The Red Squirrel

Readers of a certain age will recall the Tufty Club:

which was created in the early 1950’s as a way of educating young children in the principles of road safety. By the 1970’s he’d been marginalised by Dave Prowse as the Green Cross Code Man, but I was having none of that and already harboured a nostalgic preference for Tufty Fluffytail and his friends. I attribute this to my childhood immersion in things like Tales of the Riverbank, Ring of Bright Water, Tarka the Otter and, of course, Kes. Nowadays, I see ‘ironic’ Tufty Club t-shirts for sale which only confirms what I heard years ago was the primary reason for creating the internet in the first place: selling crap to twats.

Meanwhile, you’ve got more chance of seeing a unicorn than a red squirrel these days, whereas the invasive grey squirrel runs rampant throughout the trees and hedgerows behind our house.

Anyway, this drawing will be the basis for yet another glass fusion design, courtesy of my wife. Finished results coming soon.

Pine Hawk Moth

A drawing from 2020. I don’t see many moths these days, whereas the all-nighters I used to pull when I was younger – hunched over a drawing board or painting – were always accompanied by moths dementedly battering themselves against the naked lightbulb above me. Another thing now almost gone.

Work In Progress

Further to this, and this, here’s progress on the latest painting. Working smaller scale (A4) on a non-canvas surface is an interesting challenge, but what started out loose and fluid is “inevitably” getting the usual obsessive attention to fine detail that I just can’t seem to get away from. Once finished, it will be the cover for my next book, to be published by Exile In The Margins in 2022.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss.

Charles Dickens

My daughter’s drawing of Little Red Riding Hood. I think it’s great. Look at the expression on the girl’s face – it’s as enigmatic as that of the Mona Lisa. She’s got her own style and sensibility, and I’ve encouraged her to do more, maybe a fully illustrated edition of the story, but try telling a 17 year old what to do.

The Goshawk

Research is underway for a new book project, one that’s been brewing for a while but having completed one book already this year (hinted at here), I’m on a roll. This is the initial pencils for what I hope will be the cover painting.

Goshawk’s have a fearsome reputation amongst falconer’s, and if a musical analogy helps, then if a Peregrine Falcon is Marillion, Goshawk’s are Motorhead. No prisoners, all business, all of the time.

I’m reading various texts, including the canonical cornerstone that is T.H. White’s The Goshawk, a book that has benefitted more than most from good covers. Below is a selection:

Left is the original hardback, which still looks radical and fantastic several decades later, and right is the Penguin Modern Classics paperback edition, my copy of which was found in a bookshop on the Cob at Lyme Regis.

And this (left) is a postcard I received from Helen MacDonald, author of H Is For Hawk, another primary research source, alongside (right) a mock-up design I made using my drawing of Helen’s own Goshawk, the original of which I sent to her, resulting in receipt of the postcard.

I’ve also watched David Cobham’s 1969 film ‘The Goshawk’, based on T.H. White’s book, and made for the BBC. There is no way a film like this could get made today. The cinematography, the music, the unhurried pacing – it all speaks of an era before the televisual medium went to down the toilet. Ah well, at least we still have books, and I’ll be working on my contribution towards that over the next few months.

Work In Progress

A new departure for me. After 12+ years of painting solely on larger-scale canvas panels, I’m not abandoning that practice but as an adjunct I’m also going to start making smaller works on watercolour paper. Partly as a way of being more productive, as the larger paintings take months to finish, but also to enjoy the challenge of different materials. These are just the initial pencils but, all being well, the finished piece could be the cover of a new book I’m working on. Updates to follow.

He Is Coming

…and you’ll find out who ‘he’ is in a few months time.

Exile In The Margins

IG: Exile In The Margins

The Tiger

William Blake had his ‘tyger’, and this is mine. Painted in 2016, my reliably kack photograph skills ensure justice is really not done to the original, which gives the impression the beast is actually in the room with you. I used it as the basis for this mock-up cover:

The Tiger (John Vaillant)

for a book which was very much the inspiration for the painting, which I still have and should probably offer up for sale at some point.

The Remains

A drawing from around 2011. It’s the same burnt-out wreck depicted in my 2011 painting ‘How To Be A Werewolf‘ from the Project Mogwai series. I’ve always found such things fascinating. Who did this? Why? The answer is usually fairly mundane and predictable, but my imagination likes to conjure something more mysterious. As Ken Kesey said: “We need mystery more than we need answers.”

The Fallen

I’ve both painted and drawn this image, and I can no longer recall which came first. Arnos Vale cemetery in Bristol is a gothic fantasia of winding paths through hundreds of ancient collapsing graves, of which this was just one example. Would have made an ideal Joy Division bootleg album cover circa 1981.

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