Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Pencils and Pens

THE STREETS OF THE TOWN OF SKETCHBOOK are thronging with people today .. old and new folk, strange and stranger, wanderers and returners, pen and pencil people, tales half-thought and half-told, and over it all tiptoes a far-off strain of a half-remembered music played on instruments tied together with string ...

Monday, 19 November 2007

Hickory Dickory

TO BE ABLE TO MEASURE TIME ~ the passing of the days, months, seasons and years ~ by means of watching the sky, has been an obsession of ours as humans since the beginnings of agriculture. By observing celestial movements people were able to organise their work on the land and so representations of the passing of time have long been linked to the earthy concerns of ordinary folk trying to survive from their crop yield throughout the year.
Calendars produced in the middle ages often depicted personifications of the zodiac or representations of the activities undertaken by the peasants on the land. There are some beautiful examples including the well known fifteenth century Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry (above) and the months of the year depicted in the 1475 Bedford Hours (below) which is housed in the British Museum.

If you would like to read more about medieval calendars I recommend the excellent book The Art of Time by Teresa Perez-Higuera.
It is a strange thing to allocate measurement to something like time .. which I think we all experience differently. I have never been known to follow the rigours of a strictly measured regime particularly .. indeed an early school report stated ( quite truly ) that "Rima has no sense of urgency" And I still find myself in a ever-so-slightly-floating-world that skips alongside the Other One that most others seem to operate in.

Well .. the point of all this was to tell you in a tiny little voice that I have a limited edition of small desk calendars featuring 13 of my illustrations for sale here ... by no means as exquisite as the medieval examples above ... but a little idea I had for selling my work in another way, and a chance for you to buy 13 little prints all in one go!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

A Tale of Two Tinkers

MAKING A LIVING as an artist can often be a trudge down a rocky and pot-holed street .. so today I will tell you a tale of a pair of tinkers who travel from town to town selling their wares on Britain's streets and managing to gather pennies enough for life for a while by selling their artwork directly to the people who pass them by.
Their wagon is home and warm and they love best of all to wake parked in a forested byway with their mistbreaths curling out into the bright crisp morning air, and a cup of tea in hand, and the little woodfire crackling and a new town to visit that day full of new as yet un-met people to buy their pictures.

Some towns welcome them and watch with fascination as they carry piles of pictures and sacks and haul wonkywheeled trolleys up the high street and then set their work against an empty wall and the people talk to them friendly and happy to meet.
And some towns do not understand them and walk by with noses skyward and tuts on their tongues or offer unimaginative taunts, official badges and clipboards.

They display their pictures side by side like a fleeting street-gallery; she, small prints of her paintings and he, his photographic works, all framed with fine wooden frames stained by hand in Ikea carparks en-route. And folk are drawn across the street by the occasional tune from her accordion and the tantalising sight of their image-menagerie propped against the wall.

Encounters with a hatful of the town's drunks and wanderers, madmen and eccentrics pepper their days and are interspersed with interesting conversations and sales of pictures and cups of coffee.
As the days get shorter, their fingers are bitten by winter and folk hurry past on blustery days. If a drop of rain should fall, the two must hurry to gather their wares and dash to the nearest doorway, and pack away their Only-There-Sometimes-Shop until the next sunny day and the next town.
So back they trundle to their home-on-wheels to drive off and away for dinner and a fire and a chocolate bar and a rest by the side of a road somewhere while they count their pennies (and sometimes pounds) glad that people liked their artwork.

Perhaps you'll catch a glimpse of them one day peeping out of their porthole or holding hands as they walk down a street before they scuttle back to their home in the hills to make more beautiful things.

Friday, 9 November 2007

The Woods

TODAY'S TALE TAKES US INTO THE WOODS where things are not quite what they seem, where children get lost and maybe never found again and where the trees alone are witness ...
I have always loved the combination of music and strange imagery which has sparked my long interest in animation and all things puppety.
Stop frame animation holds a particular charm for me in its wonky darkness, its dark wonkyness; especially the masterful works by animators from Eastern Europe like Yuriy Norsteyn and Jan Svankmajer.
Thus inspired I took up the challenge of making a cut-out stop motion animated video for Polly Paulusma's single "The Woods" released earlier this year on One Little Indian records from her latest album, "Fingers & Thumbs".

Below is the result .. a five-and-a-half minute extravaganza of cardboard legs, wire butterflies and many painted backgrounds; each piece moved tiny bit by tiny bit ... at 24 frames-per-second ... which actually means that I made between 8000 and 9000 single captured images for the whole video.
It was a labour of love and I learned a lot as I went along .. It is filmed with a fairly high res webcam and the characters and sets are laid on layers of glass ( a trick I learned from reading about how Mr Norsteyn works )
Polly's lyrics inspired the forest-as-witness-to-a-dark-happening story ... which calls to mind a rather less than sugary Hansel & Gretel tale and conjures imagined fears of the archetypal forest as well as a real horror of a terrifying bogeyman, in more tangible guises. It speaks too of the turning of the year ...
I am pleased to say that it was received with smiles and kind words and even got played on MTV in Italy! And I must add that I would never have made it to the end if it weren't for the patience and brain of my kind brother.
It was my first ever animation .. but not my last!
I will be making a new and quite different and gentle-beautiful animation for the new Orla Wren album due out next year ...

Click here to see the video if you are having trouble viewing it.

Move-click-move-click-move-click-move-click ...

Thursday, 8 November 2007


XAPHOON ... a strange word for a beautiful sound.
It was hand made by
the instrument's creator, Brian Wittman, from bamboo cut from the rain forests of East Maui, and it arrived on my doormat yesterday accompanied by a description which calls it the new instrument for the musician, vagabond or professional and urges me to play it everywhere, to my brothers and sisters, in the dark, in places of magic, in stairwells and mountain-tops, alleyways and caves, to frighten the demons and summon angels and with it to greet those beings who cannot speak my language.
Here you can learn more about this unique instrument whose maker works in a remote self-built house in Maui supplied by rainwater and solar power.
And most of all - listen to this
Yiddish folksong played on the Xaphoon... which I will be able to do ... one day ...

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


HERE ONCE was a scurry of foxes
Who liked keeping objects in Boxes
The walls of their lairs
Were laden with squares
With little mechanical lockses


I like them
a jumbled mumble of miscellany

So here is where I paint:

Monday, 5 November 2007

Remember Remember

HAVE you ever stepped into a book so deeply that when you come out, you blink and look about you with wobbly day-old-colt-legs at the world and the beautiful things make you cry because you have just been picking away at an inner heart-lock with your reading and left the door ajar?
I did that today and am still a little bit teetering in the romance of this sad tale across time.

On this Night of Remember ..
remember to remember
there is only now
and our tales of tales ...

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Warm Windowpanes

WELL ... A small story for this day for you ...

Here it is the time of tree branches against cold skies which I love best and looking in through warm windowpanes
and wondering
and making fires
and things

You can have a look into our warm windowpane
and wonder what we have been making ...

I have made paintings and drawings and played my accordion for Tui... who has woven wonderful things around it.

Now this night we have made potatoes and a fire and will settle down for the evening, perhaps in a book or a film where we will make imaginations and wander and wonder off away somewhere and not somewhere.

Tomorrow I will paint a new picture which is secret.