Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kawaii !

Juggling zombies, cowboys, organising things and doing traditional gallery art is usually achievable, they need different bits of my brain so I comparmentalise & flit from one to the other. To take the being 'spread too thin' metaphor a bit further, there is a level of superficiality, not enough meat on the bones ( or sandwich in the spread analogy, except a veggie meat substitute, in fact theres often nothing to go on the sandwiches around here at all...but thats a different story ). Sometimes winging it is no longer enough. In an ideal world an artist could go into the garret and play for an unspecified time, obsessing, immersing and going a bit bonkers in a particular direction until finally Ta Da! out of all those sketches, scribbles, angst and absinthe sessions appears a glorious canvas of divine eternal beauty. Meanwhile back to reality, when I ran a pottery, it was always a case of needing to feed the children so getting those 20 mugs done by Friday. That work ethos has continued now I'm playing at visual arts, deadline? friday, sure, bish bash bosh. Run out of inspiration? sure I'll just go hug a tree & have a rummage in my brain ...and there it is again.

Sometimes more is required though. Bish bash bosh is simply not appropriate for Mr Vysotsky & Mr Beavitt.

The first impromptu outing of Art and Songs together as Tommy sings 'Lyricale' and 'who'll come hunting the wolf' at The Greenhouse, Dingwall this Saturday. It was awesome!

 Interpreting these Russian songs needs me to dig rather deeper, down in the mental art mines, past the chip on the shoulder, the ancient defenses, that pile of rubbish left over from art college... there over there in the corner!

So what is Kitsch?  I would probably define it as badly made, mass produced, cheesy tat. Or corny sentimental over prettified amateur Art. Imagine my fury at the Art college principal when doing a walk past the lowly studios, saw my sculptural ceramic forms, which combined iconography, wombs, feminist themes, child birth, the highland landscape and figures, visceral pregnant birthing figures- he described this as 'delightfully kitsch'!  I dismissed this as art snobbery chauvinist buffoonery. But in my subsequent search for an accessible art form could I have slipped into kitsch? In my refusal to play with the darker nasty side of life, and to try and create things of beauty, light, happy thoughts, have I become too twee? Wiki describes Kitsch as being over sentimental. People love my cute characters and pretty scenes,I try & have a darker undertone, the monsters are always off camera. Life is a mixture of the good and bad, but lets just focus on the nice stuff is what I try to say. Does that make it appear over sentimental?  Someone close to me suffering a lot of illness and trauma used to draw twisted schrieking demonic doodles, but to me she was following the dark side rather than fighting it. So how to create positive images without slipping into sparkly kittens and childlike angels? I'm working on it.
The lady from 'Lyricale' goes too disney princess... version 2 in progress.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trees for Life 2011

This is a wee 9 x 6 " painting for the Trees for life charity art exhibition. Who can resist trees, they are so cuddly & unconditional, I've only ever met a couple of grumpy ones, most are just lovely. I think I'll call this 'To be Loved'. I wish it would stop raining I need to go out & play in the enchanted forests.
The Trees for life blog is showcasing artworks,
and any artists wanting to take part you have until 31st July, all details here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lyricale- Лирическая

'Lyricale' the next painting in collaboration with Tommy Beavitt and his translation of Vysotsky's song Lyricale - Лирическая

I am used to working in collaboration on comic books and graphic novels where a team with distinct tasks will work together to bring a story to life. I am also used to how artists will influence each other when working in proximity. In contemporary Art so much emphasis is placed on originality, the individual striving to stand out from all their peers, yet when you stand back & look at the work coming out of a particular city, or college or region - it is clear that stylistic clusters form, art movements. But yet we all still fight for and cling to our sense of individuality. Working collaboratively in a team does away with all that pressure, the pressure instead is to do the best I can for the team, the project. 

I think the notion of artistic individuality is a bit of an illusion. At school we are channeled into very narrow curriculum based ideals of what is and isn't art- Now I'm not talking about technical drawing skills here, technical skills and craftsmanship are important. At Art college we are lambasted and crushed ( I've yet to meet anyone who found it a positive creative experience ). then as professionals we are molded and shaped by the market, fashion, the agents and gallery owners- still clinging to our sense of artistic freedom and individuality?

Of course we all have ways of navigating through this, I have battled both to find a niche, break out of niches, work out what i'm doing, for whom and why. In that journey I have found myself  taking on many styles, techniques and subjects. One of the down sides being fragmentation, being spread too thin and getting criticised for not specialising. The up side includes working with a wide range of people, acquiring a wide skill set and not getting bogged down or in an artistic cul de sac. An other thing is discipline, if i was painting in my garret for my own gratification or surrounded by yes-men, nothing would ever get done. Deadlines and making commitments to others are great drivers.

Yes I always feel the work isn't good enough, but thats also a good tool. So It is a wonderful challenge, privilege and honour to work in collaboration on these songs. To have ones art edited by a respected other is a rare treat. Writers are more used to this but artists generally are either accepted or rejected. What a buzz!  Tho the 3am painting mania is a bit exhausting. There will be more.... and what a great excuse to wallow in Russian music, its a tough job but someone has got to do it.

Slaughtmans Creed interview & recording

 Here is an interview with me on Comic Bits Online, questions posed by Nic Wilkinson about my colouring work in Slaughtermans Creed.

Also up online is a pod cast by another CBO, this is Comic Book Outsiders. Scott Grandison chaired our panel discussion at Bristol Expo on the creation of Slaughtemans Creed. the recording is here.  Ah the awfulness of hearing ones own voice!

Also some video clips and further info about the book on Writer Cy Dethans blog here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who'll come a hunting the wolf?

This painting is the first in a collaboration project between myself and Singer songwriter Tommy Beavitt. As well as his own songs, Tommy translates international songs and poems and performs them in a variety of languages including Scots and Russian. Recently performing the songs of Robert Burns in Russia. He has been working on translating works by Russian Poet Vysotsky , one being Охота на волков - Hunting the Wolf. Which is what this painting is about. Watch this space to see what creative goodness this collaboration is cooking up!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bristol Comic Expo

I'd sorted out my twitpic account juggled my phone e-mail settings, loaded my netbook with the info I needed, checked flight modes, yes, this time at Bristol Comic Expo I would be all singing all dancing photo uploading tweeting social media interactive life as it happens reporting.. and then we arrived at the hotel/venue.

It was just all too good, too busy, too frantic plus it occurred to me that updates and tweets would just be a long list of namedropping, which is rather unpleasant really.
 I was there with a few different hats on;

  1.  Selling & promoting the 'Slaughtermans Creed' Book, published by Markosia. This included participating in an illustrated ( and recorded ) talk with the rest of the team and having a table to sign, sketch and sell the book from.
  2.  Promoting Hi-Ex 2012, which involves getting a bit embarrassed when amazing guest type people start singing its praises & saving me the bother.
  3.  Catching up with friends.
  4.  Meeting the large team of writers & artists who are involved with a rather exciting anthology called 'Bayou Arcana'. I will be illustrating a great story in this.
  5.  Promoting my own work, selling my wares & being bamboozled by offers of new work.
  6.  Talking about 'Women, Politics and Cartooning' on a discussion panel hosted by Jaspre Bark.

All of this is good & well but requires a dedicated and practiced technique of chat, listen, pounce, introduce self, dine, pounce on someone else, flit, float, schmooze, drink, garble, not sleep and forget who i'd promised to mail within seconds of speaking to them ( remind me! ).

GREAT bits included ( warning- may contain namedropping ) ;

  • Talking Dreamtime & Scythian stuff at dinner with Rick & Cindie Veitch.
  • Seeing the latest books by lovely Micheal Carroll.
  • Seeing lovely books & comics in general, mmm Cinebook.
  • Meeting political cartoonists and doing a panel with Blue Lou & Kate Evans.
  • Seeing 'Slaughterman's Creed' finally in print. Selling loads of it!
  • Getting really big headed from loads of feedback, sales and loveliness.
  • Drawing a Fairy for Jaspre Bark's delightful daughter.
  • Seeing the mock up of the 'Spirit of Hope' book coming out this summer with CBA. Wow!
  • Hotel breakfast buffets.
  • Meeting a load of really groovy new people ( you know who you all are! )

less great bits included;

  • The early morning Fire Alarm on Saturday morning- although it was very entertaining seeing everyone in various states of attire & hungoverness.
  • The £2.70 cup of tea and £9.30 gin ( although it was a double, hey I'd earned it! ).

It was a fantastic show, the two teams of organisers in both the main and 'small press' venues had done an outstanding job as usual, the Ramada staff were all very friendly & tolerant of the invasion of creative geeky types.

So now I have a billion e-mails to write, Hi-Ex to start pulling together, some much needed sleep to catch up with, a tonne more art work to do, a tonne new projects to start on, trying to remember who I promised what, unpacking... though I might not bother as we're galavanting away again in 3 days. I will definitely tweet that adventure instead of selfishly enjoying myself. maybe.

The Slaughterman's Creed team; Cy Dethan ( writer ), Nic Wilkinson ( letters, design & general organisational awesomeness ), Stephen Downey ( Pencils, some colours & inks ), Me ( some colours )

'Women, Politics and Cartooning' , me, Kate Evans, Blue Lou, and moderator Jaspre Bark
Me and Scott Grandison from Comic Book Outsiders, who bravely let us paint him up as Mr Green.
The Slaughterman's Creed team explain the ideas & techniques behind the book
Stephen explains how he aged the characters & used layouts and body language to drive the narrative tension.
Nic sheds light on how balloon placement adds another layer to the characters and action. Clever stuff that I imagine most readers and some letterers aren't aware of!

John Higgins ( Razorjack, Dredd, Watchmen ) at work.

Monday, May 09, 2011

art students exhibition Auchtertyre

Aberdeen Art Adventure

I had a couple of days away last week to hang an exhibition in Aberdeen. I can back so regenerated and inspired, ready to write mighty blogs of art waffle, but there is literally never any time to keep up with things at the moment, despite staying up until 3am etc. However I shall briefly attempt to back track.

I went with Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie to hang an exhibition of both our work in the Weatherford offices in Aberdeen, which is a three floor space curated by Gwen Black. It was a brilliant experience for many reasons, getting together with like minded Artist women, having time out and talking art, drinking silly cocktails & planning an art revolution, seeing galleries, hanging work & learning off the expert Gwen some tricks in hanging work, getting an insight into the alien world of the office building, and seeing tonnes of ART.

Gwen is also involved with the Aberdeen Art society which currently has an exhibition in Aberdeen Art Gallery. Now when I hear art society, I tend to imagine a backbiting clique of hobbyist painters painting twee little chocolate box landscapes, or for the bigger societies possibly a backbiting clique of professional artists splodging colour about in the preordained style of one of the colleges/schools. cynical and jaded? apologies. I've never been to Aberdeen Art Gallery, on the ground floor is some big name contemporary art, good stuff ( Alison Wyatt, Jenny Saville, Clive Barker ) and some emperors new clothes pretentious childish rubbish ( Damien Hirst ). We only had time to zap in one of the other main rooms upstairs with some victorian work which blows me away & brings a lump to the throat, so wonderful to see these pictures much loved from well thumbed books in their original form. Dante Rossetti, John Waterhouse. wonderful.

But back to the Aberdeen arts society exhibition, what a surprise! a good surprise! really fresh strong work, narrative work, decorative, figurative, portraits, textiles, illustrative, all the things I usually only see on the outside in 'urban art' , friends work or withing the comic/ illustration communities. So inspiring to see work that is cross 'genre' expressive, works on many layers, very much of its time & place, a real Scottish theme, but utterly contemporary. wonderful to see applied arts being shown seamlessly alongside visual arts without collapsing into 'craft' or trying to be something it is not. 

Definitely go and see it, there is plenty for non-artists there too, accessible and at the same time clever. fresh. We also popped in at the Fochabers 'Just Art' gallery on the way back which had a textile inspired show on, also a lot of very exciting work.

Its made me realise how much I let my work get squashed and shrunk by letting all the reductive labelling and definitions get to me. Working in isolation with only the internet for company its hard to take that leap of faith in ones own work  ( time constraints aside! ). It was very exciting for me to see what looks like a whole movement/ push towards work with content/ meaning, work that says something beyond the name of its creator.

Anyway I'll not waffle on as I'm desperate to clear the desk & get creating again!
The Weatherford Offices are not a public building but if you want a viewing contact me & i'll arrange it. 

Thursday, May 05, 2011


This is an ART blog, but my art doesn't pay, so how do I pay the bills? Firefighting ( which in the retained service only pays 10% a normal salary ), this is my bread & rather sooty butter. Most artists been something to supplement the income. Ideally Art and 'Bread & Butter' would be distinct & seperate, but I find mine all collides in a mix of multi coloured hats. The last two months that balance as all been on the side of activity, action, travel, doing, working out there in the world of people and politics. I'm badly craving time to reflect, create, consolidate. The recent dry spell has stopped that, with wildfires every minute I've not been away. No time to blog many adventures. Hope to catch up shortly!
heres one of my photos used on BBC.

Heres some paintings I've done in previous years