Christmas now

December 25, 2016

Pattern matching is a bugger. Amongst all the other issues I have collected over the years hypervigilance and pattern matching come into play today of all days. I look for indications of Christmases past, horror stories repeating themselves, rather than seeing what is really there, an endless string of possibilities. Even when I have had partners, those happy family Christmases have eluded me. What I need to remember is that they elude most other people too. 

There are several couples in St Leonards where I live who really seem to have a handle on things, after years they are quite clearly still into each other. I was told once that relationships that only exist in a bubble aren’t real… How badly they missed the point of love. You make your own world together, that bubble can expand to include others but the bubble is the core, the heart even.

That’s why Christmas only really works for narrow spectrums of people and for everyone else it is, at best, tolerated. If you see the people you see at Christmas all year round it is probably quite a nice affair, or if you actually get on with your family,  but when you are put in a position, like many, where life has taught you that your family are best avoided, or that you can’t wait to leave work at the end of the day so why on earth would you want to spend your free time with your work colleagues? Or that those people your partner has inexplicably aquired as friends quite clearly aren’t your friends, quite the opposite in fact. Christmas or indeed new year forces you into the company of these people and that is why so many arguments kick off. There is a reason you don’t see these people or you know well enough what the handling rules are so that you don’t get hurt. 

For me this is just another of those Christmases where I just have to be kind to myself and get to the end in one piece Where I have to acknowledge that by some I am quite pointedly being ignored or managed and where my usual lines of survival have been cut for this one magical day as all my friends I would call are off doing family things and I can’t even sit quietly and have a coffee in a seaside cafe as they are all shut. 

I’m still in bed, typing this instead of doing my usual idle Facebook scroll through as I can’t bear having my nose rubbed in it all. Christmas is a mirror and it will show me today that, no matter how hard I tried, my relationship failed and I really don’t want any more reminders of that thank you. I shall now get up, open my presents to me from me that I wrapped up with my eyes shut and I shall start this lonely Christmas Day….

Oh! Before I forget. This thing about choice… No one actively chooses to spend Christmas alone. It’s a bit like this choice… “Would you like me to poke you in the left eye? Or the right? It’s no choice at all right? With Christmas it is… Would you like to spend it with your own nightmare family and risk having a breakdown? Would you like to spend it with someone else’s family a and be reminded what a mess your own is? Or… Would you like to spend it with a bunch of sad singletons and try your hardest to convince yourself that you are having fun and it is all wonderful? As I said, Christmas is a mirror and a distorted funhouse one at that, it shows you at your worst, the things you let slide because you are too busy just getting on with your life to usually focus on them.

Ok… It’s nine in the evening, and if I give it a couple of hours I reckon i  will be able to go to bed and call it a day. While it wasn’t the best Christmas I have ever had, it’s been a long way from the worst. I got my coffee by the sea, so that was a step up from last year. I got contacted by lovely people. I got a few nice presents (mind you, they were bought by me so they had better be.) The day went quickly enough, the Japanese model kit (from me) took up most of it. There is something rather lovely about being able to sit down and idly make something, knowing full well that I, for once, won’t feel obliged to sell or market the bloody thing like everything else in my life. I can just while away a few pleasant hours making it and then stick it in a glass cabinet with all the others.

The best thing about this Christmas is that I shall forget it. A pleasantly dull day that won’t stand out in any way whatsoever and, at this point in my life, that’s the best I can hope for.


Loopy

October 20, 2016

At the moment I am trying to train myself out of looking at Facebook, which is awkward seeing as I have to using it to promote my artwork. The nearest I can liken it to is an eating disorder, and I completely acknowledge that compared to those it is completely trivial, you have to eat, you just can’t cut it out of your life and walk away.

I have had addiction problems in my life, I am obsessive by nature and I try my best to channel it all into art and creativity but at various points in my earlier life, before I learnt to control it, I became addicted to painkillers and to cigarettes. I quit both eventually but it wasn’t much fun. Everyone has things they do all the time, little ticks, little phrases. I say “ooh!” an awful lot for example, I was joking with a friend yesterday about how it must be like the Inuits having many words for snow. I have a myriad tones for the word “ooh!” There is Ooh! Someone nice is at the door, there is ooh I’ve just spotted some trainers or a t shirt I would like to buy, ooooh I’ve just see a gorgeous designer toy, OOOH! I’ve just had an idea, OOooOOH!!! There is a naked lady in my home. It’s so ingrained that it is part of me. Sometimes we carry on things way past when we need to, I still waft an imaginary cigarette around when I am talking and a lot of my anxiety, most people’s anxiety in fact, is carried on from things that happened  in early life that I am still trying to  protect myself from that don’t even exist any more. This is where it gets confusing, if you remove a key habit from your life, are you still you? What exactly is “you” anyway? I’ve been guilty at times of trying to point out things in people’s life that is obviously doing them harm and it never works out well, people can only ever come to conclusions for themselves. A year into three years of counselling, I worked out what was blitheringly obvious to the counsellor from day one but she could never have told me. It’s all that giving people the gift malarkey. Some people try and circumvent (god I hate this phrase) personal grow by going on some weekend, sort your life out, course, paying hundreds of pounds to magically fix your life. An old college friend of mine who had to be rescued from a cult calls these Cult Lite, they use the same programming techniques but combine them with some sort of pyramid scheme. The truth is, changing yourself in any way takes bloody hard work and time.

I have been trying to create healthy loops, ticks and habits over the years, going for a long walk every day, reading, trying to eat healthily (I’m still working on that one), creating things…. This is where it gets into eating disorder territory, writing this blog is a loop and sometimes it’s a good way of getting the thoughts out of my head that would eat me alive if left in there, sometimes it entertains or explains something but sometimes it gets me into trouble, same with the artwork, it isn’t  always that clear when I am crossing a line from useful or interesting to offensive and hurtful, it gets into so many grey areas that you can see nothing else if you are not careful. 

I’ve been doing a bit of knitting recently, I used to knit all the time and have done since a teenager. I stopped a while back because it became too trendy and I didn’t want to be associated in any way with the sort of people who had jumped on the bandwagon. It’s  nice doing it again, knowing that my hands remember everything, but once I’ve made a couple of hats for myself I shall stop again. Where as it used to be a passion, it is now just a useful skill to have. It doesn’t define me, not the way it would the quirky straight guy who would do it in his twenties which was me back then, doing a degree in constructed textiles and getting praises heaped on me and a strange admiration from women. 

There are similar questions I ask myself about the difference between being child like and being childish. I have a huge collection of toys, ones from my childhood, art toys decorated or designed by other artists from around the world, toys that are technically very small sculptures, I make teddy bears and there are plenty of mine about the house as well as examples of some of the most interesting ones I have found by other people or companies. I am fascinated by the shapes, the colours, the textures… I try and see the wonder in most things, beautiful skies, shapes in clouds and trees. I am curious to know what is behind doors, over walls, underneath stuff and I make up my own versions which are usually but not always much more interesting. Childish though is probably more about all that nasty playground stuff, gangs, who’s in, who’s out, doing things with a lack of thought that effect other people, not thinking things through, not seeing the consequences of your actions or not really caring about them, showing off… Plus I’m not intentionally trying to act like I’m young on some slightly embarrassing mid life crisis trip back into an idealised version of  my youth. I think I’m ok on all those counts so I think I am safe to keep the toy fixation loop going.

The Facebook loop though… I think over the years it is fifty fifty, I’ve got back in touch with some lovely people and it’s got my artwork to some places it wouldn’t otherwise have got  to but it’s also caused an awful lots of arguments and falling outs and I have seen things that I would rather not have. It’s damaged the distance I have tried to keep from toxic people and unintentionally  upset some nice ones, people have definitely got hurt I am sorry to say, including myself and people I love. Over the last half a year or so I have cut down what I see  of other people’s lives, particularly the one’s who’s loops, ticks and childishness are particularly  tedious and I have become incredibly selective about who sees my stuff which is no mean feat with all the privacy settings keep changing all the time. The next thing is to learn how to leave my iPad well away from the bed area so that it isn’t the first and the last thing I see each day.

In time I hope to replace my social media behavioural loop with a book again, as obsessive habits go, being a voracious reader is a good one.


Getting (T) Shirty.

August 12, 2015

Photo 12-08-2015 19 51 04What is it about T-shirts? They can turn you into a portable work of art, a political statement or quite often an advertising billboards for the company that you have bought the garment from. I have developed a strange love affair with some of my t shirts to the point where some of their losses haunt me now, many years later and other’s I can’t bear to part with no matter how threadbare they are or how fat they make me look.  I suspect I may have a bit of a T-shirt problem, I don’t know how many I own but I suspect it is in the low hundreds. Maybe this is why I have, for a long while now, felt the urge to design my own or maybe it is because a truly icon tee, like album covers and film posters can ascent to the point of becoming a work of art.

Here are my top ten favourite T-shirts, some of which I own and some of which I have coveted from afar.

Photo 12-08-2015 13 53 2910) Please Kill Me!   A version of this was made famous by American punk Richard Hell of the band Television. The version I owned (still own but it is now way too small) was bought from cult shop Sign of the Times at some point in the mid 90’s it’s a ringer tee, having a collar and long sleeves in contrasting colours to the main body. Like many of the best t-shirts it is slightly offensive and confrontational in nature.

685756799858468b47a355d296c651979) The Cure, Kissing Tour. Everyone has their favourite gig T-shirt, and this is mine. From a sentimental view, it is the first ever concert I went to back in December 1987 but it is also a nice bit of design. As was the fashion in the late 80’s it was huge, an xxxl with a full colour design on both the front and rear. As my figure has regrettably started to catch up with 80’s t-shirt fashions I could probably still fit in it but seeing as it is now nearly 30 years old it is too fragile to wear.

images8) Pop Will Eat Itself Pepsi logo. Pop Will Eat Itself (PWEI) had a close relationship with, Sheffield graphic designers, The Designers Republic who produced many iconic designs for them before creating the look of classic Playstation game, Wipeout amongst other things. This play on the Pepsi cola logo is encircled by the phrase “Sample it, Loop it, F**k it and Eat it.” a line from their song “Very Metal Noise Pollution” I never owned this T-shirt as I always held out for one of the long sleeve ‘rude’ versions sans asterix.

Gay_Cow_Boys_2014-500x5007) Another shirt I never owned was the Vivienne Westwood “Gay Cowboys” shirt mainly because, like most original Westwood clothing, it is now worth a small fortune. Sold when the shop was called “Sex”. The two cowboys with their winkies almost touching was guaranteed to offend in repressed 1970’s Britain. I had a few Westwood tees in the late 90’s but as the sizings were always quite small, I sold them off as I put on weight.

0010ae7e006) Anarchic Adjustment was the archetypal 90‘s skatewear company designing ‘edgy’ T- Shirts, often with a strong moral or political message. The shirt I owned hand a huge hand covering the entire front of the shirt. In tiny lettering beneath it are the words “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist”. The designer would use unusual design techniques including black on black printing and creating images using a photocopier.IMG_4155_large

5) Strawberry shirt. Another iconic skatewear firm was Insane who’s images had a very bold style with thick outlines to them. The images were often quite wonky in construction. It is a deep irony now, after years of debilitating mental health problems that I spent much of the 90’s with the word “Insane” emblazoned across my chest or back.

120cb84) W&LT I Love You! Dutch designer Walter Van Beirendonck was at the cutting edge of the rave and cyberpunk scenes. Using manufacturing techniques only commonly used, sadly, in small children’s clothing. Designer primarily for members of the rave scene, clothing had a high level of play value. One of my favourite t-shirts had a sheriff’s badge attached and a large print of a gun across it. This shirt had a mechanism built in where the eyes of Puk Puk, one of Beirendonck’s trademark characters flashed and a voice box says “I love you!” from with the t-shirt.

IMG_27743) Maharishi has for the past few years been my go to designer of T-Shirts, mainly because of their high ethical standards of manufacturing and their intelligent use of images. I tend to go for their slightly cheaper and bigger belly friendly MHI range. I have too much of their stuff to really have a favourite but I do love my Psychomania, an obscure British 1970’s B Horror movie, ones rather a lot (I often get the same shirt in a variety of colourways (I said I had a problem)). They have gone through an annoying phase recently of emblazoning their logo across their shirts which has forced me to cut down my nasty habit as I dislike the idea that after paying thirty odd pounds stirling for very basic garment, I am expected to give them free advertising too.

Photo 12-08-2015 16 29 352) Kidrobot was for the most of the noughties probably the best producer of t-shirts. Kidrobot was first and foremost a maker of designer toys, often called designer or urban vinyl, and would get the same cutting edge graffiti and graphic designers to decorate both toys and T-shirts. Of these, my favourite was a graffiti artist called Dalek, whose real name is James Marshall. Marshall worked in the studio of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and has a similar very graphic style with a range of stylised characters.

14344915958121) Floral Tee by Takashi Murakami. I have worn this shirt only once because it really doesn’t suit me. Some things, however, are just so lovely that they are work having just to look at. These wardrobe wonders as I call them look better on a hanger than on me. I am planning to get this particular T-shirt frame as it is too lovely to hide away in a draw. Takashi Murakami regards everything he produces in the way of merchandise as being as much art as his sculptures and canvas’.

By now you might have gathered that I am rather fond of T-shirts and in this spirit, I have tried my hand at designing some of my own. The first to be produced is a design based on the poster for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Where the knife wielding Alex, the protagonist of Antony Burgess’ dystopian novel is replaced by a flower waving Dweebling. I have taken great care in it’s production from tracking down one of the best screen printers out there, through to designing special labels and hang tags. Hopefully my love of the T-shirt and my knowledge of what works and what doesn’t has been transferred into this design. If you want one, you can get one Here:-Photo 08-08-2015 16 05 21


Going Dotty. (again)

February 11, 2015

bigdots For a good few years now the Toadstool people have been a reoccurring theme in my work. The Fly Agaric (amanita muscaria) toadstool made its first appearance in the second Dweebling painting I did, which I won’t be showing because I bloody hate the thing. fly_agaricThe red and white toadstool, has a history in art that goes back to the Renaissance and came into prominence in the fairy paintings of the Victorian era. Its history as a hallucinogen goes back a lot further, however. It was used by the Vikings, for example, to turn their beserkers (very scary fighter who would become a force of nature during battles) berserk. Being someone who has a record of mental health problems, the idea of slipping one of the most common signifiers of off kilter behaviour into my work has been too tempting to ignore. When the idea came about for the toadstool hats,NSMBW_Artwork_Toad I did have some second thoughts though as I could see obvious correlations with Toad from Nintendo’s Mario franchise.  The real influence from my perspective though goes partly to the Pet Shop Boys stage costumery and partly to some of the more outlandish headgear from the original Star Wars films. DSCN1513The use of the toadstool in Super Mario Bros just screams Alice to me, so I would imagine they would come a cropper arguing that one away. Hmmm… mushrooms that make you grow larger, then shrink…. sounds familiar… Anyway, so the toadstool tribe, or whatever they are called (the Dweeblings tell me nothing,) have made a regular largeappearance in my paintings for many years now, dotted amongst flowers or the undergrowth, often in rather fetching polka dot dresses. A dramatic change happen just before christmas when I had a particularly bad breakdown. I was roped into doing a few paintings for charity on ten inch square wooden panels. For the first three I phoned in some of my greatest hits. I really wasn’t in a good way and just wanted to regurgitate some old ideas so I could get back to staring at the floor or whatever nonsense I do when I am suffering from a severe bout of depression. For the forth one I went the full Yayoi. A toadstool hatted Dweebling in a polka dot dress clutching a polka dot spotted  teddy bear against a spotty background. galería-1The effect was a migraine waiting to happen. And what or rather who you may ask is Yayoi? Well Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who first came to the world’s attention around the same time as Andy Warhol. After producing large but incredibly fine detailed paintings, she moved away from the canvas, into sculpture and then finally onto the body, covering naked people (including herself) in dots. It was not long after that she retreated back to Japan from America and ended up admitting herself to a psychiatric hospital, from where she has worked ever since. Producing phenomenal amounts of art with a team of helpers. At 83 at the time of my writing this, she is still fixated on dots and is often seen dressed in red with with white spots with with a bright red wig. According to her, everything is a dot. The Earth is a dot, the Moon is a dot, the sun is a dot, all the people 025-yayoi-kusama-theredliston the dot of the Earth are dots. Whilst I don’t envy her grasp on sanity, I do envy Yayoi’s back up. As a mentally unwell person in the u.k, getting anything done is a struggle. Between the lack of money, constantly having to deal with bureaucracy and the buckets full of stigma thrown at you on a daily basis, I positively crave a nice warm room and some decent medical support as is more common in the Netherlands and Japan. If Yayoi had ended up in the u.k, I suspect she would be a footnote in art history rather than the chapter she is today. yayoidots


Eh? What’s that? I want one!

January 31, 2012

These are the words that pop into my head every once in a while. Shortly followed by a great deal of head scratching while I try and find a way of getting hold of whatever it is and / or finding the money for it. In this instant, there was the typical problem of it being in Japanese and virtually all in kanji, which for anyone with an ascii keyboard and little clue about speaking Japanese is nigh on impossible to search for on google. This little fellow turned up on a search whilst researching a painting. At first I thought it was from some old t.v show I has never seen along the lines of the Moomins but as I dug further I found out that it was relatively recent, being the creation of someone going by the name of kinokosupa whoever that is. It took another couple of digging attempts to find anywhere that you could actually buy anything. At which point I needed a lie down in a dark room. The puppets are all one of a kind and retail at around £300. At which point I slunk away to lick my wounds and nurse my inadequate bank balance. So if you buy one, I don’t want to know but you can get stuff at http://www.puppet-house.co.jp/marionette/artists/kinoko/supa_104.html


Three Wee Things

December 25, 2011

On a day like Christmas Day when we are inundated by  (if we are lucky) piles of new stuff.

I thought I’d show you some things in my possession that are so tiny that they would easily get lost amidst the torn wrapping paper and thrown away. None of these things came to me at Christmas, the rabbit appeared on my window ledge about 60ft off the ground from who knows where, the elephant through my letterbox as a surprise present from a friend and the chap on the toadstool is actually a sculpture by the artist Takashi Murakami, who believes that art can come in any size (about and inch and a half tall) , that I bought myself from Japan.

It is usually at this point that someone publishing something on Christmas day starts spouting (or sprouting) something about the true meaning of Christmas. But my gift to you is that I won’t. Happy Christmas!


Zen and the art of model making.

December 5, 2009

Being of a certain age, I have warm and fuzzy memories of spending my free time making Airfix kits. And it always was airfix, not Heller or Revell, I was even a member of the airfix model makers club as sponsored by Dick Emery, the great seventies comedian. Every few years I get bitten by the model making bug and years I end up with a wonky creation with a streaky paint job and that barely resembles the lovely artwork on the box. It seems that the eight year old me was a lot less judgemental of their handiwork.

This all change recently when I was trying to find a pain free way of introducing my twelve year old nephew to the joys of model making, the Japanese model kit. More specially the Gundam series of kits from Bandia. All the parts are colour coded and there are wonderful little rubber ball and socket joints so that your creation is posable. However, the most important part is…. It doesn’t need glue! Yay!

They come in different grades, the zenith of which is the perfect grade. Models of this quality have over a thousand parts and little light bits. The kit pictured here is just the common or garden type which is a tenth of the price. Even so it is far superior to the kits of my childhood. A fair compromise is the master grade, which works out at about £40 and is a good compromise between price and cool factor. I know what I’ll be getting myself for crimbo this year.


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