A drawing from 2016, that was originally planned as a painting. Experience had taught me that working all the fine detail on those feathers would have driven me insane, so drawing it instead meant I only went slightly mad.
A 2015 painting, which hung for a while in our living room, and is now in the possession of Martin Jones, Obergruppenführer of Exile In The Margins and my collaborator on the Black Water project, together with several more still in the works. I could take you to deepest darkest Pembrokeshire, to this very place that I painted, which lies well off the beaten track, in a wood atop a cliff where an abandoned farmhouse stands and the meandering streambed is strewn with sheep’s bones. I can see why Graham Sutherland found this place so inspiring.
My 2016 painting ‘A Sort Of Homecoming’. Acrylic and ink on watercolour paper. It depicts a location on the Tile Hill estate in Coventry, the one memorialised by former resident George Shaw, who’s been painting it for over 25 years now. Regular readers will know that seeing George’s paintings in late 2008 completely changed the direction of my own art, forcing me to finally learn how to paint and to then apply it to something that had all the passion and intensity of George’s best work. I was, for several years, utterly obsessed with his paintings, and occassionaly lapsed into blind emulation of his example, which was useful in terms of learning my craft, but at some stage I was going to have to crawl out from under the shadow of his influence and find my own obsessions. There is much common ground though, as I also grew up on a council estate on the far fringes of a large city (Leeds), and when I finally got to visit Tile Hill in 2015, I was not really surprised at how similar it was to the place I was raised in. The same streets, the same houses, the same pubs, the same rows of knackered garages, and the same pockets of woodland and wasteland. I took many photographs while I was there, mainly of scenes I knew from George’s paintings, but also several that looked like they should be painted by George, including the one above. This is the path that leads to where a row of collapsing garages once stood, representing a gateway into the “Narnia” of Tile Hill Wood. Not long after, I saw that George had made a watercolour – ‘I Woz Ere #1’ – of the exact same scene:
Anyway. I sent the original of ‘A Sort of Homecoming’ to George, and had forgotten all about it until I found it in my archives the other day. I will never forget that period after first discovering his work, when I realised I was going to have to pretty much abandon everything I’d done up to that point and start over. Tabula rasa. Year Zero. I’ll always be grateful for his example and influence, but these days I feel free to do only that which I can do, and sometimes that might be a landscape of the place I grew up. The main lesson I got from George was that “we may be done with the past, but is the past done with us?”
Regular readers will know I’m involved in a publishing venture called Exile In The Margins. It’s primarily the moonchild of Martin Jones and in our working relationship, I am very much the Renfield to his Dracula, but instead of eating birds and spiders, my contribution is the art and design for the several titles published to date. To date we have three books available:
You’ve heard of nature writing. This is against nature writing. A dark romance from the nightside edgelands. Sex and death and the spirit of dark and lonely water. Fully illustrated & designed by yours truly.
Edgar Allen Poe and Philip Larkin have a punch-up on Withernsea beach, whilst T.S. Eliot watches from the safety of the prom, taking notes. A prose fugue, a poetic miasma, a magickal working along the tideline, using bladderwrack and chip wrap as ritual objects. Cover art by yours truly.
A prose ‘working’ in the Crowleyean sense, an evocation of the spirits – benign and malevolent – that haunt the arcades and promenades of Britain’s seaside towns. Scrying in the Fun House mirror. Decoding angel language from bingo cards. Ectoplasmic candy floss snagged under the pier. Brylcreem, gasoline and Vaseline. Sticky fingers and bloody knuckles. Hot blood and cold chips. Wish you weren’t here.
As an added incentive to the curious reader, I’ve produced a series of art postcards, each an original painting in the vein of the example above, to be included with every book purchase.
Exile In The Margins is dedicated to following the logic of our imaginations and publishing books that you really wouldn’t see anywhere else. Martin & I were both formed in the crucible of 80’s and 90’s alternative culture, the pre-internet era of self-published zines and comics, dubbed VHS tapes, C90 compilations of weird music, scabby paperbacks and all the other strange detritus that the mainstream couldn’t absorb. This venture is our attempt to recapture some of that old black magic, before the internet created a monolcuture of irrelevance that dims the fires of awe. We have several more titles planned for release over the next year or so, including an art pamphlet celebrating the peculiar visions of a reclusive English surrealist; another collaboration between Martin and myself, where I fully illustrate the dark fantasies of a long forgotten British serial killer who haunted glam rock London; and my own novella about the rise and fall of the greatest band you’ve never heard.
Stay Turned for more details here, or via the Exile In The Margins Instagram.
My current painting. I started this nearly 4 years ago, and abandoned it when I went back to full-time office work. I’ve dug it out from under the bed and set about finally finishing it. Here’s the previous progress:
Pencils. 05 June 2017.
Undercoat 25 June 2017.
It was originally intended to be a companion piece to this painting:
and as this one hangs in our dining room, it might go up on the wall next to it, or I might sell it.
I’ve put more artwork up for sale on my Arts & Prints page. A recent change in circumstances determines that I have to raise my game and make this art lark more than a “hobby.” Not that I ever thought of it that way, but now I could do with making some money. I’ve added a few more paintings together with a lot of my drawings, all made over the last 10 years or so. Priced to go, I am open to bartering and will offer discounts for multiple purchases. All enquires:
My first painting of 2021 is finally finished. I’m pleased with it, and only wish my kack photography skills could do it justice. It’s for sale and anyone interested should email me. Acrylic on canvas panel. 61 x 46cm. £100 & shipping.
Here’s the history of its evolution:
Pencils 21 Feb 21
Undercoating 22 Feb 21
Initial colour layers 24 Feb 21
No more bare canvas visible. 03 March 21.
Final stages. 09 March 2021.
Completed. 17 March 2021.
Poe did the reputation of ravens no favours though, to be fair, they were already associated with “the dark end of the fair” before he penned his famous poem. What I liked about this particular specimen is that it looks so benign. The mischievous twinkle in the eye is less about corpses and graveyards than seeming to know where there’s a good party happening.
Following the practice established by George Shaw, it’s now become almost compulsory for a contemporary artist to depict a row of knackered old garages, so here’s mine, drawn about 7-8 years ago. Yes, there used to be some on our estate. Yes, we got up to no good in (and on) them. Yes, they’re all gone now.