While I do love researching things "unknown zoological", this time of year most of my work involves ghost things. Every conference at which I present requires something ghost based, and as an additional requirement they have to "allow" me to do a small presentation about Cryptozoology as well. This year, during a visit with an attendee, I was asked if bigfoot could be the ghost of a neanderthal.
Painter, writer, magician and all-round showman Tony Shiels is marking the 350th anniversary of Punch & Judy's first appearance on British soil with a series of new paintings.
Not that there's anything unusual in his choice of subject, the satirical seaside figure of Mr Punch having been a regular part of the artist's output since the 1970s.
Shiels, who lived and worked in Cornwall for several decades – where he built a reputation as one of the 20th century's greatest surrealists, as well as being a famed monster hunter and operating a travelling theatre – is now based in Ireland. There he continues to paint – drawing on influences gained in Cornwall and constantly returning to his pet themes of sea heads, gunslingers, bullfights and Mr Punch.
An exhibition, including a number featuring Mr Punch, is now on show at the Market House Gallery in Marazion. And while it may be a disappointingly small collection by the bad boy of Cornish painting, it nevertheless acts as a reminder of just how exciting the visual arts can be – but rarely are these days.
Known by all simply as "Doc", Shiels was an important figure of what is now regarded as St Ives' artistic heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. He spent time in Paris and Spain as a young man, studying the likes of Picasso and Braque, moved to St Ives in 1958, and lived for 25 years at Ponsanooth, where he and his wife Chris raised a family of five.
As well as painting, writing and touring a series of ground-breaking theatre and music shows, he is remembered for documenting Morgawr, the monster of Falmouth Bay. During this time he also produced what believers regard as the most convincing colour photograph of the Loch Ness Monster. Now in his 70s and still painting full-time, he lives near Killarney in the west of Ireland.
His latest Cornish show features Mr Punch in a series of guises, from the stunning Mr Punchinello to Mr Punch Does A Card Trick and Punch And Jack Of Diamonds. Other titles include Cock Of The Bay, Black Kerry Bog Beast, People Dancing Near Here and Unchosen Harbour.
The exhibition is at the Market House Gallery in Marazion until the end of October. Admission free. For more details, visit: www.markethousegallery.co.uk