In 2016 I left London to house sit in the small town where my grandparents had lived. After a sequence of unfortunate events involving electricians and train strikes I ended up spending the whole summer pretty much alone in a town full of old people, where I knew no-one and there was very little to do, and I had very little in-person contact with other people. A situation a lot of other people can relate to at the moment I think.
It’s very unlikely I or anyone else will be travelling much this summer (I’ve not been more than a mile away from home for months now), so I thought I’d sort out and post some old travel photos. Here’s Roskilde from 2015. I posted photos of Copenhagen and Malmö at the time (you can see them here and here), but I forgot to do these ones.
I was a teenager in the dark ages when you had to have lightning reflexes to tape songs you liked when they came on. I didn’t have cable or satellite at home, but I did a lot of babysitting at houses where they had the music channels. So I used to to make mix tapes of music videos. Here’s some of the stuff I remember taping.
I got this 1980s guide to using lens filters from a charity shop. Of course a lot of these effects can be created in Photoshop these days, but actually for a lot of them the analogue method creates something unique, so a large proportion of these filters are still on sale.
Here’s a playlist. There’s a certain early 80s synth pop mood, even if all the songs aren’t actually from that era. There’s some Russian stuff, there’s the Deftones covering Duran Duran (yes, really). Have a good aesthetically composed sulk on me.
I’ve really been in a creative slump under lockdown. All that time, no motivation. I forced myself to do some drawing today- just some simple sketches of some ceramic sculptures by Sophie Woodrow that I’d admired. I think it did me some good.
I cleaned and reorganised one shelf that I’d never been happy with, and before I knew it, I’d spent pretty much most of the day cleaning and rearranging stuff. When you’re home all the time everything seems to get dirty so much quicker.
I was tidying up and found some bits from art school ten years ago. Here’s some preliminary sketches I did for a project based on Mycenaean artefacts. Rather than draw direct, I drew various motifs on some acetate with marker, and then held it on the cyanotype paper with glass to expose the pictures. These prints were not the final project, I don’t know where that has gone. They were more preliminary exploration work.
If you are playing an electric guitar or bass, you will need an amp. Here’s a guide to how they work, and how to find the one that will suit you.
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.
In the fuzzy zone between Christmas and New Year I scanned a lot of old negatives. I’ve recently started going through them and editing the photos. It’s not like travel is going to be much of an option this year, so might as well sort out all my old travel photos that I overlooked.
Tim and the Hidden People is a series of children’s school reading books from the late 70s/early 80s that a lot of schools had. They have a strange, bleak folk-horror atmosphere, and the illustrations in the first three collections are a little uncanny valley. Tim is always walking along lonely canal paths with strict instructions to not look over his shoulder and tie the silver string around a particular tree or else.
I realised I still had a few photos from February in Austria left unposted, so here they are. Strange to think that six weeks ago I was travelling around Central Europe for work, and now I don’t venture more than a mile or two from home.
I haven’t posted much this month because I was ill- not ill enough to need medical attention or be bedridden, but not ill enough to do anything much either. Was it the virus, or not? I have no idea because of course I wasn’t able to get tested, but the symptoms fitted, and the people in the flat next to and below me were equally ill with the same symptoms, and I live in one of the most affected parts of the UK. I also felt tired and grey for a long time after recovering- similar to after having glandular fever and shingles (not helped by doing something painful to my shoulder in the meantime). So it seems likely.
A couple of years ago I won some plane tickets to Japan, and went inter-railing around Western Japan with my friend Vicky. The whole trip was short notice and on a very low budget, but we had fun. When I came back I made a zine about the trip. The paper edition is still available here, but for the foreseeable future I can only send physical copies to the UK. So I’ve made a digital edition for people to read.
My living room has a very handy built-in bookshelf (although the amount of different compartments meant it took a long time when I moved in to paint over the old nicotine-stained paint). The majority of my books live on the bigger bookshelves in my bedroom, but the living room houses the Shame Pile.
This was my April 2014 piece for Storyboard , a writing site with monthly prompts run by a friend. I couldn’t think of a story idea, so I wrote a kind of essay instead.The theme that month was “Ichi-go ichi-e”: a never again moment. I couldn’t think of a story, so I decided to talk a little about ways other writers have handled the theme. I suppose you could call this a casual essay. I’m afraid it won’t be closely argued or meticulously footnoted, and it is quite loosely put together, but maybe it will give people some good recommendations of things to read
I had a whole folder full of artwork masters, so I decided to stick them into sketchbooks this afternoon (these kraft paper folio-sized books are around £6 from Muji). I tend to draw the line artwork by hand with a non-photo blue pencil and posca marker, and correct mistakes/add the colour digitally.
I thought while stuck at home I’d do regular posts showing things I like which other people may not have heard of. Ivan Bilibin was a Russian artist most famous for his lavishly illustrated books of fairy tales taking inspiration from Japanese wood prints, Russian icon painting and Ye Olde Slavonic script.
A few years back I made a zine with articles about writer Diana Wynne Jones (probably best known for writing Howl’s Moving Castle), and an interview I conducted with her before she sadly died. The paper edition is still available here, but for the foreseeable future I can only send physical copies to the UK. So I’ve made a digital edition for people to read.
Amstetten is the most extremely average place in Austria. It’s a largish commuter town in between Linz and Vienna. You have no reason to visit it. Its main claim to fame is that Josef Fritzl lived there. I was there to teach in one of the schools as a visiting teacher.
I was supposed to be back in Austria right now, running more school workshops. Obviously that’s not happening now, due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Here’s some photos from Salzburg a couple of weeks ago, where I flew en route to Amstetten.
I was supposed to be in Austria right now running school workshops, but obviously that’s not happening. Like many other people right now I’m unemployed as my whole industry has stopped existing overnight. Seeing as I’ll be spending a lot of time at home in the foreseeable future, today seemed like a good time to have a big cleanup of the living room.
Austria Post does an excellent fixed price box within Europe which is extremely handy when you’re travelling around for weeks on end with a 20kg luggage restriction and needing to dress nicely for work and no access to laundry.
Here’s some assorted photos from Deutschlandsberg. It’s a very ordinary small Austrian town near Graz. Although it’s a pretty and nice place, it’s probably not where you’d pick for a holiday in Austria (although they do get hikers and people coming for the wine trail in the summer).
My next work assignment was in Deutschlandsberg, a small town at the foot of the Koralm Alps, near the Slovenian border. (Austria is a lot further south and east than people imagine). I was there three years ago (at a different school), when it was snowing heavily. This time I arrived to brilliant sunshine, and went for a walk up in the vineyard filled hills with Jemeala, one of the other teachers.
En route to my next work assignment in Deutschlandsberg near the Slovenian border I stopped off in Graz overnight. I’ve been to Graz loads of times. It’s a really nice city, even if everyone does have a thick Arnie accent.
To travel in between Vienna and Graz, until the never-ending tunnel under the mountains is finished later this decade, you have to take the train over the top of the Semmering Pass, going up and down over the Alps. You get some spectacular views, and the trainline itself is a UNESCO site. It’s hard to take good photos out of the train window, so here’s my playlist for over the mountain.
Fertöd is also home to Eszterhazy Castle, a baroque palace often called “The Versailles of Hungary”. The Eszterhazy family were the ultra-rich landowners in western Hungary and eastern Austria, and have palaces and castles dotted all over the place. This wasn’t even their main palace. It’s now a museum with guided tours. The tour was all in Hungarian, but luckily with an English crib sheet.
Fertőd is the village in Hungary just across the border from Pamhagen. It has a huge Baroque palace there (which we also visited) and therefore more places to eat than Wallern (and the exchange rate is very favourable). The train takes about five minutes, but only runs every four hours. In fact the train journey was so quick a lot of the time the conductor couldn’t even be bothered to sell us a cross-border ticket.
A lot of small towns in Austria have a Mardi Gras carnival, and they often organise them to be on different days to not clash. This means that if I’m in Austria doing school workshops in February I often see multiple carnivals. Wallern-im-Burgenland is still the most surreal I’ve seen.
My next work assignment was in a small village called Pamhagen on the Austria-Hungary border. The main hotel in the village was closed, so we were put up in a neighbouring village called Wallern-im-Burgenland. Pamhagen is only about 70 miles away from Vienna, but it’s a million miles in reality. Until 1989 it was pinched between the lake and the heavily militarised Iron Curtain. The border is open again now, with no passport controls (thanks Schengen Agreement!) but the area still feels like the end of the line.
Győr station is really quite stylish in a 1950s way. I took most of these photos while I was waiting around bored for my delayed train back to Austria.
There were a lot of decrepit old wooden windows in Győr old town. Here’s some of the various designs of draught excluders I saw.
The Danube at night
There’s also lots of vintage street signs in Győr. This one says “fabric dyeing and dry cleaning”.
After working in Vienna for a week I headed off on the train to Győr in Hungary. It’s the regional capital of NW Hungary, and exactly halfway between Vienna and Budapest. I’d never been there before, and it was an easy train journey from both Vienna and the tiny village on the Austria-Hungary border where my next work assignment was.
Vienna has strong rent controls for shops, meaning that many of them are in the same location for decades, leading to lots of vintage shop signs around town (along with stylish new ones like the brewery one above). Here’s a selection of different ones I spotted on this trip.
I also visited Vienna Architecture Centre- I’d never been inside this small museum before, but the entry was thrown in free with the bundle ticket I bought for the other exhibitions.
About 15 minutes walk from the school I was working at in Vienna, and next door to the University of Life Sciences was Türkenschanz Park
On a rare day off in Vienna I went to the Open Studio day at the Vienna Academy of Fine Art. This is the top art school in Austria, and also the same institution that famously rejected Hitler twice for his lack of creativity. The studios are in this impressive building, the Semperdepot, which was originally built to store theatre scenery and props.
I’ve been in Vienna and now a tiny village on the Austro-Hungarian border for the last few weeks. Here’s what I’ve been listening to.
The Kunsthalle Wien holds temporary exhibitions- I caught the last day of this show. It definitely isn’t the best thing I’ve seen there- I’ve previously been to blockbuster Basquiat, Haring and Švankmajer shows there, but it was included in the Combi-ticket I bought for the other museums, so I made sure to see it.
Get a nice surprise in the post every month- sent out on the 22nd of each month. Zines, mini-prints, postcards, stickers. It’s a surprise.
I’ve been back in Vienna since Saturday, but I was busy at the annual work conference. Last year was the first in a decade that I didn’t spend any time in Vienna, and that was strange. Vienna is a very big and grand capital city for a small country of six million sparsely spread mountain people, a remnant of the days when it was the capital of the whole Austro-Hungarian empire, covering Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and parts of Romania and Poland.
The Slovak National Gallery was also open late- it was free that day too because they were changing the exhibitions and only two rooms were open. From the website it seems like there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the museum, and it’s a pity I didn’t get to see it, but I enjoyed the small section I did get to see.
Zdeněk Miler was a Czech illustrator and animator best known for his character the Little Mole (Krtek or Krteček).
I’m working in Austria for the next few weeks. I’ve been visiting for the last ten years to run school workshops. You spend a week in a local school running drama, creative writing, and sometimes art or cookery classes as an English immersion programme. Every week you’re at a different school.
I normally take my DSLR, and sort out the photos afterwards, but I couldn’t find what I’d done with the charger. My phone has a very decent camera though, so I’m going to use that and post them as I go. I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the way the FB and Instagram algorithms decide what people see and in what order. Everything’s jumbled up and got no context or order, and it makes seeing travel photos particularly frustrating. So they’re just going here, where they stay in chronological order and in context.
Two 24 page 1/4 sized perzines on purple paper about working in Museums. Available for £3.50 here in the shop. UK postage free, international calculated by weight.
I haven’t done a playlist on here in a long time, so here’s one. All of a certain mood and a certain era.
I’ve made an A5 calendar of my illustrations – the calendar itself is £7, and the artwork is also available as prints of various sizes. UK postage is free, and international postage is automatically calculated by weight.
Multiple people have asked me for a tutorial of how I do colour in Photoshop. A lot of people think my prints are analogue screen-prints, but they’re actually mostly digital. I draw the ink lines by hand, but all the colour and texture is created in Photoshop.
I’ve recently scanned around 60 old rolls of film, which I’ll gradually post. These are some photos of the palace of Versailles taken on some extremely expired slide film. At the time I worked in a photo lab, and ended up with a huge bag of all the expired film from the shop for about £20, and also got free development as a perk. Half-melted and degraded Kodak slide film + Olympus XA2 camera, cross-processed as C41.
Every year I take part in the Good Reads challenge. My target this year was 52 books. I completed it with one for luck- 53 books this year. As I read each book I took a photo for instagram and gave a brief opinion- I’ve copied and pasted them all here. I’ve separated them into categories, but left them in the order read within the categories.
If you study Latin in the UK, there’s a very good chance you will use the Cambridge Latin books from the 1970s. Although they’re forty years old, they’re still in print (and also on the Apple Store), and have a special place in people’s hearts.
There’s 50% off everything in my online shop until midnight tonight (GMT)
Here is another scan of a vintage book I have had since I was a child. This is a collection of myths and legends from around the world. It was originally Czech and translated to English, and has a large selection of central European stories less known in the UK, along with stories from places like the high Arctic and Polynesia. There are also lovely illustrations by three prominent Czech illustrators.
Around this time of year on the Solstice there are two things I like to do as a personal tradition- go for a walk to Botany Bay around sunset and read the ghost stories of M.R. James. Includes full text of Whistle My Lad, and links to read the stories and watch the 1970s films for free.
Scanning more vintage books – this time a history of costume book that my mum won as a school prize in the 60s. The illustrations are lovely, but the pages are yellowed and stained, so I did some clean up in Photoshop.
I wrote a few of these music basics guides to use in a promo zine I used to make with listings of the gigs I promoted. I thought I’d post them here, in case they’re of continued use to people.
I’ve got some more of those 70s badges people liked so much (plus some mushroom and moth ones leftover)
New print over in the shop- Psychic Rat. £6 for A6, £12 for A4, £24 for A3.
Here’s some more old films I scanned- this time of Innsbruck from two years ago. Standard Ilford HP5 with a 70s Pentax SLR.
A pack of seven zines and a postcard (cacti not included) available here for £5 in the UK, and around €10 or $12 USD/$18 AUD. All prices include postage.
I found this book in a charity shop. It’s a practical guide to alternative living in London from 1969/70 covering a wide range of topics from rent laws, to sexuality, drugs and communes to join. This is the first edition, there were yearly updates throughout the 70s.
I’ve been working through scanning a mountain of old films. Here’s some from 2004. I was living in Reading and studying at the university there. I also handily had a part-time job in a film lab, resulting in free development. At the time I got a cd of the photos, but I have no idea what happened to it.
Here’s another print- price in the shop varies from £6-£24 depending on size. You can order one here. Features a plesiosaur, a nautilus and a coelacanth for your pleasure.
Some photos of a place called Le Haut Boulay in Northern France near where my mum lives. I have never seen a soul in the hamlet. There’s a handful of houses and the roadside shrine, and that’s it.
It was really a test roll for the film. Fomapan 400- a very cheap black and white film from the Czech Republic.
I took some photos of my “broken folk” musician friends the Lunatraktors doing a Halloween performance. The setting was an art installation of a crypt of obsolete technology in a tunnel on the seafront by Sadie Hennessy. The metalwork headpieces were created by local jeweller and metalworker Billie M Vigne.
I designed this poster for my friend Henry, based on Ware landmark Scott’s Grotto, but forgot to post it here. It’s tomorrow if you are in the area.
I’ve got a new print in the shop. A5 at £6, A4 at £12, A3 at £24.
Here are some scans from a 1970s craft book I got from my grandparents’ house.
I moved to this flat in January but only recently sorted out the bedroom how I wanted it. Due to the placement of the window, built in wardrobe and door, there’s really only one layout that works.
While clearing up, I found an old sketchbook from 2012. Here’s some photos of some pages.
I have spent the past few days rearranging and cleaning my office. The old layout just didn’t work. I spend a lot of time here working, so it was time to change things round.
Here’s the best stuff I got for very cheap in the excellent charity shops in Bognor Regis (the only entertainment there). The reasons for so many good finds is fairly grim- lots of old people in the area who die and have house clearances of all the 60s and 70s stuff they were hanging on to. Everything cost less than £5.
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’ve done a new zine about that time in 2006 I accidentally spent a whole summer alone in Bognor Regis. For £2.50 you get both the zine and the mini zine I made at the time for the 24 hour zine challenge. Find them here.
I now have prints of this Mushroom King artwork up for sale. A5 is £6, A4 £12 and A3 £24. Find them in the shop.
Here’s some more 60s tourism slides from my grandparents’ house (you can see others here). This time from the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, now a UNESCO site. Again I have posted all 36 images. It looked pretty much the same when I was there about 10 years ago, minus the annoying coach party of loud Texans who kept appearing everywhere you looked and complaining there was no Taco Bell and you had to walk places. Further along the coast in Sorrento I bought a very fancy waffle-knit towel that still serves me well for travelling. The shop assistant seemed very confused that I wasn’t buying a whole matching set of them like the majority of their customers. Afraid I could only afford one small one.
Yesterday I went to a talk at Well Projects from anthropologist/sound artist Dimitrios Bormpoudakis from the University of Kent as part of A Cut From Sharp Grass, “a visual art exhibition & series of public events developed in response to the increasingly urbanised, networked & technologically integrated landscape of Kent”. Here’s my sketchbook notes from the talk.
When clearing out my grandparents’ house a couple of years ago I found seven packets of these 60s tourist slides of various places around the Mediterranean. I’ve been scanning and restoring them. First up, these from Herculaneum.
Herculaneum is a smaller coastal town near Pompeii that was also destroyed by the volcano. It’s not as well known, but there are some magnificent villas there in a similar but smaller archaeological park to the one you can visit at Pompeii.
I had a dream that Cake Exploding was a popular hobby, with world championships and dedicated YouTube channels. Here’s the comic version. Available from the shop for £1.75
I got this late 70s/early 80s book from a charity shop a while ago. A lot of families in the UK had it when I was a kid I think. I got it out because I promised to make my friend a really ludicrous birthday cake from inside. The recipes are fine, various flavoured sponge cakes with buttercream icing (albeit with gratuitous Cadbury’s product placement in every recipe). It’s the choice of cake themes in the book that’s a bit odd …
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 weeks ago I went to an academic conference in Bristol focused on the works of Diana Wynne Jones. She is probably best known for writing the book that the Studio Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle was based on, but she has around thirty other books aimed at a variety of ages. Even the ones aimed at children have a surprising amount of psychological and literary depth, and a willingness to explore very dark issues not usually found in books for that age group, giving her work a huge appeal to adults and academics.
Last week I went down to Pegwell Bay in between Ramsgate and Sandwich to take some press shots for my friends Carli and Clair- aka the Lunatraktors. They describe their work as “broken folk” and combine folk, ambient vocal overtone work and choreography into it (Carli is also a choreographer and clown by profession).
Today’s song- Rice Dream Girl by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Longing and sadness captured on nothing but a microphone and a cheap Casio keyboard.
I liked one of the images I got from the Lomochrome film so much I decided to offer it as a print in the shop.
Shortly before I left London a couple of years ago I got a roll of the Lomochrome Purple film, a new formula designed to mimic the surreal colour infrared film you used to be able to buy.
Today’s song is Black Cat, by Broadcast, from Tender Buttons, one of my all-time favourite albums (I was torn between choosing this or I Found the F). I really wish I had seen Broadcast more times than I did. There seemed no hurry.
So another song- Pig by Sparklehorse. I was considering picking Tears on Fresh Fruit, which is my other favourite song by them, but this won out.
Last night, I saw Midsommar, a film I’ve had my eye on for a while. It’s received very mixed reviews in the press, but I loved it. I felt it was pretty much what you’d get if you got Alexander Jodorowsky to direct the Wicker Man
Kevin who I run Connect Nothing With Nothing with has an improv group called Ghost Fang. Each performance includes whatever musicians want to take part…