Teenage Armchair Fandom (Subbuteo-style)

Continuing with the Half Man Half Biscuit-inflected ‘Subbuteo’-themed series of still life paintings, this latest composition – essentially a study of a slight reduction in scale of the represented objects exploring the potential of a larger, more complex proposition – references the title and subject of the song ‘I Was a Teenage Armchair Honved Fan’ and thus features our miniature heroes sporting the colours of Honved on the left, in the red and black strip, and their Budapest neighbours and rivals – to whom I became attracted and attached as a pre-teen and have favoured since – Ferencváros in the green and white to the right. I’ve blogged on the very subject of this teenage armchair fandom as it relates to European clubs teams previously, at some length and in some detail, but this recent series seems to be the first time I’ve made such allusions in paint.


‘Teenage Armchair Fandom (Subbuteo Budapest derby)’

oil on canvas/25cm x 35cm/June 2018

The pair of miniature figures are here represented as being placed in their cutout slots in the cardboard box of the type in which complete teams of players were/are presented for sale or otherwise in the boxed sets of the Subbuteo game, as will be obvious to anyone with even a passing acquaintance with such. It’s noticeable that the plastic bases reflect more highlights in this state than being placed on a horizontal surface as previous examples have been, which helps give a bit more painterly ‘zip’ to proceedings.


An Alternative Christmas ‘Want’?

Following-on from the previous post, the latest painting on and off the easel mines the same Half Man Half Biscuit-inspired subject-matter a little more deeply and quite possibly obscurely, this time depicting a vintage Subbuteo football (soccer) player figure sporting something of an Ujpest Dozsa ‘away’ kit.


‘Subbuteo Footballer #6 (Ujpest Dozsa ‘Away’)

oil on canvas/35cm x 25cm/June 2018


Christmas ‘Wants’

Continuing with the current series of small still life paintings, the latest pair (as they’ve become, related) again feature vintage ‘heavyweight’ Subbuteo football player figures (circa 1960s-70s), empirically observed as objects, but here sporting invented colours, the first inspired by the title and lyrics of the legendary and much-beloved in this parish  Half Man Half Biscuit‘s early song ‘All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit’, thus being an idiosyncratic representation of, based upon what research reveals to be pretty much established facts, with a nod to period generalities of Subbuteo style.


‘Subbuteo Footballer #4 (Dukla Prague)’

oil on canvas/40cm x 30cm/May 2018

The matter was by no means laid to rest upon the resolution of this painting (as I assumed it would be), however, as a particular research find served to rock the concept to its very foundation, with Nigel Blackwell‘s revelation here that it was his initial intention to lyrically reference not Dukla Prague but another East European football club – indeed, another Hungarian one to accompany the also-legendary Honved, of whom he wrote and sang of being ‘a teenage armchair fan’ (see here for a personal ‘adversarial’ response to this, which might help explain a lot, not least an obsession with the romantically-named football clubs of Hungary and Budapest in particular which began in the 1970s and continues to this day) – in the form of Ujpesti Dozsa, who’d opposed British teams in numerous European club competition ties during the late Sixties to mid-Seventies, but had unfortunately been unable to make such a lyric scan.

Accordingly, and in particularly multi-nerdy manner, what is (re)presented below is a ‘hand-painted’ interpretation/approximation of the traditional Ujpesti Dozsa colours of purple and white – the former of which is perhaps a little too blue in hue, especially when compared to the mauve of Subbuteo vintage as they represented teams such as Anderlecht and ‘Austria Vienna’.


‘Subbuteo Footballer #5 (Ujpesti Dozsa)’

oil on canvas/35cm x 25cm/June 2018

This imagining of the ‘home’ colours of Ujpesti yet creates another doubt, of course – did the song’s character instead desire the ‘away’ version, and is another painting in order to address this possibility? To be brutally honest, another painting is already in order to address the failure of this unsatisfactory offering, so perhaps watch this space for further developments.

In other, more important news, there is coincidentally a brand-new Half Man Half Biscuit album, in vinyl LP, CD and mp3 download format, to enjoy, which is most advisable under these and indeed any circumstances.

Blue Sunday


‘Subbuteo Footballer #3’

oil on canvas/40cm x 30cm/May 2018

Continuing the current theme and series of small paintings, this most recent one, brought to a resolution yesterday afternoon after a substantial session on Saturday, depicts another of the recently-acquired late-1980s’ vintage Subbuteo ‘lightweight’ football (soccer) player figures, enlarged on the canvas to around x 10 scale, this one being from the ‘blue’ team in the boxed set, opposing the ‘reds’.

Again, part of the challenge involves the ‘Uglowian’ representation of different types of plastic (the cup of the base into which the figure is fixed being of a particularly ‘polished’, highly-reflective-surfaced type not unlike a ceramic glaze), some of which has, obviously, a hand-painted finish applied to it, thus opening-up a dialogue between two forms of hand-painted object in the figure and the painting itself.

Showing Our Colours


‘Subbuteo Footballer #2’

oil on canvas/20″ x 16″/May 2018

Another in the current series of the still life paintings of miniature model football players, in this instance the object of active contemplation being a later-generation so-called ‘lightweight’ Subbuteo figure, dating from the late 1980s, recently acquired as a member of one of the two teams contained within a boxed edition of the game, discovered in a local antiques emporium at what was considered to be an affordable price.

As differing from the previous painting – that being a direct transcript of the observed subject – this one takes a certain artistic licence in that the colours sported by the figure have been invented in the hand-painted ‘customised’ manner of one’s youth, and in fact are intended to represent those of Atlético Madrid, one of TOoT‘s favourite European clubs. As it so happened, the painted was resolved early on Wednesday evening, soon before the kick-off of that night’s UEFA Europa League Final, subsequently won by Atlético by a 3 – 0 margin over Olympique Marseille, thus serving as something of a personal tribute to the victorious team.

Hand-Painted Figure


‘Subbuteo Footballer’

oil on canvas/40 x 30cm/May 2018

Following-on from the previous pair of entries and paintings, this latest effort on the easel, considered now to be at a point of resolution, depicts, via the painterly process, one of the miniature football player figures from a recently-acquired vintage ‘Subbuteo’ team (the upscaling is about x10).

Contrary to the identifier scrawled upon the box by a previous owner (a name to which we are unable to subscribe in these parts), the thinking here is that the presence of the black-clad goalkeeper figure (surely inspired by the style preference of the legendary Lev Yashin) suggests, rather, that the team is intended to represent the Soviet Union circa early-1960s, a more palatable and indeed exotic and Europhilic, prospect. Nostalgia, naturally, pervades such an object containing a collection of objects, the ghosts of both one’s own and another’s (or others’) childhood making their presence felt – this is precisely the vintage of such toys, that have undergone various transitions since, that I was familiar with in the mid-1970s, the things to be collected and enjoyed immediately prior to developing a usurping passion in recorded music with an immersion in the contemporary post-punk sound (the two subsequently being brought together in the form of The Undertones ‘My Perfect Cousin’ single and its accompanying artwork).


To return to the painting, as before there’s a little dialogue between the (quite roughly) ‘hand-painted’ nature of subject/object* and the painting itself and also a little something of that challenge of Euan Uglow‘s in representing the surface quality of plastic (as in the Homepride ‘Fred the flour-grader’ figure Uglow painted, followed suit by myself, in conversation with, last summer), more than one of which are present here – the base, its cup, is of a high-gloss nature that suggests nothing so much as a ceramic glaze, something to which we are no strangers here at TOoT and indeed have done battle with, again, to unsatisfactory effect, once again, quite recently (it occurs that this painting is, in effect, the familiar bowl-form – most often glazed or otherwise glass itself, highly reflective, with which I have been engaged on-and-off since undergraduate studies – with a vertical form filling and emerging from it!).

* A favourite pastime was to repaint the team sets one acquired to one’s own specifications, to ‘perfectionistically’ improve upon the quality-as-purchased, to take account of changing fashions/styles or otherwise individualise particular players.

On the Ball

Another take on the still life, on this occasion the subject/object matter being a pair of miniature moulded plastic model football (soccer) players of a certain indefinable vintage (given the length of the shorts in relation to football fashions it could be anywhere between the 1950s and 1980s, with the neckline of the shirt suggesting the earlier end of this timescale), each scaled up by about 7:1 to fill a 35cm tall canvas – the models, indeed, are pictured beside the  painting(s) on the easel to illustrate.  It should be declared at this juncture that football probably takes up more head space than art in that particular Nick Hornbyesque ‘Fever Pitch’ manner that afflicts many, so to combine the two enduring passions is a treat indeed (although not a novel one, given previous football-themed projects that have been undertaken, as may be evidenced within the other TOoT‘s archives).

The hand-painted nature of the figures, specifically its less-than-refined finish, suggested a broad approach should be taken in the representation of, and the paintings proceeded accordingly to a point of resolution, although it’s yet to be decided whether they’re individuals or a companionable diptych (as they appear on the Portfolio page).


‘Red Footballer’

April 2018/oil on canvas/35cm x 25cm


‘Blue Footballer’

April-May 2018/oil on canvas/35cm x 25cm

Overdue Update

Brought to some form of conclusion, if not necessarily a satisfactory resolution, on Saturday afternoon, this latest painting on and off the easel represents a pair of Chinese ceramics, subject matter I’ve engaged with for many years without ever feeling I’ve done so successfully. What I really should be doing is painting some recently hand-made ‘wabi sabi’ bowls that might better serve the intended aesthetic rather than such fine and finished specimens, so perhaps a lesson has at least been learnt – time will tell on that one.


‘Blue and White and Orange’

oil on canvas/16″ x 20″/March – April 2018

The orange ground here is based on observation of the light filtering through the home’s lounge curtains (a fine vintage 1970’s pair) although is ultimately a vehicle for the application of paint-as-paint. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the whole composition is the point where the lower band of orange vertically meets the grey – little else seems of value.

‘Woodscape #10’

Being the third of the current silver birch ‘woodscapes’, this composition takes as its inspiration and starting point a location and view a few yards to the right of the first in the sequence and features a representation of information gathered from a photographic snapshot and then mostly from empirical observation and notated sketches over a series of return visits in accordance with working practice in relation to the woodscapes as subject matter.


‘Woodscape #10’

oil on canvas/50 x 100cm/February 2018

Again, the technical emphasis is on communicating the nature of oil paint as a textural, fluid medium and the act of painting with it and attempting to present an analogy to the physical presence of the landscape and being present within such an environment, with its profusion of sensual information.