Thursday, 24 December 2009

Ho ho ho

(example from a handmade book I've been working on)

No blog posts lately...I have just finished watercolour portraits of two delightful little boys called Oliver and Fin, which has been commissioned as a Christmas present for their mummy. I spent so much time working on these paintings, and its been a great opportunity for me to get to grips with using watercolour as well as capturing character.

I'm also making a set of books which are post-Christmas presents for some of my friends (Thats how organised I am) I think they're going to take some time to make. But I've had some lovely things in the post lately and I want to repay the excitement! 

Artist books are probably my favourite form of illustration - I love Henrik Drescher's books especially...I am constantly amazed by his work. I have some examples of his stuff on my wall and I look at it every day with the same sense of wonder. Its just dazzling. 

When me and Line were in Paris we found a great artist bookshop called L'Art de Rien which was full of handmade books...I wish I had bought one! There is also Boekie Woekie in Amsterdam which I hope to return to in January. 

I love how personal handmade books are. Theres so much love in them. I especially like rough edges and collage and layering.

Anyway that is what I'm up to at the moment. I will be kept busy for now, but I will post when I can!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!


PS: A warning to any illustrators drawing snowflakes this Christmas (don't go upsetting those pedantic scientists)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Saturday, 28 November 2009

so... instead of printing the group photo of all the hardworking Back 2 Bikes volunteers standing beneath my banner, this week the Express and Star printed a picture of local MP David Kidney riding a bike.

(NOTE: David Kidney just happened to be visiting Back2Bikes)

It makes me so mad!!! Everyone there works so hard - my little brother has worked there for free for 3 years now! Its time they got some recognition.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Let's get up early now, dive clear into the day.

At the moment I am working on a cover for Rachael Dadd's forthcoming Moth in The Motor EP.

I've made a little sketchbook for my the moment they are all very Tinguely-inspired, and I've been experimenting with masking fluid too...but I intend to develop it more into my own thing!

I'm also making a large poster for Back 2 Bikes, a local charity selling second hand bikes. My little brother is a volunteer there, and my own little bike was born there, and Dan's bike travelled all the way from there to Amsterdam. And now they are giving me a large sheet of paper and some spray paint, so I am very excited, as you can imagine!

And today I have been asked to exhibit some of my work at The Just So Festival next August. The festival is set in 65 acres of woodland and will have lots of fun activities for children and their families, ranging from trapeze artists to storytelling around the campfire to children's theatre. It sounds lovely, so I am really excited about this and can't wait to get started on some new ideas!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

So it's grey, well so are my favourite cities

Yesterday I went to Tate Liverpool to see Joyous Machines: Michael Landy and Jean Tinguely. It was such an engaging exhibition, I don't think anyone could fail to be fascinated by Tinguely's work. Although most of his pieces were created from scrap objects, he manages to bring so much beauty to them:

Michael Landy with Jean Tinguely's Automatic Drawing Machine: Méta-matic No.17, 1959 (Painted iron wood, paper)

Michael Landy created his own responses to Tinguely's famous self-destructive sculpture "Homage to New York" (a rambling beast which destroyed itself in 1960 in MOMA's sculpture garden) by creating images which were made by drawing in masking fluid on black paper, before scratching into the masking fluid. It was a technique I had never really considered and which I definitely want to try. Some of his drawings were very beautiful. Some of his drawings I thought were a bit too busy, but I think that is probably the point when drawing a rambling machine like Homage to New York:

Aspects of the documentary he made about Homage were amusing; a list took us through the chronology of the sculpture - it played 3 ominous notes of a piano over and over, it turned on a radio before sawing the playing radio in half, it blew up balloons, it was connected together with 80 spinning bicycle wheels, it had a "child" (called The Suicide Buggy) which banged a drum of paint and ran away half way through, attempting to drown itself in the pond of the sculpture garden, and when Homage reached a certain point the whole thing exploded coins, gunpowder and bad smells (and the smell of a roasting joint of lamb thought to be inside the piano). So this was an artwork that catered to all the senses!

The suicide buggy, one of the few things to survive from the wreckage of Homage, due to its failed suicide attempt

I really e
njoyed this exhibition. It had less of the formality of a lot of exhibitions. Movement is so engaging because it really captures the imagination of the viewer. There is an aspect of "what happens next?" or "how is it connected together?" or just a fascination with how something so appealing was all put together using objects that are so familiar to us.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

"What next? "That is the virtue of being a painter. My great fear is that if I don't paint for a week, it will be even more difficult. If I don't paint for a month, I may give it up for ever, so the constant challenge is that you must keep working. You must paint. You must draw. It's like speaking. I met a chap who was recently out of prison; he found it difficult to talk at all. So you've got to carry on doing this job. Picasso was right about it "Je ne cherche pas, je trouve" I do not seek I find. You are finding out, you are on a journey. Rather like Dante's journey."

- Arthur Giardelli, who died last Mo
nday aged 98

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Robert Walser

"With all my ideas and follies I could one day found a corporate company for the propagation of beautiful but unreliable imaginings" - Robert Walser (Institute Benjamenta)

(The Quay Brother's film Institute Benjamenta, based Walser's book,
and one of the most beautiful films ever made, is due to be released on DVD next month)

Friday, 23 October 2009

I've been dipping my toe into watercolour painting...and I am starting to like it. (That's why the portrait project went downhill so fast I'm afraid. Because Dan bought me some beautiful distracting flowers and I just had to paint them.)

But now I have an exciting new project to work on - a record sleeve for a folk musician!

And I've just re-discovered this:
In the past, whenever I was struggling I would turn to that list of delights.
Or Alan Fletcher's fantastic book "The Art of Looking Sideways".

(Its good to grow and experiment. I remember a few years ago having a tutor tell me "you really need to stop taking risks". It really bothered me, because what's the point if you never take risks with your work?
But then, when I went home that day The Short Films of the Brother's Quay had arrived in the post, and I fell into their world and realised I should never stop taking risks. And that's how I got into pictorial calligraphy.)

The Calligrapher - rejected BBC2 ident by the Quay Brothers:

Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies - by the Quay Brothers: (I can still remember my amazement at the moment when the mapping pens pirouette calligraphy spirals in stop motion)

Anyway, enough blabbering. Back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


"Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds.
The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own."
- Louis J. Helle jr.

nna Karina in the Godard film "Une femme est une femme":

Monday, 12 October 2009

Saturday, 10 October 2009

snippets from my Amsterdam sketchbook

I have just returned from visiting Dan in Amsterdam...and it was so hard to leave. I want to live there. It is so beautiful. Me and my little bicycle would be so happy there.

While I was there we visited the Van Gogh Museum, and were particularly surprised by his Japanese influenced paintings (which we hadn't really seen before), but not so impressed with the layout of the gallery which meant you had to skip anything near the corners because they got so crowded. I suppose that is always an issue with galleries housing very famous works though. Van Gogh's letters can now be viewed online here.

We also popped into FOAM (the Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam) which had a really interesting exhibition of Leonie Purchas's work "In the Shadow of Things" exploring very honestly and intimately her mother Bron's OCD and its effect on her family. There was a huge range of work involved, from christmas family photographs from Leonie's childhood, as well as handwritten lists from family members and a film of around 12 minutes made up of stills of their home life. Slides were projected in a dark room, along with headsets to listen to family members talking about their experiences. It was really fascinating.
There was also a
n exhibition of Charlotte Dumas' photographs of animals, particularly dogs (entitled "Paradis") which had eyes so human and expressive.

I had a wander to a little artist bookshop called Boekie Woekie which was full of a large variety of handmade books. However, there weren't that many illustrated books, which is what I was hoping for (I suspect there were lots I overlooked, there are bookcases crammed full of little books) They were mostly text-based and in Dutch. There was one set of books which really stood out for me - 3 little concertina books, of around A6 size, with wooden covers and screenprinted illustrations inside. They were utterly lovely.

I also we
nt to Huis Marseille which was showing a retrospective of Fazal Sheik's photographs, particularly focused on his portraits of refugees. I particularly liked this photograph which followed on from a whole wall of portraits of women dressed in pattered materials and headscarves - the various patterned markings on the doves seemed to mimic their clothes.

And an astronaut could've seen the hunger in my eyes from space

(From "The Missing Book", a book I made for Dan.)

sample spread:

NB: True story.
I dreamt about the biscuit during "The Postmodern Life of my Aunt".
It probably matched my dream about diagrams of acute and obtuse angles for sheer excitement and imagination.

Friday, 18 September 2009

(I think I'm going to have to divide my portfolio into two styles, my painting style and my drawing style, as they are just so different, and I don't want to give up on either of them.)

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Ida Tweedle

The engine owl

We cut to an excavation scene, in the icy tundras of MOUNT MOD MOON MONO TUTU...

...where a rather large bum is sticking up in the air...
...the bottom of a certain Sir Hugo Clarence Washington-Smythe.


Sir, look, I think... I cannot say for sure, but I do believe I have unearthed the mythical Engine Owl of Ancient Zion!


Oh, that! I discovered that, back in uh... back in uh... the day...

Sir Hugo: give it here, right this minute, or I'll have you tried for high treason and perverting the course of justice!
Sir Hugo: I'll have your wages cut, and other things cut that you wouldn't care to be... cut.

ZOLUMBOO (Narrator)

Now I'm no detective... oh wait! I am!... but I think that guy's a phoney! Wait, something important's happening, let's get back to the story!


With all due respect, Sir, you can't claim every victory!

Ida Tweedle: I found that owl fair and square, and you've spent the whole day sitting on your oversized rump, hogging the hot water bottles and moaning about the cold! From now on I will be working for myself. Hmph!


Don't talk to me like that! I'll decide how this story ends!

He takes a large dark starry book from his coat and and unlocks it with a rusty key.

Ida turns slowly, and sees the open pages like mirrors.
We see her face reflected in the mirrors and then the empty space where she once stood.

Washington-Smythe holds the book up triumphantly.


Now I've trapped you, you'll never steal from me again.

Sir Hugo: You're nothing but a fictional character, doomed to spend the rest of your days in writing.


[HER WORDS APPEARING AS TEXT ON THE PAGE OF THE BOOK] You can take that smug look off your face.

Ida Tweedle: Your precious artefact is with me, Washington-Smythe. The engine-owl is fictional too now.