Tuesday 29 June 2010

Monday 28 June 2010


After several blog posts about multi-coloured elephants, I give you by way of a change --- a purple cow walking through a plate-glass window to advertise the amusements and entertainments on offer at London's South Bank 'fringe' event, Udderbelly...

Purple Cow on South Bank

It was, as you can see, a shattering experience even to someone familiar with the various alarms and diversions commonly met with on South Bank.

Naturally - or, perhaps, unnaturally - this biliously-hued bovine brought to mind the famous verse written by American poet, artist and critic (right) Gelett Burgess.

Published on 1 May, 1895, in the first issue of the monthly magazine, The Lark...

The Lark, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1 May, 1895)

...it was entitled 'The Purple Cow: Reflections on a Mythic Beast Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least.'

Gelette Burgess - Purple Cow
The poem almost immediately passed into public consciousness, so that, two years later, in the April 1897 edition of The Lark, Burgess published 'Confession: and a Portrait Too, Upon a Background that I Rue':

Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"—
I'm Sorry, now, I wrote it;
But I can tell you Anyhow
I'll Kill you if you Quote it!

Since impersonation is - or so they say - the sincerest form of flattery, it is a testament to the popularity of Burgess's short, but witty, ditty that it has been so frequently parodied.

Of the many purple cow pastiches, these are a couple of my favourites:

I've never seen a purple cow
My eyes with tears are full
I've never seen a purple cow
And I'm a purple bull.

I've never seen a purple cow.
I never hope to see one.
But from the milk we're getting now,
There certainly must be one!

Even Ogden Nash, the twentieth century's greatest writer of light verse (a sweeping statement there, based on personal prejudice!) paid tribute to Gelett Burgess and his purple cow with this little ode:

I've never seen an abominable snowman,
I'm hoping not to see one,

I'm also hoping, if I do,

That it will be a wee one.

While another well-known versifier, Carolyn Wells, parodied the Purple Cow in the style of Milton, Shelley, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Keats and others.

The Purple Cow has also inspired a drink (vodka and grape juice), an ice-cream (raspberry with chocolate and white chocolate chips), a grape-flavoured taffy lollipop and a chain of burger restaurants in the Southern USA. What's more, a purple cow (named, incidentally, Ephelia) happens to be the mascot of Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Friday 25 June 2010


The Toy Dolls singing 'Nellie the Elephant' on Top of the Pops back in 1985. Of course, I'm so ancient that I can cast my mind back almost thirty years earlier to the original 1956 recording of Ralph Butler and Peter Hart's song as perfprmed by twelve-year old Mandy Miller.

The version, however, is immaterial since I include it here as a farewell trumpet-call to mark the fact that the pachyderms of Elephant Parade London 2010 are packing their trunks and preparing to head off into the sunset with a trumpety-trump, trump-trump-trump!

Their extinction (at least their disappearance from their various sites around the city) began last Sunday but you can view the herd at the Royal Hospital Chelsea today and tomorrow and Wednesday 28 June. Admission is free and is from 10am to 7pm. Meanwhile the indoor herd can currently be viewed at Westfield Shopping Centre, where they will remain until Wednesday 30 June.

And so, as the parade passes by, here's a farewell tribute featuring some of my favourite elephantasies...

Firey Eye


Parrotphant (1)
Photo: Sophie Walpole

Indian Fancy (2)
Photo: David Weeks

Fish 'n' Chips
Photo: Sophie Walpole

Flowers & Trees (1)
Photo: David Weeks



Bobby (2)


Panda (3)




You can find out more about this art-event-cum-fund-raising project by visiting Elephant Family; and you can see the newly extended Sibley herd (with guest contributions from Sophie Walpole and David Weeks) on my Elephant Parade flickr Album.

Wednesday 23 June 2010


I'm, used to seeing weird things along the Thames Embankment these days, but a busking pooch...?

Dog Days

Sunday 20 June 2010


"What did he say?"

Here are the results independently as judged from anonymous entries by Polkadotsoph...



Left Bust: "Is that supposed to be Liam Neeson?"



Left Bust: I've been looking at this picture above us for a couple of hundred years or so...can you make out what it's supposed to be?"



Left Bust: "What do you think of the new iPad, then?"
Middle Bust: "I'm waiting to see if it comes down
in price."
Right Bust: "Even if it does, it might prove a bit tricky
having to operate it with our noses."


Far left Bust is saying, "I mean obviously there was the big payday, and hosting both GMTV and their World Cup coverage meant that ginger git wasn’t getting in on my action. But what you forget is that once you leave Auntie your career goes bust and you end up on the shelf... Is that really Frank Bough?"


Left Bust: "Who goosed me?"


Bust on left to bust in the middle: "It would be a kindness for one of us to tell him about it - since I started using Head and Shoulders shampoo I've never had dandruff."


Left Bust: "Nobody cares what 'you' think--- Ah, did you see what I did there? A joke: 'no body'!"



From left to right are Huey, Dewey, Louie...

DEWEY: "Unca"
LOUIE: "Donald!"
Through bizarre circumstance, Donald Duck's Nephews find themselves trapped in three Greco-Roman Busts. (Carl Barks put this fowl trio in stranger circumstances than this!)


Middle bust: "You know dude... he who smelt it, dealt it."


Left Bust: "Don't worry about him, he's armless!"

Left Bust: "Its perfectly true I'm afraid...no one calls us busts anymore. We're man-boobs!"

Left Bust: "Stoned-again, eh?"

Left Bust: "Three busts and no underpants and you call THIS a Sibley Caption Competition ?'


Left Bust: "Hey man, my nose itches... Could you reach over and... uh-oh!"


Left Bust: "It's nice out today."
Middle Bust: "Yes, but you'd better put it back, quick – there's a policeman coming."
Right Bust: "The old ones are the best ones."

When asked what their favourite songs were, Chap on left said "Roman in the Gloamin'", the chap in the centre said: "Greece Lightning" and chap on right said, "June is Bustin' Out All Over".


Left Bust: "Does anyone else feel a draught ?"


Left Bust: "Oi, beardy, 'oos the pretty boy?"
Right Bust: "Dunno, mate. I thought 'e was wiv you"


Left Bust: "Who is that guy? He's been here every day for the past week, just standing there going 'Friends, Romans, countrymen'?"
Middle Bust: "I dunno, some guy called Will..."
Right Bust: "Just stare him out fellas, he'll soon give up"

Left Bust: "Why do you always have to do different? We said no beards"


Left Bust: "I can't believe he just said blockading supply was a sound political idea!"


Left Bust: "It's alright for 'im, he's a bleedin' blind philosopher, but I need sunglasses if I'm gonna have to sit in this sunlight."

Left Bust: "Was that you?"
Middle Bust: "He's been at the beans again!"
Right Bust: "Blown my rear clean away... I wonder if anyone will notice?"

Middle Bust: "Don't get uppity just because you've had your base cleaned up, we're next!"

Left Bust: "For goodness sake cover your chest, there are members of the public coming in here!"

Left Bust: "Can't any of you lend a hand – I've got this itch..."

Left Bust: "Oi, you! Get your beard trimmed!"

Left Bust: "I said, 'Monte Carlo', not this!"

Saturday 19 June 2010


"The universe is big and vast and complicated and ridiculous..." announced Doctor Who in tonight's twelfth and very complicated episode. No spoilers, I promise, but the words TO BE CONTINUED have rarely had more riding on riding on them!

Meanwhile, if you haven't seen them yet, here are the eleven incarnations of --- Doctor Hoo as seen by M Dyer on pu-sama's deviantART site...

Click to enlarge

Thanks to the good little bird who told me about them --- well, actually, more of a Good (Bird) Dog!

Friday 18 June 2010


Wandering round exhibitions can certainly be tiring, but weary culture-vultures at Tate Britain can currently take a breather by sitting on Winston Churchill sitting on Adolf Hitler...

Winnie and Adolf

The Churchill-Hitler seat was designed by Gerald Scarfe for Rude Britannia: British Comic Art which opened at the Tate last week and runs until 5 September. Incidentally, the cigar-smoking, Churchillian bulldog (masquerading as Winnie's frequent companion 'The Black Dog' of depression) was added later to stop unwary visitors from bumping into Adolf's zeich heiling left arm!

Of course, Tate Britain the depository of over five centuries of British art, is no stranger to rudery as can be seen from the shortlist to most Turner Prize shows. But this time it's letting its hair down and having a bit a laugh, albeit often with serious intent, over what many would categorise as ephemera - newspaper cartoons, comics, saucy postcards - interspersed with examples of modern art.

The critics have almost universally complained that there aren't enough chuckles or guffaws and maybe that's true, but the work of masters of the caricature - from Rowlandson (above), Gilray, Hogarth and Cruickshank through to Scrafe, Steadman, Steve Bell and Martin Rowson - are all proof that the pen, when dipped in the vitriolic ink of satire, can be far mightier than the sword.

What the Tate has provided is an opportunity for cartoonists (the aforementioned Scarfe and Bell together with the creators of Viz and the comedian, Harry Hill) to assist in curating an exhibition that is sometimes so disturbing that laughter is impossible as with Peter Kennard and Cat Picton Phillips' Photo-Op...

In truth, much of what is shown here is shocking, but there are also moments to have a chuckle whether it be in the pages of the Beano or in naively provocative paintings by the always delicious Beryl Cook, whose Ladies Night (right) shows a gaggle of giggling, gawping, girls enjoying a raucous night on the town.

Keeping Beryl's ladies company are the cads, curates, old maids and bathing belles peopling the seaside postcards created by that master of sauciness, Donald McGill, whose work during the 1950s was regularly the subject of obscenity prosecutions in holiday resorts the length and breadth of Britain.

A Stick of Rock, Cock?

The day I went to see the show, there were several distinguished visitors looking around...

Gallery-goer (2)

Maybe it wasn't actually her, but she was certainly her 'Spitting Image'! Or, there again, perhaps it was her and that's why strange, blue, prehistoric (or, perhaps, mythological) birds of prey were circling overhead...

Thatcher Harpies

You can hear my full views on Rude Britannia (well, quite a few of them, anyway) when I'll be discussing the exhibition with Claudia Winkleman on BBC Radio 2's Arts Show tonight at around 11:30 pm. The programme will also feature a conversation I had with Gerald Scarfe, one of my all-time cartoon heroes, when we sat awhile on Mr Churchill and Herr Hitler...

Brian and Gerald

Images: Mostly © Brian Sibley and uploaded via my flickr Photostream.

Tuesday 15 June 2010


David and I have been together for twenty years today -- or, ehem, tonight...


As that makes it our 'China' Anniversary, we'll very probably celebrate with a Take-away: crispy seaweed, sesame prawn toast, spring rolls, sweet-and-sour pork, beef in black bean sauce, rice and lots of prawn crackers!

Sunday 13 June 2010


One of the weirdest piecs of public sculpture currently on display in the metropolis is this falling cascade of masonry frozen in time.

Falling Masonry!

Created in 2009 by Richard Wilson, RA and entitled 'Square the Block', it adorns a corner of the London School of Economics.

Personally, I wouldn't walk underneath. Just in case...

Look Out!

Images: Brian Sibley © 2010, uploaded with my flickr Photostream

Friday 11 June 2010


There's no escaping it: the 2010 FIFA World Cup starts today and whilst I realise that, for millions, this is going to be a month-long ecstatic orgy of footie, I'd ask the media to spare a thought for those benighted souls such as myself who simply cannot - however hard we try - identify with Bill Shankly's famous quote: "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you it's much more serious than that!"

Certainly that seems to be the case with those global sponsors for whom, for the next few weeks, football represents a serious commercial investment...

And since Signor Ronaldo also has a sponsorship deal with Armani...

Cristiano Ronaldo Armani (2)

...we oughtn't to be surprised if manufacturers of intimate bodywear weren't also providing us with a sporting excuse for keeping an eye on the ball...

Thursday 10 June 2010


As part of the Barbican Art Gallery's The Surreal House exhibition, running from today until 12 September, I will be taking part in this evening's Fairytales events and, from 18:30-19:10, will be 'On the Couch' (the actual one belonging to Sigmund Freud, no less!) in conversation with Bryan Talbot, award-winning graphic book author and artist whose works include Alice in Sunderland, talking about about Lewis Carroll and his surreally nonsense realms of Wonderland and Looking-glass World.

Wednesday 9 June 2010


What part of...


...did the bricklayer not understand?

Too Late!

Photos of permanently obstructed doors in St Thomas' Hospital complex, Westminster, London © Brian Sibley, uploaded via my flickr Photostream.

Tuesday 8 June 2010


Last call for the current

"What did he say?"

Tell me Who said What to Whom...

Monday 7 June 2010


In my recent posts about Ronald Searle, I didn't mention his wonderful cats.

I am not really a 'cat-person' (with the exception of Zebedee and Dylan to whom - most of the time - I don't have an allergic reaction) but I love Searle's felines: knowing, devious, lazy, lustful: basically human-types in cat-suits!

Another devoted admirer of Searle's moggies (and the rest of the cartoonist's human and animal zoo) is my long-time friend, artist, animator and mosaic-maker Martin Cheek who recently produced a witty series of Catfish portraits: decidedly fishy felines that captures the eternal bond between the cat and its favourite food.

Even though it's not a Friday, I'm serving them up for your enjoyment...

Pink Catfish by Martin Cheek

Catfish by Martin Cheek

Can't Plaice Him by Martin Cheek

And this Fish-face is made up of five fish - can you find them all?

Fishface by Martin Cheek

Sunday 6 June 2010


Anyone see last night's episode of Doctor Who?

Written by no less a luminary than Richard Curtis, it had the Doctor and Amy helping Vincent Van Gogh destroy a mostly invisible alien chicken-monster that was rampaging through the cornfields disturbing the crows, peeping out of the windows of the church in Auvers and generally giving the ear-slashing, suicidal painter a bad case of manic depression?

At the end of the programme, a sensitive, caring BBC Voice offered a telephone number for any viewers who felt in need of help or for whom the programme had raised issues or concerns that they would like - in confidence - to discuss.

Well, frankly, yes I did! I wanted to know how anyone had allowed this dull, boring, misbegotten, self-indulgent, pile of Gallifreyan garbage to ever get on air!

Depressing? I'll say!

Saturday 5 June 2010


With every day I live, I become increasingly aware of just how little I know. This could easily be a depressingly negative realisation, but I prefer to look upon it as a constantly renewable potential for discovery. The discoveries tend not to be momentous but small and rather particular and I savour (rather than regretting) finding out things that I never learned or, because of the constant rat-raciness of life, simply missed...

For example, we were having dinner in our local pub the other evening when my ears tuned into the background musak, drawn to a curiously haunting voice that sounded as though it ought to be familiar, but which wasn't.

Enquiries revealed that it was Russian-born composer, musician and singer Regina Spektor, who - I now know - has been making music that has caught people's imagination for the past nine years but of whom I was unaware.

Never mind, better late than never (as we should all keep telling ourselves till we let go of that the last-ever breath) and I'm now a confirmed Spektor fan. You probably already know her songs by heart, but if it just so happens that don't, then let me introduce you...

This is Regina Spektor and Samson...

Thursday 3 June 2010


Writing of Paddington the last month sent my mind back thirty years - heaven help me! - to watching Paddington Goes to the Movies, a delightful featurette-length episode of Film Fare's animated TV series based on Michael Bond's lovable (but trouble-prone) bear....

Like the rest of the stop-motion animated series, the film featured a three-dimensional Paddington puppet alongside a cast of drawn-and-cut-out humans with narrative and voices provided by one of the great storytellers of his age (and a not inconsiderable classic actor to boot) Sir Michael Hordern.

The 'special' tells how Paddington, caught in a rainstorm while shopping, tries to take shelter in the local Podium cinema where the 1952 musical, Singin' in the Rain is being screened...

Refused admission (not because he's a bear but on the grounds of age!), the impressionable bear takes a peep through an emergency exit, sees Gene Kelly's celebrated "singin' and dancin' in the rain" number...

...and immediately goes into his own homage homage performance of what is one of the best-loved and most recognisable sequences in cinema history...

For copyright reasons, I'm unable to show you the film on this blog, but - if you've never seen this delicious little gem - then follow the links below to watch it on YouTube...

And, on the subject of Singin' in the Rain pastiches, I just have to add the classic sketch by the great British comedy duo Morecambe and Wise who presented a 'rainless' version of the film's titular song-and-dance routine which featuring a loving recreation of the original set and (by Ernie) Kelly's choreography, but with only the Policeman (the hapless Eric, of course) getting wet...

Hope you have a fine - and rain-free - day, today!