Friday, February 25, 2011

New Tattoo

I have a new Tattoo. It was a fairly spontaneous thing, as I was going to the tattooist anyway with my daughter for her First one. But it wasn't really spontaneous as I'd had this design in mind for a few years to fill one of the spaces between my other beasties.

( day 1- still messy, a week on- flaky but healing )
  Its from a Celtic sword hilt. I love my tatts. I sometimes joke that I get them so I don't forget my favorite designs, well yes & no, the symbolic creatures need to be earned. They are not fashion accessories, not showing off how tough & crazy I am, not attention seeking. In our Northern climate they rarely see the light of day!  They are however in a way a badge of identity, a tribal marking. I wear my inside on the outside. They are a rite of passage, they are a marking of time, stages of life. It really irks me to see 20 yr olds with full sleeves or backs done, at that age you haven't grown into your skin, you don't know who you are, hell at my middle age I don't know yet, I'm just gathering the threads. Its also easier as I get older as I'll be wearing this skin less time, its older, more scarred & battle worn, less precious. The tattooist told me he preferred working on older skin as its tighter... not too leathery I hope !

I was thinking its about time I get a crow/ raven/ heron/ swan woven in there somewhere but had forgotten the big wing on my leg.. perhaps if I got two wings I'd be able to fly away like I day-dream ?

I don't really have many decent photos of my tatts ( see cold climate ) so heres some of the last one as well.
In Russia I got some strange stares in Moscow- it was suggested I might have looked like a mafia member ?!. But further east in Tatarstan, I was worried about how people would take my tattoos in a different culture. But instead they were a means of communicating with the other artists, I was so chuffed when artists pointed at my arms & then their paintings saying  " Пазырык! " ( Pazyryk ) which is exactly where the inspiration for designs like the above come from. I was also concerned that artists from the Pazyryk region might take offense at me taking 'their' symbols, instead they were fascinated with the Celtic & Pictish designs I showed them. I was dubbed the 'Celtic Queen' & it did seem to communicate so much better than language & translated conversations could.

If you want more on Pazyryk culture, see previous blogs and Wiki!

Friday, February 18, 2011


A3 pen & ink on smooth paper. 'Dreamer'
Struggling here to introduce more characters. Make of it what you will- in fact what do you make of it ?

Saturday, February 12, 2011


A3 drawing, pen & ink on Bristol Board ( thick smooth paper ) . 
Whilst I have the large portrait, a small portrait commission and 6 comic pages on the easel- other projects are simmering impatiently around the corner as well as my own ideas, this is requiring me to dig in technically. I no more have a comfort zone technique than I do style or subject. For my own work I'm still hankering for the pottery I had to give up 6 years ago. scratching spontaneous intuitive drawings into the dried clay & watching glazes transform them. ( Although in reality I was more busy trying to keep the shelves full, mug oakleaf, mug rowan, button button button, mug squiggle ).

So wrestling with what I'm trying to achieve & why, bouncing it off people, teasing out which threads are mine, which are other peoples. Sometimes I feel like I'm flotsam on a homeopathic ocean soaking up & retaining the memory of EVERYTHING in a chaotic mess. The art establishment, art college, current attitudes in UK etc have built in so many layers of negative criticism - everything needs to be boxed, labeled, branded. I seem to forever be fighting an inner voice telling me that whatever I'm doing is never of any worth, where does it fit?  So I have to fight to improve, fight to filter these voices, fight to just do it for its own sake. Its all a leap of faith really - another battle! a 'play' battle.

Why am I writing this indulgent waffle? because I know many artists suffer the same- so lets deal with it together! I'd go completely bonkers in my garret & own head if it wasn't for the feedback & company of virtual friends. Thanks Goodness for the social network revolution!

So I started working on a blank canvas yesterday with no preconceived idea of imagery or colours; I liked the early brush doodles, but once I started trying to define areas & add colours it became cartoony and over worked, So I will probably reject this one,. but it lead to the drawing which I like ( but galleries don't like drawings says the negative voice ! );

 Oils may give me more fluidity- but I'm loath to get them out when I have a big acrylic canvas on the go, in my small space smeary emulsifying chaos could ensue.  Onwards!

Friday, February 11, 2011


'Inspire' the title of this does seem rather cheesy, but i looked it up in a thesaurus and hit 'inflame' which is way cheesier, & exactly what it is about- that moment of Creative Fire. Its a great thing & I wish I could tap it at will, but I'd probably explode with mania if I did.   anyway... art, I don't know, these paintings seem neither one thing or another to me, lacking in something.. will persevere. Next- who knows? the caged, Pandora's box themes are still bubbling under. meanwhile some commissions, comics & the portrait to work on.

Acrylic, 38cm and as always for sale!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

a rocky road

'Rocky Road' A4 inky doodle.~
my metaphors bore me.
My art also follows an apparent boom & bust, often this is because I can't show you work which is about to be published. I'm working on a comic strip that I've been apologising to the writer & editor about for well over a year, but I think its been worth the wait- I just felt my comic work was weak and nondescript, but somewhere between the gladiator doodles and squiggly pen work in airport departures, something different is germinating. I'll have to do some sample pages asap to show & get feedback on.
basically I don't like doing detailed pencils, it feels like drawing it twice and gets a muddy mess. So this time I've sketched the rough page layouts & figures in photoshop, blocking in tones. turn it all blue. print on A3 bristol board. inking all in, tones not lines. Scan in & knock out blue channel. will show you later.

This bodes well for my own project that I've sat on for years as I didn't think I was good enough to draw it. Theres that line between stagnating & being stifled by fear of just doing a thing, but in this instance I'd rather wait long enough to get it right.

Also, waiting on another script for another collaborative project.
contracts in hand for another graphic novel colouring job.
my own work stumbles between the realistic figure work and the allegorical. Battling to pull myself back to on a real path or just to let it go hither & thither?

Started portrait for BP national portrait award.
progress, basic 'flats' laid down. acrylic canvas 120cm x 80cm

Saturday, February 05, 2011

MR Green

Mr Green is a character from 'Slaughtermans Creed' the book coming out shortly with Markosia publications. The artwork for the book was done by Stephen Downey ( with Inks by Andy Brown ) & I was on tattoo & colouring duties.  We will be at the Bristol Comic Expo to launch it. You will find us ( plus writer Cy & letterer/designer Nic ) signing & sketching at the  Markosia table in the Ramada, or at our own table 46 at the Mercure small press event.

I will be selling my wares of course, and sketches like the above. We will also be doing sketches live with Stephen drawing and me painting the colours in, AND you can get a Mr Green style facepaint job!

There is a limited edition convention copy of the book which will be signed by us all, it is available by pre-order so let me know if you are interested, i believe they are getting snapped up fast. pre-purchasers will also be entered into a prize draw for some original artwork. Don't say we haven't thought of everything !

Mr Green was great fun to work on, but if any of you think he looks kind of an attractive dude... read the book first & see if you still like him. Unless you are under 16 in which case please DO NOT read the book, your parents would chase us with pitchforks, or indeed a meat cleavers. 

Thursday, February 03, 2011

'The Cruel Laird' scan

Here is the proper scanned in version , It is on paper, 42cm x 60cm. Ink pencils & acrylic. Folks seem to like it better than I do, so I'll persevere with this direction & try to get more fluid & spontaneous lines.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Socialist Art

Socialism and Art, Socialist Art - Revolutionary Art, is too big a subject to discuss in any length here today. But I found myself thinking about it recently. In the west we are so wrapped up in the cult of the individual, elite artists are seen as market leaders, as being allowed to say and do whatever they like- elephant poo, pickled sheep etc. The rest of us supposedly tread a lonely path in our garret's seeking that perfection in expression and interpretation of the world around us.

Using Art for political expression, can that be real art? or are the artists being constrained and inhibited for propaganda purposes? There is a fear of politics in the UK, it is seen as career suicide to mention words like feminism and socialism.

When I painted this painting ( currently centre spread in Fire Fighter magazine ). I was certainly not under any pressure from anyone, it sprung from my own desire to paint a strong image of comradeship, to represent the Trade union movement in a positive light. I'll never forget how moved I was as a young art student, marching alongside the defeated Miners down Princes street in the 1980's, pipe bands playing, banners bright, tears on those proud mens faces. Its not propaganda to express these things.

I deliberately chose to study ceramics ( pottery to you or I ) at College, because the elitism in art rankled me even then. a pot is a pot, you don't need a degree to interpret it. beauty and function that everyone can access. Now I paint, I deliberately push towards the representational to be accessible, whilst chucking paint around & smearing it in pleasing patterns would be fufilling to me, it says nothing to the untrained eye. I do not wish to only communicate with an elite. Is this 'selling out' ? only if the individual is more important than the collective. I'm with the collective, nothing is more liberating than being in a group/society/community where all are equal ( yet different ).

Last week I was at Wortley Hall near Sheffield for some FBU womens meetings. The building itself was incredibly inspiring " why should Beautiful Stately homes only belong to the rich ?" . The building is run by a co-operative of Trade unions and Left organisations, as a conference center and hotel. Among the lovely historical painted ceilings, wonderful libraries and chandeliers were lots of Incredible Socialist Art Works.

The history of social minded Art seems to be a hidden one, like womens art. I'll need to do much more research on it. But Art should belong to the people, I don't just mean the state owning a Titian, I mean people creating and participating in the arts. Art for arts sake. Humans are creative creatures, why do we take this out of their hands at primary school and place it in those of elite, the art school cliques, the gallery owners and their Arts council friends? Get down any community centre and see what the youth club has got on the walls, lets all get creating, whatever and whenever we like. Creating from the worlds we inhabit, be it urban, rural, imaginary or political.