Ladies and Gentlemen of the internet, and especially those in the East Anglian area of Britain, you are cordially invited to:

I am honoured to be exhibiting some of my work amongst well established artists at this fine independent gallery in King’s Lynn in a couple of weeks time. All the works are inspired by the title, and will feature printmaking, photography, sculpture and mixed media pieces.

The exhibition is a King’s Lynn Festival fringe event that runs for the entire duration of the festival, which is a long established cultural celebration that attracts big names and lots of visitors to the town each year.

Greyfriars Art Space is an independent artist led initiative that provides professional exhibition space and affordable studio workspace, directly opposite the Town’s iconic Greyfriars Tower. Please support your local arts spaces and galleries.

I’ll post a little more in the week before, but for now, put it in your diary!

On reading books

For the first few years of blogging I posted up a monthly list of the books I had read and a playlist of music that had formed the soundtrack to each month, but eventually stopped. To some, that would indicate that I have given up reading and adopted a more monkish silent order, but nothing could be further from the truth. I continue to read (and reread) a wide variety of real, physical books – no ebooks for me – I spend enough time staring at a screen as it is!  So books are a welcome, tactile object that are comforting and easier on my eye (alas, my reading glasses are much stronger than they used to be!)

I have noticed that I am talking about reading more often these days. Not just the act of reading – emails, twitter and facebook feeds etc, or even online articles which are usually kept deliberately short, or even mainstream magazines which all seem to be lists, pull-quotes and advertising these days, like we are incapable of engaging with anything that would require us to stop and concentrate for a while, or challenge us, surprise us or amaze us.

Some of the books I read have not been ‘easy readers’ and have had me frequently reaching for the iPad to google something or use the dictionary (which my children find very amusing because of it’s quaintness). For many, this is too much like hard work and is, I suspect, the primary reason for the popularity of Dan Brown and others of his ilk. Still, it’s better to read any book than not read at all. But me, I like a challenge.

I enjoy expanding my general knowledge and learning new stuff. I like to be taken away by a story and engage with their characters, their emotions and experiences, to walk their streets and fight their fights. I have been transported around the world (and sometimes far from it) and travelled through time, from the stone age to several millenniums beyond now. Some books were so good I didn’t want to leave and have since re read many times to return to what have now become familiar places and am able to notice new things within the story, a bit like someone who takes their holidays in the same place every year and who enjoys the familiarity, but instantly notices what has changed since the last visit.

A good story should leave us with something. Even if it is the frustration of having finished it and can’t start reading a new one because you are still mentally or emotionally connected to it. I’m sure the germans have a good word for that.

The books themselves and the stories they contain are only the physical part of the experience. It is how we as individuals engage with them that increases their value. It is a little like alchemy; the books themselves are the raw materials, the letters printed on each page their DNA, and we are the cauldron in which these base elements are combined. It is our imaginations that have the capacity to transmute them from the language of the author and create the ‘gold’ that is the experience of a good book.

Warning: this next sections sounds like I’m a whining old fart.

So why is it that ever fewer people read books these days? Especially young people – there, I’ve said it! This is not a tirade on the young, just a lament on the decline of reading for pleasure. Its not surprising though, as there are so many other distractions competing for attention, especially the smartphone and all its technical wizardry.

The problem I see with this is that whilst the smartphone offers a myriad of opportunities to occupy your time, much of what is found there is reduced to bullet points, lists and memes, liberally interspersed with pictures of cute kittens of course, as well as everyones own opinion, whether you like it or not. We have almost unlimited access to the worlds knowledge at our fingertips. Learning, literature, music, film, bullshit – all available.

And herein lies the problem; with all this information easily available almost anywhere, for many people there is little use for retaining any of it, and this worries me quite a lot. With reading – not just skim reading, but reading books – any books, factual or fiction – requires the reader to engage with the information they read and allows opportunities for broader perspectives, comparative responses and intellectual stimulus. It can develop our own emotional and intellectual viewpoints, question our convictions or confuse us on previously held understandings.

This allows us to actually own the stuff we read. The more we read, the more connections we make, whether we recognise it or not. I have had the pleasure of experiencing that wonderful moment when reading, that something else read previously made more sense, or even joined up several unrelated threads gained over many years that suddenly throws the switch on a eureka moment on a particular subject. Thats a great feeling. I’m sure the germans have a good word for that too.

So what may become of us after several generations where list-reading, meme liking, gossip flinging and first page googling are the norm? I’m not certain, but I’m sure it has already begun and the zombie apocalypse is already upon us. But instead of ravaged corpses shuffling around with arms outstretch murmuring “brains, delicious brains”, I’m already seeing once ordinary people shuffling around staring at their palms murmuring “memes, more memes” and ‘just one more kitten Gif and I’ll stop”.

And on that note, I will switch off and go finish my book.

PS. If anyone is interested, I’m re-reading José Saramago’s ‘Blindness’ – a brilliant story by one of the worlds very best writers. He’s not an easy read, but well worth the effort…

PPS. I’m also listening to Black Slipper on a daily basis…

Very Disappointed

The incredible Black Slipper have recently released a follow up EP to the critically acclaimed (by me) debut I wrote about in February.

Just like their first release Black Slipper are in a Tangle, Black Slipper are Very Disappointed is a seamless companion piece – I like to think of it as ‘Side 2’ as I generally play the 5 new tracks like the flip side of a new album!

The South Yorkshire duo continue to discharge contagious licks and undeniably groovy beats, combined with their own brand of surreal and slightly menacing lyrics, sautéed in a distillation of post-punk ambience.

Along with ‘In a Tangle’, Very Disappointed’ is available to download and stream at all reputable purveyors of digital musicology, including SpotifyGooglePlay, iTunes, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer and Shazam. Go listen – stream or download – it doesn’t matter, but go do it anyway. You won’t be disappointed.

It’s on the cards

Playing cards are often overlooked for their graphic qualities, probably because of the familiarity and repetition of symbols and numbers. Granted, not all sets of playing cards are graphically distinctive and so they all tend be much of a muchness.

I’ve recently acquired a few packs of cards, all of varying vintage, and enjoyed examining their details, so I thought I would share a few images with you. The first two packs are not traditional playing cards, but are a card game called Lexicon that originated in the 1930’s.

This set comes in a nifty gold slipcase but I am not certain that this is original as the cards are a little shorter and do not fit as snugly as they ought to. The cards are nice, and there are a few additions to the main deck:

This next pack is definitely original and wears its vintage with distinction! I’m not able to date the packs, but I would guess that they are both quite early – maybe late 1930’s/early 1940’s.

This pack also contained the original rules sheet!

The next pack is a luxury faux snakeskin double pack…

With two pristine packs of corporate branded playing cards of the traditional variety. The company, British Insulated Callanders Construction Company Limited has a long and varied history, and although no longer a going concern, one of its subsidiaries – Balfour Beatty – is still going strong.

The design is very mid century modern and was probably produced for the Festival of Britain in 1951…

The last pack is an Esso promotional pack with the name of the dealer neatly letterpressed on the front.

The real delight is the illustration that adorns the back of the cards, the legendary D-Type Jaguar driven by Mike Hawthorne, probably to celebrate his win at Le Mans in 1955. Lovely.

Here come the snakes…

I have recently come into the possession of a well-used part of that old favourite board game Snakes and Ladders and thought I would share its wonderful illustrations and moral intention with you fine people. As far as I can ascertain, it dates from anywhere between 1890 – 1914 and has been clearly enjoyed by several generations!

As one might expect with any child oriented product of the late victorian period, each snake or ladder clearly demonstrates the cause and effect of their respective vices and virtues, charmingly illustrated by a variety of characters acting out their roles. I’ve included all the picture squares paired up just to bring the images together. Enjoy.

Many thanks to my friend Hilary for this and other goodies!

The world is all gates*

I’ve been working on another craft beer project recently, and am able to share a few images of work in progress with you…

The South Gates in King’s Lynn stands over the main route into the town (to the delight and frustration of visitors and motorists!) and dates way back to the 14th century. The building is actually one of the oldest brick built structures in the country – the stone facade was added a century later. King’s Lynn has many historic buildings, most of which feature upon local publicity, but the South Gates is much less used than the others, so what better symbol to represent the home town of a new enterprise – the South Gates Brewery.

Each of their beers is named after the orders of monks that were based here and still lend their names to different areas of the town, even though the friaries are long dissolved…

The full labels are almost complete so I will be able to share them next week! Cheers…

*The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Eastern Promise

I headed out to Comer with my youngest daughter Lower Case on Saturday on what turned out to be a day that really promised that Spring was in the air! We took a bunch of photos for here GCSE project, but I snapped a few shots too and I thought I would share them with you.

I never understood the implied romance of being under the boardwalk but I did like the colours and textures, as well as the utilities for the pier amenities, cunningly hidden in plain sight…

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

Money for old rope…

I’ve just finished an illustration for an new craft beer and thought I’d share it with you. I can’t tell you anything about the brand just yet, but hope to share it with you eventually.

The design called for a illustration of a nautical style knot – specifically, a reef (or square) knot with the ends tied off in a wall knot, like this:

I needed to explore the shape of the knot and scale of the the rope to match the composite on the brief, and add depth in the form of hard shadows:

This image then required distressing to give the impression that this was a vintage diagram, with a much looser feel than the digital drawing. This was first put through another digital process that allowed me some carefully controlled manipulation before transferring the drawing to a block of lino:

I did about half a dozen prints of varying quality which were then scanned.

Finally, the scans were converted to vectors and some further manipulations were made to clean up the frayed ends of the rope, resulting in:

I’ll share the full design just as soon as I can!

The Jack Newton Radio

After some fine tuning, the cover for ‘The Jack Newton Radio’ is complete, all the chapter headings have been inserted and I think it looks great! It has the right feeling of nostalgia and location, and with its limited colour palette. has a distinctive visual impact.

The full cover wraparound artworks looks like this:

The Jack Newton Radio can be purchased here. Go buy it now…