Monday, 17 August 2015

Three Zines You Should Get

Last weekend I went to the Leeds Zinefair that Footprint organise, in a deconsecrated church now called the Left Bank, in Headingley.

Good folk from Newcastle were there, and also various other familiar friendly faces that I haven't built up or retained close friendships with. That's a factor about zine fairs: they're a lot about social interaction and for someone introspective and introvert like me, that makes them quite an occasion. I always get butterflies before, and gabble a certain amount of shit in my excitement when I'm there. I always leave with a mix of nostalgia and missed opportunity. Nice, huggable nostalgia, and only vague and unrealisable missed opportunity. So it's all good, and good brain food for the likes of me.

The quality of zines has surged in the last couple of years. My impression is that zine fairs and the culture they represent took a dip last year (2014), but in 2015 the scene is as strong and the paper artefacts as inspiring as ever. Maybe people spent the year getting good work done. 

I would even stick adjectives like luminous and sublime to zines. You see I'm smitten, and I hope I'm smitten for life.

I might do a second blog for other great and recommended zines, there were so many. A personal highlight for me was the centrala comics stall, all high-spec production, full colour beauty, comics in the European mould (mold?) that I love. Hence this pic :

This blog post however, is to tell you, advise you, plead with you, to get three zines in particular.
Number one :
Number two :
 Number three :

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Redefest 2015

This year the only outdoors festival for which I'm doing a workshop is Redefest. And I'm happy because it's the best year yet.

In preparation I got the kids from Kids Kabin to cut down 46 willow trees from the lovely willow maze that is permanently on site. This was the first challenge they had to perform in order to then get some tents to sleep in on Thursday night!

Then on Saturday morning, student volunteers Rebecca, Ruby and Echo came with me to help dig holes and plant this willow into a traditional maze shape, slap bang in the middle of the festival.

half way
Then we tied string between the trees to make the walls, and friendly helpers Chris and Nathan helped us finish it off.
After that, we set up a table for painting and drawing, and used the willow maze-cum-race track as the exhibition space. The sun shone, hundreds of people came, and we felt good about contributing a nice free activity to a lovely grassroots festival. One to savour!

I've uploaded a few video clips to youtube:
Volunteers constructing the mini maze here and here.
The time trial being attempted here.
The ukulele orchestra producing an Elvis medley here.
And the Ceilidh here.

And here are some panoramas of the festival. There were so many young people there, and all the generations mixing: grandparents playing with diablos while tribes of children picked through the spare willow stalks and made up games to chase around with.

Thankyou to all the volunteers who organised Redefest, it was perfect this year!



Saturday, 4 July 2015

POSTCARDS - addresses please!

Hi all, I used to send some of you drawings, letters and postcards when I went on little adventures.

Postcards from the beach, packages from Siberia, long illustrated letters more infrequently.
I still type-write sometimes, but I am no longer a regular swapper of zines by post, and I am generally the one who stopped writing. This is sad.

I went to Handa Island for a week at the end of June, and said on facebook to send me postal addresses for postcards. Only 5 people did so, which is a sign, I think, that nowadays no one really expects me to get around to it. I have several unfinished projects, and forget all of the things I have said I am going to do. But I did draw those postcards in June and I did enjoy posting them

I did a search on my email for "postcard addresses" to get some more to send to from those of you have, in the past, requested them. And realised it was 2010 when I last put out such a call! A whole 5 years is a significant proportion of life. What a shame not to have been doing mail art, regular letters and so on for that long.

So it's time to start again. I would like your addresses please. Or a postal address that you can access at least: perhaps you don't know me well enough to tell me where you live.
For those of you who I know much better: I do not remember where you live. I rarely visit, if at all, and even for the closer friends I have to email to be reminded of where to send such a thing as a postcard. My days of living in a geographical-linked community - a neighbourhood -are gone.
So addresses please. I will at some point send you a picture or a something if you send me an address to send it to.

And there is no obligation to reply with your own post, but I do love receiving it. My address has changed, and I don't want spamharvesters to know it, but I will write it in a picture and place it below.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

What no Blog? Late Shows Blog!

This blog's been quiet, not cos I've been doing nowt and not cos I finally effed off abroad. Nope, I'm doing the same as ever but the Late Shows asked me to be their Artist in Residence for 2015, which was absolutely bloody lovely of them and totally unexpected. So instead of this zine-y thing and occasional sketchpad shares, I've been focussing on a bigger project and getting various folk to help me make it happen.

If you want to know how it's been going then luckily enough I have a blog telling you about it.

The new blog is here! It has art and sounds and pictures and photos and all sorts. But no gifs. I did  want dancing gifs but I ran out of time to learn how to make them. Oh well, another day will come.

And also, that blog is only temporary, while I complete the Late Shows 2015 Residency. Once that's done I'll pile back in over here.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Collaborative Comic at the Newcastle Zine & Comics Fair

On the day I flew out of Newcastle, there was a great zine and comics fair organised in the basement of Travelling Man by Jack Fallows (a man famous for his shapely calves). I could only stay for the first hour or so but was determined to contribute. So lovely CJ (pictured in typically smiley pose, above) let me prepare a collaborative comic for people to take part in.

There are as many forms of collaborative comic as you can think up. For this one, I created 6 panels with a little bit of text and a glimpse of Newcastle architecture drawn into the background. The 6 panels add up to make a loose sort of story, whose meaning would be fleshed out by the pictures drawn. Then folk coming into the comic shop were each invited to draw a panel - kids, shoppers, punks and comics fans, see picture above!

Because there were some very talented comics artists already downstairs, and they all took part in drawing some lovely panels at the beginning, it got underway really quickly and we were already almost out of panels by the time I left. These photos are just the ones I took before leaving for my aeroplane, but I hope to see the rest of the panels and get perhaps better photos or a more interactive way of viewing them at some point.

I'm really happy with how this drawing experiment worked out. People did not know what style or nuance the other panels would have, and so that engagement with others' unknown style or ideas was successfully taking place. That is what I personally find exciting about drawing with others, and I think this had just the right degree of rules to make it a fun exercise to play with.

I was also happy at using the term 'orgulous' in one of the panels, because it is a now archaic description once used complainingly of the people of Newcastle, meaning they were unruly, ungovernable and full of proud, fighting spirit. People tasked with drawing the panel of an orgulous crowd did not know what the word meant, but their picture instead provided the description of the word.

I'm looking forward to picking up the rest of the panels when I next see CJ or one of the Travelling Man crowd, and rearranging them to give different versions of the story, see which picture matches which, getting a collage-only version perhaps, a child-friendly and a sweary one.
And I hope to draw with you soon again.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Lundy and the Bit Between

Second visit to Devon in one month. Equally expensive to the last, it means I won't be able to afford my big summer adventure anymore, but I'm happy and tanned again and here are some of the now-standard sketchbook pictures.

I took the boat to Lundy and walked up the north end of the island and back. It was pretty idyllic and a lot of the cliffs raise your heartrate. Here are some :

The cliffy bits I was drawing here are the petering out rats' tail of island at which MS Oldenburg docks :

But despite my unflattering description, its rocks are also pretty lush when close-up, like this one :

So that's the rocks done with. I couldn't not mention them. There were also baby soay sheep, deer, ponies, highland cattle, grey seals and some falcons. Plus the birds of summer - barn swallows, skylarks in full song, and meadow pipits in abundance. I've not seen any of these up north yet.

But these next pictures were all done on the boat, and clicking through them makes a strange sort of portrait of MS Oldenburg, which was chockfull of children spewing up into paper bags :
And finally (I'm not boring you with what I actually did in any detail, my diary heard all about it so you don't need to) :

Friends Birke & Bjoern, being drawn on the train to Exmouth

And Birke's picture of me, drawing them in return:

I'm glad I draw. I think it is better than drugs for a healthy-feeling mind. And Lundy's nice, I'd like to go back with you.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dolphin spotting at night.

I signed up to do a dolphin & whale survey with ORCA, from Plymouth which is nowhere near where I live, to Roscoff, which is over the channel from it. I got a night train down the coast, toured like a tourist around Plymouth, and then met this lovely bunch of people (pictured in Roscoff, waiting for the ferry back).

(Matthew, Jennifer, Mary)
The ferry left after dark, and we really weren't sure if we were going to see any dolphins as there was only an hour or so of morning's light before docking - and half of that would be in harbour itself when you're not allowed to survey on the bridge. They have a ship to steer, you see, and don't want to get distracted when avoiding quays and rocks and things.
On the return trip we would get a bit longer, but still only a few hours, so I knew not to get my hopes up for great natural spectacles. The fact we all were keen to take part anyway says more about the enthusiasm that marine mammals arouse in people than our sensibleness and logical reasoning.  A week later, and this same crossing will get more light (the clocks will have gone back), but as it is they looked into cancelling it this weekend. Apparently the fact I'd booked my night trains was a factor in going ahead.
We slept in two cabins, woke a bit after 5am, and Mary got us taken onto the bridge where I was put on note-taking and suddenly there was "sighting!", "two common dolphins!", "two more!" and all that being called out. I had to write down the ship's position each time (reading it off the ship's console), and also the dolphins' position in relation to us, as well as some other things like angle, distance, direction etc... It was all a bit frenetic and after half an hour when we had to leave the bridge we'd recorded 21 of them. I personally only saw 2 of them because my eyes were mostly down on the paper and the console, but Jennifer told me to look up from my scribbling especially, lest I miss the experience. 

From on high, they look smaller than you'd imagine, more delicate and neatly drawn, with pale yellow sides and that classic dolphin jumping thing going on. They like boats, unlike porpoises, and are often drawn to them just as they were that morning.
And then : a day in Roscoff, quiet little picturesque harbour town. Barely a town really, just a pretty suburb on the rocks with a nice harbour and a seriously major tide thing going on. It began high, clear water lapping up against the jetties, but by the time we left there were dozens of rocky islands revealed, thousands of rockpools for urchins and crabs, and kilometres of wet sand and seaweed. Good place for a daytrip if you have the time!
While Mary logged the birds, Jennifer told me the difference between the shellfish. I know nothing about maritime wildlife, and I like having vast areas of nature new to me, it's like seeing a big horizon out in front of you.
Purple thingummies (name to check!)

Painted thingummies (name also to check).

The harbour was full of these Brent geese, and we looked for other birds too, so I saw my first Rock pipit and Rednecked grebe of the year.
The other thing I'm really turned onto this month is the return of the bees and the butterflies. Queen bumblebees in particular awe me for how they survive all winter somewhere buried in the soil, and then at this time of year they pop out again and the whole of their species' survival depends upon them buzzing about and finding enough food n that. Wildflowers, pesticides, lawns, them's the crucial factors. And so these queen bumblebees are massive, and different species are different sizes and make different tone buzzes as they bez about. The honeybees are pretty cool too (pictured first), and all busy at the rosemary.

We also spent a fair bit of time in the French cafes, mangling the accent as only english tourists can (Matthew is a particular expert, and also a gastronome so really enjoyed his time in France). I drank a lot of coffee. I always drink a lot of coffee. The Roscoffians were very patient with us, and the weather was warm. Proper holiday feeling.

On the journey back, after a wait in the ferry terminal with well behaved children singing "ten green bottles" (quite different to the Newcastle crossing, which is usually full of drink and drunks), we were up on deck for a bit longer. 
We had quite a few mysteries on the return trip. 
I in particular saw things that I couldn't name, and as a relative novice I lacked the experience needed to say they were definitely seal, minke whale, rocks or what have you. We saw gannets, guillemots, bonxies and kittiwakes. However the journey was sealed and delivered for us all when straight toward us came a pod of common dolphins, all tight together so probably feeding (Mary, our team leader, told us this). First one, then a dozen, then I was counting 35 individual splashes and in total Mary estimated 60 plus, with at least 5 calves. Even I saw a couple of these young ones, leaping alongside their mothers, half the size and quite breathtaking for the sheer fact they were there, in front of us, alive. They jumped around in the wake of the boat before setting off toward France. We, meanwhile, carried on into the 3 shipping lanes that divide England from the continent, and were all aglow. Both aglow with the experience and also aglow with the skin-reddening effects of proper sunshine. I'm returning with a tan.