Thursday, October 21, 2004

those were the days my friend

No news on Simian, he's having a breather. The new improved relaxed approach to writing is incredibly relaxed, so much so that I haven't written in nearly a week. Breaks like this can be pretty foolish as they really break my momentum, but I figure that I've no real momentum in the last month anyway. Also I've been doing a bit of reading, taking a look at a few things that seemed to have a similar tone to what I have in mind for Simian. You see, whilst I've been taking a break from writing I've been thinking about what I've done and I've realised it's not what I originally intended. One of the initial thoughts for Simian Smith was that the stories would be odd, they would be silly and stupid, strange and absurd, after all, we are talking about a private investigating ape. For some reason in my efforts to try and write properly I forgot to be silly (I also forgot to enjoy myself) Down time from writing and using this blog to not forget about Simian is helping me look at the story afresh.
Thanks to a Danny and Paul I'm going ahead with working on a website, hopefully I'll have something ready in a couple of months.
Finally got 'promoted' at work, it seemed like it was 'begrudged' by management which was a annoying but the important thing is that i got it, the pay rise is pretty laughable but will help our finances.
Walker's Crisps have a new advert that uses 'One Step Beyond' by Madness as it's theme as well as the 'group walk', I just saw it as I was typing the bit above. Seeing it makes me nostalgic. Comics do it to me too. Recently I got a few issues of a comic called Blue Devil (dopey comic but it was fun and had a lot of charm) from the 80's on Ebay, one of the issues brought a very specific moment flooding back. When I say specific I'm not refering to events but feelings. It was from october 1986 which makes it 19 years old and would have meant I was 14 when I bought it. My dad had decided to take us all out for a drive, something which didn't happen often. We went to Sunderland and ended up going to a place on the coast which I forget the name of, the thing I most remember about it was that there was a pub built into the cliff by the beach, there was a huge huge rock on the beach and we had ice cream and fish and chips. And I bought the afformentioned Blue Devil, the first Blue Devil I bought. I remember really liking it and it seemed to perfectly compliment a smashing (genuine old fashioned hyperbole!) day out. There a few issues of 2000ad and Warrior that give me similar feelings and of course there's Madness and their video's, they bring back feelings and memories of a different time..... don't worry I'll spare you the gory details of my nostalgia for days gone by. Basically as much as I hated being a kid in the late 70's and most of the 80's there was so much about that time that I miss and when something reminds me of the good times, like a transitional item like a comic or a photograph or hearing an old song it gives me a sad but cosy feeling. Honestly, I'll be telling you how much a loaf of bread and a packet of crisps cost in my day next.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

where's the sketches

The more aware visiters to this blog will have noticed the lack of sketches of late. There's about 10 sketches that were scanned in a few weeks ago that are just languishing in my harddrive. They weren't meant to stay secret this long I just didn't get round to posting them, but then I thought about it and just didn't wat to do it. They don't look so good on this site (well, they look ok, but they aren't presented in the best way) so I just kept putting it off. What I need is a proper website to put stuff on, unfortunately I now nothing about programming sites. I have a domain which came free with my email account and has a long clumsy title because of that (it's also full of bad old drawings) it's also rubbish because of the incredibly basic limited design package (honestly, it's like a bad joke) I got free with my PC. Last week I downloaded a free design program that I have no idea how to use that also looks a bit rubbish. As soon as I sort out a decent site I'll post links to sketches and put up some other artwork and the odd bit of writing that I've done.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Hitchcock was wrong

A flurry of finches descended on the back garden as I was writing that last meandering post. Who would have thought that an attack from birds could be so beautiful.

Getting my head together

After a couple of miserable posts trying to express some of my frustration and trying to figure out what I want from being 'creative' (quotation marks hopefully stopping me sounding pretentious but probably exaggerating it) I think I'm getting somewhere.
Danny provided the breakthrough; I need to be self-indulgent. The worry hampering my work comes from the responsibilities I'm placing on it - it has to be good, it has to be published, it has to save me from what I hate about my life. That's no way to produce decent work, it's also not a very good environment to have fun writing and drawing and more than anything else I want my words and pictures to be about fun. Being a naturally negative grumpy bloke is one thing, but that's never been my intention and not something I want to be remembered for. It doesn't mean that I want my work to be devoid of depth or to not tackle difficult subjects but (and I've mentioned this before on this blog) as much as I'm easily impressed by works which are a bit grim and dark, when I see something that manages to express truth and/or beauty in a positive way, something which embraces the joy of life I end up grinning like an idiot puppy.
Self-indulgence can be a risky thing, it allows people to create stuff that is utterly inaccessible to anyone but themselves, but in this instance it means just doing something for yourself and enjoying it. At least that's what its means to me and I'll just have to rely on my natural commercial instincts (the ones that make me get annoyed at films that run over an hour and a half to two hours, that wonder why an editor didn't do anything with an authors book, etc) to keep me on the right track.
So Simian is not going to be done next month, it’ll be done when it’s done. Simian Smith suffers ups and downs along with my moods of late, and as such I've recently become unhappy with the story and stuck as to where it's going and what's meant to happen next. Last night I realised what was wrong with it but don't know exactly how to correct it. Making myself write 1000 words a week is helpful in making me concentrate regularly but it’s sapping the fun in the process making it harder, more stressful and making me less inclined to bother. Philip Pullman may be able to write a certain amount daily but I think he's far more an accomplished writer than I am.
Work will continue on Simian, as it will on the various picture books and pictures I'd like to do, this isn’t an excuse to do less, I still intend to get a decent amount done on a regular basis, it’ll just continue in a more easy going less stressful manner.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Long miserable post warning

Over on his blog Paul has written a long post about why he's decided to do a PHD, the post has quite a bit of relevance for me, except for the PHD bit. The main similarity comes from dissatisfaction at work being a deciding factor in going back to college. I don't intend to go back to college myself even though I 'd like to, sadly the courses I'd like to do I would have to pay for instead of being paid to do them, education being something only people with money should have. But the dissatisfaction with work is very familiar.
Like Paul I've been caught on the merry-go-round of promotion. At the moment I'm on the merry-go-round despite myself simply because I had to take over from the person above me when he left as I was pretty much the only person who knew how the section he had worked, it was a big section and so it was a lot of responsibility. This means that I'm a grade 3 doing the work of a grade 4 and have been doing this for a year (sorry Paul, no matter what grade you are you are expected to do the work of a grade above you, even if, like me you never planned to) To add insult to injury for the last couple of months I've also had to help someone who's already a grade 4 become my boss and although I have no problems with her and think she's hard working and committed I can't help but notice that I'm doing most of the work. Money isn’t an issue as the company has a specially piggy bank put aside for people who should be promoted, they just don’t like to break it open.
Deep sigh. On to other things.
This is not what I want to do. Not only is it not what I want to do but it is one of the factors that stops me doing what I want to do. What I'd like to do is write and draw. One of the problems I face is my own limited ability and also (let's be honest here) my lack of drive. The amount of commitment needed to become a paid author or illustrator is a hell of a lot, we're talking about labour intensive work where you have to produce just as much work as the people who get paid for it, maybe be better than them (how else do you impress a publisher) and not actually have a vacancy to apply for. Look in the job section of a paper, there's no ads say publisher requires author/illustrator, you just have to do the stuff and keep your fingers crossed. That's a lot of commitment (and, just as importantly, faith, you really need to believe in yourself) and although I have a fair bit of commitment I can't honestly say that every bit of free time I have is spent on working on a project or improving my craft, unfortunately all my spare time is what is required. Which leads us back to my job. The time I spend at work eats into my writing/drawing time in a major way and it also leaves me in no mood to do anything but lie on the couch when I get in. I take my share of the blame for not using my time in the best way possible but I can't help but be frustrated by how much a job I don't care for, doesn't pay well (as Paul says bookselling is appallingly paid especially for the work required) and holds me in low regard is taking of my time.
In a nutshell, I do this job for money to allow me to do the work I'd rather do but the money isn't great and the time on the job holds me back from doing the work I want to do. It would be nice to find a new job (and I have started looking) but I'm not terribly well qualified or experience in much of anything - which is why I'd like to go to college but can't afford to because the pay from my present job is so low.
Last night I had to help in a 'change over' (when we take out one promotion and replace it with a new one), generally they aren't too bad other than the fact that we have to work late, but last night's was the worst I've ever done and I'm kind of glad that I'm not in today to see the reaction to it. After finishing it a few of us went out for a drink and I was amazed at the degree of unhappiness for the job we all had. There was little anger or outrage, just a strong sense of unhappiness because noon of us really knew what we were doing there. This kind of conversation is not exactly rare but it struck me most because of the mix of staff there - it included management.
Paul's post has far more merit because he's doing something about it, he's got a plan. All I'm doing is whinging. I'm putting this up here because it's how I feel, and have felt for a long time, and I think it gives some background to what's going on as I try and write and draw. I've been talking about the 'creative impulse' recently with a few other people on here and one of things I believe is that when you stop worrying about something and just enjoy it for what it is then you produce better work. The irony is that I nearly always worry about my work and none of it's being done for itself, it's being done to earn me money, it's commercial art, I'm hoping it'll mean I can leave my job. Sure I'd do it if I wasn't getting paid (that's what I'm doing now isn't it), but that is still the final goal for most of the stuff I do. Writing and drawing in the hope that it'll save me from my present job puts quite a lot of unhelpful pressure on me, it may be pressure of my own making but it still exists and it has a detrimental effect on my writing and drawing.
So I just keep on plugging away like the steady drip of water on a stone slab waiting until I finally make some mark.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

the artistic impulse

In an interview today in the Observer the excellent Philip Pullman said "I became passionate about transmiting and enthusiasm, and telling stories" This is fairly close to summing up my own feelings and reasons for trying to write and draw, particularly the enthusiasm. When I'm really taken by something I feel the need to pass it on, usually in the form of recommending it to someone else, but it also makes me want to do something myself. Danny and I have been emailing each other recently about the creative impulse (Danny, do you see how I make us both sound really smart) and Danny talked about a kind of debt we owe from experiencing something (book, picture, film, whatever) that effects us, the kind of debt that is repaid by trying to create something youself. This totally hit's the nail on the head for me. I knew a guy who was interested in writing children's books yet he never managed to really finish anything because each time he read something new that impressed him he would start another book or rewrite one he was working on and it would inevitably show this new influence. At the time I thought this showed some serious lack of... well, a few things, ability, commitment, character, etc. But I've experienced similar impulses myself (and probably shown the same lack ability, etc), when I read something that effects me I feel the need to do something myself. Fortunately I try not to stoop to plagarism. But we were both effected and both needed to express that effect somehow. We both had to pay our debt. No idea if the other guy is still trying to do this or not, I'll keep plugging away though.

arty nonsense

Looking around a few websites yesterday I stumbled across a couple of great artists. As 'art' goes they are probably closer to illustration, but I guess that's why I like them. First off is the work of Esao Andrews. It's pointless describing artwork when you can just look at it, but to give you a rough idea think Victorian macabre. This site might take a while to open (unless it's just my steam powered PC) but it's worth it for a very nicely animated site. Jumping from that site via the pixelsurgeon interview I discover a review of an artist called John Currin whose work I really liked probably for the same reasons I like Lucien Freud's artwork. Currin doesn't seem to have a website of his own that I could find but a quick google search for 'John Currin artist' turns up quite a lot of articles on him. Andrews namechecks an artist called Ray Caesar but I didn't care for his work as much. Unlike Andrews and Currin, Caesar's work is digitally produced which I'm not a fan of (although I'd be lying if I said it was immediately noticeable), but the really problem is that Caeser's work seems to stray too far into Goth/Geiger territory for my liking.
Back to art styles that mirror my own preferences I should mention Simone Lia's work. I discovered her work over a year ago now when I picked up a children's picture book called 'Follow The Line' and was instantly jealous of someone doing similar paintings to me but doing them incredibly well. My artwork is not that similar but it's obviously in the same area. Lia's work is beautiful, I managed to get another picture book by her called Billy Bean's Dream. I was very pleased to find out that she also did comic work. About a year ago Bloomsbury packaged some of her comics with Tom Gauld into a book called Both. Recently Lia has been working on a comic called 'Fluffy' which is available from her site and also from a few comic shops as well as the trendy design book shop 'Magma' in London and Manchester and the ICA.
I’m still thinking about painting something myself. I suppose I should just pick up some brushes and start painting, but I really have no idea what to paint. This is what stops me so often and was always a sticking point when I was younger. Although I do have a pretty good imagination (as you’d hope, what with me wanting to do creative stuff) it doesn’t seem to work in the way I’d like it to – I rarely have those sudden flashes of ideas of what to do that you imagine artists get. The way my imagination works is that it just wonders of on it’s own (I often get very lucid daydreams to the point where even though I know the daydream didn’t actually happen I still feel as though it did) If I’m lucky I’ll see something that I think looks interesting and it’ll react with something else I’ve though in my head and suddenly I’ve got the beginnings of an idea that I try and wrestle into something workable. Simian Smith came about as just those two words. It’s amazing how many comic folk have this sort of obsession with monkeys, they crop up all over the place in comics since the 60’s (Superman or the Flash or Jimmy Olsen were always turning into an ape or fighting one or falling in love with one…. No, really) One day I’d been reading some monkey related story and the name Simian Smith popped into my head, I liked it, I kept coming back to it. Eventually my interest in crime stories (much stronger back then than now) led me to giving him the job of Private Detective, the pun on primate was pretty obvious, I had a character. That was about seven years ago, it’s taken all this time for me to finally do something with him.
Whilst I was thinking about a couple of picture book ideas (one was based on the fact that I was trying to think of an animal I’d like to draw in a picture book – frog, I thought, I like them. How a bout I give a bowler hat to make it interesting, yeah okay, but why? I dunno, maybe he goes traveling in it. Oh, that makes sense, he must be leaving his pond…. And so on until the story is ready to draw) and suddenly I thought of a really filthy dirty house, why was it so dirty? Eventually I had a new idea. Where did it come from? I have no idea.
I get terribly jealous of people who have fertile imaginations and turn out picture after picture. Keeping a sketchbook was supposed to get me drawing stuff in the hope that I’d exercise my brain and imagination until it was strong enough to produce stuff. It sort of works, but since I’ve started thinking about painting I’ve had no ideas. Doing a portrait of Rebecca seems like a pretty obvious choice but then I wonder how she should sit, what kind of pose should I go for, etc.
Ok, I’ll take it easy for the rest of the day and then I’m going to start working on something, sitting around blogging may not get work done but it does sometimes galvanize me into doing something.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Not a rant

Ok, maybe it’s a bit of a rant, but I’ve tried to exert some restraint. Think of it as a compassioned complaint.
Hey, it’s my blog, I do wha’ I like!
AVP. First let’s laugh at the ridiculous abbreviated title. Do I blame T2 or ID4 (or Independence Day)? Yes, I do. But that doesn’t let the makers of AVP of the hook. The rest of the film seems to be a bad computer game with some poorly written characters and dialogue. I did actually like Predator, as far as undemanding popcorn nonsense goes it’s fun. Alien – excellent. Aliens – very good. Alien 3 – I was one of those people on the ‘but it’s brilliant’ side of the fence. Alien Resurrection – well, I liked the new improved Ripley….. everything else pretty much stank, particularly the Alien/turd hybrid. I think the point here is that there is some serious sense of diminishing returns at work here. As nice as it would be to see Alien somehow returned to it’s former glory I have 2 problems.
Alien and Predator are only being brought out because the idiots who care about the crap games and comics think it’s worth wringing some last drop of money out of these once worthy endeavours.
Why do they need ‘restoring’ to their former glory? Just watch the originals again. The need to remake or do sequels is akin to digging up the peaceful resting corpses of the good and decent and molesting them.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

laa-de-da I'm doing a little bit of writing

The synopsis for Simian Smith is coming on, I should finish it tomorrow which will give me some sort of plan to follow. All told I think the story is going to be bit shorter than I originally intended, part of this is because of the brevity of the narrative. With artwork the finished book (if it was published!) would probably be about 125 pages which is okay for a book in the age range I'm aiming for. Once the synopsis is finished I think it's best I crack on and try and get it finished asap, my provisional deadline is for mid November which means that the 1000 a week isn't enough, more like 2500, assuming it's going to come in at my guessed word count. Once the first draft is done I might do some artwork for the story before I get on with the second draft.
As well as Simian I've started working on the scripts for a few picture book ideas. So far the ideas are vague and need work but my desire to paint is making me push forward with them. Two of the ideas are animal based and one involves humans, I'd rather it didn't but it's the only way the story (such as it is at the moment) work. I've also got a little note scribbled that might be made into another story but I'm not sure how just yet - it involves animals again.
I'm beginning to wonder if the updates about my writing aren't a bit on the tedious side. There's little in the way of insight in them and they're just a bit of a log book entry at the best of times. Maybe for people who already know me they might be of interest but if not I doubt anyone would tell me. The lack of real news as far as writing goes is also making this a bit dull. I suppose I could liven things up by ranting a bit, ranting is something that comes fairly naturally to me but as I said in the last entry I don't want to rant as everyone does and it's a bit tiresome. I'm planning to look for a new job so maybe I'll have something more to post about then. In the meantime I'll try and be more interesting, or at least post some more sketches.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Well this is the longest I've left it between posts. The reasons for this are not particularly interesting I'm afraid. Mainly it boils down to the fact that I didn't want to use this blog to rant about things. I may tend to moan about things but not about work, people or the World, there's plently other blogs that do that and I couldn't imagine what I would add other than more whinging. As I've had a fairly shitty time of it lately I just decided not to write about it but because I've been thinking about very little else I've ended up not posting. Also I didn't see my wife for a week and now she's back I don't feel like sneaking off to spend time on the computer. My need for the tiny tiny amount of 'fame' that blogging gives me has finally dragged me back though.
Although I did art at 'A' level and a Foundation course I know very little about 'fine art' My dislike of modern art as well as not having much free time has kept me well away from the art world even though I inhabit its council estate area known as illustration. Recently I've been looking at some really nice paintings and feeling like I should be doing some myself. I particularly like artists like Modigliani, Matisse, Picasso, Manet, Gauguin that kind of thing. No really point to this other than I keep thinking of the great feeling you can get when you're pushing and spread big blobs of thick paint around a canvas with. Perhaps this is a reaction to the feelings of constriction and frustration I'm getting from work.
Writing is faltering, I'm not sure how well I've stuck to my 1000 words a week target, it feels about right but I'm doing it in such a patchy manner. No writing for a few days then a sudden blast of 600 words and then nothing for days again. At the moment I'm trying to do a synopsis of the entire story which is what I usually do when I hit that wall of frustration where I don't know what to next. Generally there are two ways to write, there's planning the whole thing out before you write and there's making it up as you go along. I like to make it up as I go, I like the freedom of it and I lack the kind of mind that plans, but I do often get stuck and wonder what happens next. I think it often leads me to cut stories short or to give up. As I have no intention of giving up on this one and don't want it to end just yet I'll just have to work a bit harder to figure out where it needs to go, but thinking time cuts into doing time.