So I have in my diary for today to write a blog post about my new feminist poster and collaboration with One Beat Zines.
Being as we are in the jaws of history this week, it feels a bit inappropriate to be writing about anything but politics. My facebook feed is full of despair, analysis, dark humour and other coping mechanisms, highlighting once again the bubbles that we live in in the age of social media.
52% of the voting population disagreed even if some of them have switched to camp Regrexit in the last few days, and some small percentage of those people have displayed scarily violent reactions to our immigrant, and lookliketheymightbeimmigrant populations in the heady aftermath of what, for some at least, was seen as a validation of a racist agenda.
When I hurriedly drew this cartoon at a Broken Frontier Drink and Draw night in February in response to the brief 'something topical', I remember being frustrated at the lack of information in the media about the actual arguments in the case, sadly this was not a problem that was solved in the intervening months, and if anything it got worse.
I really don't want to write about politics very much. Only time will tell the real impacts of the referendum and it's aftermath. But it does seem like a time when more than ever we need to try to understand each other. And to try to embrace our differences, the visible and the invisible ones.
I tend to try to steer clear of making political statements on social media, partly because of the danger as a teacher of being seen as extremist, but mostly because I'm a world champion fence sitter. I tend to believe the answer to 99% of questions is 'it's complicated'. I only feel comfortable sticking my nose past the door on issues that seem clean cut to me, as I did with the Marriage Equality comic last year. Because it just seems to me that that's a simple issue that there's a right answer to.
But those are rare.
So this is my 'feminist poster' that I made for One Beat Zines to go with a selection of my zines that they are selling (get yours here) , but as you'll see it's not a simple feminist message. It's more of a sort of intersectional, anti simplifying, pro individual message.
Although I identify as broadly feminist, just as I identify as broadly a leftie, those are identifiers that feel problematic given my essentially highly privileged background, and I feel uncomfortable with the polarising implication that any label embracing philosophy has,
creating a them by creating an us.
But there's a core belief that has been something I've been turning round in my head virtually my whole life, and that's about people. I believe that everyone, yes, has the capacity for good and evil, wonderfullness and terribleness, but also that everyone is a bit incongruous. Everyone has the capacity to surprise you if you give them the chance. We're messed up, broken people in what feels like an increasingly messed up and broken world. Everyone has vast tracts of ignorance, because the human brain isn't big enough for that to be any other way, (I don't know what it's like to think immigration is a bad thing, also I know very little about basketball) but we also all have knowledge.
We know what it's like to be us.
We have to listen to each other to begin to know what it's like to not be us.
So this has all got a bit heavy for what was meant to be me talking about some work I made.
After I made the poster, about 6 weeks ago now, I found I still wanted to draw people coming out of cookie cutter gaps in the world. As any illustrator or advertiser will know, trying to represent diversity in a group of characters has a certain ironic repetitiveness. Really you can't do it justice ever. Because of how everyone is, you know, ACTUALLY DIVERSE. So I wanted to draw some more. And I still want to.
So I started by drawing 4 more and giving them captions.
I wanted them to be captions that could apply to anyone. So I could maybe present these in a book with the captions on separate flaps, you know like those kids books where the heads, bodies and legs are interchangeable?
But I'm not sure if that's what I want to do with them yet. Because as much as we do all have some things in common, not every women on earth actually has an inbox, or knew their mother, so that's not really a thing. I think I might want to do something more. I think I might want to try and tell stories about them.
I'm also not sure if I just want to do them about women. I mean, Yay Feminism. But there's been a postit on my desk for over a year with an idea for a project called "7.4 billion ways it's ok to be human". It was an idea waiting for it's aesthetic.
OH IT LOOKS LIKE JENNY MIGHT HAVE STARTED YET ANOTHER INFINITE PROJECT.
Apologies if you are my facebook friend waiting for me to draw you.
So in conclusion, the theme of this blog post was I managed to think of a way to make my #shamelessselfpromotion relevant to the current events of the now. Sort of. But that also, lets all try to look beyond our differences, the visible and invisible ones, and find ways to see each other as beautiful idiosyncratic ignorant messes.
there are a few things I want to blog. Being busy in the manner of bee this blogging episode of mine should be brief. But also given my propensity to a longer length of wind, no promises.
Firstly, while it is still running (until the 30th of April) I wanted to share the drawings I did of the play Radioman at the Old Red Lion Theatre and a recommendation to catch the show while you can because I enjoyed it a lot. It's a marvel of sonic storytelling and magical realism, written and performed by Felix Trench with live soundscaping. In my drawing the man with the beard is doing the soundscaping. It's really very good. Go see it.
I've been doing a multitude of fun things in recent months, including some NHS academic cartoons
Some wedding invites and romantic comic commissions.
I've also been having some collage fun, which I wanted to share with you.
A while ago I was sitting on the sofa assembling love zines, as is my wont. I was talking to my hugsband Alex, about how much I love collage and putting together the colours and patterns to make yummy compositions. He challenged me to do more collages that focused on this, WITHOUT WORDS. Which is a big deal because words are kind of my thing, collage wise. I have envelopes and folders and a big puzzle mat full of nice words and phrases I have collected and putting together sentences from found text is the foundation of a lot of my work.
But I am up for a challenge so I gave it a go. I made some small collage compositions. I was not forbidden from using any of my other go to collage elements such as roses, googly eyes, or things cut out of old field guides. Oh god I love cutting things out of old field guides. Is there a name for that? Eiji Watanabe syndrome perhaps? Anyway here are some.
I managed to make 5 without words, one of which doesn't scan well because it has reflecty bits (technical term). The other 3 I had made just didn't seem to come together until I had added words. I TRIED. FOR AGES. Well, for a bit. They needed words.
The second two quotes are both from the packaging that came with our Eve mattress. They have good branding. And good memory foam. This is not sponsored. And yes Mother one of the quotes is from Ursula LeGuin and that one has already sold but I'm happy to send you a print if you want one (she's my mum's favourite).
I spent most of the Easter holidays doing some sloooow interior decoration and writing two big scary pitches, one of which I already know I didn't get. Fingers crossed for the other one. If not, it's all still good. It's a PRECIOUS privilege to be alive as Marcus Aurelius reminds us, To me he will always be the mouse daddy in Magnus Powermouse, but apparently he was also an Emperor.
Quotes are good. I enjoy how much the internet is full of them. Although I think a lot of the graphical presentations of quotes are ugly. So we must all practice responsible typography. I'm working on a new typographical piece right now, see my instagram for sneaky work in progress.
I have done a few more Real TV Wisdom pics since the new year too, quotationally.
The month long gap before this final part was obviously a calculated move, and not because this has been sitting half written while I got distracted by stuff. So I'm going to delay no further, and publish this ridiculously long final instalment.
Wondering what I'm talking about? Parts ONE and TWO of my round up of 2015 are available for preamble and context.
In August of 2015, I was on holiday from my day job of teaching. That's what they give us in return for babysitting their educationlings for the rest of the year. Time off for good behaviour. It's a thing.
By this time, a lot of stuff had happened on the flat buying front. Over the previous year we'd had offers accepted on 3 different places in Walthamstow, none of which we were fated to purchase.
Then, against all rational odds, we were offered the chance to buy a half share of a flat in Islington, only 10 minutesish walk from the shoebox we'd been renting for the previous 5 years. There is a government scheme set up to help people to buy in the boroughs in which they live and work, even poor middle class young professionals like us. But obviously without it there is no way we would have been able to do so. It's a bit weird. Like those rent controlled apartments in New York that sitcom protagonists always somehow seem to have acquired, to fit the camera crew in. Possibly we have only been allowed to do this because the government are planning to turn our lives into a sitcom to entertain the masses. I mean. They COULD. We are very witty in private.
So anyway in August, we were QUITE sure that was going to happen (the Islington flat), but not actually sure. Because although it's not technically possible to be gazumped out of a part buy housing association property, our experiences in the 'Stow had left us with very little confidence in property changing hands at all. Ever. But I was packing. Slowly. And making a lot of phonecalls to a number of different people who were juggling obscure pieces of paper about land rights and pushing our potential exchange date further and further back. So it was not a summer without stress. But compared to the one where I was writing my thesis, or the one where I was getting married, it was a walk in a park.
I drew a lot of comics in August, the cat one above, some new Horay Bear strips for The Sunday Comics, and the final version of the 8 page comic for Friedrich Naumann Stiftung's Fur Die Freiheit, the comic about the hypothetical futures of Europe that I had won the chance to contribute to.
What you should know about Horay Bear: he is permanently excited. We used to write comics about him for a short-lived web comics platform a long time ago. But in 2016, Horay Bear is BACK. Probably.
This is some of the Europe Fast Forward comic. More about the competition later. But you can see the whole comic and the other entrants here.
I drew a bunch of portraits for a party, not live but from photos for a change, including this one of the amazing illustrator Willa Gebbie
I had a reunion adventure in Bournemouth in August too, where I got to hang out with some of the awesome people I studied Illustration with at Southampton Solent. We played a lot of pictionary, and went to the beach. It was really fun.
It was also the year of my Dad's 60th birthday - the same year as my 30th! He is like, twice of me.
We took him for a lovely adventure day and picnic in Greenwich.
Here is a photo with BOTH my parents in, from the Cutty Sark, because I already posted a photo of me and Dad in the last segment, and I don't want them to think I'm playing favourites.
It was really hot that day.
On one of my stints doing live portraits at The Big Chill House, I exhausted the clientèle downstairs and managed to blag my way into the private party upstairs to draw people there. Turns out it was the party of the world famous Architecture firm Heatherwick Studio (you may have heard of the Seed Cathedral, the Olympic Cauldron thing from the London Olympics, or that Garden Bridge that Joanna Lummley is not a fan of). I wish I had a better photo than this of the drawing I did of Thomas Heatherwick.
The lighting was not ideal on the roof bar,
here are some of his colleagues though.
In September two of my good friends celebrated their unborn children with cake and gifts, which is to say baby showers is a thing now.
Older people have looked very confused when I tell them this, but if our generation have learnt anything from America, it's to never turn down an opportunity for cake and gifts.
I made these hand lettered baby grows for the (then, as I said, unborn and so unnamed, but now born and named) little Arthur and Felix.
They proved a big hit, and I now offer them on demand here.
This is me having successfully put a nappy on Baby Christmas, proving my readiness for being friends with people with babies. Or something. We also played pin the sperm on the egg.
I was close, but lost points for being outside of the uterus.
When not angsting about flat prospects, in the weekends of August and September Alex and I had also been going on a lot of long walks. Not just because we are old now, but in training for the longest walk at the night time; The SHINE walk. So on September the 26th we walked 26 miles from 10pm to around 8am around central London on a Marathon route with a bunch of people covered in fairy lights. It was the first time I've ever done something for charity that I actually felt was hard enough to justify me actually asking people to give money to charity. It was really hard.
But it was really really good. Watching the sun rise over the City as we walked back along the south bank, foot sore and weary and bleary eyed, was pretty awesome.
The other comic book thing from 2015 came to fruition in September too, the poetry comic I did for the anthology Over the Line. I wrote about it, and about ruminations on the nature of creativity here.
This is the other page, so if you read this and the other post you will have seen both pages. If that makes sense.
In September in addendum, and after what felt like an infinity of phonecalls, paperwork and bureaucracy, we finally completed on our part buy Islington flat purchase, and were even able to do a large amount of the moving over half term. We did not take a photograph posing in the doorway with our new keys. Sorry. We're just not really into that kind of thing.
Here is a not great photo of us having pizza and prosecco on moving day in the new flat though. Hazel and I look super serious. Because movings is serious business.
As is prosecco.
From a few days later with Alex's parent. Apparently we'd lightened up a little.
We've since acquired a sofa. And unpacked some boxes.
In October I finished this piece of hand lettered illustration that I’d been working on between paid work for a while:
I used it to make a series of responsibly sourced sketchbooks that you can own if you would like. They’re very cool and also include some hints and drawing challenges, as well as each one being unique and special (just like you).
It was an appropriate time of year for me to release these books, because it was Big Draw time of year again. Since StoryHands is on a bit of a creative hiatus atm, we didn’t organise an event in 2015, but I was involved in few other ones.
I helped run a skyline drawing drop in workshop with Jeanette Barnes at the Drawing the World event at Granary Square by King's Cross. We stood up on the viewing platform all day and got people to explorative drawings of the evolving skyline, it was a lot of fun.
I also helped run a Big Draw event at the school I teach at, St Helen's School in Northwood. We had a large variety of treasure hunt style instruction tickets leading our visitors to explore the grounds of the school in different ways and to bring back their drawings to combine together in a collaborative wall display. People got really involved despite the weather not being perfect, and we had some really creative responses from people of all ages!
I did the first of many name illustrations for Little Carousel Gallery for Sophie, after a comical false start where I wrote Sopie, but happily noticed before adding any of the pictures, details, colours - all related to Sophie's favourite things. To see more of these and think about getting one yourself see here. They are so much fun to do.
Also in October I did a limited edition screen print for Art Crank, they're all about the bicycles and the printing, I'm all about the drawing and the birds, so this is what came out. I went to the show and got a really cool t-shirt printed also. The big trip in October was my jaunt to Brussels to attend the exhibition and awards ceremony for the Europe Fast Forward comic. I did not win the first prize, but my comic is in the book and I met lots of interesting arty and political types. And managed to see a few pretty parts of the city on my way through. I posted the link above to read the whole thing, but here it is again. Some very diverse international responses to the question of what might be the future of europe, and a range of effective art styles too. Spot me in the video.
In November I began painting a nursery mural for the aforementioned baby Felix, he is one lucky little man.
I'll show you the finished pics in a minute in December.
Meanwhile here's me and mum at the Wellcome Collection, States of Mind yellowbluepink installation by Ann Veronica Janssens, which was a room full of coloured mist so that you lose your sense of space.
That was fun.
The November big trip was an adventure to Sheffield, specifically to the lovely suburb of Totley to do some sign painting for the, now recently opened, Teatime Vintage tearoom and gift shop. I had done the logo design for Julie back when she started the business as a vintage crockery and events catering company back in 2010, so now they are moving in to bricks and mortar territory I got to go and stay in her lovely house and do lots of painting in signwriters enamel.
It was a very lovely adventure, and I am very pleased to have been part of making this lovely little shop come into being. If you are in the area of Sheffield or walking in the Peak District you should pop in for a cream tea.
Here is work in progress of painting the shop sign:
In December I went back to Katie's house in Dulwich to add leaves to Felix's animaltastic tree mural.
My favourite part is the giraffe's knees.
So I entered the Christmas period on the back of two large scale painting projects, but had a lot of small scale drawing commissions waiting for me before the tide of yule, including some of these: