Walkin’ the Dawg

(2013-02-20 16-43-40)Canon Canon PowerShot A640 (2272x1704)For some months now I have been without a dog. Our lovely Border Collie, Suzi, had to be ‘put down’ (where does that dreadful expression come from?) when the pain of her arthritis and our pain at watching her suffer became too great. It was a merciful and gentle act that took place at home with her cradled in our arms. In dog years, she was ninety-eight and she was with us for seventy-seven of those, in and out of canoes, up and down mountains, proud of her buoyancy aid and panniers. Naturally she has left a gaping hole in our lives, but what I most miss is the early morning ‘walkies’, generally around an hour and mostly through local woodlands.

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You would imagine it isn’t difficult to maintain that routine dog-less, particularly in view of the benefits of starting every day with a therapeutic plunge into what the Japanese call ‘forest bathing’. But it has become all too noticeable that Suzi spurred us to put in miles that have now vanished from our weekly walking tally, and mind, body and soul are suffering as a consequence.

Of course the simple solution is to get another dog, but the one thing owning a mutt in the UK inhibits is international travel, particularly now that the dumb-arsed Brits have been suckered into leaving the EU. We are certainly ready to adopt a successor to Suzi, but have agreed to knock off a few foreign adventures first, making do with borrowing Elsa (another Border Collie) from a pal as often as doesn’t seem pushy.

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Returning to the fold of early morning dog walkers, I have noticed a sudden proliferation in ‘professional’ dog walkers, with their compartmentalised white vans (liveried with crass Disney cartoons and dreadful business tags like ‘Woofer-Walker’), their belts laden with more pouches than a Community Copper, and their wilting leaflets stapled to the first tree out of the car park. I have also noticed that the dogs they walk do not look happy dogs, but then I wouldn’t be too chuffed if I had to share my morning (and possibly evening) constitutional in close proximity to some loud-mouthed klutz who was up his own arse!

But what is it with people who own a dog but don’t stoop to walking their presumably beloved pet? Why get the beast in the first place? What do they do with them – pat them on the head when they come in from work, bung ‘em a bowl of Winalot and send them to their bed while Mummy and Daddy slob out to ‘Strictly…’ and a G&T?

Foxcovet.RaysF’crying out loud, get up an hour earlier and walk the bloody animal yourself! Get the exercise, smell the dew. I don’t care if it’s cold and dark, some of my most memorable ‘walkies’ have been in the ludicrously early hours, catching the sunrise, watching the mist burn off, glimpsing the badgers turning in for their ‘night’. Certainly Suzi never minded. The important thing for her was that she was with us, retriever of sticks, chaser of tree rats, and one of an exclusive pack.

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Ceramic Caricature – Ludwig van…

Beethoven, the caffeine addict (a 60 beans per cup man)

Beethoven, the caffeine addict (a 60 beans per cup man) by Brick

To add my bit to the 250th of Ludo, a life-size paper clay bust of the man himself as coffee junkie and (possibly) a Moor. Seems his mum might have had a touch of North African in her. Between the coffee and the genes, sorta explains the demented nature of his Seventh Symphony…

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And while I’m about it, how about the above for that brilliant cartoonist John Tenniel’s 150th? This is a not very good photo of a Giles jigsaw (50p from charity shop) hanging on my wall in which Grandma deserts the family picnic to down a pint at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Note the two different style…

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Sizewell C (and D) Agitprop Comic

Just to prove the art of agitprop comic making isn’t dead, below is a A4 folded jobbie for TASC and Extinction Rebellion. Rather amazingly, they pretty much left it to me to decide what I would do, and then fell about laughing when I did it!

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Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol

Arnos.7.One of the most enjoyable promenades a city walker can make has to be around the urban cemeteries that largely came into existence during the Victorian period, particularly if a respectable chunk of the graveyard has fallen into disrepair and been overrun by nature. Aside from the joy and tranquility of escaping the noise and eye-clutter of the urban environment, a wander around last resting places is a stroll through a people’s history of the locale, as expressed not only by the dedications engraved into the memorials but the very nature of the architecture of headstones, catacombs and obelisques, and the bric-a-brac some authorities still allow relatives to leave for the departed. By the mid-20th century, many of our town cemeteries were full to capacity and legislation to permit cremation was passed to provide an alternative, so the history is a snapshot of little more than the 150 year transition from Victorian to Modern via two world wars and various colonial conflicts. It is a period that marked the rise of the middle class, the entrepeneur and professional, and they weren’t going to leave their mortal coil without making sure people remembered them through the grand monuments they left behind. That the plot next door was to be occupied by a mere commoner or worse, a paupers’ grave where cadavers were stacked one one top of another was beyond their control.

Possibly the most evocative urban cemetery outside of London is the 45 acres of Arnos Vale in the heart of Bristol, particularly if visitied on a crisp and foggy winters day. Tumbling down a hillside, it is a beautifully ramshackle and  neglected place, laced with muddy desire lines and winding paths, teeming with wonderful woodland plants and wildlife, and studded with fascinating memorials. Grim though it is and looking a lot like a steam-punk version of The Iron Giant, there is even an early furnace in the bowls of the café that I recommend starting with, just to get you in the mood!

Find out more here.

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Albert’s Ninth

The first stab at a script for this comics novella emerged from musicologist Jonathan James in July 2017. Rather remarkably it took us nine months and nine versions before we nailed the script to our joint satisfaction, ready for Brick to start drawing it up. One year later, to the month, the artwork is complete and the daunting challenge of visualising classical music has been surmounted.

The story is a comedy conflating two concerns that plague classical music – the Curse of the Ninth, that saw so many famous composers into an early grave, and the historic lack of opportunities for female composers.

Now all Jonathan and myself need is a visionary publisher who appreciates there is a market for a music comic that isn’t about punk, rap, blues or pop music. Below, samples of various ways in which we handle the music. Scroll over to pause fades.

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‘Master Race’ by Bernie Krigstein

Written by Al Feldstein, this remarkable comics story was published in 1955 in EC Comics’ Impact first in series. Aside from the strong narrative, Krigstein’s depiction of expanded time on the final page is now a comics art classic (eat your heart out, Sam Peckinpah!), but prepare to be dazzled by his handling of the strobe effect of flashes of the passengers as the train travels through. There is so much to admire in this piece of work, I’ve enlarged the original page size to enhance your appreciation of an illustrator at the top of his game. To learn more, start with Everything 2.

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St. Kilda Talk

StKilda@5Leaves

 

Book tickets here – info@fiveleaves.co.uk

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‘Albert Angst’s Ninth’

Albert.P1

The opening page of my latest opus. Co-written with musicologist Jonathan James, Albert Angst… riffs on the misfortune that appears to have plagued too many classical music composers, that of dying during or shortly after creating their ninth symphony. Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak, Mahler, Bruckner and several lesser composers all fell victim to the curse. But classical music has also been cursed by a lack of women composers. As the deadline gets ever closer for him to present his ninth to his publisher, Albert becomes increasingly creatively paralysed, and when his wife offers to anonymously compose it for him, well… the ghosts of the cursed are less than ecstatic!

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In the Beginning… 1968!

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This self-portrait from the mists of time was recently unearthed by my daughter while rummaging through her attic. I have no memory of doing it but, judging from the date, it comes from a time when I was teaching myself to draw. In ’68 we were more interested in tearing down the State than laying the foundations for a career in art, which meant weeks of sit-ins and strikes at the college I attended, in solidarity with everything May ’68 meant in Paris but with an added protest against the indolence of our lecturers. I went to an art college expecting to be taught how to draw, expecting to spend hours in life drawing classes, but quickly discovered none of our fine art lecturers could wield a pencil to any great effect. It was the era of typed statements and emotionless, impenetrable photographs that constituted so-called Conceptual Art. Of that year’s intake, I am the only graduate who went on to actual make a living from my art, if you can call cartooning such.

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60th Birthday Caricature

Bil60th.A5.lowresIn case you get the impression that Brick is strictly a monochrome B&W sorta ‘toonist, behold the full splendid colour of a private commission for young Bill’s 60th birthday, featuring the back of him cycling up Mount Ventoux in France, which was his heart’s desire for the great day, carrying his whole extended family in panniers with grandchildren running along side.

Also a piccy of Bill’s wife, Jennie, presenting him with the commemorative ‘toon after the event somewhere yummy near the mountain. Check out the delight…

Bill&Toon

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