Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sarah's Choice and Judges' Choice for the 4th Painting Challenge

First I have to apologize for the delay in getting this posted. Sarah and I have dashing about trying to get things arranged for our upcoming vacation and so I've fallen a bit behind in my blogging responsibilities. Anyway, we took a break tonight to have a bit of fun awarding the well-earned prizes for 'Sarah's Choice' and 'Judge's Choice'. 

So, with no further ado I will ask the lady of the household go first with her award:
Hello all, Sarah here. 
This year's Sarah's Choice celebrates the beast/creature which has best captured my imagination. 
From caravans of camels, herds of moose (meese?), dogs, cats and horses, to giant spiders and a very peculiar set of Book Golems, I've found my choice to have been most difficult. 
After much thought I went with the fabulist whimsy of Anne's fabulous Winged Monkey on Flying Carpet. I find there is something of both 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Tales from Arabian Nights' in her vignette. I think one could spin quite the tale around this capricious, wonderful monkey and his magic carpet.

So, Bravo Anne!! I'm going to send along an gift certificate to you which I'm sure you'll make good use of. I look forward to the delights your wondrous Technicolor workshop will bring to next year's Challenge!
Finally, I wish to say well done to all the Challenge participants. It has been a pleasure to watch the entries roll in during the winter months and see the caliber of painting exceed itself week by week. 
(Oh, and to those who have wondered how Curt kept his wits about him to keep on top of the Challenge, his secret is that I make a damn good espresso!) 
Best Regards,


Well said m'dear, an excellent choice indeed. Oh, before you go, please top-up my caffeine intravenous drip, I believe I'm getting a bit low...

Anyone who's followed the Challenge this year can well imagine that I've been spoiled with a bewildering number of worthy entries to stand as Judge's Choice. I went through the entire set of submissions, from December 15th to March 20th, and made a shortlist along the way. I've spent the past few weeks mulling through this list, nibbling my fingernails, trying to make a decision. In the end I went with my instincts and so have chosen...

...Sidney Roundwood's 'Mata Hari' vignette submitted for the 'Villains' bonus round.

In reading Sidney's description of his project one cannot help but be impressed and affected by his passion for the period. In fact, instead of me wasting time prattling on about my reasonings I'm simply going to let Sidney's own words speak to my final decision: 
There’s a huge amount about Mata Hari on the internet, and I’m guessing everyone here knows the story of the Dutch exotic dancer whose provocative and flirtatious dancing became famous before the War started, and whose later career during the War became one of a courtesan embroiled in espionage and scandal. 
Her story is remarkable and, although there’s no time here to go into details, I felt Mata Hari deserved not one but three images for the “Villains” theme. I also wanted to place the figures at different parts of her story, and mix that with a little Alternative History.
So, here we have three figures for Mata Hari.
The first is Mata Hari as she became famous in Paris before the Great War – the City of light, of champagne, of laughter and of dubious morality. Here she’s depicted on the stage of the Musée Guimet in 1905, a bouquet of trumpet lilies at her feet. And, as I knew Curt would like it, she’s painted in greyscale, perhaps to offset the lurid gas-lights of the Parisian stage.
Next, we see her dancing in more private surroundings during the War. Perhaps for Captain Vadime de Masloff (her historical lover) or perhaps for a French general ensnared in Mata Hari’s web of seduction and betrayal, his be-medalled tunic, letters and High Command despatches lying thoughtlessly discarded on the carpeted floor of a hotel close to the Gare du Nord.
And finally, in a blast of Alternative History, the terrible result of Mata Hari’s espionage is clear for all to see. A discarded copy of Le Petit Parisien (no doubt dropped by a stunned and shocked veteran of the 1870 campaign close to his local Metro station) announces in sombre tones the fall of Verdun to the Germans on a cold Autumnal day in 1916. A copy of the newspaper, and stolen confidential despatches from the French General Staff are placed on the back seat of Mata Hari’s limousine as she quietly leaves Paris, with fallen leaves and doubtless a fallen French Government in her wake. 
The car is a lavish 1910 Mercedes, complete with liveried chauffeur, picked up from Ebay for a couple of pounds with a couple of changes such as adding transparent plasticard for the front windows.

Both Mata Hari and chauffeur are from Sloppy Jalopy, although Mata Hari was converted with a new hat, matching the one she was wearing while arrested in 1917. The dancing figures of Mata Hari are both from Alex Bagosy, sourced through Lead Adventure Forum a few years ago. The bases are built up with a mix of plastic card and “grey-stuff”.

The base was built up from non-warping marine plywood, with a plasticard set of paving stones. The lamppost was scratch built using two plastic rods, and topped with a plasticard sign and a plastic lamp fixture from one of my daughter's old toys. I wanted to try and create a Parisian "feel" to the scene - a sense of a time and place. I thought about producing additional figures, or a small building, but it was hard to think of anything quite as evocative as a sign for the Paris Metro.
I also wanted to try and create the background of the fictional fall of Verdun. This was perhaps the most fun thing of all to do. I found a copy of “Le Petit Parisien” newspaper from 1910 online and photoshopped a new headline onto it – “Verdun Pris Par Les Allemands". I then reduced the photoshopped page to a tiny size, and cut it out. I tinted the paper with a wash of paint, and then crumpled it slightly and painted the whole with a glaze of PVA glue to keep its shape so that it would look as if a Parisian had been so shocked by the news he had simply dropped the newspaper on the street. Quelle horreur!

To try and echo the devastating news, I made a second newspaper for the back of the limousine, and added a brace of letters - perhaps stolen letters from a lover in the Deuxieme Bureau, or messages from Mata Hari's own spymaster - on the back seat of her limousine.
The autumn leaves we're added with more PVA glue. I bought a small pack a long time ago from Antenocitti's Workshop, and they are still going strong! Trying to get the right colours to stand out against the grey base was a good way to spend half an hour.

Sidney, I know I've said this before but thanks again for debuting this wonderful work during the Challenge. It was vignettes like yours, Michael's, Millsy's, along with many others that really put a sparkle on the whole event.

As a prize, I thought it apropos to award Sidney with a copy of the newly published 'Poilu: The World War I Notebooks of Corporal Louis Barthas, Barrelmaker, 1914-1918' translated by Edward M. Strauss. 

Congratulations Sidney, I hope this volume provides you further inspiration for your Verdun project - I very much look forward to giving it to you in person in a few short weeks!