I will be at the Great British Family Fayre on the 31st August. Why not come along?
I’ll be with Derwent Pencils, showing off their great products and showing how to draw all sorts of things. To get you in the British Mood, I thought I’d show you how to draw the Crown of England, or a simplified version of it any way… have fun!
Next weekend, on the 31st of August, I will be in Westerham in Kent for the Great British Family Fayre, at Squerries Court. It looks like it should be a great day out.
I’ll be there with Derwent Pencils showing off their fabulous British drawing materials – Derwent is the only British pencil manufacturer!
I’ll be showing you how to draw things and explaining about their different products including my favourites: Inktense, Aquatone and Waterbrushes.
I’ve started making videos for Curious.com which is a new life-long learning website. YouTube is great, but as a video maker, you have to concentrate on entertainment rather than teaching. Curious.com has the ambition to enable teachers to make a living from their videos.
Their style and delivery are much more amenable to learning. Follow this link and get $25 of their coins free and try it out and let me know what you think. I’ve seen a lot of this kind of thing but I feel they have got a good system running.
You can see my first video here: How to draw Spooky Halloween Lettering
I was watching a TV programme last night, charting the rise of punk. While fascinating, it talked about some stuff that did not concern me at the time. It suggested that the punk roots were in pub rock and bands like Brinsley Schwarz and Dux Deluxe. They held no interest for me at the time.
Punk was certainly a reaction to the pomp rockers like Yes, but then I loved Yes at the time. I remember being fascinated by all sorts of music back then. Playing and listening to music was pretty much my life. Top of the Pops was a weekly cultural watering hole – a sort of pop music soap opera that has now been formalised into X Factor and the tabloid newspapers. I never knew who bought all those singles, but they were the stuff that got played in discos where the girls were to be found on a Saturday night. I never understood why the DJs never played my requests. (They’d probably never heard of them!)
I discovered the Wailers by accident when I was about thirteen and that early 60′s Ska sound really got inside me. When I began playing guitar, I did everything I could to get the treble up high and make a nasty, raspy chang-ing sound, dampening the bridge to get a better, clicky attack to the notes. One of my very first songs was called The Mombassa Express – a tribute to the Wailers, Last Train to Skaville. Mombassa was the holiday place for the British Army in Aden in the 60s. We flew out there on an old RAF Argosy transport plane for a fabulous two week holiday in the 1965. I could still remember the infectious African music we heard, that would not get to the UK for another 10 years or so with bands like Osibissa.
Then I somehow got a Bo Diddly album when I was about 16. I learned last night he’d been here about the same time at a big rock revival gig in Wembley. If only I had known! That Bo Diddly-diddly-dee rhythm got me going – and I found his lyrics quite shocking! He really was a punk!
Then there was all the political rubbish going on around us. I didn’t know at the time, but my father was dying. He was planning for the revolution. He was actually asked to join a group of ex-army officers who were preparing to take over the country when the flag went up. We had stocks of food in the cellar which he religiously dated and rotaed so they wer always fresh. The lights were going out everywhere. There was a three day working week, the tv finished at 10.00pm, 50 was the top speed limit, everything was going short on the shelves, the reds were under the beds, the Russians were going to be here for tea at any day, if they hadn’t blown us off the map. We were ripe for change. Top of the Tops was just there to cheer us up with a bit of glam rock on Thursday evenings and make us look the other way for a moment.
Looking back I can see that there really wasn’t much future for my age group.The British Empire had collapsed. Our older brothers and sisters had had a lot of fun in the sixties and promised us a revolution. All thy had done was to start pulling up the ladders behind them. Now they’d got their peace and love, they were going to hang on to it and not let anyone else have a piece. That generation has never changed.
So I started writing angry songs in my bedroom. I knew the world needed shaking up. I wrote a manifesto. I called it Ug Rock. Ug for ugly. Ug for stone-age grunting, because that’s how basic I wanted it to be. Basic Rhythms. I even got the artwork right, photocopied ransom-note style!
Then I heard the German band Neu, not mentioned at all in last night’s program. There was the sound! Michael Rother invented that thrash guitar sound – and that wonderful monotonous beat, the forerunner to all modern dance music. Neu had all the ingredients, all that was required was the political anger, the sense of it being a time for revolution. I was there, I was ready, I raised my Ug Rock standard… and no one followed! Timing is everything.
When the Sex Pistols finally came along I felt I’d kind of done it already. I joined in the fun though and got rid of my flares and changed my style overnight.
Over the years I’ve come to understand that ideas float around in the air, waiting for the right person to work with. I wonder how many other angry young men and women had similar ideas as I did and those who eventually became Punk Rock stars. I suppose I was just too flighty, the idea moved on. They stuck to their principles and persisted with the one idea. Those who survived are often to be found still doing it today stuck in a 1977 time warp.
I left school and went to work in a print shop where I designed posters for a reggae promoter. Bedford, where I lived had a large west indian community, so reggae was to be heard around the place. I remember making him laugh when I said I was going to play white reggae – “White boys can’t play reggae!” he told me, and then, a couple of years later along came The Police… Duh, I’d missed it again!
But I look back on that summer of punk with fondness. The energy that was flowing was amazing. I hope the kids these days have something similar to fire them, but from where I look, life is all a bit homogenised now. Health and safety wouldn’t put up with it any more. All those hot, sweaty bodies packed into fire hazard venues. I guess that’s what Bungee jumping and extreme sports are all about – trying to get back to that visceral, animal adrenaline that was punk and rock and roll before it. A feeling that maybe you are doing something to change the world.
I rarely pick up my guitar these days, but I still feel like I need to light a fuse and shake things up a bit… Set a fire under the old order.
Then a wicked little thought enters my brain. Publishing has just reached the point that the record business did back in 1977, when you could make your own records and start up your own label and photocopy your own fanzines… do all those things you’d been told you couldn’t do because the corporations need to tread a politically correct line and an not upset their mass customers. Punk was about getting marketing to a niche market.
I think it’s kind of happening in the comics world, but could it be time to start making politically incorrect children’s books, unhindered by corporate editorial committees?!
And as for the art world… well, that certainly needs a rocket up it’s bloated, self-satisfied backside!
I’m trying to tidy up my how to draw video and get them sorted out with proper thumbnail images and tags. I’m also trying to clean up the links to my website, many of which have been lost as tags and systems change. Along the way I’m discovering that some old videos aren’t connected to my website at all, so I’ll be trying to put that right. So here is a video I made a couple of years ago for you to watch, enjoy and copy.
Tommy Donbavand, the author of Scream Street and Fangs, was due to visit libraries in Derby on Monday as part of the Summer Reading Challenge but sadly he is not going to be well enough, so I’ve agreed to take over and visit in his place. I’m not sure my books are quite as scary as Tommy’s but I’ll do my best.
I’ll be at Sinfin at 10.30 – Blagreaves Library 1-2pm and Spondon at 3.30 see you there!
In the meantime let’s all hope he gets better soon and gets back to thrilling us with his hairy, scary stories!
If you can’t get enough of Tommy’s zaniness, here’s a video of him shooting an apple off a small child’s head!
I thought I’d lost my faithful Swiss Army pocket knife when I checked into security at Birmingham airport. Normally I put it in my suitcase, but this time it was still in my pocket! I was allowed to go and buy a jiffy bag and stamps and post it back to myself. It would have been a sad day if I’d had to hand it over forever.
However, the temporary loss of my penknife did not impact on my visit to Jersey in the Channel Islands. The plane stops at Guernsey first, where I visited schools in 2010. You can see my trip videos here, and here, and here.
I was met by Linne, from the Young Readers’ Department of Jersey Library, who generously showed me around the island a bit. It’s full of castles and lovely beaches and romantic, wooded valleys that are very evident from the air as you come into land.
As a strategic island, it bears the marks of warfare over the centuries, with castles and fortresses, napoloeonic martelloi towers and a good deal of concrete gun emplacements from when the Nazis occupied the island in WW2.
I had a lovely time in the library, which had really gone to town with the Creepy House Theme. There was a creepy house – or garden shed! – a ghost train and a creepy queueing system as there are about 1000 children doing the Summer Reading Challenge in St Helier alone! The Children’s library is a very busy place over the summer!
I told scary stories and showed how to draw the Pizza Man and Frankatstein’s Monster and all the children did wonderful drawings.
Many thanks, again, for a great trip and I hope I’ll be able to come back again one day.
I’m off to Jersey today to tell stories in Jersey Library in St Helier tomorrow, Wednesday. It’s part of the Summer Reading Challenge, so I might tell you a scary Story! If you are around, why not come along! We’ll be doing some drawing too.
I visited Malmesbury in Wiltshire today and told stories in the Town Hall as part of the carnival and The Summer Reading Challenge. I had a great time and everyone did fantastic drawings of the Pizza Man.
I was very taken by the Norman Abbey, which had the most fabulous carved Doorway entrance, which has succumbed quite a bit by the ravages of time.It looks like there are a lot of bible stories and historical stories carved on there. It seem the King Athelstan, the Grandson of one of my heroes, Alfred the Great, is buried there. Alfred fought off the Vikings to establish the first instantiation of England. Athelstan fought them back and united the country to become what we call England to day, so we can say he was the first King of all England, but I would say that Alfred the Great was the the first true King of the English.
Malmesbury is a very pretty and very old town that seems to be built on a bit of a hill that must have originally been chosen for its defensive properties. Well worth a visit if you are n the area.