Willard Wigan, Microsculptor

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Ship on Grain of Sugar, mounted on Pinhead
(Click on thumbnail to enlarge.)(lol)

Willard Wigan is a microsculptor whose work is normally only about 0.005mm tall.

He discovered his talent at the early age of 5, and nowadays he often takes months to complete one of his sculptures, working between heartbeats to avoid hand tremors.

His own personal favourite is this one:
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Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
And yes, that is the eye of a needle.

Willard says of this piece: “It’s also quite a fun work of art, only 3 times bigger than a blood cell.”

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Statue of Liberty

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Very Private View

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Elephant on a Pinhead

Link to Willard Wigan’s website.

Director and producer Pogus Caesar has made a short film, An Eye on X, about Willard sculpting two tiny statues of Malcolm X, who visited the sculptor’s home town in 1965. Link, including short RealPlayer clip of Willard Wigan at work.

Amnesty International Campaign Graphics

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Refugees, A Credit To The Country

Amnesty International have been going through a revitalisation of their campaign graphics.

The work above was produced for the recent Refugee Week campaign, and using a credit card analogy, aimed to educate the British public about the contribution made to Britain by refugees and their descendants.
The cards highlight names such as Maurice Saatchi, Marks and Spencers, Thorn EMI, Patak Foods, Lew Grade, Rachel Weisz, Ben Elton, Alan Yentob, Paul Hamlyn, Sir Karl Popper, 11 UK Nobel Prize for Science winners, along with Joseph Conrad, Amish Kapoor, Elias Canetti, Sir Alexander Korda, and last but not least, Alec Issigonis (The inventor of the Mini) and many many others.

In Switzerland, Amnesty are producing some truly provocative street advertising with the set of site-specific posters recently posted on bus shelters.
(All the messages read: “It’s happening now, but out of sight”)

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Amnesty International Poster, Switzerland

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Amnesty International Poster, Switzerland

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Amnesty International Poster, Switzerland

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Amnesty International Poster, Switzerland

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Amnesty International Poster, Switzerland

Link to Amnesty International

Update! New Picture from Amnesty in Germany:

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Political Prisoners as Left Luggage, Germany

Painters I Should Have Known About (006) William Orpen, part 1

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Self Portrait in Mirror 1910
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge)

To tell the truth, I had heard of William Orpen, but not really opened my eyes to him and his paintiings. He always seemed to me to be somewhere out on the Irish sidelines of all that was exciting in European art early in the 20th Century.

It’s only in the last year or so that I have come to research him and his work in any methodical manner, and the more I learned about him, the more I began to like him as a man as well as a painter.

Orpen managed to cram an awful lot of painting into his relatively short life.
He worked hard and fast, with the result that there is a tremendous amount of material available to us today, despite the efforts to trash his work and his reputation as one of Europe’s finest portrait painters, after his death in 1931. Remember that this is the man whom John Singer Sargent regarded as his rightful successor, and this fact alone makes it hard to fathom Orpen’s relative obscurity today.

Let’s start our discovery of Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen by concentrating here on some of his large number of self portraits.
Now Orpen’s frequent paintings of himself do not mean that he was a narcissist, far from it. It was more a way for him to metaphorically pinch himself from time to time, and reflect in paint about the whirlwind of events that crowded his life.

Take a look at this pen and ink self portrait from an illustrated letter he sent in 1909, when he was a teacher at the Metropolitain School of Art in Dublin, where he himself had been a student only eight years earlier.

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Self Portrait Looking in a Mirror 1909

The following quoted insight is from a recent Christie’s auction catalogue describing Self Portrait Looking in a Mirror: “Orpen was intensely self-conscious of his looks, an obsession which was in part rooted in his overhearing a conversation between his parents discussing why it was that he was so ugly and the rest of the children so good looking. “I began to think I was a black blot on the earth.”

He was in reality striking in appearance with intense blue eyes, chestnut brown hair and boyish looks which lasted into his late forties, but his deep-felt insecurity often surfaced in his self-portraits. Despite being known as a ‘realist’ who painted objects and people as he saw them, he often exaggerated his own features, and in Self-portrait Looking in a Mirror, he makes a comical reference to his ‘unprepossessing’ looks. Orpen had a great sense of humour, joking his way through life and nicknaming himself ‘ickle Orps’. (He was only 5ft 3″, or 1.6metres)

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Self Portrait 1912

If you stop and consider what Orpen is presenting here in this 1912 portrait, you soon realise that he is playing some subtle and intricate games with the viewer. The first picture in this piece (top of this post) showed Orpen in a mirror, but with none of the painting equipment you’d expect in a self portrait. Just Orpen, with his legs apart, and framed by a mirror. We see what he sees as if he were not painting.

Now in the 1912 picture above, Orpen takes this idea a step further by incorporating real life objects into the framing of the image of himself. There’s a cheque and a page from his diary as well as a ferry ticket and some Engaged Seat notices. These objects almost obscure the image of the painter, who seems to be ducking down, rag in hand, ready to wipe the image clean.

A couple more pictures from the same location and time, but less playful in their composition:

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Summer Afternoon 1913

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The Studio 1913 (?)

Orpen obviously enjoyed these mindbending exercises. Take a look at this:

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Self Portrait, Multiple Mirrors 1924

Orpen also enjoyed dressing up. Here’s a painting of himself echoing a self portrait by Jean-Baptiste Chardin from 1771. Orpen wore this outfit to the Chelsea Arts Club ball in 1908.
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Self Portrait with Glasses 1908

Here’s the original:
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Autoportrait in Pastels 1771

The next picture, entitled “Ready To Start” contains more dressing up, but this time, it’s for real. Orpen became a war artist at the end of 1916. His fellow artists were Paul Nash, Muirhead Bone and Wyndham Lewis.

Recently arrived in France, he lays out soda siphon, wine bottles, a glass, several books, and maps of France, indicating that it was quite possible to have a comfortable time just a few miles from the front. By the time the First World War was over 2 terrible years later, Orpen came to regret this naive stance.
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Ready To Start 1917

Another similar self portrait from the same era, with a less cosy background:
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Self Portrait in Helmet 1917
There’s a subtle comparison between Orpen, safe in his tin hat, and the other two helmets in the background.

Orpen wanted to be identified with the resurgence of Irish national identity so he produced this self portrait:
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The Man From Aran 1909
It’s difficult to find any evidence that Orpen ever went to Aran.

This isn’t a self portrait as such, but I include it to give an indication of how popular William Orpen became in his lifetime.
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Cigarette Card ( I presume this was post WW1)

To balance all this self portraiture, have a look at some photos of William Orpen from 1903 and 1908.
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Studio Photo 1903

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Studio Photo 1908

We’d better have a quick bio here in order to provide a bit of context.

    Orpen was born at Stillorgan, a suburb of Dublin, on 27 November 1878, the youngest son of a Dublin solicitor.
    He was an infant prodigy, and was accepted into Dublin’s School of Art when aged only eleven.
    (Metropolitan School of Art)

    Six years later he entered Slade School of Fine Art where he studied under Henry Tonks.
    Slade School of Art, London (1897-1899)

    Recommended by John Singer Sargent, Orpen achieved rapid initial success and established for himself a reputation as a portrait artist

    1899 Orpen became a friend of Augustus John and joined the New English Art Club

    In 1917 Orpen was appointed an Official War Artist.

    1919 Orpen was elected Royal Academician.

    After the war, Orpen enjoys success as a prodigiously prolific portrait painter, producing over 600 portraits until his death at the age of 53, in 1931.

Orpen was financially one of the most successful, and eventually one of the most honoured, portrait painters working in Britain in the 20th century.

And now, to finish this initial posting, take a minute to look at William Orpen’s most tender and self-forgiving self portrait.

Unfortunately, I could only find a black and white halftone, copied from a book for an illustration.
It was to be Orpen’s last self portrait, done in the year of his death, 1931.
I include it because it shows the evident charm of the man which will feature in our next look at William Orpen: The Women!!

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Apres Le Bain 1931

120,000 Cartoons in Cartoon Database (Updated)

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When they say Cartoon Database, they mean Press Cartoon Database.

UPDATE: The Cartoon Database now boasts a new URL (http://www.cartoons.ac.uk) and a less arid interface.

The website itself contains enormous quantities of cartoons, but the clunky (think Old Skool Web “1990’s stylee”) interface makes them difficult to get at. The Search box is only available on the front page, so keep it open in a separate tab or window.
It’s not really organised for casual browsing, it’s best if you know what you’re looking for beforehand.

[Quote:] This is the online database of the University of Kent’s Centre for the Study of Cartoons and Caricature. It is free to use, and is maintained by the University as a research tool for academics and others interested in the history of British political and social cartooning.

This database is principally a guide to the Centre’s holdings of cartoon cuttings and original artwork. It contains more than 120,000 catalogued cartoons, mostly from the last hundred years. It is the largest cartoon database in the world, but still represents only a fraction of the Centre’s holdings.

The vast majority of these cartoons come from the Centre’s collections, but extra material has been added from the collections of the National Library of Wales, the LSE Library, and the John Rylands University Library.

The Centre has added cataloguing and contextual information to the cartoons, but the database is consulted by thousands of academics and researchers, many of whom have detailed specialist knowledge. In 2006 the Centre recognised this expertise by enabling users to edit the database themselves.

Here’s a sample from the entry for Les Gibbard:

When Margaret Thatcher won her first General Election in May 1979, Gibbard was prevented from attacking her, on the grounds that it was “too tough and ungentlemanly to attack a lady at the start of her honeymoon.” However, by the time of the Falklands War the Guardian had no qualms about his attacking the Prime Minister. As Gibbard recalled, “looking for some way to express my anger at the pointless waste of human life on both sides I turned to the famous cartoon by Philip Zec, which nearly had the Daily Mirror closed down during the Second World War.” Gibbard recaptioned it “The price of sovereignty has increased – official”, and the Guardian carried it on 6 May 1982.

As Gibbard noted afterwards, “I was unaware of the furore caused by it until I returned home later the following day to barrage of phone calls asking me how I proposed responding to being called a traitor.” It turned out that Thatcher had attacked those in the British media who were slow to back the campaign, and the Sun had followed her lead by accusing Les Gibbard – among others – of treason. “What is it but treason”, the paper demanded, “for The Guardian to print a cartoon, showing a British seaman clinging to a raft…isn’t that exactly calculated to weaken Britain’s resolve at a time when lives have been lost, whatever the justice of her cause?” The matter was raised in the House of Commons, and the Sun’s leader-writer was ousted from the National Union of Journalists for unfraternal behaviour.

Gibbard has also contributed caricatures to the Daily Mirror, and cartoons to the Daily Sketch, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Mirror, Evening Standard, Time Out, Melody Maker and others. From 1973 to 1975 he worked as an animator for Richard Williams’ studio, and from 1976 to 1977 produced his own animated political cartoon series Newshound for Granada TV’s Reports Politics. He has also key-animated the stories of Beatrix Potter, Wind in the Willows, Famous Fred, The Bear and others for TV. In addition he drew weekly political cartoons for Channel 4’s A Week in Politics from 1982 to 1986, and for BBC TV’s Newsnight, and On the Record from 1988 to 1995. Gibbard left the Guardian in 1994.

(My linkage & highlighting)

Unfortunately, try as I might I could not find the controversial Gibbard cartoon in the database. How cool is that?

Historical note: Les Gibbard’s “Newshound” spots for Granada TV consisted of 60 seconds of b/w line animation. Les and his assistant (Jeff? Geoff? Adams Someone please fill in the blank here!) had to work like demons to produce this minute of cleaned up animation in the 3 days of the week not taken up with editorial meetings, shooting, editing and shipping the footage from London to Manchester. Yes, it was all done on film in those days.
One day of the week was left for resting and drinking. I painted the backgrounds for the title sequence of Newshound. (No picture available.)

Here’s another Les Gibbard cartoon from the Falklands era:
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The Art Of Cars

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Every animated film deserves a good “making of” book, and Cars is getting a beauty.

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Michael Howe at o-meon.com writes:

Michael Wallis and wife Suzanne Fitzgerald Wallis, authors of numerous books chronicling the history and cultural impact of Route 66, the famed “Mother Road,” The Art of Cars is a tantalizing behind-the-scenes look at the concepts, sketches, and ideas that brought the world of Cars to life. Additionally, it provides readers with insight as to the fate of Route 66, and roads like it that seem to have just faded away into the American countryside and collective pop culture consciousness.

I’m glad to see my colleague Suzanne Slatcher getting a credit! (Hi Suzanne!)

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