Everest (2015)

AA44_FP_00007R.jpgThere’s a few problems with Everest but the visuals aren’t one of them- it certainly looks spectacular, with huge vistas giving it an impressive scope and convincingly portraying both the bewitching beauty and terrible dangers of climbing the mountain. In 3D some of the shots are rather vertigo-inducing, but I would imagine the film will function perfectly fine in 2D- there must have been lots of visual effects utilised but the film seems thankfully restrained regards the CGI shots. Sadly, where it falters is the script. It seems so hellbent on an almost docudrama approach of depicting the fateful events (the film is based on a true story) that it somehow, in that very earnestness, loses the characters within it. Indeed this loss of the characters is even literal during the later stages of the film where faces are hidden behind goggles and breathing masks- its very hard to distinguish between some of them- the confusion of who is who behind all that winter gear rather dilutes any tension.

everest2I had my doubts when I saw the cast. The film seemingly tries to compensate for the slim characterisation by casting big-name actors in the roles, as if their on-screen personas will suffice instead. Alas that just makes the characters seem even more lightweight with the fine cast largely wasted and not given enough to really chew on. Do the minor supporting roles of two wives stuck back home need to be played by Keira Knightley and Robin Wright? Does an actress of Emily Watson’s stature need to be saddled with the thankless task of playing part of the support team anguishing fruitlessly at base camp? The casting rather hurts the film in my eyes, magnifying the importance of the film with its rather A-list cast (Jason Clarke on admittedly very fine form, Sam Worthington, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin) when the film can’t really deliver. What should have been a very dramatic and powerful movie finally turns out to be rather routine and mundane. Perhaps too much attention was paid to the production difficulties of the visuals etc at the expense of the script.

I think the film needed focus- it needed to be ruthlessly centered on perhaps one individual. It so faithfully depicts the events of that ill-fated climb and all the characters within the film, while being respectful to both the people who died and those that survived, that it lacks perspective. It must be remembered that this isn’t simply a case of innocent people being plunged into tragedy and disaster- these people each paid tens of thousands of dollars to put their lives at risk. Things went wrong for them but it remains a stumbling block in gaining audience empathy that they put themselves in harms way. The film even stumbles into literally asking them the question regards why they risk life and limb to climb Everest (the inevitable “because its there!” seems a knowingly trite response) but it never really makes us care about them. I think if the film focused on just one of the climbers, and we could fully empathise with that person, maybe that would transfer to the others. Instead screentime is spent getting to ‘know’ several of the group and while its perhaps a noble gesture it ultimately ill-serves them all. We never really get a sense of what makes someone need to make that climb, to risk their lives when they have families and responsibilities back home. It literally asks the question ‘why’ but never delivers a satisfying response.

Unless the ‘why’ is about making money. How valid or defensible is a commercial business that is predicated on taking people on such a dangerous expedition, where does financial gain outweigh the danger or risk? It is hinted at during the film that the company leading the expedition is under pressure to have a successful climb to ensure future custom, but it never delves deeper than a general comment. Were decisions made in error due to goodwill and blind optimism or were they weighed by the financial implications of an unsuccessful climb? The film has no point of view, it simply depicts the events without any commentary. Maybe that’s unfair, the film clearly has no interest in being controversial but I would imagine if this were an Oliver Stone movie it would have a thing or two to say while showing us the tragedy unfold..

The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey

20150916_150709This is something rather special. It’s also possibly one of the oddest-looking books you’ll likely ever see. From Taschen comes a mass-market version of the hugely expensive multi-volume making of 2001 set that came out last year and quickly sold out (I think it was something like £500- this edition loses some volumes but is around £30 on Amazon so much easier on the wallet). The odd shape arises from the books designer’s attempt to emulate the shape of the monolith, which results in it being very tall and not very wide- in the photo above I’ve placed the 2001 Blu-ray alongside to give some idea of its size and dimensions. The layout isn’t landscape as you might have expected (considering the widescreen/cinerama dimensions of the film) but instead its actually portrait. The photo shows the books slipcover, the spine of the book within is actually running alongside that ‘The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey’ title.

20150916_150838Here’s another photo, this showing the embossed front of the book out of its slipcover. You can certainly see the inspiration of the monolith here, and perhaps also perceive some of the difficulties reading it. I know that it has come under fire in some quarters (I think Stateside, Amazon has actually temporarily withdrawn it from sale due to consumer complaints). I suppose it all depends on your point of view. Yes it is a bit ungainly to read and how/where it sits on the bookshelf I’m not sure, but even fans of the film will attest to the fact that 2001 is a rather peculiar movie. Its unique in cinema. Its a work of art and possibly the finest science fiction film ever made, a film as confusing and infuriating as it is enthralling and mind-boggling. It seems only fitting that this huge book documenting its creation is possibly just as strange and confusing and infuriating depending on the readers preferences. More than any of that though, its a huge treasure-trove of previously unseen behind-the-scenes imagery and preproduction artwork. In a crazy way it just makes perfect sense that this book is the way it is; I really like it. It just, well, suits 2001.

20150916_151155Hopefully it will make a bit more sense with some photos of the book open, to give some idea just how special it is. You can easily see here the odd proportions of the book, and also just how rare some of the imagery (sourced from the Kubrick Archives) is. Here you can see a spread of pre-production paintings of the Discovery with some incredibly sharp stills from the set to show how close the sets were to the paintings. Note that the page on the right actually folds out. There are many, many fold-outs throughout the book. I haven’t taken a picture of this exact foldout, but it actually shows set images that correspond to the paintings of the Discovery bridge on the page on the left (the next photo will show a fold-out properly open). Some fold-outs involve more pages and open out two or three times wider. From whats happening over at Amazon it would seem the format of the book is pissing some readers off but yeah, I think it makes things interesting. The photos I’ve taken may make it seem that the book is a purely visual exercise but there is a lot of text by Piers Bizony at the start of each chapter that will delight readers after more meat than just imagery, and captions for the imagery given ample explanation of what we are seeing.
20150916_152159So here’s that other photo, this time showing on-set photos of the Discovery docking bay, with a fold-out (this time the page on the left) spread open to hopefully show a bit clearly how it works. For myself, just the quality and content of the photos is enough- its fascinating to see this stuff considering the secrecy that always surrounded 2001. The sight of 1960s tech and fashion everywhere in the behind the scenes shots just reminds me of the incredible technological achievement this film was.

Anyway, I’m still working my way through its 560 pages, but thought I’d post this for fans of the film so suggestions for Christmas presents can go out while there’s plenty of time. The books format may be open to contentious debate but I can assure fans of the film that regardless, the actual content is astonishing (I just saw a spread of the eight-foot space station miniature prior to filming and spent a long time just staring at it, amazed. And then read about the miniature being junked into a scrap yard and wrecked by kids.We Brits know how to treat our Cinematic History, eh? Incredible). Its an excellent book and easily recommended for fans of the film.


Revisiting ‘Field of Dreams’ (1989)

fod1Continuing this impromptu series of getting around to discs that have been on the ‘to-watch’ pile for far too long, last night I watched Field of Dreams. I remember watching it at the cinema one evening a long time ago in another life, it seems- back when I had another job, a whole different career, when I was single… So much has changed in my life over the past twenty-five-plus years, but this film has been with me throughout that time; this film is a big favourite of mine, easily in my top ten. I have no interest in baseball but that sport is incidental to the films deeper themes about hopes and dreams, and forgiveness and belief. There is more wonder in its near-two hours than any $200 million CGI blockbuster spectacle.

For me its a good film that suddenly leaps into genuine greatness/perfection when Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella meets up with Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones. The two characters make such a great team, and the two actors share a great warmth and chemistry, its a wonderful partnership. The mystery of Ray’s quest gets really interesting at this point; suddenly its much bigger than simply building the baseball field on his farm. After both hearing a message to ‘go the distance’ when seeing a vision of a players baseball record, the two men go to Chisholm, Minnesota to track down Archibald ‘Moonlight’ Graham (Burt Lancaster) only to find he was the town doctor, who died years ago but is still fondly remembered by townsfolk. In a wonderful scene Ray goes out for a moonlit walk through the town and somehow finds himself in 1972, meeting the doctor who, himself having a restless night, found himself in need of a walk too. The two somehow meet across the space of decades and life and death and have a chat about past hopes/unfulfilled dreams… its like a scene from a Ray Bradbury story (and I love Ray Bradbury’s stories).

The temptation to explain the ‘magic’ of such events (the voice that sets Ray on his quest, the returning Baseball players, the meeting with Archibald that night, and all the rest that occurs) must have been great, as traditionally audiences like everything explained, but it’s all left unsaid, it just happens, Whats really interesting is a viewing of the film raised by James Earl Jones in the discs documentary, in which he suggests his character is itself a ghost all along, just like the baseball players coming out of the cornfield and Archibald’s younger self. Likely non-intentioned by the film makers, it gives events of the film such a sweet twist. You can accept this version or ignore it, but its there.

Such a great, magical movie. The cast is perfect, the dialogue wonderful, the characterisations warm and genuine, the score simply sublime. I was deep in my adoration of James Horner’s scores back then and buying them all on CD, and this score was as perfect as the movie seemed to be. God only knows how many times I must have played the CD of this film’s soundtrack back then.

Which lent a very real sense of sadness throughout my viewing of this film. It was the first time I have seen Field of Dreams following the death of James Horner. The score for Field of Dreams is such an integral part of the piece, its really the soul of the movie, the film pretty much scored throughout from the start to the end, and good grief, the man behind that music is gone now. Such an incredibly sad thing, watching the film, so much that was familiar now so poignant. Horner was so talented, so versatile and yes, creatively on fire back when Field of Dreams was made. With this film Horner was a very special part of a very special film.

Revisiting ‘Innerspace’ (1987)


The central premise of Innerspace, the miniaturization of someone in order to inject them into someone else, is preposterous- the film makers knew this, so rather than maintain the po-faced seriousness of Fantastic Voyage, they decided to have fun with it, and made a better movie because of it. Innerspace is a comedy, an unlikely buddy movie in which the buddies actually never really meet until the end, shot through with a storyline concerning technological espionage and rather inept and unlikely arms dealers. That said, Innerspace is really surprisingly sophisticated, treading a fine line between comedy and action, a really tricky thing to pull off, but here it really works. I’ve always championed Innerspace, ever since I first saw it back at the cinema when it landed with a box-office thud in spite of generally favourable reviews.

Recently released on a region-free Blu-ray disc Stateside, watching it today it has not lost any of its charm- indeed it seems better now than it did back then, a reminder of, frankly, simpler times. Pre-9/11 times, certainly (its sobering to consider how the the events of 9/11 have culturally changed things, but there’s an innocence to Innerspace that places it in a certain time, a certain mindset. The bad guys would be foreign terrorists in a modern-day Innerspace, no doubt, and it also lacks the cultural cynicism that it would likely be saddled with today).

Innerspace is definitely of its time. Back when summer blockbusters came armed with witty scripts with endearing characters, sparse but effective miniature visual effects that served a story rather than dominated it, and maybe even a great score. I’ll labour that last point further- Innerspace had a really good melodical score by a genius film composer with his own identifiable ‘sound’ rather than the generic noise we hear in so many films today (well I’m glad I got that of my chest). When a film could be just cute and funny and entertaining without worrying about selling toys. That last bit may not be entirely true, I don’t recall toys being marketed around Innespace but they may have been, it’s just that it is more ‘in your face’ these days.Certainly there is little of the product placement that riddles films so much now- I can well imagine a ‘new’ Innerspace and all the product placement it would be saddled with in the lab scenes. It’s nice just to watch a film that doesn’t shove brands in front of your eyes all the time.

inner1But the pleasures of Innerspace are many, and I wonder where to begin. Maybe I should go on further about Jerry Goldsmiths wonderful score.  A mix of orchestral and electronic textures that epitomized his work at the time, it’s a brilliant score that carries me back to those days in an instant, and prefigures his work on Dante’s later The Burbs. Thrilling and funny it supports the narrative in ways that film music simply isn’t allowed to these days. I recall being horrified when the CD soundtrack release turned out to be the then-typical mix of songs with a too-brief selection from the score. Thankfully a full score release eventually came out a few years ago, so there you go- a complete soundtrack release and a reasonable HD edition on Blu-ray: all is right in the world for Innerspace fans.

Maybe I should go on about the cast – the main trio are great; Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan and Martin Short make a great team. Quaid’s hero has a cynical edge at odds with Short’s innocent hypochondriac, and Meg Ryan has a sort of dizzy charm that surprisingly convinces. But perhaps more importantly, the supporting cast are a geeks utter dream; Kevin McCarthy as the delightfully slimy baddie, somehow both threatening and hilarious, Robert Picardo a treat as The Cowboy, with Henry Gibson, Kenneth Tobey and Dick Miller in delightful cameos. Its got great old-school visual effects that are pretty much as effective as any CGI and haven’t dated at all (which can’t be said of the early CGI-dominated films that followed).

But the deft direction by Joe Dante is the real star of the show. He handles the subtle comedy (throwaway one-liners) with the wacky slapstick stuff so well, manages to shoot great action sequences and stunts with aplomb, and ensures that the pretty much seamless effects work doesn’t distract viewers from the story but rather supports it. The whole thing is a masterclass in direction, really, whatever one thinks of the film itself. The realisation that Dante is pretty much relegated to working in television these days is a sad indication of what movies are now. I thought Innerspace was great back in 1987 and I still do today.

Revisiting ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1978)

bodyI’m not a big fan of remakes, we live in an age when  we are swamped with them (and the remake’s bastard child, the dreaded reboot). There was a time when remakes were quite rare, and this was one of the first and possibly very best. Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers– like John Carpenter’s The Thing a few years later, is a genuinely great remake that offers something new while at the same time being respectful of the original work. It also shares with Carpenter’s film an incredibly bleak ending. Both films show humans struggling against an alien presence and it can be seen that in both films that struggle fails. I suppose Carpenter’s film offers some hint of hope in its ambiguity, but there’s no doubt about Body Snatchers; its the End of the World, for humanity at least (although where does the pods propensity for copying lifeforms end? Once humanity is copied, would they need to turn their attention to all the rest of Earth’s lifeforms next?).

Kaufman’s Body Snatchers is a refreshing experience compared to current sci-fi/horror films. You can certainly tell it was a 1970s film- it carries much of the feel of films of that decade, in that it all looks very real and ordinary, without any Hollywood artifice. It features a brilliant cast of ordinary-looking actors playing ordinary characters. Well, I say ‘ordinary’ but there’s something pleasantly kooky about each of them, the film showing them as examples of what makes each of us different, each of us truly human, as opposed to the pod-person version. There is nothing particularly special or heroic about any of them but they are fascinating all the same.

body2Our protagonist is an ‘Everyman’: Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland). a San Francisco health inspector, whose best friend Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) is a lab analyst in his department. Elizabeth is in a relationship but her boyfriend that she is living with has started to act strangely. Bennell has noticed other people complaining the same about their partners too; he thinks maybe she should see David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy) a psychologist friend of his. When they finally meet, Kibner reveals he has had a number of patients saying the same thing- but he dismisses it as surely just a symptom of the modern world, an excuse for getting out of a failing relationship, for not showing commitment or being able to compromise. At least that’s what he is saying- but he’s basically asking people to ‘sleep on it’ and it soon becomes apparent that sleep is death. So is Kibner really Kibner anymore? Can anyone be trusted?

The film taps into very real modern-world anxieties. In a busy city of thousands of strangers, is there something odd about strangers seeming strange? In the film, we ‘see’ countless faces of people/characters in crowded scenes that we cannot know; who is human, who not? The pacing of the film is slow and hypnotic- from the very start of the film, it’s already too late. How many days or weeks before have the alien lifeforms been drifting down from the sky? The films characters are stumbling onto something that has alread progressed beyond the tipping point. We are witnessing the slow end of everything. Street scenes feature mundane events like trash lorries collecting rubbish; until the familiarity of it in successive scenes becomes disturbing and we realise that’s not just normal domestic rubbish being trashed. We see crowd scenes with isolated figures running by, sometimes being chased by others, ignored by both the general crowd and the main characters. They are all hints at other stories of horror unfolding in the background as the menace slowly spreads. It is all very subtle. The world is ending and no-one knows it.

I guess that makes it the scariest End of the World scenario there is. Great movie, and one that is certainly standing the test of time, as relevant now as it ever was back on its release.



Revisiting They Live (1988)

theylive1Top three John Carpenter films, in order. Now there’s a subject for a lively discussion. While its widely agreed that The Thing (1982) is John Carpenter’s definitive film, any debate concerning what fans would rate as his second or third-best feature would likely be dominated (and with good reason) by those that pre-date The Thing; films like Assault From Precinct 13 or Halloween or Escape From New York. Most fans tend to agree that following The Things original critical and public misfire, Carpenter’s career never fully recovered and its debatable that he never realised his true potential in Hollywood. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know- it seems unfair to compare Carpenter with the likes of Spielberg or other mainstream Hollywood directors that worked well in ‘the system’. There always seemed something subversive about Carpenter at his best, of underground, ‘indie’ film-making. I like to think he had better films in him than The Thing, but he never had the opportunity to make them- hell, if that remains his most popular film then why not, its a hell of a film. While he made good films after The Thing, he never seemed to make a ‘great’ film, or anything that really measured up to his 1982 (eventual) classic. Amongst the very best of those post-The Thing films though is They Live.

I saw the film back in its first cinema run. I fell in love with it, and it’s wonderful bluesy soundtrack, immediately. Its up there with my very favourite Carpenter films and in some ways as the years have passed I’ve realised that it might even prove to be one of his most enduring. But I hadn’t seen They Live in years- not sure why exactly, but I just never returned to it. The sad news of the untimely passing of Roddy Piper, the American Wrestler who starred in They Live finally got me back to it. It’s a lousy reason to revisit a movie though.

theylive2Originally made as a reaction by Carpenter to the Regeanite economics of its time, the fact is that They Live perhaps resonates as much now as it did back then, maybe even more. The sad truth is that after so many decades, the divide between the rich and the poor is growing all the time and the films central conceit is as wonderful as it ever was; those politicians who seem to live on some other planet really do come from some other planet- the rich and successful are either aliens or money/power-hungry humans in league with those aliens, and the poor masses are the rest of us who are kept in line partly through subliminal messages and partly through poverty or social manipulation. Our hero, Nada (Roddy Piper) is an unemployed labourer travelling the country looking for work. Banks are closing, people losing homes. The country is a mess, and yet still the wealthy and powerful enjoy their penthouse suites looking down on starving masses below in food-bank ghettos. The poor masses have no idea of the truth, slaves to consumerism and the politics of greed as the middle-class is worn away and with it liberty and freewill. Nada stumbles upon an underground resistance network and discovers the truth- Aliens are here and they’ve already conquered the Earth. They live. We sleep.

Its a great film. Part social satire, part action thriller. The first twenty minutes or so are amongst the finest that Carpenter has ever done, depicting a world scary and familiar, and the ‘truth’ revealed by the sunglasses/Hoffman lenses is witty and shocking at the same time, a memorable sequence as Nada’s eyes are opened for the first time to the subliminal messages in books, magazines, billboard signs and money that have spun the aliens web of lies and injustice.

Its a great movie, and one of Carpenter’s most thought-provoking. Many times real-world events have made me think back to They Live and its premise.

Just hope it isn’t true. I mean sure, it’s patently ridiculous… and yet…


Prove to me it isn’t true.




Portrait of Ben

20150831_175952Here’s my latest piece of art- a portrait of our dog, Ben. As usual I’ve had some trouble getting a decent photograph that properly captures the artwork (I really need to sort that out- the colours are so muted here the paper looks more grey than white).

Sobering thought- while I’ve done two pencil drawings in the past few years (one in colour, the other black and white) this is likely my first painting in three or even four years (my last painting being another portrait of a friends dog who passed away). If somehow I had a time machine and could tell my 16 or 18-year self that there would come a time when the space between my paintings could be measured in years rather than days or weeks, well, that younger self would be horrified. I used to live and breathe my art. I suppose its not at all surprising, once you leave school and college and enter the outside world and get a ‘normal’ job and get married and all that implies, its hard to keep it up. Life is full of distractions. God knows I find it difficult enough to find time to watch movies and put up posts here on this blog.

So anyway, this is my first painting in years and naturally I found it a bit daunting at first. You may recall I did a pencil drawing of a friends dog a few months ago, and at that time I decided to get more active with my art and follow it up with a painting of our own dog.  I already had an idea of what photo to paint from- it was a recent photograph I had taken of Ben, in which he was in a jolly mood excitedly looking out the front window that was behind me. It seemed to capture his character and was the natural choice of image. Capturing that in a painting though…

First things first- I had to find all my old art stuff, packed away in the spare room, and take stock of what remained usable. I had plenty of watercolour paper and my brushes on the whole seemed ok, but my old paints were looking worst for wear so I went out to buy some. I had some watercolours that seemed ok but wanted to be a bit bolder with this one, going the gouache route that I used to in sixth form. First harsh lesson for aspiring artists today- the price of tubes of gouache paint (how students afford it I don’t know). It could have cost a small fortune, and being a bit unsure how the whole enterprise would turn out with being so rusty after all these years, I chickened out and bought a cheap budget box of twelve core tubes. This would give me a little trouble later on, so I perhaps should have been a bit bolder with the money but I’ll just put that down to the doubts and lack of experience. I’ll certainly be investing in better paints next time.

20150830_182206Here’s a photograph of the painting in progress, with the original photograph alongside it. By this stage it was coming along pretty well, although the quality of the paints was causing me some trouble, proving the old adage you get what you pay for. Funnily enough, the actual painting part of things didn’t cause me the most time or trouble, it was getting the drawing right. Once I had that down on paper and was ready to start the painting, I actually future-proofed the whole thing by tracing the final drawing as insurance, so if I messed up during the painting stage I could lay the drawing back down on a fresh piece of paper and start again. I honestly expected to be doing just that and am very surprised/pleased that this initial attempt started to come along so well. I was very nervous laying down the first background wash, a light green that I used just to knock out the whiteness of the paper. I agonised about that colour by the way and it remains something of a doubt as to whether I chose the right one. I was overly tentative and indecisive about it but in some ways this might have actually helped me in the long run, because I was so annoyed by that indecisiveness that I chose to be bolder with the painting proper. Hence once I’d laid down some tonal base work for the areas of brown/tan fur I went in pretty bold with the black areas, where I might have otherwise been too cautious and wasted time/messed things up agonising over it.

20150831_180138Warning- Artist At Work! : this next image is pretty near the end of the road on Bank Holiday Monday. It was a short day at work so I was able to come home and crack on during the afternoon.  All told there was probably about eight hours work at this point spread over about a week, so it went pretty quickly considering how ‘new’ it all seemed to me. Maybe painting is like riding a bike after all. While I really enjoyed it and it felt a little bit like ‘old times’, the most over-riding memory about the whole thing was nervousness that at each step I could ruin it and result in having to start all over again. Mixing the colours was tricky and made a little more difficult by the quality of the paints -the tube of yellow ochre was unusable, for instance, as it came out of the tube all powdery and lumpy, something horribly wrong regards the pigment and binder- but I got around it. By this point it was clearly near-finished and I was very pleased with it. I had that old buzz I used to get in my teens when a painting was coming together; yeah, like old times, a nice feeling.


The whole point of the painting was to get something framed on the wall. This was something my wife has been badgering me about for years. We spent years looking for a nice picture to put on the wall and never found one, and Claire often said I should do one myself, particularly after doing those pictures for friends over the years. So here’s how this painting of Ben turned out when framed in £22-worth of frame and mounting card from Hobbycraft (yeah, I know, big spender). It does look lovely on the wall, an inspiration for the next painting I do, certainly (I’m not likely to wait years to get started on the next one with this looking back at me everyday). Inevitably I look at it and see things I’d like to ‘polish-up’ but it’s pretty much everything I could have hoped it would be, all things considered. You can over-work paintings and I think when it feels finished, its finished. I think I’ve captured some of Ben’s personality in it, which is what was my main goal.

Whatever next then? One of my intentions doing this one was for it to act as a warm-up to doing a painting of our old dog Barney, who we lost over two years ago. So that may be what I do next, if I go through all his old photographs and find one I can use. I’m sure I’ll find much of that difficult -to be honest I’m wary of that whole thing, painting Barney, it still feels raw, the feelings from losing him, even after years have passed. And doing him justice feels like a weight too. Ben’s still around to take on walks and play with and I’m sure there’s future paintings of him ahead of me, but a painting of Barney, that’s got all sorts of other tangled emotions all over it. You invest all sort of things into a painting, it isn’t just a technical exercise, you put some of yourself into it, and I still think the prospect of painting Barney something a little harrowing.

But I don’t want to be stuck doing just paintings of dogs, naturally I should shake things up a bit and do something different too, so I’m not sure the painting of Barney is the next in line. But I do know there will be something soon, and won’t be waiting months /years for the muse to take me. I really enjoyed getting into this old painting business again, which means that whatever anyone thinks of the actual painting, this portrait of Ben did me some good.