Sunday 30 November 2008

Old Pictures

Some more family images to do with my father. I've been discovering so many since he died. I know they won't really interest visitors to this blog, but I hope you get an inkling of a 'life' from them.

This is my grandfather Arthur with my dad about 1940ish. I love this picture because they look so happy together.

Arthur, my grandfather on his wedding day to Florrie about 1932.

My great grandfather on the Trinchera Ranch in Colorado.

Dad, the 'typical American kid' in California 1942.

Dad 1956. He's 22 here, pre-beard and glasses!

Arthur and my step grandmother Barbara, Arthur's second wife in India 1944, both smoking. They all did then! I like this one of Barbara. She looks 'very of the time'.

Dad is the one bottom left with the aviator sunglasses, with a bunch of mates in 1951.

Finally, my great uncle Malcolm Elwin to whom my father was very close, in his study. Malcolm smoked about 500 Capstan Full Strength a week. I distinctly remember the smell of his study: old books, tobacco and the smell of Eve's cooking from the kitchen.

Sunday 23 November 2008

Bryant Turner Fell 1934 - 2008

On Friday, the 7th November 2008, at about 10.30 in the morning my father had a stroke. He was sitting in his armchair in the kitchen with the cat on his lap. My mother came home from shopping in the local village and found him. The first thing she said to him was: “That’s a funny position.”

I like to think that this is where Bryant Turner Fell died; in his armchair with the little cat that wandered in one day and adopted us, sitting purring on his lap. And maybe it is where he died, at least the element that described my father, the part of the brain that gave him character and personality; the part I knew. But to some extent, the truth is he died a lot later, in Bangor Hospital Gwynedd, Wales; Prysor ward, nine days after he was admitted. His body having endured a week of pain and loss of dignity from both the multiple sclerosis that had destroyed his later years, and the agonising twists and contortions that the massive stroke he'd had provided him with.

My parents live in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in Anglesey in Wales. When my mother found my father she contacted the local doctor, and because of their isolation he called a helicopter to the farm to take him to Bangor hospital about 25 miles away. He vomited at some point and probably inhaled much of that, which gave him pneumonia.

My father was born in June 1934 in Oxford to a peripatetic American mother and staid upright British father. How the two of them ever got together in the first place is beyond me. The differences were extreme to say the least. But maybe that was the point. I didn’t know my grandfather, Arthur. We met a couple of times, and I found him reserved and very British. He had been a doctor. Florence Hayes Turner, or Florrie, my grandmother was a hippy before there were hippies. She worked as a talent scout for MGM studios; although exactly what she was doing in 1934 I don’t know. I have a great photo’ of her from the twenties sitting in a huge American roadster that I can’t identify. She was the daughter of a Colorado rancher, my great grandfather, and she and her sister Eve had grown up on the Trinchera Ranch, which at one point had covered a huge swathe of Colorado.

My dad moved to the US with his mother and sister Chantek not long after his birth and spent the war years in Colorado, Santa Barbara and San Diego and Malaya. He came back to England in 1946 aged 11, a typical American boy he would say. He arrived in Liverpool, and some waggish Liverpudlian told a naïve American kid to support Derby County football club, and my father was a firm follower of them all his life.

He went to St Edwards School in Oxford. When I say ‘went’, I mean his mother put him there to allow her to travel the world. During his schooldays he would spend holidays staying with his aunt Eve, Florrie’s sister, and her husband, the writer Malcolm Elwin in Devon. Malcolm was friends with Daniel Farson, the great nephew of Bram Stoker, and also the witer of Tarka the Otter Henry Williamson. From these people he learned to love books and reading, and I think some of his happiest times were here in the leafy lanes, and windswept sand dunes of North Devon. Malcolm had also been a friend of the poet Louis Wilkinson who had been in turn a good friend of Aleister Crowley. This had always excited me. More so when I learnt Louis had taught my father to swim.

Florrie was a fascinating woman. A teller of tales and extravagances she could keep you riveted for ages, if you allowed her to. As a child she always used to bring my sister and I presents from America. She lived in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City as a resident, where she hung around with Warhol and his ilk, until she moved to Edinburgh to be close to my Dad’s half brother by her second marriage; Malcolm LeMaistre. Malcolm had been in a band called the Incredible String Band in the ‘60’s and ‘70s and Florrie had always felt closer to the more rebellious son.

In the 1950’s my father did National Service like everyone else, and became Second Lieutenant B T Fell in the Duke of Wellington’s regiment after being at Sand Hurst, and all his life would look forward to the regiments magazine The Iron Duke dropping through the post box. He loved his military life, and made lifetime friends there, constantly telling us endless stories of what he got up to. He was stationed in Gibraltar, but never saw any ‘action’ despite almost going to Korea. (A broken arm prevented this). As a child I used to find his canvas army sleeping bag and sleep in it every night if I could, as I loved the smell of my father. It was only recently he told me he had never washed it!

It was in the late ‘50’s he got the first signs of the illness that was to destroy his later years when he first went almost blind in his right eye: Multiple Sclerosis. He met my mother in 1961 when she was a nurse working at the BBC, and he was working for Mann’s brewery in London. He had something in his eye, and she removed it. Their first date was to a cricket match! He was ever the romantic! Mum say’s she knew she was going to marry him almost from the first time they met. They did, six weeks later, and lived in a small flat in Barnes.

My dad became a teacher in the ‘60’s, and taught at Millfield Public School in Somerset where he became a housemaster. He lectured in all sorts of things, but sport was his obsession, and he ended up helping to pick the Olympic Pentathlon teams when he became secretary of the Modern Pentathlon Association. At weekends he would play rugby. My sister and I came along in the mid sixties. The house dad was in charge of was called Holmcroft, and it would alternate between girls and boys each year. My favourite years were the ones with girls. A little boy gets lots of attention from teenage girls, and I loved it! Debbie, my sister, of course preferred the years with boys! I remember one year, my sister and I standing in the street in our dressing gowns with severe mumps, waiting for the Queen to go past.

In 1974 we left Somerset and moved to Cheshire. My father had got a job teaching remedial studies at Tarporley and would run Summer Schools for children with dyslexia. Mother returned to her first career of nursing at Chester. We lived down a small country lane near a large mansion called Bulkeley Hall and enjoyed a rural life with the nearest and only shop over five miles away. I remember my sister and I squirting the foxhunters with water pistols from our bedroom windows as they passed down the lane. Dad tried to save money on petrol during the fuel crises of the 1970’s by buying a moped and travelling the 10 miles to work on its wobbly wheels. He came off it a number of times! Mum hated it.

Another move took our family to Kettering in Northamptonshire, a move my father later regretted, and it was here my mother’s kidney disease, which had killed her mother and one of her sisters, developed further and she had a kidney transplant. Here also, the multiple sclerosis of my fathers started to make its presence felt. After a second move across Kettering, my father took early retirement in 1985 and he and my mother moved to North Wales where they would stay. There was some disagreement as to the location from my sister and myself. With mum’s kidney problems and my father’s M.S., the last place they should have chosen to live was an old farmhouse in the middle of no-where in an unfamiliar place, thirty miles from a hospital. But they wanted it, or at least my father did. He had some romantic notion about it being a retreat; a place to escape the world, as his aunt Eve and uncle Malcolm had done years before. My sister and I had long since moved away, and had started our own lives in other places, so we couldn’t be there all the time. Ultimately, as my father started to deteriorate, my mother became his full time carer, and despite her own illnesses, which were many, she stayed his constant companion and love until Friday, the 7th November 2008.

This is his history, however paraphrased. But the man was much more. As a younger man he had been energetic and sporty. He loved cricket and rugby, and developed a deep affection for American sports such as Football and baseball. His team were the Green Bay Packers, and that is as far as my knowledge of this game goes. Humanised chess he would call it. The multiple sclerosis put the lid on any kind of taking part in such things, pretty much after the mid eighties. He became a dedicated armchair sportsman, and enjoyed the massive tv screen in his last months a good friend gave him.

Dad was a thinker, a reader and a deep sentimentalist. He would deny the latter, but you had only to look at his record collection to see how true this was. When he discovered CD’s he started collecting all his favourite music all over again, and I would wince as his old 78’s were confined to history. The music was important to him, not how he heard it, and CD’s sounded so much better than scratchy old shellac. Jazz was his love, particularly artists like Mugsy Spanier, and old traditional jazz. He also enjoyed sixties music, and movie soundtracks. How I will ever listen to the Gettysburg theme, or Morningtown Ride by The Seekers again is a sentimental bridge I will struggle to cross.

He had thousands of books. Literally thousands. I grew up with their familiar spines and book jackets painting the walls of my youth. Many American authors like Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Sinclair Lewis. But also books of poetry, and biographies, particularly of other writers. Malcolm Elwin’s biographies of Byron spring to mind. He loved G A Henty, Rider Haggard, H G Wells, Somerset Maugham and Walter Scott. He loved the history of the American Civil War because an ancestor who also bore the unusual name Bryant had lost an arm at Gettysburg. In fact it seems Bryant was a name that occurred frequently in his family. One of his favourite movies was Gettysburg.

According to my mother, many of his happiest times were spent in the armchair permanently rooted in the corner of the big kitchen in the house in Anglesey. Next to the chair was his zimmer and the telephone for any emergency. But to me, every time I would come home, the chair represented a prison. A ball and chain my father could never get away from, and was permanently tied to. Coincidence plays stupid games with you when emotional trauma finds you in life. But next to dad’s chair, top of the little pile of books from the library he would work his way through in the following week, was a novel called ‘The Empty Chair’. God may not play dice, but I really believe he works as a comedian in his spare time. The thing is, I don’t find him very funny.

Tuesday 4 November 2008


Seeing as I'm at home today with a dodgy boiler, brrrr... Some Characters of the Week.

First an intergalactic smuggler that was a bit Tank Girl inspired. Secondly an unfinished illustration of Dr Watson and Holmes on Dartmoor. Thirdly a very bizarre ChOW, which was an Aztec child sacrifice. Sometimes the Character's of the Week can be quite, er... challenging!


Here's a pic of my partner in full Steampunk gear all made by herself as it should be. I was very proud of her. She based it on Serran the Hunter an image you can see further down the blog.
And another one:

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Steampunk Goggles

I've been off work with a really nasty cold and cough, so rather than wibble away the hours watching Jeremy Kyle (as if!), I started fiddling with some steampunk goggles I'd roughly assembled last year when on holiday. With a few odds and ends from around the house I've made them a bit more elaborate: a broken watch, towel rail holders, a keyring telescope and some other bits, make it look almost presentable! They aren't to be worn but attached to a top hat. I'll locate some brass screws and continue with it when I get out of the house, but here's a work in progress in the form of some attrocious photographs.

Friday 10 October 2008

Sherlock Holmes

This is still a work in progress (as usual), although it's nearly there. Sherlock Holmes, a personal interpretation, from a Concept Art 'character of the week'. I'm trying to catch that intenstity that Holmes has. There's still something not quite right about the eyes, and of course I've still got to do the hands and chair etc.

Tuesday 30 September 2008

The Clockwork Heart

Yet(!) another unfinished Character of the Week! I enjoyed doing the sketch anyhow, so here it is. Based on a little tale by CA member yoitisi, about a boys father with a clockwork heart. The rough and the beginnings of 'clean up'.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Sherry update!

I was supposed to be doing something else this evening and it was going pear shaped; avocado with nasty black spots on it! So I tweaked Sherherezade instead with bit more success... I hope. Close up...

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Spaceship Crash Site

The Environment of the Week on Concept Art is a Spaceship Crashsite. Ages a go I did a doodle for another idea, and the CA challenge has inspired me to work it up a bit more. A sort of Steampunk Spaceship Crashsite. I can't submit it, as the work must be wholly original, in that it's done for that week, but I want to have fun with it anyway! :) The first is the original sketch, and the second how I'm going to approach it (essentially turn the spaceship upside down!)


Scheherazade! I love Arabian Nights stuff, and collect copies of the books, having editions going back to about 1840, my favourite being Edmund Dulac's and Andrew Lang's editions. A recent Character of the Week on Concept Art was to interpret her. My small brain decided she should be like a 1940's film star, al la Hedy (not Hedley!) Lamaar. So with inspiration from Robert McGinnis this is what I produced. It's not actually finished yet, so I'll ost the final soon.

ImagineFX Cover

I was asked to do a cover for ImagineFX, a great privilege. The concept was a tongue in cheek poster with a bit of a Barbarella vibe. I did a couple of roughs, which included a monster on the back cover, as it was to be a fold around cover. The monster I was NOT happy with at all. I finished it at 4AM and this is a sober lesson to me never to do that again. The one I've put up here is without the said beastie, and I think is better for it. If you really want to see the tentacled thingy, then buy ImagineFX! :)

Thursday 7 August 2008

An Oldie!

Thought I'd put up another oldie as I'm coming back to this one as well. The Ice Princess; yet another ChOW on Concept Art.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Harley Quinn

Back from the New Forest, family things, and lots of driving! So here's a bunch o'sketches for a ChOW. The latest Character of the Week on Concept Art was 'Dark Knight' Villains. Design one of Batman's nemesisisisis to fit in with the new 'Nolan Universe'. So I did Harley Quinn, who's great anyway. These are my sketches and the final, which still needs work as I had no bleedin' time to get it done!

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Serran the Dragon Slayer

A real oldie, originally done for a character of the week challenge on Concept Art. I'm kind of reworking it a bit at the moment. I like Serran. She lost both her hands in a dragon attack, and now has sworn eternal vengeance on all their ilk... in a pith helmet!

Monday 14 July 2008

Smaug and the Nephilim

If I update I should stick a sketch in at least. Here's a rough of Smaug for the Character of the Week on Concept Art. Unlikely to finish it as I'm very busy so here's the doodle:

Went to see Fields of the Nephilim in London on Saturday. First time I've seen them since about 1994. I used to follow them everywhere in the late '80's and love 'em! For all his gloomy sepulchral singing Carl McCoy is a cheerful chappie, and was filming everyone as they went into Shepherds Bush Empire. They played Sunday too, but I had to get back home. Sigh... Great gig!

This is an old pic and the line-up has changed but they are a fun bunch! I used to dress like this... er, still do some times!

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Beastly Child

The Upsetting tale of Little Michelle will shortly be complete, at least the written version.

Friday 4 July 2008

Robot Piercings

Developed from a doodle, she's a robot who's just had her nipples pierced! The doodle didn't look like one of the usual girls I draw, so I went with it.

Thursday 26 June 2008

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Thunderdome Scrappers

Whilst I'm in a posting mood, and Concept Art and CGSociety are out for me right now (dunno what's going on but I can't seem to access any graphics site tonight), here are a couple of my Thunderdome pieces for the recent Concept Art challenge, that I ended up scrapping for various reasons, but will still finish off anyway. The first is kind of a nod to Norman Rockwell, and the second just plain weird... I don't know what was going on in my head when I started this one... The theme was Outbreak.

Up Up and Away

I've been drawing girls in flying gear for so long it's about time I started to refine a character I think. This is Valerie... a very quick lunchtime doodle.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Trashy Pulp

This is an old image I thought might make an interesting pulp cover. She was originally for one of the Character of the Weeks on, and she was called Petra Hepburn.
Still listening to Swans a lot, and an old band I discovered years ago, Pain Teens.

Also, went to see Chemical Wedding the other day. Very bizarre! This was a movie with Simon Callow as a university professor who is for all intents is re-incarnated as Aleister Crowley. It's produced by Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden, and although he obviously has an affection for his subject, it's essentially a metal bands impression of the man: all the salaciousness and none of the subtlety. Callow is great, and the film held my interest; noticing all the in joke references to Crowley's life is fun (names like Victor, Leah and Haddo himself) but I'm still waiting for a less OTT film about the Great Beast!

Sunday 25 May 2008

Today I am mostly listening to...

...Jarboe and Swans. Sitting at home with Photoshop in front of me I've had both these on loop from MySpace. Jarboe's voice is haunting and wonderful. And I love Swans cover of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' by Joy Division, one of my 'Desert Island' records. Anyway... must draw more, but here's a pic of Jarboe...

Saturday 24 May 2008

To Hell They Belonged

Oh dear... here's another Pulp C0ver. This was a bit of an experiment to see if I could do this in a day. It took a bit longer as I spent a while trying to find particular fonts, and the original sketch was a bit older, but most of the painting took a day. Not quite sure of the girl on the left's pose...

Tuesday 20 May 2008

A Pocketful of Death

I was just playing around with an old image for another project and decided to adapt it into another mock pulp cover. It sort of works... Quite on oldie really...

Saturday 10 May 2008

A couple of recent bits...

I love Pulp covers, so here's another one in my intermittent series... Got a couple more in the works... The other image is the pic that was accepted for Spectrum! It's Lucy Westenra from Dracula, at least my take on her! Post beheading! How pleasant... ;)