Acrylic painting of lead-based toy

If bread and dripping sandwiches or the plague did not kill them first, our forebears played with lead toys.  Toys made of lead, painted in paint made of lead.  Handed to children at the most orally fixated age, where everything they are given ends up in their mouths.  It’s a wonder anyone survived.

This is a little farmer made by Britains.  She is about to strew corn to the chickens.  Corn made of lead, for chickens made of lead.

Funny thing: lead pencils do not have any lead in them, unlike the children of yesteryear.

Close up

In case of fire, try not to look confused

There is a not-very-big shop in Brighton with what appears to be the most disproportionately complex fire prevention system on earth.  I have long argued that the aesthetic appeal of fire fighting equipment is underrated.  On this, see: The simple beauty of a fire sprinkler  So, I made a quick sketch of the Brighton system.  Here it is.  What does it all do?  Is it art?

Fire valves

Valentina Tereshkova – first woman in space

Valentina Tereshkova orbited the earth 48 times at a speed of around 27,400 kilometres per hour.  At the time she returned to earth she had spent more time in space than all the US astronauts combined up to that time.  There really can only be one word for all this: wow!

I went for a highly saturated, high-key look in this painting, to simulate one of those fantastic Soviet-era photos that contained only colours never encountered in nature.

valentina terashkova


The jockey

It takes sang froid to ride half a tonne of thoroughbred at 60 kilometres an hour, surrounded by about 10 tonnes of other thoroughbreds doing much the same thing.  Athol ‘call me George’ Mulley had buckets of sang froid and an understanding of horses rarely granted to a human.  On a saddle he was touched by genius.  His face was lined with ravines, carved by 40 years of early morning trackwork.  Goya could have done something great with that face.

athol george mulley

This is what happens when an artist is put in charge of the camouflage

Modern camouflage is designed to hide things (of course), but perversely it must also identify the nationality of the wearer.  Apparently each country has a different pattern.  I am sure there must be websites about this, but I couldn’t see any (geddit?)

Norman Wilkinson was an artist and camoufleur.  Now there is an occupation to try on at passport control.  When the Royal Navy asked him to design camouflage for its ships, he seems to have thought: you cannot hide a ship, so why not make it REALLY visible instead?  And that is what he did, adopting a sort of vorticist style to make dazzle camouflage.

I understand the Navy later abandoned dazzle camouflage as it did not work, which strikes me as unfortunately pedantic and fussy.  Do they not realise how few satisfactions and small joys there are in an artist’s life?

This is a picture of a rather aggressively named ‘Kill’ class sloop wearing Norman’s camouflage.  The swirling dark lines reminded me of Kabuki makeup, so I decided to paint the boat in a ukiyo-e style.

dazzle ship

Admire Rakti

Beauty is evanescent; we should appreciate it for so long as it lasts.  Admire Rakti was a beautiful horse from Japan.  He was also a fast one.  He carried the top weight in the 2014 Melbourne Cup and many thought he might win.  Alas, he faded badly near the end of the race, returned to his stall, and died of a heart attack.

admire rakti