Sunday, 27 December 2015


Started this last year, finally finished it!

A calendar of Fabulous Beasts in linocut, one for each month. 

Print it off and make your own, knock yourself out.

The bull is my favourite, the squirrel the least. He was meant to be quirky but came out looking more evil, like the Joker in Batman. The randomness of printing. 

Saturday, 22 August 2015


We had our first collective meet up in Epping Forest. I've been meaning to go for the 8 (wow) years I've lived in East London. It is beautiful, but surrounded by very busy roads, so not really much like a real forest. I appear to have lost the sketchbook, so these are all that remain.

We also now have a name for our collective, hurrah! I will reveal it shortly, when we actually do something. 

Tree trunks

Water in the lake. Water is tricky.

plant skeleton

Nature does it much better.

Monday, 10 August 2015


We have found a studio share.  I can't believe it, as it's hard to find/afford them, especially in Central London (this is Makespace studios in Waterloo).

When I say studio share, I really mean sublet, as we're sharing the space with two others, a composer/musician and a painter. They'll use it in the week and we'll use it in the evenings and at weekends. Our little corner is small, but it's a start.

And hopefully, if another one comes up in the same complex, we'll be able to get one to ourselves.

So far, we didn't have a desk to work on, so we've been renting but not using the space. Wei managed to get a desk there this weekend, the hero, so now I must get into a routine of going. Very luckily for me, it's a 15 minute walk from work.

It all has started to happen around Southwark.   I've started working there; our studio is 15 minutes away; Intaglio Printmakers is 5 minutes away, the most essential & professional printmaking shop in London, if not the UK.  

I've also signed up to do etching with an artist I really admire at the Art Academy in Borough. They have an open access studio with presses, so potentially I can go our studio and prepare work, then print it up on the presses at the Art Academy on weekends.

London is magnificent like that.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015


I meant to blog about each class in detail, but time has raced past recently. Soz.

Now we're at the end, so I will just post the end product and be done with it.

 It is not up to the standard of my heroes (Posy Simmonds, Jaime Hernandez, Marjane Satrapi, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave McKean, to name but a few),clearly it's not even close, but it's a start.

(In fact, my new job has given me an idea for a big graphic novel project, which I think is genuinely original and based on an aspect of London that hasn't been told. But I can see it could easily take years to achieve. Baby steps... )

We learned so much and Emily was a great teacher. There's a lot more to the art of comics than you'd imagine from a quick glance, and some of it reminded me of literary theory back in the day at college - especially this fascinating book by Scott McCloud (his book The Sculptor is also on my wishlist.)

We also discovered the joys of Bristol board and dip ink pens. It took me a while to get used to the dip pen, which you can see in all the splots and splashes. But it explains how comic book artists achieve all those beautiful expressive lines.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

E17 Arts Trail

More about the Graphic Novel course. soon.

Meanwhile.... I sold some prints on the E17 Arts Trail! Hurrah!

The show was themed on Favourite Words. It was on at the curator Katja's flat for the past two weeks.

It then moves on to the Leytonstone Arts Trail, to a new cafe/bookshop called All You Read is Love. 

Then it will move to Moka East cafe in the Olympic park. 

 Some people liked my beasts!

I can't find the catalogue online, but here was my text to accompany the print:

The Lama

 The one-l lama,
 He's a priest.
 The two-l llama,
 He's a beast.
 And I will bet
 A silk pajama
 There isn't any
 Three-l lllama.

Ogden Nash

PS, these aren't llamas, they are alpacas. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Open Studio

One of the tutors on the Fine Art course invited us to his open studio.  We went on Friday, curious to see his work (and his studio).

We're half heartedly looking for a studio to share, but affordable studio space is now like gold dust, as property developers muscle in on London and every building gets turned into expensive flats.

Open studios are interesting, and slightly uncomfortable for everyone concerned. (Unless you're a plutocratic art collector, aiming to buy for your collection.)

You shuffle in and out of everyone's own little private space, which feels kind of like going into their bedroom, except you're being invited to look at and criticise the art they've got on the walls.  Do you talk to them? Do you ask them about their technique? You want to be polite, but you don't want to encourage them too much, in case they mistake you for a plutocratic art collector.

You might be impressed, you might be knocked out by the work, you might be indifferent. You might be shocked at how terrible and amateur it is. This is what it's like, a total lucky dip.

There was a lot of good stuff (my tutor's work is genius. He's a great painter but his work has something very disturbing about it. I might buy it if I was rich,  but I'd hang it somewhere I didn't have to look at it if I didn't want to.)

But what really impressed us was the studios. They are an "old BR rolling stock repair workshop" situated at the end of a nice residential street near Finsbury Park. Each studio was huge (we realised that one was bigger than all of our houses) high ceilings, vast windows, centrally heated (some studios are freeezing.)  They were different shapes and sizes,  but all had features like balconies, mezzanines, space for sofas and kitchen units. 

We came out a bit depressed. We weren't talking about the work so much as how each artist could afford the studio, and how we'd never be able to find anywhere like it.

Anyway, it's not all doom and gloom.  The last studio we visited was this artist that is new to me.  I absolutely love her work. (She also has a very nice dog, a Jack Russell.) Her style is influenced by years of living in Kyoto. I would have happily bought the lot. I will do when I'm a plutocratic art collector.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Words + pictures

Week 3. My friend Will turned up, so that was nice. We could both be intimidated together.

This week we concentrated on how words and pictures combine variously in comics.

The first exercise was collaborative.First we had to write statements - something you overheard, advice someone gave you, a line from a song, the title of a film, etc etc - and to do different sketches. Something sad, something funny, something romantic, a famous painting, an animal doing a human activity.  Then we played around with different combinations of statement and picture.

Some of the work was very funny. The best was probably 'I ain't saying she's a golddigger' captioning a drawing of an old couple holding hands.

Here was my drawing of a famous painting paired with Will's film title.

I couldn't really remember what this famous painting looked like.

(it looks like this in reality)

Last week they'd all drawn models acting out scenes of conflict - escalating violence, from finger pointing to grabbing each other in a headlock.

To generate some ideas,  this week we had to draw different characters. One based on a square, one on a triangle, one on a circle. One human, one animal, one hybrid animal, someone wearing period costume, a historical character. (Can you spot my historical character?)

Then answer these questions about them:
Which two are in conflict?
How do they know each other?
What are three reasons why they are in conflict?

You can see I wasn't really interested in the shape characters. I'm not an imaginative doodler who comes up with crazy characters. Some people are gifted at this. I'm too boring.

I chose these two:

We then had to draw four panels on one page, showing the escalating conflict between them.
(please excuse the rotten photo quality. My fancy new phone doesn't take great pictures).

I decided that the dog works in the stables at Charles' manor house. The conflict between them is depicted below.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Coffee and birds

 Homework for week 2 was to keep a little sketchbook and draw every day with some text.

It could be anything - observations, or dreams, or thoughts. 

I've been a bit slack.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Drawing the Graphic Novel

I started a course at the Prince's Drawing School (now called the Royal Drawing School) on Drawing the Graphic Novel.

I realised that if I was ever going to finish my poor neglected comic/zine, I needed some professional help to know how to put it together.

Unfortunately I did my back in and missed the second session this week where we had life models - bah!

But these (below) are from the first week. I debated about whether to put the pictures up here, because I find them mortally embarrassing.

The teacher was absolutely great, and I like her work a lot. After a lot of very indifferent adult education teaching, it is so good to come across someone who is talented and puts such a lot into it. You knew you were in good hands right from the beginning.

However, the class wasn't an unmitigated pleasure, because the others in the group (about 16, though the class size is 20, quite big) are SO GOOD.

It was quite a chastening experience. 

They've recently graduated from degrees at art school (Glasgow School of Art, the Drawing Year MA at the Prince's Drawing School) and work in professions like graphic design. When we put our drawings up on the wall after each exercise to compare,  I wanted to sink through the floor with shame.

It's not just the standard of the other students, but it exposes my weak area,  which is drawing from memory/imagination. If I draw something in front of me, it is vaguely reasonable. If I draw something from memory or the imagination, it looks like a five year old's stick figure.

(At one point, the teacher said after one exercise 'It makes you realise we don't really know what things look like'. I was hugely cheered by this.)

I wish I had taken some pictures of the other students' drawings so you could see them. Maybe when I get to know them a bit better, I will ask. 

Anyway, enough excuses. Here they are...

We had to draw a partner, in a sort of shorthand/cartoon style, for 3 minutes.  My partner was an Italian girl called Marta. She is much more beautiful than this. I had to apologise for my drawing.

We interviewed each other. 

We put our partner's story into a one page cartoon, explaining how they'd ended up at the drawing class.

Here is my thumbnail sketch of the layout

The teacher said she had asked us to interview someone else, as it gave us a short basic storyline - your own experience is too complex to boil down to one page. Clever thinking, hey?

See what I mean about drawing from memory? My toes curl up with embarrassment looking at this.

I was sneakily drawing from life here, which is why it's a bit more convincing.

I was quite pleased with my one page comic, until we all put them up on the wall. The others were so imaginative and creative, so beautifully drawn, so nicely layed out. Instant Art Envy.

Never mind. It's important to just grit your teeth, and soldier on, than to compare yourself and give up.

 The next exercise,  we had to draw different types of movement.

A person running, a car speeding, a ball dropping, a person staggering, a paper blowing in the wind.

The Glasgow School of Art graduate praised my ball dropping. I nearly kissed him out of gratitude. I was quite touched, as everyone else had drawn beautiful elaborate little cartoons, not stick figures.

By now I had given up, and was just going with it. There's always got to be one dunce in the class.
The last exercise was way, way out of my comfort zone. We had to draw scenario one.

Now, I know what dogs look like. But somehow, drawing them from memory is like asking me to levitate.


It does make me laugh though, which is not a bad thing in a comic.

Someone else had drawn the dog face-on, leaping up to catch it in its jaws with all four paws in the air, foreshortened. How do they do that?

I emailed the teacher for homework. This week she's asked us to keep a visual diary, drawing every day and incorporating text. It could be anything, a dream, an event, something you've seen.

I drew my week in bed after gardening disaster.

Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Generally I think 'if you can't say something nice...' but I'm in a bitchy mood, and can contain it no longer.

I hate Alistair Sooke. I don't think this is too strong a word. There seems to be a dearth of good stuff on art  on the BBC recently, and yet he is everywhere. He seems to have the monopoly on it.

But he's charmless, unappealing, uninteresting, ubiquitous.

Why is he ubiquitous? I just had a look on Wikipedia, and yep, all is present and correct...

'Westminster... Oxford... Courtauld...' Surprise, surprise.

Still, Andrew Graham Dixon probably has a similar CV, and I love him.  He could present every programme on TV and I'd be happy.

Sooke is the anti-Graham Dixon.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Drawing at the V&A

We had a very fun day drawing at the V&A today. Safety in numbers...

We did some warm up drawings in the sculpture court (medieval and Renaissance art.)

Exceedingly rusty... it's a good job we did some warm up exercises first.

5 minutes

One minute
Five minutes, negative space drawing

Then it was break time. We had coffee and cake in the lovely cafe. (There was a piano player, he played popular tunes then launched into a medley that included Metallica and Bowie's Life On Mars.)

Then we went off to draw whatever we liked, before we met up at the end.

The choice is overwhelming, I thought I'd concentrate on Beasts, just to make it easier to settle on something to draw.  I went for a mix of 2D and 3D.

In the Asian gallery - Garuda, Vishnu's vahanca or vehicle. Whatever that means. I liked his funny feet.  I don't know why I decided to position him nearly falling off the page. 
 A watercolour of a wrestler and a tiger from the 1890s, also in the Asian gallery (I just drew the tiger.)

The tiger had very human like eyes. Although the wrestler was stabbing him with a knife, and the tiger was sinking his teeth into the wrestler, it was a curiously peaceful drawing. They looked more like they were cuddling. 

Okay, this is not a beast, but I always wanted to draw these mysterious smiling Chinese men with their tall hats on.

He is short, but I think I made him quite a bit shorter than he really is.

400 year old elephant statue. I love this, if I could choose one thing in the V&A to take home... The Lion has not survived, only a tiny part of the lion's feet remain.

 A wish fulfilling cow (as one of my friends said, we could all do with one of those.)

These are beautiful, mad, stunning Indian statues. I found it quite hard to capture.
Side view of wish fulfilling cow. There is something disturbing yet funny about her woman's face and torso.

It was all getting too much, trying to capture this elusive beauty, so I tried to draw this funny character in the China gallery. A sculpture of  a mythical animal from 450. . Again, I didn't quite capture his manic expression.

The cast gallery was mostly full of dull statues of saints on tombs, but then I came across this lovely bronze lion.

I've made him look like he's yawning, rather than roaring. You can imagine him speaking like George Sanders doing Shere Khan in Jungle Book.

I didn't realise two Indian tourists were standing behind me patiently while I drew this, waiting to take their photo with the lion.

Last drawing of the day, and the earliest  Han dynasty horse, (206 BC).