Friday, 30 November 2018

November 2019

Ever darkening days, I started this month in a low mood.

I weigh all the parts of my life up in a logical fashion, and I have few reasons to be this gloomy, but I know it's the darkness and the rain weighing on me, and I try and recognise that...

It feels like a lot of people I know are going through big life changes (some good, some bad) at the moment. I am lucky to have an amount of consistency and levelness, but alongside that, I do sometimes wrestle with a desire for change and movement (and even envy those who have it forced upon them). I need to work on finding ways to achieve that variety and adventure without tearing apart the stability and security I've worked so hard to achieve.

My lovely Alex is going through challenges of their own at the moment. I'm lucky to have them, and we probably owe each other more appreciation than we regularly give (but we try, and we talk, and we know this, which is half the battle). I had a flare up of some old back pain and ended up having to spend a day not doing much. By pure coincidence, it was a day when Charlie was going out on adventures with someone else — I'd planned on using that as an opportunity to catch up on lots of household tasks, but in the event, had to lie very still, which might have been just as good for me overall.

Luckily my back pain eased up enough to allow me to go to a show in Manchester, at which I danced the rest of it vigorously away (somehow?!), then stayed overnight at Kim and Sylvia's place before getting a train down to Brighton the next day. I was greeted in the morning by a friendly neighbourhood cat who came and curled up on my bed and enthusaistically rubbed itself on me, but then, abruptly, bit me. A friend of mine had been bitten by a cat a couple of weeks prior and had to go to A&E because apparently cat bites can get really gross and infected really quickly... Despite this bite barely breaking the skin, I am a hypochondriac and got VERY PARANOID

(Clearly I was fine though)

Back in Brighton, got to go and have dinner with my friend Zoe, who now lives in a house backing onto the garden of my beloved old Brighton home. Got a bit homesick-nostalgic-emotional.


Went to visit my parents who've got a new puppy. Promptly forgot how to do everything, including draw well.

Flying visit though (I'll be back soon), nice to get home to Alex and Justin and my own lovely doggo Charlie.

But also: welcome to my world (of detritus)

People who've read a while will know that a long stated aim of these visual diaries is for me to get better at drawing people and capturing likeness. I practice a lot but rarely share as it's still an uphill struggle. This is still wrong in a great many ways but I really enjoyed working with the ink, and it captures more than I usually manage of this distant friend (as I wrestle with our ever shifting time zones)

Yay visitors! Hannah came to visit the same weekend as Tom and Harriet, and we had a jolly weekend of chatter and walks and delicious food. 

Linework from an editorial illustration (a piece I didn't entirely agree with), but again, capturing likeness has always been a challenge for me, and while this is not perfectly Theresa May, it is more Theresa May than I could have managed, for example, a year ago. (Pink notes added are my own. She has commited unforgiveable atrocities against the most vulnerable members of our society throughout her time in government and deserves no sympathy or forgiveness whatsoever. But still, just IMAGINE how many awful men she must have had to put up with over the course of her career. I shudder.)

It's that time of year when I do lots of drawings about walking for hours a day in the rain. Hi.

One big bright spot for me has been recent forays back into letterpress, after a long break since access to the workshop at Brighton university.

I loved it then, but also as a student was very much not in the headspace to give it the time or attention it deserved, so I'm delighted to be getting a chance to revist and relearn those skills. (My local co-working space the Egg Factory aquired a collection a few years ago, but haven't had anyone with the knowledge/patience/time to fully engage with it. I'm not even sure I have enough of those things, but I'm giving it a good go!)

Sometimes its fog instead of rain, and I'm quite into that actually.

Sorry, got a dog on me again!

On a very different note... I ummed and ahhed for ages about whether this one was 'too much' to share, but I really enjoyed a different style of drawing (after years of wrestling with feeling like I didn't have a 'style', I think I'm now often guilty of working too predictably), and it's a thought process I've been having recently in terms of the subject matter of the work I make, personally and professionally. I like weird art. I'm a fan of a super wide range of illustration and that's not neccesarily reflected in my own work because I feel like I'm too 'nice' to create stuff that's a bit more challenging. I mean, this is hardly pushing at that many boundaries really (you've all seen a bit of body hair before), but its more the thought process around where my creativity lies going forward. I don't want to fall into the trap of playing it safe all the time, both technically and in terms of subject matter. Don't worry, I'm not suddenly going to get super weird on you all (and I mostly keep that stuff to myself on the rare occasions I do anyway), but I think it's interesting to think about. (And if I see any fellow creatives/illustrators in real life soon, I'm keen to continue conversations and share thoughts around this kind of stuff, about growth and development, and the kind of work we want to do vs the kind of work we fall into)

Christmas shopping is... hard this year. Maybe it always will be from now on. I don't feel like I can carry on consuming in the way I always have done. I've got a long way to go, but I'm trying to change the ways and the things I buy to more sustainable ends. (I quit using Amazon about six months ago, and you know what, it's been easy. I'd encourage you to do the same, as a starting point.)

So here's the big thing, and it's new news to me as well, I'm excited/terrified again, and probably will continue to be so until the time comes... Since visiting the US back in April/May this year, I knew I needed to return, to LA especially. It was a complicated kind of place but it stole my heart as I'd wondered if it might. Since then I've been working harder than I ever have done before in order to save up enough money to go back. One of the main things helping see me through this winter has been the knowledge that I may be able to escape to sunnier climes in January, and I've just had confirmation from my work that I will indeed be able to do this. I booked flights yesterday, so there's no going back now. LA friends, I can't wait to see you again.

But in the meantime, focus closer to home. I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful creative community at the Egg Factory, and we're currently in full pom pom production mode ready for our Eggsmas craft fair on December 8th and 9th. I'll have a stall there selling my wares, and we'll be running a print-your-own Letterpress Christmas card activity too (among much else!). Please come visit, if you're in the area! I'll also be down in Brighton/London again December 10th – 15th, so hopefully one way or another I might get to see many of you this coming month.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

October 2018

It's been a hard month in some ways. Has it felt that way to you too?

Somehow pushing through summer, and so much life, so much to do, moving house, travelling, working, creating, loving, making... it's been easier to push back the constant clamour of horrendous news. But the nights draw in, the cold comes, and with it, I can no longer hold back the tide of nightmares ever encroaching on every side. It's never felt like this before. Has it been like this before? Everyone I've spoken to about this is feeling it too. Not in a lifetime. I'm so scared, so powerless, about so much. Never has it felt like our lives as we know them could be destroyed in so many different ways. Who knows which it will be, but it seems increasingly unlikely that I will live the rest of my life at the quality of life I have become accustomed to (not to mention how much so many people in so many places are already suffering at the hands of governments and climate change and other forces beyond their control). Things are going to change. Things are going to crumble. To what extent, and when, and how we will cope, all unknown, but the knowledge of this is pressing on me heavily, and I feel like I'm viewing the world through a constant filter of it.

Anyway, that's kind of heavy huh?

Here's me doing ballet badly to lift the mood.

Arms eh? During ballet I find myself focussing very intently on what my legs are doing and then suddenly become aware that my arms are doing something entirely ridiculous.

Escaped to the city where everything feels better. Went to see Ross From Friends, who has an amazing/terrible name and makes great electronica. Weirdly, everyone at the show was at least 10 years younger than me, and high, which was kind of unexpected. I sat at the back and felt very old. Sounded great though.

Me and Alex have always watched the Apprentice together for as long as we've been in a relationship. It's horrible. Every year we ask why we do this to ourselves and yet still we persist. (Here's a self portrait with sleepy Charlie done while watching)

I can't control the world but I can control my immediate environement. I always feel better in a clean house.

Back at ballet again. Like a small child.

I persist in trying to draw Justin even though I can never draw Justin to look like Justin despite having lived with him and regularly looking at him for like... 5 years or something? This is one of the marginally better ones though.

I really love working in the Egg Factory, Hebden Bridge's creative co-working space. When I first moved here I joined so I could go to their communal Wednesday lunches, and honestly it's how I've made most of my friends here, and it's (sorry to get soppy) probably still one of the highlights of my week. Just a reliable, chill gathering of lovely people eating delicious food that we've all bought to share and chatting about local goss, creative ideas/dilemmas, collaboration, and cooing over the various dogs who've come to hang out with us that day.

My winter project is to help them sort/get up and running the letterpress collection they aquired a few years ago, so at the moment I'm sticking around there every Wednesday afternoon to do this. At the moment it's still sorting through things, which is very methodical and satisying and I'm getting a lot of joy out of it. This was a particularly nice Wednesday, with lots of other lovely people around me working on interesting things while I sat at the kitchen table working my way through drawers of letters.

I can't wait until it's up and running and we can actually start printing!

Had a meeting in Leeds near Cross Gates station. Enjoyed its very particular autumn-day bleakness.

Maybe TMI, but welcome to my thirties, aka, time for big pants. I am into it.

A gang of us at the Egg Factory have started running our own life drawing classes, with very kind (clothed) modelling from Sue. Unfortunately, it's on Mondays, right before ballet. I tried a life drawing/ballet back-to-back but it was TOO MUCH, and life drawing is way more fun than ballet, so I'm in a bit of a dilemma about which to choose.

Headed into Manchester to see Iglooghost at lovely new venue Yes. I'd seen him play before almost exactly a year ago, alongside Lapalux and Daedelus at Village Underground in London, but this was his own tour with accompanying incredible AV show, including costumes, stage props, an entire OS designed by him, and a whole world of utterly bizarre, amazing graphics. He's built an incredible visual world around his music and I have a huge amount of respect for him. He makes super hectic indescribable electronic music, so hectic that a crowdsurfer kicked the projector, temporarily knocking out his AV show in a way that must have been VERY STRESSFUL. Anyway, super fun, really glad I made it, go see him if you get the chance.

First time this year that I went for a walk and misjudged sunset time. By the time I was home it was pitch black, but I did get to see the beautiful wind turbines silouhetted in the last dying rays of the sun from the top of the hill by Heptonstall.

Here's a bit more of that FEELS TALK. I don't know. Everything just feels very intense at the moment. Like we're heading towards an end-of-season finale. Or like when you start rolling down a grassy slope but then it gets faster and faster and longer and longer and you realise you can't stop

So I made my first ever ANIMATED visual diary! Brave new world. Here are some of my workings...

And here's the actual animation. Inspired by... well, life?

Charlie's had slightly bad eyes this month, they were really oozy and gross with green bits, so we took him to the vet who gave him some antibiotic eye drops. It says in the instructions 'you may need a second person to restrain the animal, and/or to muzzle them for application', but Charlie is just the BEST BOY... For the first couple of times Justin held him and I dropped them in, and always did it right before his breakfast and dinner so he felt like he was getting a treat after, but now he knows what's happening, as soon as I get the eye drops out he comes and sits next to me on the sofa, I roll him onto his back and he lets me put them in so sweetly. He really is just the loveliest dog. (And his eyes are all better now!)

Went to an appropriately autumnal event at our local pub, their annual apple pressing. Helped out, got sticky, had fun.

A slip of the tongue

So for a really long time, Alex has been mithering that we should get a BIG FRIDGE. Alex is someone who doesn't generally get excited about new appliances, so this had always seemed very out of character to me (especially as it was an appliance that I could summon up absolutely zero enthusiasm for, given that we already had a perfectly decent functioning under-counter fridge). Alex was adamant that it would radically improve our lives, so we finally did it. One of their arguments was that 'you can't see what's in there because everything is stacked up in front of each other'. I argued back that I don't *need* to be able to see what's in there, as I KNOW, in fact, so confidently the contents of our fridge, that I could draw it from memory. So I did. (Mostly successfully.)

Around June, our friend Kier (who's currently living in Barcelona) bought a HAMMERED DULCIMER on eBay, which was 'collection only' in Manchester. I'd said I'd happily go and get it, and the guy on eBay didn't need to shift it urgently, but honestly I hadn't imagined it would take like 4 months before I could get over there to fetch it. (Mostly because it's so big that it wouldn't be practical to take it with me to a gig, which is usually the reason I'm in Manchester, and with the ongoing train strikes it's been a real struggle to get there over the weekends, and I'm not carrying the dulcimer on a rail replacement bus.)

Anyway, finally fetched it, learnt to (very dissonantly) play 'happy birthday' on it for a friend, and now I'm trying to figure out if I can somehow tune it...

Maybe November will be the month I learn to play hammered dulcimer.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

September 2018

For the last few months it's felt like each month has rushed by (while simultaneously containing a LOT)... This month has in some ways felt like a lot too, but also somehow like it has been happening forever...

I mean, on the 1st, we moved house. That happened this month?!

Somehow we have made friends with three people (Matti, Hywel and Helen) who actively LIKE moving heavy things, disassembling and reassembling flatpack furniture, and general teamwork, and we literally could not have done the move without them. After a frantic August of trying (and mostly failing) to DIY/decorate the house in between huge stacks of freelance work and other life stuff, I had been panicking somewhat about our ability to make this happen, but happen it did.

Oh yeah, so I guess it's worth noting we were moving just three doors down the same street. Which clearly helps a huge amount.

On the second, we had a bit of help from our friend Sylvia in the morning and then it was up to us to get the remainder done. We moved a lot slower than the previous day but managed to get the bulk of everything into the new house over that one weekend. Now let's never move again.

There are WAY TOO MANY MUSHROOMS this month and I am entirely not cool with it. Mushrooms have always freaked me the hell out and because of the very particular climatic conditions this year, the valley is dripping with/smothered in/crawling with the things (delete as appropriate for maximum grossness). It wasn't even at its worst when I did this drawing, there are EVEN MORE now

In the last days of August when Justin was away and I was walking Charlie for hours each day while also doing all the house stuff, I developed a larg blister on the sole of my heel. Like, HUGE. Basically the size of my entire heel. I avoided popping it for the longest time because I was scared it was going to get infected, and one of my interim measures to enable me to carry on walking through the pain was to invest in a walking pole to help take some of the weight off. I did eventually pop it with a sterilised needle (which was SO satisfying, and it didn't get infected), but I'd got quite into walking with the walking pole. I feel like a cross between Willy Wonka and an angry middle aged man. Charlie likes it too. Now he understands he's not allowed to pick it up and carry it himself, I use it us a pointer to indicate particularly good sticks to him, which I think he appreciates.

I'm really good at travelling LOL
(Our water went brown the night before I was going which meant there was nothing to drink and I'd already drunk some of it in a cup of tea without noticing so was super paranoid I was going to get ill on the plane which is basically my worst nightmare)

Didn't get ill on the plane but I DO hate flying. I was only going to the Netherlands so would normally get the train, but I have (no surprises) used up all my days off with my main job this year, so needed to find some time efficiencies to make this trip work. Flying was one of them. It was unpleasant, but it got me there, and then I got to go on a double decker train, I LOVE U NETHERLANDS

My destination for this trip was s'Hertogenbosch, or Den Bosch, towards the south of the Netherlands, about half an hour from Utrecht. It is home to the Willem Twee synthesiser studio/lab — an incredible collection of old (50s/60s and more recent) synthesisers. The people behind it have been building the collection for some time now. Back when I was with Alfred in the Netherlands in March, after we parted ways he was headed here for a week long residency before the formal opening later in the year.

This week was that formal opening, and they invited him back to give a talk, run a workshop and put on a show (as well as a chance for him to have some more time working on his own stuff in the studio). I am a huge fan of the Netherlands, Alfred, electronic music, and beautiful machines — so (slightly cheekily) asked if I could join him for this week, promising that I would ABSOLUTELY NOT GET IN THE WAY (and then proceeded to spend much of the time sat far too close to him staring intently at wires and switches and dials and displays just ENRAPTURED with the whole place.)

You can see some pictures of the studio (amongst other things from my trip) here

At the weekend, the city (possibly even all cities in the Netherlands?) were having a kind of 'historic open buildings' day, where most interesting old buildings were opening their doors for the general public to come and explore. This included Willem Twee, and the constant stream of mildly intrigued people passing through gently touching buttons, twisting dials and taking selfies made for a less than conducive working environment (for me as well as him — I'd bought my laptop and was doing bits and bobs of work while awash in wonderful noises). So we decided to make the most of the open buildings and went to see some interesting ones ourselves, incuding very elaborate town hall and some kind of strange secret society dinner club who were very obsessed with swans. We also had some A+++ Dutch fries and satay sauce, damn they do chips well.

Also living in Den Bosch is Jameszoo, who makes very wonderful music. (I was lucky enough to see him live at North Sea Jazz a couple of years ago)
He and Alfred are good friends, and he was kind enough to invite us over to him and his girlfriend's apartment for some drinks, after which we headed to a squat party at THE SWANKIEST SQUAT I'VE EVER BEEN TO. It was actually the squat's 40th birthday celebration (which feels very impressive?), and it was based in an old schoolhouse building. Each person's room was an old classroom, so they were huge, and it seemed like most people had built mezzanine levels, making them even bigger. It was truly lovely, in fact I would very happily have lived there myself... Jameszoo and his girlfriend in fact used to, and one of the lovely guys at the synth lab was living there now, so we were made very welcome. There were about 15 people living there, and I couldn't shake the feeling that in a similar squat in the UK they'd have squeezed at least 40 into the same space. It also seemed like a very accepted and mostly welcome part of the community (well, it must be to have survived 40 years!)... I found the whole thing fascinating and felt so lucky to have been welcomed in and shown such kindness by our lovely Dutch hosts.

I know I keep saying it, but... the last month (or more?) have been so frenetic that, even though going on holiday so soon after moving house was not ideal, it was also PERFECT. Although I was still doing some work while there, I was also very much able to set my own schedule with that. Alfred was very jetlagged after flying in from LA, which didn't entirely ease up the whole trip, and I was just tired from moving house and the previous month's exertions, so I just let myself sleep whenever I wanted to sleep, either with him or while he was out working in the studio, and it was just the most blissful treat to not have to feel bad about that, like I should be doing something else. (I mean, I *did* feel like I should be doing other things, I never even made it over to Utrecht to explore as I'd intended to, but this was all okay)

Vegan food wasn't the easiest to source in Den Bosch, but after a couple of nights in a hotel we had our own apartment near the studio, which meant I could go to Albert Heijn (bit like Tesco) or Ekoplaza (bit like Waitrose but with more of a focus on vegan/organic/wholefood stuff) and stash loads of treats in our fridge.

And then just sitting in the lab, staring entranced at the beautiful displays, hypnotised by the sounds. I cannot overstate how incredibly into this I was. I could have stayed there forever.

A few months back I was lucky enough to meet Gert and Kees, who go by YaYaYa. Their album has been one of my favourites this year, and I met them through Alfred who released it on his label Magical Properties. They're super sweet guys, and headed over for the day to spend some more time in the lab (having been there with Alfred back in March too). Also in town was Wylie Cable. Wylie heads up Dome of Doom, one of my absolute favourite labels out of LA right now. I was lucky enough to briefly meet him when I was at Low End Theory in LA back in May. He was on a trip round Europe promoting his new release 'Buried at Sea' (ALSO one of my favourite albums this year), and Alfred invited him to come and see the synthesisers and meet Gert and Kees. Again, I very much did not want to be in the way but also these people are all GREAT, and it was such an honour and a priviledge to lurk for a while and hear the sounds they made in the lab. We also ate a load of fries and yoghurt, and I learnt lots about of interesting things about The Netherlands, the music industry, and much more besides...

I had one more day of happily wandering around Den Bosch while Alfred ran a workshop all day, and then the following day it was time to head back to the UK (with a brief stopover in Amsterdam), to my half-unboxed new house, feeling thoroughly refreshed (but possibly a bit too in love with the Netherlands and excited about synthesisers)

Bought back loads of vegan stroopwaffel as a gift for Alex and then ate most of them myself because I am a BAD PERSON

Barely home for a day, because of the bloody train strikes, what should have been a single day tabling at Leeds zine fair had to turn into a THREE DAY TRIP as there were no trains on the Saturday. Thanks so much to wonderful Joe and Amy for hosting me (and Gareth for pizza catchup)

Leeds zine fair was bangin’ though. This year it was in Leeds Kirkgate market, which is much more central and meant a busy day full of lovely people (including hellos from my old school friend Helen and new internet friend Daisy, which was a super lovely bonus). Footprint did a brilliant job running it and making their riso printed 'zine in a day' with contributions from stallholders and guests (mine here, the backdrop of which forms this visual diary!). I was pretty knackered but had some lovely dinner with Joe and then went back to their place and just listened to jazz and stroked a cat and felt thoroughly contented.

So I can't remember if I mentioned, but I stopped running. Because I bloody hated it. I persisted for like, a year and a half, but it just never got fun, and in all the stress of August I was like 'WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF I COULD JUST STOP'... So I did. And it's been bliss. But I have grown quite attached to my running-assisted-slightly-hot-bod, so probably still need to do some kind of exercsise. So uh, adult ballet? (Aparently we have to call it that to make it clear that I'm not in a class with four year olds). It's actually less of a physical workout and more of a stretching/balance/core workout, but, real talk, I probably need that just as much, and as I have absolutely zero desire to do pilates or yoga, this is more fun. Plus I really miss hip hop dance from Brighton and this is NOT THAT but until Hebden Bridge has a hip hop dance class this will have to do.

(This is why I need that whole 'exercise' thing. Drew this while watching GBBO with Justin)

It may have been to procrastinate a stressful phonecall, but I hugely appreciate any and all attempts/successes at DIY that Justin and Alex make, because I HATE IT

I've definitely had a fair amount less work on this month which, while not sustainable in the long run, has meant that rare and unusual thing of... leisure... time? I mean also kind of no because I've filled every moment of leisure time with personal projects (like making another podcast YAY) or house stuff, but still, there has been a little more time for just... cuddling the dog. Watching cheese melt under the grill rather than feeling obligated to spend that melting time frantically putting on some laundry, or hoovering, or cleaning surfaces. Etc.

We will NEVER TRULY KNOW what is going on in his little doggo brain. (And I may never truly be able to draw him well)

Learned how to make chapattis, this is DANGEROUS KNOWLEDGE I can just make bread happen in like 10 minutes without going to the shop?!?! (Really unhealthy bread. Mmmmm.)

Rachel came over for dinner and I made a yummy thing. Yay!

Spent way too much money at Ikea, uh oh

My hair is getting very long now. Trying to get more experimental with fancy braids. Alex described this one as 'evil aunt from a Disney movie' and I'm into it

The Quakers are LOVELY and despite having been going to their church for like a year and a half, I have been utterly terrible at being social and staying behind afterwards and making friends. Some of them persist with me though, in a way that is utterly sweet and wonderful (especially Catherine, who is so very kind about my 'art' — I still lol a little inside whenever anyone calls me an artist but I GUESS IT'S TRUE?)

Anyway, September is finally done and I have NO PLANS for October, let's see whether this is good or whether I just get sad really quickly. (I'm already craving another adventure, what have I become?!)