Monthly Archives: November 2015


Our weekly spin of the wheel and foray into Reddit has taken a slightly different turn this week… well, actually, a completely different turn, given that I didn’t go to Reddit Gets Drawn, nor did I use the wheel to determine the length of the exercise.

It’s time for me to miss a button my shirt, leave my collar on the wonk and then trip over the red carpet (or my chair… again), as I’ve been nominated for an award!

The man to blame for this is our subject this week, one Charlie O’Shields, keeper of the doodlewash blog, who nominated me for the coveted Liebster Award along with nine of his other most crazed fans. What better way to exhibit one’s gratitude for this wonderful gesture, than to roundly offend the kind gentleman with a whistle-stop portrait? I’m sorry, Charlie. Please can we still be friends?

I think I pretty accurately captured the smile, and indeed I did all in my power within the three-and-a-half hours to show a sunny character, for that is, I think, what best describes doodlewash – a warm, friendly and addictive artistic community. And, like the sun itself, we all warm to Charlie, who is in the centre of it all and somehow manages to be entertaining and endearing on a daily basis. He also spends a great deal of time championing other artists from around the world, which is deserving of recognition in itself.

I suspect 90 per cent of my followers came from doodlewash in some way or another, but if you are one of the minority, go follow! And do it now!!

Now, in accepting this award, I’d like to thank my mu… oh, time’s up already? I’m being given fingers by the floor manager! I thought that kind of stuff only happened in rehearsal…

We’ve reached the stage where I now have to share ten (only ten!?) blogs who I think deserve this honour. With such a small number, I did, as Charlie did, rely on WordPress stats for the most part, to show who have been the most prolific on the site as well as who have been following me for the longest time. I also left out a couple of potential nominees because Charlie beat me to it. What I’m saying is, please don’t hate me if your name does not appear. I still love you.



I would of course have added Charlie in here myself, but I believe the rules are policed as tightly and seriously as playground touchy – that is, there are no touch-backs.

(blows party horn) Congratulations all round! In accepting the prize, you should show the Liebster Award badge, nominate ten people of your own, and then answer the questions below. Participation is, of course, not obligatory.

Yes, as mentioned just there, before I can scuttle off to my uproarious after-party, I apparently have to undergo some form of interrogation, answering ten taxing questions for your own perplexing pleasure. Well, here goes nothing:

Oh blimey, first one up and this is already getting to ‘phone a friend please, Chris’ territory. I don’t read many books, actually. I should probably read a lot more. In fiction, I rather enjoy thrillers, and non-fiction, I enjoy anything to do with history, design, or melding the two. A relatively new-found literary love, though, is poetry and verse. I wish I could write a decent poem or a good old sizzling sonnet.

Patently, Top and Toby – A First Book of Letters… I can tell you how that one goes from cover to cover! Failing that, probably Treasure Island, as it’s the first book I can remember picking from the library and reading myself.

I can’t say I’m passionate about a book at this moment. Honest answer. Moving on.

I’d be bored stiff otherwise. That, and having the concept of the blog there pushes me to continue with what I’m doing, which is trying to make art (incase you hadn’t gathered). It’s like a muscle, it requires training and it’s easy to atrophy, so having the community there is a wonderful thing.

I bounce wildly from one to the other. My digital files are all stored with impeccable order, my daily routine is very rigid, yet my space definitely deserves the label of ‘chaos’.

Somewhere bracing and out of the way. Norway, for instance. That could be fun.

Hmm, both are beautiful, but probably the stars. They seem to stimulate my imagination more than a sunset.

Again with the books. Lots of the newer books I do own are in e-book form. It’s a godsend, really, as I don’t have room in my extensive library for any more hardbacks.

This is probably why my writing is so poor – I don’t read enough. I’ve always enjoyed writing, though mostly as a hobby. When I was a teenager I spent summers penning Batman screenplays and a children’s book, so maybe there is a writer in me somewhere.

I would think it crude to slam them while writing on a social network, but indeed one should be careful what they share and who they interact with. I don’t do Facebook, Instagram or any of that stuff anymore – I only use WordPress. It seems the nicest of all and I’ve certainly met a lot of wonderful people in the time I’ve spent here.

There we are then.

I believe there’s a conga line to the after-party due any minute. Thanks once more to Charlie, and well done again to all nominees!


I really am not that great at 3D modelling, physical or digital. Memories of my ordeals with clay, most notably the ten-hour GCSE Art exam – in which I had to try and model a giant wristwatch – are now revisited with laughter, though at the time it was a truly hideous experience; I’d have rather been out on the field playing football with top set, which really is saying something. I never saw that watch again after the exam was over. I can only assume my teacher destroyed it in secret, for fear of it not only damning my chances of securing a decent grade, but also damning the entire school’s reputation at the upcoming exhibition.

Digital modelling has a much greater appeal to me. It’s something I’ve been working at relatively half-heartedly for a couple of years now, but indeed, once I’m forced to move beyond spheres and cubes and am confronted with NURBS, booles, texture maps, anti-aliasing and goodness knows what else, it does start to vex my little brain somewhat. So, I’ve decided to pull my socks up and try and throw myself into it, starting at the bottom and clawing my way upward.

Where better to begin than the much-coveted Countdown teapot? What an object of envy this would be to fellows at afternoon tea. This is the ‘masterpiece’ distributed exclusively to Countdown champions – the only way to get your mitts on one is to go on and vanquish your competition. Or, if you’re really desperate, you can hop onto eBay and pay in the region of £300 for one. But that’s cheating.

It’s a bit of a rickety, gaudy mess even in real life, so I felt confident in it as a starting block. The most interesting element of the exercise was trying to achieve the glazed texture; I added bump and noise in an attempt to get that feel. It looks quite poor under the complex lighting of the set (which incidentally I made for some quiz graphics long ago) and marginally better in a simple three light setup. I’ve no doubt it could be refined much further.

Perhaps I can use this symbol of victory as a push to go forward!


reddit11-100cYes, here we are again – time for another lionhearted spin of the wheel, and this week it brought me 100 minutes in which to create a drawing from the ever expansive selection of Reddit Gets Drawn volunteers. After last week’s terror with thirty and sixty second rushes, it was a relief to be gifted one hundred leisurely minutes for this week’s exercise. A good job, too, because this guy deserved every second.

I’ve continued my streak of making the subject look twenty years older than the photograph submitted suggests – the side in shade I think is largely responsible for that, and this chiaroscuro style of portrait is a concept I need to practice more – but I’m happy with how that rather sumptuous beard came out, well within the time limit too, actually, though I decided against any Photoshop fiddling. I also like how in trying extra hard to create the texture of his jumper, I actually ended up giving him what looks to be either a leather jacket or raincoat, I can’t decide which. It’s okay, though, we know how badass both of those garments are.

I’m not sure what to do with this series as we head toward the point where I’ve cracked virtually every space on the wheel. I feel I’ve sped up quite a bit with the aid of these challenges, and that was the only real aim, so perhaps I’ll just redress the wheel with more specific spaces, or maybe I’ll just tackle them at whatever speed I want, so that I can try some completely different approaches without having to rush. Who knows? Either way, I’m sure the Reddit images will continue. The site is a goldmine for those out for practice – do check it out if you haven’t already.

You may also wish to have a peek at the comment thread, in which many others have uploaded their interpretations of this photo.

See you next time – you be sure of it!

nick-hewer1Here is Nick Hewer, PR man-turned-celebrity thanks to a brilliant nine-year spell as Lord Sugar’s aide on The Apprentice. As the hapless candidates made one questionable decision after another, Nick’s over-the-shoulder scowls and witticisms in the boardroom quickly became one of the show’s biggest draws. There were even blogs dedicated to these delightful moments.

Nick became more familiar to me in 2012, when he was, rather unexpectedly, chosen to be the new presenter of Countdown, succeeding the fantastic Jeff Stelling. Even besides his lack of presenting experience, it seemed an odd transition, from cocky business wannabes to friendly grannies and bookish teenagers after only a dictionary and teapot. It would require a very different approach. Indeed, it took Hewer a long time to acclimatise; his charisma exhibited on The Apprentice didn’t seem to translate, leaving only an uncomfortably terse, tactless manner which left me cold…

…though the media would have me in the minority. ‘Unlikely Sex Symbol Has Revitalised Countdown’, shouted the tabloids. Well, go Nick! These stories came just days before someone, apparently in a complimentary mood, approached me and told me I resemble ‘what’s his name… that bloke who does Countdown now’. I’m quite sure after that comment, I wore an expression more of Hewer mould than ever before… though, in retrospect, I’m certain it was just her roundabout way of calling me an unlikely sex symbol. (Pff! ‘Unlikely’!?)

Nick soon settled in and won me over, though his penchant for saying completely the wrong thing and rendering contestants bemused has never really gone away, it’s just become increasingly amusing. Now, Nick has presented almost a thousand episodes of Countdown, continuing on even after retiring from The Apprentice. It’s nice to see the show rekindle some semblance of familiarity, for that is as central to Countdown as the games themselves, and the absence of such is likely why it had previously struggled in the post-Whiteley era. Long may Nick reign!

timetested-30-2timetested-30-1I’ve been a bit drained today, not least with the awful events in Paris (of course, my thoughts go out to all who have been impacted by this absolute nightmare), so this challenge is coming very, very late. It’s also actually the second go this week. The wheel originally gave me 30 seconds for this week’s time trial, which I was initially quite excited to get into. To be honest with you, though, they really didn’t amount to much at all (what was I expecting?), and they certainly weren’t very good, so I didn’t think them worth uploading and stringing out into a post.


See what I mean? I think the Reddit guy who offered that shot would chin me if he saw that. So yes, with that in mind and a bit of a quandary thrown my way, I basically broke the law and cheated the wheel (!!!), doing a couple of 60-second drawings instead – one Reddit, one not.

The dog is the wrong shape, but still looks canine, so that’s good, and I seem to have given it a cool foreshortening which the photograph doesn’t have. I did rather forget about the fact of facial features, though, and had to do that in the last few seconds.

The man you see at the head of the page is actually meant to be Freddie Mercury. Did you figure that out? Gold star for you. It was all going terribly until I added that little stroke below the eye, which seemed to lift it enormously for me. Not quite sure what went on with the arm, though… I guess I just got a little frantic!

Well, I’ve not a lot more to say about these, really – basically, drawing at this speed wasn’t as fun as I have memory of it being at school and college. Perhaps I’m just out of such practice, or need to loosen up. Bah. It was worth a try – let’s put this to bed hastily, and soldier on. Until next time!

bob-1A birthday shout-out to the late Robert Wentworth John ‘Bob’ Holness, who would have been eighty-seven today.

I’ve recently found myself watching episodes of Blockbusters; leave it to he to make me chuckle, looking on fondly at his comedic faux-pas in the presence of cocky sixth-formers. And to be honest, the show is worth watching for the theme tune and title sequence alone:

It was much the same format as the American parent: contestants play on the hexagonal grid of letters, answering general knowledge questions whose answers begin with said letters, competing to string a line of hexagons from one side to the other. We did something a bit different with it, though – Blockbusters was (and to my knowledge still is) unique in that it was an intelligent (but never elitist) quiz show exclusively for sixteen to eighteen-year old geeks; its audience, though, given the teatime transmission and lack of an alternative, spanned from toddlers to pensioners. Bob presided over the proceedings with a mix of debonair and bumbling (he was James Bond, dontcha know); like a schoolmaster from a different era who had lost all control of his cohort of smart-arses. He epitomised the avuncular; whether you found his manner sweet or slightly embarrassing, you couldn’t not warm to him.

As well as a magnificently tacky Blockbusters sweatshirt, and leather-bound dictionary, the major prizes (Bob quite honestly says ‘major prize’ about fifty times per show, each as hyperbolic as the last) these kids win are pretty bloody awesome for 1983, too: trips to New York (by Concorde!) and Venice, twenty-five driving lessons, and ZX Spectrum computers. Just the other day, I saw a contestant blaze their Gold Run and bag a ‘compact portable stereo’ which appeared the size of a small car.

You can see the very first episode of Blockbusters here. And if you weren’t convinced that the show would evolve out of its infancy to become so adorably, awkwardly nerdy, well, look no further than here. The stellar theme tune is totally deserving of a dedicated dance number, but seeing them doing that makes even me cringe… you will certainly never see me executing the Blockbusters hand jive, unless it’s very late or I’m extortionately drunk – even then, it’d be a push. if you want to do the moves yourself (don’t pretend you’re not curious), I have included the routine below. You’d look so cool.

Hand-over-hand (x2)
Potato-hands (x2)
Elbow-point-twirl (x2)
(Repeat x3)

Clap in the air manically.

Well, there we are. What did I tell you…? Who needs pick-up lines when you have the Blockbusters hand jive?

The Holness era ended in 1994 after the show, seemingly fed up of being shunted around the ITV schedules to make way for Australian soaps, jumped ship to Sky One, who I can’t imagine enjoyed quite as large a reach back then. Indeed, it only ran for one series on Sky before being axed. Blockbusters has been revived so many times since, on so many channels, and, while there are things you can credit the new versions for, there’s one thing they’re all missing: there ain’t no Bob. Holness went on to present ITV’s ropey Raise the Roof – a game show in which the star prize was a house! – before settling into the BBC’s revival of panel game Call My Bluff, which he hosted for several years until persistent ill-health forced his retirement. His death in 2012 was a sad day for the industry, just as it was for the generations who grew up with him on screen.

Did you know that Bob played the saxophone on the Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit, Baker Street? This was printed somewhere in the 80s, and for many years was circulated as fact. What a shame it wasn’t true!