Saturday, June 18, 2011


I've been away on  Fire training Course for a week, piloting some back to basics refreshment alongside some new recruits. These courses are very intense, both physically ( and mentally ) demanding but also you become rather institutionalised and so immersed with your peers/ team/ crew. The rest of the world drops away a little. Probably a good anti-dote for me when I can get so intensely immersed in whatever art project I am working on usually, by myself, locked in a world of art, ideas and emotions. The adjustment is sudden and difficult.

My art world is chaotic, I sleep, rest, exercise and eat at random times, head full of colours, symbols and feelings. The Drill yard world is ordered, everything organised, routine, regimented. You become a number, commands barked at you, no place for ego or emotion, no place for the 'I', its all about team work and tasks. Head full of numbers and technical terms.

I guess both require mental discipline, overcoming barriers, hurdles, getting past that 'wall' . No place for defensiveness, blame, excuses. This week was tremendously hard, I am bruised all over and every muscle aches, I've lost 3" from waist, I was not the best at everything, I struggled with some things. Its not easy going back to basics. Humility. But I feel great for it. I miss the team though. Always strange re-adjusting back to our normal lives without commands, leaders assessing and a strict programme, life without the team at your back, pleasing only myself and the Muse ( and editors, collaborators, patrons and clients of course ).

There is no 'I' in TEAM ( but there is ME )

So now its back to pick up the art projects, finished off the Robin Hood painting & fish around back into my art brain mode... prehaps I'll need someone to shout at me to get on with it? " ART DRILL COMMENCE! "

meanwhile while I was at boot camp the BBC ran a piece about the 'Spirit of Hope' charity book I drew two strips for. HERE. The books can be bought from the Comic Book Alliance Website.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Robin Hood painting progress

Working on the next Vysotsky song, translated by Tommy Beavitt. some details ( unfinished above ). 'Robin Hood' . Imagine the freedom of living in the woods. Imagine leaving all the rules, class, confines, conventions and labour slavery behind. Imagine a band of brothers ( and sisters? ) serf to no lord or master, living in harmony in the Forest. Imagine having to leave society, hiding, hunted, outcast outlawed.  I lived in the woods, on and off, late 80's early 90's, just a few weeks or days here and there between temporary or having no home. Camped myself with babies, making shelters from stolen tarpaulins and sticks, or with a tribe or fellow travellers, 'neo-pagans', outcasts and misfits. The forests are wonderful. The freedom was wonderful. The danger, fear and persecution was ever present. 

The value of ART

 Sometimes something has got to give. I create a lot more than I can sell. years I drag boxes of art and craft items around shops, galleries, craft fairs, producers day, sales. Up & down the steps, in and out of a succession of cars and vans, the crafts boxes remain, eternally cluttering up my life.

 The boxes weigh me down and get in the way, a house with every room full of boxes, craft items, tools, stock, equipment, junk I might need for a workshop, stuff that might be useful, stuff that could be make into something else.

 all that converting one unwanted piece of art, crafts, scrap, junk into another unwanted piece or art, crafts, scrap, junk takes time, effort, skill, space and more boxes to store it in. I have no wall space left, I have no need of more objects. Nor it seems do many others.

The Art market has dipped a lot for me this last year or so, but so did the pottery one before it. I will always keep changing what I do, no point flogging a dead horse. The UK it seems values x-factor and cheap slave labour imports over original handmade stuff. The less money I make from creating the less I feel I should be creating for money's sake.

Art is my main job, yes. So I need to generate an income from it. Burning these pages of art seems to have offended some folks, what a waste, I should have given it away to charity.

 I have more than once found my art or pottery unwanted in a charity shop for much less than it is worth. I give a lot of art away created especially for charity auctions and good causes.
 If I cleared out those boxes and portfolios for free and gave them to people what chance is there of selling any work? The local market is already flooded with twee landscapes and Highland cows. Why would anyone think my work is worth anything if they can just get it for free? I've tried selling it for 99p on ebay. Nope.

 If Art is only worth what someone will pay for it ? or is Art worth the time it takes to do ( each doodle has taken 45 years )? or is Art worth what I say it is worth ? or is it worth what I am prepared to part with it for, what value I place on it ?   Perhaps it is all just a load of rubbish and I should only keep the really good stuff? who wants to be held back by mediocrity?
I am not going to give it away. I give quite enough of me and my life, my skills, my time away for free as it is. I am worth more than the tenth of a normal salary that I live on as an artist/ youthworker/ firefighter. If you don't like to see artwork burn, then buy some.

Next clear out I shall be sacrificing to the elements earth, air, and water. I accept cheques, paypal and cash, commissions considered but there is currently a 3 month waiting list. Get em now while they're hot.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

2D comic festival Derry

This weekend was 2D- Northern Irelands Comic festival. We had heard great reports from comic creators about what a wonderful friendly event it is, so I was very happy to be asked to attend and run a Comics workshop at it.

2D is held at Londonderry / Derry in a beautiful part of Northern Ireland. Due to family and work constraints I could only attend the Saturday of the event which runs from Thursday to Saturday at the Verbal Arts centre in Derry. I’d left home in the usual last 10 minute rush hastily throwing things into a bag and leaving wet primed canvases on the easel. The usual overworked chaos was exacerbated by the fact that Richmond’s car ( the more affordable to run of our 2 ) had sprung a petrol leak, so we transferred to my dog hair filled gas guzzler to drop the dog off at my sons and complete the six hour plus journey to Troon. Ferry to Larne, overnight at Richmond’s parents, then a 5.45am start & Rich drove me to Belfast Central station for the train to Derry. Sadly I slept through what is apparently one of the worlds great railways journeys, the last mile or two which I did see were certainly scenic. Rousing my fuzzy head from sleep, I scribbled some workshop plans down in my jotter. I have a few set workshop plans, but every session is always different depending on the group of participants, so I try not to get stuck on set scripts. This workshop was to produce a one page comic strip in an hour. I would normally come laden with resources, books and comics, but with all the travelling my kit was no more than a few spare rulers and rubbers… and now some scribbled notes.

As the Taxi dropped me off at the venue, I was immediately met with a warm welcome and friendly crew, who despite being in the middle of setting up heroic Ciaran stopped to make me at feel at home with a cup of tea.
My 'How to draw comics workshop'

My workshop was first on that mornings schedule, no sooner had I gathered materials and set up than the children started to arrive, plus a few adults. When the room was full I made a start, and then more arrived, then more!  Squeezing everyone in with extra seating and grown-ups standing, It was a great session!  We warmed up with drawing cartoon self-portraits showing a range of emotions. We then looked at developing characters both with Chibi’s drawn from 3 circles and how to get from a stick figure to a dynamic action figure, building up proportions, perspective and movement. I then dashed everyone through comic layouts, terminology, backgrounds, perspective, storytelling technique, planning and they were away, everyone managing to finish their planned one page story.
part of the tank girl gallery ( this one is mine - sorry Rufus! )

Tank Girl Artist Rufus and the Tankie on a horse collection

I managed a few hello’s to the now gathered stall holders & guests busy in the main room with throngs of local families and comic fans, Grabbed a cup of tea, then headed for my table. I wasn’t expecting a table so this was a treat!  I was on the mezzanine level where the majority of the children’s activities were centred. My tea remained un drunk. It was a blur of sketching for the rest of the day,  one of the themes was Robots, so we were all drawing the children as Robots. Robots? I haven’t a clue how to draw Robots? I am old, my robots are from 50’s sci-fi films, none of your fancy transformer things!  Some children also clued into the zombie theme, So used to being ultra PC around children this was funny “ Mum are you sure its okay to draw the maggots coming out of the eyes? Mm okay “ to the children’s delight. I also drew a ‘Goth’ looking young man, only “darker” and a princess.  Face painting ladies were busy next door, but I did do a couple of Mr Green faces, what better advertising for our book than have folks wandering about painted as the main character!
Eimear and James get the Mr Green Treatment

Then there was the after party at Sandinos bar,  a blur of monkey jokes with my favourite cartoonists, wild dancing and fantastically interesting conversations with the coolest friendliest comic dudes. I’d heard 2D was brilliant, and so it was. The team worked their cotton socks off to look after everyone and provide an important cultural arts & literary event for the area. It was an honour to be invited. This festival sets the comic event bar very high!  Of all the various art and work hats I wear, comic people are the most fun, enthusiastic and friendliest people I know, and 2D brought out the best of that. I’m definitely going back!
Gary Leach signing early 2000AD's

Stephen Downey signing Slaughtermans's creed & sketching like the wind, ably assisted by Aimee

an ART car

There has been a couple of issues with my new lovely fast & swish stopgap car;
1) MPG
2)being a saloon I can't fit big canvases in.
Anyway due to the complexities of a two car household with lots of work miles, no public transport and dodgy olde bangers, the shiny stopgap car needed to be passed on and so I went hunting another one. The route happened to take in three of the galleries which exhibit my work, logistics and car juggling required me travelling the route three times... don't try to understand, I'm getting to the point soon!

New car is WIN, big canvases fit in it!

I managed to collect 4 paintings from Tore Gallery which have been waiting for me for a while after being on display at Inverness airport over the winter. Its very strange to see works from only a few months ago, how different my current paintings are!
These are the ones I collected;

Spinning Lesson ( small watercolour)

Paddling on Skye ( estate car size )

BA Teams  Canvas 80cm x 60cm

Rainbow over training 80cm x 60cm

All of these are framed and available, mail me for Prices! I'm not sure if I'll be doing any more representational work in the foreseeable future, It goes down well locally but I have months of illustrative and comics work ahead of me.

On todays new Car safari I also popped into Beauly Gallery which has a lovely range of paintings sculptures and crafty objects, faerie boots for babies and all sorts of wonders. My favorites are works by Suzanne Gyseman, inspirational!

Another wonderful Gallery which has some of my work currently hanging is the Inchmore Gallery. It was excellent to catch up with the owner/boss lady Jane and put the world to rights over a cup of tea. there is always a fantastic and exciting range of new work on show there, its well worth making the detour around the Beauly firth to do this art trail.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

2D, fiasco, trees for life & zombies

I've finally finished the comic strip 'Naki's' I've been working on, its written by Matthew McLaughin and will be published in one of the FutureQuake Publications.

Meanwhile I will be running a workshop in 'Drawing a One Page Comic Strip' at 10.30am Saturday at the 2D Northern Ireland Comic Festival . I'm looking forward to having a catch up with lots of brilliant comic creators over there, the guest line up is awesome!

After the workshop I'll be sketching and signing Slaughterman's Creed with artist Stephen Downey. Come along & say Hi !

Slaughterman's Creed has also hit a glossy Fashion Magazine! Fiasco Magazine is out Now. We're on page 28 - 31 in lovely technicolour! The irony of my name in a fashion magazine will not be lost on those who know me !

And in Non-Comic news My Trees for Life charity art exhibition piece is now also up on line.

Heres some figure sketching to work up my next Vysotsky song painting. Figure work drives me mad, hours of googling through rubbish to find the simplest poses!  Onwards & upwards....