Holidays in the sun. 

June 13, 2017

I have always been very wary of the urge to meddle, particularly as I hate it when clueless but well meaning people do it with things I have been personally affected by. This is probably where I would usually go off on a rant but I want this to be a bit more focused that my usual rambling and tangential waffle. I walked into town a couple of weeks ago along the Hastings sea front, I don’t do it very often and I was shocked to discover that a group of homeless people had set up camp on the beach. The last time I had seen anything like thing was during the late eighties and I worked near Waterloo station where cardboard city, a shanty town for the homeless, had sprung up in the underpasses around the station. It was like something out of mad max or the future world in the first terminator film. There was something deeply strange about this seaside encampment though, whilst there is never anything jolly about being homeless (I have been so myself), if you didn’t read the context for the people being their, you could be forgiven for reading to situation as a nice little seaside vacation.  It was a situation I felt a need to document as I suspected (quite rightly it turned out) that it wouldn’t be allowed to remain there for very long.

One thing that have been a constant in my work over the last couple of decades is the documentation of appalling things using overly cute and benign seeming imagery. I have found that it is easier to get a message across if people aren’t aware that they are being given one in the first place. This is what I tried to achieve in the new painting, Holidays in the Sun, a happy sounding title that also happens to be a song by the Sex Pistols. It’s all smiles and sunshine and camping at first sight until you think about why the postman looks so bemused. One of the worst things about being homeless is the lack of a postal address, you are instantly a non person in regards to getting benefits, let alone applying for a job.

 I decided that this painting would be going up on eBay for charity before I even started it, initially I was just going to take the money to the campers and buy them a load of provisions but as they have already  been moved on I felt it would make more sense to have the money go directly to the St Mungos  who run a homeless shelters and help and rehabilitation for the initial causes of homelessness. I am aware that someone will probably read what I’m doing wrongly or see some cynicism in it and kick off. That is really up to them I guess, I can’t control anyone else’s responses, only my own, which was that this occurrence needed to be documented for posterity in some way. There are far more offensive things that go on in this town in regards to the homeless, if you want to get angry about something then I can happily furnish you with a list of people who demean and patronise the poor and vulnerable hereabout and get paid for the privilege of doing so. Anyway, I said I wouldn’t go off on a rant today so here is the link, happy bidding! 


Election problems and finishing prematurely.

June 9, 2017

I am writing this in advance as, like a lot of people in the uk who are classed as disabled, vulnerable, whatever, if the election goes the way of the conservatives then my life is pretty much over. I have been hanging on by a thread for a while now, and that will be it, gone, my final safety net gone and I will be too distraught to form words.

When I conceived this set of four (and a half) drawings, inspired by the original series by William Hogarth produced in 1755, it was mostly as a means to keep my mind occupied whilst the election process went on and, as always happens, all the idiots come out of the woodwork and everyone starts being vile to each other.

This election series is in part intended as a reprise to some work from a few years ago, when I was in a much different place in my life, although, in its own way, just as vulnerable. Where as that was about the inevitable decline brought about by vanity, this is pretty much a comment on that rare point in culture where the privaledge are made vulnerable, if only nominally, to the whims of the masses that they mostly hold little but contempt for.

In the first drawing, An election entertainment, the scene is of a party thrown by one of the parties to encourage (bribe) voters to choose their candidate come polling day. The scene show the potential candidates having to deal with some of the general public they would rather avoid whilst the band plays on in the background. A party member counts out bribes whilst another local dignitary comes a cropper of a bass guitar. The figure representing the mayor, who in the original falls ill to eating far too many oysters, has overdosed on ‘sherbet’and an attempted resuscitation is in progress. It’s interesting to note that a group of local lefties were witnesses up to this the other day. Whilst you expect the right wing to be utterly evil, it always comes as such a profound shame when people who claim to be on the side of the people manage to overlook the misery and repression that comes as a result of their nasty little habits. In the far right of the picture you can see a man being coerced by his family to take a bribe in exchange for his vote as his son needs some new trainers. Through the window you can see the start of a riot taking place. In the original, an effigy of a Jewish person was being strung up, in this it is a vegetarian. It’s a reference to those who attack Jeremy Corbyn for such spurious reasons as his choice of diet. It is important to note that at the time of its creation, some two hundred and sixty years ago, the world was a very different place and racism and antisemitism were rife, Hogarth was regarded at very progressive for the times and was one of the founders of the foundling institute, providing care and education for the orphaned and desperately poor children. I brick flies through the the window and strikes down the election agent and to his left a child frills up a large container (in this case a paddling pool) with booze. As is usually the case in real life you can see me making an early exit stage left.

For the second drawing, Canvassing for Votes, I kept the three building scenario of the original. The pub on the left has been renamed The General Belgrano after the dubious British navel ‘victory’ of the Falklands war that rescued Margaret Thatcher from the doldrums in the early eighties. There are still two old soldiers outside, only now they are homeless ones rather than on a secure pension. A film crew utterly fails to notice the real story of the building being attacked by an angry mob as it prepares to do an interview with one of the candidates. Centre front is a farmer in the process of being bribed for his support while about him a derogatory poster has been hung over the pubs sign in reference to both the classic tv sitcom Father Ted and also the rather childish and negative poster campaign by a group local to where I live. A candidate is standing on a soapbox and being worshipped by some party followers whilst and impromptu halo dangles able his head. To the right, in front of the pub door, the original drawing depicted a lion eating a lily as a reference to England’s supremacy over France, it has been replaced here by a panda eating a teddy bear to demonstrate China’s economic supremacy over the United Kingdom. As ever a pub landlady counts her profits from hosting the day’s events, the only real winner of the day.

I had to think long and hard about how to approach the polling day drawing as the original drawing has a series of the disabled and the dying whole gave been dragged from their sick beds, something that rings horrific bells with the current regime’s poor treatment of wobbly folk. The poster behind the counter displays my feelings about the purpose of elections, that it’s a poor do that the only real involvement any of us really have in the democratic process is stick an x on a piece of paper every five years. Sure we can protest, sure we can pester people in power, but do they listen?  I personally feel the whole pantomime is there to make us feel better about how little power we truly have. But that’s just my opinion. In line behind a one legged and one armed man having trouble with his ballot paper is professor Stephen hawking, I wanted to show a definite statement in regards to the abilities of the severely physically disabled. Behind the professor’s minders waits a poor chap undergoing chemotherapy and behind him another one who has fell up the stairs and who’s head is turned to a very unnatural angle that doesn’t bode well. Beneath the stairs lurks the Trollidarity, attacking from the dark and shadows in secret as they do. To the rear a rather disheveled Britania lies, propped up against her broken ‘chariot’ as the driver waits for the breakdown truck, representing a country that is falling apart, just as it was two hundred and sixty years ago.

When I drew the last panel it was with a heavy heart as although where I live is regard as severely deprived, it is surrounded by small and picturesque towns and villages that are populated by the extremely wealthy and privileged who inevitably vote for the conservation party. It was with that in mind that I set about to produce the final drawing, The Chairing of the Member with current Home Secret Amber Rudd as the star. This was, however before a series of catastrophic disasters both by her and the Conservative party had slightly altered the chances of labour mp Peter Chowney becoming elected instead. This meant that it neccesatated me providing a second version of the drawing in true Orwellian fashion, doctoring the original image to a level that only usually happens in North Korea or Moaist China

In the Amber version, the mp is being sprayed by a child with a water pistol, a vague nod to the child pissing from the same spot onto the procession below in the 1755 version. In the original a bird hovers overhead, mocking napoleon’s use of an eagle as a symbol of triumph, this version features a chip stealing eagle, common where I live, the chip being a reference to a briefnewspaper feature about prime minister Theresa May lacking the common touch whilst trying to eat food from a fish and chip shop. Rather than the mp crashing to their doom from a dropped chair, she is immantely in danger of being electrocuted by a sabotaged power line. In front of the procession is a drummer rather than the original fiddler, a cameo by my friend kitty. The protestor is the same chap who was at the front of the voting line in the previous picture. A family of foxes run from the mp as a reference to current rumours that fox hunting might be made legal once more. The building to the right shows the unhappy members of the opposition party, suffering for their defeat. For the parallel universe version with Chowney as the local mp, I have played on the way that that some of their candidates have been almost diefide by those on the left and so chose to give him the full ‘chosen by God’ treatment, comparative with the hand of God marking him out and cherubs declaring him as our saviour. 

Whatever happens tomorrow (today when you read this) will dictate which four drawings make the final folio of prints. They have been printed  on dead posh Germany art paper using fade proof, archival quality, ink and will be signed and numbered to a strictly limited edition of thirty of each print and you can buy them here. They took a solid three week’s work to produce and as ever I am spectacularly skint so your support is much appreciated. 


Tedious

June 5, 2017

I’m just filling in time here before I go out and do useful things that will actively make a difference to my life and possibly other people’s. Whilst I’ve kept myself out of the political squabbling’ I get to hear about it second hand from others. The same people, saying the same stuff. Like it actually matters. Like slagging off someone on Facebook, Twitter, wherever will make a difference. What makes me sad is the people who make their entire lives about this shit. Armchair revolutionaries, conducting their little battles and ordering their little flunkies about. Sad, pathetic people who have no control of their own lives and focus on changing the world instead. Shut up! Vote! Get a life! Then get out of my world because I don’t want to see any of you disappointing time wasters and your useless sabre rattling. Go crawl back under you stones. You are tedious!


To the power of one.

June 4, 2017

As regular readers may have gathered, I am not exactly a team player. I have found that whenever I have had to get other people to work for me, I have either felt uncomfortable asking them to work as hard as I do or I spend as long trying to explain how to do things The Chris Way that I could have done it myself in half the time. I am much better working for other people and can cheerfully put my ego to one side whilst I do, but others working for me…. not good!

The thing I find really hard is dealing with groups, sitting and listening to people take charge for no other reason than they talk the loudest leaves me cold as does having to listen to someone talk complete and utter garbage with such conviction that others start following their lead. Suffice to say, I do not do groups.

Being a lone voice isn’t easy, having an independently formed opinion isn’t either. I found out with my recent trolling experience disagreeing with the herd, even amongst those claiming to support the likes of myself (so long as we shut up and do what we are told) will happily stoop to personal and wildly inaccurate attacks at the drop of a hat. Whilst the local Trollidarity’s contribution to the general election jollities has been some utterly meaningless and counterproductive fly posting, mine has mostly been peeling them off the walls again because they do more harm to the cause than good. There is my other little project coming, but that is more long term and will be getting a blog of its own soon enough.

I’m not the only person hereabouts to walk away from the herd, a friend of mine also fails to own the prerequisite rose coloured spectacles and list of stock opinions  and views to refer to and has subsequently been an independent candidate in past local elections. This time he is on the sidelines supporting another local candidate in the general elections. Both he and his candidate have been getting some trolling of late, including some, I suspect, from the same people who hassle me. One of the things that saddens me is just how nasty and unpleasant other people on the left wing tend to be and it shames me to be one of them. It’s as if their belief in fairness as they choose to view it gives them a moral imperative to be the most vile people going. 

It is with all this in mind that I watch as a little bit of filming that my friend took of Home Secretary Amber Rudd, seeming to show the aforementioned independent candidate being shut down for talking about dodgy practices directly linked to her family. The film is currently going viral and irony of ironies being shared by the exact same arsehats who have been trolling him and probably would myself were my security settings any lower. The video is causing more harm to our local mp than all the ridiculous nonsense all the local wankers have done put together.

I’m not going to put words in his mouth, but from my own perspective it goes to show just how redundant a group of babbling idiots are in comparison to just one person who can think for themselves and actually knows what they are doing.


Living here, not living here.

June 4, 2017

I have had the same conversation with many people locally of late about how whilst their physical home is located in the weird little seaside town where we live, their income and social life exists elsewhere. Sure everyone has a quick coffee or a walk along the prom, but apart from that their hearts and minds are somewhere completely different. It has a nasty infestation you see, one that rhymes with runt, shunt, and hunt, it seems to be getting worse and it is starting to make life intolerable for anyone who wants do anything that doesn’t conform to a narrow view of how things should be. It’s not exactly corruption going on, more extreme crapness interspersed with nepotism but it lays a dead hand over the town that starves everyone out except for select few.

 From a personal point of view I have product that is proven to sell locally that I can’t find a stockist for and skills that I can’t market as all the shops are run as hobbies for bored rich home makers and all the paid work in my field is handed out to a select click of people, most of whom, quite frankly aren’t up to the jobs they have been given. A notorious coke and pill-head is often seen running creative workshops for children locally to my constant horror and you can predict who gets all the jobs that are advertised because the posts have already been filled beforehand and the advert is merely a legal formality. It’s not just me though, whichever field you look at you see the same narrow gene pool of people and, unsurprisingly, the same few ideas with a slightly different hat on get regurgitated time after time with the same lacklustre results. It’s slow death, both for the town and for poor sods like me who struggle to get a look in, in fact, most of the stuff we never even hear about until it is a done deal.

Of course I am completely shooting myself in the foot here talking about it, what we are all supposed to do is to sit quietly and pray that the cokehead will have a brain hemorrhage in front of the kiddiwinks and someone will finally halt their gravy train or the local grant grubber will finally turn over a project so amateurishly done that it can’t be swept under the carpet any longer. On that happy day I shall throw a party, but until then I will do what the rest of us do and focus on the world outside. 

The way I am talking you would think I was describing some pokey village in the back of beyond wouldn’t you? But around eighty thousand people live here and you only notice a certain few, the same stagnant pool of people doing the same old shit. They are just phoning it in now, that’s what happens with no competition and it really shows. 

It is for much the same reason that I rarely socialise around here, everywhere I go, it’s just so depressing. It gets to the point where you have to fill in a health and safety assement before you leave the house past midday, let alone of an evening. Just step into any pub and its, “oo look! They got someone killed!” , “There’s a total psycho!” “Don’t go near them, you don’t know what you will catch.” “Don’t let them know where you live as they will make a proper nuisance of themselves.” No wonder I spend so much time alone with a good book.

The whole town has been utterly poisoned by a few handfuls of people, it’s so depressing to see. They are like locusts or maybe even cockroaches, crawling over everything so you don’t want to go near. Sadly, they live a lot longer and you can’t call in pest control on them.

The sad thing is that the world just isn’t fair, they won’t meet their just end and the rest of the town will have to scratch around while they have their snouts wedged firmly into the trough. I guess I’m supposed to sum this up with some pithy little sentence but, sod it! I really can’t be bothered! 


The third rung of the ladder.

May 30, 2017

To say that running my own business is a bit of a strain is a slight understatement. Actually, it’s a complete and utter lie. Trying to do everything that I need to do is an utter nightmare. It is not helped when you discover that people that you trusted were actively working against your best interests at various points, if not actively betraying you.

I have experienced the struggle of trying to make a success of yourself as an honest, working class, person with permanent health problems and I can honestly state that it is hell on a daily basis. It has been a long hard road since 1999, dragging myself back to a given value of normal life, through breakdowns, madness, homelessness, agoraphobia , pain killer addiction, depression and anxiety and now heart problems. 

If you think of it as climbing up a ladder, trying to get on the first rung back to ‘normality’ is an absolute nightmare, we all scurry along through life, juggling work, finances, relationships, keeping healthy and keeping a home, never quite realising just how near we are to the whole lot just blowing up in our face, of course, that is until it does just that. All it takes is for one thing to go at the wrong time and all the rest start to suffer. Your health goes, then your job goes, your relationship doesn’t stand the strain, then you pop a few more gaskets until one day you are sleeping on a relations sofa, with them pretending that you aren’t getting in the way, none of your clothes fit and you look dreadful because all the medication is puffing you out, your friends have all started distancing themselves from you as if mental health problems are catching and you are flogging all the things you can’t drag from one place to another to keep yourself in cigarettes money because it is the only thing getting you through the days. 

The first rung is admitting how bad things are and getting help. The problem is, what help? Much of it doesn’t come until you are actively making a nuisance of yourself and the waiting list for ‘polite nutters’ like myself is phenomenal. Then there are the issues of what you do get in the way of help, what is fashionable amongst the mental health services  at that moment and what is affordable. You may get cbt (cognitive behavioural therapy), mood stabilisers, anti depressants, anti psychotics, group therapy or if you are really lucky, jungian/humanistic/ talking therapy. They each work for a give value of working for different people,  some people are lucky and they hit the right combination of meds and therapy first go, but for most it is a long and drawn out process with the welfare services making it worse all the while. Let’s be honest here, the biggest factor here in the likelihood and speed of recovery is how wealthy and supportive your family is. For me, they were neither and so…

After ten years I finally got to rung two, that is, interacting with the world again. It isn’t an easy thing relearning how to do everything you need to do to get back to living that normal life we all crave. Learning how to recover from set backs is tricky and requires a great deal of practice. Having a breakdown that lasts a hellish fortnight can be regarded as a success if the one before lasted a month and the one before that six. I started living independently again, working hard to do those things that others take for granted. It took a year of monthly session with a life coach at forty pound a time to learn how to sit on my own in a cafe without turning into a gibbering wreck. That came out of my pittance of survival money and was worth every penny. 

The curse of getting slightly better is that the welfare services start twirling their moustaches and looking for a railway track to tie you to. The Tories hit upon a wonderful way of dealing with the walking wounded in mental health terms, theyjust pretend you are perfectly fine. They pulled out the instructions of the monopoly set and just changed all the rules to fit their own skewd version of reality, ignoring tens of thousands of deaths as a strange quirk in their statistics. 

There are wonderful people out there to help but, ironically, you have to know where to look and be sane enough to get that help. It’s a chicken and egg situation, a trap that many fall through and back onto the streets again, your fingers stomped on and off rung two you fall. 

As well as the wonderful people, paid and voluntary, out there, their are also so utter wankers. They fall into three main categories, the well meaning ones who don’t know what they are doing and cause harm, the ones who just take the money and do a crap job and the people who are mentally ill themselves, either boosting their ego or fulfilling some sick need to feel superior to the unlucky sods who cross their paths.

I am always amazed at how disgusting some of the things that people do are to the mentally ill and the vulnerable. There is stuff going on that harks back in offensiveness levels to the black and white minstrel show. They aren’t horrible people doing it and they get really offended if you pick them up on how insulting and degrading they are being to people like me but if you asked some jobbing musician in the seventies wearing blackface, I’m sure he or she would have thought the same.

My ascent to the third rung was a bit of an oxymoron as it was a case of jumping rather than being pushed. I’m self employed now and it is not easy, I’m constantly exhausted and my time is never my own. I’m poorer than I have ever been in my life and I am constantly beseiged by worry. And yet, it is an improvement on waiting for the next government sponsored witch trial so send me back to homelessness. I still get help though and I need to down tools for weeks every years just to deal with the admin and paperwork for that help, knowing that all it would take would be some faceless bureaucrat to take issue with the validity of all my work and wipe everything I’ve done into the gutter. That said, when asked what I do now, I make no apologies, here is my business card, those are my web stores, you can buy my stuff from that shop and over there is a mural I have done and if you go and have a look in that gallery, there is one of my paintings, hanging on the wall.

I don’t know if i shall ever reach the fourth rung, I keep reaching out for it but I can never take hold. To get to even a shadow of that ‘normal’ life that has so long eluded me, to have choices, to not be a sitting target for the government to take a pot shot at should they take a fancy to. To take hold of that I have to compete with the norms. Those with families who were supportive or at best not a total nightmare, those who breezed through the education system, those who were handed opportunities rather than having to claw at them with broken finger nails and chew at them with broken teeth.

Now, here it comes, that noise like a plague of locusts, that chittering sound on the edge of hearing that gets louder and louder. Bitter, bitter, bitter, bitter, the deflector shield of the privileged slides into place to cover all the ways they slid into what they do as they silently close ranks and doors and stick out a leg to trip you up. As you try and get paid work, build up a network, get a foot in the door. There they all are, stopping you. Whether through bruised ego or the thought that one day you might cost them that cushy bit of work and their chance to get a shiny new vintage look pushbike instead of you starving and freezing another winter. The middle class mafia stab you in the back just one more time.

And the most twisted thing of all? Why look there! There they all are, the exact same faces in all those well meaning but ultimately useless charities, ‘helping out’ other poor sods, getting their street cred, polishing their halo and doing a bit of networking all the while. Happy to lend a helping hand…. Just so long as you don’t climb too far out of the gutter as the stench might permeate their world. And they can’t have that, can they?


The right kind of wrong

May 26, 2017

Repeat readers of my blog may have picked up that I have been finding this general election business hard to cope with. It seems to have become a race to the bottom where there have been so many toxic, hypocritical, left wingers digging down to the depths of hell that used to fit the Tories comfortably. Now even those loathsome creatures are having to shuffle uncomfortably on their arse cheeks to allow all the overprivaledged and vindictive nasty lefties a seat at the high table of the lowest levels of hell.

I’ve been trying to find a way to ably process all this rubbish. From the bare faced evil of the Tories, dragging out one vindictive policy after another to the point where their dinosaur voters, merrily sinking into the tar pits, are cheerfully welcoming their own demise. The Tory voters seem to be happily dancing towards the threshing machine with a smile on their face and a song in their heart while labour squabble in their various factions and mostly preach to the converted, whilst the media twists the truth whichever way it’s handful of wizened old male owners tell them to. In short, it’s all a pile of old shit!

My response is to look backwards, back to 1755 to be exact and to William Hogarth’s series of four paintings and subsequent etchings entitled The Election Humours. Over two hundred and fifty years and barely anything has changed, indistinguishable politician crawl their way up the greasy pole whilst corruption, violence and civil unrest surround them. The jingoism, the incinserity, the promises that will never be kept, it’s all there, nothing changes, not by much anyway.

This isn’t the first set of Hogarth etchings that I have done and for these I have decided to use the same materials, biro pen on cartridge paper, this most humble of mediums can produce a remarkable amount of variations depending on how it is used. 

The problem with trying to ape the work of Horgarth is that the guy was a compositional genius. The tricks he played with perspective and depth of field are ridiculously hard to recreate, that said, am trying my best. Even whilst doing one of my shoddy facimiles, the amount of technical under drawing is ridiculous. When you add to that the amount of research into all the art history references and the political and current affairs jokes of the time, things start getting really complicated. 

The first panel, An Election Entertainment is mainly a parody of Leonardo’s The Last Supper with an element of Caravagio’s The Conversion of St Paul thrown in for good measure. I’ve tried to take each element out of it and swap it for a modern equivalent. It’s simplified somewhat as my eyesight just isn’t that hot at the moment but hopefully I have got the general feel of the piece. I won’t go into detail of everything I’ve added as that spoils all the fun but hopefully it’s enough to keep the viewer engaged and scratching their heads a bit.  Time is also a factor as I would like these done by polling day. Sadly, the result for my local candidate is a forgone conclusion, which means that I can safely finish all four drawings before the results are even counted. It would, however, be a drawing I would cheerfully tear up if I got it wrong.

Whilst working over the technical drawings with all my usual chicken scratched characters a friend who used to work for one of the heavy hitters in the greetings card trade that she used to do similar. Working  from the extremely accurate, through to more and more free drawing. There is no other way to do it and get that desired effect. There are too many angles, too many overlaying elements, to just thrown it out there on the page. We decided by process of elimination to call it “getting the right sort of wrong” I rather like that.


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