|A road that runs through dark trees, oil on board, 20 x 15cm|
Saturday, 19 July 2014
|Fighting a Monster, 1980 (aged 6), crayon on butchers paper|
|Fighting a Monster, 2013 (aged 39), oil on canvas|
I much prefer the original, the energy and drama of childhood drawing is very hard to replicate. Just look at that sorry soldier fallen twisted to the ground, and the steely resolve of the fellow manning the laser canon! It's hard to beat any drawing by a six year old for sheer directness of spirit. The more recent painting was produced for a local exhibition last year, in which artists were invited to revisit some aspect of their childhood self. It's an idea many have experimented with, most notably Dave DeVries' excellent Monster Engine (using other kids' drawings) and more recently the Dutch artist Telmo Pieper. Aside from amusing results, it's an excellent way to reconnect with a very distant (and yet very near) state of mind, enjoying the archaeology of childhood, where many thoughts and feelings end up fossilized on these layered paper strata.
Thursday, 17 July 2014
The time taken for artwork to be returned from a publisher has reached a new personal record: 17 years. The book in question, Force of Evil by Gary Crew, a collection of suspenseful cop stories I illustrated back in 1997. Not long after the book was published, I contacted the publisher only to be told that their office had more or less vanished – not unlike a twist in a Gary Crew tale – nobody worked there anymore, and like a frustrated detective, I quickly ran out of leads. It was more or less assumed that the original artwork was permanently lost, so much so that there wasn't even a suspect left to pin the blame on.
|The Staircase, gouache and pencil on paper, 1997|
Apparently what had happened (I now know) was this: the artwork sat with the printer for a some years, having nobody to return it to. Eventually it came back to the freelance designer who had worked on the book, a person with whom I had no connection. Her attempts to get in touch with me via publishers and other agencies failed: the work was filed away for another long period. Eventually an office reorganisation brought it into an archaeological light, my current publisher was contacted, and they immediately let me know. Interestingly, the designer and I now virtually live in the same suburb, and I was able to just drive over and pick them up. Thus ends a great mystery!
|The Last Cabinet, gouache on paper, 1997|
One odd thing is that I had been thinking about posting images of lost work only a few weeks prior, since a blog must be good for such things (there's always hope on the internet... and no artwork really disappears). The other odd thing is the unusual experience of seeing the work again. It's rare to look at images I don't quite remember painting - I even had to check the signature on a couple of them. Technically they are as good as anything I'm doing now, but with a higher level of detail, produced at a time when I may have had a lot more time for fussing about with tiny brushes (these works are quite small, A5-sized). A lot more time, but not much money, and even less employment. Chances are that if these paintings had not been buried in a time capsule, I would have immediately sold them all off to the lowest bidder, just to pay my rent.
|A Missed Call, gouache and pencil on paper, 1997|
Incidentally, the original book is out of print, and the illustrations were quite poorly reproduced due to cheap paper. I don't think they aroused much interest, remaining largely unknown. But what you can see from this work is my early interest in creating a disquieting atmosphere through simple compositions: I actually learned most of what I know about illustration from working on small scale pieces such as these. In spite of the hazards of poor pay, relative anonymity and the mishandling of original artwork in a predigital age (hooray for electronic files!) early work such as this proved to be an invaluable experience, essential visual training for larger projects such as The Arrival many years later.
|A Step Behind, gouache on paper, 1997|