Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Fox is Black digs Bears that are Blue!

I wasn't sure whether to post this or not but I just wanted to thank the guys at The Fox is Black (ace art and design blog) for being so kind as to say very nice things about my Californian Spirit Bear series. I had an inkling something was afoot when my [holding steady at] 39 followers suddenly jumped up over night to a nose-bleed high 43 followers! Low and behold I had featured in their esteemed blog - read the article here. And then read some more of their articles and download a mixtape or two - it's all splendid stuff.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Silver Apples at Supersonic Festival illustration

I was recently asked to contribute a piece for the up-coming Supersonic Festival in Birmingham and jumped at the opportunity to do an illustration for long time favourites the Silver Apples who've been messing heads up with their wonky psychedelic electronics since the sixties. I can still fondly remember hearing 'A Pox On You' on radio late at night whilst driving back from a heavy weekend in Brighton and totally wigging out to it knowing I had to own all of their records instantly if not sooner.

The illustration will feature in a zine made especially for the festival and I may try do some screen-prints if I get a moment. I'll post up here as soon as I know more.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

San Francisco part 13

Right a little over a month later here is my final San Francisco blog entry which can most probably be summarised as pizza, records, illustration, pizza but I'll expand a tiny bit for old time sakes.

On Friday (July 22) we drove into the city to take a look at the Margaret Kilgallen exhibition at Ratio 3 in the Mission district of San Francisco. It proved to be a bit of a slog trying to find the venue in a car but eventually we arrived. As expected the artwork was beautiful - folk art inspired simple line work combined with striking colours and textures.

We drove out to Ocean Beach but inevitably the fog rolled in upon arrival so we drove back to Orinda for some deck beers in the sun. It never fails to amaze me how the weather can be so different from in the city to out in Orinda.

I spent the next day drawing on the deck in the sun. Using a photo I'd taken of a Victorian house around North Beach for reference I did the pen and ink illustration below. I finished up with some water colours but probably over-egged it a bit. Not sure about the bit at the bottom either but I was just experimenting really.

On the Sunday we met up with our friend Donnie and his little girl Rue to try our luck foraging for treasure at the Oakland flea market. Aside from the usual array of fat children and a couple of stolen fixed gear bicycles there wasn't too much to see. By which I mean there were no records. In the evening I learnt to play Dominoes ghetto style.

Monday was to be our last foray into the city so we started good and early, getting BART in and meeting up with Annie's friend in Dolores Park. A couple of beers later and an emotional final trip to Escape From New York Pizza in the Castro we then wandered over to Molotov's for a few happy hour beers before heading back on BART to Oakland for a Kurt Vile and Thurston Moore gig.

Fucked Up were playing in the city on the same night and I was really torn as to which gig to go to - Annie wanted to see Fucked Up more but I think the double whammy of Kurt Vile and Thurston Moore swung it in the end. In hindsight I wish I'd gone to see Fucked Up - 'David Comes to Life' is my favourite lp of the year (thus far) followed closely by 'Smoke Ring For My Halo'. That said Kurt Vile was brilliant and we had the added bonus of a Hush Arbors support slot too. Despite releasing a decent (if samey) Beck produced new album Thurston Moore drifted over me a little and we had to leave before the end of the set to get the last BART home. Weird seeing Keith of Hush Arbors playing guitar for Thurston Moore as well - bit of a step up from playing bass for Voice of the Seven Thunders at the Llama festival last year. I know which gig I preferred though...

And that was that - my just-shy-of-three-month visit was over. We squeezed in one final trip to Berkeley for me to use some vouchers at Moes book store and had a delicious sushi dinner. What did I learn from my time there? Escape from New York pizza is aces.

I also managed to motivate myself in an illustration sense more than I have ever done before in my life. Not sure if it was the different surroundings or the available free-time but it really worked. And three weeks into being home I'm working every day on illustrations for around 6-8 hours at a time, something I couldn't have possibly imagined before going. So there you go.

Still fucking skint mind...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Metamorphosis of the Great Bear

Carrying on with the bear folk tale narrative I submitted this for Threadwars IV and scored incredibly well clinching myself a place in the quarter-finals. The loose narrative driven by the themes dictated in Threadwars are getting a little wayward so I may have to reign the story in at a point but it's fun trying to come up with something to fit a specific theme. This round was 'nature'.

"If you happen to stumble upon one of the great colourful bear spirits in the wild you will only catch a glimpse of it as it metamorphosizes into natural plant life before your eyes."

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

San Francisco part 12

Eek. Trying to write about what I got up to a month ago isn't ideal but I suppose it's now or never.

Okay so on Monday (18th July) we took a drive out to Sausilito which involved firstly driving into San Francisco over the Bay Bridge, negotiating our way through the city and then driving over the Golden Gate Bridge picking up some pizza en route. Sausilito is a quaint (ha - get some of that down you America - I used your ghastly turn of phrase against you!) seaside town which sits over the bay from San Francisco with some spectacular views. Which basically means it's hot property, full of badly dressed Europeans (even me - guilty as charged) and over priced foo foo shops and eateries.

Actually the picture above was a little way up from the madness in the less touristy harbour region which was beautiful. Below is along the busier seafront which should give you some idea of why it's so popular - it is stunning.

Look some rocks.

After eating some over-priced and not particularly good fish and chips we made our escape via Mill Valley and onto Santa Rosa to the Charles Schulz Museum which was $10 admission. Good grief etc.

I was quite underwhelmed by it all despite a great fondness for Peanuts. The highlight was probably the mock up of his studio including a turntable and selection of jazz lps. It inspired me to set up my studio accordingly with a record deck and my word it's a wonderful thing to be back in the world of vinyl away from nonsense mp3s. I digress.

We tried to find a dive bar for a beer in Santa Rosa but only managed to find the local soup kitchen and a whole host of homeless folk sprawled amongst random Snoopy figures. Bit weird.

The next day I made Annie go with me to see the Tribe Called Quest documentary 'Beats, Rhymes and Life' at the cinema. Not in some seedy art house cinema as you'd expect either - oh no - it was showing it at the grand Pleasant Hill cinema and what's more it was in the main room with a capacity in the region of 1000 people or so. Needless to say we were the only ones in there.

I could've wept with happiness pretty much from the opening credits and throughout. The film is a joyous celebration of the golden age of hip hop and features a hefty introduction to all things Native Tongues before any of the well documented beef actually starts. I've read that various members of ATCQ had issues with the film during it's production but aside from Q-Tip's occasionally sizeable ego flaring up now and again they all come out unscathed and as loveable as ever. Anyway Q-Tip can have a bit of an ego as far as I'm concerned given his contribution to hip hop. ATCQ certainly don't come out looking anywhere nearly as whiney and pathetic as Metallica in 'Some Kind of Monster'. Three thumbs fresh yo.

In the evening I inked and coloured this - a sketch left over from Big Sur.
The following day was so hot all we could manage in the afternoon was a brief stint at the dog run but even Pepperjack was feeling the heat. That evening we headed into the city to Molotov's for my leaving do/Trevor's birthday and proceeded to line up many PBR's ($2 a bottle - a price that now haunts me everytime I buy a pint in England), tequilas and a whiskey or two for good measure. Feeling suitably buzzed we got the BART home after parting on some sad farewells.

On Thursday I woke up with a bit of a head on me so we took the easy option and drove into Berkeley for some record shopping. I bought the incredible new Fucked Up lp (which uncannily I'm listening to as I write this), Vampire Weekend's 'Contra' lp, James Blackshaw's 'The Glass Bead Game' lp, Tom Rush's 'The Circle Game' lp, Phil Ochs 'Pleasures of the Harbour' lp and 'Whaling and Sailing Songs' by Paul Clayton just for the stunning cover initially but it's actually really rather good. In fact having had time to absorb that (measly) $35 haul it's all excellent with the exception of Phil Ochs which isn't doing much for me just yet - the b side is fucking nuts. But not in a good way.

Later on I had a bit of a mooch around the Berkeley university campus looking studious and deep in thought mostly trying to figure out whether I should have another slice of pizza or not whilst Annie kipped on the grass like a tramp's mate before we gave up and headed home.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Fishermen of Southwold

On returning from California I immediately set off for a much needed holiday in Southwold. Whilst there I was mooching around the Southwold Sailor's Reading Room (as you do) and chanced upon some gnarled old salty sea dogs. Initially I did heavily detailed portraits of a couple of them which I will no doubt post up at a point but I then did some simpler portraits which in my opinion are significantly better. And here they are. I may take the four best and do a small screen-printed series if I get any interest.

Drawn in dipping pen and ink with a subsequent ink wash they are;

Top row - unknown, unknown, unknown
Middle row - unknown, unknown, Frank Upcraft.
Bottom row - Winner Smith, Slooper Hurr, Frank Palmer.

If anyone knows the other names I'd really appreciate it.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

San Francisco part 11 - The Charity Shop Challenge

Some of you may remember last year I did a Charity Shop Challenge where I trawled through North and South London in search of some decent records. It was good fun albeit not that successful so I had high hopes when I set out to do another Charity Shop Challenge in the Bay Area of California. It didn't really pan out but I thought I'd document it anyway - don't get too excited now...

We opted for one of two yellow vehicles available to us - the less petrol hungry car over the rather more thirsty but more manly truck. Annie my driver for the day had a well studied itinerary to follow so we set out full of optimism. Well we set out.

First stop was a Goodwill in Pleasant Hill although given I did the challenge about a month ago this may not be entirely accurate. Feel free to correct me. Goodwill is a US wide thrift store (by which I mean charity shop but I will bow to the correct colloquialism in this instance) and they tend to be hanger-like by comparison to the UK equivalent but no less full of shit.

I was greeted by a sizable chunk of vinyl in the 'Entertainment Room' that I proceeded to sift through at veritable speed.

First find of the day was 'The Pink Panther' soundtrack by Henry Mancini with a rather dashing sleeve. Alas the vinyl within was pretty battered which is often the case with children's favourites.

Twenty minutes or so later I'd foraged through the entire batch without finding too much to prick my interest although 'The Big Lebowski' on laser disc was tempting for at least three seconds. I did however find this lp by a female Canadian singer/songwriter called Anne Murray from the early seventies that I took a gamble on. I'm not one for keeping lists but I recalled a thread on Very Good Plus extolling the joys of a record called 'Snow...' something or other by a female singer songwriter from the early seventies. Which was enough to pay a buck for. It looked like it wouldn't be utterly horrible anyway.*

I also chanced upon this rather confusing Bath Football Club year book as well. Americans have this rather unusual sport called American Football you see, much of which is played with their hands which even the most ardent fans have to watch sped-up Benny Hill style given how fantastically dull it is. They call it football. Silly eh? So this book confused me further. I couldn't recall a Bath football team of any significance; after all Bath is full of posh people and as we all know posh twits play rugger. Further investigation confirmed that this was indeed a filthy rugby artifact. So like I say rather confusing but I'm sure it's due to my street-cat working class ignorance rather than some unholy transatlantic printing specification...

I hurled the foul relic back from whence it came and popped over the road to a massive Salvation Army thrift store.

Unfortunately there were no records to be seen. A cursory glance at the books suggested Americans aren't as free of beard-faced berk Bill Oddie as one would hope. Incidentally my Bay Area guide for the day Annie scored big time in here with a choice Fred Perry top.

We left promptly and drove to another huge thrift store known as St Vincent de Paul Society.

I negotiated my way to the records and set about prospecting for vinyl gold. Or something.

There were some interesting records here but everything I would've spent my hard-earned dollars on seemed to be half eaten; bizarrely given that 99% of the rest of the tat had little or no sign of mastication. My first evidence - Sly and the Family Stone's super topically themed 'There's a Riot Going On'. I don't think they actually made the record way back in 1971 with England's summer of 2011 in mind but at the same time I wouldn't wish to rule it out. I'd bite your arm off for this record usually. Unfortunately it looks like someone already did.

Second point of evidence - an interesting looking Lee Michaels lp. Clearly not quite as palatable as the Sly record given the meagre helping of the top left hand corner but still enough to put me off taking a dollar gamble. It's probably worth mentioning I'm not ideally suited to these Charity Shop Challenges (Thrift Store Challenges) at the best of times given a combination of being perpetually skint and not wanting to introduce vinyl tat into my beautiful collection but the problem here was exacerbated by the fact I was going home to London in little over a week and already had a couple of records to take back.

The next vaguely tempting find was the Bread debut lp - again I vaguely recalled esteemed record collector Jarkatajive (Hugh to his friends) singing its praise a while back but I also got the distinct impression he was taking the piss. What's more I've heard Bread records (indeed I've had weird dreams involving Bread records and Wrongtom in the past - it's okay - he knows...) and without wishing to start Bread related beef (the worst kind of beef) I'm pretty much indifferent to their noodle armed seduction rock. Unless someone's stroking my hair at least. Also it's worth the noting the dog neglected to take a chomp of that particular record so it was obviously fucking rubbish.

A short ride over to Concord (I think) brought us to ARF. I forget what ARF stands for but at the time my brain inexplicably linked it to 80's space alien ALF (Alien Life Form?) and as stupid a thought as it was it was also far too insignificant for my brain to over-write so the minute I saw the following image again I immediately paused to think about the plight of the destitute space alien.

At 25c each the records I could have easily bought the entire box and stayed within the predetermined £10 budget ($16ish) but for the fact each one was shitter than the last.

And Olivia Newton-John isn't nearly as attractive as you may have been led to believe.

We left and made our way to this Goodwill shop again in Concord skipping around some kind of intimidating red-neck booze-and-metal street party.

A promising heap of vinyl before me I set to work with much enthusiasm. Honest.

Against all odds there were some okay records amongst the rubbish. As a big John Fahey fan I nearly would've bought this had I not bought and subsequently sold a cheap reissue of it some years ago. In terms of niche records it's a particularly dull Christmas album that could never quite get a shoe-in against Sufjan Steven's sprawling festive box set.

This, now this I should've bought. It's probably utter fucking garbage but seriously how did I leave this behind? A Bollywood soundtrack of a football film. Damn my miserly ways. (It's subsequently been brought to my attention this record is actually from Israel. It even says it on the sleeve.)

Which brings me to my third bit of evidence. Dick Hyman's 'The Electric Eclectics Moog' lp - a veritable monster of a record and accordingly enough it had been chomped on by something rather ungainly. Featuring the wigged out proto Detroit techno of 'Minotaur' and more significantly the whoosh-bonkers spacefunk-shuffle of 'Give It Up Or Turn It Lose' it's a gem of a record. Except the vinyl was even worse than the sleeve and I've got it already. In fact I've had it long enough to remember playing it out at my one djing residency probably over ten years ago. Which isn't just the lamest brag you'll read for some time but also a frightening reminder of the ageing process. Moving swiftly on...

At this point I was feeling a bit jaded and had had enough of being ferried around the Bay Area like the record nerd equivalent of Little Lord Fauntleroy but Annie had a couple more thrift shops in mind. We drove on to the store below - I forget what it was called - 'Kids for Jesus', 'Jesus Touches All Of Your Children' or something similar - I definitely remember it being Christian.

And it had a plentiful selection of vinyl too.

Amongst a fair bit of Christian vinyl and the usual suspects I found this lp but seemed to recall it being Blues heavy rock the likes of which make me want to punch the elderly. But ultimately not much to write home about (although just enough to regurgitate and write in a blog a month down the line).

Annie was determined to make a success of the day so she forced me to one last thrift store fittingly titled Annie's Attic.

There were a few records but not much of note although having had another look at this photo up close the Beny Moore/Perez Prado looks worth a gamble on cover alone but I think at this stage I was pretty much ready to call it day.

We made one final stop at Half Price Books Records and Magazines which has a couple of branches around the Bay Area. It doesn't really count as a charity shop but it did manage to restore my faith in the vinyl gods as I found 'The Notorious Byrd Brothers' and David Crosby's 'If Only I Could Remember My Name' for a few dollars a-piece. Of course this only seemed to undermine the point of charity shop record hunts even more so.

So what did I learn? Foreign charity shops can be equally as dull as UK ones? Or perhaps more to the point I'm not really cut out for charity shop record trawls anymore. *Oh and my single purchase of the day Anne Murray's 'Snowbird' is fucking fetid shite which brings to mind a bad 'Una Paloma Blanca'. Which is pretty fucking bad (drum breaks or not).

Apparently I was getting confused with The City's 'Snow Queen' featuring a very young Carole King. 1970ish, female singer featuring snow in the title. Rookie mistake...

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Dreaming of that Big Old Bear

Following on with the Californian bear series of illustrations I've been working on I submitted this artwork for the second round of the Threadless based Threadwars competition. The theme was dreams so I came up with this rather simple addition to the narrative.

"Fantastical tales of the big old coloured bear spirits have been told to so many children for so many generations that they can't help but dream about them as they sleep peacefully in their beds. But are they dreaming...?"