Monday, 31 December 2018

December 2018

It's the end of the month and also the end of the year, and I'm guess I'm feeling kind of meditative. Lots of people are posting their Instagram best 9's and writing about how 2018 has been tough/amazing/complicated/hope-filled/a year of growth and change, and... You know, all of the above from here too.

I've spent a lot of my year with this boy, the first full calendar year of Charlie. (Although we have actually had him for nearly two years now). Despite all of that, and my ever growing love for him, I am still utterly incapable of drawing him well.

I realise now that I've made two drawings this month to which I've just applied the word 'drifting'. (And probably several more this year). It's a strange thing... It's been an extraordinarily busy year but at times I feel like I'm just coasting on a wave. Waiting for the next big thing. The next train. The next embraces. The next adventures. The next big project. Especially through the winter months, I'm just riding out the cold so I can emerge fresh on the other side and figure out what's next.

And I drift, and I drift, and it gets darker and darker... Winter's hard, and bad, as it always is, but maybe not as hard and bad as last year was. The weather hasn't been too awful (not very cold and less rain than some years), which is helpful. I'm worried I'm tempting fate by saying that now though, but maybe we'll be okay...

Our friend Jasmine organised a delicious vegan Christmas dinner cooked by Teatime Collective in a shipping container in Hulme. It was GREAT.

As discussed, can't draw the boy. I want to get better at drawing comic style illustrations too, but have a long way to go in that respect as well. (Next time you see him, throw him a treat. It's honestly hilarious and he's used to us all laughing at him by now...)

It's a big winter mood.

Eggsmas was a joy — so delighted to be part of the Egg Factory's always-excellent (eggsellent, lol sorry not sorry) weekend-long winter fair. Selling my zines and prints on Saturday, and running a letterpress activity on Sunday, both were a lot of fun, and always so nice to see so much of Hebden Bridge's community come through and say hello.

Here's a tired bad drawing of London work and fun with some of my favs. Travelled down south for a few days of festivity (I mean, mostly work. But some festivity.)

Can't draw dogs, and my parents puppy is no exception (She's very lovely though)

Back in Brighton and SO TIRED. Spent much of the week feeling sure I was ill, and maybe I was, but its only manifestation was in a kind of intense, crippling exhaustion. It was the night that some nonsense was kicking off with Theresa May and my choices were either to glaze over in front of my friend James' big projector screen and watch it all unfold, or drag myself over to one of my favourite live music rooms and try and be energised. I managed the latter in part, made it to the show (Miho Hatori) but entirely failed to be energised.

Always delighted to get some Planet India treats in my belly, best Indian food in Brighton, in case you were wondering

Office party time! My EIGHTH somehow... Different since I starting working part time/remotely, but no less lovely.

Then back to London for the Brainfeeder 10th anniversary show at Brixton Academy. I had been SO excited for this, despite generally not enjoying big venue shows... The lineup was just incredible, basically ALL absolute favourites of mine (testament to the incredible work Brainfeeder does) — Iglooghost, Lapalux, Dorian Concept, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Ross from Friends, with DJ sets in between from PBDY and Gilles Peterson. All amazing, BUT I am still genuinely very grumpy that Brixton academy had SUCH terrible sound. I last went there for a show 10 years ago — it was awful then and still is now. It was a crime to put on such a terrible lineup in a room that sounded so very bad.

I still had fun, but damn.

An ongoing concern. Working hard on my listening and general 'don't be too much' skills for 2019, yo.

I got home and our lovely friend Stephen came to visit. We played Carcassone and Bananagrams, which with such a ridiculously huge boardgame collection as Alex's in the house, don't always make it to the table that often, but I still love them.

Still trying to paint a little. Winter studies.

Nearly out the other side of winter's darkest days.

We've all been victims a little this year of our own and each other's highs and lows, trials and tribulations. But my chosen family are my favs and I'm so lucky to have them. We've had such a joyous Christmas of being gentle with ourselves and eating all the foods and it's been perfect. On the 21st we went to Sainsburys and bought EVERYTHING then watched Die Hard while eating.

It has been really good to have a few days of downtime after an (entirely self-inflicted) frenetic year of work and play, but... Maybe I'm not actually very good at downtime

Having said what I said earlier about the weather being a bit better this year, 2018 has definitely been a winter of FOG so far. That's okay though cos I kind of like fog.

An IMPRACTICAL anniversary date, now seven years in. It's not always been easy this year, but we grow and we change, and we shape ourselves around each other with love and care and patience and kindness as best we can muster. I'm lucky to have this sweetheart in my life still.

Christmas day we mostly just sat really still and it was great.

More of that fog. Emerging through

I just can't keep away. (Also, I'm not some kind of... I dunno, rich person? I've never even been in either House of Fraser or Harvey Nichols before, but I needed to buy a suitcase and they seemed to be the best places...)

The annual tradition of Christmas II lives on! We cooked a big delicious vegan roast for a whole bundle of people, and then had ALL of the desserts to follow. It was wonderful and warmth-filled and we're so lucky to have such sweet friends. Thank you to everyone who came out!

Drifting, again, through those in-between days...

Soon we'll have to confront the real world again, but not quite yet.

2019 is just on the horizon and its early days already have so much in store, I am terrified and excited in equal measure. I can't wait to get started.

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.