Thursday, 20 October 2011

tom and anders

there is something about attending signings by people whose work you respect. although in many ways you may feel as if you've out-grown teenage awkwardness, when facing some artists you turn into a bumbling 15 year-old, or even an over-eager pup. in theory there is nothing that should cause this unease: on paper you share a taste in comics, philosophy, music and sense of humour. in the flesh however things work differently.

here is someone who has been on the road for weeks, stuck behind a table, signing and drawing and having to be pleasant to every single person that shows up in front of them. a queue of forced conversation and small talk. and as a punter you queue, sometimes for a very long time, to try and connect with someone who you might feel you know, but who of course you don't.

it is a very peculiar power balance. there are difficult to meet expectations, because how much can you say in the two or three minutes it takes to sign a book and make a doodle? if you haven't brought along your entire library of course, something i'd be embarrassed to do. and who cares about a signature, really?

tom, anders, the millenium falcon and a redhead

tom gauld and anders nilsen were at orbital tonight as part of paul gravett's comica festival. the conversation didn't quite flow the way you might expect between friends, but i found myself taking notes. they discussed influences in comics and in literature: chester brown, john porcelino, jason lutes and pär lagerkvist (barabbas) and c.s. lewis (till we have faces) for anders. for tom it was edward gorey, john le carré and magnus mills. the latter for the flatness of his writing and his 'confused men doing pointless things'. they also spoke about the act of drawing, something which was of particular interest. anders mentioned the 'faking' that can creep into your drawing when you've been drawing as long as he has. he regretted not having drawn an actual type of plane in big questions instead of the more generic plane he drew or 'faked'. then there were the birds in his book, which he kept purposefully simple. he experimented with different details to distinguish them from each other, but decided that details were too much for such simple drawings. tom said he does a lot of visual research, but he uses this as inspiration. what interests him is drawing what something does rather than what it looks like. scientific and anatomical drawings were mentioned and so were the lewis chessmen at the british museum. i have lots more notes not to mention thoughts on everything that was discussed, but the word picture ratio of this post is already lopsided. if you're still hungry check out some interviews here and here.

detail from suster bertken

i also attended anders' signing and talk at gosh on saturday and unfortunately acted as described in the first paragraph of this post. after tonight's talk all i did was push some comics into his hands and legged it. i managed to finish my story for the strumpet today and quickly made it into a stand alone mini too, so anders may be the first person to read it.

suster bertken-mini mock up

in spite of all the weirdness that seems part and parcel of signings i had a wonderful time at both tonight's and saturday's events. anders and tom were lovely. and on both nights i bumped into or met some great people: morgan omotoye, rose robbins, barnaby richards and jessica penfold amongst others. 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

strumpets and anchorites

ellen lindner has kindly asked me to contribute to the first issue of whores of mensa’s new guise the strumpet. the theme for this issue is ‘dress up’.

 sketch for 'suster bertken'

for many of us how we dress is a large part of how we define ourselves and others. suster bertken, the subject of my contribution to the strumpet, was not defined by what she wore (‘rough hair cloth’, barefoot) but by the space she inhabited. in 1457, when she was 30 years old, bertken had herself enclosed in a cell attached to the buurkerk in utrecht. she spend the next 57 years, until her death in 1514, confined there, accepting food (no meat or dairy) through a small window and following mass through another small opening looking into the church. she used her time to write religious prose, poetry and songs, to pray, to meditate, to counsel and to craft. she was dependent on people for food and for the disposal of waste, but in turn the local community sought her out for counsel and they adopted the songs, prose and poetry she wrote.

sketch for 'suster bertken'

suster bertken’s choice to confine herself allowed her the freedom to live a life of devotion. devotion to a god maybe, but maybe more so to herself and to her works. it is a choice i have always admired. as i admire it in those around me who are able to choose their art above most (if not all) else.

the dutch composer robert zuidam has written an opera using some of bertken’s poetry.  
go here to listen to extracts from the opera.

if you are so inclined (and i hope you are) you can pre-order the strumpet on kickstarter.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

buying? selling

julia homersham selling the comix reader at port elliott festival

artists julia homersham and gareth brookes took a whole load of comics to port elliott festival a couple of weeks ago (photos courtesy of them). julia and gareth are probably the most talented comics couple i am aware of and i was happy to be included in the selection for their stall.

julia and gareth's stall at port elliott

i always find it difficult to write about other people's work. it is so easy to use empty language. or to get lost in words that end up possibly meaningful in themselves, but which say little about the work at hand. and, although i do think work should speak for itself, leaving it at that can also be a cop out. especially if you're trying to persuade people to have a closer look at something. some work however is perfectly capable of drawing readers in, just with one image or page. to me both julia and gareth's work does that.

from julia's 'chuckle sandwich'

you only need one look at either of their work to see the attention to detail and the sense of humour that has gone into it. gareth's work has been laboured over, but in no way feels over-worked. he uses any medium that suits the story. 'the black project', which chronicles a boy's descent into diy love, echoes the crafting skills of the protagonist in its use of print, embroidery and even paper.

julia makes gag cartoons, but the clarity and elegance of her lines invites you to look a little longer than you might normally look at a cartoon. what could be a simple pun is transformed by an understated rendering that manages to capture exactly the feelings of her anthropomorphized objects and animals. and the gags are often dark or melancholy.

from gareth's 'the black project'

to me the quality of a comic is defined by its story as much as it is by its art or writing, something which is sometimes overlooked by creators over-eager to make something. both julia and gareth have stories to tell, whether it is about the (mis-)adventures of baked goods or the dreams and desires of a boy. and both their stories have a sense of innocence and foreboding.

at the end of the month these artists will be taking to the road again to set up their stall at the west dean festival from 26-29 august.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

the art of running without pictures

one sunday morning last july my friend anna came over for brunch and on a whim we decided to work up an appetite by going for a run. the last time i had run was 7 years earlier and even then i lacked conviction. that sunday morning in july i was out of shape, but we continued to meet up for conversation and runs around haggerston park.

haggerston park was created in 1956 on the site of derelict housing, an old tile factory and gas works. something about the park feels slightly older though, and i always assumed it was laid out in the 1930's. the area of the park i ran in is surrounded by a wall, which gives it an intimate and timeless feel. the people who come to the park seem to have a purpose, they are there to exercise, walk their dogs and occasionally to shoot up. there is less of the sauntering that goes on in nearby london fields.

summer drew to a close, anna left london and i was still running only 2 or 3 rounds of the park at a time. then came along my friend flip, who works for the nhs (that beautiful thing the tory government is trying to disassemble). flip is fit, she runs effortlessly and although she managed to build up her routine without it she recommended the nhs couch to 5k podcast.

the podcast does exactly what it says on the box: it takes you from your couch to running 5k or 30 minutes continuously. someone called laura talks you through every podcast, accompanied by the best soundtrack the nhs could buy. laura's voice is soothing and calm and without her i may not be running now.

haggerston park started getting small and soon flip, laura and i found ourselves running around london fields. london fields' claim to fame is its mention in the song being a dickhead's cool, and although there are still plenty of dickheads there, if you're nimble enough they are easily avoided. however when it comes to parks and running size does matter and since finishing the nhs podcasts i have graduated to victoria park.

victoria park was created in the 1840's after 30,000 people petitioned queen victoria for a park in the area. the park was supposed to increase the quality of life of the local working class population. to call myself working-class would be a stretch, but a loop of the park is about 6km, and the effect on the quality of my life is larger still. the increase in my lung capacity has been accompanied by an expansion of the space i have to think in.

and after listening to 9 weeks of nhs classics perhaps the biggest reward is to run to your own playlists. my current list looks something like this:
  • the seed - the roots
  • i saw her standing there - the beatles
  • my sharona - the knack
  • where is love - eldridge holmes (featuring the lyrics: here i am, but where is love?)
  • e-pro - beck
  • kom in de cockpit - spinvis
  • this charming man - the smiths
  • don't mess with my man - irma thomas
  • warsaw - joy division
  • i need a dollar - aloe blacc
  • paarse overall - het klein orkest
  • via con me - paolo conte
  • wolf like me - tv on the radio
  • isla de encanta - pixies
  • i wanna be your man - the rolling stones
  • lapdance featuring lee harvey - n.e.r.d.
  • posters - jack & jeffrey lewis
  • dom, lomp en famous - the opposites featuring diwa
  • evil - interpol
  • seven nation army - the white stripes
when i was very little my best friend's mothers played paolo conte. run, dance, eat; there is very little you cannot do to his voice.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


the german based mexico born artist erika medina asked me to contribute a drawing to her thesis project 'many brunos'. she invited people from around the world to interpret a character called bruno, a detailed description of whom she provided. if you are in need of distraction from failed new year's resolutions, or if you need to be newly inspired to keep one, why not spend some time with the many faces of bruno.