Thursday, December 20, 2007


it's the time of the year when you get those 'round robin' family news letters through the post, usually found inside a christmas card from someone that you've not been in touch with since you exchanged cards last christmas...

in the past sue and i have been a bit sniffy about such missives, but this year we've had a couple of rather lovely and inspiring family news letters, so having now revised our opinions on the matter, here comes my look back at some of the stuff from our year...

eddie's football career is up and running - he plays in goal for the yorkshire amateurs u11 colts (effectively the 'B' team) and loves it. and as a result i have morphed into the sort of ranting-lunatic-touchline-parent that i used to view with such dismay and pity back when i was running schools' football teams (my new year's resolution will be to shut up whilst spectating - please hold me to it...) ed's on a run of three consecutive clean sheets at the mo (two nil-nils and a 2-0 victory) - a source of great pride...

eddie's also laying down some rock'n'roll foundations with guitar and keyboard lessons at school. today he played 'smoke on the water' solo in his assembly, and wore badly-applied eyeliner uncle-fester-style for the occasion. in the words of the lancashire hotpots, 'oh no, he's turned emo...'

meanwhile joe is the (possibly-self-appointed) captain of the school Y2 football team and shows all the signs of developing into a rangy midfield dynamo. he spends his free time running about kicking imaginary footballs and commentating (loudly) on the action. our tv watching is regularly interrupted by the sound of hammering feet and a triumphant shout of "KISNORBO!" from the hallway. both lads are sadly afflicted with the family allegiance to leicester city football club (who we've travelled to watch a couple of times - most notably back in april in barnsley, on the day when our 1-0 victory was enough to keep us up and leeds got relegated. heh heh...)

sue's work is going well, despite some local reorganisations which are due to change the structure of her department and, somewhere down the line, probably her job too. in the meantime she's looking at the possibility of training as an educational psychologist, and has cleared the first hurdle - with plenty more to come... watch this space.

greenbelt continues to be a highlight of the family year, and we're getting more involved as contributors each time. this year we took three life-size jesuses with us - not sure how well they worked actually, but the other things that we did - three large interactive-y maps of the site - worked a treat (especially this one)
highlights of the festival were the communal big-screen viewings of 'shaun the sheep' and the fantastic music bill (well done harv!) - billy bragg, kanda bongo man, duke special, soweto kinch, sara masen, kathryn williams...
we'll be back again next year, and i'm hoping to get more into the visual arts side of the festival, and maybe do something with 'proost' there too...

talking of whom, this year i've really enjoyed hooking up with jonny and jon @ to sell some of the stuff that i've created for various alt worship and church-type purposes. including the advent stuff that i created with the blackburn diocese - another work-highlight of my year... that's the kind of work that i'd love to be doing more of in the new year - more art-y and less illustration-y, if that makes sense.

my new year's resolution (apart from the football-supporting-behaviour-improvement one) will be to do more culturally invigorating stuff - more cinema, more galleries, more theatre visits, more reading (and not just comics), more gigs...

we didn't get to the movies much this year, but i thought that 'this is england' was a really great film, with a top soundtrack. and i'm not even watching much tv these days, though 'heroes', 'lead balloon', 'the mighty boosh' and 'dr who' were all essential viewing... (happily, we managed to completely avoid watching 'x-factor' and anything with ballroom dancing or celebrities eating maggots in it...)

book-wise i really enjoyed two graphic novels by gipi this year - 'garage band' and 'notes for a war story' - well worth a look next time you're in ok comics*
and the charlie higson 'young bond' books have also been a big hit, with me and eddie enjoying them equally as the bedtime read...
sue meanwhile highly recommends 'so many ways to begin' by jon macgregor

finally, my top ten songs from the past year (in no particular order)...

'your english is good' by tokyo police club (you gotta love that squonky keyboard riff)
'either way' by the twang
'505' by the arctic monkeys
'november starlings' by trembling blue stars
'weird fishes/arpeggi' by radiohead
'how long' by calamateur vs steve lawson
'tonight the streets are ours' by richard hawley
'my favourite book' by stars
'sunday' by bloc party
'brother' by annuals

so then, happy christmas!
see you in the new year...


(*other comic stores are, apparently, available...)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

limping across the line and doing the best with what we've got...

i have just emailed out my last few roughs at the end of what feels like a marathon 12 months of work. no more deadlines now until the new year...

and the past few weeks have been a real struggle - in hindsight i've not really recovered from the effort expended on the advent thing [see previous post] and for a couple of weeks i've been on the verge of succumbing to man-flu without ever actually getting properly ill... [maybe it's seasonally affected disorder. or maybe sue's right and i'm just a hypochondriac...]

when i'm run down like this work becomes a right old struggle - when i'm drawing, things that i'd normally do without thinking suddenly stop happening and i end up correcting and re-drafting just to get things correctly proportioned and stuff... all very irritating.

then there's the ongoing frustrations of our building project... i've not blogged about it much, partly because i really don't want this journal to become a big moan-fest [no, really] and partly because the best way of coping with the whole messy business has been just to try not to think about it too much. so, without going into unecessary detail, my new studio/office is still nowhere near finished over a year after work on it began... [sigh]

but then this morning bloc party came up on the macbook's iTunes - there's a sequence of three tunes off of their last album ['kreuzberg', 'i still remember' and 'sunday'] which is just brilliant; the sort of slightly euphoric, anthemic, uplifting stuff that i am a complete sucker for. 'sunday' in particular is great - a lovely, sort-of-clumsy love song... a reminder that life is good, that it's sometimes the small things that can mean the most, that there is so much to be thankful for and to be hopeful about... sometimes you just have to lift your head and look up to see it.

and here's the finished version of one of those maths illustrations...

the walk-through advent calendar...

the walk-through advent calendar that i mentioned in the last post seemed to go quite well.

i probably blogged about it last year, but basically the idea is quite simple - 25 little stations, each of which looks at one character or place or item from the christmas story (mary, joseph, the magi, bethlehem, the gifts, the star etc etc...) and a cafe serving festive foodstuffs. folk volunteer in advance to create the stations, and when it's all up and running, you go round and 'do' the stations like you'd open the doors on an advent calendar, exploring the advent/christmas story in the process.

for this year's event we used st margaret's, an old and disused church in burley which is about to be brought back to life as an arts and conference centre called 'leftbank leeds'... it's a brilliant space, and once it's resurrected it'll be a truly amazing venue, but at the mo there's no heating or lighting or power in there, and - we discovered - it leaks quite badly in places...!
so it was a mammoth effort to set up and run - me and G and lloydy must have each spent about 17 hours in there over the weekend - and we paid out an awful lot to (partially) heat the place and to hire the cardigan centre next door for the use of it's toilets...

as ever, people were really creative and inventive with their stations, and we had some very positive feedback from both contributors and visitors (including five coppers who popped in for a nosey). if i can get ahold of some images of the event i'll post them up here (i took our camera, but somewhat predictably forgot to take any photos with it...)

it's always a fantastic and worthwhile thing to do, but it's also an exhausting event to co-ordinate (so i think that next year it might just be someone else's turn to curate it...!)