Thursday, April 29, 2010
Anyway, I re-read some books on dramatic improvisation and it helped me to fix some of the parts that weren't quite working yet (I think). Some conversations have been replaced with fights, some fights with silences, scenes have somehow been inserted on top of other scenes without adding pages, and today I got to draw a spread of completely black panels which was a treat.
Somehow I'm two thirds through and there's only one chapter and an epilogue left to do once I've finished the bit I'm working on this week.
Here's the desk I am borrowing, with a typical day's work on it.
I was a bit tired yesterday and I'd lost my page grid, hence the completely wrong dimensions of the right-hand page. Never mind.
Also: Life is getting EVEN MORE EXCITING because that bike I was getting turned out to have a bad joint in the middle, and so... I'm getting an even better one. It looks like this:
It really reminds me of the bike I had when I was tiny... I likes that one, never really got on with full-sized ones. Can't quite believe I'm getting this, it's too brilliant!
I ordered some bicycle maps of London with easy and dangerous routes marked in, I'll sign up for some free refresher lessons soon and I shall buy a red helmet, locks and lights and reflective garments this weekend.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The songs he and his band performed seemed just right to me. There was a serious lament about leaving someone, not just leaving them but sailing away on a big ship that grows as the song goes on, eventually bulging with provisions and cats and upholstery. There was a tale about a girl making a strangely mundane deal with the devil. There were attempts to contact extraterrestrial life for comfort. I watched and listened and noticed something taking shape that seemed familiar and alien at the same time. I really can't wait to see what becomes of it all...
The most amazing moment for me was when the whole audience rose and sang a hymn, the words of which are the last remnant of a story I wrote about ten years ago. It's meant to be sung by sheep, and I've been worried that people might take it as a slight of their religion (as in "you are all just sheep!") when actually it's just a memory of child-like faith, that time when a thunderstorm passes overhead and you are old enough to know that it's a natural phenomenon but not so old that this stops you from imagining electric fire in the sky, and thus the whole sky, and thus the earth in space in a coat of air and water and static, and you have heard about God, and you wonder if he's taking photographs, and then you wonder if that's a bad thought, and then you think all this at once, and then you sit in a corner and faith happens. It's just about the experience, and I think it worked... well, it worked for me.
Anyway, there will be more incarnations of this show as it grows, keep an eye on Matthew's website for news, and I'll also post show dates here.
Matthew also performed a whole lot of material that he's written himself. By now he's created a whole world, every story is adding a bit... it's a world with dreadful things happening all the time, but it just feels kind and warm and honest, every time I leave from one of his shows the world looks brighter for a few days. I'm very pleased to be collaborating with him - and I'm definitely learning something, too.
This performance was held at the Little Angel Theatre, which is a brilliant venue, a little house sitting next to a church amongst strange twisted trees, and it feels like great things have happened there... Sarah came to see the show, too, and she wrote about it on her blog (as usual I look completely deranged in the photographs, I must learn some time how to do a photo face!)
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I'll write them a letter back tomorrow.
Otherwise to my slight surprise I've just been to Wiltshire and back. Spring seems to have sprung even springier over there, the grass felt like animal fur, I made a note of it.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Normal service will commence tomorrow, I expect.
"There are Cats in this Book" has been shortlisted for the The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.
(For those of you not living in the UK: that's good enough so I will be able to tell people about this down the pub when I'm old, and they won't believe me.)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I just went to see them. While we queued up, I worried about the flashing lights and odd noises coming from the exhibition space, but as it turned out that the actual aviary was around a corner, and the birds were quite obviously having a lovely time there.
It's an installation by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, have a look at the website...
I am sharing a flat with a zebra finch, and so their behaviour was very familiar - inquisitive little beasts they are, set on building nests in any likely or unlikely space, and using everything that looks a bit like a branch as a dance floor. This includes, evidently, fretboards. They like hopping along branches rhythmically while they sing, and they whet their beaks on them as well. So, basically, it's a room full of tiny determined birds singing honky little songs while accompanying themselves with power chords... and beak solos.
There's also a plentiful supply of desert grass planted all over the place, and several pairs had decided to try and weave them in amongst the guitar strings. - All in all, the piece sounds quite a lot like Neil Young's "Dead Man" soundtrack, plus honking.
The birds are also completely unworried by the visitors, investigating them and sometimes even stuffing pockets and hoodies with bits of grass and snuggling into them experimentally (I wish I could show you a picture of that, but sensibly photography was not allowed).
It's not nesting desperation at work - there's a selection of actual nest boxes mounted high up on the wall, so the little guys can retire from the concert at any time. There wasn't any fierce fighting going on, neither, just gentle beak-fencing over the more popular instruments. I really think they simply like to pick odd places to nest in.
The only thing that I thought was lacking to make this the happiest aviary ever was a spotlight to bask in.
This is a video of an earlier installation, I believe, they didn't have green grass in this one but sand and dry grass instead. Probably wise, being desert birds they get easily overexcited about any sort of green stuff, eat too much of it and get ill.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
More fun is moving slowly by myself - try it out some time, slow right down and see if it doesn't make you feel like you are surveying things rather than trying to keep up with them. Also: when you work fast, you always feel like you're doing more than anyone else when in reality you often stand around tapping your foot trying for someone or something to catch up. Moving fast creates a constant frustration with all the other people who never seem to be paying attention, never have an answer ready, never jump to take things out of your hand that you offer them - it's frustrating because by moving fast, you allow them to be the ones actually seeming to be in control because they move at the leisurely pace of kings in comparison. Even when you are dressed up and officially in command, it's almost impossible to feel in control if you physically move too fast.
It's a useful lesson but I ought to try and get a healthy balance before my flatmate gets too freaked out to talk to me. Also whenever I answer the phone people ask me if I have a cold.
I also went out to Cafe Nero with my reference Bear to do some drawing - it's still the best cafe to work in, just because people really leave me alone there.
I killed off my first character today, which was harder than expected.
Monday, April 19, 2010
The frustrations really are minor... the worst one is the new series of Doctor Who, where they've somehow managed to get one of the most engaging actors ever to work his way through the most nonsensical scripts. I've gone from talking to the screen ("That's not what would happen... oh well") to shouting at it quite angrily ("No! No! NO! STOP THAT THIS INSTANT! NO!").
Yesterday I actually shouted at the Daleks to shoot the Doctor for about five minutes solid. Maybe there was some explanation for them not to, possibly I drowned it out myself, but I have a feeling there wasn't, they just didn't.
I don't buy the "It's for children" argument at all neither, even though yesterday in Toys 'r Us I saw a tiny girl pointing at the first action figure of the new season happily saying "Look, Matt Smith!" - Who ever made the rule that you can ignore logic completely when writing for children? And what's that about "it's a fairy tale, it's like a picture book" as an argument for any random thing? I find that disrespectful to fairy tales and picture books. And if it's just for children, why the relentless romancing? I think I'll stop watching it, too stressful.
Also I am still struggling with the new rules of Dungeons and Dragons - I went to my second Sunday afternoon game and completely failed to save the life of the priest I was guarding, despite the fact that I am supposed to be some sort of awesome sword master. I was just too busy trying to calculate all the different numbers and working out what square I should walk, jump or teleport to while my superior cleric was being slowly digested by a huge cube of jelly. Seeing that he was also my flatmate in real life, I am feeling doubly bad.
Also none of the more interesting tomato seeds are sprouting on my window sill.
Maybe it's time to have a nice hat made.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
A picture of Caro Gatti I just drew as a small commission. He brought ice-cream to the masses in Victorian London. I've been a bit obsessed with that story since I went to the London Canal Museum years ago to see their disused ice well (a big hole in the ground, basically, used to store imported Norwegian ice).
The hoof-like foot is an accident due to artworking speed.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
One of my tomato seedlings came up with three leaves rather than two. I have high hopes already for that one.
I did some balcony gardening, re-potting and planting and arranging sticks and pots, and I harvested a very small tasty salad.
I'm still thinking how to research and practise leading good workshops... I should borrow some families with children to test out art materials together... It wouldn't be about me teaching them art, but an exchange, really.
Hmm, that seems like a good idea. I wonder.
2) Don't spray screen cleaner on your touchscreen device. Much like a frog, it'll make it clean, but dead.
3) If you go anywhere to demonstrate your trade, carry the tools of your trade.
4) REALLY always check on the pack.
5) Phone a friend, they've probably had it worse. Then re-pot your plants.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Now I am in charge, and they don't. Well, what do I expect? I'm not an art teacher, I can't demand that schools and parents buy stuff because I say so. They think I just want to tell the kids a story and then let them draw a pencil picture of a cat or something, so when I ask them "have you got art materials?" they say "yes, here" and give me some computer paper and pencils - completely adequate for an author's visit, after all the author is meant to be the main event themselves, and is supposed to put on an inspiring performance.
But I don't want to just tell them how they can all be future artists. By what authority could I do such a thing? I want them to be artists NOW. I don't want them to go home saying "I saw an artist and she said she liked my drawing", I want them to come home and say "Look what I made!"
I want to be like the people who taught me how to do things, not like the people who I was supposed to be interested in because they'd done something or other themselves and I just used to think: if you are so interesting, why do you have to bring a talking bunny?
(I understand about the bunnies now, kudos to people who really make them work. - Not me!)
I am starting to realise what I've been taking for granted - we might not all have had great art lessons in primary school (I didn't, really) but we sure had a highly pigmented box of paints each, including process colours and a little tube of zinc white: an introduction to proper art materials, not a toy.
I am sorry that my drawing workshops haven't provided materials like that.
There is a very obvious difference between my sock monkey workshops where I supply all the materials, and every other event where I don't. Both are good fun, but one leaves people going away happy and creative hugging a monkey. The other leaves them with a signed book, at best.
I will change this. No more cheap pencils and sugar paper. I'll source some real materials, take them to the venue myself, and we will make real art.
It'll take me some time to cost and organise it all. I'm going to try and learn some more from my mother, who is a great art teacher by the way. I'm going to collect enough decent stuff to let thirty people be properly creative at a time, and keep it in a suitcase that I'll take wherever I visit.
Until that's sorted out properly I'm putting drawing workshops and school visits on hold... but this is too important to me to do any less than the best I possibly can.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
A classic sock monkey... or any beastie you like! It's time for an all-new updated sock-beast making instruction post! Hooray! Don't worry if you've never done any sewing at all ever. Just get a darning needle, some plain knitting yarn, all the single socks you can find (wash them first), some toy stuffing, buttons and ribbons and bells if you like, and put aside a couple of hours. Ready? Okay. Here are your basic instructions: And here is the main thing that I've worked out: You can make a very neat-looking monkey by using a sewing machine, or hand-sewing it with needle and thread, turning all the parts inside out to sew them. This is quite fiddly, and not really suitable for young children to do. Instead, sew your monkey with a darning needle and knitting yarn. Smooth cotton yarn works best (any other kind will do as long as it isn't lumpy and doesn't tear easily - tug to test). Sew on the outside, as neatly as you can - but no neater. That way the stitches can become part of the design. And there won't be any bad tangling and knotting! Don't worry too much about loose ends. Just draw them all inside the monkey with the needle at the end to neaten it up. Don't worry too much anyway.
You can keep using more socks to make clothes for the monkey. Or for whatever beastie it is that you are making, like this cat here.
And you needn't stick to the pattern neither, and you needn't use only socks. Here's a Yellow Submarine inspired glove blue meanie with MANY LEGS.
Using this method, many children can make a sock beastie within two hours. I recommend doing it in any order you like after finishing the body. It's a bit boring to have to do the arms right after the legs, so much sewing... more fun to do the face first!
VERY IMPORTANT: if you make a sock monkey for a baby or a toddler, DON'T SEW ON ANY SMALL PARTS THAT COULD COME OFF AND BE SWALLOWED OR BREATHED IN, buttons and such. Just embroider the features instead!
SOME MORE ADVICE FOR TEACHERS (and anyone wanting to craft sock beasts with children): If you're just making one monkey, you can just wash and empty an old pillow for stuffing. If you make more, it's worth buying a big bag of toy stuffing, and don't take the very cheapest grade if you can because that's really lumpy. A kilo bag of good stuffing should fill twenty monkeys, but cheap stuff might just go half that far. Be generous in your estimate, else you'll end up with some sad flat monkeys. If you are going to to make monkeys with a whole class of children, make one yourself first, it will help you to see how much stuffing is needed (and you should try it out first anyway). Make sure to take the time to show children (and sewing novices) how to fix the end of the thread to the fabric with a simple knot when they start sewing, and how to sew around and around (overcasting). They can work the rest out, but this bit is essential, else they will often be unable to start at all. If they revert to the second kind of stitch (which isn't sturdy enough) it might be because they are left-handed and you demonstrated the stitching right-handed (or vice versa). Or they cleverly realised it's faster this way. Just explain it again. Also make sure they all manage to cut the legs correctly, that's the only part that's hard to fix if it goes wrong. Once they are busy sewing legs, all is well. Tell them not to keep sewing until all the thread is used, but to leave enough to tie a knot with it at the end (if this happens, just unpick the last few stitches, no big deal). Collect buttons and other things to sew onto your sock creatures. It's nice to have jars of them to choose from. Collect (and wash!) single socks, the more you have the better. There can NEVER be too many socks supplied for a workshop. Also keep cut-up socks, they can be used for parts. Now Go Forth and Make Beasties. Then photograph them and send them to me, so I can laugh and post them here (if allowed). You'll love them. They will probably end up looking a bit like yourself. And you'll be proud. And yes, I also still run sock beastie workshops for children and adults if I have time. (Two hours, paid, you supply most of the socks.)
Monday, April 12, 2010
It's so wonderful when children's movies bother to have a real story. Most animations seem to me like party bunting strung across the audience, some flimsy plot decorated with emotional moments and stapled together with one-liners, they are only meant to hang together for the party. When the credits roll I can never fully remember what actually happened, and am normally mostly happy it's over.
It made me look at my own work, which unfortunately this week is mostly working through a really difficult scene in my graphic novel, and question again whether I tightened up the plot enough, if the adventure is exciting enough, if I have enough small moments that make the reader connect with the characters and big moments to entertain them. Hm.
I'll just go out for coffee and get drawing, and try to do it well.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I've been manually keeping my email folders tidy for years, but still sometimes found it hard to keep track of the growing mass. Now I feel a bit like I got given a free robot assistant to deal with all my communications. Yay!
Friday, April 9, 2010
Cats, cats, cats. I'll be doing a collage workshop in Newcastle next week, and promised to bring lots of paper cats... so today I borrowed the kitchen table to paint some sheets of cats, then I'll scan the best ones and send them off to be printed so we can cut them out and cover them in paper toys.
I'll upload a printable sheet of them for your own use as well, eventually...
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Who cares about the rain!
The only rubbish thing I acquired is a moleskine sketchbook. I needed a small sketchbook in a hurry, and thought: the paper can't be as awful as I remember. But it is. I can't decide now whether to cover the pages in oil which would make it okay to use pencils and crayons on (helps release the pigment in absence of texture), or just use it with felt tip pens or fine liners or whatever this seems to be designed for. I thought it would be okay to doodle in with a fountain pen, not even that, the ink sits on it nastily before reluctantly sinking in. I can't believe this is still the sketchbook of choice for the urban creative, it's more fun drawing on... basically anything I can think of. Yechh.
Also... ah I seem to have lost it already, on the train I guess. Well, that sorts that then. Good riddance.
(I do love their notebooks, though.)
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
sketch out a chapter of my graphic novel
bind a dummy book
eat tasty salad
Things I don't want to do today:
install a system upgrade and fix the resulting mayhem
phone the bank and turn down insurance deals
prepare a slide show
fill in forms
decide on major purchases
shop for tasty salad ingredients
Things I also should be doing:
Ummm... I know there's SOMETHING... birthday presents... some sort of bill somewhere... arrgh, must urgently draw an A3 sheet of cats for an event in Newcastle!
Something tells me this day has potential to be frustrating. I think it's time for the Very Organised Pinboard again, which I get out in times of Too Much Stuff Going On All At Once. I made it years ago after reading "Time Management for Unmanageable People", which has been one of the very useful books in my life, along with Keith Johnstone's "Impro" and a book on dealing with anxiety attacks which I read and lost, but I remember the most useful part was that anxiety and excitement feel very similar, so if you manage to be excited about scary everyday things life becomes much more enjoyable (if a bit silly at times, especially around the great annual adventure of the Tax Return).
Anyway, pinboard, here it is. Shall fill it up presently. It breaks my to-dos up into life, work, stuff that can be sorted with a phonecall/email and treats. No, I don't need to empty the whole board of tasks to grab the treat, it's just to pick the most suitable task from and help me not get confused, not to make me work harder. Treats are for when a treat seems in order, whenever that may be.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
I took most of the weekend off drawing, planted seeds for the balcony garden, and made a speedy- looking creature out of the lost gloves I've collected in the streets of London this winter. He needs eyes though, so I hope I'll find some buttons soon.
Yes, I'm still in my bathrobe. It's Easter Sunday. I'm also going to have chocolate for breakfast.
And then I'll start drawing again, must finish pencilling this comic this month...
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Would everyone please come and see Matthew Robins and his Band performing some episodes of his beautiful ongoing shadow puppet saga "Flyboy", about a mutant boy and his friends, plus, AHEMM, some excerpts from SAD LUCY: A FISH OPERA which I wrote the words for. It's at the Little Angel Theatre on the 20th and 21st of this month.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Remember when I cut out the soles of my shoes because I would rather go barefoot, and can't stand shoes at all? Well, Yesterday I suddenly found my shoes. After all those years. You can't see it, but they have a very thin sole, and wearing them is a bit like wearing sturdy socks. They make you tread carefully because there is no cushioning, and you have to remember your paws and how they actually work instead of hammering down your heels onto a layer of foam with every step. And look, they are foot-shaped! See the little bulge for the little toe? Yay!!
I bought them in Brighton, tired out from an event, and put them on and walked to the pebble beach. I could feel all the pebbles under my feet, and was struck by such happiness that I just lay down, with my trolley bag full of sock monkeys and sketchbooks as a pillow, and had a nap. - These are Vivo Barefoot shoes, just in case you hate shoes too, and the thing in the background is the sea, in case you can't tell.
Just a quick call for advice: Yesterday I gave a presentation with a visualiser (more of the event later), and I very much enjoyed it. I really dislike preparing and using powerpoint. The visualiser allowed me to do drawings, show objects and photographs in any order I liked, read out a novelty book while handling it physically instead of clicking through the pages... all brilliant things, I felt. So now I think I would like to buy my own, a portable one that will guarantee that I never have to do a powerpoint lecture again.
Does anyone out there have experience with portable visualisers? I'm thinking about a Lumens DC166 or DC133 - but I can't decide if the cheaper one is good enough, and if the more expensive one is worth the extra money, basically. I'd rather like to demonstrate bits of crafting and drawing as well as showing images and books.
So if you can tell me what you find matters most in a portable visualiser, please let me know. - Thanks world!