Saturday, 24 January 2009

Wee progressions

I finally finished off the sailor automaton...Sometimes I spend a lot of time faffing in the final 10% of a piece. I spent a lifetime doing the gold titling, the final set of varnish, the covering of the silver screws in his joints. I no way should I have faffed for so long. He doesn't look that much different but in person he's a lot smarter looking.

I started a painting of a fox last week to sit inside the front of a clock i'd ripped off, no shots yet but here's the sketch for it

I think the painting itself has a long way to go, fur is the devil itself ot get right and since the painting is quite large it is doubly problematic for me....I think a coating of oil over the acrylic is the only way to do it properly, we'll see!

Meantime i've been researchig for the next big theatre I want to make and in my studies i've come across some of the oddest stories...Since it's nearly Burns night i'll be literary and relate to you this odd tale called the Red Barn....Bear in mind this is a true story.

In 1826 in Suffolk, England a young woman named Maria Marten (the daughter of a mole catcher) got romantically involved with a local well-to-do rogue called William Corder. Maria had had lovers before including William's older brother whom she'd had a child by. In any case Maria became pregnant with William's child and wanted them to marry while Corder wanted the relationship to remain a secret.

Eventually Corder relented and told Maria to meet him in the Red Barn so that they could elope, she was never seen again. Corder also dissappeared for a time but when he eventually resurfaced he claimed maria was alive and well. He sent letters to her family giving all kinds of reasons why Maria couldn't write back or visit. Her family of course grew suspicious and one night her stepmother had a dream that maria had been murdered and buried in the Red Barn. She told her husband to go and dig in the barn where they found her remains hidden in a sack in a grain bin.

Corder was unbelievably easy to catch, he'd married someone else and was running a women's boarding house, and had all manner of incriminating evidence such as pistols bought on the day of the murder. Clearly not the sharpest tack. He was tried and convicted of her murder. His sentence of course was death - He was hung and his chest was slit open to reveal his muscles - how strange - and then he was displayed for the public to see.

I thought perhaps the story would end there, but actually the oddest part comes next. Corder's body went through all kinds of strange things. Firstly he was dissected as an example for trainee surgeons, then later his skull was examined by phrenologists (His personality was found to be secretive and destructive). The skeleton was then put back together and exhibited as a teaching aid at a hospital while his skin was cured and used to bind an account of the murder (You can still see this book in Moyse's hall museum I think).

The story actually has numerous side-stories and alternative plot lines. For example Maria's step mother was possibly having an affair with Corder (her dream came about only days after Corder married the other womans) and helped to plot the death of Maria. You can read the full details here:

It's an unbelievable mess of a story with all of the traditional elements at work. A wicked step mother, a murderous bridegroom, an iconic building, dreams and portents.

The theatre itself is not related to the story but since i've been scouring local histories of places around britain it seems like there are hundreds of fantastic tales like this.


Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

The sailor is awesome - and the tattoos are just terrific. Brava!

...and the story is quite creepy indeed!

pen and paper said...

Fur and hair - impossible to do in acrylic. I sometimes think fur and hair are the reasons I turn to drawing more often than painting. Well, fur and hair and the security deposit on my apartment.

I love digging around for local stories. Even American towns, young as they are in comparison, usually have stories that get passed along regionally.

sarahblank said...

I love your fox sketch. It's so nice to see sketches in progress. The oil over the acrylic seems the way to go for the fur. Acrylics will dry out your 0 brush bristles within minutes!
Beautiful work, as always.

littlerobot said...

Hey! Thanks very much for the nice comments!

Oh yes the acrylic thing just isn't working properly, I can get nice thin lines but they are so hard and then of course dry by the time I try to soften them. I'm going to carry on and do the painting in acrylics and then go over the whole lot with oil glazes to try and soften everything....I'm not totally sure it'll work out but hopefully i'll have learned something about hair!

When I started doing the fox sketches Willy, the groundskeeper for the estate we live on (Yes he's actually called Groundskeeper willy!) offered to get me a dead fox to draw. I said a strained 'ok' (I'm veggie and Willy is the #1 cause of fox deaths on this hill) to it but he hasn't brought one round yet....I have a dreadful fear of coming home to a decimated fox in a box. Even so, i'm intrigued to see a fox up close, generally speaking they're impossible to get a glimpse of.

ArtSnark said...

The sailor came out great! Enjoyed the tale as well

donna said...

foxes! favourite!

i like your blog. your theatres are incredible.

urrr. just the words red barn have always given me the creeps....
there's an old reader's digest book called "folklore myths and legends of britain", full of these kinds of tales.. it's worth hunting down.
(you could get it here.. if you're interested!)