Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pumpkin Alternatives

I've been working in some places that weren't my usual cafe, because I felt like it after blogging that I never did.

I went to the local library, which is architecturally famous

and looks a bit like a pumpkin, no?
The main library bit is in the overhanging part, and the windows are so low that you can only look out when you it down. Which is nice... tehre's a row of tables all along. And if one is lucky, there's the table by the crooked-tooth-window which is much bigger, then you get a load of clouds to look at as well as the peckham roofs.

Then there's my local cafe.

And here's another pumpkin alternative I made yesterday.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Hm... work seems a bit slow-going, maybe that's because I'm doing three projects at once. It's that stage between books where it's a case of which new project gets contracted first, but they all need to be taken far enough to be proposed at one of them grand meetings where publishers decide what and who to spend on.

I got separate sketch-books for all projects, here's the one that's least developed, but most straight-forward:


...featuring, at last, some birds.

And here's a bit of an early bit of thinking in another one...


And at the same time I am happily letting my computer clean up and archive all the lovely audio-tapes in the house, starting with the Sherlock Holmes stories. I completely wiped my iTunes to make space.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Just in case you haven't decided how to dress up your kids this Halloween...

... here's something I spotted in Woolworths!

Nope, you can't do better for money.

Am so tempted to get one and have no reason in the world... might it be used as a Christmas tree? Or just put into storage?

Poems and Moths

I feel like writing a poem today, so I shall, because it's not that often that pretty words are in the air, and I have an idea, too. If it comes out well it might turn into a picture book proposal, all illustrated in many shades of red and one shade of blue.

I also want to darn some jumpers in the evening... I did the annual moth check some time ago, and they'd been at some of the packed-up jumpers. So I froze the jumpers and then washed them, now they are dry and ready to be fixed up. Most of them with the right-coloured yarn, but some are so moth-eaten that they might want colourful patches.

I didn't go drawing today, but my friend came around and we made apple-and-pear crumble, which was exactly what I wanted to do anyhow... outdoors drawing trips can be a bit less than exciting on a grey damp cold afternoon. And apple crumble had been on my mind for weeks!
I also bought some very snug warm slippers, and a load of butternut squashes to roast.

I find it hard sometimes these days to hang on to what I feel is the main thing I do in life to be happy - making things nice. I don't know if it's a London thing or an age thing.. I always knew how to make things nice in my little home town, and in Cornwall, too. You find a lovely place, like a garden or a beach or a house, then you bring some extra ingredients, or decorate, then you bake a cake or cook some picnic food or a big stew and then you tell everyone around to come along and be happy. For some reason I could never really make that work in London... sometimes it feels like working against the hive-mind or something. Like doing that sort of thing is just peculiar and bumpkinish. I feel a bit like a displaced Moomin thinking: Funny, I was SURE it's time for a celebration.
I do like take-aways and shopping trips and eating out and cultural events and all, but part of me doesn't quite understand why it's not sharing big stews this time of year.
I shall make more of an effort, and bake cakes and make soups. The last soup I made was thin and boring and I wasn't sure why I made it so big, because people were visting for a take-away evening that day anyway, and half of it is still in the freezer now. - I'll make a stew next, with red wine, and dumplings on the side. Yes!

But first I'll eat leftover apple crumble with custard and write a poem.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bah, pumpkins.


It's cosy here, and I'm feeling a bit slow and a bit glum, but I always feel a bit glum this time of year, especially this week. Makes me think of swirling leaves.
In fact, I don't seem to have much luck around Halloween ever. I think it's because I have a vague idea of celebrating it at home with cookies and autumn leaves and candles and hot chocolate and maybe a scary movie that ends well, but I can't ever seem to get that organised, either nothing happens, or people convince me to go out somewhere and I end up somewhere noisy and cold, probably dressed up as something that seemed a good idea at the time. I hate fancy dress parties. I like the idea, but in reality I never enjoyed one of them.
I'll make an effort this year, maybe I'll roast a load of squashes and bake something... oh I feel grouchy.

This afternoon I'm supposed to go out on a drawing trip, but it does look to me somewhat like it might be too cold and grey to hold a pencil... hm.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


My desk looks nice at the moment...

And I'm experimenting with painting without lines. Not because I menat to, but because the pencil don't work on canvas. Hah.

Monday, October 22, 2007

LIDL art sale

HOORAY! I've been looking forward to this all last week... LIDL is conveniently selling extra cheap art materials from today. Got all this for £15!

I shall paint beautiful things on canvas and sell them at a profit! :D
Am just working out how to hammer the little wooden wedges into the back. Hmmm, taxing...

Anyway, however, if you've got a LIDL in your area check it out, they got easels and portfolios and (probably not very good) paints, and o.k. brushes...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Audio Books...

I don't know about you, but I've found that one of the best things in this studio is the unabridged Moby Dick Audiobook (read by William Hootkins). It's long enough that listening to all of it easily takes me through the production a whole book's worth of artwork. And it's absolutely brilliant, vast and wonderful, and I wouldn't want to miss one chapter...
I want more audiobooks in the studio, and man they are EXPENSIVE. Except... on tape, from charity shops. But do I have a tape player? No. Do old tapes tangle up and fade the day after I buy them? Yes. So here's my latest studio investment... a tape-deck that's also got an USB out and comes with software that's supposed to easily convert tapes into MP3's. Now I'm shifting all the music I hardly ever listen to off my hard-drive to make space. Hooray!! :) Am looking forward to this in a big way!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lovely Ladies

...turned an unfamiliar corner while walking today and lo, pretty sights...

Lemon and Poppyseed Muffins

I'm in the caffeine-intensive phase of a new book, two weeks of producing presentation material o net a new contract. And there's just one place for me to go at that stage... or any stage that requires concentrated creative thinking... or rather: a number of more or less identical places, reliably spaced in this country... it's bad but true: I head for the nearest Cafe Nero and put myself at a window table with a cup of cofee and a lemon and poppyseed muffin. It needs to be that combination for optimum performance. There's something about the reliable interchangeability... nomally I like variety in my cafe experiences, but not for work. So if you find a muffin paper-shell with traces of lemon and poppy muffin and a whole load of pencil shavings, you might well be on a hot Viv-track. This one photographed in West Dulwich today.

I got a lot done, in fact I got to the stage where I needed to go home and get cutting and pasting novelty elements.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Beautiful London Day

Good meeting today, am getting ready to get a new cat-based project on the road.

Then I walked along the River again to the art-shop, and it happened to be the most beautiful autumn day yet... here's some Riverside Views:

One of my favourite things: one of the miniature groves of weeds that grow in the middle of the Hungerford Bridge.

...the big fish...

... and some very blue sky.

I bought some tinted charcoal pencils, and "Rubber Soul" on CD, a canvas board for more painting, and a tiny Darth Vader because he looked lovely and small and just like a Samurai.

Kind of Finished

Hmmm. I think I'll leave it now and start a new one. Not completely right with the brightness and shadow, too much contrast in places, but a dappled forest is a bit of a tall order for a first try. Next I'll do some street scene maybe!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In Progress

...yesterday I started a new painting... I'll finish it today, I hope.
The black outlines take away some sophistication, but I don't mind. I like outlines.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quite Fancy Actually

I picked up my Tate membership card today...

... so now I am officially allowed on the Tate Modern members Only Terrace, where they have my favourite view of London:

And I decided that the drink to have there is obviously rosebud tea, with real rosebuds

and I should have really got the slightly fancier version of the membership where you can bring a friend, but I was stingy. I might upgrade.

I lost my hat somewhere in the museum, which was the only bad thing that happened all day. The good things that happened were:

- me seeing the Louise Bourgeois exhibition, which was even better than I'd expected... they had several of her "cells", rooms built in wire cages, and rooms build with walls that are all closed doors, where you can just peer in, and have to lean and squeeze to see around the corners... it feels like looking into someone's head, seeing their life and feeling it without quite understanding, and without ever being able to walk all the way in and touch anything. They also had tall sculptures she made while using a New York roof as an outdoor studio, they are stretching like sky-scrapers, and represent people she left back home in France... I could imagine being in a city of faceless stone giants, and making your own giants around you.
It was absolutely brilliant.

- a lovely meeting with my editor in the museum cafe, over hot chocolate and cake and Jasmine tea that unfurled in the cup from tiny balls into tangled green jungles. I've got two brilliant projects to be working on now, a comic and a novelty book. Tra la! My favourite sorts...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


... no drawings at the mo. Am filling sketchbooks with notes and exercises. I had a sudden craving to catch up with some Basic Art Education. I only had a smidgen of that in school, and when I enrolled at Art college it seemed everyone was so far ahead on the basics that I could never catch up. There was a phase of doing coloured squares and copying compositions for a couple of weeks or so, and everyone would look at my results and shake their heads. I remember a tutor saying "I can't tell if this is very good, or really, really bad," and one of the boys I made friends with later told me he thought I had a twin because it made no sense that the same person could be striding around like she owned the place in one lesson and then be swearing hunched over a sheet of badly painted squares in gradations of blue the next.

Perspective was always the worst... people kept telling me "Learn the Laws of Perspective!" and I was just SURE that they weren't laws, but tricks or maybe rules. Not like the law of gravity, anyway. I learned all the stuff about vanishing points and suchlike. But I also learned about the human eye, and I just didn't understand how a picture that the brain constructs from something mapped out by a couple of curved surfaces with a tiny focal area in the middle which jump around all the time could be translated "lawfully" onto a flat surface by connecting some dots with straight lines. "This can't be science!!!" I kept thinking. "They're just making it up. Until someone explains this to me PROPERLY I'll bloody well ignore it."

Anyway. I cricked my neck yesterday, and ended up in bed for a the afternoon, reading a book on persepctive from one end to the other, and thinking: hey, this isn't about a realistic depiction, this is about making it look right, and taking the movement of the eye and the tricks of the brain into account... and then I just spent a long time imagining rotating cubes floating over landscapes with curved and moving grids, and imaginary horizons radiating out at all angles, and I think maybe I understood something at long last.
I need to understand things visually, else "rules" don't mean a thing to me...

Colour theory is next. I want to understand why it all is like it is...


Help! Help! Help!

You know the horrible feeling when a manufacturer discontinues one of your most important materials?
Derwent Drawing pencils used to look like this - a range of soft earth colours, and they were water soluble, so you could sketch a lovely rich line and then wash it into tone.
Here they are:

Now they "expanded" their range, and the result looks like THIS -

- with a ring at the end - and they aren't as water soluble any more!

Which doesn't seem so bad, except that my friend Mr. Alexis Deacon needs them to do his wonderful pictures. Check out his books if you don't know them, and think: there's trouble for these if we don't manage to track a bunch of old-style Derwent pencils! This bunch is all that's left.

I'm at present searching the web to find a supply, but not having much luck... but I am sure that lots of you guys out there have collections of different drawing pencils, or know of someone who has, and who might think: what am I supposed to do with this smudgy pencil, it's not even water-proof. - Have a look! Please! every pencil means a whole load of lovely drawings.

Thank you!!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Oil Painting

Mmmm I am enjoying these paints!!! Painting with them is like making something... a cake, a toy, a thing... and they smell great.

I went out to buy some white and blue and green, taking a different route from usual, and I walked past a tree with very red leaves by a house that was painted bright blue.

Canary Evenings

Every evening around sunset Helga sings a melancholy song at the top of the cage. I have to stop drawing then because the birds won't fall asleep if I switch the light on. So I just make a cup of red tea and listen.

When there's still music playing, she seems to sing along... last night it was one of my favourite records by the Modern Jazz Quartet. I recorded a snippet, here it is.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Materials Girl

Sp I thought I'd do some colour exercises... I remembered school and thought: gouache is the stuff to use officially, no?
So I did some of that, and I thought hm hm hm interesting, and I painted a weird-looking yellow girl with a red ant and I thought: phew, this is a fuss.
Then Alexis passed by and gave me some tubes of Water-soluble oil paint instead and I want A-HA! and painted a big bird over the top.

And then I drew on it with a big black pencil. Now I'm happy.

Funny that I never really tried oil-paint... I've always figured that acrylic is more sensible, but
a) it looks like plastic and
b) it doesn't smell nice and
c) you can't draw into it with a pencil, should the notion strike you, because... it's a load of plastic.

I think maybe I'm not all that rubbish at painting, maybe I've been using the wrong STUFF...

The Golden Hinde

Snack break at London Bridge yesterday... I passed by Borough Market, which was too crowded to get inside except for the very determined. I skimmed a street-snack off the edge and took it to the river.

Today I rather want to get some colour studies done, after reading most of the book on colour use that I bought yesterday. First, however, I need to go and buy some food. Why doesn't buying food seem to interfere with anyone else's daily lives? I find it really noticable. I get the feeling most people manage to do it as a sort of a recreational activity, as a break from work maybe, go out and get some tasty and useful things and ponder the world and get a breath of fresh air... I still can't get my head around this way of urban shopping, just a bit every day. I think of grocery shopping as something that needs to be done every few days, and results in a lot of heavy shlepping. Not recreational in any way. Not sexy, either, unlike picking up a couple of fresh croissants and a jar of organic jam for breakfast. But how to do better? How? I mean, if you shop for food on your recreational walk and then you find you want to walk a bit further, what then?? Do I want to take pints of milk around town? Or jam? No! If I go grocery shopping, I mean business.
Yet, I know that other people in this area have a lovely time picking up tasty morsels from the plethora of international food-shops available while I'm dragging home family packs of pasta from LIDL in my big old trolley bag. And it seems so much more stylish and carbon neutral the other way.
Well, off I go again! I'll try and keep it chic. Maybe a small pack of pasta and some Baclava. I hear there's a local market on Sundays. Hm, hm.
Painting later.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Today we ran out of paper.

... so I went out to buy a load more. But first I took a trip to the Tate Modern. I visited the Surrealists. There's a painting of a little red bird in a dark forest by Max Ernst that I particularly like. Then I spent a long time in the bookshop, looking for something to help me learn more about colour, and picked out a colour manual with stories about the origin of pigments. There's a painting i want to paint of the spirit of autumn, he'll be many shades of red and yellow with many kites behind him.

It was a beautiful London Saturday, with the Lions at Trafalgar square all carrying children on their backs and the guard horses at Whitehall glossy in the afternoon sun, and the Thames beach was sandy and almost clean. I bought a replica Louise Bourgeois artwork at the Tate, a limited edition handkerchief embroidered with the words I HAVE BEEN TO HELL AND BACK. AND LET ME TELL YOU, IT WAS WONDERFUL. I'm very excited about the upcoming exhibition of her work... anyway, it seemed to me like the best possible handkerchief one could have.
I walked back along the South Bank and there was the xylophone busker who only seems to have one tune - If I Were a Rich Man - but he was playing it with many extra notes today because there was a small child listening, she was listening with her whole face. I'm pretty hardened towards sentimental busking experiences, but as I walked by and the sun was shining on the jumbly London sky-line I was glad I had my new handkerchief.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Button-Eyed Bear

I just thought of a little book I might make, called "Gifts from the Button God".

Battersea Park

Battersea Park was beautiful today... I never came across that very green band-stand before.

And I have my drawing-board back... I don't think I can adequatly describe how good that is.

Autumn Day

Has there be an outcry lately? Has anyone asked me: Viv! Why do you never post any drawings! Have you no sketch-books?

No there hasn't. But I got a feeling I haven't posted any drawings in a while, so here's a page of faces.

I just got a lovely song in the mail, and now I'm scrubbing my face and going out to take the train to Battersea park, and I'm taking a kite a made to try out. Then I'll visit my friend who sent me the song, and I'll pick up my old drawing board which he's been storing for maybe three years or so, and I'll think about sheep. I like thinking about sheep.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Long rambly post


I have my favourite mug full of my favourite tea (tea that I didn't brew myself, that is), and I am thinking about things to draw and things to write... there's so many stories that went through my head in the last couple of years, but somehow it was always a struggle to write or draw, everything turned out thin and pale like skimmed milk. I spent a long time moving house a lot, and then a long time being unable to sit down because of my bad back. I managed to make a couple of good books, I wrote a novel that I stuck in a drawer for later use, I knitted some things and filled some sketch-books. But I never felt like: aaah, I'm home, now I'll do something brilliant.

But now I actually do... Maybe it's the autumn, too. Autumn always makes me feel like everything hangs together, because it feels the same everywhere I've lived - dry leaves in the wind smell and sound the same in Germany and in England.

It's been a quiet and constant challenge, actually, to move from a not very big town in Germany to Cornwall and then from Cornwall to London and North London to South London and every time there was a whole load of "This isn't how we do things here". I tried learning to like loads of things I didn't understand, like Folk music and white bread and takeaway meals and builder's bum tea and the Archers and washing in a bath tub, and marmite and irony and Eurotrash and Guinness. I really enjoy Marmite and take-aways now and most of the other things I coped with as well (except for the Archers). In fact, I'm sure I learned a million good things on the way.
Anyway, it all seems to hang together today. I feel like the same person I was as a child, and the world feels like the same world I knew then, and I don't know why that should feel so special, but it does.
Maybe it's because it's autumn.

And now I'll try switching my desks around and make the computer desk into the drawing desk and vice versa and when I'm finished we'll see if I still feel like drawing!


Monday, October 1, 2007


Still sneezing but now also catching up with the world.
I've been looking for event-pictures on the web, and here's a glimpse of me: I'm just halfway through congratulating Polly Dunbar. I'm the red hair and stripes in the foreground.