Thursday, 31 December 2009

At The Turn of the Year... oldie, but it still has a certain something.

Happy New Year. X

Monday, 28 December 2009

Boxing Day Triptych

...and then I watched these little fellows as they sat watching Christmas TV.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Titmouse On My Trail

All this snow looks fabulous but it's too cold to go out and draw. So I stayed in the warm and watched these little fellows through my window...

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas Print

For the past ten years or so I've always made a drawing for Christmas. This gets used on a card etc. Since seeing a rare White Hart in Thetford forest earlier this year I've been thinking about the mythological and ghost-like qualities of deer, so this year's subject sort of chose itself. I normally pick a line of poetry or a quote from a favourite writer as a text. This year it's William Blake, from Proverbs of Hell, 1790.

From the December sketchbook

I was sitting quietly sketching shoppers in Cambridge last week. A young indian guy comes up and looks over my shoulder: "You should get yourself a digital camera mate".

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

New Prints

Two new prints designed for Helen Edwards and Infinity Bunce's bumper Christmas exhibition at Shoreditch Town Hall.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Potter on Rupert

Dennis Potter was not only the grandson of one of our great drawing heroines Beatrix Potter, but also a wonderfully creative TV playwright. Here are his thoughts on Rupert Murdoch. Fifteen years old but still completely relevant.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Holy Switch Board

This will mean nothing unless you know what it means...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Hackney Hospital 1979

Been walking not drinking recently.

And reading.

Iain Sinclair’s ‘Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire’. I’m a long-time Sinclair fan.
But this one is particularly redolent for me. Long-forgotten names and places rise from these pages like an evening mist. 1970’s Alternative London. My first proper job, between art schools, was at Hackney Hospital on Homerton High Street. Paid to paint life-size illustrations of the Whitechapel Waste for the walls of the London Hospital. It’s a complicated story and involves the Elephant Man and anarchist art squats in Murder Street and it’s something to go into at greater depth at a later point. In the meantime, here’s me brooding on a requisitioned old scooter that I smuggled up into one of the deserted floors of the block we were given as a ‘studio’. I had a vague notion of restoring it but it never happened...

Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Gates of Hell

A couple of miles south of here is the site of the "Most Haunted House in England", Borley Rectory. Numerous books have been written about it and there are plenty of websites. I've taken people up there many times but in truth, there's little now to see. No signs lead to Borley, the church is always locked and the locals actively discourage tourists and ghosthunters. The house itself burnt down in 1939 and bungalows have been built on the site. All that remains of the old estate are these gates that I snapped earlier this evening. Happy Halloween...

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Shoreditch Types...

For one reason or another I sometimes find myself in the Shoreditch area of London. When I first knew it decades ago, it was a gloomy, Dickensian labyrinth of tight cobbled lanes and alleyways connecting shadowy Victorian railway arches, decaying warehouses and dormant manufacturing workshops. Like other pockets of forgotten and unfashionable London at the time, it had a distinctly eerie ghost-town atmosphere. Now of course, it is far, far from that. A super-fashionable ‘artistic’ quarter, the factories and shops have long given way to ‘NY-style loft apartments’ and bars, galleries, bars and more bars encourage the streets to teem with revellers almost 24 hours a day. Not really my cup of tea. But the strenuous sartorial efforts of some of these ‘bohemians’ still amuse. To misquote Garrison Keilor: “Hoxton Square - where the women are strong, the children average, and the men dress like village idiots...”

Big Bird

Over the last two years I’ve occasionally seen a large broad-winged bird circling high on the thermals of the wide Suffolk skies near where I live. Now I’m pretty familiar with all the usual suspects, but once in a while you catch something from the corner of your eye and you just think “what was that?” I did once have a camera in the car with me, but by the time I’d pulled over and got the lens on it it was heading for the horizon and could have been anything. Another time, it appeared to hover directly above me and I watched it long enough to be able to grab an envelope and do this little memory sketch shortly afterwards. It’s a Buzzard. They’re more common in the West of Britain, but increasingly they seem to be turning up in the East, apparently swept here by strong winds.

Saturday, 10 October 2009


Just for a change a drawing not by me, but by my young brother Eugene. Eugene went through a bit of a ska/2-tone phase when he was at school and this drawing is from that time. It could be The Specials but I think it's a made-up group. I just love the attention to the smallest details. Eugene was a talented drawrer and briefly toyed with the idea of going to art college, but he decided his interests lay elsewhere. Eugene died suddenly in 1989. We still really miss him and talk about him often.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Small Chap with Large Hair

This fellow walked past me in Bury St Edmunds yesterday - all smart in fitted overcoat, shiny cuban-heeled winkle-pickers and fashionably huge hair. But it was a very blustery day and I thought he and his hair were about to take off at any moment...

Friday, 2 October 2009

2 Girls...

2 girls in the street. Still in 'Fish Tank' mode maybe....


A few street studies from Cambridge earlier this week. Was there to catch up with the wonderful Darwin exhibition at the Fitzwilliam and also Andrea Arnold’s tough but tender little film ‘Fish Tank’. Both recommended.


A fifteen minute pencil sketch of one of my favourite models. (42 x 59.4 cm.)


Took a couple of quick reference photos of my hands the other day for a drawing I was working on. The colour echoes are completely co-incidental but I quite like it. I used to have quite slender little hands, long and sensitive ‘artists’ fingers. But judging from this I seem to be ending up with my dad’s hands - pudgy little ex-boxers dukes.

Friday, 25 September 2009

The The at Shepherd's Bush

Here’s a little rarity. A quick thumbnail of brother Matt and his group onstage at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire 6/4/00. This was being used as a bookmark in a long abandoned novel and only fell out onto the carpet a couple of weeks ago - I vaguely remember jotting it down in situ as the set opened. But why, I don’t know - I have rarely ever drawn live bands. The only other time was a Television gig in the late seventies. Tom Verlaine and his band projected a slightly more cerebral experience than most punk groups at the time and it probably seemed (to my aspiring teenage mind) more appropriate to sit and sketch rather than just trash the seats and throw plastic lager glasses... sadly those drawings seem to have been lost for good. Perhaps just as well....

An East Anglian Alp

I love walking big hills and small mountains. Sadly, Suffolk only has a few... sometimes you just have to improvise.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Local Colour

... not all abstractions. A spread of local types from last week.

Vague Creatures

My work seems to be undergoing some sort of abstract shift lately. Sketchbooks are filling up with this sort of thing... don't know what it means yet but kindof like it...


Went to the Cambridge Film Festival to see my brother Gerard's first full length film 'Tony'. Very black and very enjoyable, it will be properly released early next year - more can be found out about it here. In the meantime, a little thumbnail sketch from ten years ago: Gerry engrossed in one of his favourite books - 'Halliwell's Film Guide' ....

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


Rather like the word “cool”, skulls have become a terribly lazy cliche in the visual grammar of the modern world. They are so ubiquitous that they almost don’t register anymore. But sometimes you come across something in it’s original context and it is still powerful enough to make you look twice. Here's a handful of images from local churches.

The churches in East Anglia are it's real jewels. They are cool and dark and musty smelling but get to know them and each one has it’s own atmosphere, it’s own characteristics, and it’s own intriguing treasures. Some are overblown and pretentious, others touching in their artless simplicity. But all are wonderful places to quietly poke around or just to sit and contemplate matters of spiritual (or not) concern.

(The definitive guidebook is Mortlock's Guide to Suffolk Churches. But there is also a superb and comprehensive online guide to the churches of Suffolk and Norfolk here. But you can’t beat getting out on foot and visiting a few of them.)

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Two Puddings

The 'Puddings' was my Mum and Dad's pub in Stratford E.15 and where we lived in the 1960's. The 'Devil's Kitchen' was a nightclub/dance hall above the pub and run by my Dad and his brothers and was decorated like a psychedelic ghost train with day-glo murals of ghouls and monsters all lit with ultra-violet light. It made a massive and indelible impression on my young mind and I loved playing in there during the day. Not too many pictures of it's interior remain but this old poster is very evocative...


No idea who this is. I often like to just sit and draw people as they come and go about their business. You soon learn to draw very fast. I try to pin down facial expressions, not always successfully. This girl looks a bit in distress but she was probably just laughing. But I like it.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

On and Off The Buses...

... in Forest Gate. From one of last year's sketchbooks.


Two dead blackbirds in the garden this week. Don’t know what that’s about but it prompted me to post this drawing of Boris. Boris was the resident cock blackbird a couple of years ago. He kept a weather eye over his patch from deep inside the laurel bush. He quite quickly became tame and would come just inside the the kitchen door and chirp for food. Soon he would take mealworms from my hand with no worries at all. He was a good father and husband, foraging tirelessly to provide for his family. At the end of one summer he just disappeared and I never saw him again...

His place has been taken by Bert - another hard-working patriarch. But Bert is altogether more wary and shows little curiosity about people - much more interested in fighting with a rival male blackbird from next door - they both frequently appear with feathers missing and looking generally roughed up.

(below is Boris on his favourite perch in my studio. I share my work space with all sorts of wildlife - it's both an amazing and comforting privilege).

Friday, 11 September 2009

Life Class

Once a week I try to meet up with a small group of fellow artists and a model and we draw 'from life' for a few hours. I believe the life class is as fundamental to an artist's practice as the gym is to an athlete. Sometimes the results can be artworks in themselves. But often it's simply the purest way of keeping your vision sharp - if you don't use it you'll lose it... and so forth. Here are a couple of quick sketchbook poses from this week's session... the model was heavily pregnant and made for some really beautiful shapes.

Another Green Man...

Trudging along an ancient green lane the other evening I came across this (click on the photo above for a bigger picture). I don’t know if it’s a work in progress or if it’s been abandoned, but I like it. It’s that hoary old pagan symbol the ‘green man’, carved neatly into the flank of a dead tree. It’s just something that you come upon and it delights you. It can be found a few miles outside Sudbury but I won't say exactly where - it’s for others to stumble across accidentally like I did.

I do like things like this. I once came across some wind-chimes made from animal bones strung high up in a tree many miles from the nearest road. Who placed them there and when I have no idea. You could hear them eerily click-clacking in the breeze above your head. I love this sort of stuff. Subtle little interventions that help re-invest a sense of mystery and surprise into the landscape around us.