Twilight on the blasted heath 

The black trees I’ve been making this week while I’m playing with model making techniques for the Hansel and Gretel promo film project really lend themselves to settings of ghost stories, dark fairy tales, horror stories, and tales of the uncanny. So I took a few photos today, putting the trees in a bleak heathland setting at twilight and cranking up the creepy factor. The sun has just set, night is coming on and it looks like a storm is brewing on the horizon. I wanted to get that feeling of ‘oh drat (or something) I’m lost, it’s getting dark, there’s a storm coming and there’s nowhere to shelter apart from that unwholesome looking tower over there’. You just know it’s not going to end well!

Appropriately, as I’m writing this, Radio 4 is on and there’s a programme about Pendle Hill and the Pendle Witches.











The black forest

Not the one in southern Germany where the gateaux comes from, the one that’s growing on my desk at the moment as I work through more ideas on the Hansel and Gretel theme. I guess these trees are fairly unequivocal: blackened twigs -check; twisted grasping branches – check, poisonous fungi – check. They’re definitely not trees to hug. 

Here’s one part finished with most of its layers exposed; wire, foam, different papers, raffia, and a final layer of paint and acrylic medium. 
And here’s an addition to my range of gothic confectionary. I think these are ‘hellish humbugs’. They are basically a horrible parasitic growth that sucks the life out of living trees, attaching itself to their roots, drawing off their nutrients and energy till these venomous blooms break through the surface and entice small children passing by to eat them and thereby pass on their spores to the next forest. 

One day I think I will have had enough of making malevolent plantlife and I’ll just want to paint pretty flowers, but not yet 😉 

Miles from the Sea

I more or less finished this bit of Lincolnshire gothic whimsy today and took a few photos. I got into the idea of the old lighthouse on Lincolnshire Heath guiding weary travellers safely across the wild country. It was pretty useful back in the day when, if you stayed off the right track, there were robbers on one side, ready to pounce and treacherous bogs and mires on the other, ready to swallow people up. I also painted a new sky backdrop as this one needed a big Lincolnshire sky:

A small river snakes around the lighthouse but it’s many miles away from the sea. The lighthouse keeper is quite a character, with quite a story to tell, but more about him later 😉.

I’ve been surprised at what images I can get out of the iPad camera and a torch for lighting although there is a heck of a lot of noise on the images,  but it’ll be interesting to see what this looks like when I try working with Jan, who’s a proper photographer with proper equipment next week. Here’s some more photos from today, with different filters and lighting:



The landlocked lighthouse

Part-way through making this kind of slightly expressionist lighthouse model today; it needs a roof, windows and doors and a few more details to help give it scale. Just going with the model and maquette-making at the moment, I’m enjoying it and it’ll help work out where my ideas go for more 2D work. Here’s a photo of the work in progress:


I’ve made numerous images of coastal lighthouses before, but I’ve come across a couple of examples of inland lighthouses which I found curious and I wanted to explore the idea further. Firstly, my friend Sarah (who has put together the wonderful The Curious One Pinterest site) sent me a gorgeous image of the Ballycurrin Lighthouse in County Galway, Ireland. You can see the beautiful photo on the Facebook page Lost Buildings of Ireland here. Then I rediscovered an inland lighthouse near to where I grew up in Lincolnshire of all places. When I was young, mum and dad would drive the family up the A15 to Lincoln from time to time to go shopping. The road followed the ancient Roman track across the county and about halfway we would pass an old stone tower by the road. It was only when I was browsing the internet recently that this tower popped up again, which I had forgotten about. It turns out it was built to act as a beacon hundreds of years ago when travelling across Lincoln Heath was dangerous, mainly due to highwaymen and robbers. I’m sure I knew this when I was young but I had completely forgotten it. There’s some information about the structure on Rod Collins’s Lincolnshire history website here.

But my favourite inland lighthouse is a fictional one in Clive Barker’s novel Abarat. The story begins when a young girl, Candy, wanders out into the grasslands of the Minnesota prairie and comes across a decrepit, wooden lighthouse, hundreds of miles from the sea. But this lighthouse was very special, and could conjure the sea to appear from another world. This is exactly the kind of story I would have loved to have read when I was growing up in rural Lincolnshire. Candy’s home town was dullsville, and its main employer was the local chicken processing factory, very much like my home town! I would have daydreamed, when I was a kid, of walking out into the fields and finding a lighthouse and a portal to another world just like Candy did. So I think there will be a story attached to my model lighthouse when I finish it, and it will be located in the Lincolnshire countryside, to provide some much needed interest and adventure for the young people growing up there like me 😉.

Here are a couple more pics of the model so far:





More creepy creepers


Finished this little maquette of an arch of some vines or creepers of some sort and photographed it with the little cottage I made earlier this year.

Here’s the model in normal light, with some more shadowy images following:


image image image image

As photography is become more important to me these days I’m going to start learning how to do it properly. So far I just point and shoot with my little pocket camera or iPad but hubby is kindly going to let me use one of his decent cameras, so lots to learn but I should get some better images eventually.

Also, although I don’t have the set-up yet to do animation properly I’m keen to get started. I’d like to animate this model, get those leaves and tendrils weaving and waving about.


The seeds of doom 2

Work in progress of the model I’m making based on the sketch of a kind of tree tunnel I did last month. The photo is of the basic structure, made from paper, wire, foam and clay. Just waiting for it to dry then it can be painted and have some leaves added and a bit of ‘gothic confectionary’ of some kind – maybe those red liquorice bootlace things that could be transformed into strangling vines, anyway, we’ll see: 


Since I first started sketching this idea of some rather malevolent shrubbery I’ve been looking into strange and dangerous growing things and I’ve come across all kinds of weird plantlife. There are these rather sinister thorn apples growing all round the streets here in Berlin for example; tiny amounts can cause powerful hallucinations but also death:


And back at mum’s place in Lincolnshire I took a photo of these vine leaves that had the most wonderful dramatic autumn colour. They’re harmless but they look like the might not be: 

But my ‘oh that flower creeps me out’ award this week goes to the Stapelia Gigantea, which was brought to my attention this week by my friend Leonard Greco in Los Angeles who posted a great photo of a specimen he had in flower. The huge blooms have evolved to look and smell like rotting meat to attract the flies that pollinate them. This means after a few days the flowers are often crawling with maggots – eww! If you’re not having your dinner check this out on YouTube. Leonard is also a brilliant artist with a unique and powerful vision, you can see his work on his blog here.

In the last ‘Seeds of Doom’ post I wrote about the Dr. Who episode of the same name, broadcast in the 1970s. But I’ve remembered another Dr. Who story which also included aliens plantlife called Planet of the Daleks, from 1973 which I loved. In the first episode Jo (played by the fabulous Katy Manning) is exploring the jungle planet the Tardis has landed on when she is hit by a jet of fluid emitted by a plant. An ugly fungus starts to grow on her hand and them up her arm. Thankfully, one of the invisible Spiridons who live on the planet cooks up some salve to put on the fungus which cures it, otherwise she would have been completely engulfed – yikes. I was about 8 when I watched this story and I was pretty scared by it! 

Since I got back home at the beginning of the week I’ve been making mainly models, both for the Hansel and Gretel promo film and for other side projects too. After a break, I often feel a bit stiff and inhibited when I think about making a new painting, but models and maquettes somehow are easier to get stuck into, you can just get making and the tactile, hands on nature of it helps relive stiffness and stuckness.  Here’s my desk at the moment, with a production line of trees on one side. The little lighthouse is a tea light holder that was a gift, and it’s going to be a guide for a lighthouse model for another project. That wonderful mug was also a gift from my stay in Whitstable last weekend – thanks Paul and Phil 😉. I  always have to have some tea on the go when I’m working! 

Ok, best get back to making some poisonous leaves 😊

Hansel and Gretel turn Bertie 

I’ve been in the UK for the last couple of weeks, seeing friends and family and traveling between London, Lincolnshire, Leeds and Whitstable and I’ve not had much time to do much work. I did take a sketchbook though, and one day a rather strange image appeared in its pages:

I was just doodling really, thinking about the Hansel and Gretel promo film I’m collaborating on and probably thinking about confectionary, which is never far from my mind. Looking at the sketch I can see a couple of other influences at work too, although I wasn’t consciously aware of them at the time; firstly a great expressionist gravestone by the architect Max Taut that I’d seen here in Berlin, and, at the other end of the cultural spectrum, an old advert for liquorice allsorts. I love this ‘turning Bertie’ ad., it’s just very silly, which appeals to me; here’s a link to it on YouTube.

So the idea of a pair of crumbling old gate posts with liquorice allsorts perched on top took hold and I decided to make them when I got back home to Berlin on Monday. The structures are designed to entice lost and hungry children, such as Hansel and Gretel, to visit the witch’s cottage, but the evil corruption emanating from that ghastly creature is seeping out of the sugary verneer that the witch has conjured to seduce passers-by. The sweets are putrifying, oozing sickly sweet decay but they also eminate an intoxicating perfume that muddle the senses and draw the unwary into the witch’s cloying trap.

heres a couple of photos of the finished models:



And a few pics with some of the other models I’ve made this year. Combining the decaying sweets with the forest envroments for the film convincingly will be a challenge but it’s great fun playing and making mouldy sweeties!