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First Loves: Frank Bellamy

28th June 2018

When I was seven, the only art I knew was comic art. The information conveyed with the least amount of time spent on shading, but a lot of time devoted to the important bits. Like the story. My comic history included The Topper, The Beezer (I wasn’t allowed The Beano, probably not broadsheet enough, I suppose) one day I found myself staring in disbelief at Dan Dare and Digby (“Suffering sputniks, Dig!…”) driving Anastasia full tilt towards some hellish planet that needed a bit of firm policing.

I can still remember the whole back page being devoted to something boring like the life of Winston Churchill or Montgomery, but the drawing was unbelievable, it was Frank Bellamy, the One True Master, wielding the steady pen, and drawing with such flair and drama that I can still remember where I was and the details. (The guns at Alamein preparing for the barrage,and a speech bubble that just said ‘Blimey’). It was at the convent in East Cowes in 1957; what made the drawing extra tasty was the day before Sister Katarina had come down hard on naughty Henry Thornton who had used this new word as an experiment in style. She smacked him twice on his face and told him never to say it again. Blimey Oh Reilly! I wonder if Jesus knew he was married to such violent, unhappy women. Maybe he should have given them more attention.

I didn’t pursue the comic art thing; there were too many good people. What inspires can also be a bit over-awesome.

Anyway, it didn’t stop me, years later, to produce an image of Semley village fete. I called it A Twist Of Fete. All my Dorset mates are in there as well as a bloke in red trousers; Leo’s there, Charlie from the Beckford, Sara and Juliet are in place; loads of dogs, and even though they weren’t around; I put my daughters with their incredibly timid and emotional Irish Wolfhound, Pixie. Aww.

I loved doing it, and though my technique is necessarily rather laconic (it’s just traced on Photoshop), the colours are fun; and importantly it’s an attempt to get away from the more painterly, conservative stuff you expect to see that deals with life in the country. Also you get to take a few liberties if that’s your wont (it is mine).

If you look closely you’ll see Bob Dylan looking pretty in his Pierre Cardin suit and boots. He’s listening to the band play Dirty Old Town, and probably thinking he should get back to his folk roots.

Hence the title.