Weekend Reading: Shameless Self-Promotion

This week I’ve been tinkering with my Redbubble shop, adding new work and customising some things in response to requests. So I thought I’d use this week’s post as a shameless plug for my products! For those who don’t know, I set up a Redbubble shop in order to cover the running costs of this website, selling my artwork on products for a small cut of the profits. So far it’s gone well: since I set up the shop, I’ve managed to earn enough to cover the annual hosting/domain costs of this website, with a bit left over to donate to charities and student support organisations.

So here’s a little roundup of some of my new (or new-ish) stuff, with a few explanations.

  1. The Kelmscott Aeneid

This design was a labour of love over quite a number of days. I’m a huge fan of William Morris’s design work, particularly in his books, and had always wanted to try to copy the illustrated/illuminated Chaucer that he produced with Burne-Jones. But instead of straight copying, I thought I would see whether I could adapt their style to an illustrated page of Virgil’s Aeneid. It was definitely a challenge! I opted for Dryden’s translation, mainly on practical grounds, because Dryden’s lines are both short and more consistent in length than most translations.

It left me with a new respect for what Morris achieved with this book, which for him and Burne-Jones was a Sunday project spanning four years. The borders are so intricate that I couldn’t even come close: I could manage the basic style, but the original designs have an extra layer of tiny detail that I just had to give up on. Burne-Jones’ illustrative style is so distinctive that, again, I couldn’t quite capture it. But still, I had the best time doing it!

I’ve put it in the shop in its original black and white, and have also produced a blue version in response to a request.

2. Too Many Books

It’s possible that I may have been a bit stressed when I came up with this one…! But it makes quite an appropriate notebook, I think. Also available on stickers, mugs, bags and cards, for the incurable book addict in your life.

3. Pietas

At this time of the year, for some reason, I seem to get involved in discussions of pietas on multiple modules at the same time. So this year I’m not fighting it. Here’s my artist’s impression of Pietas, featuring one of my very favouritest coins. (In case you didn’t know, the stork was seen in the Roman world as a bird which had great respect for family, to the extent of looking after its parents in old age. Coming from a land of seagulls rather than storks, I have absolutely no idea whether this is true.)

4. Butterfly Bookplate

This started out as a doodle, copying some of the patterns from the stained glass window in my library. Then I got bored one day and started experimenting with a little palette of children’s watercolours I had lying around. It ended up turning into quite a cheerful design for bags and coasters – but I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have the subtlety necessary for watercolours!

5. Asclepius and his Snakes

About six weeks ago I was feeling pretty rough: sore throat, shaky, headache so bad I couldn’t stand up or move my head. I thought it was just a sinus thing. I tried to work through it, and found myself sitting at my desk doing doodles of the god Asclepius and his healing snakes while trying to ignore the glare from my computer screen.

Shortly afterwards my son – who never gets ill – started complaining of a headache, and saying that his orange juice tasted funny. And then I got an email from his school to say that Covid cases had been confirmed in the school… and finally the penny dropped. Sure enough, we both tested positive, and I was left with persistent fatigue, recurring headaches and this little drawing of Asclepius

6. Smol Icarus

When cartoon dragons and tutorial slides on Matisse collide… I had far too much fun making this cut-out, in the style of Matisse’s famous Icarus! I’ll be adding more Smol Dragon stuff to the shop over the next week or so, for all your festive dragon needs.

And of course you can check out my illustration website for new stuff (sometimes I remember to update it!), or to enquire about commissions or purchasing original artwork. A lot of what I do these days is for private commission, so do get in touch if you’d like to ask about something!

Interesting stuff this week

Well, the big news this week is of course the recently discovered Roman villa at Rutland and its stunning mosaic depicting the Iliad, the only one yet found in Britain. This is very exciting – and it’s been all over the news, as you would expect. It’s one of those situations where it’s really interesting to compare the coverage in different publications (eg. the ‘Roman “Stephen Fry“‘…!). But for a nice view of the discovery, have a watch of this little video:

In particular, I love the idea that this mosaic features the alternate ending to Hector’s story which was put forward by Aeschylus in a lost play. Brilliant stuff!

It’s been a big week for mosaics. Earlier in the week there was the story of a Roman mosaic associated with Caligula, which has been used as a coffee table for almost 50 years… oh, and another found in an illegal excavation in a garden in western Turkey.

I’m starting to feel a bit left out. Maybe now would be a good time to start digging up the concrete of my back yard… just in case…

If you’re a mosaic fan, the good people of Twitter have a #MosaicMonday hashtag, so you can tune in every week for all things mosaic-related, or browse old posts for pictures, videos and information. For everything else, don’t forget to check out the Rogue Classicist’s daily round-up.

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