November 22, 2016
I just had a very curious conversation about drinking piss. No, I haven’t been been talking to Sarah Miles. A dear friend was telling me about a show on BBC radio 4 about the fly agaric toadstool, the iconic red and white spotted fungus as seen in countless fairytale illustrations and written about in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I have drawn and painted this spotty wonder so many times now that I have can’t honesty remember a time that I wasn’t putting them in my work. They are just so fun to do and it’s always good way to add some gaudiness to a picture.
It’s commonly known that these bizarre, almost alien, creations have hallucinogenic properties but what I don’t really understand is the wee wee drinking aspect. Now I don’t know about you but I’ve never really thought, “my that whizz looks tasty!” on my trips to the bathroom, let alone had a hankering to drink anyone else’s. But someone did and discovered that embibing the urine of someone who had consumed fly agaric made the world turn very surreal. So the question is, who on earth was quaffing enough widdle to determine that they would start hallucinating when the donor had been eating mad coloured fungi. Did they constantly drink other people’s piss and then suddenly start tripping one day? Did everyone used to do it? Were there once pee pee bars or houses? Special wee wee cups and glasses? Was there ever a fad for fancy schmansy beetroot eaters piddle?
People really do some strange things but then again I think strange things…
October 29, 2016
Let’s face it, Christmas is mad, madder than the maddest thing. Millions of people work themselves up into a frenzy doing the the strangest things, from the hunting of the turkey (or in my case the non horrible nut roast) through to the coating of everything with glitter, baubles and lights. What I have to do is even madder, utter nonsense in fact, drawing images to be used as Christmas cards during an Indian summer as the sun shines and I cover my head so it doesn’t burn. The conventions of Christmas cards, are strange. Take snow for example, when did it properly snow at Christmas? I honestly cannot remember and yes there I go drawing snowy wintery scenes that never ever happen.
When I drew my set of Alice illustrations for my Dweeblings in Wonderland show a few years back, madness was an ever present factor in my life, I guess that is why I have always had such an affinity with the book. I tried to incorporate all the elements of madness in my drawings then, homelessness, exploitation, falling through the gaps in society. These elements are even more pronounced at this time of year and as the cold begins to bite and the disparities between rich and poor, sane and mad become more obvious.
The real irony for me is that Christmas sends me scurrying away for cover like the cards from the queen of hearts, looking for somewhere to hide until the whole thing goes away. It’s never been a good time of year for me, new year neither and I never really recover until March. But for those who can embrace the madness and throw themselves wholeheartedly into it there is fun to be had I’m sure, if you like that sort of thing.
I think this is my third set of Alice cards now, it’s becoming my own Christmas tradition now in a strange way, a tradition of drawing things that never happen with a different twist I guess that is what Christmas really is, traditions, and mad ones at that.
You can buy my Alice in Wonderland Christmas cards here.
March 2, 2015
Hellooooo! My name is Christopher Hoggins and I am the creator of the Dweeblings. I have had to write various artist’s statements recently and had to try and explain exactly why a 44 year old man draws funny little big eyed creatures that are severely lacking in the ear and nose department. So where do I start? Well I’ll guess I should start at the very beginning. That’s a very good place to start. Well I was born is the summer of… Ok, maybe not that far back. The first Dweeblings appeared as doodles in my art history notebooks at Middlesex University at some point in 1996. They were among a menagerie of other made up creatures that I used to scrawl constantly whilst I should have been concentrating how to learn proper art speak. My Father had recently died and rather than deal with my emotions I did the typical blokey thing and buried myself in my work but it started to leak out in all sorts of ways, the odd doodles in my notebook being one of them. And there they stayed ’til about some time in about 2000, by which point I had got my degree, had a nervous breakdown, lost my home and found myself living in my mother’s house which was many hundreds of miles from my friends or indeed anyone I knew. For many years I barely left the house and as the internet back then was slower than a snail on valium so I spent and awful lot of time reading books (I even tried writing a couple), playing on my N64 and then my Gamecube and making art. It was around this time that the first ever painted Dweebling appeared. It was an a very large canvas and had a very long spindly neck and limbs. Now an important things to know about me is that I am more than a touch obsessive. Once I get an idea in my head, I need to go through every idea and every permutation of that idea. I am like one of those automated car factories that churns stuff out day and night and I have no idea where the off switch is. This meant that once I had done one painting I needed to do another, and another and… well you get the idea. I realised that these little creatures could do all the things I couldn’t. They could travel to Barcelona and check out Gaudi’s buildings whist I couldn’t face getting a bus into town or they could appear onstage as Elvis or the Sex Pistols when I couldn’t stomach the thought of going into the co-op to buy some milk. As time went by I got a little better and with the advent of broadband internet made the world a lot bigger for people like myself. Around 8 years and many painting later I eventually, with the help of the original IAPT trial, managed to finally move to my own flat by the sea in St Leonards. The move nearly killed me and I had a particularly awful time with finding out someone I thought was a friend actually wasn’t. Once things settled down though and I started to get out and see things, the Dweeblings also made themselves at home in their new environment. They started to reinterpret what they saw and started to develop a mind of their own. There were even a couple who didn’t smile…. During what were particularly bad years for me, I hunkered down and worked on two series of works on paper. Firstly, my own version of William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” solely using a ball point pen and secondly a complete set of illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. There was a political undercurrent to both these projects, brought about by the Con-Dem Government’s barbaric policies in respect to people with mental health issues, particularly in respect to their finances. Hogarth documented, amongst other things, crushing poverty whilst Alice in Wonderland describes perfectly what it is like to work out what is sane in a world which is profoundly mad. Over the last couple of years The Dweeblings have been appearing in portraits, first in a series entitled “The Kings and Queens of Kings Road” documenting the characters real and imagined around Kings Road St Leonards on Sea and more recently in a series of portraits in of the staff and service users of a local mental health support centre where I interviewed the sitters and told their stories in paint. Right now, I am working on a long term project documenting thehidden stories of places in East Sussexand turning them into paintings and colouring in books. And after that, who knows?
February 11, 2015
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. The 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, 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. The 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 appearance 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. The 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 on 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.
July 28, 2014
The Mad Hatter’s Evidence
This is the last part of my series explaining the ideas and images behind my interpretation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrations. The last four pictures tell the story around the goings on in the courthouse. It begins with The Mad Hatter giving his evidence, dripping tea and jam. His hat has flourished into a creation inspired by Mad King Ludvig of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein castle. Ludvig bankrupted his country with his grandiose programme of castle building and it is strongly believed that he was murdered by his own people in an effort to save their country from disaster.
The Jury Box
The Kings Hears Evidence
In The Jury Box Alice suddenly undergoes another growth spurt, catapulting her fellow jurors into the air. The birds based on cult Japanese Anime Science Ninja Gatchaman (G-force) make another appearance as they do in the penultimate panel, The King Hears The Evidence where a bored king, mimicking a pose struck by Alex in the Korova Moloko Bar at the beginning of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. His costume is a reference to a magical mystical Dweebling I used in show some year’s back who was in turn based of a Japanese Shinto priest. There is a direct reference to Nintendo’s Mario games in the Knave of Hearts of ball and chain which is a game character know as a chomp. The Final illustration of the book is Why, You’re Just a pack of cards. Where Alice is back to her normal size and all the characters in the book are just common or garden animals again. The cards spiral out of the picture with a Vietnam War version of an ace of spades death card in prominent position.
You’re Just a pack of cards!
July 20, 2014
Flash the tortoise.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog about my Alice illustrations, I’ve been stupidly busy with this and that and whatnot and I haven’t really had the time. But lucky for you dear reader (not for myself) I have managed to knacker my back. So whilst recreating my own low budget version of Misery I am forced to take to my bed and write, dirty birdy that I am. The next few pictures that I am going to write about are those featuring the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle. For these characters, my main inspiration was a programme I remembered watching as a child, Fingerbobs, where a funny bearded old man (probably much younger that I am now) made creatures from gloves, paper and bits of string.
When I thought about the mock turtle’s shell the character Flash the tortoise sprang to mind and, once on that theme, the paper cone mice seemed a perfect replacement for the Gryphon’s talons. Both characters feature legs from pantomime animals and the Mock Turtle’s arms are scuba diver’s flippers, I distantly remember sticking a pair on my hands and flapping them around a when I was a kid , until I got told off that is.
The Mock Turtle’s Tale.
There are various hidden details in The Mock Turtle’s Tale, The pirate ship and the balloon boy are from my children’s book The Dweebling Who Lost His Smile, the balloon boy has a much longer history though, which really needs a blog on it’s own. Also tucked away on the horizon is the Royal Sovereign lighthouse of the east sussex coast near Bexhill and Eastbourne, which has featured in many of my paintings as well as being the subject of one of them. The swirly wave pattern is stolen from the video game, The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker, where the sea is drawn in a highly stylised cell animation manner.
Dancing the Lobster Quadril
February 25, 2014
I have a very strange addiction. Every time I see a new (or old) copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I have to buy it. I have always loved owning all the different illustration, from the quirky and beautiful Mervyn Peake edition, the curious Tové Janson and the downright bizarre Yayoi Kasuma.
The copy I picked up the over day was most curious, at first glance I though it was Mable Lucie Attwell, which is still on my list to buy, but it turned out to be some chap by the name of Harry Rountree. What I am most drawn to though is the dedication at the front. To Gloria, with love from Auntie Bessie May the 20th 1933. The book is very ‘loved’ and many of the illustration have been coloured in, or more accurately, scribbled in, so it’s pretty safe to image that Gloria would have been a vey little girl. Say about five. So if she was born in 1928 that would make her about 86, I am guessing though that this would not be a thing someone would part with, well I wouldn’t anyway, so I am guessing that Gloria has either passed on or is in a home of some kind. It’s curious to wonder though, about this little girl, scribbling away at this book. What did she think of it? Did it fill her imagination with odd creatures? Or was it simply an expensive colouring book from a well meaning Auntie. Guess I’ll never know.