Tag Archive: review


Art review: Jenny Hudson

In 2010 I attended an exhibition  at Blackburn College’s University Centre.  It was the graduation of the latest class of Fine Arts students and I was there to see some real art, something I didn’t often get the chance to do.

Unlike your average gallery, university showings are usually full of people who want to talk about what they’re looking at, rather than browsing with pious silence.  This is why I like them, and why I turned up off a train from Sheffield to invade the halls of this building and go from classroom to classroom, each of which had been turned into a mini studio.

I’ve been on a university art course, so I’ll be the first to say that such places produce a lot of crap.  My field was writing, and I know bad writing.  Many people will probably agree on what I would call bad art, and there was  a modest share on display at the Blackburn exhibit.  But I was glad to see a lot of experimental art, a rough and ready mix of funky stuff, a few pieces featuring Spider-Man which gave me geek-grins, and a number of portraits.

An artist who stood out was Jenny Hudsen née Sumner, who has recently uploaded her portfolio to Redbubble.  A portrait artist from Great Harwood near Blackburn, Jenny has a flair for capturing personality on canvas.

jenny1

I’m lucky enough to know Jenny and subjected her to a quick Q&A session this month.  For an artist she is surprisingly grounded and laconically describes herself as “Deadpan.  Realistic.  Recluse.”  Devoid of airs and graces, she recognises the difficulties of being in a creative field.

“[The difficulties are] the same as in any creative profession: lack of demand, lack of audience and huge competition.  There are millions of very talented artists in the world.  Unlike the music industry, for example, there aren’t many people who require or can afford art, and it seems out of reach.  The art world is also an intimidating place for most, and the stigma of pretentiousness that is attached to it doesn’t help.  I try to keep things simple and unpretentious.  Hopefully my work is more accessible than some other forms of contemporary art.”

To Jenny, art is a philosophy.  She is a fan of any medium, as long as it is emotive and touches a nerve.   She says that “[a]s long as people have opinions and questions, art will always be necessary.”

She isn’t afraid to rise to her own challenge either: her portraits burst with character and emotion.

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"Mum 4" - Jenny Hudson

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SAMSUNG

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SAMSUNG

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Jenny told me, “I like the challenge of a portrait.  If the structural drawing beneath the paint isn’t accurate, then the whole piece fails.  It’s personal satisfaction more than anything else, though it is also satisfying when a person recognises themselves or a loved one and remarks on the similarity.  I feel like I’ve done my job correctly.”

jenny2

Far be it for this reviewer to define an artist’s job.  This, surely, is subjective and personal.  Open to self-analysis, Jenny didn’t mind being probed about the modest hues in her portraits:

“I think the pale pallette was mostly down to a lack of confidence; as the years have progressed, so has the depth of colour.  These days I think I’ve “found” the style with which I’m most comfortable, and the pallette has become bolder with more contrast.  My most recent painting shows this clearly, when compared to past portraits.  However, I am very influenced by Euan Uglow, who often made his structural pencil marks visible beneath the paint.  I like how this “spells out” how a painting is constructed, and how this is immediately available to the audience.  I think it makes the whole thing less intimidating and more logical to the viewer.”

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DB:  If any artist in history offered to paint your portrait, who would you want it to be and why?

JH:  Euan Uglow.  He kept things simple and analytical, which is what I aim for.  His structural pencil marks were often visible through the paint, which made it easier for the viewer to “understand”.  Part of the the reason why I used to use very thin, pale paint was because of Uglow.  To me, it’s like a writer presenting their research as well as the finished novel, or mathematician showing their “workings” as well as the final solution.  I like people seeing how art is created.

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DB:  Last film you watched?  Last album you listened to? (if not most recent, then favourites)

JH:  I watch several films a day now that we have Netflix!  One of my favourites is still Adaptation [2002, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman].  I watched that again last week. It’s such an hilarious and clever representation of the creative process, and all the self-deprecation and doubt that accompanies it, as well as what can happen under pressure. My music interests change weekly, at the moment it seems to be 90s-00s hip hop!

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DB:  Who or what inspires you most, in life, not just in painting?

JH:  I’m sure this is most peoples’ stock answer, but my Mum. She’s the reason I’m still here.

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Jenny Hudson

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Jenny’s profile and gallery can be found on Rebubble here.

She is also currently taking queries and commissions via her e-mail address, renmus [at] hotmail.co.uk.

— db

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I occasionally get the chance to review early copies of books and magazines, and usually jump at the chance.  This has backfired once or twice – one author sent me a 350-page pile of steaming dung that I gave up on, only to be stuck on his mailing list and receiving endless self promotion despite numerous entreaties and threats – but often I get a real treat.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Morpheus Tales‘ special Apocalypse issue.  There are a number of special issues floating around from this publisher but this one caught my eye, not least because my novel “Half Discovered Wings” was a good stab at my own brand of what I call “apocalypsia” fiction.  I was interested in seeing what other writers came up with.

 

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This fantastically pulpy cover houses 12 stories.  There’s probably a surfeit of material here as there are more than a few uninspiring duds.  Thankfully the rest of the magazine is made up of some crackers which, if they don’t get you thinking, will at the very least give you a good dose of end-of-the-world fun to perfectly suit a dreary March afternoon.

I’ll skip some of the less original flops but, with the good stuff in sight, will open with “Long Cold Night” by Richard Farren Barber.  Apocalypsia relies on a decent concept that will be the foundation of the story.  In Stephen King’s “The Stand”, we can believe that a killer virus wiped out a helluva lot of people.  That’s what viruses do.  In Barber’s story here, we’re led to believe that oil running out sooner than expected causes the end of civilization.  People are roaming the countryside for food.  I don’t quite buy how this is possible and despite some credible writing, the story fails before it really begins.  We’re told that green energies weren’t enough, but aren’t told why.  I’m pretty sure that the governments of the world can figure something out with solar panels and nuclear energy, which currently supplies something like 15% of the world’s electricity.  Are we forgetting that we got by for thousands of years before Edison pinged his first bulb…?

A sad failure, but hopefully one that makes a point.  I get tired of harping on about it, but originality should be the cornerstone of every single story you write.  “Long Cold Night” takes an idea that hasn’t really been closely examined (I seem to remember the inspid sci-fi family fungus that was Matt LeBlanc’s “Lost in Space” mentioning it, but little else since), which is commendable.  But it smacks of lack of research, and worse than this, fails even to take a poor concept and make it believable, if not plausible.

Just keeping things plausible doesn’t mean you’re automatically onto a winner though, nor is the other way around true.  A series of immense sinkholes follows the inexplicable draining of the oceans in the sweet little story “Songs of Goodbye” by Dev Jarrett.  Do I believe that 326 million trillion gallons of water (I’m trusting Google there) can just drain into the Earth’s crust?  Not really.  But did I care when I watched a father and daughter share a moment together?  Nope!  Dev exhibits fine prose and great descriptive talent.  The writer’s similies are flawless and keep the narrative jumping until the characters take over.  This is probably my pick of the stories.

A creepy little number called “Thunder Bay” is another highlight.  This brief tale by Robin Wyatt Dunn gives us a glimpse into the un-life of a cannibalistic reanimated corpse.  It’s like “Omega Man” got X-rated.  First person with snappy narrative, this is writing as opposed to just telling a story, and stands out a mile amidst the the rest of this month’s Morpheus Tales.

Whereas these two personal faves represent the magazine’s total stock of literary goodness, it’s probably fair to say that you don’t pick up an “Apocalypse Special” expecting talent worthy of critical acclaim.  Other writers have done it – I’m thinking “The Road” and “The Drowned World” here – but it’s also a genre for some good old fun…

“Generation Sorrow” by J. B. Ronan.  Either this story is tongue-in-cheek ironic or just plain silly (I prefer to think the former) but this story of porcine genetic modification gone wrong is an enjoyable read, suitably dark and vivid, and has an interesting premise for the decline of modern society.  The special gets another short jolt of dark humour with “My Pretty Pony” by Alan Loewen.  This amusing piece gives readers a little giggle and Hasbro a cause to sue.  A welcome tonic from the dreariness of the rest of the mag.

Even though Matt Brolly’s “Yellow” is yet another take on the “virus ends everything” trope, it still rings truer than many other stories of its type.  The special’s final story is a cracker (even if it does contain the dumb line “the suicides are too dangerous to live”) and is worth special attention with a cup of tea by the window with the wind blowing outside.  His prose isn’t up to J. G. Ballard’s standard but it hums along fine; it’s the moments of insights into his characters that keep this moving along, maybe remind us on the way of “The Happening” or the flashback scenes from “I Am Legend“.

Is the mag worth picking up?  At a temporary special price of £4, I’d say yes, especially as you can have it beamed straight to your smartphone or ebook.  Hunker down, ignore the clouds outside and let the world end.

—db

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The Morpheus Tales Apocalypse Special Issue is available from Lulu.com here.

You can Like the Facebook page here for news and updates.

Have anything to say?  Please leave a comment!

 

NOVEMBER CHALLENGE 2010

A story a day, for thirty days

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Today’s story complete, dear God they’re getting harder to write now!  I’m drying up.  This is it.  After today, two more stories to write.  The last hurdle approaches.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH

Okay, here’s today’s:

[Edit:  Sorry, you are too late to read this story.  Some stories may be retained on the website.  Some e-mail requests for copies of the stories are being granted (spinning.lizard@yahoo.co.uk).]

It’s a preview of a film, believe it or not.  I received a DVD copy in the post yesterday and watched it last night.  Consider this a story for the purposes of this challenge.

The website proper is still up to date.  For the .pdf copy of the story above you can read online (you’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader) or download to your PC, laptop or e-book.

The stories will remain available for a minimum of 30 days but no later than 30th December 2010.  I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the stories either on this blog, or via the website’s forum.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading,

db

People who play video games love Yahtzee Croshaw, the sardonic bringer of wit and shit of ‘Zero Punctuation’ fame.  If you don’t know his style, you can visit him here:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation

And the Facebook group with to-the-minute updates here:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Zero-Punctuation/7546255825?ref=ts

Yahtzee released a novel this month, “Mogworld”.  I was all prepared to do an amusing Flash video review utterly slagging it off, but as it happens I wasn’t up to the challenge (or rather, my mic turned out to be rubbish), and so I’ve given up and posted the script as a review on Amazon instead.  It’s here in all its not-very-funny glory–

— It’s in the delivery, mostly.

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Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw is best known for his scathing Zero Punctuation video reviews of computer games, routinely ripping out their innards and squeezing little poo-nuggets of ironic humour all over them, although apparently he’s done other things including actually writing for games, so he’s at least partly vindicated for slagging them off so thoroughly and then moving onto writing his first novel.

“Mogworld” is an easy slice of light fantasy, although it crosses genres regularly like a tram-hopping college-droppout.  You’d have to be a bit of an idiot not to realise that the GAME-REVIEWING Yahtzee writes a book about MAGES and NECROMANCERS and LEVEL 60 SPELLS and NOT realise that this is set inside a VIDEO GAME, so I shouldn’t be spoiling anything for you here.

The twist is that not all the character necessarily realise this.  It’s a sort of ‘edge of the world’ scenario without the benefit of the readers undergoing this revelation WITH the characters, leaving you disappointed that they were too stupid to figure it out sooner.  In fact it couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d stapled it to the side of a stegosaurus and paraded it through Hull on a market day.
The inclusion of pirates into this gameworld early on in the book seemed a bit strange, until they all started talking about becoming undead pirates and then it begins to come together.  It’s like Yahtzee is DELIBERATELY prancing along the fence of cliché, with the unoriginality goblin beckoning him in  and his proper writer/critic self occasionally shouting NO YOU IDIOT and hurling his mighty boot of common sense.

The characters might be flatter than Paper Mario’s credit card, but at least they’re proper characters with individual personalities instead of blandly merging into one another.  This would be great, but one major problem is that they’re all so ANNOYING, and the fact that the protagonist acknowledges they’re ANNOYING doesn’t make them any less ANNOYING.  The first half of the book is like sitting on a bus surrounded by  half a dozen people all with their iPods on too loud listening to boybands, Slipknot and ASWAD.  There’s the jaded main character who, like the best and worst of web-comics, is the only one who acknowledges how strange everything is while everyone else blithely slither through the linear plot; there’s the chirpy one who comes down to reality at the end; a fire-and-brimstone religious nut who never shuts up; a sneak-thief who constantly talks in the third person; a villain with his own silly dialogue-related idiosyncrasies; and a smack-talking wise-cracking mutated otter-weasel sidekick … Okay I made the last one up, no-one would create a character is THAT annoying.

In the interest of fairness they DO develop some depth as the story progresses and as a direct result of the events of the story, not just something insipid like ‘falling in love’ or just through a sequence of trials like the laziest storytelling.  The best characters come with the best gags about a third of the way in, being closer to real-life people than the zombie/mage/blah-de-blah hacks, but sadly only get a few lines here and there in amusing e-mail or instant messaging format which made me SAD because they were actually very GOOD.

The writing is hardly spectacular, but this isn’t a literary venture so it can be forgiven, and apart from the odd atrocious lines like ‘We descended into a sort of disused basement-sewer type chamber’ he manages to not to COMPLETELY mangle the almighty English language.  In fact there are a number of cracking sentences worthy of Douglas Adams (or at least an unworthy rip-off sequel), and it definitely has a more Hitchhiker’s feel going for it than a Terry Pratchett one, which is a good thing in this case because I prefer my humorous fiction WITHOUT the bland caricatures, but this brings us back to cliché and it’s a sticking point with me that with this kind of semi-parody is the laughs derive from the archetypes – Doctor Evil’s cat wouldn’t be nearly as funny if you hadn’t expected it to be fluffier than a fledgling barn owl.  But unoriginal is still unoriginal, even if it IS trying to be funny.

Maybe it’s out of his system now and he’ll go back to doing what he does best; you always know you’re in the wrong part of town when the bus shelter’s been kicked in and you’re standing in someone else’s orange vomit.

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If anyone shows any interest I’ll update with some screenshots of the nearly-finished video review, in the Zero Punctuation style.

Incidentally, the book is alright really – about 6.5/10 if you’re into his humour … and shit fiction about video games.

– db

Help the old farts understand what video games are really about