Friday, 16 November 2012

Namedrop alert

 I think every artist, be they a caricaturist, painter, musician, actor etc is somewhat fed by their ego. Every art is a passion which comes from the artists need to communicate but it is necessary to feel as though what you create is enjoyed by those that witness it.
When I work a gig drawing live caricature the quality of what I do is generally dictated by the reactions of those around me, the more laughs and pleasure I get, the better my work comes out.
It's a confidence thing.

To achieve appreciation from your peers and those already in the public eye gives you an even greater sense of satisfaction, as society would have you believe that those people are harder to please.

For this reason the last few weeks have been particularly enjoyable for me.

Mai and I recently had the opportunity to be in the audience for the filming of one of Derren Brown's latest shows, you may have seen it, the one where a girl lacking confidence in her singing ability has to confront a huge audience.. well, we were among the audience in that smoky theatre. Having just drawn a caricature of Derren in the theme of his "Apocalypse" show it was such an honour to witness his abilities first hand. Sadly I hadn't brought a copy of the picture with me and could have kicked myself when one of his crew sat in front of me. For those that don't know, Derren Brown is also a master caricaturist.. to have received critique from him would have been fantastic.

A few days later Heston Blumenthal was making an appearance at Dickens World to film for his latest show. I've always been fascinated by this real-life Willy Wonka and having been asked to bring a caricature along for him to sign for the bar, of course I jumped at the chance. Heston himself was an absolute gentleman, showing such appreciation for the copy I had printed for him. To my disappointment, I realised I had drawn him with his old glasses on which he didn't seem to mind. I also put my foot in it further when asking him to sign the picture for the bar.

Concerned for his time being taken up, I said,
"You're not busy at the moment are you?"

Obviously for a man who fronts a hugely successful restaurant and a popular tv series this question must have come across as absurd.

Despite this, he posed for a photo and Mai and I also had the chance to witness the events being filmed and sample a few of his dishes which I have to say were amazing.

Last week, my ego had another boost when we took a trip up to Bluewater for a signing from 3 stars of the incredible E4 series, "Misfits". Joe Gilgun, Karla Crome and Nathan McMullen were incredibly friendly and their reaction to the picture I had drawn was one of the highlights of my career. They were so appreciative and shook my hand despite the fact that their time was tight with a huge crowd waiting to meet them.

As if this wasn't enough when I was browsing twitter later that evening I was honoured to see that Nathan McMullen was using the picture for his twitter header. Much appreciated.

Am I a bit of a fanboy? Hell yeah, fanboy and proud.




Thursday, 20 September 2012

Our Wedding

Can you hear that? It's the sound of moths fluttering away from my keyboard as I attempt to write the first blog I have written in an eternity.
Most blog sites tell you never to mention that you haven't written in a while but what the hell, I have good reason. The same reason that puts many couples in a social whirl for months on end.. that being that I finally had my wedding.
Ok, it was a while back now, the 14th July 2012, but it's taken me this long to get back on track, well almost. The thank you cards have still yet to go out. Terrible huh.
The day itself was incredible, despite the gods warring above our heads and a torrential downpour that would have had Noah concerned, and also despite the fact that my head was pounding from a little over-indulgence in the pub the night before. What can I say? I was nervous.
We were scheduled to be married about the HMS Gannet in Chatham Historic Dockyard, followed by a reception at Commissioners House http://www.commissionershouse.com/ 200 yards away but the weather had other ideas. In a quick change around by the amazing staff we ended up having 2 wedding ceremonies for health and safety reasons, the first was an intimate affair with close friends aboard the boat and the second at the house so  that our huge audience could get to see the ceremony.


Our photographer Lollypop www.lollypopphoto.com darted among us like olympians as we rushed from one spot to another. Mai looked stunning as she appeared beside me in the first of four dresses (it is a Chinese tradition to have several dresses on a wedding day) during the first ceremony and I got to play it casual for the second ceremony and stare at the guests as they shared my initial reaction. Not only was her dress amazing but I was adorned in a suit which could only have been improved if topped with a better face. Not only were myself and the best man suited and booted but I discovered the groomsmen were too, something which was sneakily done without me knowing. All of this was provided by our friends at Tantrums & Tiaras http://www.tantrumsntiaras.co.uk/ and Mai's dress adjustments made by Deisy at http://www.deisys.co.uk/contactus/contactus.htm. Little did Mai know that she would be surprised with the groomsmen changing into Chinese outfits later that evening.
This was followed by a tea ceremony downstairs which had me a little lost, luckily Mai was there to show me the ropes so I could at least pretend to know what I was doing.
After some further chaos and running about we finally got to settle in for the Wedding Breakfast. Our marquee had been beautifully decorated by Bespoke Floral Designs http://www.bespokefloraldesigns.co.uk/ and my movie caricatured table designs had been hastily arranged by myself that morning.
In attempt to get the more terrifying aspects of the day over with we had opted for the speeches before the meal and so the best man and I battled the noise of the rain pounding on the marquee to generally crack jokes that would hopefully only offend on a minor scale. Our speeches were assisted by Cantonese passages from those better equipped, Mai-lin and her bridesmaid Julie.

We were then treated to an incredible selection of food including a hog roast and some impressive additions for my yeast free diet from the expert chefs at Lardercraft http://www.lardercraft.com/, and while we gorged we were entertained by my great friend and talented magician Adam Smith www.adams-magic.co.uk. Desserts were in the shape of cupcakes from Cupcake Queen (facebook) and we also had a huge carrot cake as our wedding cake from Dee at Bo Peep Cottages.
After informing people that sadly I hadn't hired a caricaturist and that they would have to draw their own pictures on the paper provided, I did let people know what the evening had to offer.
In the upstairs of our venue we had two great casino tables provided by the AK Casino Knights www.akcasinoknights.co.uk and a photobooth provided by Party Photobooth Hire http://www.party-photobooth-hire.co.uk/.
I don't think either of us really relaxed until around 9pm so when we did we hit the dancefloor to the tunes of one of the funniest DJs I know, Raf at Appollofunk www.apollofunk.com.
So that's about it, it took a few years to plan but was very worth it. If you are after wedding venues, supplies or entertainment you couldn't go wrong with any of the above. Just make sure, as I have told all of the brides and grooms that have booked me since, that you find some time to breathe during your wedding day. We found the day exhausting so I have no idea how those that worked that day coped.
Now I'm just off to plan the Renewal of Vows... actually, that can wait a while.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Wedding Diaries: Hen and Stag

video
Well it's the early hours of the morning and I'm still awake due to the chronic indigestion that is the result of a weekend of indulging in copious amounts of alcohol and rich food.
Yes, it was my stag weekend at Center Parcs in Elveden Forest. Us lads weren't alone however as the bride to be was there for her hen weekend too, gothing up and sipping from straws that no self respecting man would place to his lips.
I am told that Center Parcs with it's fun family atmosphere try not to encourage hen or stag weekends but they would more likely need to fear the sound of snoring than drunken singing from a caricaturist in his late thirties. That is more than I can say for the rest of the party though, with madness aplenty among the wilderness.
Though I have a lazy demeanor, that isn't to say I refrained from drinking.. indeed I consumed far more than I intended and found that we were all going to bed when the birds started tweeting.
It was a varied group too, aging from 18 to 40 and I witnessed the bizarre spectacle of seeing people from hugely different parts of my life mingling together.. I truly shall get a shock when it comes to the wedding. Right, where's the Pepto Bismol?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Dickens beaten by the Queen

My first attempt at drawing caricatures was at the Rochester Dickens Festival 15 years ago. I dread to think what those first pictures looked like, indeed I am even embarrassed by pictures from a few years back.
The Dickens Festival has been a big part of my life since I was 6 years old so it will be strange this year when I will be absent from the festivities. I had originally scheduled my stag weekend for next weekend thinking the festival was this week but Jubilee madness has hit the nation.
So while I am getting drunk at Center Parcs, why not pop down to Rochester next weekend for some Dickensian fun, albeit without a caricaturist (as far as I know).

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Wedding Diaries: Lollypop Photography

Many people fear the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 but for a groom to be there are far more things to fear in 2012. Yes, our wedding approaches like a confetti clad steam train.
So the next chapter in my wedding blog is photography. Our choice of photographer is none other than Lollypop photography.
Laura Campion runs Lollypop with her partner Jody and they have a unique personal touch to their work and approach to their work. I met Laura many years back when I produced drawings that now make me shudder with horror and was immediately impressed with her portfolio, anyone that can take pictures of me looking almost human has some sort of supernatural talent. I am in a unique position with my job in that I get to see many other wedding services in action and since meeting Laura I have had the pleasure of working with her and Jody on many occasions.
Not only do they have a professional attitude you can genuinely see the love for what they do, even stopping to take photos of various details that catch their eye on a wedding shoot. I think it's an important thing when choosing your wedding suppliers that you pick people with a love for what they do not just treating it like an average day job, which indeed it isn't.
Laura and Jody definately fit into the category of those with a love for their work and I would recommend checking them out at http://lollypopphoto.co.uk/

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Abide Guide: Truly a book for our time and place

In 1998 the Coen Brothers released a movie about a laid back, white russian slurping bowler named the Dude.  This movie was The Big Lebowski. Upon it's first release it didn't receive critical acclaim, in the way of it's main character it just casually meandered it's way on to our cinema screens and didn't really achieve a cult status until it's video & dvd release.
Like many cult movies, various offshoots and ideas grew from the love of the film, and probably the greatest idea developed from a movie is the subject of my blog today.
Maybe it's my artistic temperament, maybe it's just living in this financially driven world, but life can get a little too heavy on occasion for us all (a perfect example of which is my last blog regarding the greed of our postal service). When I find myself ranting a little too much I've often considered reading a self help book, and indeed I have even tried. I've also read up on the teachings of the Dalai Lama and considered yoga as an option. But for me these concepts are a little too detached from the chaos around us and it is far too easy to become distracted.
However, last year I discovered Dudeism. Back in 2005 a chilled out fellow by the name of Oliver Benjamin founded the church of the Latter-Day Dude, a religion based on Jeff Bridges character the Dude from The Big Lebowski. It gave me a bit of a chuckle, what a great idea.. the concept of a religion based on a movie character really seemed no more crazy than the sound of any other religion. I flicked through the pages on the website at www.dudeism.com and discovered this huge following of people that just wanted to ignore life's pressures and take it easy.
Later in the year Oliver Benjamin & Dwayne Eutsey released a book called The Abide Guide, a self help guide to life using the teachings of Dudeism. I managed to get a copy and I have to say it is possibly one of the most enjoyable reads I have ever had, hilarious and informative.
Worded almost in the Dude's mellow manner, this book is full of humour, following the movie's narrative and pointing out the Dude's way of dealing with life's complications.. usually by ignoring them.
In all seriousness I did find by kicking back and reading the wise words of the dude life didn't seem to be quite so difficult.. ok, I know life for me isn't really that difficult anyway, I'm a cartoonist after all. But I do have a wedding approaching so many of you know how that can upset the temperament of even the most cool minded among us.
So put down that 10 steps to happiness book and pick up a copy of the Abide Guide, maybe watch The Big Lebowski first, but you could soon find yourself relaxed enough to wear a dressing gown in public, sipping a carton of milk right off the shelf in the supermarket..
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Abide-Guide-Benjamin/dp/1569759766/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331651471&sr=8-1

Monday, 6 February 2012

'Royal' Mail funding the Queens Jubilee?

For 10 years now I have had a PO Box which I have used for all my art based mail and while having to deal with the odd Post Office Monkey things have worked to a degree.
In a world which now hypes on about internet security and keeping your personal details safe I would have thought it wise to keep my home address off of websites and such, so a PO Box serves that purpose. 
Last week my yearly bill for my PO Box turned up and my eyes nearly fell out of my head. The price had gone up from £95 to £170!
I called Royal Mail's "help" number and was told to complain via their website, I did this and was then told to phone the number I'd just phoned... aaagh! Finally today I got to speak to a person and they said with the use of the internet the postal service has had to put their prices up.
Shocked, I said, "what, by nearly 100%?" and the reply was, simply, "yup, sorry"
What with Apple canceling the iweb service that creates my website, some big wedding fairs charging a fortune for people to visit and now this, I'm wondering what the world has against a small caricature business.
Pretty soon we may just need a mortgage to buy stamps!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Call the Midwife

Last summer I had the pleasure of working as an extra on the set of the BBCs Call the Midwife. It has been released slightly earlier than I anticipated and so becomes an appropriate subject to blog about.

The show, following the story of a midwife in London in the 1950s stars Jessica Raine & Miranda Hart and has received positive reviews, so much so that rumours of a second series are circling.

It is always fun to work as an extra on period pieces as you get to dress up and wander among surroundings befitting a long lost period, something which I have become used to with Dickens World and my previous stint on Scorsese's Hugo.


Even more fun when you get to sit back and see yourself as a dot or a 1/10th of a second blur in a scene such as in the photo above (that's me looking grumpy)
There's even moments of horror occasionally when you realise that you really need to lose weight. My family thought my stomach in the picture above was padding... sadly not.

Every time I go on a set I manage to have some sort of an accident. With Midwife I had a scene where I had to light a cigarette before walking behind the cycling midwives. This I did until I managed to burn my bottom lip with the flame. I then walked across the scene trying to hide the pain from my face and spent the rest of the day nursing a rapidly blistering lip. To add insult to injury (literally) I found when the episode aired my part in the scene had been cut.. oh well.

One thing I always try to do on set is draw caricatures of my fellow extras. For Hugo I'm pretty sure I had drawn almost all of the train station occupants and I think the same could be said for most of the people in scenes in Midwife.

I believe there is still one or two episodes of Midwife left to go so check it out on Sunday evening, maybe eat your roast dinner first.. births and food never seem to go well together.