Monday, 2 September 2013

Odds and Sods (as my Father would say)

I’ve neglected this blog I know. I’ve been busy doing bits and pieces but nothing really like a finished project or piece.
I have however done the odd drawing here and there for other people. In a particularly weak attempt to make it look like I’m a really interesting person, who is working on really interesting stuff and has a really interesting blog I’m shamelessly going to palm off cards and envelopes I drew for other people on you. That’s what is happening.

Birthday card for my friend Jon. He loves Dr Who and has a unbearably stupid cat, so....
Birthday cards for 'Lesson in Scarlet' Ruth because she once wanted a tattoo of a mountain goat on a thimble and she likes unicorns.....hope she doesn't see this before wednesday because it will kinda ruin the surprise of her birthday card.

I once sent Ruth a letter clad unusually in a fairly plain envelope and her flatmate Beth totally called me on it so with the next envelope shit got real and I brought my A game.

My little brother got married this year. My sister in law was particularly found of the cat plates I had done previously. When it came to their wedding present, this happened:

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Duke's After Dark

I’m some what groggy most weekends these days; this is the direct responsibility of the Duke’s After Dark. The Duke’s After Dark is Brighton’s only regular late night cinematic event, screening cult hits and classic masterpieces (and The Note Book). I have a pathetic pride in my ability to stay awake during the actual films; my head didn’t so much nod once during a double feature of Kill Bill Volume 1 followed directly by Kill Bill Volume 2. Considering the celluloid didn’t start rolling until 11pm (the time I’d normally be climbing into bed) staying awake was an impressive life achievement. I’ve adjusted to the late night films at the Duke’s again, I first started attending their late night shows when I was about 19 and had no problem staying awake. As I started to reach my late twenties however I would find myself suddenly awaking with a startled gasp and a slug trail of drool from the corner of my mouth leading to a saliva pool neatly contained within my beard. I would then spend the next ten minutes trying to figure out how much of Shaft I had missed. So for a period of time I stopped attending and favoured sleep instead. However some years on and I have been brought out of retirement. For about the last year the Duke’s After Dark showings have become unmissable. A constant string of perfect films choices (Old Boy, Dirty Harry, Die Hard, Anchorman, Host, Goodfellas, Kill Bill, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas) has been flickering out of the Duke’s projectors of late.

As far as I can make out this current string of late night cinematic gold is largely the responsibility of one member of staff, Toby. He often appears before a film and makes a short but enthusiastic sweary announcement “I watched the first five minutes of Volume 1 earlier in here and it looks fucking amazing!” Toby is essentially a considerable taller version of me, so much so that when he is making these announcements I often feel like I am watching my own reflection elongated in a fun house mirror. Toby keeps a blog himself actually, all about film some what unsurprisingly.

People often demand of me with bemusement why I fight of sleep and go see showings of films I own at home. There are two reasons. Don’t worry I’m going to tell you both. Firstly it is a completely different experience seeing a film on the big screen. I don’t care how good your home cinema system is, it just won’t ever compare to the child like thrill I experience in the cinema. It does not matter if it is a film I’ve seen a hundred times or one I’ve never seen before I still get a swirling flutter of excitement rise in my chest as the house lights dim and discussion ebbs away. Then you just get to sit in the warm, dark womb substitute and escape into another world for a couple of hours. You just can’t achieve the same level of escapism watching a film at home. Home, where you are struggling to pay the mortgage and can see the washing you haven’t done and can be rung by cold callers. In the cinema you genuinely forget that you are not doing the job you want and that you struggle to talk to pretty girls and you get to do all this while eating treats! This experienced is only enhanced at these late night showings of classics and cults because you are in a room full of people who mostly know and love the film as much as you. I can’t tell you how heart-warming it is to be suddenly find a whole room of people yelling in unison “Get away from her, you bitch!” as the climax of Aliens unfolds.

The other reason I try to attend as many of the showings as possible is because I want to support the late night showing. Logically if you support something, the more chance there is it will keep going. The Duke of York’s was the first cinema I ever went to and my second earliest memory. My Dad took me to see Walt Disney’s Snow White when I was two or three, we sat in the balcony and ate wagon wheels (I know I was much smaller but I swear they were much bigger in the old days). I can still see Snow White’s giant face on the screen even now, my addiction was started early. It was a really big face.

The Duke of York’s is now one of the few places left that seems to be genuinely part of the ‘Brighton’ spirit. I am not confident I will express this well but these days Brighton has lost a lot of what makes it special. There seems to be a lot less organically unique and individual places and a lot more places spending vast amounts of money to try be very ‘Brighton’ (but they just seem more ‘twaty’). This is always brought home to me when I go to Austin, Texas to visit my beloved friends Lisa and Ian (check out their awesome metal band The Well why don’t you?) and they take me to Waterloo Records, I Love Video, Spider House, Draft House etc. It all just reminds me of the old Brighton, every business has a very genuine and real personality of its own…and of its staff. The Duke’s still has this spirit (and the Cineworld taking ownership of Picture House doesn’t seem to have changed this thankfully). 

The Duke of York’s has changed; it is not quite the same cinema it used to be. It’s less scrappy (a trait I always loved) but with good reason. With the development of the business and the opening of the sister cinema Duke’s at the Komedia the operation has got slicker, the cinemas are more polished. The new cinema at the Komedia is particularly lavish; the screens and sound systems are cutting edge, there are a large number of sofa seats (or what the French referred to as ‘love seats’) and the addition of a fantastic kitchen apparently on a mission to caterer to all of Brighton’s many dietary requirements (making all of Brighton’s vegans cream their pants at once). The old Duke’s has also had a make over….this largely seems to have consisted of replacing all the seating with Elmo skin covered luxury chairs. Essential the Duke’s has grown up with me, in my teens and twenties it was a scruffy little place where people smoked cannabis undisturbed during screenings of Mars Attacks, now we are both proper adults.

However the spirit remains, shall I do some examples? Yes? Okay. While the cinema was being refurbished they showed free films in Preston Park (with free popcorn). They organised showings of films with Q & A’s with cast, crew and experts (highlights for me have been The Raiders of the Lost Ark anniversary, Video Nasty discussion with a showing of Evil Dead, American Mary with the hilariously excitable Soska sisters.) They go to town on special screenings (the kids club showing of Ghostbusters saw the whole cinema coated in thick spider webbing, free foot massages before a screening of Pulp Fiction). The incredibly relaxed, informal and often funny posts on each of the cinemas facebook feeds. It all acts to give the business a personality, the personality of its staff (staff who seem to enjoy their jobs and love good cinema). It acts to make the business feel like part of the community….admittedly mostly the part of the community that buys artisan bread and reads the Guardian.

Don’t worry; I’m desperately aware this reads like an embarrassing sycophantic burst of art house gushery. Don’t worry, I AM embarrassed but you see I really do love The Duke’s and it is quite hopeless to pretend otherwise. It was either write this or declare my love by bellowing from the top of the icon stripy legs jutting out of Preston Circus. I’m embarrassed that I sometimes go there three times in one week and become self conscious when the same staff are working and I have to greet them with a sheepish grin. So I think if I just get it out in the open it will be better. Last week I went two nights in a row doing a sort of seedy Nicole Kidman double bill with Stoker followed by The Paperboy (both well worth a watch thought you might feel like you need a bath after The Paperboy) and still find myself toying with the idea of catching a third film.

Right I’ve got a little of track here, this was suppose to be about the Duke’s After Dark. If you haven’t been to a Duke’s After Dark give it a try. I’m sure you’ll stay awake, plus if you message The Duke’s After Dark facebook page you can make suggestions for late night movie showings…. We’ll see if my wish for some Lynch will come true. I am unconvinced my drawing of me watching Die Hard fully captures the experience; you’ll just have to live it for yourself. You can’t live vicariously through me forever, beside that drawing contains a number of inaccuracies:
  • I did not dress up as John McClane.
  • The cinema was busier than that.
  • I was with my friends Jon and Leanne.
  • I rarely eat popcorn, I just drew it because it is an iconic cinema snack, I normally have homemade cake and a cup of Earl Grey tea.

If you haven’t been to the Duke of York’s at all then I think we are done here.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Another taste of The Bee's Mouth

It has been a while. A very long while. I am sorry about that. If it has put you out and you are looking for someone to direct your anger at you may blame my brother. He got married and as he lives in Sydney I was required to leave the Captain's Lodge and travel to distant shores on the otherside of the world. I must say I found the Pacific ocean an awe inspiring beauty that meets with a most pleasing coast line. However a side effect of this travel, participation in happy events and beach life is that I have neglected to post anything on my beloved blog.

Just before I left for the colonies an unexpected event took place at the Bee's Mouth life drawing class. The model 'slept in'. As the class takes place at 7:30 in the PM I find this an impressive achievement. The little back room was the busiest I've ever witnessed but we lacked a model. In an unexpected and as it turns out inspired move the teacher decide not to cancel the class, electing instead to talk one of the artists to turn model for the evening. With palpable discomfort and unwillingness one brave chap stripped off to pose for the rest of the class. This was clearly not something he relished and was made worst by the fact he had a friend in the 'audience', a rather stricking young lady who spend as much time laughing at her friends discomfort as she did drawing.

For saving the class and for going ahead with modelling despite obviously hating every minute I dedicate this blog to the unexpected model. You are a bolder man than I and I thank you for stepping up.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Storm in a Tea Cup

Words, in the following paragraphs, will fail me I’m sure. This is because I’m going to attempt to describe a disjoined thought process. My art will never be high concept, ideas normally just pop into my head and I do it…without any thought at all really but this project, which is a work in progress, did have a thought process behind it. Or at least a series of musings that inspired it. It is also a collaboration…another thing I am not used to. It is a collaboration with the person who probably inspired the whole thing in the first place, feminist lingerie designer Ruth Schechner (click her name for her blog).

I guess I always thought of myself as a feminist in as much as I always felt that the liberation and empowerment of women was a good thing but I never thought too hard about it. I was fascinated when I met Ruth and she told me about her drive to design “beautiful under garb that women can be sexually expressive in without allowing themselves to be/feel objectified sexually.” We’ve had a few discussions since regarding female sexual expression and the history of female sexual repression and linking it to creativity. Seeds were scattered in my mind.

I also found myself thinking I had noticed a link between the vintage aesthetic (predominately 1920’s to 1950’s) and an openness regarding sexual expression. This could well be a load of tosh but it was just a casual observation on a personal level. The performance art of burlesque also seems to support this idea. The dominant audience for burlesque is women, it is a very feminist form of sexual expression and its aesthetics are vintage. I find this fascinating because the style is taken from a period of time where there was still a tremendous deal of inequality between the sexes. It almost feels to me like a way of liberating that time period. It could also be a connection with that period of time during two world wars when women’s liberation moved forward in some great bounds, the right to vote, effectively proving that woman could do the same jobs as men when they stepped up to essentially run the country while most of the men of Europe tried to kill each other, erotic literature for women written by women (Delta of Venus by Anais Nin) etc.

For whatever reason these threads of thought lead me to started thinking about putting vintage nudes on tea cups. I was thinking that afternoon tea was this very open and proper activity back in the day in England, in a time where female sexual expression was quite the opposite. I liked the idea of having illustrations that were about female sexuality on objects symbolic of a controlled and ‘wholesome’ ritual in a repressed time. Initially I thought I would use drawings of Victorian nudes, partly because I wanted to go pre-war to a time where female liberation and sexual empowerment were even more repressed. I had a doubt however, were Victorian nudes photographed purely for the sexual gratification of men? I wasn’t sure but it seemed likely to me.

I then thought again of what Ruth was trying to achieve and fell in love with the idea of putting Ruth’s ‘feminist lingerie’ on Victorian nudes and then putting said nudes on objects from the tea service. So here is the first airing of the first pieces in this collaboration. Ruth designed the outfits and I drew the illustrations and attached them to china. What makes it just that little bit more perfect is that Ruth and I met in a vintage tearoom. I’m can’t comment if any of the above comes across in them but I’m pleased with them. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Now That I Know

There is new work coming but I am working on a number of different things at once and this, I fear, tends to delay all of the projects. I'd also be making a lier of myself if I did not confess to a fair degree of social activity over creativity in the last few weeks. It is a difficult cross to bare to be both naturally talented AND hugely popular. I struggle on. Anyway in the absence of up to date work I thought I'd post some very very old work. A comic strip I started 9 years ago but was then distracted from by becoming a nurse. It was called 'Now That I Know' and it was going to be an exaggerated biography of sorts, personal and neurotic. It was to be loosely about moving on after a signifigant relationship ends and other joys of life. Originally I intended it to be a series of one page strips like below:

But then I decide to make it a complete on going story line. It was published by my friend Sean under his excellent underground comic publishing guise Paper Tiger. Hope you enjoy be clear it was meant to be funny not depressing! I just find humour in the sadder or anxiety fuelled moments of life. It amused me anyway. Eagled eyed readers will spot fellow bloggers Dan Locke and Lawrence Elwick.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Back to the Bee's Mouth

As the snow mounts up outside I thought I'd scan last weeks drawings from the life drawing class at The Bee's Mouth Pub. It was the busiest yet and movement and space was limited for both the model and the artists. This time my friend Roni joined Lizzie and I. Roni has NEVER draw before and she found it a draining and emotional experience. I was already impressed with her for turning up and giving it a go. I was even more impressed when I saw how well her drawings came out. I look forward to seeing her develop her style and skills because she has made one hell of a strong start for a first timer.

I myself struggled a little with having a female life model...not because I was shy you's just I find the softer shapes of the female form more of a challenge then drawing the male figure. I'm not sure why, I think my style just sits better with sharper angles and straighter lines.

Finally, I dug out this old life drawing from my university days as Lizzie was taking about may be trying to use an ink pot and dip pen next time. I was sure I had done some life drawing with a dip pen...this is the only evidence I could find. It is not that I decided not to draw the model in this class, it was that the model did not turn up! The tutor insisted that we carry on as planned and draw the space without the model. I still remember him informing some French exchange students that the model was merely 'the cherry on the cake' and one of them writing this down in her notes baffled.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Once More Into The Bee's Mouth

After about four weeks absence last night Lizzie and I returned to Brighton's charming little public house The Bee's Mouth for more life drawing. It was the busiest I've seen it, which makes me suspect there have been a number of Brighton based New Year's Resolutions made around being more creative. Everyone seemed happy to squash in and the atomosphere seemed more open than usual. People talked a little, drawings weren't hidden quite so fast. It was nice.

The lady (her name escapes me) who normally runs the show was on holiday and the twist of this week was that the class was being run by one of the life models (her name also escapes me but she made it into the second drawing below). Doing the actual modelling was the original model from our first session in the curtained back room. I think his name is David...thought it is quite possible his name has escaped me. "You'll be happy" Lizzie whispered to me and she was not wrong. David....if that is his name, I can't be certain.... is perfect to draw, a long thin strip of knotted muscles and elongated limbs. He looks like an Egon Schiele selfportrait in the flesh.

I mixed things up like a mad man....instead of using black in I used sepia coloured ink! I know, I'm pushing the boundaries of free thinking and creativity almost to breaking point. The sepia pens were a gift from my neuroscientist hypnotherapist friend Lynne and I needed to break them in. It's pretty nice drawing in brown for a change.