Doodles in the margin from an artist living and working in the Scottish Borders.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Tales From the Shovel

So, this morning I helped shovel the snow out from in front of our row of houses. It's hard work.

Then I shovelled a path to the coal house. Then David from the flat next door cleared a path to the gate. Job done.

Then all the snow fell off the roof.

So I went out and dug it out again. By now there's a sort of snowy, Western Front look to the place. A game of football may break out by the bins any day now.

And then it all fell off the roof again.

I've just come back in from clearing a path through that. In the midst of this most Arctic November for fifteen years I'm sweating like a pig on a bicycle.

I'm not going out again until Spring.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Rejection: an Ode.

Last week I received a rejection slip by email from a publishing company I don't even remember submitting to. What are they doing, passing my sample chapters around among themselves now?

When I worked in teaching, I had a colleague who pinned to his office noticeboard all the complaint letters he'd got from parents. (He had a lot.) Some people do the same with rejection letters. It's always a balance between the poles of Lord of the Flies (seventy-odd rejections before publication) and 'There's a Reason for Rejection - Your Book is Rubbish, All Your Friends Lied To You So They Wouldn't Have to See Your Crushed, Defeated Face.'

I did get some excellent help from an agent who read my draft at its monster-in-a-shoebox stage. She told me to cut it in half, so I thought, kill your darlings, be merciless, and excised 100,000 words out of it to make it leaner, tighter and frankly much better. Then she rejected it.

I take criticism like an egg takes a housebrick, so I try to cultivate briskness. So the preferred method is a quick "bastards!", ping the letter into the fire, cross another one off The List of Bastards, and carry on.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The True History of Sparky McNaughton

The tragicomic tale of a life in music.

Christmas Vocabulary, Lesson One

nogged - v, past tense - to be the victim of a move in a board game detrimental to your intended aims in said game, a vulnerability brought about by excessive consumption of alcohol.

e.g. "ha! I landed on your three-hotel Mayfair and you didn't notice. You've been nogged."

Monday, 22 November 2010

Brian #1: Origins.

I first met Brian after a parents' evening over ten years ago. A colleague told us the next day that as he drove home exhausted he actually fell asleep on the journey and woke up in the verge. Terrifyingly, he could have been seriously injured or indeed killed, but more importantly it gave me the chance to draw something funny based on what could have been a hideous accident. Sometimes I'm a glass-half-full person.

All well and good, but my idea, as far as it went, was that the bloke was Brian Badger, and the striped accomplice was a comic restatement of the eponymous protagonist. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realised I had conjured something into being. I looked into his stripy, arsy, well-intentioned, grumpy, sweary, badgery soul and I saw something I recognised.

A kindred spirit. An alter ego.

I am that badger.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Dragged Back From the Edge

From 'The Draught Excluder of Unpredictability Impending Over the Oven Glove of Strategy' to a landscape with spruce trees and a farm.

Laura said that this would end up being posted one of two ways; either finished, or with a big hole punched in the middle. (That's happened before.) I learned that posting the incompetent starting point in public - or as public as my blog gets - is strong incentive to get work done.

I used a box of cheapo oil paints we had lying in a drawer (because they were small, and I didn't want to drag my big wooden box of paints downstairs as I was working on the living room table next to the fire because it was bloody cold, and I sat in a posture that helped ping my back, a process completed by moving a new bed up the stairs, so I'm on a paracetamol cloud this morning, but anyway -) so the colours are a bit garish, perhaps, but I like the condensed-perspective snapshot effect. It's given me the impetus to try some more, but with the Windsor and Newton paints.

They're water-based oils and I know there's some sniffiness about them (always the bloody kit: whether it's cycling, photography or oil paints, there's some bugger there to cast a sceptical eye over what you use) but after using real oils for three days and leaving highly visible traces of my passage around the house in bright green, I remember one reason I changed to water-based oils in the first place.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Things That Go Right. Things That Don't.

I was going to call this post Kids' Stuff 3, because of what I painted last night:

Not a surrealist dreamscape where an orange draught excluder threatens to engulf some blue clouds and an oven glove, but rather a band of orange spruce on a hillside above a cluster of farm cottages that we drove past on the road to Jedburgh.

Look at it! Blimey. I had such a clear vision in my head of what I wanted it to look like -a gauzy haze of colours, scrubbed, scumbled and drifted over underpainting and textured strokes. It is not very much like that.

I was again struck down with The Fear about my work over the weekend, but I suppose the facts that a) I laughed at it (in an amused way, not a "don't make me laugh ... bitterly" way)and b) I reckon I can rescue it shows that I have some confidence in what I can do. I can understand it if you, the viewer, are more sceptical. I shall give it a go.

Unless, of course, you like the oven glove and draught excluder genre of painting, in which case, it's yours.

Better was the time we spent at the coast last week when the sea was up and pounding in after a couple of days of strong winds from out of the east. The power and energy were just hair-raising, so exciting to be near the sea (at a safe distance, anyway) when it's in such a state.

So, some things work, some things don't. So it goes.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Kid's Stuff II

Apropos of a previous post, we watched the BBC4 programme about self portraits on the iPlayer last night. Albrecht Durer drew himself when he was thirteen:

Now that's what genius looks like.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Observational Comedy

Those Simon's Cat films, and the upcoming fair we're doing on Saturday, reminded me of some cards I drew last year sometime. They were cat related. There's one of a cat sitting on a newspaper which I liked, but as I was falling asleep one night, the cat in my subconscious spoke to me and it said:

I drew it the next day, but I wasn't ever quite happy with the drawing or the hand-lettered writing, but I've tarted both of them up now and turned them into cards.

I can see it as t-shirts, posters, a major feature film, eventually. I'd like Bill Paxton to be the voice of the cat.

Root, One

Another addition to the ongoing Plant Portraits series. Usually it's flowers and seeds, but this is right at the other end of the process, a very dead and dessicated root found on the shingle at Coldingham Bay. Always something interesting to find at the beach.


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