Saturday, 18 April 2015

A ghost of an idea.

This blog I suppose is at the wrong end of the year, as it should coincide with Halloween, but this little poem, or limerick floated into my field of vision and I immediately thought ‘I could design something for that'.

Three little ghostesses,
Sitting on postesses,
Eating hot buttered toastesses,
Greasing their fistesses,
Right up to their wristesses,
Oh what beastesses,
To have such feastesses.

I’ve always liked that image, three ghosts sitting on posts eating toast.  What’s not to love?  It’s not exactly T.S.Elliot but it gets its message home in a clear and direct manner.  However there are some quite ambiguous things about the whole piece, for instance, that first line.  Three little ghost-esses?
What do ghosts look like?  This is the dreaded (and rather ridiculous) Smithfield Ghost.  The Welcome Trust.
 Does that imply that they are female?  But as ‘esses’ appears at the end of each line maybe not.  But it does raises the issue of what ghosts are supposed to look like anyway.  Before you draw anything, you have to know in a general way what it looks like.  This is what M. R. James thought about the ‘look’ of a ghost 

‘What first interested me in ghosts? This I can tell you quite definitely. In my childhood I chanced to see a toy Punch and Judy set, with figures cut out in cardboard. One of these was The Ghost. It was a tall figure habited in white with an unnaturally long and narrow head, also surrounded with white, and a dismal visage.

Upon this my conceptions of a ghost were based, and for years it permeated my dreams.’
M. R. James.  (1862 - 1936)  Wiki commons.

So that was James’ idea of their appearance, and as he was born in 1862 it was probably the prevalent nineteenth century conception.  Our modern idea of a ghost looks more like the ‘Caspar – the friendly ghost’ variety, but where did that come from?  I suppose he derives his appearance from the typical bed sheet with holes cut in for eyes.  I think those late 19th century ghost fake photographs also informed our modern idea of a ghost – people dressed in long white robes, double exposures and all that stuff about ectoplasm.

 A little while ago I did these cartoons of ghosts in the modern style.  I think they derive something from the film ‘Ghostbusters’ in its realisation of ghosts as more coloured ectoplasm, the light gleaming and rippling on their surface, more bloated jelly than amorphous will ‘o the wisps.
My kind of ghost, chains, flaming torches, skulls and little Vandyke beards!
 There’s also a little of the past about them, traditionally ghosts are always supposed to cry ‘vengeance vengeance’ or ‘woe is me’, they clasp their hands in anguish and of course where is any self respecting ghost without a number of chains to rattle?   They also often carry torches, have ropes around their necks and might just possibly carry a club. 
A toast!  To toast.  I love toast

I've been doodling some tryouts for the nursery rhyme at the top of the page, and its a bit more difficult than I expected, so nothing finished yet, but here's the sketch.  It will become the basis for a design for my Zazzle shop, and in the meantime why not visit it by clicking on the photo.


  1. I like the ghostesses on the postesses. They look like they're enjoying their toast.

  2. gan good job, this article is very interesting to note, cool deh,, of course we have new insights that we get after reading it, thanx yah :-)

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