Poirot’s flat, dollhouse miniature style!

Currently I have two room boxes in the works for the sitting room and study of Poirot’s flat. The rooms aren’t replicas of the sets, but I use elements from the sets (including both flats) plus some of my own observations from the books.

I was excited to get my cut MDF pieces from my friends, the Harders, this evening. The sitting room is the first room box. I painted up the walls right away, added paper parquet flooring and baseboards, and glued it all together. Here’s how it looked:

Herringbone parquet is the flooring seen in both of the flats of the television series.

Then came the fun of adding the details! Here’s the current flat-in-progress…

Still missing, as you can see, at least one more painting under the picture light on the right-hand wall, one of the end tables to match the other, and some more shelving, etc.

A little difficult to capture via photo, but the fireplace has a flickering LED bulb behind the vellum fireplace screen. The picture lights and wall sconces are attached to the wall via a glued-on magnet. They’re easy to remove for turning the lights on and off.

Picture lights abound in Poirot’s second flat, so I was delighted to find them in miniature. The round shades of the wall sconces are reminiscent of certain table lamps observable in both flats. The running deer is similar to certain ceramic pieces in the second flat, including mantel decorations.

The brass clothing valet was also a delight to have found; I’ll probably be moving it to the study. I intend to fill the decanters and possibly the glasses and add a bottle of liqueur. I made the chairs, side table, fireplace, and plant stand from scratch, but bought the brass/glass/acrylic furniture.

An aerial view. Obviously, symmetry is important! The area rug was made by heat-bonding a piece of bluish-gray cotton to a stiff felt backing so it would lay very flat. The distinctive wood grain of the chairs, side table, and plant stand were lifted directly from the show. In the opening scene of Third Girl, the camera pans down the lovely wood dining table. I took a screen capture of the wood grain and just printed it out on my computer to use for the furniture.

Fans should understand this reference… 🙂

Refreshments on the coffee table. Included is a cup of hot chocolate with a dollop of whipped cream and a spoon, and two plates of macarons. (We actually see Poirot and Mrs. Oliver sharing some macarons in his apartment in Elephants Can Remember.) The wooden box opens and contains cigars; next to it is a cigarette case and a table lighter. White square ashtrays are on the side table.

Coming soon, I hope… the study!  😀

Poirot’s sitting-room painting of… Prague?

Since I’ve been creating certain set pieces in miniature, it has led to an investigation of various artworks that appear in Poirot’s flat(s). For fans of the show, one of the best-known paintings has to be the muted architectural scene that appears behind the fruit bowl in Flat #1. I’ve previously blogged about how Poirot seems to have been abnormally attached to this piece: it was first situated in his Belgian apartment building; then he seems to have nabbed it and take it to his first English residence in Styles St. Mary; and even after he “retires” to grow vegetable marrows, he conveys it to The Larches!

I became curious about that image, and reverse-image-searching for it online had yielded no results. After creating a miniature of it, however, I decided to try again. The painting seemed a bit of an anomaly with Poirot’s other flat furnishings, I thought. In light of how the painting travels with him from Belgium, it would make sense if the picture itself was by a Belgian artist, just to connect it with the character. Indeed, I wondered if it might be a copy or print of a François Jean Louis Boulanger, a 19th-century Belgian artist (he’s called French in that link– don’t believe it!) whose style of “romantic realism” is strongly allied to the image. He painted a number of Ghent and Brussels cityscapes, so surely that would be a logical reason for the presence of that picture in the sitting room. But searching yielded nothing.

But a closer scrutiny revealed the building in Poirot’s picture as actually being the Bridge Tower of the famous Charles Bridge of Prague, Czech Republic! So much for the Belgian angle. After that revelation, further searching finally revealed the origin of the image. No paintings came up, incidentally, but a lithograph by one Vinzenz Morstadt (Czech) did:

Considering the composition, I think there can be no doubt that the painting in the sitting room was modeled after this particular lithograph. Whether the lithograph was also a painting by Morstadt that was copied, or was painted by another of his contemporaries (of whom Boulanger was one), or was just created by Joe Set Designer for the room because it looked Fittingly Continental, I cannot say. But at least most of that mystery is now elucidated, though why Poirot would be keen on a painting of Prague landmarks I also can’t say. (Incidentally, Suchet traveled to Prague for the very first time a couple of years ago. I wonder if fans in Prague have long been delighted at the sight of one of their best-known landmarks behind Poirot’s fruit bowl…?)  🙂

Framed miniature: acrylic paint, illustration board, and balsa wood.

Building a miniature fireplace…

I’ve been well and truly bitten by the miniature bug. I’ve painted miniatures before, but haven’t done much concentrated building in three dimensions (with the exception of my Poirot library). But now I’ve got designs on building vignettes of a miniature flat…

Here are some photos from my construction project of a miniature fireplace. It’s made out of balsa wood, foam board, heavy kraft paper, and illustration board (which is versatile stuff). It’s painted with acrylics, and the “marble” mantle top is illustration board, painted and then glazed. The figurine of the running deer was a different plastic miniature which I painted white and attached to a balsa base– I didn’t sculpt it.  😉

Prize giveaway: pocket watch pendants!

Hi all! Inspired by the Etsy seller whose merchandise I previously blogged about here, I decided to make a few “Christie text” pieces of my own. I offer two samples here for a prize giveaway– a 24″ ball chain necklace with a magnetic-opening, glass-faced pocket watch pendant, and a small pocket watch key fob. Both feature text from pages of a real vintage Poirot novel (sorry, book purists). The larger pendant measures about 1 3/4″, by the diameter of the silver circle, and I’m including a few charms that you can keep in or take out as you like– a key, a tiny enameled moustache, and five faceted emerald beads. The text of the key chain pendant is covered with a protective acrylic dome. The winner gets BOTH. Fun!

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To enter this prize giveaway, all you have to do is share one of your favorite Poirot photos, here or on Twitter (in reply to contest tweet). Do this any way you like, even if you can only link to one you find online. It can be from the television series or something else– artwork, an original Christie cover, Albert Finney, whatever you’d like. Next Saturday, I will draw a name at random from the entries. You’ve got one week!

Good luck!  🙂

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Grow a moustache… win a painting…?

Another Monday, another chance to win this miniature framed painting:

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This time it’s easy… all you have to do is reply to my contest Tweet on Twitter with a photo of yourself… having grown a moustache.    🙂   The manner of moustache is up to you: real, fake, digital, artistic, bizarre, WHATEVER. One entry per person, and on Friday I’ll pull a name out of a hat. I want to see plenty of facial symmetry, people!!  🙂

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The Adventure of the Cheap Flat… random thoughts, and a giveaway!

Some assorted musings about the episode The Adventure of the Cheap Flat…

*  When he’s working with his friend, Poirot seems to be eternally useless at inconspicuous burgling, whereas Hastings is awkward but ultimately successful– see The Veiled Lady and Wasps’ Nest for confirmation. On his own, Poirot has more subtlety!

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*  I do have a few little script quibbles. The overblown American stereotypes I find annoying. (And football metaphors along with everything else… really?) Also, the alteration of the plot for television makes Poirot to spot the Italian-American outside the block of flats for some time before the man enters the building at night. Great for dramatic tension, sure, but since he knows the guy’s purpose, WHY doesn’t Poirot just approach this man in daylight and explain everything in advance, rather than waiting for him to break into the flat and risking someone getting knifed?? I know the blasted little man wants to be dramatic and all, but really! In the book, he knows the “swarthy stranger” has been asking about the tenants but doesn’t know where the Italian is in advance, so he has to wait until the man breaks into the Robinsons’ to apprehend him and explain things. And the story flows naturally from there. Television-Hastings really deserves the chance to give Poirot a smack upside the head for all this…

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*  When you have an assortment of nerdy interests, you find strange and unlikely overlaps between them everywhere. For me, I watch The Adventure of the Cheap Flat and I think of George Harrison. The “Night Club Music” in the episode in question is credited to one Neil Richardson. Presumably this includes the music we hear at about the 26-minute mark, when Poirot visits The Black Cat to interview the crooked Bernie Cole. As he wanders through the nightclub, the jazzy riff puts a song into mind by George Harrison called “Not Guilty”—  originally written and recorded, though not originally released, with the Beatles.

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The night club music has this riff of F#-D-C#DAC# that reminds me awfully of the similar E-G-AGDB riff in “Not Guilty.” It’s not plagiarizingly similar or anything… but I just can’t not think of it… and it’s just really funny that the title of the other song is “Not Guilty.”   😉  Offhand I can’t think of any other cute and clever connections between the Poirot universe and George Harrison himself, other than perhaps the fact that one of Suchet’s earliest film roles was The Missionary, with Maggie Smith, and a Handmade Films production. Harrison founded the company in the late ’70s, the same year in fact that he was recording “Not Guilty” for his well-received self-titled album.

*  Okay, now we come to the giveaway. Since today’s post is about Cheap Flat, I’ll be offering this miniature painting in a cute little black wood frame to the winner. The canvas itself is 2.5″x3.5″ and the frame makes it just a little bigger. The scene is from this episode, the moment when Poirot is explaining to a bewildered Hastings that he aims to take a flat in the same building as the Robinsons. ***UPDATE***: No winners were forthcoming this week, so a new contest to win this painting is up at this post here.

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Bon chance!

Poirot and Hastings, from Murder on the Links – painting

Most of my fan art whatsits are quite small (what would one do with a roomful of large, Poirot-themed canvases?) and sketch-like. The biggest exception would be that set of 39 miniature painted books, which are small but finished. When faced with the prospect of donating a piece of Poirot fan art to a good cause, however, I thought it would be best to make something new which could be just a bit bigger than usual and a little more polished.

This is an acrylic painting on a gessoed hardboard panel, 12″x12″. It is almost the size of a record album and has a strangely similar feel.  🙂 I used the same image from Murder on the Links that I used for the miniature book cover– I love the bright, impressionistic feel of that particular moment. My own tendency is to smooth out brushstrokes in my paintings, but this time I tried to maintain a bit of that sense of impressionism in the greenery of the background.

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The shelf.

One can’t have 39 miniature books just sitting loose, so the idea came about to make a miniature shelf for them. The enterprise began with a simple foam board model. From there I made measurements to ensure sufficient room for the books, including a space for a little “book holder” piece by which a single cover could be displayed outwardly, room for individual spacers so the books wouldn’t need to touch, and tiered shelves so each book could be more easily removed. A monogram piece was also sketched out– based on the design on Poirot’s slippers! I sent all my drawings and measurements to my friends John and Eva, who have a laser cutter, and they made me a mock-up.

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The next several weeks were a flurry of tweaking measurements again and again, re-cutting, trying (and failing) a few times to obtain the proper sort of walnut board for the finished product, but finally getting the pieces together. I love the little moustache that was added to the back of the book holder.  😎 Once the pieces were glued together, many small matchstick-sized bits of wood were carefully covered with red textured Velvet Paper, as were the shelves. The measurements for adhering the “matchstick” pieces had to be extremely precise. Here are some pics of the process…

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And the finished product…

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Thus essentially ends the story of my miniature books, a project encompassing a total of about four and a half months. This set of miniatures isn’t in my keeping anymore. I decided to mail the whole lot off to London this past summer to a deserving recipient.

The painted miniature books (12)… The Grand Finale!

The last lot of three books share in common a solo Poirot in the middle of his dramatic “big reveal.” They also include two holidays, two quotes about the nature of truth, and two moments of unusually dramatic inferno-lighting.   🙂

This miniature of the collection of stories known as The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding includes an image from the corresponding episode “The Theft of the Royal Ruby,” an alternate title. The quote is from the title story. You may notice that when I took this photo, the white stripes on the spine of the book had not been painted on yet. Oops! I like the little Santa figurine on the mantle piece, and the evergreen garlands. Obviously we’re going for a Christmas-y feel here.

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Likewise, for Hallowe’en Party, I chose a festive pumpkin color for the book and an image of Poirot looking positively mephistophelean in the glint of the orange glow of firelight. This particular Christie story is one of maybe three or four Poirot tales where the villain is presented as a sort of satanic archetype, so I utilized the conceit for this little cover. I loved painting that bit of fire– and that silver fob! Like in the Death on the Nile image, that one bit of bling makes the picture glow. The quote is a great one, too.

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Finally, Three-Act Tragedy. It was terrible trying to narrow down which image to use for the cover. There were gorgeous shots of Poirot with Sir Charles Cartwright in a garden panorama, and one pic I was very keen on of Sir Charles and Egg in the background drinking cocktails, with a blurred Poirot in profile in the foreground. That particular image seemed to sum up the book plot nicely, and three characters on a cover would have been great. But no, at last I was forced reluctantly to use this image. The stage imagery and the striking lighting made it too perfect for complementing the book title. I had trouble choosing the quote, too. There’s a marvelous Poirot quote about the observation of human nature in that book, but I ended up once again using a quote that reflects drama and stage trickery, in keeping with the story’s themes.

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There ends the project of 39 painted miniature Poirot books, representing Christie’s full canon of Poirot. They took three months to paint. Only, it doesn’t really end there, because these little guys needed, I felt, their own custom shelf. And that would be a project of another month and a half. To be continued…!

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