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.


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