Looking For Kes

As disparaging as I am of the BBC these days, it can’t all be shit, as this documentary testifies. Comedian and former teacher Greg Davies travels to Hoyland Common, Barnsley, to explore the origin and inspirations of Barry Hines’ novel A Kestrel For A Knave. Regular visitors to this site will know that it’s one of my favourite books, and – as far as I’m concerned – one of the greatest novels ever written. Bollocks to the established canon, this is it. This “angry and defiant little book”, as Davies describes it, is as good as it gets, and the fact that it’s no longer on school curriculums is further evidence that something has gone drastically wrong with the modern education system.

Hines was a brilliant writer, who came late to literature, but when he did he went at it with all the passion and determination of someone who had finally found their voice and their purpose, and was going to ensure that the world heard him. Humble, honest, and fiercely dedicated to his working class beliefs, he never compromised his art, which was ultimately about expressing the universal in the quotidian and giving a voice to the voiceless. That which the bird Kes represents is what has motivated all of my best work, and it’s a subject I return back to again and again:

A Kestrel For A Knave (2015)

Against The Sky (2018)

The Hill Of Summer (2018)

Kes poster (2016)

A Kestrel For A Knave cover (2017)

Greg Davies: Looking For Kes (BBC iPlayer)

Gallery Update

I’ve updated my Paintings gallery, with a wider selection of paintings from the past decade or so, including some real rarities. This is by no means all of them, and it’s surprising to see just how much work I’ve been able to get done.

The Phoenix Tree

It. Is. Finished. 1 year in the making (initial pencils were started 1 year ago today). The longest I’ve ever spent on a painting, though there were periods of several weeks where I didn’t have the time to spare. This is a Christmas present for my wife, and will hang in the living room alongside several other of my originals. Until today I didn’t have a viable title, but I’ve been listening to Mono a lot of late, and in their back catalogue is an e.p., the title of which was just too perfect to dismiss.

Here’s all the stages of the painting as it progressed from beginning to end:

18 Nov 2018 (pencils completed)

13 Jan 2019

07 July 2019

27 October 2019

09 November 2019 (finished)

The completion of any painting, especially one that takes a long time to create, always brings with it a sense of la petite morte, but I assuage that by cracking on with the next thing I have to do, whether it’s another painting or the washing up. Right now, the latter option seems more likely.

Mono – The Phoenix Tree e.p.


Because you’re still hiding in a mask
Take your fun seriously…

Just in time for Halloween, my best fiend and reformed cider wizard Martin Jones has offered up a new track from Kathy Crowned From Blood, one of his many musical projects. ‘Clots’ Recorded earlier this month in the Tomb of Doom, is a two minute collision of early Human League and Negativland, the kind of aural tomfoolery you don’t hear much of these days. There’ll be much more from The Sinister Insult in 2020, so stay tuned. In the meantime…

Dead Kennedys – Halloween

Work In Progress

An update on how I’m getting on with my two current paintings. Above is one I’m doing as a Xmas present for my wife. It’s taken almost a year to get it to this stage, but it’s nearly done. It’ve found that I take so long between landscapes that I forget all the tricks I learn about how to achieve certain effects, so I have to relearn them again. Every single time.

I’ve also updated the Art & Prints For Sale page, where I’ve reduced the prices on all paintings and prints. They could make the ideal surprise Christmas present for someone in your life, and that’s about all the sales pitch you’ll ever get out of me.

After Silence

Painters work in private… You’re sitting there with a cup of tea and Radio 4, day after day. You hope for rain because you don’t want to be stuck inside if it’s not raining. A shitty life, really, being a professional painter.
Jock McFadyen

Which is why (or so I tell myself) I work in an office. Regular visitors to this site – all five of you – may have wondered where I’ve been these past few months? Back in July I decided to take a break from just about everything, except breathing, sleeping and the day job, that which Philip Larkin referred to as ‘The Toad’. I’m now back at it, working on a couple of paintings, and even doing some writing. Above are the pencils for one of those paintings, which I’ve since fully undercoated and hope to complete before the end of the year. I’m resigned to the fact now that I am essentially a ‘Sunday painter’, so very little gets done on any of the six other days in a week, but as long as the work turns out well, I’ll be content with that. I will be more regular with my updates from now on, but only when I’ve got something worth saying. The days of daily blog posts are long gone. As Richard Yates once wrote: “Never say anything that doesn’t improve on silence.”

The Silence

When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
Ansel Adams
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