Sunday 2 June 2013

The Scrimstone Circus Gospel

The Scrimstone Circus Gospel illustration 1 - by Rima Staines
I wasn't born for birthday parties and scented candles in the twilight bath or string quartets on the lawn. I wasn't made for clean handkerchiefs and your mother's approval at the dinner table. Oh no. I was born for rock’n’roll, sea shanties and the smell of diesel on the harbour walls at dawn. I was made for bear claws on bark, for fires in the wasteland where desperate men in greasy overcoats swig vodka in the sparse snow and cold so tight and empty you can barely see a flame in it or the shape of hope in the dark. I was born for broken glass and imperfect love and riding the rusty trains home when the last-ditch grail-quest has failed and all the knights have spent their blood and wine on wrong questions asked of nobody in the three-penny hours of darkness. I was born to live wild under the hill, in the belly of the alembic, in the sperm of the whale and the heart of the gold... 

Tom Hirons - The Scrimstone Circus Gospel

And so begins a strange and wonderful story written by Tom, and illustrated by me for a newly released collaborative book project published and curated by the Lazy Gramophone Press.
The book is called Time; it is a vast undertaking: three years in the making, and comprising the work of 55 different artists and writers.

The original idea, dreamed by Sam Rawlings, was to create an anthology of stories in which the passing of time was explored by intertwining narratives in an unusual and unique way. Tom was asked to write the central story which would span the life of a single protagonist - through childhood, adulthood and old age.


In each of the three life stages there was to be a crossing point, an event in the narrative which would become a common point in the anthology's "history". So, for example, if he'd written in a storm, this "crossing point" would get passed to all the other writers creating stories for that section of the book's timeline, and a storm would occur somehow at some stage in their tales too. The result was to be a weave of narratives which all gained a sense of truth and a "historical" pinpointing due to the shared event in all the stories. The same thing was done with each of the three life stages, with Tom's story serving as the central anchor to which all these other stories were tied. 

The devilish-vagabond-world Tom has created in his wonderful tale - The Scrimstone Circus Gospel - is dark and funny and profound and colourful and lyrical and strange, and it was delicious to illustrate. These are my drawings for the story here - I'll not explain them further, but leave you to go and read the book. Suffice to say, that drawings of things like dice games with devils, opium-fueled reveries, drunken shootings, bearded ladies playing accordions, pickpocket-ballerinas, hideous corrupt priests, shipwrecks in the rain and celestial eagles and bulls should give you a certain aroma of the spice that awaits you in the tale! In fact I suspect the whole thing has a lilting gravelly sea shanty as a soundtrack.

The Scrimstone Circus Gospel illustration 2 - by Rima Staines
(NB ~ the title on the creature's cage - a word-hybrid
between the Russian words for
circus цирк, and church церковь )
The Scrimstone Circus Gospel illustration 3 - by Rima Staines

I'm particularly excited by this publication, because it is the first time Tom and I have had work published in a book together - my art illustrating his words. We share such a wonderful and surreal imaginary landscape in our daily conversations and foolings, that it is an honour to be asked to put pencil to paper and make visual representation of Tom's story-world for others to see. This one is certainly replete with the dark oddness we like.

The book is full to brimming with other fantastic works, poems, art and stories by many other people, there's even a fold-out timeline-map. This little video gives you a further taste of the whole collection, which you can buy here, should you be tempted... 

Вся время губит и вся покрывает
Вся тлит время и в конец превращает
Едину истину аки свое племя
Хранит блюдет и открывает время.

Time destroys and covers up all;
All is decomposed and brought to end by time.
Only truth and its offspring
Are conserved, protected and revealed by time.
[from Иѳіка ієрополітіка (1712)]

All photos of Time anthology © Lazy Gramophone Press


Anonymous said...

So proud to be illustrated by you! Delighted and dazzled, too.
Tom x

sarah said...

It sounds amazing, looks even more amazing. What a brilliant concept.

Valerianna said...

What an amazing concept for a book... congratulations, sounds and looks rich and rewarding.

Anonymous said...

This looks completely amazing.

What a cool and interesting project.

Ms. said...

Masterful line from the mistress of magical mystery. Terribly tempted (though I can see nothing but a blank screen for the video since I'm not able to upgrade my flash player on the is old rig...But I can purchase no thing save essentials I'm sorry to say. So happy to see this though.

Charlotte said...

It looks fabulous (in the true sense of the word). I love that you have collaborated as the words and pictures have meshed so well. I would love to be mouse in the corner in your house for such 'foolings' of conversations. They are the stuff of life. Congratulations to you both.

Ronnie (RR) said...

What a fantastic thing that you have worked together on, you both must be so pleased, perfect partners in both life and work. Am so happy for you both

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post.

Unknown said...

Wow!! I love those pictures! At first the giddiness of the whole picture captures you, next the brilliant composition and then all the humour in the details. And because it's black and white the rhythm is clear too; definitely a strange accordian rhythm! Each picture is very much like a dance, so full of life and vigour, and so appropriate to the intoxicating writing. Really great combination!

suzi blu said...

Absolutely stunning I want this book!

Unknown said...

How wonderful!! I love these drawings. I love the higgledy-piggledyness of the characters, hiding the very clever composition. I love the way, just as you said, that everything seems to be a soundtrack going on in the background; accordion music? And there's so much humour in the detail. The best thing of all though is the marriage of the writing and the illustrations; both intoxicating and made for each other!

Tiffany Davidson said...

I've read that opening paragraph several times over & will probably do so more this afternoon. Seriously spectacular arranging of words. My goodness, Tom!

Bravo, both of you! I need to read the whole thing.

Wayward Harper said...

Wow!! that looks delightfully dark and delicious :) I shall have to find myself a copy! Well done you two!

Lazy Gramophone Press said...

We feel honoured to have both you and Tom involved in our project. Thank you again for sharing your amazing work with us.

Lazy Gramophone Press said...

Great post. We are very happy to have both you and Tom involved in our project. Thank you again for sharing your wonderful work :)

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

Ah ha! Exciting things have been emerging here while been away Soldier's Tale-ing at the Hay Festival. One of the good things about being so busy for quite a while, is that there are treasures to explore when I get back to blogworld. Congratulations to all concerned, but particularly to Tom and Rima for what looks like a great conclusion to a wonderful adventure. I shall go get my copy.


Quinn said...

Delicious intertwinings. Like dreams. Like life.

Els said...

Wonderful to have such a companion who understands it all ... ;-)

Lunar Hine said...

I am excessively excited about this. I want a copy very much. Just being around talent like this makes me jump about and only my sleeping girl has the power to quieten my shouts of glee. Hooray and well done and of course, because we always knew you could and would work together.
Glee, I tell you! Glee!

Ruthie Redden said...

A perfect coming togetherness of creativity & dream~thinking, and I can't wait to hold a copy in my hands.

Jess said...

How wonderful to be inspired by eachother! You're both so very talented.xx

Studiolum said...

Wow! How did you find the poem on Time from Иѳіка ієрополітіка? I have also written about it some time ago. Marvelous illustrations!

Teleterkji said...

Thank you for your inspiration