Ben’s Art Book 1 – Progress Report!

A project that I thought would take a week has taken several months – what with so many other distractions in my life – but we are nearly there! And the book is looking goooooood! I’m optimistically estimating that I’m 85% of the way to the yearned for (by me) release day.

A fascinating few specs…

My 94 illustrations have been split into ocean- and land-themed images (some pictures could have landed in either pile). Book One will be about the ocean.

I’ve checked the scans (300 dpi), and cleaned, resized and optimized the images. Half the scans for Book One (title reveal coming soon!) are now in the Word document that will soon become a…book. The portrait:landscape ratio is about 70:30. The text that accompanies the pictures (text on left, image opposite) just needs final editing and is comprised of (hopefully) interesting facts and personal experiences.

Most of the illustrations are traditional dark(er) images on white paper but (what I like to call my) Twilight Worlds series are white/grey images on black paper for a powerful and spooky effect.

How long does one drawing take?

I’m often asked how long a picture takes me. When I started this project, it’s fair to say I couldn’t draw – at all. Any skills I’d developed in my youth had long since evaporated through decades of non-use. But I didn’t realise this..

I embarked enthusiastically on the first picture and was horrified when, after a few hours, it bore no relationship to the image I had in my head. So, I tried again…and again… Some of the earlier pictures took many attempts before I was reasonably satisfied. Dozens of completed illustrations were discarded when finished and typically, each iteration would represent twenty or thirty hours work.

The reason they took so long is I work very, very slowly: planning, visualising, sketching, outlining, amending, filling, contrasting, completing. Revisiting short-term. Revisiting medium-term. Then, over the coming months and even years, I’d look again and find myself dissatisfied with this or that detail – and go back to work on it.

A 100 hours work per picture

I think it’s fair to say that many of the more complex pictures each represent maybe 100 hours of work…and the entire collection required several years of my time. More than a decade. But it’s nearly done! I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the collection when it is released.

Sign up to be the first to know when it’s released. Or keep an eye on the blog for updates. It’ll be announced here soon…

Eye of the Tiger: Ben-isms

If eyebrows developed to stop sweat running into your eyes when you are running away from a sabre-toothed tiger, why do old men’s eyebrows grow and grow…when they are too old to run. Answers on a postcard please.

Builders sawing bricks outside. Incredible noise. Brick dust has settled on my lunch. On the plus side, I won’t need to add pepper.

COOKING TIPS FROM BEN!! Brie not ripe? Simply:

  • (1) Remove all packaging. Place brie on plate in microwave.
  • (2) Microwave for 2 mins and 30 seconds for 700w microwave (allow 2 mins for 800w).
  • (3) Lie down on floor.
  • (4) Open mouth.
  • (5) Allow brie to drip off ceiling onto your tongue.

The time has come…for the time to come.

Sitting here thinking about ambergris, spermaceti, shagreen and the ampullae of lorenzini. If you’d like to start a conversation on any of these topics, Nurse Ratched will show you to my room…

The straws are collecting on the camel’s back.

Fawlty, my new basil plant, drinks so much water, I fear it’s an aquaholic.

Never had a blister THERE before.

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Coming soon: Art Books by Ben

One night in London…

One evening while looking out of my office window over the rooftops of London, I realised that while I am passionate about spinning words into tales… I also really enjoy art. I missed drawing the black and white seascapes and fantastical universes I began to create many years ago, initially for my children.

With a portfolio stretching back fifteen years, many requests, and lucky enough to have attracted thousands of Facebook “likes”, I’ve decided to put my art into two books.

What kind of books?

The first will be ocean-themed (the formatting is already well advanced), the second land-based. My art is detailed black and white magical realism, interspersed with trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye). Often I disguise a message or story in my imagery.

What I think about when I think about art…

I enjoy taking existing animals and plants and reproducing them with accuracy down to the diameter of a hair follicle or stem texture of a mature sporophyte. But as I believe in parallel worlds (or multiverses—think quantum physics), I also like to modify my flora and fauna, sometimes minutely, sometimes big time, while retaining apparent authenticity. It’s up to the viewer to spot where I’ve accelerated evolution or wandered into a shadowy recess of my imagination.

How many pictures?

Each book will have about 55 illustrations. On the opposing pages, I’ll include a few (hopefully) interesting facts about the subject matter; my personal experiences; perhaps a few lines about what I was trying to achieve with that picture.

For the originals, I worked exclusively by hand and eye—no computer trickery here! But I’ll be adding a few “digitally doubled” images—images reflected down a central axis—at the end of both books. Just for fun.

When?

The first book is already 75% formatted. If the Great Crested Lemur, unknown in Mad-agascar but commonplace in Sane-agascar (Editor: Ben, I can’t believe you wrote that :-/ ) would just stop hopping around for five minutes and let me finish the seascape behind it, I’d be able to wrap this up soon and have the first book up on Amazon in a few weeks.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the trompe l’oeil and the hidden stories you might see in these works…

 

Spring Ben-isms!

It’s not every day you run 5 miles in a record time. Then write 5,000 words, edit a business plan and meet up with an old friend whom you beat at chess in eleven moves. And still manage to cook dinner for twelve. And today wasn’t one of those days.

My oeuvre needs expanding.

I hate the way auto-connect ruins all my testes.

Flat (apartment) below me catches fire (& brimstone). Smoke, eye-watering smells, fire brigade, ambulance, police, mayhem. My smoke alarm doesn’t go off. Grilling a quorn peppered “steak”. Smoke alarm goes off. Explanations please…

PHOBIA OF THE DAY. The fear of invisible words:

Facebook wants to know what my position is at “Author”. Errr…writer?

I mind that my mind thinks it knows what I’m thinking.

I signed up to a website that promised to make me happier. After several boring emails, I unsubscribed. But they kept emailing me. So I emailed them to tell them they were making me unhappy. The rate of emails increased.

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Alysia Seymour Reviews Something in the Air

SITA BANNER BEN_bhs

Alysia Seymour has posted a review of Something in the Air on her blog.

Something in the Air is a sweet and emotional read with an unexpected ending that…pulls at the heart-strings”

“Ben Starling does an impeccable job”

SITA FINAL COVER - EBOOK LO OCT

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A Poem: POM – Book Your Australian Holiday!

POM – BOOK YOUR AUSTRALIAN HOLIDAY!

Who’d wanna be a wallabeee?

I wish I knew, said the kangarooo.

I love this land, chirped the cuddly possum,

Yawning, stretching on a bed of blossom.

So Pom, if you need a getaway,

Come to Oz and play for a month and a day.

Let’s meet the locals, who’ll make your stay

A Dame Edna-tastic holiday!

 

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Let’s start in Sydney, our biggest city,

Where the girls are ripped and the Bruces gritty.

A swim off Bondi late at night?

Great white sharks are friendly, right?

Tired of beer, mate? Try our great cider,

Then play dare by kissing a funnel web spider.

In search of a unique culinary dish?

Have you tried raw box jellyfish?

They drift In search of the mankini-ed swimmer,

Who they tickle all over, in time for dinner.

 

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A real Ozzie swills Fosters from a gallon syphon,

While wrestling his twenty-foot amethystine python.

Did you know a drop of wolf spider’s venom

Can amuse fifty lawyers at their annual plenum?

 

Up in Queensland, where the sun’s always yellow,

You may meet a charmingly laid-back fellow:

So be sure to stomp on that buried stingray…

It’ll say thanks with its tail—and make your day!

Then check that travel insurance clause

In case a redback crawls in your drawers.

In the rainforest? That’s where the amiable cassowary,

Rushes over to greet the sun-stroked unwary.

 

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When driving north, on the heat-baked roads,

You can count the two billion cane toads.

Here’s a ripper sport: tug a Taipan’s tail,

It’ll lick your fingers without fail!

Or swim a river with a salty croc,

Whose playful death-roll’s sure to rock.

Then there’s the stonefish, beneath the sand,

They say its venom’s super bland.

Want a buddy with Usain Bolt’s speed?

Introducing our giant centipede!

 

In the coral garden you’ll find a pet

With a beak as blunt as your rusty Gillette.

Known as the blue-ringed octopussy,

Squeeze his head hard to prove you’re no wussy.

Remember that cone shell you found on the beach?

Hold it tight—it’ll do strange things to your speech.

Tie a yellow-bellied sea-snake in a knot?

Try it. You’ll win Gold for projecting snot.

Then end your day with a fun party trick:

Play a game of spot the paralysis tick!

 

Dingo, wombat, bull ant, brumby,

Australia’s wildlife won’t leave you grumbly!

They’re here to greet you, make you feel special,

Cos our hospitals are empty and the examinations rectal.

So people: book your flights, plan your vacations,

But first…write your wills and warn your relations.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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ODE TO A WREN

A graveyard squats beyond a wall
Where they bury dreams with rocks.
As child, as adult, those dreams once called
And on those caskets knocked.

Each year a thinning wail would stray
From walls bulged thicker, taller.
Each day my prayers, more distant, play
In silence to the caller.

Until that sleety autumn noon
When quiet cloaked my pleadings,
As thorns and claws and hooks of Moon,
Tore love from spirit’s bleedings.

Now death puffs its heartless chest
On bones through broken soil,
A waxen, tuxedoed dinner guest
Slurps grinning at the spoil.

Time tried but failed to fix
My endless melancholy,
A constant acid reflux mix
A three-legged border collie.

Okay, so the dog makes zero sense,
I bet you can’t do better,
Onward then with the suspense,
As I struggle with every letter.

One day the calendar did turn,
And a wren, of fluffy breast,
Who’d dined on creepy-crawly things, and a worm
Flew by to build a nest.

The graveyard scared the birdy so,
It jettisoned its eating.
A deluge white as driven snow
Spattered barren soil in greeting.

And in that spattering, a seed was sown
It germinated quickly.
Then roots and trunk and branch were grown.
The plant grew tall, and thickly.

It burst the walls, it let in light,
The voice of hope returned.
The dreams with their attendant might,
Bore fruit in all I’d yearned.

Now love has settled where all was lost,
I’m no longer a complainer,
Remember—whatever the cost—
Keep hold of hope. That’s a no-brainer.

The moral of this poetic crime,
Strained from slurry, compost, grit?
No one’s more certain than I’m
That good can come from s**t.

 

A Valentine’s Day Poem…from Ben to you.

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(Ode to a Wren, Ben Starling, 2016)