pottering around piccadilly

Last week, I took my Glasgow Auntie’s advice and popped into the Royal Academy before the Random House party to see The Glasgow Boys exhibition. I’d seen bits of it with her last year at the Kelvingrove in Glasgow, so it was fun to pick up where I’d left off. …Oops, can’t say that, my aunt has firmly instructed me not to say that art galleries are ‘fun’; they are not ‘fun’, they are ‘interesting’. …Hello, Auntie!

I stopped to make a sketch of a rather strange little painting, Contrabandista, by Arthur Melville. It’s mostly composed of shapes, so abstract that it’s a bit difficult to work out what’s going on, which makes it sinister in a fascinating way. I can just about make out a convoy of people travelling down a hill slope on a track, with a sort of mushroom cloud on the horizon; then these huge bluey shadows blot out the foreground, most likely a group of bandits, standing at the top of another hill. Very different from the other paintings in the room; portraits, women playing tennis, a goose herder, a couple arts-and-crafts type scenes from Celtic mythology.

I love the strange light in this 1886 painting by James Nairn, Auchenhew, Arran. I wish I could paint atmospheres like this, it’s such a different skill from the kind of work I do. The cottages in it remind me a bit of one of my favourite films, set in a remote Danish fishing village, called Babette’s Feast. (It’s more fun to say with a Danish lilt, Babettes Gaestebud.)

I often walk up Jermyn Street, and Paxton & Whitfield was looking lovely with a dusting of snow. I’m particularly fond of this shop because it appears in a book of lithographs by Eric Ravilious titled High Street. It’s quite a rare book now, but I have a facsimile version, which is one of my treasured possessions.

And Fortnum & Mason looks even more amazing at Christmas than the rest of the year. Yum, yum.

The other day, before I went for dinner with Philip Reeve, I popped over to see Chris Beetle and the launch of a book about the creator of Dan Dare, Frank Hampson: Tomorrow Revisited by Alistair Crompton. Lovely colour prints inside. I haven’t grown up with Dan Dare, but my dad loved reading it, and I like the look of it; more adventure story than superhero. I might have to do some catching up with Dan Dare. My friend Rian Hughes drew Dan Dare for awhile, and his book has a similar title, Yesterday’s Tomorrows.

Chris Beetle with Frank Hampson: Tomorrow Revisited, Alistair Compton

Links: Have you seen, my fab friend Hayley Campbell just started up her own blog! She makes marvellous observations and has such a way with words, and particularly hashtags, which you may have already discovered on Twitter. Go over to her blog and say hello.

Hayley Campbell & my neighbour friend

And at Ellen’s party, I finally met comics creator and illustrator Julia Scheele. I’m bookmarking her site here because I want to spend more time exploring her work. (You can also follow her on Twitter.)

Julia Scheele and Neville Coleman (wearing Jamie Smart’s shirt design)

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