1906.) The Committee for the Promotion of Welsh Industries awarded him a diploma for his services to Welsh fisheries and the Caernarfon Eisteddfod awarded a grant towards his fisheries collection.
He was elevated to Professor of Zoology in1896 after the U.C.N.W. founded the Department of Zoology with White as its first head and sole member of staff.
J. Gwynn Williams in his book, 'The University College of North Wales: Foundations 1884 - 1927', explained, " The burdens upon him were very great, for in addition to the duties of the chair those of a skilled laboratory assistant were thrust upon him for many years…".

The University had a museum located on the second floor of the college buildings in the old Penrhyn Arms Hotel. Established in 1884 it contained a mixed subject collection devoted to the subjects being taught at the university at the time. In 1898 White was reported to have said that the foundation of a zoological collection in the U.C.N.W. museum (of which he was mentioned in minutes in 1891 as being ‘Vice Chairman of the Museum Committee’) had been a “matter of absorbing interest” to him.
His search for specimens was relentless and he amassed an impressive collection, “Specimens came from far and near, fishes from Ceylon, a sea-otter from Alaska, unspecified specimens in recognition of the department's services to the sponge fisheries of the Levant, insects brought by White himself from West Africa, a stag given by Edward VII and several gifts presented by G.W. Assheton Smith, including a fine Wapiti stag from his private zoo at Vaynol....” (The University College of North Wales: Foundations 1884 – 1927, J. Gwynn Williams). Skilled at dissection he regularly updated the collection.  It was documented that he once acquired the carcass of an elephant from a travelling circus and later left it to decay in the Bishop's Park until the bones were bare and dry, a method he often applied. When the new University buildings were built in Upper Bangor in 1911, they included a purpose built space for the Museum, next to the Library. It was still a general museum, containing historical and scientific material when White was appointed its first curator in 1913, then when the museum was rearranged in 1925, and collections separated, he became curator of the Zoology Collection until his death in 1926.

His obituary published in the ‘Bangorian’ in 1930 by friend and colleague the entomologist Dr. W. Maldwyn Davies wrote that White had a keen desire to create interest, “he deemed it a privilege to impart to others his knowledge, interest and enthusiasm for the subject he was so enthralled. He had a gift of thinking simply and the art of writing so that all who wished might understand.” He described White as having a “congenial manner” with a great affection for his students. Apart from zoology he was well aquatinted with classic literature and scripture as well. Davies elaborated, “reluctantly he would pardon unfamiliarity with the derivation of zoological nomenclature, but there appeared no forgiveness for ignorance in Bible quotation”. Adding that, “His passionate outbursts and apparent despair when his students were found wanting will ever be remembered. Such were not resented; on the contrary, they incited a deep sense of regret and subsequently that deep respect and admiration for the devotion to zoology so characteristic of Dr. White

That was Professor Philip J. White. Researching the man and his work has added a new dimension to the museum for me. Now when I visit I am reminded of what Dr. W. Maldwyn Davies said, “It appeared his life’s motif to bequeath to his very own department a museum worthy of the name of Philip White. It now stands a magnificent memorial to a life devoted to zoology and its department at Bangor. Posterity alone can appreciate its full worth.

My sincere thanks to,
Dr Rosanna L.Robinson at the College Of Natural Science, Bangor
Esther Elin Roberts Curator at the Gwynedd Museum & Art Gallery, Bangor
Lynette Williams at the Bangor University Archives

The University College of North Wales: Foundations 1884 – 1927’ by J. Gwynn Williams'
The Old Bangorian : Magazine of the Old Students' Association of the University College of North Wales.' No. 2, January 1930. pp. 31-32’

'Hidden Worlds: Hidden Artists' - Brambell building 16th of March 10:00am - 04:00pm. 

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

Slaughterhouse Farm ‘sneaky peek’

I managed to get out of the studio for a few hours last weekend only to end up in another. I was invited along by Hellbound Media to attend a photo shoot for the forthcoming ‘Slaughter House Farm’ comic which I illustrated.
There isn’t long to go now before the comic is officially released but never the less I wouldn’t want to give too much away so I shall only post this small ‘sneaky peek’ taken at the shoot featuring model/ actress Sian Davies. Keep up to date on the comic’s progress by joining the Hellbound Media facebook page.

On the subject of Hellbound Media, and previews, Shock Value Blue is out now! This 52-page publication promises to be more shocking than ever! Features even more tales of the surreal and horrific from writers and artists gathered together from around the world, AJ Ballard, Anna Susanne, Atlantisvampir, Mark Adams, Matt Warner, Tatiana Goldberg oh and me! Follow the link to order your copy!

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

Thursday 7 March 2013

Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains DVD

This week I received an advanced copy of the eagerly awaited Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains documentary dvd. This retrospective documentary about the programme features interviews with cast and crew that discuss its production and how it has endured over years. I often mention Ghostwatch and my love for it on this blog, I watched the original broadcast back on in 1992 and it made an impression on me. For many years I kicked myself for not recording it (the BBC never dared to repeat it) and so I was over the moon to discover that the BFI had released it on dvd. Sitting down to watch it again 16 years later I was not disappointed with it and since that second viewing I have followed this documentary project with great interest even creating two pieces devoted to it, one of which was commissioned by the project itself. ‘Halloween 1992’features the cast along with some familiar elements from the show, it was used as a teaser poster on the 20th anniversary and it can be seen on the inside of the dvd which is now available to buy.
Be it an interest in horror, you grew up in the 90’s and remember this classic horror drama or better still it made a lasting effect on you I urge you to buy it and check it out.
My sincerest congratulations to all involved in the production of this wonderfully constructed and highly informative documentary.

*UPDATE* The North Wales Chronicle write a little something about it, ‘Artist Arfon's ghostly work for new documentary

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

Friday 1 March 2013

Wonderments and Atrocities: Sasquatch Hair Sample

Following on from the footprints I have another cryptid specimen from my Cryptozoology corner to share, a single strand of Sasquatch Hair!
Discovered by a Bigfoot researcher back in 2012 (along with 17-inch footprints) at the Manistee National Forest, Michigan, USA This single strand of reddish brown/black (4.5 cm) hair is alleged to have come from the elusive beast. You will note that I used the word “alleged” another of the hairs discovered has been sent to Dr. Jeff Meldrum of the Department of Anthropology at Idaho State University, for further study as at the time of writing this no results have been reported. 

My intention was for this display to maintain the same look as the framed footprints, with a wooden frame and typed notes, but have it as a free standing display to show off the hair and allowing it to become a conversation piece, encouraging discussion and debate about the animal’s existence while science tries to prove it.

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

Wonderments and Atrocities: Bigfoot and Orang Pendek footprint Casts

I’ve always had an interest in Cryptozoology and the Unexplained and have wanted to dedicate a corner of my home to the subject for a few years now. Back in December I was presented with the perfect excuse to do just that by my good friend Paul Glover who very kindly gave me some impressive replica footprint casts for Christmas!
I was so impressed and delighted with his work that I immediately set out to create display cases for them.
The specimens to be displayed in the cases were that of the Sasquatch ‘Bigfoot’ and the Orang Pendek. I wanted the cases to have a North American roadside attraction feel about them, Perhaps once constructed by a ‘believer’ who wanted to educate others about these bipedal humanoids by devoting a corner of the store to them.  Conjuring up memories of Dr. Wallace Wrightwood’s North American Museum of Anthropology from the ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ movie but of a standard that might be found at the Willow Creek China Flat Museum, Mike Rugg’s Bigfoot Discovery Centre or Loren Coleman’s International Cryptozoology Museum.
I aged the wood, making the displays seem as though they have been handled numerous times over the years and inside the cases accompanying the casts are information notes typed on paper, which have yellowed in the sun that read,

Sasquatch ‘Bigfoot’
Laird Meadow Road, NR Bluff Creek, California 1964.
Measuring aprox 36 cm long and 13.5 cm wide.

This footprint, originally discovered by Pat Graves prompted Roger Patterson to investigate further into the Sasquatch creature leading to the famous Patterson-Gimlin film shot at Bluff Creek on October 20th 1967.

Orang Pendek
The Orang Pendek (translates as 'short person') is the local name given to a mythical ground-dwelling, bipedal primate that reportedly inhabits the forests and highlands of Sumatra. Also known as Hantu Pendek (short ghost) it is believed to stand between 80 and 150 cm (30 and 60 in) tall. Footprint discovered by Adam Davies in Sumatra in 2001

For more examples of Paul’s work please follow this link.
© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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