new header Blaugustine

7 March 2015


A small package arrived a couple of days ago with Destinataire in big bold beautiful handwriting above my name and address . I tore open the un-English soft brown wrapping paper to reveal something I have never in my life received before: an object beautifully made by hand especially for me: a scarf knitted by lovely Lucy in France, in a palette of colours she knew I would love because she's attentive and noticed the colours that often crop up on Blaugustine, and a quirky shape she knew I would love too, a kind of triangle with long tails that you could wear in lots of different ways. It has a perfect name as well - Baktus /Karius after Norwegian children's book characters, though Lucy is not sure why.

What I am sure of is that there is nothing in the world like a friend who knits a scarf for you and sends it to you out of the blue, just like that. Merci Lucie, merci encore!

Here it is in normal scarf mode.

Moi avec l'echarpe de Lucy

And here it is in hat and moustache mode, when I want to tame wild horses in Mongolia.

Moi moustachu avec echarpe Lucy

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4 March 2015


If you need inspiration,  a renewal of faith in humanity or just a recharging of your enthusiasm batteries, watch this video of Paulo Freire, the famous Brazilian educator/philosopher, at the end of his life, aged 75. Observe his eyes, his smile,  his you agree that he's got access to the fountain of youth?

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2 March 2015


is the title of a round-robin kind of project which the multi-talented writer, artist, publisher, blogger and good friend Beth Adams has invited me to participate in. It's a growing link-up of visual artists who are each asked to answer four questions, post the replies on their blogs, then nominate another artist who takes up the baton on the following Monday. Although I would not normally join a chain, I'm flattered that Beth invited me and besides, it obliges me to try and pin down some thoughts which have lately been flickering around my head like butterflies, evading my grasp. So I'll treat this as an inner investigation.

1. What am I working on?

Ever since finishing the 40+ relief blocks for the Trans-Siberian book - more than a year of exciting, demanding, concentrated and difficult work, now happily completed and out in the world in its final form - I've been wondering: what's next? I always find it easier to begin new work when the task is tied to some outside responsibility: a deadline, an exhibition, a book, a painting, an event - that is awaited by others. This sense of fulfilling an obligation (even one deliberately chosen by me) is a powerful motivator and confers a discipline that I otherwise lack. When there is no particular destination for a project I undertake - then I waver from one possibility to another and it's much harder to get going. So: what I'm working on now is deciding what I will work on now. Uppermost among possibilities is continuing the autobiography, and returning to Augustine, my alter-ego, in some new form.

Detail from The Lesson 1992   78 x 29 x 15 cms  Mixed media construction

The Lesson, close-up

2. How does my work differ from others of my genre?

How does Picasso differ from Braque? Van Gogh from Gauguin? Rembrandt from van Dyck? You'd need to go through the whole of art history, examine ancient and modern concepts of art and individuality, analyse specific artists' aims and influences. Nothing is absolutely new under the sun. To find my own voice in art means to shed influences I've outgrown and assimilate others which continue to inspire and strengthen me. A perceptive critic looking at all the work I've done over the years would be a better judge of whatever may be distinctive or innovative in it. Anyhow I don't know what my 'genre' is. I work in a lot of different ways: painting, printmaking, books, 3-D media, writing, comics, etc. and I hope to add more etceteras before I depart this planet.

Augustine and Inertia - 1985 - from the series The Augustine Adventures

Inertia cover
So much to do
Not doing much
Augustine ruminates
Mysterious force
Vile monster
Deep puzzle
Outrageous suggestion
Research intensifies
Kicks inertiaBack cover

3. Why do I create what I do?

Because it's what I know how to do. Because I've never wanted to do anything else. Because it allows me, at least some of the time, to remain a child in a world of adults.

Page from graphic novel-in-progress



4. How does my creating process work?

I suppose in much the same way as all creative processes do. The trigger might be a memory, an observation, a sudden spark, an encounter, a continuation, something heard, or read or seen. The trigger then becomes a desire to give shape, to give birth to the idea. Experiments with different forms, techniques, materials. Many many trials and errors. Allowing chance and intuition to have their say. Establishing discipline, a time-scale. Starting. Stopping. Starting again. Succeeding. Failing. Failing better. Starting again.

Detail from My Life Unfolds 2012  Accordion book


That's it.

I will now pass the Around-the-world-blog-hop baton to my friend Phil Cooper, an Englishman currently living in Berlin, whose collages and other artworks impressed me from the moment I first saw them. You're on next Monday, Phil!

To comment please go to my Mirror Blog

27 February 2015


Critical moments in my childhood

The Guardian online has just published this comic strip which I emailed them yesterday morning, in reply to a request in the Family section of the newspaper's print edition last Saturday, for early childhood memories. Here's the relevant Guardian page about their Witness project. Thanks Guardian, we meet again!

Lately I've been thinking that autobiographical material, depicted in some kind of cartoon style, is probably the visual language I feel most at home with. Defining one's own creative voice is a difficult, ongoing process and in my case, complicated by over-exposure to too many influences and languages, both literal and metaphorical. From earliest childhood I absorbed the sounds and inflections of French, Russian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, English and later on, Italian. Alongside this multilingual cacophony (which seemed normal) was a multi-dimensional, restless family lifestyle, never completely at home in any one place. So I suppose it's not surprising that I've always found it problematic to choose just one form of expression, one medium, one direction, one style that I can call "mine" among so many possibilities. But who knows, I might change my mind tomorrow.

To comment please go to my Mirror Blog

8 February 2015

Greek entheos - divinely inspired, possessed by a god

The enthusiasm with which many of us embraced blogging has dwindled with time, as most enthusiasms tend to do. No, I'll rephrase: it's not time which dilutes enthusiasm but one's own inability or reluctance or resistance to maintaining an enthusiasm as alive and fresh as it was when you first felt it for something which lifted you up, moved and challenged your creativity. If boredom or disillusion sneaked in and you allowed them to stay, a chance to go much deeper into that enthusiasm may well have been lost.

My own blogging enthusiasm, born in 2004, has indeed faded but it is by no means dead. One way the flame can be re-kindled is by the example of some bloggers who consistently, faithfully and skillfully plow their own patch of cyber-land and when a meeting with some of them in real life occasionally happens, it's a significant event. I am very fortunate that blogging has given me the gift of a few lasting friendships, subsequently reinforced by face to face encounters.

So it was that a few days ago I had the great pleasure of meeting Vincent, A Wayfarer's Notes and his wife Karleen. To have the two of them sitting at my table was as easy and natural as if we had known each other for years. When a blog is a reflection of a person's whole self, distilled and offered to the reader in thoughtfully wrought words (with or without pictures) then, if you meet in the real world, the artificiality of most social encounters is eliminated. I only discovered Vincent's blog fairly recently, led there by comments he had made elsewhere and when I began to browse his archive, I was hooked. Something in his approach which particularly resonates with me is summarised in two brief quotes I've pulled out of two separate posts:

I want to observe what goes on in my life, without tying it down into concepts; to talk about what happens, without naming.

When I sit at my desk trying to tell it how it is, words flee. Only when I look elsewhere, sniff the open air, read the book of Nature, catch the phrase someone utters, aloud or in a book, do I collect clues to define my true state.

Vincent (Ian) and Karleen

During the too-short two hours that Karleen and Vincent spent at my place and through browsing attentively in my blog archive, he collected not only sufficient clues to write an insightful review of La Vie en Rosé but also of 'the true state' of my work in general.

If you haven't yet discovered Vincent's blog, discover it now.

Enthusiasm, enthousiasmus, entheus....welcome back!

To comment please go to my Mirror Blog

17 January 2015


My New Year is starting off with a bang: not only is the Trans-Siberian ready to leave the station but I've also hooked up with a beautiful Pomegranate....what could be better than that?

Pomegranate Fine Art is Bill Garnett's online gallery and the above link leads to his FaceBook page where today he uploaded photos of some of my etchings from The Creation from the Book of Enoch, an artist's book I made in 1992. You can see details about it here as well as on Pomegranate. I still have a few unique proofs in colour and some black and white double sheets (including text) and these are all now for sale on Pomegranate Fine Art. The colour prints are also displayed on the Printed Editions website

Five and a half Hours in Paradise was the subtitle of The Creation from the Book of Enoch. It's also the title of this image.

Sugar-lift etching and aquatint on painted paper. 37 x 28.5cms. 1992

5 and a half hours in Paradise

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15 January 2015


I'm copying below the Newsletter that The Old Stile Press is sending out to their mailing list because I'm impatient to let everybody know about our wonderful collaborative production. If, when you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you gasp when you see the prices, allow me to make a little speech.

This is not the kind of book that you will buy on Amazon or see on the shelves of your local bookstore. It is more like an artwork than a normal printed book, although it is also a printed book. What makes it different is that there are only 150 copies (plus 10 Specials) signed and numbered, and that they are all exquisitely hand-printed and bound, and that they contain 43 original images - not reproductions - printed by Nicolas McDowall from the blocks which I drew, cut and proofed, and that Dick Jones' contemporary translation is closer to Cendrars' spirit and language than any previous ones published, and that it has the imprimatur of Blaise Cendrars' daughter Miriam Gilou Cendrars, and that the text is beautifully laid out and printed in 24 different colours, and that the binding is a joy to touch and stroke....I could go on!

But if you still think that such a book is expensive, consider how much it costs to buy a fine original print in a gallery. How much a case of fine wine? Dinner for two in a gourmet restaurant? You get my drift.

This isn't sales talk (well, sort of) but simply trying to change a mind-set which says that a book...a book! this price is outrageous. No. It is not. In this digital age when the physical presence of books may soon become only a memory, it's good to know that works like this can still be made.

Trans-Siberian Newsletter from the Old Stile Press

A slideshow of the whole book is on the Old Stile Press website at this link.

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11 January 2015


Be kinder to everyone, including myself. Less impatient. Less judgemental.
Stop wasting time. Focus more on less.
Get fit (have started the 5:2 fast diet).
Clear the backlog 'To Do' list completely.
Create, to the best of my ability.

Trivial, in view of tragic world events. But no words I can think of are adequate or relevant enough to encompass the enormity of tragedies afflicting humanity at this time.

So perhaps tiny gestures, tiny steps towards making things better in every area of my life, is at least something. Paying attention, noticing whoever needs help, understanding or support in my immediate environment, whether friend, family or stranger. Being open and honest and direct in my rapport with others, whatever the circumstances. Forgiving and forgetting real or imagined slights or failures in communication. Switching off the robot in my mind which endlessly repeats worn-out old patterns and stops me from moving on.

That's my New Year resolutions.

Selfie Jan. 2015

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21 December 2014


I've done two versions: the first one can be interpreted as a traditional image but I intended it as a memorial for all the children...and their mothers...and their fathers... who perished this year because of conflicts and disease and poverty and other disasters. It's a sad card, not in tune with all the jollity and buying and selling and eating and drinking. 

I cut the image in a vinyl block. The print below is on gold handmade paper but most of the others I printed were in black on white paper.

2014 Christmas card 1

My second card is more cheerful and represents a hopeful star in a hopeless world.

I drew it on a graphic tablet using ArtRage software then printed a few on fine art digital paper.

Digital xmas card 2014

I wish you all a serene and hopeful holiday, however you celebrate or escape from it, and may the New Year bring us, and the whole world, all the joy and peace we deserve.

Thank you for stopping by over here, my friends, you are always welcome and always appreciated.

To comment please go to my Mirror Blog

14 December 2014


Just the first two bound copies, not yet the full edition, but enough to show the beautiful printing and binding, the beautiful translation and the beautiful images. Congratulations to Nicolas and Frances McDowall (The Old Stile Press), to their binders in Northumberland, to Dick Jones and of course to yours truly, for all the hard work of completing this demanding, exciting and historic project. The final pages include afterwords by Dick Jones, Miriam Cendrars (Blaise Cendrars' daughter) and myself. Actual publication date, prices and the whereabouts of a launch are yet to be announced but watch this space and the OSP website.

As far as we know, this is the only illustrated version of Blaise Cendrars' famous poem to appear since the original edition of 1913, published and typeset by Cendrars himself with abstract images by Sonia Delaunay. A very interesting article about Cendrars appeared recently in the Times Literary Supplement which you can read here.

Technical details: the bound book in its slipcase measures 35.5 x 30.8 cms (14 x 13.5 inches). The slipcase is covered in bronze-coloured metallic cloth with a blocked-on image of Cendrars which I did for the half-title page. The binding is in red and blue Fabriano paper on boards with cloth spine. The standard edition consists of 150 copies bound as above. There are also 10 Special copies in a solander box containing the book plus a folder with 4 extra prints: two new images and two from the edition, all printed by me on paper I pre-coloured in acrylics (see photos below). I am informed by Frances that all but one of the Special copies have already been ordered.

Front cover-Trans-Sib

Back cover, Trans-Sib

Trans-Sib, open covers

TS half-title in French

The shadow stripes in the above and some other photos are not on the paper but from blinds on my window.

Ts-titlepage and slipcase

TS pages 12-13

TS pges 28-29


TS pages 40-41

TS 3 of 4 extra prints for Special Copies

Fourth print from Special Copies, T-S

Ts- Afterwords by  Natalie d'Arbeloff, Dick Jones, Miriam Cendrars.

TS colophon

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