Roll up, roll up: AtB portraits to benefit Nepal!

Hey hey lovely people of the internet,

Would YOU like a *bespoke* Avoiding the Bears portrait of yourself, or your friend, or your pet? Have YOU always dreamed of posing for Holbein (ahem) in your finest, with your best scientific instruments and stretchy skull thing? Well, dream no more! A version of this dream may be about to come true!


Tilly and Maximilian approve this message!

I, a person with no discernible practical skills, want to do something to help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Nepal is very close to my heart, and some of the best people I have ever met live there. I won’t rattle on about my feelings here, because this is not about me, but I want to do something that isn’t watching rolling news in my pyjamas and crying, so this is what I’ve come up with: drawing funny pictures. I mean, this has got to be good for something.

So, I will draw pictures of you – yes, you, or anyone else you would like – with a historical figure of your choice. Ever wanted to hang out with Henry VIII? Chill with Confucius? Max and relax with Margaret of Anjou? All of these things can be achieved, for a small payment to one of the charities helping to get food, water, shelter and medical assistance to the wonderful people of Nepal.

2015-04-27 11.09.36

This is a quick sketchy picture of my sister’s dog interviewing professional sadness merchant Charles Dickens. Your picture will be much better than this.

What to do:

1. Choose which sort of picture you would like:

  • A5 black and white portrait of you and a historical figure of your choice: £15
  • A5 colour portrait of you and a historical figure of your choice: £20 (more expensive because painting is difficult, right)
  • A4 black and white picture: £20
  • A4 colour picture: £30
  • Plus £5 for every additional figure (I will totally draw you with multiple members of the seventeenth-century Royal Society dressed up as the Backstreet Boys, if that is your wont)
The Earl of Essex is taking time out from his beard-grooming routine to support this important cause

The Earl of Essex is taking time out from his beard-grooming routine to support this important cause

2. Given the time-sensitive nature of all this, I don’t want to take donations myself – but instead to cut out the middle man and get the money to charities ASAP. So: please make a donation to one of the following charities (chosen because I know they are reputable…). Giftaid that donation, if you’re a UK taxpayer. Feel free to donate more than the price of your chosen picture if you can.

  • The British Red Cross
  • Oxfam
  • Unicef
  • Save the Children
  • HVP UK – this is especially close to my heart: this charity supports the Hindu Vidyapeeth (HVP) movement in Nepal, which runs schools and associated social projects. I volunteered at several of the schools a few years ago – they really do wonderful work. They desperately need funds to support the schools and the communities around them at this time.

4. Send a screenshot of that donation, and/or the confirmation email, to me at kirsty dot rolfe at gmail dot com, along with the following:

  • Details of the kind of portrait you would like (see above for what’s on offer)
  • The name of the historical figure(s) you’d like in the picture, along with any other details about them you’d like me to know/that I’ll need to find visual record of them (if you have a picture, please attach it!)
  • A picture/pictures of you/your friend/your pet/etc so that I don’t draw you or them totally wrong
  • Your address so I can send you the completed picture.

I will then:

1. Draw that picture

2. Scan that picture and send you a nice electronic copy (on a proper scanner! Promise not to take bad photos on my phone, like I do with my own stuff)

3. Post the hard copy of the picture to you at no extra charge (no extra charge! whoo). Due to finances I can only do this if you’re within the UK, BUT: if you’re outside it, please let me know in your initial email and we will work something out.

Obviously cartoons are not an instant art form (would that they were) but I’ll get your picture done and posted ASAP.

Please get in touch with me at kirsty dot rolfe at gmail dot com if you have any questions, any requests not mentioned above (eg you want to make a giant donation and get a great big picture. I can totally make that happen), or if you’d like to buy any picture already featured on this site – I have a lot of them knocking about.

Please don’t make me draw cars. I hate drawing cars.

Kirsty x

P.S. Here are some more examples of me historical portraitin’:

He is, you know

He is, you know

What do you MEAN Poirot isn't an important historical figure

What do you MEAN Poirot isn’t an important historical figure




How not to finish a chapter

A quick picture about my current silly state of affairs. Not scanned because why buy a scanner and scan things nicely when you can just take bad photos on your phone.

Always blame your problems on Poseidon

You could also add ‘desire to draw pictures about this’ to the list.

He’s not the Prince of Bohemia, he’s a very naughty Elector

I’ve been enjoying the ‘World Shakespeare Festival’ (otherwise known, in London at least, as the ‘Let’s use the Olympics as an excuse to go nuts over Shakespeare, look if we leave the culture stuff to the Olympic Committee we’ll all be up to our ears in Duran Duran all the time, do you want that?’ Festival) that currently seems to be taking over the theatres and airwaves a great deal. There are some good things happening. Get thee to the Globe, especially.

Anyway, I watched James Shapiro’s three-part BBC4 series ‘The King and the Playwright’ on iPlayer yesterday, and I liked it. Most of it. Right up until the last twenty minutes of the final episode, in fact, when Shapiro intoned, over an image of Frederick V, Elector Palatine (this image, in fact), that ‘In 1612 [James I] secured for [his daughter] Elizabeth an excellent match: to the great Protestant prince, Frederick of Bohemia’. At which point I got annoyed, stopped watching, and drew this:

I feel a bit mean about this, because aside from this I thought the series was properly ace, plus I met Professor Shapiro when he was a visiting professor at my university and he was really nice. And 1599 is ace, I always tell my students to read it. But he was wrong about quite a crucial point here. Frederick was Elector Palatine, ruler of the Upper and Lower Palatinates, areas in Germany. It’s really quite important to European history that in 1612 he was not prince of Bohemia. The start of the Thirty Years’ War, wildly simplified version:

In 1612 Bohemia was ruled by the Habsburg Emperor Matthias. In 1617 he would be replaced by his cousin Ferdinand of Styria, later to become Emperor Ferdinand II. In 1618 the Protestant Bohemian Estates decided they didn’t like Ferdinand, chucked a couple of Imperial officials out of the window of the Hradschin castle in Prague, and invited Frederick V to come and be their new, Protestant king. Fred accepted (without getting his father-in-law James I’s approval first), moved to Prague, and reigned for roughly a year before being roundly defeated by Imperial forces. The Imperials and the Spanish kicked Fred out of both Bohemia and both Palatinates, and his subsequent attempts to regain these territories were a major part of the early years of the Thirty Years’ War. Essentially, if Frederick had been the prince of Bohemia in 1612, it might have saved central Europe three decades of bloody conflict and a great deal of political and demographic change. Also, although this is rather less significant, I might be writing a thesis entitled ‘The 1620s and 1630s: When everyone was super nice to one another, and nothing got devastated at all’.

Lots of English writers refer to Frederick as a ‘prince’ around the time of the marriage but that’s because a. plenty of English folk might not have been familiar with the concept of an Elector – he’s a subject of the Emperor, but he gets to help elect each new Emperor? What’s that all about? – and b. Fred was about as powerful as James could get in terms of Protestants, but he wasn’t a sovereign ruler and so might not have seemed that impressive a catch. Calling him a ‘prince’ is just propaganda, basically.

So it might seem to be a small error, but it really isn’t. This isn’t obscure Kirsty’s-boring-PhD stuff. All this information is in TONS of books, seriously, I should know, I have to read them. And the most cursory search of the ONDB or even Wikipedia will turn up the basics. The Thirty Years’ War might not be taught much in English (or American, apparently) schools and universities but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant.

Getting annoyed at historical mistakes on the TV is going to become an ever-larger part of my life, isn’t it.