Thursday, 9 December 2010


last week i walked past a car. a bmw, it's engine running, a man behind its wheel, head tilted back, eyes closed, mouth ajar. i peered through the window and saw the gentle rising and falling of his chest; alive.

since 2004 i have tried to spend a bit of time in new york every year. and every year i try to visit the american museum of natural history there. although the entire museum is full of delectations the akeley hall of african mammals is part of what draws me. the diorama's are startling; they make it that much easier to agree to pretend the animals in them are somehow alive in death. mr akeley did his best.

half a floor up however just behind the mezzanine overlooking mr akeley's work there is a small corner dedicated to american or maybe new york state mammals and birds. suddenly gone are the beautifully painted backgrounds, no more skins stretched over anatomical casts shaped just so you're not quite sure what stage of life or death you're looking at.

nowhere has the term 'stuffed animal' been more thoroughly done justice. the birds in this forgotten corner of the museum look as if modelled on those in anders nilsen's 'big questions'. however nilsen animates birds, these animals are dead, and they will not pretend otherwise. and you are alive and looking at them. somehow the matter of fact manner of their display makes them look all the more vulnerable. there is an exhibit simply titled 'carnivores', but these beasts harbour no blood-thirst. they're tired and are waiting to catch their breath. i made a drawing of them for a comic.
whilst working for an artist i did some taxidermy on insects. relaxing their limbs and then pinning them into positions they normally would only ever have held for a fraction of a second. if a leg snapped off it could be superglued into place.

the amnh research library has put their photography collection online. the exhibition preparation is a particular treat, no superglueing there. and no need for further elaborations, just look.

although better in print, you can find some of hiroshi sugimoto's interpretations of the amnh dioramas here.

and if what people do to dead animals still interests you after all of the above here's a great article my friends mary and kramer wrote and photographed for last exit magazine.


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

feeling aimless?

feeling a little aimless? not sure who you see when you look in the mirror?
come give your life some meaning today by protesting the proposed government cuts to higher education. go here or here for more information.

i am a slow cyclist, but yesterday i got stuck behind a cyclist even more laid-back than myself. a big man, wearing a business suit and a black woollen cap on a black bike was slowing me down. efforts to overtake him were in vain as he aimlessly veered from right to left and back again. at long last we were both stopped by traffic lights. moving up alongside him i glanced over and realised who i was waiting next to. it was boris.*
'morning, boris!' i said, 'morning' said he with a sad look in his eye. and as i cycled off it struck me that boris doesn't really want to be london mayor. it's a respectable job, but what boris really wants is an allotment, a glass of wine and to vote green.

* boris johnson, london's conservative mayor

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

site cite

just to let you know i have finally finished my website, with the kind help of hin chua and the feedback from friends whose opinions i respect (not that i keep any other kind).

a selection of my work is on there, some of which i feel a little ambivalent about, but we all need some skeletons in our closets to keep us running towards the light.

i don't always manage to work on my stories consistently, a lot of brooding and mulching and passing of time goes on. and it is necessary to create a rhythm, some times that means drawing every day for an hour before work, other times it means every sunday for as long as the local coffee shop will have me. i don't know what it'll be now, maybe straight after school for as long as i can muster. whatever the rhythm slowly everything reveals itself. above is one of the images i've been drawing for the story i am currently trying to figure out.

Thursday, 30 September 2010


who hasn't been busy lately? i worked six day weeks from mid july till last week. both my waking and my dreaming life were consumed by my source of income.
since this week i am studying 5 days a week and working one. doing a post graduate diploma in (paper) conservation at camberwell college of art. today is a self study day, and i finally have a moment to write about some of the other things that have been and are going on.

firstly: the whores of mensa launch party, which was held at my flat on thursday 9 september. ellen lindner took care of every conceivable bit of organisation from booze to bogroll and of course the first copies of 'whores of mensa 5'. i didn't count (it's impolite) but i estimate we were graced by the presence of 50 or more able and less able bodies, and as far as i could tell they all had a good time. thank you all for coming along. and ellen, another big thank you for all of your hard work!

exhibition view

what's next? a chicks on comics exhibition in buenos aires! it opens tomorrow and features guest appearances by ole otero, ale lunik, camila torre notari, daniela kantor, ernancita, elene, julieta arroquy, keki, maría alcobre, ol díaz, sophia pankenier and tita.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

the beginning and the end

the inimitable ellen lindner has been labouring on the latest issue of 'whores of mensa'. the theme of which is 'parties'. to make sure this anthology sees the light she is asking people (that includes you!) to pledge any amount of money you can spare here at please go have a sneak peek at the new issue and pledge a dollar or two or ten or twenty-five. the issue will feature stories by lots of great artists as well as a 5-pager by yours truly.

unfinished page 1 'found'

my contribution is a story chronicling an encounter i had last summer on the streets of london.

the drawing style i chose is quite simple, i couldn't really draw it any other way. less straightforward and more time consuming was the end of the story.
using mainly stories based on true events i usually know how my stories end. the points of a story can some times be harder to figure out, but in this case they were relatively clear to me too.

studies for 'found'

what troubled me was finding the right pace and carrying this through consistently. i decided to use a map as the lay out for the story and this limited me to 5 pages. as it turned out i could have used an extra page..or two. initially i solved this problem by upping the pace from slow to high in the last page and cramming a lot of information into the running commentary. an obvious mistake.

there was no time to alter the format, so i had to edit the ending itself. because the story is based on true events this meant using a bit more artistic licence than i am used to. i had to re-examine what events were important and which were less so. some elements could fit into dialogue but other information still had to be conveyed through commentary. i ended up taking out a lot of detail which was important to me, but which i realised the reader could live without and material which told the reader more about me than it did about the story.

it isn't yet possible for me to tell whether i managed to make it work. get your hands on an issue of 'whores of mensa 5' when it comes out at the end of the month and maybe you can tell me.

Monday, 24 May 2010

clowes, niffenegger, ware

chris ware, p. 52 from the
acme novelty date book volume one

tonight was the night: dan clowes and chris ware were in town in honour of clowes new book 'wilson'. the talk was chaired by audrey niffenegger, whose work i am afraid i am only familiar with from film posters, but who apparently also writes comics. something to look up.

it took a while for things to get going and i couldn't help wondering if the evening could have benefited from a different mediator. audrey might have seemed an interesting choice because of the various links between her, chris and dan (chicago, comics, film) but she was a little too timid and it was difficult to tell how familiar she was with chris and dan's work. maybe chris and dan would have been fine without a mediator or maybe paul gravett (who organised the talk) himself could have taken audrey's place.
audrey wisely opened up the talk to questions from the audience early on and things warmed up. although it would have been nice for the talk to have gone on a little longer and maybe for some of the questions to have been taken more as conversation starters.

i don't know what it is exactly that i look for in these talks. maybe it is just to turn the abstract ideas i have of these artists into something more real and three dimensional. for all his self-deprecation and self-consciousness chris ware came across pretty self-assured and witty at times. and i had imagined dan clowes as someone out of one of his own comics, instead he reminded me of frank mandersloot, a tall bald man with a sense of humour who taught me at art school.

chris ware for 'this american life'

different artists are important to you at different stages of your development and for me chris ware more or less kicked things off. when i first read it around christmas 2004 'jimmy corrigan' showed me that a comic can take its sweet time telling a story and that the idea of what a comic is or can be isn't static. comics have only just begun.

dan clowes

i didn't bring any books to sign but after the talk i queued up to give chris and dan copies of some of my comics. one on one contact during signings can never last long, but the very short chats i had with them made me leave (to meet sarah mcintyre down the pub) with a smile on my face.

to see that both authors really look rather human in real life have a look at gosh' blogpost on the talk.

Friday, 16 April 2010

a friend

panel from just friends/love stories 2006

as an awkward 16-year-old i met brink scholtz, equally awkward and similarly aged. i had spotted her before, walking the stretch between our two school buildings in a leather jacket whose original owner might have been a middle aged man. she seemed more out of place than other schoolmates. i don’t remember exactly how we became friends, but i do know that meeting her changed everything.

in a small attic room underneath a window in the roof we sat and sipped rooibos tea and spent hours together talking. with every cup of tea i understood more that life didn't have to be governed by the rules of my lovely but claustrophobic dutch grammar school surroundings. that there were people who lived differently and that they were fine, happy even, just as i had hoped and suspected.
at the end of the year brink left utrecht to return to south-africa with her family.

i once took the bus from amsterdam to heathrow airport, london, with my mum to see brink there for 12 hours whilst she and her family waited for a connecting flight. we met in south-africa twice and after i finished art school we worked and lived together for some time at garvald, a residential day care centre for adults with learning disabilities in scotland. then at the end of 2004 she had to return to south-africa again and i left for a three-month stint in new york.

last week we were in utrecht again sitting next to each other on the couch sipping tea in an apartment she was staying in as part of a 6-week cultural program organized by de buren and vrede van utrecht -for which she is writing a story that mentions utrecht. outside the sun was shining.
i came back to london last friday and -ash clouds allowing- today she’ll return to grahamstown,

listen to the beautiful story brink scholtz wrote for radiobooks here.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

interview at avoid the future

judith and martin at avoid the future asked everyone at chicks on comics to answer some questions a couple of weeks ago. saturday and sunday they posted our answers.

also take a look at their archive of posts including reviews, interviews and reading lists.

thank you judith and martin.

post for chicks on comics by anna bas backer

Sunday, 28 March 2010

nothing much and carrot cake

view of the drawing room at 59 seymour street
by matilda sharpe (1850)

i have been trying to spend my sundays working on my comics at the geffrye museum in their restaurant overlooking the garden. the geffrye is a museum inexplicably but wonderfully dedicated to english domestic interiors and every time i walk through its corridors i have to stop for a moment to look at the above watercolour by matilda sharpe dated 1850. it is small, measuring only 13x15cm, and the scene is just of what i assume to be the drawing room she used daily, but she decided it was important enough to paint it.

after i finished art school but before i got into comics for a short time i was fed up with art. instead of creating video or performance pieces like i had done in school i just did what seemed most obvious and what i had done as a teenager: make small watercolour and pencil drawings of my most immediate surroundings.

they are far from matilda sharpe's little work of wonder, but they are little mementos of time spent by myself doing nothing much.

should you ever venture into the geffrye then make sure to try their carrot cake, laden with cream cheese frosting, basking in the absence of raisins and served by london's friendliest waiting staff it nourishes like nothing else.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

studs on inkstuds

sammy harkham on
what things do

the interviews on inkstuds are one of my favourite things to listen to whilst working on comics and other graphics. one of their most recent interviews is with with jordan crane and sammy harkham about jordan's new online initiative what things do. jordan and sammy's observations about online comics are spot on. rather than writing about it more all i can say is go listen to it here.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

apf 2010

although the forecast says it's only 1° C the warm colored light outside makes it feel like spring is in the air. a bit early maybe and i don't know if i am done with winter yet, but it's as if the year has never quite begun until spring has started to brighten the days.

and with the first inklings of spring, february and the alternative press festival 2010 are rapidly approaching. this year's alternative press festival takes place on sat 13th february from 12.00 at st.aloysius social club on phoenix road (nearest tube euston). last year's event was great and i am sure jimi c.s. are creating another day equally as impossible to forget as it is to accurately remember.

see you there.