I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” [...]
Watch the video and see what I drew in my sketchbook as we wandered around East and West Berlin last weekend, taking in the sights and history.
I went with my wife and best friends to have a good look round and came away inspired and confused! I had to confront several prejudices, or should I say cultural attitudes, that I was unaware of having before. I realised that, even at my great age, I come with the ideas inculcated my upbringing in the social class and country I happen to have been born into.
I didn’t have much time to sketch so grabbed moments in cafes and while waiting for planes and trains.
There is so much history I don’t know and haven’t been taught, because it in not “our” history. The Pergamon Museum is similar to the British Museum. It has undergone war damage and rebuilding, but I was surprised that I knew so little about it and even more surprised by the contents.
The Gates of Babylon were stupendous! Then I realised they had been plundered and brought back to the museum to aggrandise the German Empire, to add the sparkle of previous, mighty empires to the the German Empire as was. But then, that is exactly what the British Museum is all about, and the Louvre. Each museum is filled with the booty hauled from each country’s colonial sphere of influence, to say, “Look how wonderful we are!”
Of course now we say that we are saving, conserving and displaying these cultural artefacts for the World, but that is a revisionist point of view!
I lived in Germany as a child, around the time the Berlin Wall was built. I don’t remember that event particularly, but the East Berlin we visited was in such a time warp, that I sometimes felt I was back there in the sixties, like a time machine. So much of Berlin is a facade. Bombed buildings are rebuilt in an old or ancient style with modern materials, bits of infrastructure from the 1950′ and 60s survive with a lick of 21st century paint on top. You are not quite sure if anything is real or original.
After visiting the Stasi museum, I kept imagining hidden cameras every time I saw a camera-sized circular shape in a light fitting or poster, for instance.
The pace of development is amazing. Building going on everywhere. Eventually the split history of the place will be built over and it will become a single city again, but I certainly felt it was still a place of two halves. We kept asking ourselves, “Are we East or West?” You didn’t really need to look for the line on the map. The East still has a generation or two’s worth of development to catch up with the West, But they are getting there.
For a capital city, it does seem quite parochial though. It’s been left out of the internationalisation of other World Capitals for so long, it has a lot to do to catch up, in attitudes as well as facilities and infrastructure. We felt the general levels of service fell short of what you come to expect in major capital cities, these days.
We came home quite exhausted, both from physically doing so much and fitting in so much culture!
My dear daughter is studying furniture restoration and needs a sofa or something similar to work on for her third year, next year. I’ve been looking around for a while but not found anything until yesterday when I saw this wonderful, dropside chesterfield in an auction.
I asked the auctioneer what he thought it might make and he said anything from £10 to £100 – depending on whether two people wanted it badly.
I got there too early today and stood around (after my sausage sandwich and coffee) waiting for my lot to turn up, looking at the other punters, wondering who I would be bidding against.
It was the last lot in the room. The Auctioneer started at £100. No one starts bidding that high – he’s just letting us know what he thinks it should make. Then he worked his way down to see if anyone would bight, £80, £60, £40, £20. “Come on!” he implored, “someone start me of at £20!”
Then he stared straight at me, he knew I was going to bid. His eyes twinkled as we played the game of chicken – then he smiled and said – “Okay start me off at £10″ – I’ve been here before and got what I wanted for £10 when I could have chickened and gone in a £20. Always wait to see what the others will do and how serious they are. I knew I was prepared to go to £60 and if pushed, I’d probably have gone to £100. In the end, someone else joined in and up it went.
As you can see, I got it. Several people asked what I was going to do with it as it was going to cost so much to fix up and reupholster. I told them I had that sorted with my daughter.
In the end the bidder who I beat, helped me get it into the car, which was very sporting of him, I thought.
As you can see, the cats love it already. It has a nice sunny position for them. The sides have a pull cord that lets them fall down in stages so it can become a day bed. It’s going to look lovely.
Oh yes! How much did I get it for in the end? £35, which I think is a bit of a bargain!
I went to Brussels in Belgium on the Eurostar Train this week and I took my sketchbook with me. I thought it was a great way to share the experience with you as it is a record of my thoughts and things that catch my eye as I go along.
I was visiting the British International School in Brussels, which is in a wonderful old house full of Art Nouveau and Art Deco details. I had a great time there meeting the children, who come from all over the world, telling them stories and showing them how to draw stuff!
Thanks to everyone at the school for arranging the trip and making it both possible and memorable.
This is for the British International School in Brussels, where I visited this week. We had a lot of fun and they said they would be drawing the Eiffel Tower very soon, so this is to help them all. Good luck guys!
I thought I’d share this video of a local space mission that took off from my home town of Coleford in the Forest of Dean. You can see my house (and the rest of the town!) as the payload lifts gently into space.
Last week I was giving cartoon drawing lessons at the wonderful Pencil Museum in Keswick in the beautiful Lake District in the UK.
We were using Pentel Aquash Brushes and Derwent Aquatone watercolour crayons, which were great fun and so easy to use. The paper I used was Derwent watercolour paper which is very smooth and heavy so it takes water well without crinkling. I’m not sure that’s avail;able outside the UK
I spent three days there and drew non-stop, showing kids, and the grown-ps too, how to draw anything from a Dalek to a wizard or a ninja or a fairy. We had a lot of fun. I hope I’ll be asked back again, so I might see you there next time!
If you would like me to do drawing or cartoon workshops at your school or library, feel free to get in touch. click here
Here are US & UK Amazon links. If you want buy and to try out these products please follow the links and help support my videos – thanks.
Come and join me at the Pencil Museum in Keswick next week on the 9th – 10th and 11th of April. I’ll be around to show you how to draw stuff and answer all your drawing and pencil type questions. See you there!
Have a look inside my latest sketchbook. This is one of my small sketchbooks that I carry around with me if I’m going somewhere. It’s a Moleskine sketchbook with nice watercolour paper, But I didn’t do any water colour in it! all drawn with Rotring Tikky Graphic pens.
It’s a bit weird talking for three minutes on the radio over Skype! I’d been trying to focus my thoughts all day yesterday and said hardly any of what I’d prepared.
Firstly, I think it’s great that Terry has actually started the conversation. We all love libraries and librarians. Authors, in particular, know lots of librarians and count many of them among their friends. Authors rely on libraries and librarians to spread the word about their books. We need the libraries to buy our books, but there is not a God-given right that authors should make a living off the back of ratepayers. However much we would like the situation to continue, the world has changed dramatically.
Libraries are buying fewer books so publishers in my little niche are commissioning fewer titles and we’re all going to hell in a hand-cart!
The last couple of years, we’ve been campaigning for stasis in the libraries. To actually say what it is that we want to save would be to admit that we all have different needs and different ideas about what a library is.
When I think of a library I’d like to save, It’s Watford (or was it Bushey Heath?) Library in the 1960s. A classic Carnegie. The children’s library separated from the adults behind heavy doors with shiny brass handles. It was a temple of culture – so grand, so important – filled with CS Lewis, Enid Blyton and lots and lots of books about space and science.
We were an army family, didn’t really know anyone locally and I only lived there in the holidays any way. But it welcomed us and made us feel a part of the community. I see this role continue in libraries today, giving unconditional help and support to all the blow-ins in the community. The Polish plumber, far from home, the newly-moved family, those on holiday or just passing through. The library welcomes them all without question. I also see it in the Families that come to borrow books for their children. Children need a continual flow of books to be able to learn to read. Learning to read is a really hard thing to do. I think it’s right we support the citizens of the future and encourage them to become literate and cultured. The library is also the first place where children become aware that they are part of a community.
I’d save the brash, new modern Library that opened in Bedford when I was about 15. It served fancy coffee and stocked Scientific American – what a great way to spend Saturday afternoons. The fact that all the good-looking clever girls were there as well had nothing to do with it. While I was busy being a punk, I secretly borrowed Bruckner and Bartok albums, slowly widening my musical taste.
When I left school, my education really began, I discovered fiction wasn’t just stories it was about ideas too. I devoured books at that stage. All that Hemingway, Fowles, Vonnegut and dear Colin Wilson, they all led me on to the philosophy department, teaching me stuff that was never mentioned in school
I’d save the Peterborough Library, another classic Carnegie, that welcomed me unconditionally too. I’d moved there to be with my mother, just after my father died. I was 20, I was a mess and I knew nobody. But the kind librarian found things for me and suggested others and got me started on a road of learning about art that a couple of years later saw me going off to art college.
If it hadn’t already been knocked down, I’d save my local library. I’d go down with the kids and bring home armfuls of picture books. We’d snuggle up at bedtime and read them all. My son hated books when he was born, but we kept working on him. Eventually we found the key to his heart – Lucy Cousins’ Maisie books were irresistible. We’d never have been able to afford to try out all those books before we found the one that got through to him.
We all know, with out thinking that libraries are, “A GOOD THING!” Many of my generation owe their sanity, good fortune and cultural grounding to their local library.
Without a doubt we need to preserve specialist libraries, local history, special and historic collections, these are the foundations on which our society is built.
The big question is about the local, public library. Has it had it’s day?
If local, public libraries don’t decide what they are for and decide very soon, then I fear they will be swept away, like HMV and Kodak.
I’m not in the middle of this debate, I’m too busy trying to save my own skin, so I don’t hear everything. But when I see a twitter stream about what libraries should be, what I read is a description of a community centre. I don’t think that’s enough. We already have community centres. You can’t have two buildings competing for the same resources.
Public libraries grew up out of the workers institutes, which were built and funded by those who knew that knowledge is power. They wished to better themselves and did something about it. They raised funds by public subscription, pennies at a time. They left us an extraordinary legacy, which we take for granted.
Carnegie co-funded thousands of libraries in partnership with communities – and they were communities then. Everyone knew everyone and participated in community affairs. London Ministries were far away and distant. It was Carnegie who backed and promoted Napoleon Hill to research and write “Think and Grow Rich”, the classic book for library-going autodidacts that pulled America, and some in Britain, out of the depression and set it on it’s path to the riches of the fifties and sixties.
Now we know it all and have forgotten how hard it was to learn all this stuff. There is an astonishing future ahead of us so we need to learn a whole lot more.
I think public libraries need to look back at their roots. Education and culture is what they were set up for and I think that is where their future lies.
Outside of libraries, we mortals have an image of a librarian as being a person who stamps books in an out. But librarians are diverse people. True, they are all a bit compulsive and like to neatly squared up untidy piles of books and paper, and the majority of them like cats (there are librarians who like dogs too!) but other than that they all have their own different passions. Fiction – non-fiction – children’s books – story time – maps – antiquarian books – medicine – marine biology the list goes on. It all needs curating and organising. Someone needs to know where everything is.
But in five years time, you will get a free kindle with every twenty litres of petrol. Already you get to borrow books for free with Amazon when you have Amazon Prime. In five years time Kindles will be waterproof and yes, you will be able to read them in the bath. Amazon will offer irresistible deals to libraries. Every rate payer will get a free Kindle, there will be no need for dusty books on Public Library shelves any more. This is not fantasy… this is the near reality.
And can people be bothered to tear themselves away from their 3d, HD, fibre, internet-connected walls and devices. What can the Library offer them?
To me now, at my stage of life, as a user, I feel ashamed to say that have no need to go to the library at all. My kids are grown up and there’s no sign of grandchildren for a while.
Actually we have a wonderful new library in town now. It moved to a more inconvenient place for me, but great for young families who are using it more than ever.There’s a hall upstairs, you can get a coffee and there’s a neat computer suite where I gave some YouTube classes last year. It’s a great place. But I think I’m the only person who has ever hired out the very well-appointed comuter suite.
I thought of maybe doing some open YouTube classes or drawing classes, but gave up thinking about it. The bureaucracy is awful, what with insurance and CRB checks. It’s much better to do it on Youtube, I reach a worldwide audience there. Who can be bothered to do anything for the community anymore? There will be some busy-body wanting you to have measurable outcomes for any course you are prepared teach. We are not allowed to learn for the sake of it any more – there must be module points at the end. I’d rather go and learn from a world expert on Youtube than walk through the snow to hear some one locally talk about the little they know.
Maybe Margaret Thatcher was right when she said there is no such thing as society any more.
I love libraries and all they stand for, but it is WE that have changed. We joined together as communities and used those public libraries to better ourselves. We’ve done incredibly well, and in the process we have built a new community, the Internet. That is our new public library.
I know Google doesn’t have a heart, but it works hand in had with all those bloggers that do, who sort and sift and recommend, doing exactly what librarians used to do.
I feel the pain my fellow authors and publishers are feeling. I feel the pain of librarians, being tossed about in the early warning waves of the Tsunami that is on its way.
Amazon and the Kindle and the Internet will do to Libraries what the iPod and iTunes did to the music business. Change is coming. It’s not a question of what to save but how to prepare and what will still be needed afterwards.
I’m sure the monks of old were desperate to keep on illuminating Vellum manuscripts, but one the punters realised they could buy a book cheaper and more easily…
We live in extraordinary times – human drama and civilisation are in the making. Tectonic forces are underway.
I love those old Carnegie Libraries, but I fear they will soon be part of the National Trust, with tearooms and shop in the local history department.
I think maybe public libraries will merge with community centres. Maybe their job is to rebuild the communities they have so successfully dispersed.