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. 

And the value of nothing.

August 20, 2016

How do you value a work of art? There are so many different schools of thought. So many variables…

I have spent the last couple of days pricing up paintings and drawings for my coastal currents show. In the past I have often priced artwork intentionally high, knowing that it won’t sell. The theory being this… If you put your artwork up for sale and no one buys any of it then it is incredibly demoralising. Particularly if you have put your heart and soul into those pieces. If you put ridiculously high (well for a poverty stricken seaside town in the middle of a recession) prices on them, you can say that the reason they didn’t sell is because no one can afford your wares and not because the potential buyers find the work aesthetically wanting in some way. 

It’s a scary thing putting yourself out there, especially if your work has a meaning and a story behind it. It soon becomes a personal rejection of you as a human being if you don’t find ways to distance yourself from, well… let’s face it, your children. Art is an act of creation and you put so much of yourself into your work, or you should do, that it is hard judge the value of art you have made. Why should this one be more than that? Because it’s bigger? Because it’s prettier? Because it took longer? Because the materials were more expensive? Should we judge our own family by those standards? I do hope not. 

But for the last couple of days I have been doing just that, weighing up banal factors such as, if a painting goes past a certain size, say that of the average flat screen tv, the amount of people with the space to hang it drops severely as does the price. Also, you may labour for days on a technically accomplished piece of work but if it doesn’t go well against the current fad of wallpaper, paint colour or whatever, then it has no value. If you are a known artist with an established name, then a work of a deeply personal value has more worth but if you are someone that people simply don’t get then your work has merely a value as decoration. 

For this show, I am pricing to sell, it’s a little on the high side for local trade but as there is a strong story to it all (the matter of my near brush will death) I am hoping that will shine through. I am taking a leap of faith… I just hope it isn’t straight off a cliff.

The strange thing is, I just added it all up. A total of forty works of art, all produced since the beginning of April, all telling the story in some way of my experience as a frail, fragile and all too mortal human being. I added them all up and it came to somewhere around £9000, to me that is a king’s ransom, a life changing amount of money. To others that is less that half a year’s wages and to the likes of a few coked up celebrities, bloated bankers and pea brained footballers that is a week’s spending money. It takes my breath away thinking of that, knowing that I will be lucky to sell one, let alone many. 

So I’m going to take a deep breath, stand back and hope the world is kind to me. All I can do is to wait and see what happens.

The small and secret show

August 20, 2016

Ooh I do like to do the odd thing on the hush hush.  Last year I did something quite spectacularly covert and bonkers around this time. I’m not putting down in writing what it was but it clearly had a few positive effects and did exactly what I intended it to do, but to quote the wonderful film Spinal Tap “there is a fine line between stupid and clever” so fine sometimes that I’m not actually sure where it is and what side of it I am. I am in that position right now on a number of levels. 

One particular example of me trying to be clever that turned out to be stupid was  my genius idea of doing tea towels instead of t shirts as printed merchandise this year for coastal currents arts festival. I love t shirts (we will come back to that later) but the problem with printing them is the size issue. You can’t just order one, you have to order a full spread of sizes from extra small if you want to deal with Asia through to xxxl. Plus there are women’s cut t shirts and children’s, and then a range of colourways to consider. Things suddenly get into serious outlay and organisation territory. So I thought I’d do tea towels. I mean, everyone does the washing up, or almost everyone. So no issues with sizing or any of that, just one thing to print. Sorted! 

Erm, wrong! There definitely was a size issue, a glaringly obvious one. Although I didn’t realise it until I got a seemingly innocuous  email back from my screen printer, “this is to size right?” It took my woolly head a few minutes to work out what exactly he was getting at. I design my t shirt images on a3 paper, I may clean them up slightly later in Photoshop but I love things to retain that hand drawn feeling rather than something cold and sterile that could have been bashed out in an hour or so. So the design I sent him was done to this size. I scratched my head for a moment and then went rooting about for a tea towel from the kitchen draw and held it up to myself…. Oh! It was a lot bigger about twice the size in fact. So up goes the screen making costs and up goes the cost per unit. Whoops!

I was particularly pissed off with myself because I thought I was being doubly sorted because I even checked that the cafe where I shall be displaying this work, and the now Terry Gilliam level over budget tea towels, because they would have the phrase “pure poison” plastered all over them and their cafe in return. Fortunately they got the joke and even suggested that we hang them up on clothes lines across the ceiling. Now this is where my next genius idea came in. “I will need to buy some clothes pegs” I thought to myself. “clothes pegs, hmm? Old fashioned wooden ones… I know what! I can paint little people on them! No! Wait! I can paint little me’s on each one. Yes! Little versions of me, each with a different outfit on. Brilliant!” Except… Well, have you ever tried doing a hundred of a thing and make each one different? No? Well neither have I. 

The logistics of getting everything to dry without sticking to each other was hard enough to figure out on its own but the real problem came with the t shirts (see! I told you!) you see I do have rather a lot of t shirts, if Emelda Marcos were into t shirts instead of shoes I would be her. It all seemed simple at first, just work through the dolly pegs, ten at a time, adding designs from my extensive wardrobe. After a while though they all start to blur in to one and once you get past the fifty mark it’s a question of constantly referring back through the shirts that I had already painted so as to not duplicate anything . The nicest aspect for me was the ability to recreate some of my old t shirts, including some of the cyberpunk stuff from my twenties that I can’t carry off any more and all the Westwood ones that went on eBay in the end as I was too fat to wear them anymore. 

I finally finished the last batch yesterday and I must admit that I’m not sorry. So now I effectively have an exhibition of one hundred little me’s that I will use to hang up my tea towels. They will be on sale for a few quid each but  I won’t be making a song and dance about what I have done. I like leaving little surprises for the observant as so few people are nowadays. So many people seem to drift through life in a haze, doing what they are told to do, liking what they are told to like and buying what they are told to buy. Whilst it’s true that I shall never get rich doing the things I do at least it rewards the quietly observant, so much of the world is tailored to the brash, the egotistical, the controlling and the show offs. It’s nice to give something back to the quiet people. 

The secret peg portrait show can be seen at the love cafe, Norman road, st leonards on sea, throughout September. 

Explain yourself!

August 13, 2016

Below in that dreaded piece of pretentious garbage, the personal statement for my show. Part of the events listed in the coastal currents arts festival.  I hate explaining my work. It’s like shoving pins through butterflies, you destroy half their Beauty to make them static and accessible. It’s a necessary evil though, when throwing six months of your life into artwork that will end up hidden in plain sight, buried amidst everyone else’s offerings , at the mercy of pre conceptions and competing against assorted schmoozers, wheel greasers and some monstrous egos. There are elements to coastal currents that have become hackneyed, tedious and in some cases downright dangerous. Hopefully my little bit will be none of these.

“Dweeblings in Love (and other matters of the heart) 

I should have died.Dragging myself and my shopping up half a mile of steep hill in the bleakest of bleak midwinters while wearing a vintage army parka that weighs about the same as a four year old child. Unbeknownst to me I had severe angina, the really bad kind. With only for 4% of my main coronary artery left functioning I was lurching around town and up ladders, painting murals and the like. I was the proverbial dead man walking. Of course I didn’t know that at the time and that is what made it all the more shocking a month later when when I was confined to a hospital bed, wired up and told not to move until the hospital fixed my heart. 

The work you see here represents my physical and mental journey back to wellness and my attempts to come to terms with all the trauma I have experienced this year. The imagery may seem quite random at first, but it all makes sense. Well sort of…
The general themes of life and death and my brush with it are represented by the great cliches of the momento mori. Skulls and flowers, with angels, devils and butterflies as signifiers of mortality and rebirth. Some of the drawings I created for this show are made up of words, repeating phrases, poems, prose, with the use of other languages both ancient and modern. They are a logical progression for me from cross hatching and shading in inks.
I am finding it hard to comprehend that I have tiny lattices of wire widening the arteries to my heart. It made me think of the ancient Japanese practice of kintsugi , the repairing of smashed ceramics with gold to rescue the irreplaceable. I have experimented in the use of gilding to represent this on a number of paintings.
I touched on the Catholic notion of the sacred heart in a few works as well as the organ’s use in anatomical illustrations. Strangely enough, the notion of the broken heart is actually a reality rather than a turn of phrase. Takotsubo, or cardiomyopathy, is where extreme stress, a break up for example, causes the heart’s chambers to temporarily distort into the shape of a clay pot that is used for the collection of octopuses by Japanese fishermen. 
The brain and mind appear, in various guises, as the contemplation of my narrow avoidance of death and my experience of viewing my own heart beating during my angiogram and subsequent angioplasty and other physically intrusive aspects of the procedure shook my emotional state quite severely and the levels of stress I have lived under throughout my life have greatly damaged my pulmonary system. 
Everyday I must take blood thinning drugs to prevent my having a stroke or heart attack. The medication is chemically similar to the rat poison strychnine. I have likened the absurdity of ingesting toxins on a daily basis for the benefit of my health with the strange irony that some of the most beautiful of fish are extremely poisonous, although I must point out that, to me, all fish are as I am highly allergic to them. I also find it amusing that the French word for fish is only one letter different from poison, poisson. 
My avatars, the Dweeblings, have taken a back seat in many of the works (although they have made cameo appearances if you look hard enough) but elements of their world are represented in details such as the shapes of eyes and my habit of anthropomorphising animals and inanimate objects.
This year so far has not been easy, but hopefully I have gained a little wisdom and made the most of my experiences.
                                                                                       Chris Hoggins, August 2016

N.B There is also a second secret series of art works on show if you look carefully enough”
My work can be seen at the love cafe, st leonards on sea, throughout September.

(Not actual size)

April 22, 2016

   Some arguments you just aren’t going to win. In fact, if you are me, even trying to win just makes look like a complete arsehole and I just end up with me digging a deeper and deeper hole with my mouth. One day I may actually learn this simple fact about myself on a deep enough a level that I actually cease harming myself and losing everything I hold dear in the process. 

One argument I constantly lost was the notion of the scale of gundam model kits, complex plastic facsimiles of gigantic human driven mechanical men also called mobile suits or, if you want  to be really geeky, gunpla. A dear friend of mine would look at the latest mini bulked up tank on legs that I had bought myself as my own Christmas or birthday present and she would  pick up the weighty and multiple jointed lump of six inch high plastic and then look at me suspiciously as I would proudly state the “the real thing would be about 200 foot tall”  with a big grin and wide eyes.  She would look at the little chap in her hand and look me in the eye and say clearly and slowly “what real thing Chris? This. Is. A. Toy.”  I would then go on to open a little hatch somewhere and fish out a tiny plastic person and explain that if this was a real person it would be five foot high and just imagine how big the real thing would have to be if that was a real person. She would look at me with the kindness reserved for the very vulnerable and explain “But. This. Is. Not. A. Real. Person. This. Is. A. Toy.”  I should have learnt to quit with arguments here really, I should have know when I was beaten. 

 I have weird issues with scale, I guess most men do  but this is not about exactly what constitutes as an, erm, “big one” or variants on exactly how one measures six inches. I do think a lot of it though is less to do with the size of one’s genitals and is more about what action figures one played with as a child. If you compare a Star Wars figure to a spaceship designed for them the ‘real’ (that term used in imaginary things again)  version should be at least five times the size. I guess the idea of a seven year old child trying to drag a three metre wide Milenium Falcon ship about is less than feasible, not to mention the cost of such a thing. So children, particularly boys tend to develop a capricious attitude to the notion of the scale of things. 

  I have on occasion been accused of being negative or even a pessimist, but it more complicated than that. I look at the world and I want things to be better. I want people to be genuinely nice and kind to each other, I want people to be safe, I would like things to be made well and priced fairly and I expect people who have enough of whatever to be decent enough to know when they have enough and share things around when they do. I know I’m not really cut out for this world, with all its greedy, grasping, entitled, over confident, under talented, pushy people, but I really think that if I lose that essential naive optimism (even though it often seems to leave me very disappointed) then I will give up on life entirely. Yeah… I can’t wrap my head around it either. 

 I have spent the last week reimagining many local views and landmarks as they would appear if the town I live in was built by me. Altering the scale, the style or the usage of many buildings and objects that I see every day so as to make them better and much more interesting. The idea came from someone I used to know who hated one particular red brick office building with a passion. She could see ocean house from her window and in her view it spoiled the otherwise perfect panoramic view of the sea and the park. She would strategically place a large vase of flowers in front of it in the window so as to obscure it from her vision. Strangely enough, some years later, the very same ugly building would become dear to my heart as I would wait for a very lovely lady to come out of it so I could take her to lunch. So much so that I smile every time I look upon it. I was sitting on the window sill last weekend and was looking at the rather tenuous sea view and the buildings I could see and I took the idea of altering my view to its logical conclusion by drawing it as I want to see it as opposed to how I actually do. Then I took another thing and then another until I had enough images to turn into a set of greetings cards based on how things would look if it were up to me.  

 One person’s vision is something that is sadly lacking nowadays and is more conspicuous by its absence in a place like St Leonards on Sea where so many of the more iconic buildings were the vision of a single person. Architect Decimus Burton was responsible for the look and feel of the original Victorian part of St Leonards, lending the once prestigious and uber trendy seaside getaway with  the grandure of  the districts of London that he had designed previously. This set a high bar for others to aim for locally. Then much later on a chap called Sidney Little a.k.a the King of Concrete created a number of incredibly distinctive buildings in the Art Deco style. It’s been downhill ever since then with the curse of committee building, where everyone has their say and every grand idea gets watered down to nothing  over tea and biscuits. Whilst my own ‘grand ideas’ depicted  here are at best shockingly expensive and at worst defy the laws of physics at least they are good fun. We need a bit more of that in the world right now.  


Back in (the) Love (cafe) again.

February 7, 2016

P1020954I’m back in love. Yay! No, this isn’t some sickly pre Valentines Day post where I’m plugging my wares to all those lovers young and old. (Although prints, t-shirts and painting make wonderful gifts 😉  ) Sadly, and completely not of my choosing, I will be very much single this year. Cue violins.   Anyway, When I say I’m in Love, I mean the Love Cafe in St Leonards on Sea. Not to be confused with Japan’s Love hotels, which are, erm, a very different kettle of sushi.

DSC05779My relationship with this place started when the original owners Rosie and Ed bought a teddy bear I made from me some 8 or so years ago. It was a Viking bear I believe Sven? Eric? Something like that. It was not that long after that I got a call from Ed, He was taking over and old print works and turning it into an art gallery / craft market and was looking people who made really nice stuff to show their wares. When I did put some bears in, I cagily took down a folio of paintings. I thought they’d hate them, most people did back then, but no. They loved them!

So I put some paintings in and I even sold one. Then, as a lot of things do in St Leonards, plans changed and it became The Love Cafe. I was going through a bad patch a little later and I really needed to get some focus and direction into my life. I decided to commit myself to a serious task and that was to produce a version of William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress as both painting and etchings (well, biro drawings to be exact).BWthe prison I’ve found it’s so much easier in life to let one’s self down than it is other people. Personal goals can slide by and we look up and we are years older and “that thing” never got done. So I took a deep breath (and and NHS confidence building workshop) and I went and asked Ed if he would let me put up A Rake’s Progress and I even got him to book a date. There we go! I would be letting someone else down then, I had to do it. It went quite well and I even did a version in booklet form including the story in 18th Century pros. I even got it in the Soane’s Museum after that( The booklet, not the drawings sadly). When I had my first solo gallery show it was Ed and Rosie who bought enough of my paintings to cover my costs. P1020970I would often have a painting or two on display in their cafe though. It’s a loyalty thing. By the time they sold up and moved on I was starting to do more high profile shows, such as the one in the prestigious Towner Gallery in Eastbourne but I took time out at the end of last year to do a photographic face through for them at their new venue in Hastings’ Observer Building. Then came an interesting email via one of my agents. The new owners of The Love Cafe were wondering if I would put some work in there. I was a little wary at first, wondering if it would be a backwards step, going from the Towner and solo shows to having work in a cafe. Then I met them and the new owners Sharon and Colin were lovely. Plus I got bribed by the loveliest hot chocolate, with little pink and white marshmallows floating in it and I was sold. There was one condition though, I wanted to absolutely cover the place. Complete Dweebling takeover. It’s lovely to cover a large space, the scary thing is though, I could have done it three times over. I do hope people actually buy a few paintings or else I may need to invest in a lock up.

You can see the work and have some fabulous food and drinkies and the Love Cafe, Norman road, St Leonards on Sea from now to the beginning of May. Further details Here.



Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

September 28, 2015

20150928_12262820150928_142954Help meeeeeeeeeeee! I am in Hell. Photoshop Hell. I have been staring at pixellated image after pixilated image for days on end. I have knocked out three paintings, had a tidy up, messed up the tidying up, gone out and pretended to act normal for as long as I could before my metaphorical bunny batteries ran out. And banged out a few blogs,  ah the blog posts… They always get me into trouble. Boredom is a funny thing. I don’t mean I have nothing to do boredom but the donkey work, head goes a drifting places, kind. Then I think, “Oh that’s interesting!” I think I’ll write that down. I do it for me you know, well maybe sometimes for other people, but mainly me. I did used to have this lovely person who would distract me from this sort of nonsense before I got into too much trouble but she is off doing who knows what with who knows who and so my moments in-between photoshop, painting, drawing and whatever are a lot less fun. Anyway, as a break from the nonsense that is my life I try and head down the hill to the seafront every day. I have to remember that that is why I moved here. Not for the cliques, not the art scene, certainly not for the night life, but to see that ever moving and psychically cleansing mass of water that was here before I was born and will still be here long after I am dead. It will outlive who said what to whom and all the petty ridiculous rubbish of all the poor damaged souls that wash up in St Leonards and it’s really good to remember that. None of this crap matters one tiny bit.

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