My Reflections on Graham Stuart Ovenden

As Pigtails in Paint celebrates its 12th anniversary, one understandably reflects on milestones. The biggest in my life and to many others is the passing on December 9th last year of my friend, Graham Ovenden. The funeral was on January 27th and attended by about 30 people. This post also commemorates February 11th which would have been his 80th birthday.

Graham Ovenden – The Shadow Self : Philosophers (date unknown)

The Approach: Probably like many others, I often assume that people with a certain notoriety will be unapproachable, either because they adopt the attitude of a prima donna or their entourage works to insulate them from their rabid fans. I was impressed with the scope of Graham’s work and upon working on Pigtails, realized that he held key information that would help us break open the “Cult of the Girl Child”. I had no idea how to proceed and was shocked when a close associate simply gave me his phone number. I was nervous and postponed calling him wondering if it was OK to just cold call him. It turned out great and that cold call led to a 45-minute conversation. It turns out Graham had a good sense of a person’s authenticity and he knew I was “the real McCoy” even though he did not “know me from Adam”.

Bad Timing: We had three great conversations before he expressed concern over our continued communication. He was just about to face trial and his friends advised him that including a new person in his life was too great a risk so he asked if I would stop contacting him any more until after the trial. I was disappointed, of course, but respected his wishes. I found out later that one of his American friends familiar with Pigtails strenuously discouraged contact and the perceived harm to his reputation. This friend has since reversed his opinion and we have actually had some productive dealings which led to the expansion of the PIgtails Library.

A Real Friend: It is common knowledge that the trials did not go well and Graham had to serve prison time. Fortunately, I had been in contact with a few of his friends and they were good enough to keep me apprised of his situation. A short while after his release, I was startled to find a letter from the UK in my mailbox. It included contact information so we could continue our association and I knew that he was just as cognizant of our chemistry as I was. I am eternally grateful for the efforts of Robin Hanbury-Tenison, a long-time loyal friend of Graham’s, for reconnecting us.

Soul Mate: From my perspective, Graham and I had a great rapport and I was later delighted that he recognized it as well and, in his frank manner, told me so. Our conversations were great and we emailed back and forth but I felt he was hinting that I should visit him in person. I am not fond of travel, but I realized that we could cover a lot more ground by spending some time in person. I planned and made my first visit in the summer of 2016.

Lucky Timing: I had never travelled outside the US except under the auspices of the US Army in my youth. I had heard that one should arrive at the airport at least 3 hours in advance of one’s flight. I did so and toiled through the process and patiently waited at the designated gate for my flight. I was so early that I had not realized my flight was switched to another gate and was surprised to hear my name over the intercom. I was redirected to the correct gate but I had gotten there too late and they gave away my seat. The airline scrambled to get me on another flight to the UK. The good luck was that I got a direct flight and so I ended up at my destination at roughly the same time as originally expected; I simply had to wait a few more hours for my replacement flight. I did not have a cell phone at the time so I had no convenient way to inform Graham of the change. When I arrived in country and took the train to Liskeard, Cornwall, it turned out that I was on the train just after the one they expected me on! Graham and a good friend of his, Jack, were still there waiting for me!

Living in a Museum: As far as I was concerned, I was staying in a museum. Graham was an avid collector and fit what he could into that small flat. The visit was overwhelming and I did my best to take notes and Graham was gracious enough to scan interesting items that could sometime appear on Pigtails. I tell people that if Graham had lived in Las Vegas, I would have visited him there. I was not that interested in the place, but I have to say I fell in love with Cornwall and his friends were delightful. They were understandably suspicious of this new friend of Graham’s but they too realized that I was the real deal.

Paying It Forward: One of the artists I learned about who really impressed me during the visit was Brian Partridge. I made a point of featuring him on this site early on. Brian and Graham had a long collaborative relationship and they lost touch during Graham’s incarceration. All he had on Brian was his mailing address. I took it upon myself to write to him and let him know how to get in touch again. I was delighted by the outcome because I got to see a lot more of Brian’s work and spoke with him on the phone a couple of times. As a token of appreciation, Graham sent me an annotated copy of the Garage Press publication of Brain’s work. It’s kind of like having an original manuscript.

Friendship Credentials: Graham was known for giving his friends gifts and, in a funny way, if one wants to show proof of their friendship with Graham, they need simply show the artifacts they were given, often including originals of his own artwork. I can boast two original portraits and a number of photographic prints. Graham bestowed me a special honor by signing a print of Sophie (a famous image from the cover of States of Grace). He told me he never signed photographs or prints and so it seems I have a unique item.

Reaching Out: Graham had an ambivalent relationship with technology. On the one hand, he experimented extensively with digital image manipulation such as the image appearing on this page, but he also resisted more convenient forms of communication such as Skype. He said he didn’t want to use such forms of communication to protect his friends but I suspect he didn’t want to cope with the steep learning curve. Because of this, I assumed he wasn’t interested in having a website to share his work and give his side of things. It turns out that I was mistaken and I am glad to have done him the service of connecting him with a website host who was also a fan of his. Fortunately, he also lived in the UK and could visit Graham in person to help him with any technical problems. This is why his personal and publishing (Garage Press) websites exist today.

Fly on the Wall: I was always kind of envious of journalists who got to speak with interesting personalities. I wish I had the presence of mind to bring an audio recorder during my visits because in retrospect, I realized we had a few fascinating conversations on a multitude of subjects that may have been of interest to others. We talked extensively about philosophy, history, politics and the arts. Graham educated me on Blues and Jazz and we shared a love of Classical music. Graham had an extensive phonograph collection and in my last couple of hours with him before my return home, we listened to Brahms’ Violin Concerto. Graham had the foresight to recognize the decline in his health and reached out to The British Library who happily accepted the donation. There are quite a few rare items in there including an interview with a woman who knew Lewis Carroll personally as a child.

Final Exhibition: Many times, Graham donated parts of his collect to exhibit in museums. With a lot of help from Jack—to whom he bequeathed this collection—he got to have one final show held in his home town of Liskeard displaying his Victorian and Edwardian photographs last October. It was well-attended and featured renowned photographers like Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), Julia Margaret Cameron, Joseph Gale, George Ruff, Francis Bedford, Dorothea Lange and Lewis Hines.

Virtues and Vices: Of course whatever we may think of his work, Graham was also a man and had his foibles. He was a great collector and we can thank him for bringing all these interesting items together. However, he was kind of a pack rat and could not refrain from purchasing one more first edition even if the purchase worked against his interests. Collectors should be glad to know that a lot of interesting volumes will be appearing on the market sometime in the near future. I don’t envy Jack the task of cataloging and finding buyers for these items (Jack is a bookseller). This habit even had a little to do with his estrangement with his family; he even confessed one day that he was not really built to be a family man. However, his younger sister and brother remained supportive of him and are the executors of his estate. Since Graham was an invalid the entire time I knew him, he was always grateful when I went into town to get takeout food (the English call it takeaway). One of the items he always wanted was duck and if I was going to the Chinese place, I would always bring him some.

Graham Ovenden taught me so much in the time I got to know him but I know that was just the tip of the iceberg. I was fortunate to meet a few of his friends and I can understand why they were so loyal to him. He was a prolific painter and I came to understand that occupying himself with that work was instrumental in maintaining his sanity during the most trying times. I felt kind of guilty during my three visits because having my little space in the flat made painting impractical most of the time. Whenever I returned home, he would paint a flurry of new works. I could go on and on with anecdotes and I only knew him a short time. These will undoubtedly come out in due course as PIgtails publishes more posts and in responses to readers’ comments.


State of the Blog Address 2023

Yet one more straw has been placed on the camel’s back. We have weathered a number of crises in the past and I am so delighted that we have been able to carry on so far (with a few interruptions). Our latest host did careful research to find the kinds of connections that allow us to operate despite somewhat rabid opposition. We have found many tolerant service providers, but the simple fact is that they are in business to make money. That means when there are enough complaints about us, we are asked to leave. After all, no data center wants to be associated with child pornography, however false the claims. Many services have been lined up so far, but I feel it necessary to inform you that were are on our last one and it is possible that we will have to shut down in the near future. Naturally, we are interested in any useful ideas and leads that might keep us going and we have a few guardian angels out there already trying to help us out. I just thought it only fair to warn readers that we may have to unexpectedly shut down. If this happens, this will not be the end of Pigtails in Paint. At the very worst, we will just have to take a break for a while until we can get some more ducks in a row. Thank you everyone for your wonderful support. -Ron

One Funeral at a Time: It is my sad duty to inform you that Graham Stewart Ovenden passed away on the morning of December 9, 2022 (GMT). I delayed in this notification to allow his closest friends and family to process the news. I only got to know him in the last few years, but my life has been greatly enriched in the process. One of the problems of social and academic progress is that the entrenched power-brokers resist change and suppress the contribution of bright young minds. Of course, this idea is a two-edged sword because it is not only the obstructors who pass away, but the hopeful visionaries as well. It falls to those of us who survive to shape the meaning of this man’s life. He will be greatly missed.

Bad Choice: One of the temptations in modern capitalism is to go overboard in promoting a new product. With all the competition out there, it is so easy to cross the line or misrepresent a new offering to get attention. A 2020 coming-of-age film by Senegalese filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré is one of the latest examples. Cuties (French, Mignonnes) is about an 11-year-old girl who joins a dance troupe and is confronted in the process by cultural conflict and her own emerging womanhood. Unfortunately, the writer-director received harsh criticism for this well-constructed work because of an error of judgment by Netflix during its US release. Instead of using one of the established publicity stills, it used an image of the troupe somewhat provocatively posed as if that were the main purpose of the film. Naturally pundits—who certainly have not watched the film—made the boilerplate accusations of pornography and abuse. Bridget Todd of the podcast Internet Hate Machine produced an excellent overview this issue.

The Dark Side of Chocolate: One of the ironies of running this site is how we are accused of promoting child pornography. My understandable irritation is amplified by the fact that there is real deplorable abuse of children out there that requires action. I have posted many examples on this site to inform readers including well-researched outright human trafficking. Let’s give some consideration to this fact the next time we indulge in chocolate. As it happens, the most popular brands have been sourcing their cocoa from companies that make extensive use of child labor, most of which were abducted exclusively for this purpose according to documentarian Miki Mistrati.

Curious Alice: Once in a while I get a message from Pip, the founder of this site, and he shares some interesting tidbits he recently came across. Like many young girl enthusiasts, Lewis Carroll’s Alice is a popular theme. A most curious case in point is a 1971 production called Curious Alice. It was a short US government anti-drug propaganda film. It used animation, still photography and standard film in rather weird combinations that play off the various types of highs one gets from different drugs with each Wonderland character representing a different substance (Caterpillar as marijuana, Mad Hatter as LSD, March Hare as amphetamines, etc.). It is definitely a film of its time and Pip finds it amusing that the government used hippie aesthetics to make an anti-drug film that was not only ineffective but may have had some appeal for drug users!

In Defense of Teddy Bears: Also from Pip is yet another stupid phony controversy regarding Balenciaga for—get this—featuring teddy bear handbags with BDSM attire! Here is a link with Balenciaga’s apology for their ads. This apology was likely the result of pressure from Kim Kardashian who is an ambassador for the brand and also put out a statement in response.

Our Girl Wednesday: According to an associate, there is a new dance inspired by the character Wednesday from the Netflix series of the same name in The Addams Family franchise. The dance is shown here on YouTube and there are numerous imitators either dressing up as Wednesday or copying the dance which I will let you dig up yourself since there are quite a few, most notably on Instagram.

Another Item of Pinterest: One of our readers is an avid postcard collector. He agreed to share what he has put up so far on his Pinterest account.

Maiden Voyages: December 2022

Where has the year gone?

New Contributors: I am delighted to see an uptick of Pigtails readers making an effort to contribute new items to the site. I highly encourage these people because I am not personally able to produce or even know about all the material out there. So I would like to take the time to ask readers to not only share short leads but to put something together suitable for publishing. You are our eyes and ears out there, now let us use our hands. For those concerned about their weak matery of English, I am happy to do the editing necessary to achieve acceptable standards. Also, if you think you are a skilled editor but have no content to share, please let me know. We need people to take the leads we receive and produce them in an acceptable format.

Preserving a Legacy: I must sadly inform readers that my friend, Graham Ovenden, is in very bad condition and may be leaving us soon. To think that I may never again have an engaging conversation with this man is personally sad to contemplate. We have spoken on a wide range of subjects beyond that of the art world. The reason I am bringing this up is that I would like to preserve his legacy in part by keeping his two websites (personal and Garage Press) up for as long as practicable. I have no problem paying for this out of my own pocket, but I know there are others out there who may want to help out. In the next couple of months, we will be working out a way to receive monetary contributions for projects like this. Please let me know if you want to be one of them.

Consuming Children: In the world of fake news, it is hard to zero in on what is really happening and what can be done about it. The whole Pizzagate affair is a well-known example and it involved the shocking exploitation of children. This exploitation is a real problem except that malicious actors working to undermine the narrative in the US have got the story wrong so that highly-radicalized individuals behaved rashly. This tactic has succeeded to some extent in sowing discord in American society but does not address real child exploitation (nor was it ever intended to). Increasing unrest in the world and extreme wealth disparity has created a situation in which more and more children are trafficked. Being such a hot-button issue means that exaggerated claims abound and it behooves us to view such things with skepticism. But we should not be be naive and foll ourselves into thinking it is not a real problem. Of special interest is the efforts of Tim Ballard who has been working to actually rescue children who are trapped in this trade. Some of the details can be heard in the Jordan Harbinger Show  and there is now a film (Operation Toussaint: Operation Underground Railroad & the Fight to End Modern-Day Slavery) outlining the details of specific efforts in Haiti. As grim as this subject is, there are some heartwarming moments as well including a remarkable little girl who did everything she could to protect her little brother. I expect that this will become a dedicated post in the future.

Instagram Interest: There have been a lot of leads lately about interesting work published on Instagram. One site is of particular interest and it is no surprise that it comes from an occasional contributor of this site, WCL. Readers can take a look here and I am delighted to inform readers that he has contributed a new item to Pigtails that will be published soon. Another reader has volunteered to scout out other interesting examples as well. Since not all readers (including myself) have Instagram accounts, some of the more interesting examples will be republished here as small posts.

Merry Christmas: A Gift from Graham Ovenden

One of my contentions—which I perhaps do not mention often enough—is that the reason true artists produce their art is something akin to compulsion. There is something in their psychology that drives them to do it. To my mind, it is a valuable form of exorcising one’s demons and, by extension, that of society. I was quite distressed to learn that health concerns in the past year have made Graham quite frail (not connected to the extant coronavirus). For a time, his shoulder was too stiff for him to work and I became quite concerned that he would go mad (balmy to you Brits out there) if he were forced to stop painting permanently. Fortunately, things got a little better and one of his most ambitious projects is a triptych recently completed and given as a gift to his younger sister.

Graham Ovenden – The Wind (2021) (left panel)

Graham Ovenden – My Sister’s Ghost Arising (2021) (center panel)

This center panel is meant to depict Graham’s sister in her youth kicking a ball to another younger sister who passed away when she was young (figure on the right).

Graham Ovenden – Moon Jumping (2021) (right panel)

Not only can cows jump over the moon; girls can too which I’m sure many readers will agree is a more delightful metaphor.

Graham Ovenden – Triptych (2021)

The works were produced in oil on prepared paper laid down onto board or plywood. Graham says,” The three panels are very much a depiction of childhood freedoms and wonder.”

Happy Christmas to all! -Ron

Maiden Voyages: September 2021

At Last! As most readers know, Pigtails in Paint and allied sites (Agapeta and Graham Ovenden’s sites) were shut down by order of the UK police. Backups of the sites were then transferred to a new host. However, in the case of the Ovenden sites, the previous host kind of screwed us over by using an unconventional format for those sites, so information regarding their proper reconstitution was not included. Therefore, the sites had to be assembled by hand which took time and money. But I am pleased to announce that the Graham Ovenden personal website and Garage Press website (Graham’s publishing enterprise) are now operational. Because of Graham’s history with persecution, both sites cannot receive comments or messages. Graham has authorized Pigtails in Paint to serve as a public relation liaison. If you have any questions or are interested in Garage Press publications, please use the contact form on this site.

Fund Raising Protocols: Because of the extra effort of reestablishing Graham’s sites, some extra expenses have been accrued (up to about US$1000). Fortunately, we are in the process of being able to accept donations to help with the running of this site and keep Graham’s sites online indefinitely. I know we have mentioned this before but our new host is going to help with this so it can actually happen.

Pigtails Communications Glitches: During the process of switching hosts, there are always some things that slip through the cracks. One is that I had no idea comments and the Contact Form were not operating correctly. I apologize for the inconvenience and I can assure readers that the problems have been rectified.

Promises, Promises: Although Pip founded this site and there are key contributors to this site, I am inclined to regard this site as belonging to the readers. Part of that requires that those who have interesting information should submit contributions so they can be shared with other readers. I am at your disposal for editing services if you lack confidence in your writing. Those of you who have promised articles—you know who you are—please follow through. We are only as good as our contributors. I will resume writing new articles myself when I feel that our key databases are up-to-date (‘Artists by Name’ and ‘Pigtails Library Index’).

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back: The beginning of the end for Pigtails under our old host were the controversial images of the Debbie Dreschler post. We were required to remove them to stay operational. This was an almost amusing piece or irony since the artist’s purpose was to make readers aware of the realities of child sexual abuse. Now that we are no longer under UK jurisdiction, I have restored those images. There are also plans to include redacted images from a couple other posts. Readers will be advised when we make any changes.

Always Under Siege:  Although Pigtails has been around for over ten years, we are still subject to persistent attack. When a DDOS (Denial of Service) attack takes place, readers are unable to reach the site due to excessive processing volume. Internet hosts usually keep a database of IPs to block but because this information was not passed from the old host, these attacks have resumed. It will take time to block all these individuals again so be patient if you can’t reach the site at first. Over time, service should become more and more reliable. Sometimes, it is necessary to change this site’s IP address. If you use a shortcut to visit our site, please make sure it is a URL (web address) shortcut and not one that uses our IP directly as we have to sometimes change it with no notice.

2021 State of the Blog Address

Given all that has been going on, I feel like this is a great time to publish a ‘State of the Blog’. As can be seen from the last post, our host was ordered by UK police to shut down this site, Agapeta and Graham Ovenden’s two sites. As has happened a number of times in the past, we have guardian angels who appreciate our mission and assist when they can to keep us afloat. Thank you all so much for your support.

Status of Allied Sites: Because Pigtails and Agapeta use the WordPress template, they were the easiest to reinstate. What I understand is that Agapeta is publicly visible right now under the same domain name but with an incomplete database. It is expected to be completely restored during the coming weekend. Graham’s sites (The Graham Ovenden personal site and Garage Press) will take longer. Our former host did not like the unwieldy structure of WordPress and so used something he was more comfortable with. Our new host needs to familiarize himself with that protocol before they can be restored. All domain names have been successfully transferred and there are no changes to any of the web addresses.

Our New Host: There is something of an interesting story about our new host. As readers are probably aware, there is a lot of controversy with a site such as ours which focuses on the “Cult of the Girl Child”. Another sensitive topic these days is the way young girls are sometimes portrayed in fantasy situations in manga and anime including sexually suggestive or even explicit content. There are many who want to make the important distinction between fantasy and the advocacy of physical abuse. In order to protect this material (some with artistic or political merit, Debbie Dreschler for instance) from undue censorship, a team was put together to figure out a “bulletproof” way to have this material be available online despite heated objection by the lay public. The problem with corporate management of domain names and websites is that with their bottom line of profits, they are simply too susceptible to public opinion and anything that is not worth the trouble gets shut down. This has happened many times with Pigtails as many of you know. The idea is that our host will boldly deal with the ridicule, complaints and cyber attacks on the sites to keep them up and running. In addition, the sites will be run in jurisdictions that are are more understanding of the real challenges of freedom of speech (definitely not the UK or the US). I don’t want to give you the impression that this is some kind of obstinate rogue operation; when there are legitimate legal issues, such complaints can go through proper legal channels (namely, the courts) and will be dealt with according to the rule of law. This program is in its early stages so I imagine hosting Pigtails is an important test case, especially because of our size and the fact that we don’t really push the limits that much except in the service of academic pursuits.

Our Priorities Going Forward: I have not had much time for this site recently, but it is important that it remain active as a resource. I will continue to make occasional posts, but my focus will be on completing the databases: first, completing the ‘Artists by Name’ page and then putting together a bibliography of the PIgtails Library.

Contributors Pulling Their Weight: Since I am less active, I do urge readers to make contributions by writing short pieces. I understand that many of you are not confident in your use of English but as Editor-in-Chief, it will be my responsibility to edit your work to make sure it is presentable and meets our standards of content. Moko, for instance, is planning on making monthly contributions. A few others have promised to do works and I think I will make the rounds and ask them to get on with it.

The Charming Thing about Conspiracies: The word “conspiracy” has a pretty straightforward definition but in modern society, it is regarded with ridicule even when there are real machination at play. One of the key reasons Pigtails was brought down the way it was is due to flagrant (UK) police corruption. Let me be clear that a great many policemen and detectives are honorable and do their work with an eye for real service to the public. And every organization of course has it’s bad seeds as well. It is mostly because of this site’s support of Graham Ovenden and my personal role in helping get his first websites established that has made us such a target. Certain individuals in the UK police force have real reasons to be concerned about their misbehavior being exposed and the public demanding action. They cannot afford these claims to get any traction in the media. Why am I so confident? As part of the conditions in the conclusion of the Ovenden court case, the judge ordered that copies of police records used in the prosecution be given to the defendant. In one of my recent visits to Graham, I got to see one of those documents and my jaw dropped! Right there in the police’s own written records (which I’m sure they never expected would see the light of day) their strategy and overt manipulation of the evidence and witnesses is actually spelled out. Graham assures me that these papers are now in a secure place but it is uncertain if political circumstances will ever permit an airing (the CCTC declined an appeal despite overwhelming evidence) of this particular misconduct and the escalating and vindictive efforts to cover it up. That is all I wish to say about it for now since I have only seen a few of these items personally. I only want to impress upon readers that attacks on us are not only a matter vocal self-righteous complaints of perversion but a real threat to the careers of certain members in the UK police hierarchy (and possibly officers of Her Majesty’s courts). I wish I could somehow disentangle this issue from our usual work, but I would consider this an act of cowardice. I understand that Graham has shared a few of these details on his website which you can read when it goes back online.

My First Act: The thin end of the wedge in bringing down Pigtails was the request that images from the Debbie Dreschler post be removed because they portray child abuse. Ironic, since the comic book artist’s point was to bring attention to that exact issue. My first act this weekend will be to replace those.

It is a delight to once again welcome readers back to PIgtails in Paint. We look forward to your continued support. -Ron, Editor-in-Chief

Anatomy of a Fall: Graham Ovenden

When I wrote the original post of ‘Fall from Grace’, I was not privy to many of the details known to a few intimates of Graham’s. I have since gotten to know the man and his situation much better. With a better understanding of timelines and the motivations of the players involved, I have a much clearer picture. At the time, I did not want to risk saying something libelous that would make Pigtails in Paint appear to be nothing more than gutter journalism. Graham has quite obviously been the object of a frameup and Her Majesty’s courts, out of embarrassment over their own incompetence or an overly trusting attitude about law enforcement, have failed to vindicate the man.

This travesty is doubly sad now that Graham’s health is deteriorating rapidly and it is likely that he may never see the restitution due him. In addition, during the embezzlement of the equity in Barley Splatt there was also the theft of rare collectibles taken during a hospital stay which took place before his trial.

Charles Dodgson – (date unknown)

Fortunately, Graham had the presence of mind to take scans of many of these items in advance and so at least the images can be seen by the public. In the effort to expose these thefts to general scrutiny and perhaps some hope of discovering some items illegally offered on the secondary market, a special website has been hastily assembled. I urge those who want a deeper understanding of the intrigues of the case or routinely trawl the secondary market for collectibles to take a look using the link below.

Graham Ovenden: Notes on the Embezellment [sic] of Barley Splatt and the Theft of Major Collections

Maiden Voyages: February 2020

The Dot Org Blowback: Pressure is mounting regarding the commercial sale of the .org domains. Here is an article about protesters in Los Angeles directed at the ICANN Board. As mentioned in last month’s ‘Maiden Voyages’, such a sale would be a blow against freedom of speech as corporate interests tend to minimize costs and hassle by appealing to the lowest common denominator of public sensibility.

An Ironic Blow for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse: Readers are probably aware of the UK police’s interest in the Debbie Dreschler images posted on Pigtails. Clearly these images were not meant as titillation but a way of expressing a kind of terror these children have experienced. But now even written descriptions of this trauma is being treated as child pornography as in the prosecution of Quebec author Yvan Godbout. This is nowhere near where we should be drawing a line in the sand!

Parenting in the Spotlight: The problem with being a celebrity is that every little thing you do is noticed and commented on. Parents are especially vulnerable since they, like almost any parent, are proud of their children and want to show them off. This time it is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and an image of his 2-year-old Jasmine posted on Instagram. There is also a sweet story about Jasmine celebrating her 4th birthday.

Street Muse: An associate sent me a couple of videos of a young girl violinist named Karolina Protsenko. In order to promote her albums, she does street performances of her cover songs (for example, here and here) and posts them on her YouTube Channel. Although her smile is certainly a requisite part of her performance, it is moving in its warmth and authenticity.

No Longer Sheepish: Pip forwarded an interesting article about Najiah Knight, a now 13-year-old bull rider.

The Highest Form of Flattery: They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. For a while, an article about Graham Ovenden has been in the works to be published in Alice Lovers Magazine (Issue #4). For the most part, it is a reprint of the article I wrote a few years ago along with some revisions.

Random Images: The Goebbels Children

The death of children is always heartbreaking. And there seems no end to the atrocious ways they reach their demise. The most poignant cases do not have so much to do with the manner of death, but the reason for its necessity. In the case of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda minister, and Magda, their offspring—five daughters and a son—were the victims of fanatical ideology.

The children’s upbringing seemed pleasant enough with their own ponies and a little carriage in which to ride around. Joseph was photographed in public with some of his children on several occasions and set up a concealed camera to film them as a “healthy” contrast to the handicapped children in a propaganda film. In 1942, the children appeared 34 times in weekly newsreels, participating in pleasant everyday family activities. Goebbels was presented that October with a copy of those films. The children were moved around to put them out of harm’s way of advancing troops toward the end of the war. By April 22, 1945, the Goebbels moved their children into the Vorbunker, connected to the lower Führerbunker where Hitler and a few personnel were staying. Goebbels in an act of personal loyalty refused to flee Berlin and in a note stated that the children would have supported the decision to commit suicide if they had been old enough to speak for themselves! The plan was to have the children injected with morphine so they would be unconscious when the cyanide was administered. Magda was apparently contemplating the killing of her children a month beforehand. Her rationale was that she did not want them to grow up hearing that their father had been one of the century’s foremost criminals. The bodies were discovered by Soviet troops dressed in their nightclothes, with ribbons tied in the girls’ hair.

Graham Ovenden was inspired to write a poem commemorating this tragedy.

Graham Ovenden – Now six are dead … (poetry broadsheet) (date unknown)

[230730] A reader was kind enough to provide more details about this incident. There is apparently another blog that goes into this story in detail but I was not given the link. -Ron

The Goebbels children were the five daughters and one son born to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda Goebbels. The children, born between 1932 and 1940, were murdered by their parents in Berlin on May 1, 1945, the day both parents committed suicide.

Magda Goebbels had an elder son, Harald Quandt, from a previous marriage to Günther Quandt. Harald, then aged 23, was a prisoner of war when his younger half-siblings were killed. There are many theories of how they were killed; one is that Goebbels gave them something sweetened to drink. Currently, the most supported theory is that they were killed with a cyanide capsule.

Children’s names are Helga 12 , Hilde or Hildegard 11, Helmut 10, Hedda 8, Holde 7 and Heide 5.

In 1945 Helga was 12 years old when she was murdered by her parents. In her autopsy, bruises were found on her body mostly on her face which led to wide speculation that she had struggled against receiving a cyanide capsule, having crushed it between her teeth. There are many photos of Helga and a few were provided by the reader.

Achieving Unity in a Painting

I am delighted at the rapport that has developed between Graham Ovenden and myself. Although we both look forward to these annual visits, I do feel a bit guilty that my presence interferes with Graham’s painting routine. But not every stage of the painting is equally complex and so I was treated to a demonstration of glazing.

1. Contemplating a plan

I was told that I was the first person to witness this process. Certainly this is an expression of trust. But even if another painter were to watch, it would not necessarily have affected his own technique. Another artist, Adam Fuss, has openly expressed irritation when asked about his techniques. His reply was always something like, “Why, are you going to try this at home? What difference does it make how I do it?” Although there is value to a formal education in painting, each artist has his own vision and has to accomplish it in his own way. Psychologically, this is a very interesting point. As far as technique is concerned, the artist must find a conceptual comfort zone on how he is to achieve his vision. (Please excuse the English language’s proclivity for sexism. I, of course, am referring to female artists as well when applying the marked pronoun.) In the case of Graham Ovenden, his paintings—both figural and landscape—are constructed in several layers that create an effect that is hard to fathom when merely viewing photographs of his work. This terracing is a way of introducing subtle psychological depth to what we are looking at. From a pragmatic perspective, it gives the image some dimension while, perhaps more importantly, creating the impression of translucence.

The consequence of this particular method is that paintings cannot be produced in a hurry. Each layer must be completely dry before the next can begin. That way if there is some kind of error or the artist changes his mind, that layer can be cleaned off cleanly without damaging the foundation.

Glazing is the process of introducing a uniform layer to the canvas. Besides adding some depth, Graham says that the single color provides a unifying effect on the overall composition. In other words, it brings together the components into a radiant whole.

2. Mixing the colors

Graham is not the only artist who uses glazing. Some artists who wish a very faint glaze will use thinning agents. Graham does not do this but mixes his paints at full saturation. Out of necessity operating in a small flat, he has discovered that using a sheet of plate glass makes a most effective palette. It is strong, does not wear out and can be cleaned completely preventing any subtle contamination of colors that may have been used before.

3. Applying the glaze

He applies the paint by troweling it on with a small metal instrument.

4. Complete coverage

All the layers of the painting are quite thin and must be highly uniform. In fact, the texture of the surface is so important, Graham avoids using cloth canvases because it biases the proper build-up of the terraces. When examined closely, the painting is constructed almost in the fashion of an etching.

5. Smoothing

When the area is completely covered, the glazing is wiped off with rags to remove any inconsistencies in thickness. Any remaining blotches are individually dabbed off with a quick patting from the side of the hand.

6. Touching up remaining splotches

Some fine-tuning with a more precise instrument accentuates certain contours giving the final desired effect. Once the glazing is complete, it will be several days before it is safe to paint on the canvas again.

7. Some finer touch-ups

8. Glazing complete

Note: Please understand that I am not a painter, so please forgive me if I did not use the proper terms of this craft. -Ron