Feeling Miffed

February 17, 2017

Dick Bruna died today aged 89.

I’m trying to wrap my head around this. He died in his sleep after a very successful and full life. I guess in a way I should be concentrating on the success aspect but I’m mostly concentrating on the age, 89. A year older than my frail, leukaemia ridden mum. The one that I moan about constantly. Some things are a bit sobering.

Miffy was something I came to late, a byproduct of my fascination with hello kitty in my late teens and beyond. Like a lot of people of what was called Generation X I became fascinated with everything cute and gaudy as a rejection of that eighties design ethic. It’s hard to imagine now but Hello Kitty and other Sanrio products were expensive and as rare as rocking horse poo. Hamleys had some Hello Kitty and a few shops in Chinatown but it was all super expensive. In the post goth, pre club kids, circles I used to knock about in it was as much a status symbol as yeezys or the latest Supreme collaboration would be today. Now it’s common enough to be disposable, an important thing to remember. Miffy was easier to get and considerably  cheaper. Looking back on it now, you have to appreciate the beauty and deceptive simplicity of the lines. This was pre photoshop and illustrator you have to remember, you couldn’t just chuck a couple of extra nodes in a line and pull round a perfect curve, a human being did that and it’s a lot harder than it looks. 

There was always something comforting and solid about Miffy, like Lego was once before it started to go in for all that licensed  character stuff in the nineties. It will carry on of course, like the moomins and the mr men and it will always charm children as it always has, but for a generation of grown up knocking fifty, there will be a lot of deep sadness today. 

Doctor, I’m feeling very rejected….

June 4, 2015
The Net Huts in Technicolour

The Net Huts in Technicolour

Hello Doctor, I want you to know I’m feeling very rejected….

Well that’s what I should have said.

It’s funny how people can have such a deep affect on your life and not have a clue that they have done so. Like today for example. I made yet another failed attempt at trying to get a stockist in Hastings Old Town. Truth be told, I have never really liked the place, but then again, it has never liked me much either. There is something almost feudal about Hastings as a whole and the Old Town is worst than anywhere. There was all the kerfuffle surrounding the building of the Jerwood Gallery and several years after it’s completion, the “No Jerwood on the Stade” posters are still dotted about the Old Town. You almost need a passport as there is  a definite “you do not belong” feel. It is very rare that I go there as it makes me feel really depressed, but as today I scored 96% on the Goldberg test for depression (dead man walking) I figured, “what the hell! Couldn’t get any worse.” I have learnt to work with my mental illness over the years and I have discovered that days like today are great for doing awful, pointless things, like trying to crack the Old Town.


Swan Lake

There are a couple of versions of this place, there is the tourist trap / student farming version where groups young language students are dragged through the cobbled streets, come rain or shine, as a treat between getting them to learn english in shabby classrooms and where families frogmarch their kids through ye olde engerlande streets when they just want to drop their pocket money in the beeping machines in the adjacent amusement arcades. The next version is the down from London, cool hunting, shove the house prices up version, which demands organic, sour dough, five grain, bread and chalk based house paints, in-between writing articles for the ‘quality’ newspapers about how they discovered Hastings and how it was a dying seaside town before they introduced hummus to the locals and civilised their fishy ways. The third is the posey, boozy hanging out in Old Town where all the locals lurk on Friday and Saturday nights and where the most tedious bands play terrible blues and terrible everything else as well. There is the odd little gem, music-wise, but they are few and far between, it is mostly eminently ignorable and serves as a background to the turning of booze into piss and nice houses for the landlords. Rents are high, footfall is heavy and the pile it high, sell it with a massive mark-up attitude is king. As a consequence there is nowhere, edgy, quirky, niche or whatever that sticks out as being a likely stockist, the shocking shop rental charges don’t exactly encourage anything but dead certs. So in my head, the trip into tourist trap Hastings was a fool’s hope anyway but I thought I’d give it a go, as I said, feeling shit, couldn’t get worse (famous last words.)

Colouring the Net Huts

Colouring the Net Huts

I will tell you about the second shop first as it is less relevant but still amusing. It was yer typical haven of tweeness, mass produced chinese soft toys, cards, lots of Cath Kidston (aristocrats masquerading as designers are worth a blog of their own, but not today.) The shop assistant, proceeded to cough at me before shushing me out so she could get some water from the basement. I must admit, that is the most novel knock back that I have ever received to date. Now for the first port of call… I only went in this particular shop because the name had changed and I had assumed that it was under new management. Wrong! I gave this place a wide birth as one of the owners was my first Doctor in Hastings and he was quite spectacularly terrible. I don’t think I realised how bad until I actually got a little bit healthier and talked to a few more people. When I lived in Doncaster, I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to be tested on the groundbreaking new iapt (improving access to psychological therapies) program which actively helped the mentally ill to get their lives back with intensive help and not just throwing a few anti-depressants at you and hoping for the best. After years being an almost total recluse, I was encouraged to work out what I wanted from life and taught how to reverse engineer the steps needed to get there. The main thing I worked out was that I needed to be living somewhere a bit more convivial to being a fay arty type than where I was living. So, to cut a long story, I got a bit less ill and eventually moved. I was proud of what I’d achieved and when I moved to St Leonards and signed up at my new doctors I got a bit of a nasty shock. This was when I met… let’s call him Dr Arsehole for the first time. P1000704He was the most acerbic doctor I have ever had the misfortune to meet, and not far off being one of the worst people and, believe me, I have met some truly bad ones. He proceeded to tell me that there was nothing like I.A.P.T in Hastings or any help at all in fact and that I needed my meds upping because “I might as well be pissing in the wind” on what I was taking. The antithesis or everything I’d come to expect in the way of treatment for the previous few years. I left the surgery shocked and stunned, this guy had pulled out one of my major supports. between that and discovery that the ‘friend’ who helped me move to Hastings was a dangerous and delusional narcissist, my world completely fell apart. I barely survived that and if I were stronger I would have reported him for negligence for not putting me in touch with many of the fantastic services that actually were available to me in Hastings. I still can’t work out why he would have done that, sadism, incompetence beyond belief, I did something terrible to him in a previous life, but then compared to a friend who lost a  ovary and nearly died due to his mis-diagnosis, I got off lightly. To add insult to injury, he neglected to update my records so it looked like I had never had any dealing with the medical services which set me on a terrible path that ruined my life for at least a year. It came as no surprise to discover that this guy had another occupation that was distracting his attention from what he should have been doing, he was running a little shop.

Colour in George Street

Colour in George Street

Just how much money do some people need? Are there many poor G.P’s in the UK? Probably none. So why would a doctor want to run a shop too? Some need to run an empire? A nice little tax write off or maybe arty pretensions to soften his titanium cast heart? Anyway, all I knew is that whatever the why’s and wherefores, he wouldn’t ever get any of my cash.

Hastings (bouncy) Castle

Hastings (bouncy) Castle

So fast forward several years and here I am, walking into this shop and there he was and phased by his continued presence I am stuck in a position where I am showing him my wares. A few years earlier, his response would have floored me and I would have fell into a week long decline but as I have had a fair degree of success I could see it for what it was. He just didn’t get it, or get me. I should have learned by now, my artwork is Marmite, you love it, or you hate it. This guy certainly didn’t love it. His response to the colouring in books was a classic. “so is this it? or is this a sample?” I could have told him that I like things that feel cosy, I love that zine / diy aesthetic and that slick, mass produced, things leave me cold. I could have said that I spent a lot getting things printed on heavy duty paper so that people could use them without pencils going through or they would hold a degree of watercolour paint before cockling. I could have said lots of stuff, but why bother? He didn’t get it. His partner was a little bit nicer with the “Oh, we just ordered all our cards for the year.” Gosh! I haven’t heard that one before… I do find it fascinating though, the way people pass on rejection. In this case there was good cop and bad cop in one place.

Dweebling Jack

Dweebling Jack

Some people say flat out no, some visibly um and ah and weigh things up, bad cop here toyed with me a bit, as if to put me in my place. How dare I come into his little empire and try and take money rather than the other way round? The easist one is a simple “It would not work in here” neutral, not offensive, no harm done. When I walked out of there I’m sure he said something cutting to the other chap, some bitchy little comment about how rubbish I was with my pricing, how shoddy he thought the cover was. Probably in the same way as he took small pleasure out of knocking the last bit of hope out of a, vulnerable, mentally ill man in recovery. Or, even worse, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it and sails through life, soiling everything he touches with an ingrained bad attitude. From a personal point of view though, the thing that I should have learn’t by now is how difficult it is to do something new, something edgy, something that could be potentially ripped off, something idiosyncratic, in this country, particularly when you are based outside of cities and even more when you don’t hang around with the ‘right’ people and in the ‘right’ bars / pubs. Nearly everything that has gone well for me has come from people slowly catching on to what I’m doing, it is too complex and strange to be ‘got’ all at once, particularly without the cultural or artistic references. Just wandering about like a space cadet gets me nowhere, although it was a lovely day and I’m sure the walk by the sea did me good. I left Dr Arsehole’s shop, left Hastings Old Town, got to the New Town and dropped my wares off with someone who actually “got it”. Maybe one day I’ll actually get a stockist in Old Town Hastings but until then you can buy your Hastings stuff HERE as well as lots of other goodies.

Pirate Day

Pirate Day

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

If you want to get some hate, get a hat. (or at least think about it)

February 4, 2015

If You Want To Get Ahead...I think it’s fairly safe to say that I have a fairly shaky relationship with the art world. I am very uncomfortable with the word “artist” I’m not even sure what it means, I mean, I know I am one, but I couldn’t really tell you why. There are some things you just know, like who you love, or who you hate. Just what it art? Well according to Google it is “the expression or application of creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power” So how does conceptual art fit into that? Who defines what’s beautiful? What has emotional power? It’s all subjective, a baby being born, a goal being scored, Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies, a pair of new trainers fresh out of the box. They are all beautiful or emotionally charged to someone. Everything in art is subjective, this becomes more apparent when you look at the submission form for a contemporary art exhibition.  There are spaces to describe your potential installation and time limits for the length of your sound. Maharishi HatIt was at this point I started to feel a little out of my depth and my attention drifted towards a bit of internet window shopping. It was at this point I spotted a rather fetching new hat in Maharishi’s January sale and it happened to cost the exact same amount of money as the show’s submission fee. Hmmm….! So cogs started a whirring… a rejection letter… or a new hat… I’d pretty much already made my mind up but I thought I’d get a bit of advice from my chums on Facebook. At first I was pleasantly surprised, there was lots of support, lots of “give it a go”. Truth be told, I was slightly disappointed, I really wanted that hat. So I’m pondering about what to submit, I wanted to enter the maximum five to get my money’s worth. When up pops this comment on Facebook. “Oh so now you’re interested in people. The rest of the time you’re telling us what a load of idiots we are lol” Now I have to admit I was really hurt by this, I’m not the strongest person at the best of times, and things really do get to me. Particularly when they are so untrue. Now I won’t lie, I do fire off the occasional broadside at people. That said, you have to do something pretty bad to get a slating from me, being a tory minister, a mass murdering New Labour Prime Minister or an atos employee will usually do the trick. But think everyone’s an idiot? W.T.F??? Now I wouldn’t have minded so much if it was attached to one of my many rants about the government, but this one was attached to the end of a really positive thread. So I’m scratching my head trying to work out what all this was about. I managed to piss a few people off a while back with my views on camping (don’t like it!) Was it to do with that? It turns out not but more of that later. There was a “lol” at the end but does that change the intention? Let’s see “I hope you die of something horrible! lol!” is that funny? Not really. So as my world came crashing down around me (I suffer from clinical depression by the way) I took myself off of Facebook and took to my bed for a day. I suffered, my girlfriend suffered, my friends suffered and my family suffered. All because one spiteful person wanted to take their frustration out on someone. Now one of the problems with mental illness is that you constantly question your reactions. Was that reasonable? Did I imagine that? Am I overreacting? You become filled with doubts until you don’t know your own mind any more. I sat and thought about my past interactions with this person, who I barely knew and who barely knew me. When was the last time she liked one of my posts? As far as I can remember never. Had she done anything like this before? Well, she had left a comment to the effect that I was only happy when I was moaning. I was moaning at that point, true. But always? Hardly! Now, I’m not going to blow my own trumpet but I think I do quite a bit of good in the world. I think her comments say more about what she takes notice of than anything about me as a person. So I was pretty sure this wasn’t me losing the plot. After losing a day I figured that I needed to do something with this, to reclaim the situation for myself. So I though, “Sod it! I’ll buy the hat, paint myself in it and submit it for the show” Turn the whole thing into a performance art piece. Result! So I did. I ordered the hat, got myself back on Facebook, blocked said person and got on with my day. 2015-01-20 12.48.15Now it turns out that the person in question took umbrage at my blocking her and preceded to gloat about it on her fb page, something which gave me a deal of satisfaction as it proved that I wasn’t going mad and that she was indeed out to get me.  Later, I found out why. Now apparently she took offence to a comment I made on New Year’s Eve wishing everyone good luck with their hangovers the following day. Apparently she felt that I was taking a sideswipe at everyone involved with a local New Year’s Eve bash that she helped organise. Eh? How did she work that out? Does she assume herself and one New Year’s Eve bash so important that I need to rail against her incandescent wonders? Hardly! It’s a big old world out there and I know an awful lot of people far outside the seaside town where I live and which I love. Truth be told, I don’t really care what anyone does on NYE or any other night of the year. I am dyspraxic, dyslexic and I suffer from anxiety and clinical depression. When anyone wants me to go to a party of any kind I have a stock answer. “Why not just stick a metal dustbin over my head and hit it repeatedly with a plank of wood? It would be cheaper and I wouldn’t need to get dressed up for it.” Harsh but true. So anyway, determined to claim my life back, I got the hat, painted myself in the hat and now I’m filling in the form as part of the submission process. I spent last night attempting to create an artist’s statement. What’s that all about? It is not enough to make art (whatever that is) but now I have to say why I do it. It seems to me like those Miss World speeches in the bad old days of the seventies when women who’s breast were trying to escape from a too small swimming costume would explain how they wanted to help sick children or animals in the developing world. I think I’m almost there now, my girlfriend described the result as the final nail in the coffin of my art career, so job done! Anyway, whether I get accepted or not, this is not the end of the story. If I get let through the door I will tell you what will happen next. If not, I have something else up my sleeve. But whatever happens, the whole thing is a thing, Carl Andre couldn’t have done better.

Obscure toy of the week: Panda SAM

October 12, 2009

Sam by Red Magic

The Super Animal Machine or SAM for short comes from a design team called Red Magic based Hong Kong who also make the more well known CiBoys.

Apparently they are supposed to be aliens who have come to earth disguised as animals, although the only ones they make are variants on pandas. I’ve scratched my head about this one and the only logical reason I can find for the name is that they could have been called SPAM (Super Panda Animal Machines) or something similar which would never do. Anyway, daft name aside, the are so darn cute.

What I really love about these, apart from the cuteness, is that they are really solid and weighty. It’s nice to feel something that is really there and not something flimsy and breakable. They are around three inches tall and both theirs heads and legs are attached via ball and socket joints so that they can be posed at a jaunty angle.

You can pick a few up from online stores in the u.k for around the three pound mark but to get a better range you need to order from ebay stores in Hong Kong, just don’t buy more than £15 worth at once or you will be stung for shocking customs handling fees.

SAM by Red Magic

My amazing dancing toy collection.

October 12, 2009

One of my toy cabinetsA couple of years back, I finally got a house big enough to allow me to take my entire toy collection out of  storage and….

Da da daaaaaaaaa…..   Out of their boxes. Even now I hear the screams of geeks and fan-boys perforating my eardrums.

So there I was, for two days straight, open box, put figure in glass cabinet, carefully put box back in storage, repeat. Bliss!

There they were, qee, dunny, evirobs, murakami, bearbrick ,micronauts, secret base and star wars. All standing to attention on their little plastic feet.

Then after a week or so, after the novelty had worn off I noticed something quite peculiar. Some of my toys had gone for a walk on their shelves, some were even huddled together as if planning some dastardly scheme….. Strange!

Now I could understand if some had fallen over, I’m quite heavy footed and a bit clumsy so you expect a few casualties, but this was far more subtle.  Were they indeed up to something? Were they planning to get me whilst I slept, perhaps even overcome me with fumes from all their little vinyl bodies or maybe they were going to make a break for the border.

This carried on for a while before I worked out what what was going on.  It was the washing machine. The spin cycle was sending vibrations though my glass cabinets and jiggling my little plastic friends about.

Reality can be quite a let down.

What is a Squiggly Norman?

October 12, 2009

whatisitThis is the question that I’ve been asking myself since I made the first one back in 1998. Is it a toy? Is it art? Is it a really uncomfortable cushion?

Well, it’s eleven years later and after much lollygagging (why isn’t that in my spell check?) and the addition of some facial features, I still don’t have a clue. So what is it? Any suggestions? Clean ones please.

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