Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Oldest Garden gets weeded out

It has been a while since I hauled out some really old artwork of mine. I feel in a bit of a retrospective mood; perhaps because I’m looking at my bank account and thinking about the money I used to make back as an advertising illustrator back in those heady days of the 80’s and 90’s and what I earn now. It’s true to say I can still buy a sav for $10 a bottle, but... frankly that says little about the wine.

This illustration was from the first book I had a go at; The Oldest Garden in China. The book after that (The Old Man and The Cat) was published and we came back to this one after a couple of false starts. When I say we, I mean the author Anthony Holcroft and I.
15 glorious double paged spreads rendered in airbrush, inks and coloured pencil, fairly well murdered by the hideous typesetting and design work offered up by the now defunct Whitcoulls publishing. Oh for Gecko Press back then!

When I look at this artwork I feel amazed and sad at the same time. Amazed because I spent 6 months illustrating that book in a way I doubt that I could ever do again; the eyesight just isn’t up to it anymore, and sad because it made negative dollars and was shuffled off onto the sale tables within months. But that’s the nature of publishing. You can be in or out at the market’s whim. Melinda Szymanik puts this perfectly in her latest blog.

I feel sad too, not just because I drink cheap wine, but my hopes and dreams at the naive age 24 of taking over the world as an award winning illustrator have materialised into an attic full of artwork twenty odd years later that the world might never see and my children may throw into a skip when my time is up. So praise be for the blog, the virtual publishing space where one might offer up your art-soul and if anyone is tempted to ask, sell it. Blame my commercial art training, but I’m pretty much anybody’s for a buck.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Artful Lodger

This morning I got a phone call from our 20 year old who normally lives at home.
‘Mum, I got here o.k,’ was sweet relieving music to my mother-worry ears. She is presently in Bristol, visiting the friends she made aged 13 on our two year adventure in Blighty. They are all grown up now, Uni students in the main but still firm friends thanks to Facebook, Myspace, chat and text. The most curious thing about her exodus to the U.K for three weeks is not that she kept in touch with her girlhood friends, or that she paid for the trip herself, but that she is intent on spending a week in London at the art galleries. Haley is in the second year of an art history degree at Victoria University and shows an exceptional skill for interpreting art and writing art speak. I am particularly proud of her for this talent which was not at all in evidence back in 2001 as the following poem, written for Next magazine at the time shows…

Culture Shock

I was hugely self indulgent,
In another life,
An egocentric hedonist
Who likely beat his wife.

Why else would I be punished
By being born again
Into the body of a mother,
With kids, thirteen and ten?

Now it’s not that I don’t love them;
They are the world to me,
Except when I’m in London
At the National Gallery.

Or the Abbey at Westminster,
The Globe, or V & A,
The Tate, St Paul’s, The Serpentine,
And the Burghers of Calais.

A lifetime’s opportunity
I find is roughly halved,
When they set up that old whining of
‘It's boring and I’m starved!’

So in my pursuit of culture,
On lengthy London marches
The only monument we went in
Was one with golden arches.