Friday, December 21, 2012


To everyone who stops by: may these days and every day of the New Year be bright and filled with unexpected gifts. 


Thursday, December 20, 2012


There's enough creativity in the delicious Alphabet Soup online exhibition over at Clive's place to warm and lighten the rest of this winter, no matter how cold, wet and windy it is where you are. Every entry is bursting with flavour and individuality - if you haven't already done so, go and dip into it now.
The brief was to limit entries to black and white, plus one colour.

My own contributions are included and I'll duplicate them here....well, why not? 
(see larger images at Clive's ArtLog and at the main Blaugustine).

The one below is a new black version of a colour one which I originally posted in April 2005 and then made a video of in 2009. I won't put the link to the video here right now because it's going to appear at the Alphabet Soup later on�.


Friday, December 14, 2012


I like it now but might change my mind again in future. Any opinions?

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Later today the long-lost portrait of Rennie Walker (see November 1st post ) will start its journey all the way to California. He has bought it and when it will be hung in their living room, he and his wife Kathy will send me a photo. We are all excited about this unexpected and happy conclusion to a surprising story. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


That's at my main Blaugustine site - please take a look over there but any comments need to be back here.


Sunday, December 09, 2012


Tripped on gritty asphalt while running to cross the street in Camden Town just as the traffic lights were changing to red and landed bang on my knees in front of a bus and other vehicles about to surge forward. The only person to rescue me was a Japanese girl who came over and gave me her hand to pull me to my feet. I wasn't down for more than a few seconds but rather shaken and I leaned on a bollard to steady myself. At that moment a young woman rushed over from across the road and gently asked me if I was allright - she said she saw me from the window of the bank where she works and would I like to come in and sit down? I thanked her and went into a cafe where I drank comforting hot chocolate and massaged my sore knees. 

Did you ever notice that mishaps tend to come in clusters? And that they tend to occur when the colour of one's mood is an angry red or maybe dark blue? That's just how it was on Friday. The day began with a cancelled appointment, ongoing dental irritation and the sudden breakdown of my television when I wanted to watch something. So I went to Camden Town in a really bad mood, muttering inwardly, and that's when I fell. You may call this kind of thinking woo-woo but I do believe it's possible for the inner to affect the outer, just as the outer affects the inner. A friend told me that when he was depressed his car stopped working and various electrical equipment would malfunction. Coincidence? I doubt it. 

Anyway, apart from dental hassles which are too-slowly being dealt with, I'm okay now and a couple of days ago had the pleasure of meeting Phil Cooper who blogs at Hedgecrows. I was introduced to him via Clive Hicks-Jenkins' terrific Artlog, which not only lets us share Clive's own wonderfully abundant and diverse creativity but also frequently calls our attention to the work of others. Thus I saw some examples of the marvellous collages Phil is making for the about-to-begin Alphabet Soup online exhibition which Clive initiated (I've sent a couple of entries) and which is being curated by Lucy Kempton and Shellie Byatt. I invited Phil over so we could talk printmaking and other matters and thoroughly enjoyed his visit. He is so modest that if you hadn't seen his work you wouldn't guess how strong and confident his talent is. I strongly urge you to visit his blog and keep up to date with what he's doing. Thanks to the blogging phenomenon, this former stranger is now a friend.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012


I finished it in February 1984 and the year I spent working on it daily was one of the happiest experiences of my life. I tried to express enjoyment and community in the composition, incorporating about sixty portraits of regulars at the centre - pensioners, mothers and children, teenagers, kitchen staff, organisers - all assembled within a 'geometrified' version of the interior and the neighbourhood. 

The centre offered cheap meals for pensioners and every day at lunchtime they poured in. I would chat with them while I painted and sometimes there would be sing-songs, all the old favourites they knew by heart. One of the regulars was a skilled accordéoniste and I'd sing my Piaf repertoire - they always wanted La Vie en Rose! I've got a tape of one of these rambunctious sessions which makes me very nostalgic. 

I painted myself into the picture and on a poster-like rectangle, I asked my models to sign their names. In the middle of the wall I painted my work table with brushes and tubes of acrylic paint laid out on it. � 

(click on pictures for larger views)

A couple of months before I completed it, the mural was inaugurated by Ron Heffernan, Mayor of Camden at the time. The occasion was covered by the local press and one tabloid (Daily Telegraph, January 30, 1984) but not a single critic or other art establishment person was, as far as I know, ever aware of the existence of this particular oeuvre. Which is perhaps just as well since its visible life was cruelly extinguished after only ten years.

Perhaps its DNA still lingers beneath the layers of industrial paint with which the wall was covered in 1994. I only found out about its obliteration long after the event when a friend told me he'd been to the centre and was astonished that my mural had disappeared. The new managers at the Community Centre never contacted me about their decision and when I went there to protest, the explanation they gave was that the mural was no longer relevant because most of the pensioners I portrayed had died. My jaw dropped to the floor but I refrained from saying that a great deal of art would be banished from museums if this reasoning was enforced. I looked into the legalities but apparently, since I had been employed to paint it, I was technically not the owner of this work. A law concerning the defacing of artworks did come into being later but too late to apply in this case. The only concession the managers would make was to put up in the entrance hall a small framed photo of the mural before its cover-up.

Fortunately I have slides of the entire wall, with close-ups. But that was the end of my mural aspirations. �


Monday, December 03, 2012


When I was an art student a long time ago, inspired by early Italian frescoes and the carved walls of ancient Egypt, I thought I wanted to be a muralist. So I enrolled at the Instituto Allende in Mexico in order to learn mural techniques. The two photos below are from that time, described in my autobiography-in-progress (no progress! But I will get back to it, yes). 

Fresco study, NdA. Instituto Allende, Mexico.

La Despedida. NdA. Plaster bas-relief study. 3.25 x 2.5 meters. Instituto Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Some time later, when I lived in Paraguay, I won a competition (scroll to the bottom of this page) to design and execute an abstract mural for a new hotel in Asunción. But it was not until the 1980s in London that an opportunity arose to really exercise my wall-painting inclinations. I happened to see a job advertisement to join a team of artists, organised by CSV (Community Service Volunteers) to paint murals for public locations in the borough of Camden. I was interviewed, accepted and began a thrilling, if ephemeral, adventure. Ephemeral for reasons I willl explain. 

There were seven of us, artists of various backgrounds, ages and experience but all keen to use our skills on a large scale. We discussed ideas and made general plans but each person was responsible for designing and executing different sections of some murals while in other projects only one artist was needed. This was an ideal situation since I prefer to work independently but also enjoy the camaraderie of a congenial group. 

On the façade of Godwin Court, a building on Crowndale Road near Mornington Crescent, my designated section was alongside the entrance to a mother-and-child clinic. I decided to paint it as though you were looking through the wall into the waiting room and reception area. I took photos and made a lot of preparatory drawings, transferred my final sketch to the rough brick wall and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of painting in the middle of a busy street, cars and buses whizzing past and curious pedestrians stopping by to chat. The other artists were busy on their own sections of the long wall but at lunchtime we would all go to the pub, like good workmen, and talk about art and life and all that jazz. It was the best job imaginable. 

Sadly, all that's left of this mural are the photos and slides I and other people took of it. This is not the age of sacred walls! The lovingly painted surfaces gradually became fair game for the aerosol and magic marker-wielding vandals of the neighbourhood and several years of this activity later, Camden Council decided to cover the entire façade with grafitti-proof gloss paint. None of us were ever consulted or told our work was being destroyed and there's no law that could have prevented it. Nevertheless I'm proud of this work and of the huge assignment I was offered next. 

The Hampden Community Centre off St. Pancras Road was a popular meeting place for local pensioners and teenagers and when the idea of a mural in the common room was suggested, the organisers embraced it enthusiastically. I was still part of the Mural Team but the other artists were busy in various locations and I was delighted to take on the 50' x 12' wall entirely on my own. The scale drawing I submitted was approved by a committee and I began working on the wall on Valentine's Day, February 14th, 1983. 

(to be continued tomorrow)


Saturday, November 24, 2012


I want to redesign my main Blaugustine blog and would love to get some feedback  from everyone who visits there regularly or occasionally or even if you just happened to drop in for the first time. 

What do you think of the new header? Is it an improvement or not? What about the sidebars? The colour scheme? Should I change the entire structure? Any suggestions at all?

Since I still haven't been able to restore commenting over there, please post your comments below. Thank you!


Monday, November 12, 2012


Since I didn't have much to sell, I only booked a half table at Comiket but it's tricky to arrange a display on such a small surface without encroaching on your neighbours in the other half. Fortunately my table-sharers, Myriad Editions, were friendly and helpful.

I was still fussing with the alignment of four books and few cards when my first visitor of the day stopped by. To my delight it was Alison Bechdel. She was leafing through My Life Unfolds and I explained how the original came about. She seemed to connect with my autobiographic images and bought a copy of the book instantly. I must admit that I was not familiar with her work until recently but having discovered it, I'm impressed with her unsentimental self-awareness, humour and directness and have ordered her latest graphic memoir Are You My Mother?

I would have liked to talk longer with Alison but she was booked as the first artist of the day to go up on stage and draw a comic strip. I was too far away to get a decent shot but you can just about make out her hand on the big screen in the photo below. She began by drawing a grid of blank frames then proceeded to confidently fill each one with the figures of her story. I was astonished by the ease and speed with which she, and later the other 'performing artists' drew their comic strips, some of them highly detailed. My own process is usually agonisingly slow and full of erasures since I keep changing my mind along the way. Lesson to learn: have a fixed plan.

 Among the friends I was very happy to see during the day was Jean who is attentively examining My Life Unfolds below. She has just blogged about her visit at tasting rhubarb.

Deep in conversation with Colin, Philip is unaware that his purchase may not be approved by the Authority.

 And don't forget you can order all these, authorised by me!


Wednesday, November 07, 2012


You've chosen Obama and not Romney...whew! Even though Obama has been a disappointment in so many ways, not the hero who will make everything better that we all imagined four years ago, he is still preferable to The Mitt. I'm not going to engage in political discussion - other people do that so much better - I'm just very relieved at the election result. 

Back here in my small world, I'm getting ready for the table I'll be standing behind this Saturday, 10 November, at the Comiket Festival. If you're in London, do come along and say hello. Of course La Vie en Rosé will be there, as well as copies of the printed version of My Life Unfolds and a few other things, including postcards of my graphic story Hindsight .

NdA Press, Table No.9
Saturday 10 November 2012   
11am to 7pm
Great Hall of the Bishopsgate Institute
230 Bishopsgate, City of London, EC2M 4QH  (Tube: Liverpool Street Station)

Saturday, November 03, 2012


Winning is nice. In September I won a voucher for £20 worth of handmade organic ice cream in a raffle during the street party (am waiting for the right occasion before I collect it). 

This is a preamble to some philosophising which I would not be doing had I been the winner or the runner-up in a competition which I entered recently. Had I won, all I would be writing today is YES! YES! YES! alongside a photo of myself making that triumphant air-punching gesture that is so popular among footballers and other winning types. Obviously I didn't win since I am philosophising.

Tomorrow in the Observer the winner and the runner-up of this year's graphic story competition (a graphic short story in four pages) will be published. Last night I attended a party in Foyles where the winners and their entries were exhibited and discussed by the judges and previous winners. I liked the winner and the runner-up but not having seen all the other entries, I can't say if they were the best. 

In sport it's fairly easy to measure who wins - the fastest runner is the fastest runner. But in the arts it gets a bit murky. Winners and losers are largely decided by the prevailing cultural, commercial, and aesthetic zeitgeist and by those occupying significant positions within it. If you fit inside that zeitgeist you're likely to win; if you don't, you won't. 
If that sound like sour grapes, really it's not (snarl) I'm aware that I don't fit into the zeitgeist, whatever it is, and never have fitted it. I'm not an Outsider artist in the accepted sense of that term, but neither am I an insider. I've drawn cartoons but I'm not a comics artist. In general, I never know where *any* of my work fits. I'm glad (sob) I didn't win because it forces me to examine what it is I truly want to achieve creatively and...erm...okay. End of philosophy. Fook the zeitgeist.

My entry to this competition, Hindsight, deliberately side-steps the usual comics format. I wanted to do something more like the recent My Life Unfolds and I recycled some of the stencils I had cut for that concertina book, as you can see, and it's autobiography again. I wanted the technique to be more painterly than comics-influenced so I made collagraph cardboard plates for each page, inked them up intaglio, printed them with my etching press and then hand-coloured them, with lots of texture. The text can be interpreted in any way you wish, there could be more than one meaning. 

The originals are A3 size but below I've photographed A4 copies taped together concertina-fashion.

If you want your own mini-version, I've had some postcards printed as a set of four cards in a cellophane bag. I'll be selling them (along with La Vie en Rosé and some other books) at my stand in the Comiket Festival next Saturday, 10th November, 11 am - 7pm. If you're in London, come and see me there.
You can order the cards from me: £2.50 for the set of 4 cards, plus postage to wherever you are. They are beautifully printed by MOO which I can highly recommend. If you've never used them let me know and I can email you a voucher for 10% off your first order. No, I don't work for them! They give this voucher to all their customers.


Thursday, November 01, 2012


I don't believe in coincidence. To me, Co-Incidence (an unlikely meeting between two incidents) is a phenomenon which is much more interesting and, yes, mysterious, than the purely rationalist dismissal of it. But, rest assured, I'm not going to launch into mumbojumble. The story itself is good enough.

On December 23, 2009 I wrote about and posted a photo here of a portrait I'd painted in 1981 of Rennie Walker . In my memory, as I wrote Rennie (who had suddenly contacted me, wondering what happened to it) I had painted over it and it was gone forever, apart from a small snapshot of him sitting beside the work-in-progress. Feeling sad and guilty about the loss, I sent Rennie a digital re-working of the portrait that I did from that snapshot. I thought that was the end of the story. 

Never trust memory: it often invents things when it can't remember the facts. 

Late last night, I was looking for some frames in a crowded closet in my studio. I opened a large container that I hadn't touched since I moved to my present home about seventeen years ago. Inside it, amongst various other things, was a tall (4' x 5') rolled-up canvas. Curious to know what it was, I immediately unrolled it and....the lost portrait of Rennie Walker! Fresh as the day it was born. 

Here it is, the original, finished painting, rediscovered. And below, the earlier stages.

Of course I instantly emailed Rennie to tell him the news. It looks like this painting has found its home.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

La Vie en Rosé is now a real book!

Yes, a printed paper one that you can put in your pocket and read on the train or in the bath and you can order it right now at this link where there is a full preview. The book is 68 pages, 5" x 8", colour cover, black and white content with 13 illustrations. I decided to convert my original colour images to greyscale to make it less expensive, both to manufacture and to sell.

The economics are as follows : I'm selling the softcover book for £6.00 or hardback for £14.50 (plus postage). Blurb charges me £13.50 per copy for hardback and £3.50 per copy for B/W softback so I'll make only a tiny profit but I want to sell millions - oh, allright, dozens. So please put the book on your Christmas list and tell everybody about it: can it do that thing they call going viral? Remember you read the story here first.

Although I love Blurb and they've been very helpful and I will use them again, I must admit that their Booksmart software is hair-tearingly infuriating to work with and I'm not a beginner in that sort of thing. But let's leave niggling aside and focus on the joy of accomplishment. 

As a life-long procrastinator, I can go for months avoiding and displacing and distracting but when I finally get down to something I've been putting off, it's full blast, staying up all night for days, eating dinner at midnight and breakfast at 4 pm, staggering around bleary and dishevelled until the damn thing is finished. That's what I've done and all I need now is approval, hugs, and lots of sales. 

And next week I will know the result of something else which I have not spoken of but have been busy with. 

 Say something!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Have a look at this

Kentish Town is my neighbourhood and The Kentishtowner, a very useful local online daily newspaper, sent me a questionnaire, which I answered. They also asked for my photo, which I sent, but I didn't know they would also choose some images from my site. I'm really chuffed to be featured in their series, Ich Bin Kentishtowner. 

This all came about through the auspices of my neighbour and new friend, the very good writer Alison Chandler , who organised the editing and publishing of a little printed magazine for the day of our street party last month. She sent two budding journalists: Ellie, thirteen, and Alice, eleven, to interview me for that publication and they did a fine job. The editors of The Kentishtowner (a completely different publication) came to the street party and later contacted Alison to ask if I'd answer their quiz. Of course I did! Many thanks to all concerned.


Friday, October 12, 2012


 Some of my Welsh sketches needed more work. Here are a couple of revised ones.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012


At the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth the exhibition of accordion books is over but it will move on next year to a few other venues, dates not yet finalised. 

I had a surprise gift from a close relative, who does not wish to be named or praised, but at least I can share with you a photo of this delightful creation which will forever remind me of the event.

If you haven't yet seen My Life Unfolds all its pages are here . And at the same link, you can go to BLURB to see (and even buy!) another version of this unique book.

I managed to install the Disqus comments thingy at my main Blaugustine blog but took it out again because it doesn't allow you to have more than one comment box per page. So I'm looking for another service which will permit this. Meanwhile please comment here, if you wish!


Sunday, October 07, 2012


I've been wholly taken up with finishing something which has to be delivered early next week (more on this when I've heard results) so the Blaug has been neglected, again. And comments have vanished since the commenting service Haloscan/JSKit ceased to operate from 1st October. 

Now I have to figure out how to set up the Disqus comments service but until I do, please leave some words here just so I know I still have a few cyber-friends!

Herewith a few more sketches of Wales on cloudier days. 


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I stayed near Crickhowell, a beautiful part of the Brecon Beacons, in a tiny, cozy two-room cottage, which was fine since I'm only four feet eleven inches high and not very wide but even so, the steep and narrow spiral staircase to the bedroom required some careful contortions. When I wasn't walking and sketching in the countryside or visiting nearby towns, I'd sit indoors and draw. 

The found-object frame around the mirror is one of the thoughtful touches around the cottage.

Even when - especially when - the sky is cloudy, at this time of year the greens are of almost neon brightness while the blackness of the hills is streaked with purples, browns, reds and patches of emerald. I was particularly spellbound by reflections in the river Usk and by the copper-coloured water of the Brecon canal. Narrow boats silently glide by as you walk along the tree-lined banks. Some of the boats are manned by amateur skippers, worriedly looking straight ahead, expecting trouble. 

And there were sheep of course. Plump and peaceful, eating and resting, resting and eating, dutifully taking care of their woolliness.

I spent a few hours in Abergavenny on a day packed with crowds for the Food Festival, which was fun. But what I liked best were the side-streets and the people at the bus queue going home.

Some teddies in this shop are very old, very rare and very expensive.

On my next to last day, I was privileged to be invited to tea at the home of friends of Clive Hicks-Jenkins: William Gibbs and his civil partner Sonthaya. By happy coincidence they live very near the village where I was staying and Clive suggested I look them up. Due to a stupid (my stupidity) dental mishap, I nearly cancelled the appointment but fortunately I was persuaded to ignore vanity and come anyway. It was a memorable afternoon with this most interesting and hospitable couple, a marvellous house and garden, and an art collection that so stunned and inspired me that I quite forgot to take photos. Besides the achievements mentioned at the above link, William is a patron of the arts, collector, critic, lecturer and chairman of various Arts Trusts. With all this activity he still manages to appear relaxed and at ease. Enthusiasm for life and art and a discerning sensibility is evident in every corner of the home that William and Sonthaya share and I'm so grateful that I didn't miss this opportunity to meet them. 

Still seeing the week in Wales in my mind's eye and long may it linger. I took a lot more photos and might post them on Flickr later on. A few more drawings also to come.