In the middle of the Irish Sea is the beautiful Isle of Man. Now, legend has it that the island is protected by an ancient sea god called Mannanan Mac Lir (‘son of the sea’). He’s pretty baddass as he’s got a boat named Scuabtuinne (‘wave sweeper’) which works without sails, a sea-borne chariot drawn by his horse Enbarr (‘water foam’), a sword called Fragarach (‘the answerer’) and it is said that with the sword at their throat no one could move or tell a lie, thus the name Answerer. The sword was also said to place the wind at the user’s command and could cut through any armour or wall and that it inflicted piercing wounds from which no man could recover. He also had a cloak of invisibility (‘feth fiada’) which he could throw over the entire island as an all encompassing mist to hide the island from enemies. Like I said he pretty much had it all going on. Oh, and he had a flaming helmet to top it all off.
If all that isn’t enough in itself to create a design based on Mannanan then the fact that I’m from the Isle of Man myself should probably clinch it. It was originally going to be a wall design but I think it may need adapting somewhat for that to be the case. Perhaps a sticker? The latin text is the manx motto which roughly translated reads ‘however you throw me I shall stand’. So there you go.
Coming up with a child’s name can be a tricky business. You’ve got to get it right as they’re stuck with it for life. John had been struggling with this process for months whilst his wife insisted, increasingly loudly, that he better come up with something really good if he’s taking this long. One popular method for naming babies in celebrity circles is the ‘Name child after where it was conceived’ method which is really quite self explanatory so John thought he’d head down this path.
After performing the necessary mental arithmetic and referring to the calendar on his phone John worked out it had probably been whilst they had been on a short break to the Isle of Man. There was a particular afternoon picnic which he thinks may have been the culprit. It all escalated a little quickly and could probably have got them arrested but was fun nonetheless.
He was still remininscing when a nurse popped her head into the waiting area and told him to get straight to the delivery room. As he entered the room his daughter was just making an appearance and the name he was searching for jumped straight into his head. ‘Scarlett!’ he shouted. It was lucky she turned out to have red hair…
In the Isle of Man there is something of a superstition whereby Manx people can’t say the name of one of those little furry things that were blamed for the Black Death, pestilence in general and a whole host of other nefarious things. The reasons for this have dissipated into the mists of time but the superstition remains and due to this quirk in Manx folklore there are a number of socially acceptable local alternatives which include joey, longtail, ringie, iron fella and roddan.
Recently young people have also begun saying ‘r-a-t’ owing to the influence of English immigrants but older people on the Isle of Man don’t tend to listen to those Jonny come-overs too much and certainly not on such serious subjects as these little buggers. There is a comparable taboo against uttering the word ‘rabbit’ on the Isle of Portland. Here ends the lesson.
Title: Mickey or a ringie?
Media: Acrylic and paint pen
I decided that I wanted to produce something that looked like a vintage anti-Nazi propaganda poster for the Isle of Man and one of the perks of being an artist is coming up with some outlandish idea and then being allowed to bring it to reality regardless of any other factors – and today’s piece is a good case in point. I had just finished Ian Tregillis’ enjoyable alternate history book ‘Bitter Seeds’ about British warlocks fighting Nazi superheroes in WWII and thought to myself that Nazi bashing is pretty much encouraged in other media – books (like Bitter Seeds), computer games (like the Call of duty mini-game where you have to kill as many Nazi zombies as you can) and film (Inglourious Basterds springs to mind). So I thought I’d jump in on the action through the medium of art.
As the Laxey Wheel is one of the most iconic and easily recognisable of the island’s historic landmarks I thought it would be a good place to start. Throw in an improbably large evil Nazi owl descending from a darkening sky with it’s talons outstretched to snatch at the wheel and you’re off and running. Then all you need is some patriotic sounding text and you’ve got yourself some fake Manx propaganda c.1939. Right, what’s next?
Title: They will come… we must fight!
Materials: Screenprint, spraypaint, stencils, watercolour and paint pen
So we have decided to revive a bit of graffiti that was found all over the Isle of Man when we were growing up and bring it to the mean streets of London. FSFO apparently meant ‘Financial Sector F**k Off’ and was daubed on walls in the 80’s purportedly in response to the increasing growth and power of the Island’s burgeoning finance sector. Personally I always preferred the other definition of the acronym- which was that it stood for ‘Free Sex for Onchan’ (which is a small town on the Island) and the idea that sexual liberation was one thing they were willing to fight for. FSFO!
I realise this picture is a little saucy but then again we are going to need it if we are going to win the campaign for ‘Free Sex For Onchan’. It is a simple yet profound piece about sex with Onchan’s new motto emblazoned proudly across the top. In fact that’s given me a thought. Maybe we should have got some rainbow colours on there?…
This is my favourite entry of the day. A slightly wonky looking Manx cat. ‘Nuff said.
We were at home on the Isle of Man recently for Islexpo and Year of our Island and were asked if we could come up with something interactive that could be taken round a few locations this summer. Our answer was an 8ft x 8ft magnetic blackboard (that has been handily crafted so it can be broken down for easier transportation – cheers Dean!) with a stencil of the Isle of Man so people could add a magnet for their favourite place or some chalk pens to add their thoughts or whatever they like about the island.
The first revelation is that you can get magnetic paint! And it works just fine. Nothing like live experimentation. The second is that we got away with including Blinky from The Simpsons out in the sea towards Sellafield. Win.
So here it is – our finished piece for Islexpo and Year of our Island. We went for a kind of vintage travel poster look in the end with some abstract land, sea and air (I had to get some stripes in there somehow!) and a mysterious looking lady presenting the magical kingdom of Mann to you. A great day all in and even the weather was playing ball. What more could you want?