After multiple people asked me, I did a print design of everyone’s favourite neotenous, cute but somewhat cannibalistic Mexican salamander.
Fitzroy Gardens is a park in the centre of Melbourne with a model village, lovely botanical conservatory and some fairly strange sculptures and tree carvings.
Not many people are getting to the beach these days, but I live right next to it (in fact I can see the sea from my living room window). It’s strange to live in a tourist town when there are no tourists.
A couple of years ago I went down to Aldwick, near Bognor Regis for the summer to house-sit a relative’s house. I ended up being stranded there due to a lengthy train strike. Robert Smith of the Cure is probably the only famous local resident. The owner of one of the local shops told me where he lived, and I went along to see it once out of curiosity. The house was dull and expensive looking, but the beach it stands next to was much more Robert Smith like, with windswept shingle like Dungeness and rare sea cabbages. I never bothered to look at Robert Smith’s house again, but I made many trips to the beach because I liked it so much. I was usually the only person there.
I was sorting out old folders on the hard drive and have found a lot of photos from the past couple of years that I never got round to sorting out. Here are some from the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge two years ago. I was working teaching on a summer course there, which was stressful mainly because they hadn’t actually hired enough staff to cover all the hours, so we were doing some extreme overtime. So a stroll around the gardens while the students completed their activities was a nice respite.
Earlier this week I went to a free art workshop hosted by Open School East. Open School East is a combination art course/residency and students are required to organise public art workshops. This time environmental artist Fiona MacDonald aka Feral Practice was the visiting artist. There was a talk about ants and fungi and the aim of “meeting with animal/plant/place through the processes and reflexivity of art”, and then we went out into a local park with a woodland area to do some classic sensory/location art activities. Here are my sketchbook pages and some snaps from the day.
A couple of months ago I adopted a young cat from the local animal shelter. The profile said he was playful and curious, had a missing tail and needed a lot of attention and activity.
Hello from the southern hemisphere. Here’s some new press shots of my friends’ band Bismuth I took a few weeks ago at the original UK Botany Bay…
In July I went to Kitzbühel in Austria for work. I was there to run a workshop in the local middle school, and the mayor gave me and my three co-workers tickets for the local ski lift…
Another poster I did for a local gig I helped promote…
So here’s a new illustration I did. It’s actually based on a drawing I did when I was 17 that I found while sorting out some paperwork recently. You can buy monochrome and colour prints for £3-£30 over on the shop.
Here’s some more photos from Germany. From Harth in Nordrhein-Westfalen to be more precise. It’s a small village in the Sauerland, a scenic forest region about a hundred miles east of Cologne, popular for hiking and cycling.
While we were in Nara we also visited a traditional Japanese tea garden. Unfortunately the tea house was shut, and it was raining, but it was still a lovely garden.
Our final stop in Japan before flying home from Osaka was Nara. In the 700s it was the capital of Japan, at the time when Buddhism really became established in Japan. Nowadays as well as Buddhism, it’s known for the tame deer who live in the forest park surrounding the temples and shrines. We stayed in a hostel in the forest. It seemed a short walk from the train station, but we ended up walking along dark forest paths dragging cases seemingly forever, with deer staring at us accusingly like something out of Princess Mononoke. (The hostel turned out to be a pretty weird place too).
While I was in Japan we visited the island of Okunoshima. In the Second World War it was a top secret chemical weapons plant, but now is a nature reserve famous for its free-ranging tame rabbits, who are probably the descendants of the lab rabbits.
Here’s some more photos of Kyoto. I have split the pictures up into several entries. You can see more photos from Kyoto and other cities in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote. Kyoto is famous for its cherry blossom, but sadly we were there a couple of weeks earlier than it comes out in full bloom. You did see the odd bud here and there though.
Here’s some photos of details of the Zen moss gardens of Kyoto.
I’ve got a large number of cacti and succulents, some of which I’ve had for years (and have their own offshoot children growing in separate pots now). By the end of the summer, some of them were looking a bit sad, and were in serious need of repotting. I collected a load of Hornsea ware and other vintage pottery for £1-3 a time over the summer, and then had a big repotting session outside, just before the weather started turning cold.
I don’t currently have any pets. Landlords in London who allow cats or dogs are a rare breed. My housemate has a tropical aquarium, and I don’t fancy getting hamsters or mice, and don’t have space for rats. So no pets other than fish for us.
About 6 weeks ago I went on a short break to Denmark and Sweden. It shows how busy I’ve been lately that it’s taken me so long to post these. I unexpectedly had some extra holiday days I had to use up quickly before the end of my work contract, and none of my friends were free to travel on the specific weekend I had to use them, so I went by myself. I saw cheap flights to Copenhagen, and booked them on a whim, on the grounds that I’d never been to Denmark before, and it was also easy to visit Sweden from Copenhagen. I also have a danish friend Sanne I used to work with in London, so I arranged to meet up with her while I was there and drink some Mikkeller beer at normal prices (rather than the exorbitant prices they charge in the UK). (Good luck with the PhD viva Sanne!). I liked Denmark a lot, although I’m not sure if I’d want to live there. They seem very set in their ways. In fact it reminded me a lot of Austria, but with sea rather than mountains.
I’ve built up a collection of cacti and other succulents over the last year or so. They’re desert plants from the Americas and southern Africa which store water in their bodies, so they don’t need a lot of looking after, and they have a huge range of dramatic shapes, which explains why they’re such popular house plants. They’re also cheap to buy- mine all came from the supermarket, Wilco or IKEA and cost £2-4 each- and can live a long time if kept in the right conditions. (Opuntia cacti also produce delicious prickly pears and nopales pads for cooking). My current room has a large windowsill which gets some fierce sunshine around lunchtime, and is next to a radiator which dries up the air throughout the winter, which is the ideal conditions for growing them. I used to be into growing orchids and indoor herbs as well, but they just don’t thrive in the conditions here.
I refuse to apologise for that pun, you’ll just have to suffer. Here is a photo I took of myself recently in my dad’s garden. I can’t remember the last time I had a new photo of myself bar a few awkward phone snaps when I’ve been out. Perhaps you could say I was communing with nature when I took this photo, but I was sat on a plastic bag to avoid sitting in anything nasty hidden underneath the plants, so I don’t think I was that in touch with nature. Luckily we don’t have poison ivy or dangerous snakes in this country, I was more worried about the milder perils of stinging nettles or fox droppings. I was also a little limited with angles and framing, because sticking a wide-angle lens in your face is rarely flattering, but I couldn’t get the distance to use my portrait lens because I didn’t have a tripod with me.
I forgot to post this before. My friend Tukru does a freebie Halloween themed zine every year for her zine distro. She needed some extra pages and asked me to draw a monster, so I cobbled this together and scanned it in about 45 minutes. I hate slugs. Horrible things. In my final year of uni, I lived in a house which had seemed fine when viewed in the summer, but come winter turned out to have a real damp problem, and a slug problem in the kitchen
A little while ago I went to visit my pál Erika (sorry, can’t resist the terrible pun) in Surrey for blackberry picking. Her friends Stephanie and Katja came down too, and we went out on a sunny day into the woods and picked some berries and had a picnic and drinks (for N. American readers, British woods aren’t very wild). Blackberries grow everywhere here at the end of August and most of September. They don’t belong to anyone, and it’s safe and legal to pick and eat them. I used to pick huge amounts of them when I was growing up. They’re also good for jam, pies, crumbles, coulis and wine-making. We made jam this time. Foxes also like them as much as humans.
I’ve done some prints of this picture I drew of the Kerguëlen Islands off the coast of Antarctica. Nothing there but penguins, cabbages and the odd french scientist. What could be more delightful? They are available in two sizes- A4 for £7 + postage and A3 for £20 + postage (the small ones will be sent flat, the large rolled into a tube), and are printed on 250 gsm semi-gloss paper with a white border. Available now from the shop.
Recently I was looking up something on a map, and my eyes were drawn to the Kerguelen Islands at the bottom. They seemed quite substantial, yet I’d never heard of them. It turns out they belong to France, are uninhabited except for a few scientists, and are full of penguins and cabbages. Sailors used to stop off there to have a grim cabbage feast to fend off scurvy. Here is a lonely penguin in the cabbage fields. I will never have another reason to draw that. The picture is available as a print and various other items on Society 6.
Louise, a friend of mine from Brighton recently set up a creative writing website. The idea is that everyone is given a monthly writing prompt, with all the submitted work posted the following month for comment. I decided to have a try following the first prompt- the theme was Aquamarine. I couldn’t really think of any idea for a story, so I just wrote what came to mind. What they call a five finger excercise. I think I’ll ramble less on the next one. Here is what I wrote
While in Kirchberg am Wechsel I also got to go on a tour of Hermannshöhle with another teacher. It’s a series of caves inside one of the mountains, with lots of stalactites and a bat colony. Usually the tours are at set times and only in German, but we got a private tour in English, which was really nice.
Last Summer I spent a week working at the junior school in Kirchberg am Wechsel, a tiny mountain town on the eastern end of the Alps on the border between Lower Austria and Styria. It is essentially one long street between some mountains, with “Lower Austria’s finest stalactite cave” (more on that later) and a yearly Wittgenstein festival. As mountains go, by Austrian standards they are pretty tame, mostly being below the tree-line. When I said something to the kids about the mountains they basically went “what mountains?” and when I pointed out of the window they went “oh yeah, those, there are much better mountains in other places”. Still, I like any kind of mountains, and the Wechsel is still 1,743m high, so it’s hardly a hill. Mountains/hills and water, that’s what I like. I wouldn’t do well somewhere like Kansas.
I spent a lot of last summer travelling up and down the Alps by train. Here are a couple of pictures I took out of the window. Taking photos from the window of a moving train can be very frustrating, you see a spectacular view, but by the time you have taken a photo something like a fence is in the way. I like long-distance solo train trips, especially ones with spectacular scenery and no stress or time pressure when it comes to connections.Both of these pictures are somewhere near the Austrian/German border. Interestingly German for nightmare is Alptraum – “Alp dream”. That alp is a night time incubus type thing, not the mountains, but it gives a strange mental image if you’re an English speaker. An Alp dream would probably involve frolicking with goats in a sunny mountain pasture. I clearly read Heidi too often when I was younger.
I’m currently in Kirchberg am Wechsel, at the eastern end of the Austrian Alps for work. I didn’t really have much access to the internet last week in Dresden, so I haven’t updated properly. I saw most of the sights, also went to the DDR Museum in Radebeul and ate a lot of pastry and spätzle.
The other week I went for a walk along the eastern end of the Regent’s Canal with my dad. I used to live down the other end of it, and I’ve pretty much walked the entire length a lot of times. It’s one of the few short canals around here, most of the others are long intercity ones.
Here are the other photos from Whistable. I took more of the boats, seashore etc with my wide-angle lens on film, and I haven’t had it developed yet. I much prefer my film SLR to my digital one (70s Pentax cameras just feel so nice to use), but I’m too broke lately to use much film, and I still have 5 rolls sitting around that need developing. I didn’t eat any oysters while I was there, because I’m vegetarian, but I did have a really great mascarpone, truffle and rosemary pizza.
I’ve always had a soft spot for 30s suburbia. These two pictures are a place called Twydall, near where my mum lives. I went along there to buy some wool, and I wasn’t disappointed, the area is full of old ladies. Also, the fact that the wool shop is called World of Woolcraft and is run by what could be the brother of the Comic Book Store Guy made me laugh.
I snapped some pictures of the patterns in this tree bark a while back. I might do something with them later.
(This is my 200th entry here- do I get some kind of prize, or should I just get out more?)
When I was caught outside without an umbrella in torrential rain on my break when I working at the museum over the summer, I took the time to snap some more butterfly photos. My previous efforts are here. I went back with my film SLR just before the exhibition closed too, but I haven’t got round to scanning those yet.
Here’s some photos of St Ives from 2008. They were on the same roll of x-pro’d Sensia as the Lille photos. I think it was the last of my freezerfull of expired slide film I got when I worked at Jessops as a student.
Here’s the rest of the pictures from where I took the panos at the Riverside Country Park. There’s a promontory which goes out to an island in the river, almost at the mouth where the Thames and Medway meet, with narrow beaches with reedbeds and abandoned boats along the edge and woods and pools in the interior. I used to come here a lot. I particularly love it in the winter when there’s practically no-one there except me and some water birds.
Today it was sunny and I had the day off, so I went to the Riverside Country Park. It’s where the Medway meets the Thames Estuary. It’s one of my places. I experimented with making some stitched panoramic pictures. I also took some normal pictures. I’ll post them later. I’d love to have one of those turny Russian panoramic film cameras, but I’m too poor.
At my work they’ve got a butterfly garden in a heated tent over the Easter holidays. I popped in to take some pictures in my tea break earlier this week. I don’t know what any of the species are, I don’t know much about butterflies. They had a reference board to compare the live ones to, but I didn’t have time to look closely.
At last, some sunshine. Today me & Tukru went out for some coffee and drawing. It’s the London Zine Symposium on Sunday, and we have stuff to do. We didn’t actually get much cafe time, because we forgot how early stuff closes round here. I’ve got some new stuff up my sleeve, but I don’t want to show it until it’s done.
The other day I was round my dad’s. It was a sunny day, and I didn’t fancy spending the whole day cooped up indoors. I got my dad to give me a lift up to Kit’s Coty, a strange isolated place nearby, which has the remains of a Neolithic barrow there. The barrow isn’t very evident these days, but the gate into the tomb is still there. There are more houses round there than I’d thought, all detached with big gates and long drives and beware of the dog signs, and on unpaved roads. It was totally quiet and a bit David Lynchish round there.
I’ve got a whole load of unscanned negatives here which I’m slowly working my way through. There was a whole film of pictures of this place with a lake, but I have absolutely no idea where it is, or when I took the photos. I also have no idea what camera I used for these, but the film is Kodak Ektachrome 160 Tungsten, cross-processed. The pictures are pleasant but bland, and I’ve got a real feeling this was a test roll to see if something worked right/was any good (charity shop camera? lens found in someone’s loft and given to me? who knows). Whatever it was seems to work fine.
Some snaps of the mist in my dad’s garden this afternoon. Sometimes I wish my hometown would burn to the ground and be replaced solely by trees. (Rochester excepted)
Next in my mammoth scanning session, tree abstracts. Made by putting 35mm film into a 120 camera (in this case a holga) and then deliberately overprocessing the resulting film to give a high contrast look.
One of the many rolls of film I have sitting around waiting to be scanned. This is from the days when I used to live in Reading. I want it to be sunny now! I long for long walks and picnics and lying on the grass in the sunshine, I’m fed up of the scrag end of winter. Diana + camera & Kodak Ektachrome 100 cross-processed.
Here’s the current view out my kitchen window. Hooray for apple blossom and forget-me-nots. I’m still looking for a job though. Fun and games at the job centre scheduled for tomorrow.
Here’s some pictures I took in Broadstairs last summer, they were languishing on my hard-drive until this weekend.
I’ve got a new print for sale on Etsy $15-$30 depending on the size.