Upside down world again.

May 24, 2017

Ooh eck! It’s all gone weird again! I’ve just woken up from a little afternoon catnap…. and it’s 7pm!!!! I don’t know what’s going on but my body clock has gone all weird again. It’s a beautiful evening and I actually feel like going out in it. That is until I remember the arsehole count where I live and there I am, biting down on tinfoil again. It doesn’t help that as well as wanting to leave the house for whimsical reasons, I could do with going out for practical ones, like needing to buy some food… I guess tonight’s dinner shall be of the experimental nature again.

The curse of working for yourself in the insular and potentially introspective field of art is that there is the danger of disappearing into your own little world and up your own bottom. I’m trying to be kind to myself, I was up at 6.30am doing double point perspective technical underdrawing and then helping a mate sort out some paperwork, but yet there is that feeling that I’ve missed or am indeed still missing something with my strange, topsy, turvey, lifestyle. I am my own worst critic though and however hard I am with the rest of the world, I am much worse to myself and I am not falling for that at all.

That sunlight, it has that golden, syrupy, quality of pre sunset and part of me wants to go and walk by the sea, but then, so does the rest of town and who knows what horrors I will see to spoil my day? So instead, I’m going to sit in the rare quiet with the window open and listen to the birdsong whilst the sun slowly goes down. I might even read a book.


Travels with my bear

November 3, 2016

Do you ever catch yourself sometimes and think “bloody hell! I do some weird shit!”?

I had one of those moments yesterday, I needed to get some publicity photographs done for a Christmas show I’m doing and I needed a few of my teddy bears. “I know what”, I thought, ” I’ll take some with a few local land marks” so there I was, wandering down the seafront, a grown man with my teddy bear, like Sebastian and Aloysius from Brideshead Revisted and no one took a blind bit of notice.

I love that about st leonards, no one really cares what you do. When I lived in Doncaster, leaving the house was hell, all you had to do was wear anything other that an Adidas or Nike tracksuit and the locals would start to sharpen their pitchforks.

I really enjoyed that aspect when I first moved to st leonards but after a while that started to change. I’ve always been exactly who and what I am, a little bit eccentric and off kilter. I think my own way and I refuse to get sucked into any group or gang and I love having my own mind, and speaking it for that matter. I had a brief flirtation with being a goth when I was younger but soon got bored as it just became yet another uniform. I wear pretty much what I want now and it is judged on my own terms and is more about a sense of design or historical significance than anything else. 

I have never sought attention, when I recieved  filthy looks back in 1989 and onward knitting my own jumpers on the train, I did it because I like knitting and it was dead time that could be used. When I had an asymmetric razor cut Dutch bob it was because it is technically the hardest hairdo to cut and when I followed it with a coup savage it was because it was because I was fascinated with the idea of someone hacking at my head with a cut throat razor. I have never in my life sought attention, I don’t need it, don’t want it and in the kindest and, in the politest way possible, I really don’t care what you or anyone else thinks of me.

The problem is though, so many people do. Care what people think of them that is. 

This lack of people taking any notice, whilst giving a wonderful freedom to those that need it, has a tedious side effect. Those that want and indeed crave attention have to keep upping the anti, doing more and more outrageous things to get noticed. Personally, I’m a great believer in the notion of meritocracy and that the best way to get positive attention is to develop a talent, to get really good at something. Call me old fashioned but that is what I feel.

There is a short cut to talent, well two in fact and they are both used locally and seem to work to a degree. The first is to use the distance from London’s creative heart and the slightly  cut off nature of East Sussex to gild the lily of your own level of talent. Mediocre talents in any industry suddenly become geniuses and the totally inept can join in too if their mouths and egos are big enough. The other is to just keep puffing yourself up further and further, using and endless stream of events to draw in punters and sell booze to get dressed up yet again, year after year like and endless merry-go-round of gaudy drivel. Then, if that isn’t enough, the next thing to do is to invent a few things of your own. Although it is even easier just to steal your ideas from things happening in London or Brighton or wherever knowing that, if you do it with enough brazen cheek, you will get away with it in an isolated bubble of a community. 

The thing is, however hard they try, people that in need of attention will be tolerated and ignored, labelled by everyone who isn’t them as “that bunch of tossers” while the rest of the world gets on with their lives, ignoring the occasional bit of mess or disruption as a nessesary evil, the price they pay for their own eccentricities to be ignored. Like me and my bear. 

Thoughts like passing clouds.

October 20, 2016

I love walking by the sea, I always have. It’s a gift, being able to look at it every day and no two days are the same. From calm sunny days where the sea is like blue glass to the craziest stormy days where the water is a grey brown churning washing machine, where the sound of rolling  stones smashing again each other is even louder than the crashing waves.

I am sorry to admit though that, for a while now, I’ve been wasting it, wasting all that savage beauty. Whilst my body has been there, my mind hasn’t. Quite frankly, I could have been anywhere, locked as I was in a seemingly ended cycle of whys, playing endless variations  of scenarios over in my head, trying to find the one that would make everything that has gone on make some sort of sense. All those days of sparkling seas and rolling clouds wasted as I bashed my head against every metaphorical wall going. The answer is simple but not one I wanted to face up to, the reason nothing makes sense because there isn’t any. Only the absense of sense, I’ve been trying to understand things that work on an entirely different type of logic that I cannot grasp. Two plus two equals blue, then two plus two equals seahorse, then two plus two equals zed, then every now and then it equals four. 

It’s a shame that human beings forget even the hardest lessons to learn and one of the hardest is hanging framed in the hallway in my home.  A version of the serenity prayer most popular for its use by Alcoholics Anonymous but useful for so many occasion. In my version though the higher power is Bod, a 1970s children’s television character. I have to come to term with the idea that I have in my head been trying to find ways to change that which cannot be changed and out of desperation my wisdom had gone off (to take a whiz perhaps?) I am trying to get it back and accept the stuff I can’t change but I’m a stubborn bugger and it has taken a long time to sink in but I must or all this beauty and magic is wasted on me.

The great Christmas Quanderey

October 19, 2016

I’ll let you into a little secret…


I’m not a fan of new year either.

There! I said it! 

It’s a total pain in the bum, it’s cold but it never snows and it’s the flashpoint for so many awful things. The domestic violence and suicide rates spike massively, debt rises, awfulness abounds . It’s halfway through October and I’m writing this tucked up under my duvet in bed, it’s cosy, it’s comfortable but I can feel the cold in the room biting at my exposed bits, I know that there is a beautiful sunny day out there but I’m already wary of drawing the curtains as the heat will just fly off into space, I will though, it looks so pretty. Hang on! ….

Right! Back in bed, lovely view, comedy giant hood woolly cardigan on, knitted by me I might add, cup of tea, breakfast,  lovely! So yes, it’s already cold and by Christmas it will be much colder still. The whole idea of Christmas makes sense in principle, something to give people to look forward to at the coldest and darkest time of the year, bringing the green of nature into your home, ya de ya de yah and I’m sure for many years in made perfect sense but, to nearly everyone I talk to, the whole Christmas/ New Year business is a total pain in the arse.  I could give you a diatribe of all the miserable yules that I’ve experienced but I won’t, unless you are some deluded Pollyanna type you know exactly what I mean. It is for that very reason I try and remove myself from the whole proceedings, I must add though that I always get loads of offers but there is only one thing more tragic than being the sad singleton at the end of a Christmas table, and that is being round a table full of sad singletons, everyone all fake smile and bon viver trying to convince themselves they are having the bestest of times. Nope! Can’t be doing with that! My family is even worse to spend Christmas with and since Roald Dahl is dead, it’s not even worth witnessing and sending to him as notes for one of his awful literary families. 

The latest fad in how to deal with Christmas is the ‘feed the homeless’ gig but if you haven’t already booked your chance to feel glorious about yourself by dishing out turkey and nut loaf to the unfortunate, forget it! The homeless shelter duty on Christmas Day is now harder to get into than most newly opened west end nightclubs. I pity the homeless, and having been one I should know, life is hard enough without a bunch of self righteous people puffing themselves up and assuaging their middle class guilt on your misfortune, well until they get bored and move onto to next worthy cause anyway, ooh look! There are some refugees to patronise over there!

Whatever way you look at it, unless you are one of those few people with a perfect family life and a circle of friend straight out of Notting Hill or Four Weddings and a Funeral, Christmas is at best something to be managed and there is a reason those films aren’t filed under documentaries on Netflix.

My three most appealing options for Christmas this year are as follows:-

1) leave the country. Somewhere hot and somewhere they don’t have Christmas. The lack of money scuppers this one sadly.

2) have myself put into a chemically induced coma. I would LOVE this one! It’s the nearest you could get to being tucked up in a box full of straw like a hibernating tortoise, plus….. Weight loss, superb! Will anyone do it nowadays though? No! Some annoying nonsense about medical ethics and other such rot. Bah! 

3) drop dead. Tempting…. It has all the benefits of the about solution and I would miss Christmas and the new year but… Well, you die and that sucks. I’m so looking forward to it getting warm again, it would be such a shame to miss that. 

Not being vastly rich or influential, I am stuck with a list of options on how to deal with Christmas and the new year that are no option at all. 

New year is just as bad, more parties, random and regrettable snogs with someone you will have to avoid eye contact with from then on because the narrative of every Hollywood Holliday movie tells you that new year is where the magic happens, desperately trying to make a connection and start the year off on a positive note, kidding yourself and everyone else that you are having the bestest of times. Pubs much the same but with tickets and door bouncers on treble time. Then there is the worst of the worst, new year television, recorded, well now I guess, people out of season pretending to whoop it up on New Year’s Eve, kill me now! 

So coma, still the best option.

The real problem with both Christmas and New Year is that they so flaunt the trades descriptions act, they definitely do not do what they say on the tin. What should be about friends, family and celebrating  what’s best in life become a farce of Brian Rix proportions, serving to highlight that in an age of disfunctional families and friendship groups based on getting the best photo of having a marvellous time onto Facebook, all this garbage is a redundant part of the past.

And here is the greatest of ironies, I design Christmas cards!!! What a hideous bloated hypocrite I am, trotting off to the printers with my data stick full of Christmassy images, signing up for a Christmas show at the local gallery. Stuff made by Chris, eternal grinch, Hoggins, ideal presents for all your family. Pah 

Hopefully, you may have gathered that a lot of what I am saying, what I always say, is tongue in cheek, gallows humour from someone who has to see the irony in a world that most people sleepwalk through but, even so, how do we deal with Christmas and the new year when we are grudgingly forced to deal with it?

My challenge, it seems, has been over the years to create the most sideways look at the whole silly nonsense I can. Even as far back as 1991 I was making shiny black Christmas cards with matte black images and quaint little statistics about how many turkeys were raised and slaughtered for the Christmas table. I’ve done countless non Christmassy Christmas cards, off colour ones, colour in yourself ones (years before the trend), it’s tricky finding a new angle for something that my heart isn’t in anyway. 

For the international market I’ve done my third and forth take on Alice in Wonderland I guess the reason it seems to fit so well is that people are so used to the convention of victoriana being traditionally used on Christmas cards makes it able to sneak right in there with all the usual cliches. When I drew the versions of these images that these are adapted from they were already a comment on the correlation between madness and homelessness, the caterpillar sporting a sleeping bag, the dormouse a concentration camp uniform and the hatter a disability rights black triangle. Some of this imagery is missing from these reworking but, as those who know my work well will know that what is absent is often as important as what is there. It’s that homeless thing again, it’s so important  to acknowledge but not to patronise.  My other global card is the least Christmassy thing I could imagine, the bleak and savage future of Stanley Kubrick’s take on A Clockwork Orange. It’s amazing how a bit of snow and Christmas pud makes the most dystopian of images look festive.

The local themed cards are where thing start to get edgier and the one for my home town is the most contentious of the lot. St leonards is an odd place, it has by tradition been a magnet for people like myself. Poor arty types who can’t afford to live anywhere else who like the seaside and the slightly shabby Victorian architecture. The poverty is rife and obvious but it is bearable as there are so many others in the same boat… or there were. Due to a number of articles in the broadsheet papers and Sunday colour supplements over the years, a notion that st leonards and old town Hastings has been manufactured that they are hip and happening and, after a while, people started to believe the fantasy, profiteering boutique estate agents started jacking up the prices out of reach of the locals and more and more ridiculous shops started opening selling nothing of any use whatsoever. Artisanal burger bars appeared, clicky pubs, ironic post modern this and that, insular communities of down from londoners got more and more brazen trying to turn their new how or in some cases their holiday home into a third rate London or Brighton rather than a first rate st leonards on sea. But however hard people try, the poverty of st leonards doesn’t go away, it spills out on to the streets, the street drinkers, the drug dealers, the prostitution, the crime and the vandalism is all there living cheek by jowl with the faux vintage bikes, the ridiculous beards and the yummy mummies in their brightly coloured retro mackintoshs and rosy cheeked children. So when designing a card for st leonards what else could I put on it? Why, the street drinkers of course! I’m not taking the piss here, they are there, every day of the year, down by the sea front, booze in hand, faint smell of ganga, the occasional teenager turning up in the latest sportswear to disappear with one of them to sell them drugs. This is not a criticism, this is an observance, they are there, I have painted them, end of story. 

Or is it though? It’s a strange irony that the people most likely to be offended by my Christmas card are those that are complicit in the systems that keep the poor trapped. It’s hypocritical to be concerned about street drinkers when you are off down the pub with your mates or knocking back the wine and a few spirits at a dinner party, when you unwittingly share the same drug dealers for your after dinner line of charlie or that occasional bag of weed and cheeky little e to remind you of being  back at university again.  

If you want  to truly help those with substance abuse problems, stop bloody doing it yourself!!  Stop drinking, stop taking drugs, avoid bars and pubs and remove your financial contributions from anything that props up exploitative systems that promote domestic violence, child neglect and lack of social mobility. Stop engaging! Maybe one person won’t help but it’s a start. Then, once you do, something amazing will start happening, without those chemical buffers  you will start to realise just how tedious half the things you do are, how boring or awful half the people you socialise with are, you might even get the impetus to start making a few changes to your life. Stay away from the pubs and bars and go home and read a good book, make a model boat out of matchsticks, do an open university course, watch a Ted talk, do some knitting, anything but pour money into a corrupt and damaging system.  Change is scary though, it much easier for you to stay stuck, but imagine how much harder it is for some poor sod with nothing better to do all day than sit in a shelter by the sea knocking back special brew. If you want to do some good, leading by example is a good place to start.

Ok, so now I’ve said my bit and totally failed to put the world to rights you can by my cards at the links below. Merry, erm, Christmas! Yay?

LA Tattoo

September 19, 2016

Ok… This is slightly left field but I get these moments when I think. Right! Sod you Britain! Sod you Hastings! I’m going to do one! 

It’s utter cobblers of course as I am dug in like a tick and I love my little flat and I love the sea and I know some proper lovely people hereabouts but every now and again things can just get too much. Between the school classroom level bitchyness, the clicky groups that feather their own nests while exhibiting virtually no discernable talent whatsoever and the weird, almost laughable, sense of civic pride for the littlest of victories and the crumbiest  of claims to fame it, does often get quite tiresome. I can’t bare hubris or any sort of pride really, I suspect I may have been ahmish in a previous existence although I do like me trainers … That would be totally out.

So whenever things start getting a bit claustrophobic my mind starts wandering, looking for escape routes…

So get this, in the time I have been on Instagram I have noticed that two groups seem to like my stuff more than anyone else. Tattoo artists and Los Angeles art galleries. So, logic dictates that the best thing for me to do is to up sticks and move to LA and become a tattoo artist. Right? I must admit, I do get really sick of trying to bash my head against the duel brick walls of provincial fuddyduddyism and rarified down from London yummymummyridiculousdogism and it would be nice to deal with a few people without so many preconceptions for a change. 

There are some major flaws with this scheme though… Firstly, I am a heavy duty irony user, I get into enough trouble I this country without being taken literally on the worst elements of my gallows humour, let alone irony free America. Then there is the matter of pre exhisting health problem and the appalling U.S health system. I’d be in the hole already before I even tried to find somewhere to live. Then there is all that driving everywhere business…. I love walking, it’s when I get my best ideas plus you really don’t want to see me driving anywhere as I drift off badly enough on my feet, let alone behind a ton of metal. 

And most importantly… I don’t want any tattoos. Apart from the basic fact that my medication causes me to bleed like a stuck pig even from looking at a needle, I think many of them look awful. There are some exceptions though, a photographer friend of mine has got some doozys and I’ve seen some lovely ones that look like Indian fabric recently that were quite lovely but mostly, well, they aren’t permanent are they? They go all blurry and faded and smudgy and some people have such idiotic things put onto their skin that you just want to slap them. My dad had the blurriest things on his arms, original wartime indigo work done in Singapore and Ceylon when he was in the navy but by the time I was born they looked like an old receipt pulled from a trouser pocket after they have been in the washing machine. 

So as escape plans go that is pretty rubbish rubbish I guess… I guess I’ll just have to stick around for a while. Which will in turn annoy a few people, so hey! Bonus! 

The next thing

September 2, 2016

Somewhere, out there, the world is going on and in Hastings and St Leonards that world is all about seeking attention and doing bizz. It’s the official start of the coastal currents arts festival and everyone but me it seems is out there celebrating  and getting noticed and, let’s face it, in all likelihood getting off their face in some way or other. It’s strange though, the weather has turned on a six pence and whereas a few days ago I was sitting on a beach, now the cold bites and the rain blatters against the windows and here I sit, at 8.30 on a Friday night, in my pyjamas after a hot bath, waiting to go to bed. 

I have long ceased going to private views and long ceased having my own. In a world that thrives on fleeting celebrity and instant gratification, I am cursed it seems with an old fashioned notion of meritocracy, that a person should gain attention and recognition by attaining a level of excellence in their field rather than by playing to the lowest common denominator or jumping up and down and shouting louder and more offensively that anyone else. I suspect, should I leave the house tonight I would be proved very wrong indeed. 

I have never wanted attention, I have never seen the value in it but then it’s always been about the work for me and to be honest, once a thing is finished, it holds no more interest to me as I’m on to the next thing whatever that may be. I am very concious that I am in that position right now, looking for the next thing. 

That’s another reason I’m staying in tonight, the cyclical nature of the town I live in depresses me greatly and the arts festival is just another gaudily painted horse on the merrygoround with the same old riders on its back. I am quite aware that I am yet again biting the fingers of the hands that feed me off at the knuckles but I am showing this year in a way that puts me at as much distance from the punters as possible. I hope that doesn’t come off as rude but whilst everything I have done over the last six months has great meaning to me, I am done with it and I want to do the next thing. 

Last time I put this amount of effort into a solo show, the crash was exhausting. I spent a week lying in bed, barely moving. I feel old right now, my whole body aches and I feel like collapsing, it’s  hard to tell though, just how much of this is post show malaise and how much is my illness and the side affects of the medication. I am running an illustration workshop tomorrow which I am both dreading and looking forward to in equal measures the dread comes from it being in Hastings and having to engage with parts of humanity that leave me cold. I must note that the bulk of people anywhere are usually quite lovely but the ones who aren’t are like wasps trapped in a car that is speeding down a motorway, making way more trouble than they should do. It will be nice to engage with a few kids though and anyone else who genuinely wants to try something new. But when the clock hits four tomorrow I know that I have two choices, either hit the motherlode of cortisol  come downs or start the next thing sharpish and change down a gear into steady work and research. 

You see I want to do some scroll paintings based on the classic Chinese folk tales centred around monkey, a chinese mythical figure. Many of my age will remember a rather camp Japanese show back in the 1970s but the stories go back many hundreds of years and liken the Chinese heaven to a sort of demented civil service full of sniping and back biting gods. I know nothing of scroll painting and that is the point, it’s the new thing, the next thing and I shall be well outside my comfort zone and I will feel alive. 

But in the meantime, the show goes on and whilst it is all in the past to me, hopefully some less jaded eyes shall see something new.

You can see my new work at the love cafe, Norman road, , st leonards on sea, throughout September. 


August 25, 2016

The difference between a fortress and a prison is on which side of the door the lock is.

The difference between a magical day and a tedious one is the events that fill it.

Take yesterday for example. The sun shone and I spent a lazy afternoon in wonderful company watching the sunlight dance on a calm sea like fireflies made of diamond. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin and all the many things I have to plan and worry about could be safely put in a box for the day marked “another day’s problems”

Today’s weather is equally pleasant, the sun shines just as brightly, the promise of the sea is there but… I am stuck indoors waiting for a gargantuan stack of cartridge paper to be delivered via some unspecified courier company or other. I have plenty to do while I am waiting, I was cutting up an old pair of jeans at six am to make a hat out of and now I am writing a blog and then when the charge in my iPad runs out I shall do some Photoshopping of prints I am having produced for my show and then I shall write this blog again, then do a few quick drawings/paintings to add a bit of visual interest to it. The thing is though is choice, however valid my achievements will be today, however much I get done, I will not have been my choice to do those things at the point in time that I was doing them. 

And as foretold the iPad ran out of juice and… Well, I made a hat! Like you do! And whilst it was amusing and engrossing, it fundamentally failed to help either my preparation for my art show or for the illustration workshop that I’m doing one bit. But, hey! A hat! Marvellous! The parcel finally turned up at two in the afternoon, at which point I ran out of the house as fast as I could. The reason? Well…Back in 1998 my life hit a brick wall. The sort that Wile E Coyote would go smacking into when road runner had stopped to paint a tunnel on it. Long story short but months of lying in bed and staring at the floor turned into years of living in isolation from the world. Fast forward to now and after years therapy and life coaching I can live a limited but passably normal life and part of that normality comes through going out every day and engaging with the world. It’s only partly that a sunny day like today is so alluring but even on the rankest of days when the sea swishes around like a washing machine and the wind is so strong that the rain goes sideways, I still have to do it. If for no other reason than because I like it so much at home, I love my flat and I love quietly getting on with my thing, I have the Internet, I have books, I have the telephone, I have good friends, I have art materials and most of all I have a wildly vivid imagination. I know I love my home too much though and that is why I have mustn’t stay in it. 

Waiting days like today for me are like a sober alcoholic in recovery visiting a brewery, a trial beyond imagination. Talking of which, one of the major reasons for going out first thing is the nature of St Leonards on Sea in the mornings, the street drinkers are only just taking the edge off the shakes, the posers and pretenders are still tarting themselves up for the day and pulling themselves together after schmoozing in the couple of local trendy pubs and bars with the other wannabes the night before. Mornings are pleasant here, afternoons are barely tolerable and by evening…. Forget it! My afternoon stroll was much as predicted, I bumped into a couple of lovely chums but the scene on the thouroughfare was akin to that of Hogarth’s Gin Lane with an extra helping of Frederick Neichze’s bungled and botched, grown adults sat in paddling pools in their front yard smoking spliffs, the kids of heroin addict sold her possessions from a pasting tray set up on the pavement. However it was lovely to see the sea but it was lovelier to get back home, incident free. So as I sit here on my sofa, the sky a pearlescent number that you get hereabout’s that the Impressionists came to paint so many years ago, the gulls crying in the distance, wood pigeons calling and birds twittering, I can feel a sense of relief that I faced the world and although I found it slightly wanting compared to yesterday’s loveliness, I survived humanity for another day. Plus, yay!, I have a new hat. 

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