Art at the Steampunk Asylum

Every year one of Europe’s biggest steampunk events takes place in Lincoln, bringing together over 30,000 steampunks from across the world to enjoy four days of music, art, costume, gin, tea and silliness.

One of the many events is the Great Exhibition, a chance for those taking part to share, if they dare, their creations with an admittedly sympathetic audience. Unfortunately, I suspect that steampunks are mostly shy and strangely introverted for a bunch of friendly and weirdly dressed people!

This year’s great exhibition contained just four paintings with the result that I won again. I win something every year and I say that with no sense of pride as I am often the only 2d artist to take part! This year, in a bid to save my blushes and perhaps encourage someone, anyone! else to enter next year, I did four paintings in three different styles.

So The Ruskin prize went to a Bob Ross parody (he of the bouffant hair and softly spoken utterances about happy clouds and squirrel friends), entitled “Happy Little Accidents” from his quote; “Remember, we don’t make mistakes, we have happy little accidents.”

I know his art is kitsch but he was very good at it indeed and he inspired so many thousands of people to pick up a paintbrush that it is rude to dwell too long on any failings his art might have. As with all art, try copying a piece and you will learn something!

That’s why I painted my second piece: Sanctuary. There is no pun involved, I just wanted to draw a Bob Ross wave, do it a little bigger and throw in a lighthouse and giant octopus. I think it would look rather good as a steampunk book cover, don’t you?

My Netflix addiction was also responsible for “Big Goggles”, a pastiche of Margaret Keane’s work which was recently given a boost from the film Big Eyes starring Amy Adams. My write up (steampunk has a strong basis in literature so I think the write up can be as important as the image) was as follows:

Title: Big Goggles

Medium: Oil on Board

Artist: Maggie Keen (1926 to present)

Margaret Olive Catherine Keen has become known for her pictures of big eyed waifs. In the 1960s the paintings , often derided as kitsch by art critics, were attributed to her husband, Phil Estein but following a bitter separation in 1970 she accepted the blame as part of a wide ranging divorce settlement. In return for taking responsibility for the art, she walked away with the house, car, narrow boat and the couple’s beloved pet cephalopod .  This painting is thought to date from the early 1970s and could  be an attempt by Maggie to explain away the ridiculously big eyes by the addition of goggles. No explanation has yet been found for the goggles.

Yes, I find it easy to mock but once again I would like to add the caveat that every artist has something to teach and she did well for herself in the end so If you like her art just go ahead and say so and ignore all those sneery critics!

Both the winning piece and Big Goggles went into a charity auction at the end of the event and raised £95 for charity so I sincerely hope the buyers did like the paintings and will enjoy them.

The final piece was simply a little cartoony picture of steep hill in Lincoln with a backdrop of air balloons. I had thought to make it into postcards to sell but I ran out of time so it just went in to make up the numbers. It is a scene I want to return to at some point though, perhaps in a more serious style.

Steep Hill, Lincoln

I am rubbish at promoting this blog so this probably won’t reach the people it needs to reach but if there are any steampunks out there who go to Lincoln and who also do art; please think about entering the exhibition next year. It is very difficult at first to put your art out there (and that’s probably why i paint jokes, so that i can laugh them off and not expect people to take them seriously) but really, nothing bad will come of it and it may even encourage you to do more, get better, stretch yourselves and that has got to be better for all of us.

 

 

 

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Another Outing for Fishboy

Just when I thought it time to give Fishboy a happy ending, we went to The Deep, the spectacular aquarium in Hull and this scenario occurred.
There are so many signs announcing feeding times, it would be only logical that Fishboy might get the wrong end of the stick about who gets fed.

Having got to May without a single painting, I have been making up for lost time and have in the last month done six. Unfortunately the first was for friends and I forgot to take a picture and three are for an exhibition at the Lincoln Steampunk festival – so I cannot publish them anywhere before then. I’ll probably put them in the charity auction so I must remember to scan them for my records and to show you.

Fishboy’s Story

Fishboy was born several years ago when my partner obligingly pulled a silly face that inspired me to create a whole scenario around its combination of wide eyed innocence, hope and fear.

In his first outing Fishboy was being chatted up by a bunch of mermaids who were clearly up to no good.

In 2016 year six paintings followed.

In January, inspired by Angler Fish, Fishboy tried a spot of deep sea fishing, only to find that a monster fish was less than impressed by his attempt at poaching.

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Poaching partrol, Fishboy comes acropper by Erica Madelin

Deciding that life on land might be easier afterall, Fishboy visited a small harbour town only to find the local cat population was rather too interested in his lunch.

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Shore Leave by Erica Madelin

Around the summer time he thought his luck was in when a foundered ship deposited a large box of tuna tins on his home beech. Free food! Alas, it was not to be because where was he to find a can opener?

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The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away by Erica Madelin

Food is of course not everything in life, love is food for the soul afterall. In the autumn, possibly following an inapproprate conversation about Hentai, Fishboy found himself in the arms of an amorous octopus.

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Cuddles by Erica Madelin

In December I took pity on Fishboy and sent him a bicycle. I heard that Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said: “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.” I think Fishboy knows that, deep in his fishy little heart but I somehow doubt he will ever get this bicycle on the road.

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Bicycles for Fishboys by Erica Madelin

Finally, as the New Year loomed I thought it would be nice if Fishboy got a present….possibly from his friend the octopus. Soggy, many armed Christmas jumper anyone? Still, it’s better than socks!

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Fits where it Touches by Erica Madelin

I don’t yet know what the new year will bring for Fishboy but I have so enjoyed doing these. I think I paint them like a child does, telling myself the story as I go and giggling slightly.

 

 

 

 

 

Do Fishboys Need Bicycles?

Almost from the moment I first noticed the man who was to become my boyfriend I wanted to paint him. I  remember him looking over his shoulder at me as we sat in a friend’s car and being struck by his eyes; greyish, blueish with a golden centre and set off by an intriguing scar under the left lid. He had long, thick black hair and lips like a pre-Raphaelite angel.

Unfortunately I had only just got back into painting then and attempts to paint him never worked. I think this is partly because we take our idea of a person not from a static image but an ever-changing memory reel of moments. No portrait can ever capture all those movements, micro-expressions and emotions. I would try to draw him from pictures and from life and we both decided my attempts weren’t up to much.

The years passed and then, how many years ago I don’t really remember, he pulled a particularly silly face, puffing out his cheeks and sticking his lower lip out in a pout. I think it was probably meant to look puppyish but somehow “fish” was what sprung to mind. With Arthur Rackham’s style in mind, I did a quick ink and watercolour of a pouting merman being teased by a group of mermaids.img_9688

Last year I did a further six fishboy paintings charting hapless fishboy’s search for the good things in life – mostly fish to be honest but he is also looking for love I suppose. I will put the full set on here shortly.

This year I also, finally, got as close as I have come so far to capturing his likeness in a proper portrait. It’s not quite right (get an angle wrong by a fraction of a degree and a likeness is lost) but it is a fair attempt.

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My question though is this: Which works best as a portrait? An oil in fairly traditional style, or a series of jokes poking gentle fun at my partner’s sometimes simple needs (tuna, love and bicycles)?

Flowers for a Friend

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A friend of mine asked me to do a sunny, happy picture for the room where she does positivity training and life coaching. I prefer slightly gloomy, wistful scenes (more of which later) so this was a bit of a challenge for me but she was adamant the flowers couldn’t be dying (not even ever so slightly!) so I decided to give it a go in oils.

Because I saw it as just a bit of fun I completed it in three sittings and used bright, opaque pigments. At the end of session two I stood back, quite pleased and then realised I had made a perfectly adequate advert for sunflower spread. The slightly abstract swirl into the blue sky that I had intended to express freedom and sunshine now looked suspiciously like margarine.

For session three I added some hints of brown into the petals (purely to stop it looking like an advert and nothing to do with my need to paint decay, honest gov!)
My friend was delighted though, so all’s well.