Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas everyone

Tomorrow morning, all things willing, I shall be opening presents with my wife and daughter and crying while Jimmy Stewart runs through town shouting Merry Christmas to all and sundry. A sentiment I can only echo.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Comics economics

the collecting obsession has grown weaker as I've gotten older. Once upon a time I would follow any superhero I liked through whatever came along, feast or famine, fair or foul, just for the sake of a complete run. I read the Pittsburg JLA for god's sake and, nostalgia aside, they were crap characters in crap stories!

These days I read what I like and if I don't like what the creator are doing I don't read it. I love Daredevil but didn't like Bendis' writing so I didn't read it. Love Batman but psycho Batman did nothing for me and so I've read little of it since Post Dark Knight grim and gritty transformed into unstable psychopath.

Further, sheer economics stopped me picking up the Brubaker Captain America, Morrisons Batman and various others. £2+ a pop was outside my budget. Many times have i seen suggestions that, six months or so later, Marvel and DC should reprint each months output in an essentials style collection for the reader, perhaps by family, rather than the collector so that cheap colour or black and white reprints were available to draw people in to the world of Batman or Superman or The Avengers. In this country we already have something similar, Panini/Titan monthly collections 3 issues for £2.50/£2.60 of top us titles. Titan have just released first issues of Marvel Legends, with Captain America, Thor and Iron Man and Batman Legends, reprinting All Star, Morrison's Batman and Batman/Superman (World's Finest?)I've not read them yet. Brubaker's Captain America is the main reason for buying either but I'm intrigued to see what's happening with these old friends. I'll let you know what I think.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My daughter's art

This was an unexpected gift from my daughter, she tells me it's a chicken but not a real one. (She knows I get confused easily)

No Fear of white space there.

Joe Barbera

So Joseph Barbera Died. Until I was about 14 and developed a massive fascination with animation I thought Hannah/Barbera were two women who made cartoons. I was never a big fan of their television work although like anyone growing up in the 70's I watched it because it was all pervading. It was virtually impossible to turn on the TV to any of the three channels available without finding a Hannah Barbera cartoon on at least one of them, be it the Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, Maggilla Gorrila, Topcat (Bosscat), Touche Away, Scooby Doo or any of the hundreds of other's their studio turned out. What tends to be forgotten though is that these two men were behind many of the best Tom and Jerry cinema cartoons of the 40's before TV all but wiped them out and, love them or loath them, these two men were in many ways responsible for the survival of animation outside of Disney Studios. You can see their influence in the work of many TV animators, illustrators and cartoonists today from Samurai Jack and Kim Possible to Les MacClaine's Highway 13. Hannah Barbera cartoons are so much a part of the fabric of popular culture they're referenced everywhere, like Disney, like Elvis and the Beatles and that's one hell of a legacy.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The cobbler and the thief

Watched the Richard Williams Movie, The Thief and The Cobbleron youtube last night. It's in a cobbled together version, (so it is titled)made up from pencil tests, completed footage and storyboards. It's apparently the truest to the creators intentions, unlike the Warner Brothers version which was released over a decade ago. (I'm not sure it was released through Warner in the end as I think the bond completion company eventually took control as Williams failed to meet his contractual obligations). There are interesting lessons to be learned from the eventual fate of this movie. Williams had an artistic vision for the movie so strong that he worked on it for over 25 years, largely in his own time and at his own expense. He believed in what he was doing and the cobbled together version suggests it would have been a true classic of animation. Williams appears to have taken the animation style that best suited each set piece and blended the whole together in what looks like it would have been a fairly seamless work. The early parts of the film, set in an arabic city, blend a series of backgrounds cobining the look of a Gustav klimt painting with character animation design reminiscient of Gilliams "Python" work. Later parts, set in a clockwork mechanised mountain have a dark horror to them reminiscient of "Akira", and the wrapping of the whole has an artistic integrity that put me in mind of those wonderful cartoons from the Filmboard of Canada, flowing on glass. Williams however appears to have eventually bought into the promise of corporate money and in essence, unwittingly perhaps, sold his soul. He failed to meet his contractual obligations and lost control of a work that had taken more than two decades of his life. The lesson I guess is be careful who you sell your soul to.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Our Hamster, Rex, just died. The foolish beast tried to hibernate, not a natural act for such a creature. We revived him but it seems the damage was done and Rex is no more. Rex was only the third pet I've owned (jointly this time) of any character and I'll really miss him. Rex was probably more my hamster than anyone elses, I handled him most and fed him most (and occasionaly held long boring conversations with him while sat at the PC late at night). More heart breaking still was telling Molly he was gone. Watching your daughter cry and not being able to make it all better is possibly the worst feeling in the world so far.

comfort Zones

Every year for the past 24 years I have produced a Christmas card. Even in years when I have drawn nothing else, and there've been a few years like that, I've always done the card.

Each card I've done has been within my comfort zone. Early on I loved pen and ink so they'd inevitably be black and white and often animal themed. Later I took to watercolour and inks and cheap colour copying. Still in the comfort zone though. This year I decided it was time to give acrylics a go. I haven't painted in acrylics for over 20 years, not since college, and was extremely nervous. It was hard work, it all felt so unnatural, no line work visible, trying to paint properly. I know I could have taken a more illustrative approach with flat colours and outlines but this was what I wanted to try as it was something new for me. I'm quite pleased with the result, inspired by Studio Ghibli's The Cat Returns.

"The Christmas Fox"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Look and Learn

When I was a nipper there were comics you wanted, like Valiant and Tiger and Mighty World of Marvel, and there were the books your parents wanted you to have, the prime example of that group being look and learn. I saw very few issues of look and learn, my parents understood the importance of Johnny Cougar and Captain Hurricane over the Indsutrial Revolution and the history of pantomime, and must admit to being greatly bored by the issues I saw. Even The Trigun Empire seemed somewhat staid next to seminole wrestlers and California Highway Patrolmen (Zip Nolan?). yesterday the Guardian included a free copy of the best of Look and Learn and, even from the position of my now advanced years, I cannot imagine a 7 to 14 year old kid who would be interested in it. Even on newsprint the magazine is a thing of beauty with a classic layout and design and quality illustration that truely deserves the glossy paper printing promised for the regular magazine and I was fascinated by many of the articles, but I'm 42 not 14 and the original target for this magazine was that spotty preteen nerd that answered all the science questions on "Ask the Family". The producers have sensibly aimed this at the nostalgia market though so who knows, it could be successful. Any 7 to 14 year old who wants the info in the magazine will find it better and faster on the internet however and look strangely at the parents and grandparents trying to push this antique on them.

An interesting aside however. The much lauded Trigun Empire is apparently now owned by DC comics. Maybe they should consider archive editions of that, they'd be the firt Archives I'd be prepared to buy.

Friday, November 24, 2006

VGA phone images

I'm fascinated by how the low res VGA camera on my phone reproduces images. The low quality of the picture creates something I think is very atmospheric.

This is a view of the yard at my work, a handfull of buses and the sun setting in the background. I just like it and I'm trying to figure out why.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Robert Altman's dead

My grandmother always said these things come in threes. Who's next?

Rest in peace Mr Altman. Thanks for MASH and The Long Goodbye. I've forgiven you for Popeye as that probably wasn't your fault.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I've just done half a dozen on line depression tests, all of which tell me I'm suffering from mild to moderate depression. Guess that makes me normal then.
Your Depression Level: 60%

You seem to have mild depression.
A lot of people fall into your range, and it's quite possible you don't need treatment.
If you've been feeling this way for a while, you may want to seek help.

Should I start worrying?

Sunday, November 19, 2006


For all it's faults, and they were many, it rounded things out nicely as a trilogy of movies. I liked the Phoenix being the unbridled and unrestrained side of Jean Grey's split personality and Xavier playing God and deciding to mess with her brain to restrain the Phoenix. I liked Scott and Xavier's death. I liked Magneto's horror at becoming human. It would have been interesting to see what Singer would have done with it though.


Still got a killer stress headache that's been here since thursday but the mood has improved. Spent much of yesterday morning making a fairy princess castle with Molly

A very girly affair as you can see and I have to take responsibility for the Barbie covered walls.

Then last night watched the latest Robin Hood. Karen and I seem to be the only people we know enjoying it as most people seem put off by the modern day touches such as last night's Arthur Daly style Pawn Merchant. Karen and I are more intrigued by Robin's character arc as he goes from smug and cocky lord of the manor on a journey towards, hopefully, serious outlaw and freedom fighter. Last night with the death of three more of his "men" and Marion agreeing to marry Guisborne saw his cocky grin take a bit of a battering and I'm hoping this is the direction he's going. The highlight is the pro law and order speech from Keith Allen each week. Allen is obviously enjoying himself as this deeply twisted and nasty character, He's very much in the mould of Alan Rickman's Sheriff but with a greater humanity, afforded by a weekly show and hence less a pantomime character. Allen's sherriff is a coward at heart but willing to fight for his money if he has to and when it comes to manipulating people? When he set Guisborne after Marion, talking of the knife twisting in Guisborne's back after she betrayed him, Allen embued the speech with a mixture of glee and shared hurt that made you wonder about what had made him the man he is. Impressive.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bad day at Black Rock

Today's a pissy day, I woke up in a grumpy mood and have been struggling to get out of it ever since. Brief highlights like puddle jumping with Molly and going out driving for a couple of hours weren't enough to lift me fully out of the doldrums so I'm left mulling over other things.

TCM recently showed Bad Day at Black Rock, which I taped and watched a couple of days ago. Spencer Tracy as the one armed Judo expert, Robert Ryan all creepy and evil, totally excellent film, beautifully filmed and scripted with such economy it's a wonder to behold. Moments like this almost make Ted Turners existence acceptable.

Equally interesting if not as well shot was Vincent Price in "The last man on Earth". I'd never seen this before, only the Charlton Heston remake (Omega Man),and was only used to seeing Price hamming it up in his later roles for Roger Corman etc. Finding the film showing on a crappy little satelite channel was a complete accident but one I'm very pleased about. Price is impressive as the scientist who somehow is immune to the zombie/vampire plague that attacks the rest of humanity and the acting throughout was largely excellent, his vampire obsessed colleague was the only real exception. The print was poor but even so it was a very good movie.

For tonights viewing I have X3, mainly because Karen wants to see it. Hopefully I'll have cheered up by then but if not at least the film will make it harder to upset Karen with my grumpiness.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

can't talk

can't talk, going to be preparing application for new job. Also going to school meeting about current teaching methods. Takinbg a sketch pad in case it's really boring.

Something work related

I'm growing creatively within my job. I'm producing advertising and marketing material for local use by the bus company. Much of the work is heavily constricted by company regulations but occasionally I have something that really works and I'm happy to put my name to. This is part of the work that accompanied a new ticket aimed at University students.

The black and white with one spot colour was not particularly original but I was very happy with the end result.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

beta new look

Just moved over to beta and half way through a post saying how much I like it when the bugger crashes on me. Oh well.

Also been looking at Illustration Friday as a tool for making me draw more. Managed to do this pick for the last subject, but not soon enough to post it. The pig was drawn in biro and coloured in photoshop CS. With a five year old daughter playing games on the internet and a wife running a home business on the PC I get little chanceto get on there and practice with photoshop, but I'm slowly figuring it out.

I've also updated my links to include stuff I've found over the past few months and hadn't added before because I couldn't get the HTML right. Particularly I'm pleased to add a link to PaulHD. Paul was best man at my wedding 7 years ago, is a very fine artist and still one of the best people I know. He's just joined the parenthood club along with his wife, Becs, and has one of the cutest babies I've seen. Most babies really do look like Winston Churchill in his declining years but every so often you see one who actually can be called cute without humouring the parents. Olivia is one cute baby.

That's it for now. I have a Christmas story to be getting on with.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

just some art

A cockerel of some breed or other drawn at Manor Farm Museum.
Colour added in photoshop by way of an experiment.

A pig, drawn in pencil and again coloured in photoshop, this time experimenting with the lassoo and the fill tools.

Friday, October 20, 2006

damnable inspiration

So I've dropped Karen at work and Molly at School and I'm heading into town to browse the bookshops and have myself a large cappucino and I'm thinking about the organic veg delivery that comes on fridays from Riverford. And I'm thinking about carrots and snowmen and school dinners and vegetables when inspiration hits me over the head so hard my vision goes squiffy and I have to pull the car over.

So I have my cappucino and a raspberry bakewell and still inspiration is rolling around in my head. So I go look around waterstones children's section and there's nothing there like the idea in my head so I drive home and set up my drawing board. Two and a half hours later I have a 16 page story laid out sketched in reasonable detail and all the text written down.

To put it mildly I'm in fucking shock!!! Inspiration hasn't hit me this hard and this fully formed since before I got myself married. I was beginning to wonder if there was something about being married that just didn't agree with inspiration. And there ain't. I can be married, happy, a father and still be creative. It just needs peace and quiet.

I don't know if the story's any good. I like it and if nothing else it'll make a good Christmas card for some small family members.

God it feels good to draw with a purpose other than the act itself.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

week off

I've struggled against believing it since getting married but after this current week I just have to face it. Creativity, the act itself, is a solitary pursuit by necessity. I've been off work for a week, doing the school run while Karen's on a full week full day course, which has meant I've had a certain amount of free time, by myself, that I wouldn't have otherwise had. I spent a percentage of that time trying to keep on top of the housework, cooking washing etc, but I had three or four hours each day to myself and found it to be a thing of wonder. In that time I've filled half a dozen or so pages in a sketch pad, done 1 and a 1/2 paintings (painting is kind of like pulling your own teeth without anaesthetic but is starting to feel less painful) and am 2/3's of the way through the best pen and ink drawing I've done in over a year. And that's with time wasting, surfing and playing with my brother in law's Napster, which is now on my PC since we have his old hard drive.

The wonderful Ray Fenwick and his Hall of Best Knowledge put it best in solitude. You'll have to follow this link if you want to know what I'm talking about.

Napster by the way has been a revelation. My tastes in music are fairly simple, I like clever/intelligent lyrics, simple acoustic arrangements and an interesting voice. The clever thing Napster does is attach a recommendation page to each artist you search for of people with a vaguely similar style. So Bob Dylan takes you to Nick Drake takes you to Billy Bragg takes you to Ben Folds takes you to Vashti Bunyan takes you to Gordon Lightfoot takes you to Grateful Dead. I've discovered more new artists I like this week then in the last four years. Nick Drake, particularly, is wonderful, kind of James Blunt with a soul which grossly undersells him and could even be an insult.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The joy of painting.

In between painting the ceiling I've been trying to get back into acrylic painting. I've always liked acrylic for non-photorealistic work (not that I can paint in a photorealistic manner anyway). Acrylic produces a quality of colour that seems ideally suited to some styles of illustrative art and in a moment of wild foolishness I decided time had come to give it a go (again). So I tried it on very heavy acrylic paper, hated it. I tried it on watercolour paper (300lbs) and hated it. Tried it on acrylic/oil board, hated it.

So I'm flicking through some of the many books I have when I come across mentions of paintings done on masonite. Masonite it says, is a smooth surface ideal for oil and acrylic work. It's not archival but has a fairly decent lifespan. The only thing it doesn't say is what masonite is.

Well through the magic of google and wikipedia it turns out that masonite is just a type of MDF. so that's what I'm trying next.

Which in turn lead to my thought for the day. No one really appreciates what an artist has to work through before he even gets pen/brush to paper.

Monday, September 11, 2006


This week end I turned 42 (FORTY TWO). Unexpectedly I find myself to be okay about it. I was woken about 9.30am with presents from the family and a breakfast of croissants and fresh apple juice, after which there was a pirate themed treasure hunt for my presents from Karen and Molly. We followed that with a picnic, a visit to a local working farm museum and a jungle/river advenuture as we went for a hike through the woods chasing bears and monsters, hugging and climbing trees, taking lots of photo's, playing spot the dinosaur in a smelly creek and generally being very silly. When we eventually got home we had a curry and a drop of Porter and watched Xtra Factor in all it's excruciating glory. IT WAS A GOOD BIRTHDAY. I would wish all my birthday's were this relaxed and fun.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I feel a rant coming on.

I feel a rant coming on. I am 42, I may not have the stamina for some things that I had when I was younger but at 42 I'm a more rounded person, I can handle myself better in a fight and I can talk my way out of one just as well, I'm a better lover, I'm a better father and a better husband then I would have been in my twenties, I'm better read, slyer when necessary and less likely to compromise my believes for a quick buck.

So what! you say. The point is I will pay good money to watch movies with men my own age or older dealing with bank robbers, hostage situations or crazy people out to destroy the world, to watch couples in my age bracket going through the painful complications new love brings, In short, to watch people my age deal with the sort of shit that makes for a good story.

I know I know, movies like that exist but for every movie with Paul Giamatti or Pierce Brosnan or even Bruce Willis, there are 10 with Josh Harnett looking moody or the guy from Dawson's Creek looking moody or Orlando Bloom looking moody, For every Julianne Moore there are 10 Hilary Duff-a-likes filling your screen.

Now I'm not unreasonable, I realise there are people in their teens who will pay good money to see the kids I've named, but equally there's a good number of people my age and older who'd pay good money to see an intelligent film with characters they can actually relate to.

What actually started this was reading something either by or about Pierce Brosnan that said he'd stopped being James Bond because he felt he was too old to play the character. Pierce Brosnan was pushing 50 for his last Bond movies and they were the best Bond movies I have ever seen, bar none. He had a world weary edge to him that made him more believable and yet he "believes" he is now too old to play the character. Can you imagine someone saying to John Wayne "Sorry John, you're to old to play this part in "The Shootist". We've got this young guy, Bill Pullman, he's raw but he'll appeal to the kids"

The urge to rant is disippating. I just watched Paul Giamatti in "sideways" He's three years younger than me but the film made me feel like someone out there actually does understand what I'm talking about. Painful screwed up relationships of people who've lived long enough to have real screwups, not teens upset about being two timed or dumped in college.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

God bless film 4

Thanks to the magnanimity of Film4 in making themselves a free digital channel, I have now seen all the major Studio Ghibli movies except Nausicaa (which I'll catch next week). I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite although I've just watched My Neighbour Totoro with Molly, my daughter, and she sat through the film without hiding behind the sofa and appeared to love every minute, so that's a possibility.

Miyazaki's work seems to bear up well to the oft mentioned Disney comparison in terms of quality of animation, but it lacks the emotionally scarring material that makes Disney so Disney. I would happily let Molly watch Princess Mononoke with me, with all it's blood and monsters, but I'd be far less willing to let her watch Disney's Pinnochio, images from which still turn up in my nightmares from time to time. Even the darkest moments of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke seem positive compared to the soul numbingly distressing key moments in most of the classic Disney movies. Disney's greatest skill in the earlier movies was to be able to create an air of menace and fear that would be carried beyond the watching of the film and go with you into the world outside. The Ghibli movies on the other hand have generally left me carrying away a warm feeling towards the rest of humanity that lasts well past the initial viewing of the film.

Plus Totoro is just so cute/ugly.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Night Garden

For maybe five years now I've had a picture of a boy and a fox in a garden. Finally I know what it's for.


Friday, August 04, 2006

other people's funerals

Today I attended the funeral of a work colleague I had never met as an active participant.

The colleague, a man my age, passed away in his sleep, and his manager, as you always do, said to the grieving family "If there's anything we can do?" That anything turned out to be arrange to project some dvd'd tributes at the service and the job fell to me as the only person in the company even vaguely technology competent. (I'm no great shakes but I can work these things out).

So today I found myself sat with the family at the front of the service with a laptop, projector, screen and two dvds.

I have been thanked so many times by various members of the family for an act, that to me at least, seems so insignificant that I feel alternately supremely humbled and supremely awkward.

An act of kindness towards strangers but I would rather the need had never existed.

Monday, July 24, 2006

An experiment

Eddie Campbell claims, possibly facetiously, that he checks google each morning to see what people are saying about him. I find myself wondering if he'll read this. If he does I hope you'll leave a comment Mr Campbell.

I've long been an admirer of Eddie Campbell and once spent two fruitless days at a UKcac(around 1986) shuttling between the bar and the Escape Stand trying to catch Eddie Campbell and get him to sign my copies of the first two Escape volumes of his works. I Followed Mr Campbells work through the twenty years since then, the early Bacchus, the Eyeball Kid, From Hell, Batman all the way through to The Fate of The Artist. I lent to original Escape books to a colleague and never saw them again. Eventually they were reprinted in a collected volume so I was okay.

I recall my frustration when he fled this country for Australia's sunnier climes, knowing my chance of getting a book signed had vanished because he was in a place I would never go. Discovering a history of champagne through the Tales of Bacchus and later wondering how much was true and how much was the work of the author and wondering that again when reading Fate of the Artist.

Eddie Campbell, if he still resides in Queensland, lives maybe 200km from my sister. If I ever do visit her I may spend some time tracking him down and finally getting a book signed after 20 years.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

New bag

I was so pleased to be drawing again I bought myself a new bag. £6 from Debenhams sale, about the size of a large hardback novel. Perfect size for a sketch pad up to A5, pencils pens even watercolours.

I have a fetish for bags I don't indulge too often as it would take money away from my book addiction but this was too good a bargain to miss.

Darn. Colour's off in the photo, bag's khaki and the patch is in red and black.

no time and other excuses

So I read these art blogs like and it seems like every day yet another person is using their blog to show a daily drawing, and I think to myself each time, where do they find the time and why can't I find the time? Unlike most questions about life this one had an easy answer. The time is easy to find if you stop looking for ways to avoid doing something. I love drawing but, like most artists, I've not a great deal of confidence in my work and, for some time now, have avoided drawing rather than face the disappointment of another picture that doesn't meet my own stringent standards.

Last weekend I had to do two things I don't usually enjoy. One was a quick visti to our local B & Q DIY depot and the other was attend a church BBQ. DIY and Social situations come very low down my list of pleasurable ways to spend time. But I'm getting in the habit of taking a Moleskine sketch pad with me when I go out and in 10 minutes in the B & Q car park I had two fairly competent sketches finished and in 40 minutes at the BBQ I had two fairly competent drawings done. I found time. I FOUND TIME!

I can do it if I try. Here are the two drawings

Man at B&Q. I identified with his slouching and defeated posture. He looked liek he was being pressured into doing something when he'd rather have been in the garden with a cold beer.

A tree growing out of the remains of a house that had been gone at least 50 years.

work cartooning

This was done sometime back during a very stressful period at work. It's a picture of me and my two colleagues showing how we each respond to stress. It was very popular and copies adorn the walls of several offices.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

My daughter sleeping

Molly asleep on the sofa, a sketch scanned and coloured on Photoshop.


The urge to create is always there. Even on the beach working with sand and shells and a 4 and 1/2 year old assistant. Molly cried when we left the mermaid at the beach because the sea would wash her away. I told her when the tide reached her the sand girl would become a real mermaid and swim away. That cheered her up and she stopped crying.

reality blends

I don't know what it's like for the rest of the world, most of the people in my most immediate circles seem to live for sport and music, but every so often I read something that seems like the author had a window into my head. First was a toss up between Tarzan and Jerry Cornelius, both classic outsiders but one powerful and the other often powerless and an observer in his own life. Later there was Matt Wagner's Mage, about a man who slides through life and avoids involvement until it is thrust upon him and he finds the world is all the better because of the people you let in, even when it hurts.

These days it's Carla Speed MacNeil's Finder. A less than simple tale of a man who helps people in the way they need but is never welcome or wanted anywhere.

Damn I like outsider fiction. Apart from that though these books got me where I live on a mystical level that most outsdider fiction never managed, books like Bruce Chatwin's Songlines hit that same feeling of a mystical feeling in a mundane world. They're about seeing something in your peripheral vision that couldn't and shouldn't exist but somehow you're sure it does.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Family Drama

So, my little girl starts school in September, my wife is having a confidence crisis at work and I'm so far in over my head at work that the poem "Not waving but drowning" makes more and more sense. Most times you take on a job you have a hand over period or support from someone who knew what the job was, not me though. And all I get is "why are you so grumpy" and I can't say because everyone else is under pressure and wants my help so what do you

Pardon the expression, but Fuck Knows! You keep going until you learn to swim.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

where I've been

Bad few weeks, family rows, mini epiphanies, hayfever induced near blindness and then to top it off my old man lops off a couple of fingers with a power tool.

Add to that, the world cup, (Boredom inducing sport) a new hamster and the gift of a game boy and no wonder i've not updated recently. Back on track though now I hope.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The bizarre nature of work osmosis

Osmosis is variously described as the passage of a solution or solvent from one area of high concentration to another of low concentration through a semi-permeable membrane. The basic concept is appliable to the work situation as well. Someone leaves through osmosis someone else takes over their job (the area of low concentration). This often occurs in companies under severe budgetary constraints, someone else takes on a role as an official or unofficial secondment. This is followed by one of two things. Either osmosis takes them back to their original role as that becomes under-concentrated or another body fills that as they realise it is under-concentrated.

That actually made more sense when it occurred to me in that brief moment of lucidity that precedes sleep.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


So foxes conversation with crow in the cemetary is now set at a crossroads instead and is taking on some aspects of Blues legends. For some reason I cannot name when I began scripting the conversation I was brought to mind of stories about Robert Johnson (that's the name that comes to mind) who bargained with the devil at a crossroads for his ability to play the Blues. Themes to this story are rapidly becoming apparent, the price you pay and the bargains you make to get what you want.

little star

This past week I read a book by Andi Watson called "Little Star". It is the truest, most accurate, scarily honest depiction of new fatherhood I have ever encountered. Virtually every page resonated with experiences I have had over the last 4 1/2 years of fatherhood.

The scariest thing in the book was the way Watson put into words, at the end of the book, a summary of my life now. "I'm happier than I've ever been and I'm sadder than I've ever been". Parental existence in a nutshell.

Read this book, buy it off Amazon at a very good price, give it to any friend expecting a child. Gain an insight into what a new father is going through.


Did you ever find yourself with your heart beating in time with the universe only to have something make you skip a beat and plunge you back into the misery of apartness which is made worse because you know what you have lost.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Weegees World

I'm not sure how this will work, posting a link, but we'll see. Weegee was probably the first "name" photographer I was ever aware of. He left a mammoth impression on me because more than anything he showed how a single image could tell a story. So look here and taker a minute or two to browse.

Naturally it doesn't seem to work so copy and paste this.

Monday, April 17, 2006

day out at the farm

Had a family day out at a local living museum, Manor Park Farm, which is set up as a turn of the century (last one not this)working farm with animals and folk in period costume. Every now and then I'd take a few minutes to sketch in my beloved Moleskine sketch pad. The myth of their history aside these are wonderfully built, pocket size sketchpads which, even open, fit almost in the palm of the hand. So, if you're like me and a little shy about drawing in public, they are an ideal companion for a day out.

This was my favourite sketch from the day, partly because it caught the birds so well and partly because I rarely manage to put several images on a page and have it work so well.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Movie review

I've just watched "Bewitched" with Nichole Kidman and I can see why it received poor reviews in a lot of places. It was true to the spirit of the original rather than the superficial surface everyone remembers. Kidman channels the spirit of Elizabeth Montgomery beautifully without descending into a straight impersonation, the only question you're left with is why aren't men throwing themselves at her. The conceit of the film being about a TV company remaking the "Bewitched" series adds an extra level to the film with resonances bouncing back and forth as the real life reflects the TV series both directly and in a slightly twisted fashion. Even Will Ferrell, an actor/comedian I've never previously cared for, gives an impressive turn revelling in the inflated ego and attendant insecurities of his character.

The film's mistake was to appear in the midst of TV remake fever and not give everyone the nostalgia fest straight remake they expected. Suprisingly intelligent and clever for a popcorn movie despite the sugar coated ending.


Currently at work I'm trying to teach myself to use a new application, Macromedia Freehand mx. As far as I can tell it appears to be and odd mish mash of bits of Quark, Photoshop and illustractor, an attempt to hit too many bases in one go. That said once you get used to it's little idiosyncracies it seems fairly straight forward. My first effort with it was this logo which turned out fairly well but reminded me of the Quality Paperback logo after a while. I've since made my first professional use of it which I'll upload next week. Over all though I'm on my way to conquering Freehand and developing another new skill.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

bottoming out

I think I'm bottoming out. 3 Weeks of crap have worn me down, my mood's foul and my health is poor. The one thing that can lift me up quickly is an all night drawing binge with Van Morrison on the Stereo. Not easy to do with a wife, child and responsibilities outside of yourself though. I once described the all night drawing session as the closest I can get to God. Once you pass the tiredness barrier and you keep working you achieve a.... I don't know what to call it. Is it a Zen experience where you connect with a higher conciousness, you become the pencil, the paper, the thought, the image in your head and the music helps you get there? It's probably the only thing I miss from before I was married. It's a feeling of pure creativity without doubts and other thoughts getting in the way.

On the positive side, it's Easter weekend so that means 4 days off work and chocolate, Karen will have finished her latest module on her Masters so we'll be able to get the house back together and I can actually get back on the computer. May even fit some drawing in.

Monday, April 10, 2006

talking to the dead

So it's about midnight in a churchyard and looking for a gate that leads to the land of the dead. And the gatekeeper's a dog and dogs and foxes just don't get along.

glimpse into abyss

Paraphrasing Nietszhe. Except I think I may be the abyss. I feel empty and bottomless this week. And I don't know what to do about it. It's like having the most extreme creative block, one that affects almost everything, even breathing. (well almost).

I think I do not take disappointment well.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Not happy, going for a gastroscopy under local anaesthetic. Camera down the throat. Not happy. Hospitals terrify me. Want to piss my pants but I won't. I'll be a man about it and keep my shaking inside.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Didn't get the job. Probably going to be doing it for another two to three months though. Don't much care at the moment, feeling a little pissed off to be honest. Not as much as the people I work with, who seem more upset then I do. Most I think are just worried they'll end up with someone who doesn't understand what they've walked into and will leave quickly or be impossible to work with. Reasonable concerns under the circumstances.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

fox tale

So fox goes to see crow because crow's dark and mysterious and knows way to much about dead things and after some tooing and froing and a little bargaining crow tells fox how to find dead people.

Unpleasant times

Last week was the week from hell. I've been holding down two jobs for the last 6 months, mine and my ex boss's. She was supposed to have been replaced back in October last Year, she left in September, and I was just supposed to keep things ticking over for a month until the replacement was appointed. Six months later I'm trying to do her job and mine still and struggling to find a way to balance both. Sunday night I broke. I've spent the last 36 hours vomiting, wretching and suffering the sort of diarhea you normally read about in horror stories of African Famine. It's now lunchtime on Tuesday and things have calmed down but my body feels like I've put it through a Marine training course after a two day whiskey drinking marathon. Everything internal and external aches. My Skin aches, my eyes ache, my kidneys ache. and tomorrow I get back up and go back to work and carry on doing thethings that probably broke me in the first place.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

me and my number two girl Posted by Picasa

I'm not the most technologically minded of 40 year olds. I know guys older than me who can make HTML jump through hoops and do what ever they desire. That's not me unfortunately. I'm currently cock a hoop because I've just figured out how to email photos from my camera phone. I'm so pleased I thought I'd put the photo here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

so there's this fox and he's sitting on a garage

So there's this fox and he's sitting on a garage. He sees this woman and he falls in love but, being a fox, he's not too up on human courtship rituals so he says to the woman "marry me and I'll give you anything you want". And that's where it goes down hill because all she wants is the chance to talk, one last time, with the brother who died while she was still angry with him. And that's where you kick off from.

Oh and yeah, he's either a fox or a man but never anthropomorphised.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fox tales

I've spent a number of years attempting to put the square peg that is me into an artistic round hole. It is only in recent times that I've begun to accept my nature. So today I'm home alone, I've got AOL's folk channel playing in the background ( a diverse selection from Johnny Cash and The Be Good Tanyas to Bob Dylan to Dave Carter and Kate Rusby) and I'm thinking about the nature of animals in folk tales, specifically foxes. In Eastern and African fok tales the nature of the beast is fluid, sometimes it is an animal, sometimes an animal with human characteristics, sometimes human, sometimes human with animal characteristics and flows from one nature to the next. So I'm writing, trying to apply that to a love story about a woman and a fox and bring in the European idea of the fox living on it's wits and sometimes outwitting itself.

Writing cartoon strips, I have a certain number of touchstones. Fox sees woman, fox falls in love. Not knowing how to woo a woman the fox simply offers her her hearts desire. He tries to outwit her by offering her what she wants in exchange for her heart. Does it work out for him? I'm not sure yet. It's my journey as much as his. Are my creative muscles ready for something like this?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

changing face

Very busy few weeks but expected to slow down after this weekend, interview coming up for promotion. Mixed feelings about the whole thing. I've applied for my bosses job which I've been doing since she left. Colleagues, well meaning as they are, are already referring to it as "my"job as if these things were guaranteed. They don't seem to realise that the fact I've been doing the job doesn't mean I'm the best person for the job. Other applicants may have better qualifications or more experience or simply perform better in interview situations. My main thought at the moment is that at least I won't have to keep on doing two jobs for an extra pittance and working myself into the ground. I'm not big on metaphors but I'm really trying to keep too many balls in the air at the moment.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


just playing around to see what I can do. This is a sketch I did of my daughter on Fathers Day last year when she and my wife took me to the Isle Of Wight for the day. A good time was had by all as they say.

what is an artist?

I've been thinking about this and I've come up with a cross media definition that I like. An artist is the outcome of the sum of their influences and experiences. That stands true for grafitti artists, painters, makers of video installations, cartoonists, game designers, mathematicians, musicians etc etc. For any artist an enormous number of influences work on their creativity, a painter may begin by appreciating and being influenced by the works of Titian and seek to emulate it, he may then be introduced to paintings by Mark Rothko and find the use of colour will completely change the way he approaches his work. That same artist may then hear Miles Davis for the first time and his approach will modify again. Eventually the sheer quantity of influences, large and small, will be passed through the lense of the artists experience in the world to create something unique to them. Influences may still be visible, or may simply lead them to produce something that resembles anothers work in some way that suggests a school of thought but in some respect the work will be unique.

Without life experience to shape everything the art may be hollow however.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Frustration central

Today has been one of those days. Everyone, with one or two exceptions, has been put in my work place to make my life more difficult. I'm currently doing two jobs for my employer and really not doing either as well as I should be. Fortunately their filling the extra post I've been doing very shortly at which point the pressure should drop off. I hope.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


I think, with me, it starts with titles. When I was much younger than I am today I wanted to be a cartoonist, a comic artist, but I really had no interest in drawing Superheroes or Science Fiction. This meant there was really no professional outlet for my ambitions and with no potential end result my natural laziness meant I stopped working at my drawing skills and began to let them atrophy.

Then I discovered Eddie Campbell and Dave Sim. Dave Sim proved it was possible to do your own thing if you were totally single minded and prepared to make sacrifices along the way. I thought he was a true artist because he was so single minded in pursuit of his vision. Fortunately I wasn't that crazy. Eddie Campbell on the otherhand........ Eddie held down menial jobs, had a life and relieved his creative needs by by transcribing a series of fictionalised autobiographical stories in his spare time. And more importantly he did it all in a scratchy pen and ink style that I could actually connect with on an artistic level.

Now.... titles. For several years, since first hearing Lester Young play the tune, the title "Round Midnight" had reverberated around my conciousness like a tumour growing in my head or a love growing in my heart. Eventually, over several years I turned it into 200 pages of intensely personal comics which I published in 50 page chunks and sold maybe 30 copies of each book. Ten years followed where I desperately wanted to draw another story but every attempt to create something crashed after a dozen pages. Then a title hit me, "Cowboy" and I worte and drew a short story about learning to draw. Now another title is setting up house in my head, "Gooseland". I don't know where it came from or what it means but I'm waiting to see.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Days of future past

Many women do not understand the obssesive nature of men. They do not understand that "Rainman" like quality that gives many men an inateunderstanding and appreciation of "the offside rule" or which bit part actor played the villain in one episode of the original "Dragnet". I am frequently reminded of this fact by comments from my wife. Last night for instance we sat down to watch an animated movie called "Perfect Blue". I had recently watched a number of the japanese animation movies from Studio Ghibli and she asked if this was another. Watching the credits role up I commented that I didn't know for sure but the film actually appeared to be Korean based on the names in the titles, which, of course, it was. Later that evening Sky were talking to Lasse Hallstrom about Abba music videos and I mentioned that he directed "My life as a dog", a movie we'd both enjoyed. Our relationship is filled with moments like that when I will suprise her with some snippet of media related trivia.

Few women her age and older, she's thirty, seem to develop that slavish devotion that lasts a liftime. A relatively small percentage carry on a devotion to Donny Osmond or David Cassidy or the like but they rarely store the mass of data a man dedicated to David Bowie or New Order would have at his fingertips.

I do notice more young girls and women developing this geek like nature though, women who can tell you the history and character growth of every cast member of "Buffy" by just pulling episode details from their heads, Anne Rice's vampire hoards, the growing number of women reading manga. I always thought women were better than us in that they could multitask and lacked this near deranged obsessive nature. Now I think that, soap operas aside, nothing had previously appeared that would engage them to that extreme.

Disclaimer. I am aware that there have been women out there for the last 30 years who have lived in the world of Star Trek and other internal worlds. My point remains that they were far out numbered by men who could explain the meaning of IDIC or the history of the federation.