My 2014 drawing of Paul Nash. An interesting figure in 20th Century British art, who survived World War 1 by falling and breaking a rib, thereby missing out on a suicidal charge through No Man’s Land that saw off hundreds of his men. The war cast a shadow throughout the rest of his life, and exposure to mustard gas while in the trenches contributed to his relatively early death, but he managed to fuse the English lanscape tradition with aspects of several modernist tendencies that went through the art world during his lifetime. His canvasses while lacking the technical competence of some of his contemporaries, have a raw power that makes the best ones still effective today.
Over ten years in the making, it’s finally done. Black Water was a project first proposed to me by the author Martin Jones sometime around 2008-9. I was immediately struck by the dark obsessive nature of the story, which I knew was coming from a deep and murky psychosexual abyss that immediately brought to mind something like Eraserhead. Not so much a midnight movie as a midnight book, so how could I not be involved? A decade later and it still wasn’t finished but for all kinds of personal reasons we both knew that we would have to get this published and out into the world if we were to ever be able to “move on.” I first drew all the illustrations for an initial draft of the book back around 2011-12, but they never felt quite right, and then Martin started making changes to the text, stripping away any unnecessary words and compressing the narrative down until it was diamond hard and resistant to any light.
My illustrations for the book are all black ink drawings, drawn between 2018-2020, with the majority done in the early months of this year. I worked from reference photographs, most taken at the very specific location in which the story is set, though the details are not important. It’s a place you could find anywhere and is as much a psychic landscape as one you could actually walk around in and, after the reading the story, you might not want to anyway.
I designed every page of the book, which was an essential aspect of my involvement, as it simply would not have been the same had it been handed over to another publisher. Something like this demands the same insane attention to detail in its production values as those that went into its writing and drawings. Martin had a very specific idea for the overall aesthetic and wanted it to be the dark twin of all the insipid ‘nature writing’ we’ve come to despise. It is an ‘against nature’ book, and makes no apologies about it.
I’m already working on a future collaboration, and I’d like to report that it’s the complete opposite of this one, a wonderful uplifting fantasy tale full of plucky kids and talking cats but, alas, it’s nothing of the sort. More details will follow soon, but for now you should order a copy of Black Water and hold in your hands the physical proof that here are men who are not pissing about anymore.
Black Water is published by Exile In The Margins. A random selection of ten orders will also feature a soundtrack CD of music that inspired the book and original art by me in the form of watercolour postcards, signed and numbered. £10 & postage. Order your copy HERE.
A 2016 drawing, A3 scale. This one was cropped and mocked-up as a cover for Cynan Jones’ The Dig, the novel that directly inspired said drawing:
It’s a dark book, suffused with the “dark rural shit” (thank you, Benjamin Myers) that is the polar opposite to the Countryfile view of what our nation is like beyond the concrete hinterlands. For some it’s a grim world, splatttered with mud, blood and excrement, where an unsympathetic attitude to the business of killing animals prevails, but growing up on a council estate surrounded by functioning farms, it’s a world I recognised in this book. Jones depictions of the places and characters rang true to me and while it may be bleak, at least its honest in its bleakness, and makes absolutely no apologies for it. Recommended.
Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity and ruin.
My 2016 drawing of Frankenstein’s Monster, as imagined by Jack Pierce and Boris Karloff. Still striking to this day, but for me the definitive rendition of ‘the monster’ is Berni Wrightson’s incredible illustrations for the edition published by Marvel in 1983. It took him the best part of a decade and it shows on every single page. To date, no-one has been foolish enough to try and better it.
Name a cult film from the tail end of the 20th century, and chances are Harry Dean Stanton was in it. Cool Hand Luke. Alien. The Godfather II. Paris, Texas. Straight Time. Wild At Heart. Escape From New York. Repo Man. Need I continue? Who of today’s shower of over-paid and over-indulged Hollywood homunculi can match his grizzled authenticity? Definitely one of the last of the last.
This 2009 painting is probably one of the best from the Project Mogwai series. Challenging though it was, I knew right from the outset that this one would turn out well, and it did. It’s one of my favourite Mogwai songs, and I really wanted to do it justice, but could not settle on the right image. When I saw this one, the association with Jim Morrison – to whose who know the story – is obvious, and I knew what I had to do.
A new drawing. One of those images that just pops into your head when you’re doing the washing up or cycling to work, and demands it be made flesh, so to speak. Upon completion I realised it could be used as the cover for any of the hundreds of ‘anthropocene’ related titles that have been published in the last few years. Lots of books, changing nothing, as we hurtle ever faster towards whatever it may be that’s waiting for us down the road, but one thing’s for sure – whatever it is, we made it.
A new publishing venture, captained by my long-time collaborator Martin Jones. My involvement is art & design (including the logo, above) and all things visual. The first title will be released shortly. Updates to follow.
Tis because we be on a blighted star, and not a sound one, isn’t it Tess?
My portrait – if there can be such a thing for a fictional character – of Tess of the D’Ubervilles. We studied Thomas Hardy for O-level and guess which self-professed bibliophile was at the time not paying the slightest bit of attention? As a result, I got a ‘U’ in my exam, which I’ve always taken to mean ‘unprepared’ rather than ‘unclassified’. Let’s just say that in the summer of 1984 my head was… elsewhere.