Friday, 31 July 2009

So now what?

I've been procrastinating for too long. I hide here on this blog, fooling myself that I'm doing something useful. Whilst I love it, I need to concentrate more on promoting my work, sending stuff off to clients, maybe even doing some illustration work that I'm proud of. So forgive me if I scale down the frequency of my posts here. I aimed to write at least once a day and I've managed it, but sometimes, especially if I'm going off on some rant, or indulging in some pseudo-art-critic discourse, I spend far too long writing and not enough time drawing. Silly, really. But I'll still aim to be here nearly every weekday.

I'm signing off for the weekend, and I won't be back until Tuesday. Have a good one!

first thing for the day: an apology

to anyone who has left a comment on my blog - thank you so much, I really appreciate it - I feel humbled when you take the trouble to write something. I would probably have responded to every comment, only I'm having stupid amounts of trouble trying to comment on my own posts. Ridiculous, huh? My Firefox just doesn't like it and keeps trying to refresh the comments page, I can't update my Safari any more because of my ancient operating system (I need a new computer), and IE is, no surprises, a pain in the arse and says I can't accept cookies even though my settings say that I bloody well can! aaaaarrrgghgh! How annoying. I shall investigate other avenues.

Until then, I'm sorry if I'm silent. Thanks for reading! x

Thursday, 30 July 2009

recycled stationery geek

I have placed an order for some pin badges with this site whose prices and quantities seemed reasonable. I have to wait until late next week for them to arrive, though. How exciting! Meanwhile I've been designing packaging and yesterday I spent entirely too much time looking for biodegradable clear display bags. I found a good green stationery shop called Eco-Craft who sell them in lots of sizes, and I also like to use Recycled Paper Supplies, who do some good quality envelopes in not-too-bright colours and other stuff like card blanks and string made from scrap textiles. Wow, I can be really boring sometimes... I mean, I'm writing about blank stationery? Have I nothing better to do with my time?

Speaking of which, I've got another new animation job in the offing - it's just a maybe right now, but it is exactly the kind of thing I'd like to do if only I can get my grubby little hands on it. Fingers crossed today, please!

I should draw more humans. It might get me more work. Here is a pair of biker characters I drew last night:

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

cheer up!

Wow, I've been pretty grumpy recently, haven't I? Maybe I should cheer up. The process begins here, with a sad little dog creature drinking something that looks a lot like pee:

modern art? another rant

I saw a report on the news about the furore that has been caused by an exhibition at Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art. The point of the exhibition was about how people can feel marginalised by the Church for whatever reason e.g. sexuality, and how they could 'write their stories' back into the Bible. So to this end, the artists who devised the show presented a copy of the Bible and invited visitors to write in it. Of course (dur!) what happened was that they defaced it with obscene language and inappropriate messages - not quite what the artist intended. This resulted in demonstrations outside the gallery, denouncing the fact that the gallery had allowed this to happen (imagine if it had been any other holy book?), and now the book has been placed under glass, and any comments are to be written in a separate, blank book alongside it.

What bothered me much more than the defacement of the Bible itself (after all, I am a raving atheist), was that this had all been presented as modern art. Another exhibit was a video of a woman ripping pages out of the Bible and stuffing them into her mouth, bra and underpants - some reference to 'word as power' or some such rubbish. I cannot articulate how angry this stuff makes me sometimes. I don't think it's art, it's just bollocks. I don't care if you think that 'art' should encompass conceptual stuff like this, I still hate it - it's pretentious, pointless, provocative self-indulgence.

This news show was followed by another episode of Imagine with Alan Yentob, the second of a two-part programme discussing the place that art has in times of recession and other socio-political trouble. This second installment explored the role of funding of the arts, its history and future. It was quite interesting, if a little highbrow for 10.30 at night :-), so I lost patience when they veered into the realms of theatre. I learnt a couple of good things though - most interesting to me was the story of the 'pitmen painters' or the Ashington Group in the 1930s, which was a group of miners who taught themselves how to paint, and chose to depict scenes from their everyday lives. There is a pleasing naïveté to much of the work, and real accomplishment in some of the paintings. You can see a collection of their work at the Woodhorn Colliery Museum in Ashington, Northumberland - the website only has very small but enticing images so now I feel compelled to go and have a look. If only it weren't so far away!

All of this led to Mark and I having a lengthy discussion about the importance of arts funding today. I moaned about the lack of encouragement for people to go into the arts - I was discouraged at school and ended up studying sciences until I realised at the age of 20 that I was bored to tears with it. I also had a moan about how exclusive a lot of arts funding is - the money is usually for people who want to create pretentious fine art, you know, proper artists. I'm just a commercial drudge, me, and I make enough money (apparently) through the sale of my soul to the media, so I don't deserve to be encouraged.

Rant over. Sorry. Maybe I'll have something more fun to say this afternoon.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

at a loss

I need to do something useful. I've spent weeks twiddling my thumbs and waiting for an animation job to come through but they still won't give the go-ahead. It's very frustrating... I feel like I'm hanging around in limbo with nowhere to go. I am the world's most proficient procrastinator sometimes.

I'm starting to think about the kind of things I will stock in my shop. Any suggestions are definitely welcome. Today I am thinking about pin badges, although lots of people sell them - are there too many of these things for sale? I don't really tire of badges myself, but I like cute things I can stick on my outfit to make me feel a bit more interesting... Hmm... well, here's a packaging idea for them anyway. I like that kind of aged paper look:

Monday, 27 July 2009

Chris Ware

The work of Chris Ware has been blogged about to death, but I thought it at least deserves a mention here. In particular I wanted to talk about storytelling in comic books. Admittedly I've read precious few of these, usually finding them difficult or being uninterested in their content. However, a few years ago a friend gave me Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth, which turned out to be one of the most incredible books I have ever read. I could write about it for pages but I'll try to keep this short. Firstly, the story is unusual for a comic book - it tells the story of three generations of Corrigan men, centering on the story of Jimmy Corrigan's first meeting with his estranged father. It is a careful study of loneliness and crushing social awkwardness on the one hand, and on the other hand it explores ideas of paternal neglect and desertion, and the repercussions these can have down the generations of a family.

It's certainly not the easiest of reads, but I have always believed that a book isn't really worth reading unless it challenges you in some way. It should make you think, make you bang your head against a wall trying to figure out what it's about; it should make you angry, elated, amused, any or all of these things. The book has plenty of critics who find it dull, ugly or impossible to read. It is sometimes a bit self-conscious in its sidelong superhero references, or in its use of classic comic book devices to tell the story, but I think that the overall work is extraordinarily beautiful. Its very self-consciousness adds another layer of meaning to the story - at the very heart of it is Ware's inquisitiveness with regard to storytelling structures.

Great storytelling is about narrative and sequence. So firstly there must be good content but more importantly it is about the way in which the narrative is presented in time. Storytelling is made great through the thoughtful pacing of a story and the ways of telling it with imagination and dynamism. I think Jimmy Corrigan is an almost perfect exposition of these ideas - it is meticulously planned but playful and very often surprising or even baffling. There are straightforward pages laid out in a classic style, interspersed with beautiful, serene images that allow the narrative to breathe, as it were. And sprinkled throughout are these curious diversions: cut-out-and-stick houses, collectors' cards of views in Waukosha, and even a mid-way summary page (below). All of these are interwoven with occasional flashbacks, dream sequences and grotesque fantasies. There is a palpable sense of loneliness - created through the sombre colour palette and the hiccupping pacing that flows and ebbs throughout, enveloping moments of desperate quietness or crippling anxiety. I am sounding properly pretentious now, so I'll shut up. I can only recommend reading it to see what I'm harping on about.

All images from Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware.

Oh, and if you want to see some wonderful animations by Chris Ware and John Kuramoto, check out the This American Life animations here and here on YouTube. They are stunning and funny all at the same time, and demonstrate the translation of these storytelling ideas into moving image.

Friday, 24 July 2009

this is not true, but...

I can have some fun with hand-lettering, can't I?

Truth is, my parents sent me to school a year early, so most of the first year I spent crying in a corner by myself, wanting my sister to come and look after me and occasionally being allowed home early. We went to school in a convent until the nuns left when I was about seven years old. It was pretty weird, looking back on it. One Christmas they got my sister, this other Chinese boy and myself in a room together and dressed us up as the three magi - I still remember the crispy crinkle sound of the papers they had used to make the costumes and I still remember how baffled I was by it all.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

I'm on Pikaland!

I've been reading the Pikaland blog for many months now and I love the mix of illustration, design and fun projects that are featured, like the Good to Know zine, and the Pikapackage, which is a monthly giveaway of limited edition prints and other items sent in by illustrators and printmakers. I think it's a great idea, bringing artists together and providing another way in which to promote our work.

I'm particularly excited today because the lovely Amy has just written a really sweet post on Pikaland about my work and I'm absolutely chuffed! Thanks so much, Amy!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

the weirdest thing

This is completely unrelated to art, illustration, design or any of the other things I set out to write about here. It's just a little thing, a trifle for the day. Let's call it a linguistic diversion. This is because I'm about to spend the day tiling the kitchen and haven't got anything better to put here.

So, like some desperate, lonely loser, I was googling myself on Google blogsearch, and came across this very odd site called on which at least two of my posts have appeared but in completely (and quite delightfully) mangled English! For example, my clocks post on Tuesday comes out like this:

As a in some measure of my melancholy modify for the stubbornness the clock (yeah yeah, I’ll fastened up adjacent to it after this), I’ve been trawling the internet to descry what else I can after. If no more than I had loadsa well-to-do (and a MUCH bigger house), eh? Above: from Clock Props in London, where you can letting clocks as props or acquisition bargain them for the stubbornness your undisturbed. Clockwise from nonentity leftist: 1930s two-sided try clock Ј650, 1950s cream moving clock sold etc.

Weirdy funny weirdness! They also have my Cleo Mussi post up here, and it's really quite funny. Here's another gem (which I wrote about Pigeon Vintage yesterday):

I had a look at the recline of the ingredients they deracinate someone’s associate for the stubbornness selling and, me oh my, do they deracinate someone’s associate some tasty-looking things.

Oh someone please explain? Is it a thing that trawls random blogs and translates them (albeit somehow back into English)? Whatever it is, I am finding it very entertaining...


Every few days I get this feeling of being quite lost in all of this. This being the whole blogging thing. There are millions of people out there writing junk about whatever lights their candles, whether it's food, motherhood, current affairs, animal torture, whatever - yet what on earth is the point of it all? Who's looking? I comfort myself in the idea that I'm cataloguing and recording stuff just for myself. If nothing else it's making me draw more and look at stuff more - I draw something every day now, but there's no binding thread that runs through my drawings, no development of ideas, so am I just wandering about the yawning cavity of my skull achieving nothing?

I confine some of my weirder thoughts to a different place, and my nastier drawings to another. But really, who on earth cares? Not even my husband cares - he can find lots of time to read about boring shit on Wikipedia, but he can't even muster the energy to have a little peek at my boring shit here every now and then! I might be horribly boring most days (yes, not everyone will find vintage clocks as thrilling as I do) and I guess might be interesting to a handful of people occasionally, but I just need to go through these needy, angsty thoughts every now and then. Oh silly, peevish girl! I see it now, it's just a way of legitimising talking to myself...

OK. Here is a self-portrait showing how I feel today, but with lots of artistic licence (and no, I'm not naked):

I feel like I've gone off at a weird angle this last couple of weeks. I need to focus and stop writing rubbish just so I can say that I wrote something today. OK? Now I'll shut up and go away.

Monday, 20 July 2009

clocks and other vintage things

As a part of my mourning process for the clock (yeah yeah, I'll shut up about it after this), I've been trawling the internet to see what else I can get. If only I had loadsa money (and a MUCH bigger house), eh?

Above: from Clock Props in London, where you can hire clocks as props or buy them for your home. Clockwise from top left: 1930s two-sided wall clock £650, 1950s cream electric clock sold, Smiths red factory clock £325, Large Station Clock 75cm diameter sold, Brillié factory clock £295, French tin wall clock £110.

Above: from London Timepiece. No.2171 46cm diameter with red hands £285 (left), no.2173 50cm diameter industrial clock £265 (right).

Above: Pedlars have a selection of restored vintage Smiths clocks and large factory clocks from £95-£1000.

I found this large station clock that has already been sold by Pigeon Vintage in Brighton. I had a look at the rest of the stuff they have for sale and, me oh my, do they have some tasty-looking things. They have vintage educational charts, 1950s hospital bedside cabinets, this lovely set of 1950s painted wooden lockers (below) that I'd have in my studio any day, if only I had room, and (bottom) this oh-my-good-god-I-would-kill-small-mammals-to-have-this haberdasher's display cabinet. With a 'price on application' tag, I don't think the price of this beauty is for the faint-hearted...


I'm determined to be frank here. No pussyfooting around the things that make me squirm with embarrassment. There's no point in trying to hide my stupidity because it doesn't make me feel better to lie about it. Oh yes, we were pretty silly on Saturday...

So we turned up at Willingham Auctions nicely on time, had a good look around, found the clock we wanted and decided that yes, we'd see if we could get it for a decent price. The auction was relatively quiet compared to other days so we were optimistic about our chances. There were side-tables flying out at £20 each, lovely 1930s chests of drawers going for £100... we could smell, nay taste, the bargains. At 12pm, they normally take a fifteen-minute break for lunch and so we did too, escaping the auction room a few minutes early to beat the rush for the cafe. Having filled up nicely, there were still a few minutes to go before 12.15, so I wandered around the barns whilst the husband took a pee (I did say no pussyfooting around, didn't I?). Then I met the husband outside the auction room and we walked towards it. Our lot number was 543, we thought we had AGES before it came up because we'd left the sale on lot 300 and something. I bet you've guessed already what we did. Oh Lordy, oh my good God, when we saw the next lot that was being sold, we gasped. I nearly passed out. I think I squealed like a skewered pig. The lot number was 546. We had missed our clock being sold. Oop.

We were beside ourselves. I had been dandling about the place looking at broken Royal Worcester bowls whilst my lovely clock was being sold to SOMEONE ELSE!!! What a numpty, what an f-ing moron! What was I thinking, not checking to see whether the auctioneer had started again, or even (goddamn the man) if he had deemed to take a break for lunch. Does the man not EAT??? F F F!!! Anyway, the price it sold at hasn't yet appeared on their website, so the torture continues - did it sell for £30 (OMFG), or £150 (I wouldn't have paid that anyway)? I can't bear it. I was gutted.

So we cheered ourselves up with Harry Potter and Whatever Thing It Is This Time. It was good, not brilliant but entertaining, if a little adolescent. I'm not sure how much it did cheer me up, though.

Woe is me. We have learnt a hard lesson.

*edit 1.15pm* Double woe, it went for £80. Our maximum was £100.

Friday, 17 July 2009

it's the weekend!

We are right under a deafening thunderstorm here. Tonight we are eating peas from the garden amongst other things, but I've got to go out in this storm to pick the damned things. Wish me luck! Here's a picture of two people involved in some mysterious activity:

Happy weekend!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

love is...

I don't know what these images are about. I'm still feeling tired after last weekend and haven't had any useful thoughts for days.

We have decided to go to the auction on Saturday to see if this clock will be affordable. I also saw some pretty enamel pill boxes (here, here and here) with an estimate of £50-100 each, but I think a few people might like them and bump the price into the upper reaches of the estimate. Anyway, what should a girl put in a pill box? Pills? Hardly. Maybe when I'm old and decrepit and need a cocktail of drugs to stop my brain from exploding and killing everyone in the vicinity... However, I did see some beautiful lip balm-filled tins on some blog a while back. Let me see if I can find them...

Ah ha! Here they are - Andrea Garland's cosmetics. Lip balm and rose beauty balm in vintage compacts.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

big clocks

The reason why that big clock caught my eye yesterday was because it reminded me of an article in Period Living magazine that I saw more than a year ago. It was a peek into a reader's home that had been converted from an old Worcestershire pub using mostly reclaimed and antique items. The owners had a lovely eye for eclectic furnishings that combined to give the house a quirky charm. One of the most interesting things was the enormous clock that they rescued from the old bus station in Kidderminster. Perhaps it's a little large and certainly not to everyone's taste, but I like that element of surprise and the playfulness with ideas of scale and placement. I also like the old school gym horse - great fun if you have the house room for it :-).

Images from Period Living magazine, March 2008.

So, as I said on Monday, I've been rather busy so work and this blog have been squeezed into the little gaps in between socialising. Today, for the first time in a week, I'm alone in the house. It's just me and the melodious sound of the washing machine. For the rest of the week I shall be finishing a commission for Nature and dreaming up new things to write about here. Perhaps I'll start something interesting next week for the blog, just perhaps.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

auction action

Well, the catalogue for the Willingham Auctions next weekend is up online. Nothing much to see apart from the usual load of furniture that we no longer have room for. One thing that did catch my eye was this 22 inch wall clock. It's in a bit of a state, but I think oversized industrial clocks are fun. I wonder if I could take it apart and clean it myself? Kind of irrelevant, given the estimate of £60-120 - I think it'll reach the higher end, which I suppose I would pay, but it would cause deep and lasting wounds to the miser inside me. We shall just have to wait and see.

On the other hand, there are plenty of items that deserve the Cleo Mussi treatment, in my opinion. Like these *ahem* delightful Staffordshire horrors:

*edit* on second thoughts, I think I would probably like to give someone a lot of money for that clock or something similar...

Monday, 13 July 2009


Bridge End Garden, Saffron Walden. Picture from here.

I've been distracted these last few days. I've been seeing wonderful old friends, eating lots of good food, driving in the rain, picking runner beans, sitting in deck chairs, getting lost in a maze, talking rubbish, cooking for friends, playing piano. Back properly on Wednesday!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

I dunno what it means, but I drew this today

Pointless junk. Font style inspired by Nigel Peake.

Feeling evaporated, waterlogged, desaturated... lots of things but not energised. Twiddling thumbs a lot.

I'm working on the new site for Alternative Eagle design studio, so I picked up some watercolours today to have some play time and this image was something that came out of it. It reminds me of the evenings that the husband and I spent last week drinking tea in the garden at night and watching the field sleeping behind the house. It is so quiet and thrilling out there that you feel as if there's nobody else on the planet. I think I need to get out more.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


This is not a message to anyone. I seem to enjoy drawing characters being horrible to each other.

Monday, 6 July 2009


Here's another obsession: 1950s larders in pretty colours. I've just spotted this one on The Peanut Vendor in a lovely yellow. I sometimes go onto eBay and type 'vintage larder' into the search bar and have seen some marvellous things over there in the past. None of note today.

I think I'd use one as an art materials storage cupboard in my studio, if only I had room! Mark doesn't think too much of them - we saw a lovely powder blue one in our local junk shop and OK, it was in a bit of a state, but he declared he wanted it nowhere near him, so into my studio it would have to go. One day.

And just for some eye candy, here's a sweet little mid-century box I saw at Junk Culture's shop on Etsy. But it's already sold, dammit!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

I dunno what it means, but I drew this yesterday...

summer evenings

The barley in the field behind the house is growing taller by the day. It is still quite bright at ten o'clock and the shadows are long over the barley as the sun sets. Sometimes we see deer browsing at the edge of the field where it meets the trees.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

david hockney

I spent much of last night having disturbing dreams about blogging about David Hockney after watching an illuminating documentary last night about his most recent work. Hockney has always been a little secretive about his work, but this programme followed him for three years between 2004 and 2008 during which he allowed himself to be filmed working, much of which was painting on location in the Yorkshire Wolds. I think that by making his processes more transparent, Hockney's work really came to life. Watching him painting with such confidence and gusto in the middle of the November countryside was nothing short of inspiring. I just want to jump in the car and go somewhere remote with a canvas and some paints and not care if it's going to work or not.

I dunno, some people think Hockney's work is a pile of rubbish but I think that a better understanding of his reasoning makes it more valuable. To be sure, he's got bags of confidence and doesn't care what others think, but it seemed to me that he has a genuine impulse to create art, not just some egotistical, money-making piece of junk. Whether you like the result or not is immaterial, really - here is a man who is possessed by his inquisitiveness about the way in which we interact visually with the world and probes his ideas through painting, that's the heart of it. I enjoyed the way in which he talked about how the human eye can't be replaced by the camera, and how painting is all about the artist in an environment, standing there and looking at it. I think his work throughout his life has been about different ways of 'looking' and how we represent what we see - whether it's through a lens, with a paintbrush or, most recently, drawing on computer.

Field of Bales

Ripening Wheat

I liked the watercolour sketches he painted, executed with his lack of and disregard for traditional technique. He used the paints however he liked, more drawing than painting with them, and the resulting images have quite a pleasant naïveté. His magnificent oil paintings followed from this, culminating in that edificial multi-canvas artwork, Bigger Trees near Warter (no, that's not a typo, it's just a place in Yorkshire where they spell things funny), that was shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2008. I think if I'd had watched this film before seeing the work, I'd have appreciated it a lot more.

The Road to Thwing

Bigger Trees near Warter

love is...