Saturday, 7 July 2012

Arthurian inspiration

Everyone starts somewhere, don't they? For me, now thirty or so years into my Arthurian fixation, I can pinpoint a couple of key moments that hooked me and have never let go.

First of all, as a small kid looking through my dad's Military Modelling magazines, I came across two stunning Richard Scollins paintings accompanying a couple of short articles about 'Arthur the Man or the Myth' in some 1980 issues. The text I wouldn't have understood as a six year old and don't remember much about these days, but I do recall staring in awe at the paintings. A few years later I was given a present of a book called The Soldier, which included both paintings, one of which I've added here. Richard Scollins is a much missed artist ... when I look at his paintings of warriors, I see real people in a military kit rather than Action Man in a variety of historical settings. He brought a certain humanity to war illustration.

I really wanted to use this painting in my Dux Bellorum book (or any other Arthur book I've worked on or ever will work on), but have never been able to trace Richard Scollin's estate. If you know anything, please let me know because I'd truly love to give these paintings a new lease of life.

Around the same time, I was forced to play King Arthur in the school May Day festival. It was something to do with a misunderstanding at the maypole and a small amount of may-ribbon strangulation, if I recall correctly. More grisly detail here, and if you're lucky I might post some more photos one day.

And finally, a little earlier in life, I'd been read stories of Arthur by both of my parents who were and are both keen on history. Having been born in a lovely 1960s tower block called Tintagel House, I wanted to know more about this other boy from Tintagel (why couldn't I see the sea that he could from Tintagel, instead seeing just the railway line and shopping centre?). So many great versions of Arthurian legend have been written for kids, but my favourite book was The Deeds of the Nameless Knight, a Ladybird book written by Desmond Dunkerley and gloriously illustrated by Robert Ayton. Again, it was probably the artist that hooked me in.

That's my Arthurian inspiration ... what's yours?