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.)