Last week I visited the Eco-Visionaries exhibition at the Royal Academy in London and, along with eight other visitors (numbers were limited each time) in a darkened room, watched moon jellyfish perform slow and hypnotic movements across a screen. How much can you draw in the dark? There is no pressure to draw perfectly, the darkness encourages a feeling of freedom of expression. Soon I will encourage workshop participants to draw sounds only, in complete darkness, and look forward to seeing the results.
Yesterday was the launch of the second Swedenborg Review and a delightful celebration of Swedenborg’s birthday. Devin P. Zuber gave an intriguing talk about his new book A Language of Things. Amongst other topics his talk considered the threat of extinction to many wildlife species in the 19th century, but seemed to ignore the fact that the original peoples of America were facing extinction at that time.
The latest Review mentioned my Hand Book, now on sale at the Swedenborg House shop, and includes suitably mysterious and evocative photographs of Swedenborg’s summer house by Anonymous Bosch, using a pinhole camera. I’m particularly interested in the summerhouse, re-sited in Skansen near Stockholm, which I visited one summer when I was a very small child. A visit to Skansen features in Sputnik, my graphic story, a work in progress. I’m looking forward to running another workshop at Swedenborg House in May.
What do you wear when visiting an Astronomer Royal? Star socks of course. Lovely friends Bridget Marzo and Kit Prendergast invited me to join them on Christmas Eve for a festive treat – to attend a Kings Chapel Carol service then to a small party held by the Astronomer Royal and his wife. A professor of anthropology wearing a tweaked felt cap introduced herself and studied me briefly. ‘You’re not one of us, are you?’ Bother, I’d been spotted as an outsider in the rarified atmosphere of Cambridge academia. The blue streak in my hair was a giveaway apparently. Or the socks.
One of the many children’s books I’ve illustrated in the past is The Comic Strip History of Space which I rather shamelessly brought with me to give to the AS, although suggesting it might be a little on the young side for him, as it’s aimed at readers of six upwards. He has since told me he’s lent the book to a young space rocket designer (aged ten). The AS was a delight to talk to. We chatted briefly about the possibilities of future space exploration and its implications, and discovered a shared admiration for Frank Hampson’s 1950s comic space hero Dan Dare.
Very happy to be asked to run workshops at Swedenborg House again, and wonderful to see more impressively creative work from children. One family came back for the third time! I encouraged children to draw a comic strip about their inventions – Swedenborg was a prolific inventor – after a session drawing facial expressions with the help of young volunteers who pulled faces for us all.
Last week I took some intrepid space explorers (see above) to the Guardian to take part in their Reading For Pleasure conference. The explorers were popped into my trusty Hat of Surprise so that a dozen or so primary school teachers could pick one and decide on their characteristics before taking them on a journey of exploration, overcoming (or not) all perils on the way. Great fun and some intriguing results from participants.
My first visit to Pollocks Toy Museum in London’s Fitzrovia district was many years ago with my young daughter. An added delight at the moment is a series of artists’ responses to the collection. Where else could you see singing dolls and a floating parcel? I’m very pleased that copies of my Hand Book (of hopes and dreams) is now on sale in this mysterious and entrancing museum.
Limited edition prints of The Hand Book images are available by contacting me via my website email.
One of my baby spiders – which feature in my Draw It! Monsters book – found a home on the front page of the Guardian at Lawrence Zeegan’s workshop. The (very) young artist explained she was going to feed her spider on bagels btw.
Always want to take part in other artists’ workshops but there’s never time … Here are artists Alex Leadbetter at her Sea Table, and Andrew Logan in one of his impressive sunshine masks.
The Hand Book (of hopes and dreams) is a ‘fortune teller’ with a twist. As you unfold this small but perfectly formed concertina book you will meet or identify with a variety of unusual characters, including an astronaut, a pantomime horse (the front half), a conjuror or … a tiger. Using the visual prompts you may determine their – or your – fate in many playful and existential adventures.
Thanks to E.H-W. in British Columbia, Canada for this morning’s fab message: I LOVE this Hand Book!!! I have given away many as presents and kept one for myself. You have created something very unique and special.
This afternoon I added a Stop Brexit badge to my history pinboard, then started thinking about some of the objects on it, which include other badges, votive objects, a water colour set, a small roll of legal red tape and …
A badge containing strands from Elvis’s hair (a snip at £5). It was sold to me by a woman I met years ago at the Royal Festival Hall in London, who claimed to have memorabilia from a visit to Graceland. She told me she had a sliver of Elvis’s toenail clipping she’d found embedded in a carpet there. Her stories alone were worth £5.
A Vasco da Gama medal awarded after sailing from Cornwall to Lisbon on a Tall Ship, a travel assignment from the Independent newspaper, who photographed the wrong ship as I set sail by the way.
An Argos engagement ring given to me by a crime writer who went down on one knee in a Welsh Borders shopping centre (I didn’t marry him, reader).
A plastic doll’s arm found by a sheep track whilst lost on a walking holiday in the Alpujarras.