I haven’t done so many book reviews recently and fewer still that have been sourced from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme. Why so? It does hinge on LibraryThing, which is still running the programme with a monthly release of new books. Having filtered down to show things available in the UK, I scroll through and mark things I’m interested; what you get depends on a lottery system. Demand outstrips supply so you will win either one or zero books and I think the algorithm marks you down if you have a history of not producing reviews for what you have previously been sent (although no compunction to say that you liked it).
However, I have found that there is often little that attracts my interest. Furthermore, quite often, the books have been underwhelming. There have been a few where keeping the book seems like an adequate reward for the time invested in reading it and writing a short response but the hit rate is fairly low.
It’s not a bad programme and I think it has sharpened some skills but, while I’m glad it keeps going, I going to continue to be much more selective about putting my name forward to receive something and my notes on books will probably more often come from other libraries.
A temptation when working on a drawing is apply equal attention and effort to every area of the page. However, my experience, certainly at the level of sketching, is that stronger results are often much less homogenised.
The image above was another Sunday morning sketch at church. It was done largely ‘blind’ with a little finishing work on shading and details but I think it would be much weaker if the level of detail on the right was replicated on the left. Taking the lack of detail from the left over to the opposite side would be better but I think where I took this one, with contrast, is best of all.
You can see that this is one of my ‘double spread’ series so another experiment you can carry out is to just look at one of the halves. To my eye, the right hand side is the focus of the overall piece but uninspiring when isolated. The left side is much looser and, critically, has a hint of the same focus on detail in the lower right that plays out across the whole.
Why does that work? Perhaps it is as simple as leaving something for the viewer’s imagination, an invitation to engage rather than just to view and move on.
In a break from routine, today saw us popping down to North West Kent to attend a memorial service in the afternoon. It is quite a while since I was last back in that area and it was interesting to see what looked familiar as well as some things that had changed.
One thing that does pull the chords of nostalgia though is the sound of the voices. Each one is individual but, stepping away from details like words and meaning, there is something about that kind of voice that is the foundation of my voice.
I don’t think it is the most beautiful accent of the British Isles but there is something about it which vibrates to the root of me.
This week, Oxford’s Ultimate Picture Palace is showing Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). It charts the story of the band Queen from their formation to appearing at the Live Aid concert in 1985. The story is more about Freddie Mercury than Queen as a whole and, from what I know from other sources, shows all the attention to historical accuracy that you would expect from a major movie (which is to say, very little at all).
As history, the film takes liberties. In the future, it might tell historians a little of how Brian May and Roger Taylor (both of whom were involved as “Executive Music Producers”) were willing for the story of the band to be depicted. However, it is really all about the music, which was what took me down to see it.
Meticulous attention was paid to restaging concerts based on existing footage and also creating little cameos of how famous songs began in the rehearsal room. Again, probably not to be trusted for historical veracity but Rami Malek and his confrères put on a remarkable show. There are so many great songs they didn’t even mention (March of the Black Queen? Ogre Battle?) but it would have needed to be a much longer film to do so and most of the big hits got some airing as well as a recreation of the Live Aid performance.
By the time I was old enough to go to concerts, the gigging days for the original line up were pretty much done (and stadium gigs would have been out of my means). However, they were one of the most influential bands on my listening at the time when I was starting to develop as a musician. Not for the story of the band, or of Freddie Mercury, but for revisiting my own history with the music, the film was worth the price of admission.
Earlier this week, I revisited the modern art room (gallery 62) in the Ashmolean and sketched all of the Barbara Hepworth sculptures. It ended up that the one I devoted the quickest scribble to was the one that ended up catching my attention most and I did another drawing of it: Six Forms on a Circle (1967).
This afternoon, I finally got my acrylic paints out again after a longer lay-off than I had expected and started painting from that sketch. Here is where I have got so far:
Probably best not to blame Dame Barbara too much for this one. The sculpture positions the forms on a disk, with a relative regular one and then increasing levels of distortion. For my response, I’ve laid them out largely in a line with a bit of overlap.
I don’t think I’m finished with this one yet but I thought I’d share that my brushes are back in the game.
More-so than other forms of fiction, comics seem to have a real problem developing a continuing narrative. Instead, they are all about the reboot: the same heroes, villains and supporting settings featuring in repeated retellings of the the same handful of stories. It is probably a consequence of the facts that regular updates are expected, fans are often very resistant to developments that pull away from their understanding of what fits and the form is about the art as well as the story.
This can get wearing but I’m finding myself quite intrigued with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles volume I picked up from the library this week. Same characters, similar setting but this one sits quite well with me. In particular, the main characters all have more of a teenage vibe. Graphic novels like to be taken serious but often end up just being disposable comics but this particular reboot, so far, seems to be doing a good job.