Friday, January 27, 2012

Bayou Arcana

This is a book I am currently working on. This gorgeous cover is by the very talented Jennie Gyllblad.
The book is now available for pre-order HERE

It has already caused a bit of a stir in the press and on the web, as it is a ground breaking anthology project, male writers and female artists. This won't seem so unusual unless you work in comics and can't have missed the massive debate around the way women are being excluded in the industry. The fight back is well under way with some brilliant projects and a lot of fabulous women starting to gain the recognition they should have long ago. Here is an article. and again here in the guardian.

No pressure on me then to hurry up and get my story drawn up on time...and well !

Here is work in progress from page 1

Welcome to the world i will in glued to for the next 2 weeks.

and a close up. 11 pages to go.....
who wants a 'real' job!?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

'Riding the storm'

another finished little box canvas today. 12.5 x 18cm mixed media. 'Riding the storm', available £40

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What force or guile could not subdue

these are the latest finished pictures, wee totty box canvases 10 x 10cm. mixed media.( available £25 )
Not sure what they are called yet, its sort of on that dug in winter theme, waiting, biding time, being patient, withstanding storms kind of thing. Some bigger pieces on the go but way too much stress and other stuff to deal with just now. I'm also experimenting with different priming surfaces, textures and methods, again trying to get canvas to behave like paper, with materials out of skips etc There's no budget here for potatoes never mind your fancy gessos and that.

Here is a poem to celebrate our bard which is rather relevant in a national sense and a personal sense given the parcel o rogues I hae tae deal wi'

Fareweel to all our  Scottish fame
Fareweel our ancient glory
Fareweel even to our  Scottish Cname
Saefamed in martial story
Now Sark rins to the Solway sands
And Tweed rins to the Ocean.
To mark where Englands province stands
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation

What  force or guile could  not  subdue
Through many warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward  few
For hireling traitors wages
The English steel we could disdain
Secure in valours station.
But English gold has been our bane
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation.

  • I would, ere I had seen the day
  • When treason thus could sell us
    My auld grey head had lain in clay
    Wi’ Bruce and loyal Wallace
    But pith and power ‘till my last hour
    I’ll make this declaration.
    We were bought and sold for English gold
    Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation.
  • Monday, January 23, 2012

    Chinese New year Banquet

    I was very lucky and honoured to be invited along to the Chinese new years celebrations by Arts Play Highland. A brilliant Arts charity that i have done workshops with before and will be working with on an exiting project this year. Life has been pretty stressful of late, which seemed a great reason to make the 130 mile round trip to Inverness to inject a bit of colour & culture into my system.
    First there was a procession through town, i followed the drumming to find it.
    Then we moved to Jimmy Chungs restaurant where the Scottish Highlands and Islands and Moray Chinese Association had organised a Banquet. As Nine courses were served by attentive and friendly staff, we were entertained by another wonderful Lion Dance, Chinese and Scottish singing ( an brilliant fusion! ), and a raffle draw with a stunning number of prizes, many which were won by the enthusiastic table next to us who must have spent many hundreds of pounds on tickets. Due to austerity being what it was i could only afford 1 ticket, and I also won a prize! Hurrah! thanks to Dragon Luck. The joke is that it is a hair and beauty treatment voucher, which anyone who knows how down to earth, product free, no narcissistic nonsense I am will find funny. I think i was last at a hairdressers in 1986, only because my mum insisted!

    I loved the Lions, they completely came to life! I'd always thought they were dragons, gorgeous beasties!  The deal appeared to be that it was baited by a lettuce on a stick, it then ate it and ejected shredded lettuce on the audience, which is lucky, bestowing good fortune for the year ahead i think. The Lion then danced around all the tables to the relentless drumming, money is put into pretty gold and red envelopes and fed to the Lion. The night seemed to involved a lot of lovely tokenistic exchanges, which were so much nicer and meaningful than our ridiculous consumer gifts at christmas.

    Jelica from Arts play feeds the Lion.
    The beautiful singer with an amazing voice that could hold a high note for ages !

    And then there was the food! It wasn't your usual Jimmy Chungs fayre, or the western version of Chinese takeaways we are used to, more the real deal. I looked at the menu & was a little worried about some of it, but just thought i'd take my vegetarian hat off and just go with it out of respect for the hosts.
    Meat platter, not sure what it all was but that was good. Prawn crispy fried ball things- wonderful. Fish soup, noodles, seafood risotto, seafood and vegetables, delicious; sea bass a delight to the eye and taste buds. Lobster, a first for me, tasty but best if i didn't look, it was all a bit alien like. Crispy fried duck?- a bit difficult...he kept staring at me all crispy fried like. The mushroom and ducks feet?...erm, i ate it, but was rather traumatised by with little feet bones and texture. I did it, but don't think i need to do that again- EVER and finally red bean pudding, which was a sort of sweet soup, very refreshing. All of this was spread over hours, eaten out of lovely wee bowls. No stodge or too full up feeling.

    look! i'll swear he's watching me!
    The evening was a wonderful event, much kudos to the chef, staff and organisers. A wonderful atmosphere busy and happy, the cutest kids singing and running about and dancing. We all have so much to learn from each others cultures, its in the spaces inbetween where wonderful things happen. Scotland has such a rich heritage of interaction all across the world. It is wonderful to meet different people from different places.I can't wait for the Hare, Moon and Birdsong project.

    Poor Duck, look at his little beak! Sorry Duck!

    kung hei fat choi!

    Friday, January 20, 2012


    Following lots of feedback and a discussion about this mornings angry doodle, and a request from a friend to use it as a Tattoo, i've tidied it up and changed the overall shape to fit a back better. I think a tattoo artist will cry when they see this !  the great thing about spirals and squiggles however is that they can me moved to fit the body shape. I've always found tattoo designing frustrating for myself as a flat bit of paper does not fit the bodies contours. It takes a while to find a tattooist you can trust with twiddly designs and having the same eye to know where to fit those lines. I'm chuffed to have found one in Calum McWilliam, Inverness 'Tattoos while you wait'.  Its a shame i don't have any sort of disposable income Or i'd be covered in loads more ink. I love my tatts. I find the responsibility of designing them for other people a bit daunting though!

    speaking out.

    I wear many hats, some overlap, many carry responsibilities. Being an artist is all about communication, being an activist is all about uncovering the truth and the greater good. Being censored is one of the worse things you can do to an artist. We know that people who speak out will get into trouble and get punished, We know that women who speak out in particular get silenced, bullied, repressed. Of course it is hard to prove when repression is gender based, we women live with it our whole lives, ' it must be me', 'what did i do wrong?'. It is hard to combat when it is subtle and insidious. I feel UK culture is very much a censoring one, what will the neighbours say? don't create a fuss, button it, stiff upper lip. In the workplace there seems to be a particular climate of fear these days, in society a general fear, a need to conform and not stand out, to blend into the crowd, don't speak, don't act, don't draw attention to yourself, cross the road, don't involved, look away...

    The leveson Inquiry, is raising lots of questions about what is in the public interest, censorship and privacy. The SOPA and PIPA issues this week and online blackouts have been subjects of great debate, protecting creative rights and information verses protecting freedom of information, freedom to create. Ironic then that i find myself again getting into trouble for speaking out.

    I write and talk about politics a lot. All things are political. This has cost me facebook peer/colleagues and created enmity with a couple of folks in the small world of comics publishing. My personal honesty has also cost me a friends/collaborator or two in other spheres.  Whats weird is it was not the political opinion or content, left / right etc, but the mere fact that i talk about issues...rather than shoes, food or whats on telly. 'Shhhh don't make a fool of yourself dear', 'oh no, is it me? what did i do wrong?'. But it's okay as i'm sure i gain more friends/ creative connections through being myself, than those that i loose.

    I am privy to a lot of information that is not for public consumption, is confidential;
    local gossip. family backgrounds and medical background of young people i have worked with.
    what the inside of peoples houses are like and who is in who's house on occasion, via my fire service work.
    Individuals work/ family/ health issues via trade union work.
    Company policies and proposals that are in the offing, through Trade union work.
    Health and Safety issues, near missed and dangerous occurrences, through union work.
    Delicate negotiations and things under discussion, via trade union. confidential reports, internal documents.
    Things that have happened in community, who earns what, who ripped who off, who's on which benefit. Vulnerable people within the community. What happens at emergency incidents. Health and Safety reports.
    Some political wheeling and dealing. Things going on the in background in charities and organisations.
    Things children have revealed to me about famillies, just when i'm out and about with no hat on.
    The list goes on and on.
    We all have things we sit on; because it is the responsible thing to do, the legal thing to do, the employment policy, the agreement, the unspoken agreement, professional conduct, for the greater good, benefits no-one, would cause trouble, would be cruel or undignified to share, the list goes on.
    I have a self censoring mental cut off switch, when i am told something this is not for sharing, i mentally file it away and almost forget i have heard or seen it, until later when it becomes public domain or a newspaper headline. If i had £1 for every time i say, 'I'm not prepared to say', 'I'm not mentioning names' etc... I'd be doing ok. But of course no-one hears this.
    I believe employers in certain organisations like the banks are made to sign agreements that prevent them for speaking against their employer or saying anything negative, or discussing in any way their workplace. This to me is a violation of workers rights. It's not like a bullying boss or an incompetent manager is a matter of national security. We also see the term 'whistle blower' being used in a threatening and derogatory matter, what is so wrong by exposing fraud, incompetency, anomalies, rule breaking, lies, bad practice, safety violations? What are the bosses so afraid of?  I have not had to sign any such documents in any of my work places. Confidentiality agreements with my youth and vulnerable people work, yes, that makes sense. I've never signed anything which stops me talking about the way any of my workplaces is organised. Yet i am constantly called out on it. Sometimes for specific reasons it would cause more trouble to go the employment grievance route and we have to find subtler, quiet and dignified strategies to deal with people who step over the bullying or unacceptable behavior line. Or we have to just put up with it, when we shouldn't have to.

    The climate of repression and fear builds up gradually. I am doing a course just now, the exercises, essays and reports require me to write up about a couple of my organisations, structure, planning, policies, problems, issues, my roles, how to resolve problem areas. Trying to do this i started to realise how much I've become afraid of stating the facts, i'm writing them up looking over my shoulder, watching my back. I'm being repeatedly told i should not write or speak, i should not discuss or consult. It is becoming a major issue, where to draw the line? My rights to speak out? I'm not a journalist but i see the work of an artist in a similar light, i have a right to an opinion, and to express it, i paint what i see, why should i cover up for people who do not have my or the public interest in mind? When does the artist end and the obedient unquestioning worker drone begin? Why should i cover up things that don't need covering up? What happens when something goes wrong and there is a big inquiry? why did no-one speak up at the time? why didn't you tell us how dangerous things were getting? We're all trying to cover ourselves. I feel i am reaching a cusp, at what point is it for the greater good and ethically best to put up & shut up, to toe the line, and when is it the right time to walk away for freedom and free speeches sake? Do the public not have the right to know when their safety is an issue? Next public meeting make sure I only mention kittens, shopping and soap operas okay? Everything is nice, everything is lovely, move along, nothing to talk about here, don't rock the boat now. shhhhhhhhhhh.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    public meeting about Bypass

    Further to my last blog about the Blocked road bypass situation, Monday 16th January saw a public meeting in Lochcarron to discuss the matter.
    There is traditionally a low turn out for events here over the last few years, theatre and concerts will only attract a handfull of people. Well this time there was standing room only, The council website says 250, i estimated 300+. I haven't seen anything like it in years! This was a measure of strength of feeling in the area.
    This was when people where still filing in towards the back, many many more arrived.
    Better photographs are on our local photographer, Alex Ingrams website here search for 17/10/2012 if that link doesn't take you to the right day.
     Councillor Biz Campbell speaking here.

    The meeting was attended by a list of councillors, folks from the relevant departments, Trans Scotland on behalf of the railways, northern constabulary and two of our SNP MSP's Rob Gibson and Dave Thompson.

    The meeting was Chaired by John Laing from the Council. First there was a presentation about the current situation, the background, short, medium and long term plans. Then questions. I jotted down some illegible notes, so may not have everything covered.

    The ferries had started to run on that Monday, a passenger one for the school pupils and the Turntable from glenelg for up to 6 cars or 10 tonnes. The First ferry had had trouble starting with the hard frost, but new batteries were on order. The ferry operators were prepared to be flexible on running times, and as day light progresses extend them. Currently they are running a 6 day week from 7am until 6pm. details on Highland council website.
    There will be an extra train service added to help commuters by running at a more convienient time, and to allow pupils to travel by train to school in case of bad weather affecting the ferry. Parents of pupils affected were invited to stay at the end of the meeting for a more private discussion with the school, transport representative and councillors as to how this was affecting the children, problems and potential solutions.

    In the medium term steps are being taken to create a diversion for vehicular traffic via the railway, this will take a couple of weeks to put into place. This was used in 1990 ( or thereabouts ) to divert traffic on a traffic light system away from the rock faces while stabilisation work went ahead. While this diversion, and ferries and extra trains, are in place rock face stabilisation will be undertaken. Long term real solutions are currently being costed and investigated.

    The planned time table for action is;
    contractors have been invited to tender by 25th January
    contractors to be on site 6th Feb
    Road opened temporarily ( via railway ) 17th feb
    stabilisation complete by 20th April 

    long term possible solutions include;
    1. Diverting the road 14K over the hill
    2. a bridge/causeway? ( possibly funded by renewable tidal power scheme ) at Strome narrows.
    3. Extending the current concrete 'avalanche' shelter.
    work could cost between £35 and £70 million.

    Questions then went to the floor. I started the ball rolling, despite HATING public speaking, someones got to !  I asked what provision had been made for emergency fire cover?  Chief inspector David Bushel explained that The fire service had been involved in talks and had assured that sufficient provision was in place via Dingwall fire station as back up. 

    There were then many questions, from some angry and frustrated people. Some very sensible suggestions, points and enquiries, some less sensible. Mostly local people who have been here before, who have seen this debate come to naught repeatedly. They asked the questions myself and other locals have also been putting into letters to the officials prior to the meeting, why wasn't there a contingency plan ready to go from the outset? why was no long term solution found 22 / 15 years ago? What is it going to take to get an alternative in place? I think the council perhaps didn't realise how wide and devastating the impact of this has been on our communities south and north of the loch. How vulnerable work and housing and family life is here. I'd like to see an serious impact assessment study being done & will suggest it, but its all time & money. Although money doesn't seem to be the main issue here, there seems to be the political will to find a solution, and safety appears to be the main and number one priority.

    Apparently when this kicked off 15 years ago and there was a referendum on preferred solutions, 160 voted for a bridge, 140 a hill road and 30 a shelter.

    • Why can't we get a bigger more modern ferry? > the slipways are not standard design or angle, so  modern cal-mac boats could not land at them.
    • many questions about specifics of timetabling , length of time for children to be travelling to school etc> the council will take on suggestions and try to improve. possible shuttle train between strath and kyle separate from main time tables?
    • methods of getting information out, clear timetabling, clear road signage and information ? council again will try and improve things.
    • why not use 10% oil revenue like Norway does for roads ? > John Laing pointedly replied ' we COULD use oil revenue yes...'  ...that's one for the Scottish independence referendum i think.
    The MSP's and Biz Campbell all spoke about their desire to see a real long term solution in place. They have already been in talks with the Scottish Parliamentary cabinet on the issue. Rob Gibson also pointed out that long term thinking needs to take in climate change and more extreme weather events ( like the recent high rainfall which may well have contributed to the rockfall ) . Biz is all in favor of using turbine technology and renewable energy schemes to fund a bridge project, some members of the public seemed to feel this was a bit far fetched, but others are in favor ( as am I ...joined up thinking ! )

    Some acknowledgement was made of the sterling work done my the local council employees, who ensured that the railway was shuttered off from further rockfall within an hour, who have worked tirelessly around the clock at risk to their own safety. I also know that they have been receiving a lot of pressure and harassment from some people who seem to think a mountain fault line is the council workers fault. This is not acceptable.
    • questions raised about what happens in spring when the traffic increases and the ferries need to return to their own businesses?
    • Why was Network rail not in attendance at the meeting?
    • what weight limit would be on the railway diversion?> 44 tonne gross
    • why couldn't the army get involved? it is not a manpower issue but a safety one, contractors will be used.
    • Could the northern marshaling area be moved from the golf course, 9 minutes away from the slipway? > possibly.
    • is there a date for a permenant solution?  the information is currently being gathered into the options.
    next steps? the council will hold another public meeting in a months time. watch this space!

    apologies for the delayed, long and disjointed blog post. Here are some pictures of me coming back from the dentists yesterday via the ferry, thanks very much to Morag & Ruiridh for the lift!

    I wonder what the ferry collie-dog is called? he seems to be having the time of his life! The Ferry operators also deserve a round of applause for managing those difficult currents and working so hard to get folks back and forth.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Strome Ferry - No Ferry

    Today was a clear day, so we went for a walk and to do some beachcombing. We found ourselves rummaging around one of the old Strome Ferries which was beached on the North of the Loch in 1970's. This is a wee bit of a co-oincidence when tomorrow the Strome Ferries will temporarily be starting up again.

    The communities South and North of the Loch Carron are connected by the A890, a stretch of this road running on the south side of the Loch along side the railway line ( Inverness to Kyle ) is known locally as the 'Bypass'. It was opened in 1970. Previously two ferries provided the transport links, but the volume of traffic, the queuing and lack of night time crossing required a road to be built. However  from the outset the current route of the road was advised against by surveyors geologists and engineers. Across the loch is a massive geological fault line. The mountains on the North of the loch are made of older rock and the South is part of the 'Moine Thrust' which is younger rock forcing its way up and over the older rocks, by millimeters? every year. While this makes spectacular local geology, it does not make for a stable road underneath crumbling cliffs. Every year there are landslides, rock falls and road closures. Millions of public money goes into maintaining this road every year. There have been many near misses. Our secondary school pupils travel that route, and every local parent has feared for their children's safety travelling that route. We all have anecdotes of getting stuck or of driving that way when rocks and waterfalls have been spilling out onto the road. From a Fire service point of view, i've already been to two train derailments when trees have slid onto the line west of the bypass, its always in the back of my head ...what if..? the loch is very deep there. It doesn't bare thinking about. We often say locally, 'it's going to take someone getting killed before anything is done' well lets hope not.

    On the 8th December The road was closed due to rockfalls. This is from the Highland Council website;

    "The road is inspected daily and also undergoes a major monthly inspection. On 8 December the road was closed overnight due to a rock fall which was cleared and the road re-opened. On 22 December there was a rock fall of about 100 tonnes around 09:30 and the road was closed – it has not reopened.

    Work continued to clear the rock on 22 and 23 December and a specialist contractor was brought in to dislodge any rock above the road deemed to be in imminent danger of collapse.  By midday it became apparent that there was at least 3 days more work needed to make the road safe.  The contractor stood down at dusk on the 23 December.

    De-scaling work recommenced on 28 December and was completed by dusk on the 30 December.
    It was intended to reopen the road the following morning, however there was another overnight fall of about 100 tonnes on the 30/31, so it was not safe to reopen the road.

    Also on the 28 December a consulting engineer was mobilised to assess the stability of the rock face.  He advised on the 31 December that more extensive survey was necessary to establish what needed to be done to make the area safe.

    A full survey is being undertaken this week. The debris from the fall on the 30/31 December has been removed but the face above remains dangerously unstable, and the road remains closed on grounds of safety."

    So local people trying to get to and from work have been stuck since the 22nd December. Thankfully the trains are still running, but the service is only 4 times a day each way, the times do not fit in with office or school times, and the tickets are expensive. People are having to take taxi's ( if available ) onwards to their workplaces. It also limits the ambulances as they can't reach broadford hospital, and emergency service fire provision is now very limited as a back up primary sized appliance would now have to come from Dingwall ( 50 - 60 minutes away ).

    Folks are frustrated and angry. The highland council was on holiday until the 9th January, so it felt like nothing was happening for ages. The first week back to school the pupils used the trains and the school day was extended to fit the train time table. A ferry service has now been organised, it will start tomorrow. Full details and timetables are on the Highland Council website. It is not ideal and will no doubt have teething problems. But I'm certainly excited to see a ferry up and running again, albeit temporary.
    There will be a public meeting tomorrow to discuss the options and service provision. I have no doubt it will be a stormy one.

     Every few years after a prolonged closure this issue comes up again. It always boils down to money of course, and local politics. This time I have been writing to our local Councillors and MSP Rob Gibson ( SNP ), and have been impressed with their replies. Councillor Biz Campbell shares local concerns that the road needs a long term replacement before someone gets hurt. Over the years options such as a tunnel, a hill road over the top, a concrete shelter, a bridge, a ferry have all been discussed. It is now clear that the status quo is not viable or cost effective. A lack of capital funding will as usual be an issue. Various factions have objections to one proposal or another, all of which slows down or stops a solution.

    I enjoy seeing the railway being used and the stations busy, the ferry will likewise be a sociable community based way of travelling. With the pressure of modern life however we need more joined up and affordable transport solutions. I'd ideally like to see a bridge integrating tidal power turbines, but will accept any solution that joins our communities safely. Any solution requires forward thinking and planning, our current economic and political systems do not tend to allow for that. Hopefully people will press forwards and create enough momentum to overcome political inertia and negative self interest from blocking certain options.
    ( prints available ! )

    Here is a painting I did of the 'Pride of Strome' one of the previous Ferries beached up in the 70's. It was built in 1962 by Forbes of Sandhaven. The smaller boat was called 'Strome Castle' and was built in 1958 by Nobles of Fraserburgh.This was it today.

     Of course Iain Banks fans will also know 'Strome Ferry - No ferry', from the book Complicity. The Hotel at Stromeferry ( no Ferry ) is accurately described in the book, and < spoilers > burns down as part of the plot- which of course the real hotel also did. When I met Iain Banks I asked him if he'd been to the same parties as I had been to at the hotel and used this as inspiration. He said he had no idea that there had been a hotel there, and simply liked the road sign 'Strome ferry- No ferry' anything else was ';coincidence' !

    meanwhile here is a leaflet i found, produced as part of the heritage centre project back in the 90's. It contains some more strome history and some really ropey illustrations by me;

    Sunday, January 08, 2012

    'all just breaking like waves'

    The last two and a half weeks of xmas and new year disruption feel like it has gone on forever, I'm desperate for the dawn to break, the fuzzy chaotic darkness and midwinter chaos cave dwelling to end, for a boost of energy, some space, to attack the lagging workload, pressing problems, clear the decks of holly ( or paperchains at least ), to grasp 2012 and make some changes. Typically the fates haves other ideas and has given me a rotten cold and toothache, holding me back like a dog straining at the leash after the scent of the hunt.

     Its only a cold, a couple of days slowed down, is no big deal, surely? Not when i have 6 pages of comic to colour in 4 days, followed by 22 pages to draw by end of the month, plus job hunting or perusing a new business idea, plus desperately trying to sell enough books to afford food this weeks, plus...well there are other major work pressures which i've been told i'm not allowed to talk about. Its only a cold, take a couple of days off & go with the flow, a couple of days off emergency call ? Let the others take up the slack ? There are many areas in my life were there is a lack of back up, resilience or cushioning.

    I once worked at an establishment with a poster on the staff room wall, reminding staff that none of us are indispensable or that important and we can all be replaced easily. Very motivational ( not ). Yet the American dream, cult of the individual repeatedly tells us that with hard work anyone can achieve amazing things, we should aspire to be heroic, ruthless, pursuing individual goals. The UK version cherry picks from this ethos, dog eat dog, but stay in line, stay in your class, don't rock the boat, you are not important, cogs in the machine, get back in the box. I was raised to compete, perhaps the competitiveness was in the genes? nature nurture? I have amended this programme, i compete against myself, against the hand i'm played, against adversity, against those who attempt to limit or oppress me, rather than against other individuals. So are we all dispensible, just windblown seeds, breaking like waves, generations nudging forward, or do the actions of one individual matter, do they ripple out like the butterfly affect?

    I have chosen to mostly believe that we can all matter, each one of us, it's a better incentive to get out of bed in the morning. But the harsh demons that drive me require a supreme effort to make as much difference as possible, to do everything humanly possible, that nothing is ever quite enough, which does leave me with no room at all to get a cold. This cold could have a massive butterfly affect for things for me and others at the moment, if i'm not fit and well in 6 days I may not make it to a training course or pass that training course, which could have massive implications in the area that i've been told i'm not to discuss. That's a hell of a lot of pressure on one person, its not the way things are supposed to be. Is it any wonder i've gotten ill? I've been going out jogging in storm & hail to try & be fit enough for this course, taking the burden of the whole thing on my shoulders.

    It's probably time i was dispensable. I don't know how things will play out this week, there is a time to fight, a time to run and a time to curl up & wait. I've never been sure if i know when to do which. passive verses active. You know those passive aggressive people? I wonder if i'm an active submissive! ( < quite proud of that one ! ) As in; running around busily taking on everyone else's nonsense.

    As an artist, are we important? pushing things forward or just another ripple in the tide? part of a whole...or both? wave, particle or massive cosmic event ? It doesn't really matter as an artist is compelled to create regardless of outcome, but these questions do impede the creative process. I'm quite sure one of my little pictures won't be the butterfly wings that start a tornado, but they may join in with all those other little actions which gently ripple out and touch who knows where. Quantum physics tell us that every electron in the universe has a different energy state ( that sort of thing makes me feel rather queasy and no i don't understand it ), so every electron than changes state means that every other one in the universe has to shift as no two can be the same. It makes the butterfly wing concept seem rather mundane! But Its a great notion to be thinking on! me typing here shifting things out at the edge of the event horizon? or behind some nebula? Could my cold affect a whole workplace and my whole work-life for months years to come? or will i get better & back to cutting it fine, business as usual? does it really matter? Will i be doing the same things next month or something completely different? 2012 has certainly started as an unpredictable one!

    Friday, January 06, 2012

    G’ie Me a Spark o’ Nature’s Fire

    Back in March 2010 this illustration was used by BBC online to illustrate a series of articles on renewable energy.
     When i was invited to submit ideas for an Exhibition going to Brussels, one of the themes being environment / climate change, it seemed natural to take the story behind this image and develop it further. I produced artwork concept for a comic cover and a one page silent comic strip.

    These have been reproduced A1 size high quality prints by Dundee Contemporary arts centre and are currently being exhibited in Brussels at Scotland House, the Scottish Government’s EU office in Brussels.

    The press release details by Dr Chris Murray from Dundee University are here;
    G’ie Me a Spark o’ Nature’s Fire
    Scottish Comics, the Environment and Creativity

    On November 30th an exhibition of 24 graphic prints curated by the University of Dundee’s Dr Chris Murray and produced by Dundee Contemporary Arts opened at Scotland House, the Scottish Government’s EU office in Brussels.

    Launched by Scottish Sports Minister Shona Robison as part of Scotland House’s St Andrew’s Day celebrations the exhibition, entitled G’ie me a spark o’ nature’s fire, draws on Dundee’s historic association with comics and features newly commissioned prints by well-established and emerging graphic artists from across Scotland.

    Comics have long been one of Scotland’s most important cultural and artistic exports. The Glasgow Looking Glass newspaper featured what several scholars believe to be the world’s first modern comic in 1825, and the comics produced by DC Thomson in Dundee for nearly a century have been hugely successful. From the “Big Five”, Adventure, The Rover, The Hotspur, Skipper, and Wizard, which appeared in the 1920s and lasted to the 1960s, to the ongoing popularity of characters such as Oor Wullie and The Broons, (now over 70 years old), DC Thomson has dominated Scottish (and to a certain extent, British) comics production. Their most successful titles, The Dandy and The Beano (launched in 1937 and 1938 respectively) lay claim to being the world’s longest running comics in continual publication (The Dandy beats Superman by one year!).

    With this impressive history, it should come as no surprise that Scotland has produced an array of comics luminaries and leading talent. These include comics legends such as Ian Kennedy, Alan Grant, John Wagner (born in Pennsylvania but raised in Scotland), Cam Kennedy, Colin MacNeil, Grant Morrison, Eddie Campbell, Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. There’s also Metaphrog, the Scottish/French partnership of John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs, and a vibrant underground scene, with small press and independent publishing, both in print and on the web. This includes Rob Miller, David Tolmie, Ciaran Slavin, Gill Hatcher, Adam Smith, Douglas Noble, Jim Stewart, and a host of others.

    This exhibition showcases talent from across Scotland, from well-established figures in the industry to emerging talent. The themes set by the Scottish Government were energy and climate change, the marine environment, research and creativity, and freedom, justice and security, reflecting Scotland’s EU priorities. The responses were varied, but the challenges presented by climate change was a strong theme in the final works, as were the issues raised by the intersection of history, myth and place.

    The title of the exhibition, “G’ie me a spark o’ nature’s fire” comes from Robert Burns’ “Epistle to J. Lapraik” (1785). The lines continue, “that’s a’ the learning I desire; then tho’ I drudge thro’ dub an’ mire, at pleugh or cart, my muse, tho’ hamely in attire, may touch the heart”. Here Burn’s answers his detractors, saying that while he has inspiration from nature and love their criticisms cannot touch him. The comics medium is sometimes looked down upon, but the same defence rings true. The creativity that flows from the industry and from the artists and writers who work in the medium speaks for itself, and can, as shown by this exhibition, address important issues such as the environment and identity.
    All of the prints featured in G’ie me a spark o’ nature’s fire were produced at DCA Print Studio, where the artists had access to a range of world-class facilities.

    Dr Chris Murray, exhibition curator, said: "Scotland has a long tradition of producing great comics writers and artists. In the course of curating this exhibition I have found that there is an incredible amount of energy and creativity in Scottish comics, from legendary figures such as Cam Kennedy, to emerging talent.”

    Clive Gillman, Director of DCA, said:

    “It’s been very exciting to see the range of original work that these artists have created and to see how our Print Studio has responded in producing such high quality prints for the exhibition in Brussels. It has been a very positive collaboration which has brought together a number of world-class areas of expertise from Dundee.”