Tuesday, February 28, 2006

life of a pen page nine 

The fibre tip's getting a bit ragged now, making for a less reliable line, but it's still trucking along...

(Click image for large version)


I just managed, while eating some bread and butter (something which I have done a number of times before, with some success), to bite my own tongue hard enough that it drew blood. Now what level of uncoordinated uselessness must I have descended to to manage that?

If I thtart typing with a lithp you shall know why.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Another trip to smelly London yesterday. My main purpose, this time, was to retrieve about 120 copies of Sentence, an anthology comic that I contributed to a few years ago, from the premises of Red Route Distribution (as they're closing down). But before heading out to their picturesque offices, situated in a leafy glade under the Westway, I went out (by bus - a rare adventure!) to Dalston to call upon noted illustrator, writer, multi-instrumentalist and beard wearer Mr Joel Stewart. I've been reading Joel's blog for a while now and he interests me strangely so I asked if I could come a-calling and, kind and foolishly, rather than set dogs or lawyers on me he said that that would be fine. And a very pleasant hour or two was whiled away in his studio with only occasional moments of the particular modern awkwardness of transforming virtual acquaintance into its real life counterpart. Indeed, once I had got over the initial disappointment of his not, after all, being a busty blonde nymphette called Helga all went pretty swimmingly (save for my faltering attempts at playing simple chord progressions on his uke while he demonstrated all manner of whizzy cleverness on banjoes and guitars). Mr S, I thank you again for your generous hospitality.

Thence it was onwards to Red Route to pick up the books and chat briefly to the lovely Mr Tony Bennett (of Knockabout Comics), thence offloading some books at a location in South Kensington before heading on to tea (for by now it was, indeed, teatime), chat and a couple of shortbread fingers at m'good friend Ruth's place in Finsbury Park. And then home and an evening of doodling and quiet regret that Joel never turned his back long enough for me to steal all his drawings. Curses!

Monday, February 20, 2006

life of a pen, page eight 

Nobly ignoring my prophecies of imminent demise some time ago the pen soldiers on heroically...

Click image for large version.

Friday, February 17, 2006

product placement, part two 

Part of the reason I was in smelly London yesterday was to see the current mixed show at the Medici gallery in Cork St featuring some work by fabulous illustrator Paul Slater (previously mentioned here) and to buy a copy of the very fine (if rather pricey - it's a limited edition) book of his work, Fried Eggs In Brine (2005, Atlantic Press). Happily the gallery will later be holding a solo show by Mr S, though sadly not until October of next year. Only a half dozen or so Slaters in the current show but still well worth a look if you happen to be passing in the next couple of days (it ends on Wednesday I think).

product placement, part one 

They're back! My favourite sketchbooks, John Purcell Paper's beautiful hardbound volumes of 300gsm hot pressed watercolour paper (catalogue numbers SK530H, SK430H and SK330H), are available again after a long and painful absence (they spent a long while finding a new binder after the previous one retired). They disappeared from the few shops that stocked them years ago and I'd given up on their ever returning after a couple of years' sporadic correspondence with JPP (once every six months I would email to the effect of "any news?" and they would email back to the effect of "sorry, no"). But during my traumatic teaching experience the other week a couple of students had asked where I got my sketchbooks and, having solemnly informed them that they were no longer made, it occurred to me to wonder if that was indeed still the case. Happily I was wrong.

They are quite ridiculous items for me to use: I rarely, if ever, use any form of paint in my sketchbooks so there's really no need for me to use such an extravagant weight of paper and for day to day work it makes more sense to use loose sheets or a sketchbook with perforated pages. And yet, and yet... I am smitten with them and have just taken delivery of enough of them to last me until about 2014. And this gives me pleasure.

Also of note: how pleasant to deal with a small company; to phone up and talk to a real human being directly and to have exactly what I asked for turn up on the day we agreed (the real human being having thought to make sure that the books would arrive on a day when I would actually be in - not normally an issue with me, of course, but in this instance I was in smelly London yesterday so it was as well she asked). Tip top service.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

life of a pen, page seven 

Click image for large version.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Sorry, it's been all drawings and very few words recently. I'll gabble on a bit now in recompense. I have a little time to spare at present as the one paying job I have on the go at the moment, the cover for the third of Joshua Doder's Grk books, is in a brief hiatus while I await reactions to the latest set of roughs.

I meant last week to recommend to you some of the cultural gubbins I consumed: Richard Thompson a singin' and a playin' on Monday (very good, as always - this was about the seventh time I'd seen him I think) and a rare unforced trip to the legitimate theatre on Tuesday to see Amelia Bullmore's play Mammals (very good but I didn't really understand why the whole thing had to be performed so bloody fast - I felt like it would have worked better if there was a pause now and again, a moment to breathe. Like I know anything about this stuff). Also, prior to the play I saw Anna Chancellor (who was in it) on a bicycle. So that was good. Anyway, yes, I meant to tell you about those things but obviously it's a bit late now so I won't.

More recently I saw Hidden (or Cache) at the pictures and, as seems to be the way of things lately, found it to be, um, quite good rather than the work of genius that several reviews had led me to expect*. It was certainly less irritating than the only other Michael Haneke film I'd seen, Funny Games, but the "not pandering to the audience by explaining everything" thing can be taken too far. For my tastes John Sayles got it right in his excellent film Limbo whereas with Hidden the non-ending just seemed like a cop out. Billy Wilder said something along the lines of: "Don't be too clever for an audience. Make it obvious. Make the subtleties obvious also" and, while I wouldn't entirely agree, I would point out that Mr Wilder was responsible for more stone cold classic movies than almost anyone so, you know, he knew a thing or two.

[Brief chinstroker's interlude: compare and contrast the long takes in Hidden with the work of James Benning.



In other news: on Monday this week I did my first (and quite conceivably last) bit of paid "teaching" at Anglia Ruskin University (at which, several name changes ago, I myself studied illustration from '87 to '89). I'd been invited by my ex tutor Martin Salisbury to address two groups of about 20 first year illustration BA students showing each group some of my work and talking about it and illustration in general for about an hour. I can't remember when I was last more terrified. And, unaccustomed as I am etc., I believe I was really quite poor value. The thing is I can, on a good day, hold the attention of someone who knows me on a subject of mutual interest for maybe ten minutes but faced with 20 total strangers (and they're all so bloody young!) I'm at something of a loss. Plus I was ostensibly meant to be talking about my own work which is not a subject with which I'm particularly at ease. I mumbled, I fidgeted, I made not much sense, my mind went blank, tumbleweed blew through the studio during the frequent lengthy silences, I hesitated, repeated and deviated from the subject... It was all something of an ordeal and I was glad when it was over.

Perversely, I think I could actually be okay at teaching normally on such a course, with the opportunity to talk to students individually, it's just that I'm a bit useless with large groups. Oh well. Apparently it's character building.

*See also: Crash, A History of Violence.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

life of a pen pages five and six 

Page five turned out a bit duff so I thought you'd better get six at the same time. Never mind the quality and all that...

(Click image for large version)

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