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Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Another one of my absolute favourite films I had COMPLETELY forgotten about until about a week ago. Watching Armando Iannucci’s the Death of Stalin on iPlayer, with my eyes a-popping at Jason Isaacs’ characterisation of the psychopathic Field Marshall Zhukov as a gruff bluff no-nonsense Northerner (I could happily watch him chucking off his coat on a loop all day) I suddenly remembered the other military gruff bluff no-nonsense Northerner I first knew him as - namely the Colonel in Whitfield’s fairly unique supernatural comedy drama Skeletons. Based largely upon the activities of the troubled Davis and the more personable Bennett, a pair of sort of psychic investigators (the skeletons of the title are the figurative ones they find in their clients' wardrobes), the Colonel is their boss, dishing out assignments and intervening when an important case appears to be going off the rails due to the inconvenient positioning of a corpse road. It’s the kind of film where it helps to just go along with the supernatural goings on, but for me it’s a complete success down to the excellent and wholly convincing cast, particularly Andrew Buckley as the mild mannered Bennett, who kind of brings the whole thing together for me. It’s definitely a flight of fancy but never whimsical, and having watched it recently it’s funnier than I remember (I never thought of it as a comedy, though it is billed as such) and perhaps warmer though it has a kind of desperate longing borne of the tragedy of never really knowing what’s going on in someone else’s head. It seems to have been woefully largely forgotten, even by its biggest fans it turns out (ie me) and is quite hard to track down to stream, though the DVD is available on Amazon and you can buy the movie on YouTube. I finished the bulk of this illustration at midnight last night and I’ve been tweaking it ever since. I’m not hugely delighted with it (it’s too crowded, it looks too much like the film poster, the perspective’s a bit off etc etc) but keeping in the spirit of the #100ghosts project, I am going to post it anyway despite my reservations.

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This, the second of the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, tells the story of seventh son of a seventh son Will Stanton who discovers on his eleventh birthday, also the Winter solstice, that he is the last of the Old Ones, a select band of mystical beings charged with fending off the forces of Darkness. It’s a densely atmospheric fantasy and I haven’t come near to comprehensively capturing the story in this illustration, and would love to do more. But I liked the elemental nature of the rooks attacking the Walker, and it gave me the excuse to draw another tree.

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School Run

A few years back I did an access course at Exeter College, with a view to going on to do an art degree. The degree never happened but the access course itself was a catalyst. I'd all but abandoned any artistic notions I might have had as an arrogant and v annoying youth and was living in a dreadful hovel on the top of a draughty hill in Devon when I started to think that I should maybe start drawing stuff again. The course was a largely enjoyable, quite intense arty gauntlet which took in a bit of most visual art disciplines. My favourite remained boring old drawing, but I also got to do an awful lot of photography, using a variety of cameras exploring a wide range of styles. I had previous experience in a dark room having been taught how to develop photos as a teenager slightly mysteriously by my dad who seems to know how to do about 80% of everything. But I'm not naturally suited to the darkroom. I've got little patience with tweaking exposures and test prints and all that guff, hence the pictures I took as a kid were largely technically dreadful. Under the scrutiny of a tutor things slightly improved and although I knew I was never going to become a great photographer I could see how using photography, especially using film, could really lend itself to my drawing. The other day I was clearing out my studio, and as it happens and in the interests of transparency I did not find the photographs stashed away but it made me think about them. I found the tin can I had made as part of a book cover for William Boyd's brilliant novel Any Human Heart which set me off on a quest to find the photograph I had taken of it.

I can't find it, and having found the contact sheets, think I may have been underwhelmed by the final result but I did find lots of the other photos I took and printed. They were all taken in 2015-16 in mid Devon. Here are a few - they are technically pretty dreadful as I am far too slapdash but I think some of them are pretty nice images. I'm really not sure how interesting they would be to anyone else, I can't be nearly objective enough about them but I thought they were sort of indicative of where I was going style wise, and where I've ended up.

Steps, Fingle Bridge

Two trees in the small field

Outbuildings, which I turned into a Lino print

Dudders in the wood, Fingle Bridge

Path through the wood, Fingle Bridge

Edith and a chicken

Edith's tree

Edith's Emu

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