Memento mori

I’ve not been the most productive since the start of the year – well, I sort of have, but not in way that gives me much cause to post. The duck commission that flew over to Singapore had some issues on the way and a couple of them were damaged, so I’ve mostly been spending time recreating those (and coming up with better ways of transporting them). I think they actually look better so far, but there’s a slight issue.

I don’t actually have enough sitting ducks or ducklings left. Now, normally, I’d just suck it up and pay the exorbitant postage to get some more ducks from the US. Unfortunately, Brexit Britain has decided to throw a spanner in those works by demanding that companies outside the UK deal with the VAT on their end, which is an absolutely ludicrous request. A lot of companies have – very understandably – thrown up the middle finger and some choice language at the very idea of it and now refuse to fulfil orders to the UK under a certain value (about £135, I believe).

Sadly for me, Industria Mechanika is one of those companies. I don’t blame them at all, and Michael, who runs it, deserves all the business in the world. (Seriously, go buy some stuff, just don’t try to get it delivered to the UK unless it’s a big order.)

This means that I need to discuss with the client what to do about it. I have nearly enough ducks and ducklings, and it’s possible he can cannibalise surviving pieces from the damaged ones he has to finish them off or that I can swap a sitting duck out for a standing one, but it’s considerably less than ideal. And all of this is just a tiny part of the vain pursuit of some fantasy world where the UK gets to regain the lost glories of the Empire. Or sovereignty. Or something involving massive xenophobia. Or something. A red, white and blue Brexit (red tape, white supremacy and blue passports, presumably).


Anyway, I have managed to do some work on the next still life: a pair of old boots. The boots actually took far too long to make because I don’t know what I’m doing with putty and had to figure out how to sculpt them without ending up with a pair of boots for the Elephant Man.

On the left is the raw build; the right is the painting in progress. Boots have smudges of undercoat where it would be difficult to reach once they’re in place (I plan to paint them in situ). The wallpaper pattern is a simplified tulip design I found online.

The plan is to focus attention on the boots with saturation, so hopefully I won’t cock that up. I’m also going to try to make cobwebs using a hairspray method I found online. Assuming it doesn’t go completely wrong, that should add the finishing touch.

Those of you with some knowledge of still lifes will gather that this is a memento mori – a painting that highlights mortality. These often feature skulls, centipedes, dead things and the like, and some are incredibly clever in how they hide all of the symbols. In this instance, the combination of the decaying wallpaper, the cobweb and the boot on its side should convey the right idea. Just as my other still lifes try to convey the idea that someone is just out of shot, this should convey the idea that he’s not coming back.

That feels a bit painfully apt at the moment.

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