Monday, 20 July 2015

LFCC London Film and Comic Convention 2015

LFCC cosplay 2015

Just back from LFCC2015, one of the biggest UK comiccons, with some absolutely amazing guests like Michael J. Fox, Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Lloyd, Jonathan Pryce and me. I spent nearly the entire time behind a table though, so didn't meet any of the Back to the Future cast or other celebs, except for a very quick chat with Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls, Guardians of the Galaxy), who was astonishingly courteous to me considering I hadn't really slept for a couple of days and was beginning to look and smell like I'd died.

Sean Gunn and Russell Payne

I drove down with Marvel/DC cover artist John Watson and my daughter Chloe. John will no doubt write an LFCC blog post full of blatant untruths about me walking like a giant old man and being unable to draw, you can read it here. The bit about my shoes falling about is true though, I bought them for £5, they lasted about 8 minutes.

We stayed in a hotel a few stations east of the Kensington Olympia, a lovely family run place within walking distance of Stamford Brook tube – The Brook Hotel,  highly recommended for the weary traveller, much better than many larger hotels I've stayed in recently, on the last day when we didn't have time for breakfast, they gave us a carrier bag with fruit, water and juice cartons to take with us. You don't get that with Ramada.

LFCC was three full days, the Friday might not have started until 1pm but it went on until 8pm, even Sunday started at the obscenely early hour of 9am. It was absolutely packed every single day, although we were on the second floor which was quieter than the main bottom floor, sharing the level with YALC (Young Authors Literary Convention) and a Video Gaming area. A few metres from my table they were giving away free cans of Monster, so I imbibed a year's supply of caffeine and taurine in 3 short days and probably won't be able to sleep until next Wednesday.

I didn't do any panels or talks, but had a great time chatting to people, promoting membership of the Jack Kirby Museum, doing quick sketches and selling copies of my books and prints. Having made the mistake of offering to draw anything, one group of six girls asked for a sketch of all six of them, which is a challenge in a few minutes even for someone of my massive artistic ability, but they seemed pleased with the result, if you try hard you can even tell who is supposed to be who.

LFCC con sketch 2015

I had a couple of posters up advertising the Kirby Museum and explaining about membership and how to donate, so had some great chats about Jack Kirby with people. Mauricet came over wearing a Jack Kirby Museum T-shirt and showed me some lovely prints he's done for Kirby characters Kamandi, Etrigan and New Gods.


More frustratingly, a lot of people I talked to had never heard of Jack Kirby, but that's one reason I was there, so I enjoyed explaining to people who had spent the last year making a Captain America costume that it wasn't Stan Lee who created it. If you want to know more about Jack Kirby, visit the Jack KirbyMuseum website, but only after you finish reading this blog post.

I didn't get much chance to shop for anything, but the man behind Rocket Chips came over to talk to me and I bought a bag of Sweet Chilli chips from him, they are pretty amazing.

I also bought a Star Labs mug from the Flash TV show and a couple of t-shirts for my kids after we'd packed up and were walking out of the venue. I didn't see a single comic up close, although they were there in the distance, I do wonder sometimes why it's called a comic convention.

As usual Cosplay was a big part of the event, with some great costumes passing my table. One final, logical highlight as we walked out was meeting Spock Vegas, a Leonard Nimoy impersonator who looked amazing, partly because he was about eight feet tall, but mainly because he remained in character at all times. It was almost like meeting Leonard Nimoy, fantastic. He is much better in person than in any photo.

Thanks to the organisers for all the support, food and organisering and to everyone who came and talked to me, bought things and asked for sketches.

My next con is the excellent NICE Comic Convention 19th & 20th September 2015 at Bedford Corn Exchange - Tickets on sale now. Start sending your pre-con sketch requests now.

Russell Payne sketching at LFCC2015

Monday, 13 July 2015

Richard Ansdell Composite Portrait

I was a guest at the Lytham Arts Festival last week, a brilliant local festival organised with real enthusiasm for the arts. Part of my contribution was creating a composite portrait of Richard Ansdell.

A portrait of the painter Richard Ansdell (1815-1885) by Russell Payne composed entirely of sections of his own paintings.
A portrait of the painter Richard Ansdell (1815-1885) by Russell Payne
composed entirely of sections of his own paintings. 

Animal painter Richard Ansdell trained with portraitist W.C. Smith & at Liverpool Academy from 1835. Ansdell made his name with portraits of sitters with horses and cattle; then in Scotland with stags and sheep. Retaining a deep love of Scotland, he also visited Spain in 1856 and 1857, resulting in scenes of Spanish subjects, including mules and a richer tone of colouring. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1861 and Royal Academician in 1870. 

During part of his career he kept a "summer house" at Lytham St Annes where a district, Ansdell, is named after him. He is the only English artist to have been honoured in this way.

A commercial piece I did for a French company a few years ago introduced me to computer mapped composite images. A program breaks down libraries of images into a simple grids of colour then matches those simplified grids to small sections of one larger image, giving a picture mosaic made from hundreds or even thousands of different smaller images. I’d also used it last year in an Andy Kaufman portrait for a London exhibition, taking screen grabs of videos Andy appeared in and mapping them all together into a portrait.

Talking to the organisers of Lytham Arts Festival about the collection of Ansdell works in Lytham, I wanted to show the scope of Ansdell's work, while also creating a personal piece that showed something of the man himself. Using the composite technique, but this time using a library of images the subject themselves had painted was a natural progression and the coming together of the old and the new seemed such a natural pairing. Each smaller image is a section from Ansdells body of work. In a sense this is an Ansdell self-portrait, every brush stroke you see is by Ansdell, they are re-arranged digitally in a way he would never have imagined.

Richard Ansdell
Original Richard Ansdell Photo
digitally coloured Richard Ansdell photo
Digitally coloured Richard Ansdell photo

I digitally coloured and tidied up a photo of the artist as an older man and used this as the template for mapping together the composite. Then I manually went through an archive of his works, including some high resolution scans provided by the Lytham Arts Society and many more downloaded from Auction houses and galleries who have scanned his work over the years. Then manually cropped out identically sized sections of these paintings, sometimes small details, sometimes nearly the whole painting, to create the nearly 5000 tiles that make up the image.

Richard Ansdell
Close up details of tiles

The final piece is printed 6 feet tall, a strictly limited print run of two only, signed and framed, you really have to step back to see the composite image appear, close up you can appreciate the variety Ansdell put into his work. It shows what a prolific career as an artist he enjoyed, maintaining a constant output for decades and leaving behind a magnificent body of work. It's still on display in Stringers shop window in Lytham, but I'll be removing it this week.

Richard Ansdell

The 6 feet tall framed portrait was on display in Lytham, then listed on eBay  and I really wanted it to stay in the area and not be shipped down to a London gallery. In the end the auction was won by a London buyer, but he was born and bred in Lytham, so thats close enough.

If you are interested in commissioning a composite portrait on this scale, I do a limited number of commissions each year. I have done some recently where I take every digital photo a family has and create one very large composite portrait of the family using these images, it makes a striking talking point for any house. Prices start at £250. Get in touch using the contact form on the right and I'll let you know if I have any available commission slots.