Desk Job

Earlier this year, Mark at Man of Tin blog posted a photo of his painting area, a flap-down desk which was based in his lounge. With this set up, he could be immersed in his miniaturised world (headphones on) yet could tidy everything away in a blink of an eye by closing the desk up and be back with his family again in moments.

The dining room table…

That got me thinking about my own painting space. Since moving into my current home over 7 years ago I’ve been an itinerant occupying a temporary space on the dining room table, all items to be packed away when finished (mostly). Even my paint rack has been incongruously occupying a place on the kitchen worktop! Maybe the discrete desk idea of Mark offered a solution?

Note my cat’s newly preferred sleeping area on the grey box . She keeps me company while I paint.

So here it is; my new painting place and a permanent home for my hobbyist activities. The desk top folds down and provides a place to paint. Behind the cupboard doors underneath lie all my materials; glues, flock and scatter, plastic card, modelling clay, spare paints and other sundry items which previously were packed into a drawer in the lounge.

Having only just moved in, I am still arranging the space and currently I’ve left the paint rack on top as I rather like it there, but we’ll see. You will also notice that I’ve also managed to hang one of my Henry Martens yeomanry artworks above the desk without (much) protest from the misses.

Also on display is a photograph of my handmade Grainadier Guard – a gift from my mother-in-law only yesterday. It is a photograph ordered from the local newspaper’s archive, taken by their press photographer for a report on the scarecrow festival I took part in last month.

Apropos to this, also arriving completely unexpectedly today was a letter from HM the Queen! Unknown to me, it appears my eccentric mother wrote to our monarch to inform her of our (or rather more especially my daughter’s) recent efforts at recreating her forebear in the form of Queen Vicstrawia and her guardsman. From the reply, it appears to have met with Her Majesty’s approval. The chest of my guardsman visibly puffed out with pride at this news.

Anyway, in recognition of the new painting area, I also treated myself to a new cutting mat, new brushes and a clean paint palette to boot. Let the good times roll!

Scattered around the new painting desk you might spy a number of different figures, ten of which are approaching completion, but more on this in a future post.

Scarecrows Assemble! Queen Vicstrawia and her Grainadier

Queen Vic-straw-ia and her Grainadier Guard, my family’s submission to a local village scarecrow-making competition is complete and ready for the crowds of people that visited the displays last year. My wife and daughter created Her Majesty (a very fine job indeed, I’m sure you’ll agree) and I made the guardsman (naturally enough).

In my last post I had finished making the head out of papier mache. Next, I stuffed his uniform with straw and stuck his head to a cardboard tube.

For a belt, I’ve stuck some white paper on to one of my old belts. I notice that the buttons on my uniform are grouped in threes which therefore makes it a Scots Guard! No plume is worn by that regiment, just a bearskin, so that made it easier for me.

That bearskin won’t pass parade at that rakish angle! I need to attend to that before the big day.

For the rifle, I’ve borrowed some (toy) military hardware from the young son of a friend – on the understanding that it is returned to him in the same condition. So, as some temporary modifications I’ve used some brown paper to cover what was a bright green plastic stock. I’m intending to make it less like a lime-green Space Marine’s assault rifle and a tiny bit more like a .303 Lee-Metford or Short Magazine Lee Enfield. The orange end of the barrel seen in the photos above I’ve since covered in black tape.

Straw ankles in tights and beach shoes? The Sergeant-Major will have your guts for garters, laddie!

The hands were a late addition. I was hoping for skin coloured marigolds or maybe white gloves but they’ll have to do. A couple of sturdy wooden poles up the legs and hammered into the ground will, I’m hoping, keep the whole thing upright and standing to attention!

My daughter and I with our handiwork.

Wait a minute – what’s this just around the corner from our pitch…?

Goddammit! Another one! And we’re gonna need a bigger bearskin! I’m seeing four buttons on the tunic and yet there’s no blue plume? Pah! Clearly these amateurs don’t know the Irish Guards uniform very well… 😉

As a final flourish, I’m planning to play “Soldiers of the Queen” on repeat from my military band music collection. Hopefully, Queen Vicstrawia and the Guardsman might even attract a few votes from the visitors to the competition? Wish us luck!

And I thought the sun never set on Victoria’s empire?

Queen ‘Vicstrawia’ and her ‘Grainadier’ Guard

My in-laws live in a village which holds a scarecrow competition each year. This year the girls and I thought we’d help out and make our own for them. For those unfamiliar with this kind of competition – see this example. Bad puns for the scarecrows are a feature of this kind of festival. The theme for the scarecrow contest this year was “Best of British”.

We elected to help out the in-laws and create this year’s scarecrows. My wife and daughter thought they might create Queen Vicstrawia in her iconic seated pose from late in her reign. I immediately suggested she needed a military escort, her very own Grainadier Guard!

Luckily, I managed to pick up a child’s Guardsman costume for only £5. Dating from the 1960s, it’s in perfect condition and is fabulously well made using quality materials (no plastic buttons here – metal only).

There’s some nice detailing on the back too…

First off, I needed to make a head. So a bit of papier-mâché, using a balloon as a template, I hoped would do the trick. Not done this before and my first attempt was a bit of a let down – literally! The balloon had a slow puncture and gradually went down leaving the head ended up all shrunken and wrinkled…

My second attempt came good. Getting into my papier-mâché stride, I added a rudimentary nose, brows and ears…

I slapped on a little poster paint and then started to think about hair. A trip into town to the charity shops allows me to track down some cheap, black felt material from a rags bin. I also find a thin, feathery, black boa which will do for facial hair. Et voila, we have a guardsman’s face!

I see my scaling for the head has – ah – somewhat overestimated the much smaller bearskin! Never mind, I’m pleased with it and ‘comical’ is what I’m after. But now I’ve got to somehow attach that head to the body… but before that I’ve also got to create and stuff the arms and legs… and then the whole thing will need to magically stand to attention!

This scarecrow building is harder than I thought it would be. Wish me luck!