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December 28, 2007


It was Thursday the 28th of April, 1892 when my Great Aunt, Catherine Anne Middlebrooke, turned over her art examination paper.


She had one and a half hours to: sketch in the leading lines of the WHOLE FIGURE printed on the back of this page, making the sketch sufficiently large to fairly fill the drawing paper supplied.


No lines my be drawn on this example for the purpose of making the required copy, and no ruling, squaring or measuring of any kind is allowed.

Hereís one Great Aunt Anne did the year before, when she was 15:



No free choice in the 1890s, no Old Boot or Fish & Chips either. Not even a snowy scene with charcoal and sugar paper. No, it was just freehand copying.

Today you get eight weeks to prepare for a ten hour exam. Difficult to know which method demonstrates the most skill.

Posted by john at 10:37 PM | Comments (1)

Plasterboard Photography

A mere hundred and seventy two years after William Fox Talbot finally succeeded in photographing the window of his front room:


I have perfected plasterboard photography [or drywall photography if youíre reading this over the water there, in the land of good teeth and Sheetrock].


Thereís still work to do before itíll replace the camera phone - the exposure for this photograph was six years. So plasterboard photography probably wonít catch on with your average sports journalist for yet awhile. But I can recommend it for still lives, very still lives obviously.

Posted by john at 12:49 AM | Comments (2)

December 24, 2007

May the spirit of Yule be with you


Posted by john at 07:36 PM | Comments (0)


Looking through dusty boxes, on dusty shelves, trying to find an old Letraset catalogue, I found a photograph of my father Ė as a clown.


What are the chances of that?

Posted by john at 07:31 PM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2007

Dirty Clown

Itís not always easy to describe what you want. The English language may have more words in everyday use than any other language, but corruption and connotation take their toll when using all the various words for dirty.

I didnít want a sexually indecent clown, I wanted a clown who maybe hadnít washed since playing out. But what words can you use? Dirty Clown sounds dodgy, as does Mucky Clown. Filthy Clown is positively disgusting. Soiled Clown doesnít bear thinking about.

So here are some unkempt clowns.





Posted by john at 07:22 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2007

Gently does it.

When making apple juice you donít want to damage the apples do you? And the carton from Lidl is very reassuring:


When I was in Bavaria this autumn I saw some apples being naturally gently pressed. Youíd be forgiven for picturing an image of an alpine slope covered in short grass and Edelweiss, with a young girl, in a long white skirt and embroidered waistcoat, blonde hair in pigtails, squeezing apples into an enamel jug.

The reality is not quite as romantic as the copywriters would have us believe but none the less exciting for that. First of all the apples are gently loaded into a reservoir in the press, always under the ever watchful eyes of the Apple Inspectors of course.


The apples are washed and then gently smashed to pulp. The apple pulp is released onto cloth-covered flat wooden trays where Anton, sadly lacking white skirt and blonde pigtails, [but sporting a rubber apron which Iím sure does it for some] packs the pulp down.


Then the stack of trays is swung under the huge cast iron press where it is gently pressed with a two tonne hydraulic ram for 20 minutes.



Thatís when the girl comes in with the enamel jug and embroidered waistcoat, naturally.

Posted by john at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2007

Is it for real?

Salvador Dali, apparently, was told, by unscrupulous aids, on his deathbed, to sign hundreds of blank sheets of paper. Thus armed with authentication the unscrupulous aides proceeded to create their own Dalis and flog Ďem. The moral here, clearly, is to make sure there are no unscrupulous aides on your deathbed.

The man in the Netherlands, whose name escapes me, painted fake Rembrandts and Vermeers so good that even the experts were fooled. Where lies the worth? In the skill Ė in which case the forgeries are worth as much as the originals, or in the reputation?

In China they have all this well in hand. So well in hand they have an entire village geared up to produce paintings of the Masters.


What amazes me is not that a whole village is doing it, but that a whole village seems to have the ability to do it. Is it something in the water perhaps?

thanks Kevin Kelly

Posted by john at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2007

Les temps perdu

Talking of the past, here's one from 1996, when I was doing a series of drawings and prints with the Northern Ballet Theatre. This is Charlotte Talbot, at the barre.

Charlotte, detail, charcoal and pastel on paper, 450mm x 320mm

Posted by john at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2007

In remembrance of things past

Nostalgia is a great thing. How wonderful things were in the Good Old Days. Much simpler then, more straightforward, not so much choice, not so much confusion.

There is, as always, a great interest in images from the past, and the past is now the Sixties and Seventies*. Nothing much can be said about the latter - a ghastly time of Oxford bags, platform shoes, cream shirts huge roundy collars and fat brown ties. But The Sixties were a good thing, now that we can forgive the hippies their long hair.

Today the internet gives us the ability to access, collect and display stuff on an unprecedented level. ffffound ffffor one has pages of images gleaned from other sites. Most ppppopular amongst the ppppictures seem to be typography posters, drawings with slashes and lettering on, sixties record covers, book jackets and photographs with a surreal David Lynch quality.

So here, to add to the ever-growing pot of nostalgia, is my collection of typographical ephemera:


By Ken Garland 1972



Once removed from its original context and displayed like this everything takes on a new significance. We look again at something we perhaps see all the time.

If anyone ffffancies putting any of these on ffffound, thatís ffffine by me.

*though of course ďThe SixtiesĒ was from 1965 to 1975

Posted by john at 04:04 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2007

I'm not saying it was cold in the studio today, but...


Posted by john at 08:56 PM | Comments (3)

December 14, 2007

My deaf dad

My father was totally deaf in his right ear and profoundly deaf in the other. So he made himself an electronic hearing aid, before there were such things.


In the morning, before he had his hearing aid powered up, if you put your mouth up to his ear and shouted you could talk to him. Well, at least, you could tell him something - sadly conversations were not common.

Posted by john at 11:33 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2007

Why white?

Many people have puzzled about my propensity for painting models white. Not least me.


ďIs it innocence?Ē Ė usually the first question.
To which I invariably reply: ďNo, not innocenceĒ

Itís something to do with permanence and timelessness. With the essence of the figure as a symbol rather than the personality of the model as an emotion.


Not that a white figure canít be emotional. When white the emotions are up for grabs, in the control of the photographer, a blank canvas if you like.


ďIs it statues?Ē

It could be statues, yes, with all their power and portent.

Posted by john at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2007

Then the Little Scissors

Once the Big Scissors have done their worst, heh heh, and the cutting room floor is awash with unwanted scenes, like a stripperís clothes strewn across a dirty stage, you get out the little scissors, snip snip snip.

BABBLING FOOLS - frame capture

Or rather you get on to the slip, slide, ripple and roll buttons in the edit. You trim a little, you extend a bit, snip, slip, slide, ripple - no, no forget ripple, it fucks up the sync.

BABBLING FOOLS - frame capture

Fine tuning, taking up the slack, taking out the tolerances. Making it work.

Posted by john at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2007

Wielding the Big Scissors

There comes a time in the life of a film when you must needs get in amongst it with the Big Scissors.

You spend months writing it. You spend days filming it. You spend hours putting together sequences in the edit. You naturally form an attachment to a film. You begin to forgive its faults, as you would your children. But this is no time for faults. This is a time for Big Scissors.*

BABBLING FOOLS. JC, Susan Jinks, Steve Evets. photo Katrin Freitag

Story. Story. Story. Whether the story is told with words or with pictures it needs to be clear, no flannel. No matter whether itís a great shot, or a neat edit, if it doesnít move the story on it shouldnít be in, it needs to be expunged, without further ado.

BABBLING FOOLS. Steve Evets photo: Katrin Freitag

Mind you this is not always straightforward: when the film is all about the Babbling Fools, a certain amount of babbling foolishness is called for. But determining what is babble, what is foolishness and what is crap is not always easy. Oh! How art doth mimic life.

*SAFETY NOTE: the use of Big Sissors with young offspring is generally frowned upon, unless they have unruly hair.

Posted by john at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2007

Whooshing Engines

Iíve finished cutting the pictures for Babbling Fools and Iím starting in on the soundtrack. So this week we were back in Bates Mill, with the posh microphone, recording the big thrumming noises from the carding machines.

Whilst our ears were tuned to the Mighty Hum we noticed the Wool Wooshing Engine. This is where the raw wool is whooshed about the mill in huge galvanised whooshing pipes and delivered to big bins in the carding shed.

Not being ones to miss an opportunity the entire crew voted in favour of making a short film about Wool Wooshing.

And, thanks to the wonders of You Tube, here it is, all 50 seconds of it.
[Turn your volume up good and big]

Posted by john at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2007

Books, pelmanism and Georgie Fame

A good book is a great thing. When you get to the end itís hard to put it down. Itís even harder to find another book to start. Itís especially hard when itís late at night and youíre going along the bookshelves in your slippers with a torch and you canít find the one you want.

Pelmanism* can help you only so far Ė usually about two moves. That is: you knew whereabouts on the shelf the book was and if it isnít there then thereís an even chance that youíll know where you moved it to. But after that itís Open Season for Book Hunting.

What is called for of course is a classification system. Now, I donít have enough books to warrant the attentions of Mr Melvil Dewey and his fancy decimal system, a simple alphabetical order would suffice. Just for the novels, you understand, the big books have a distinct and individual classification system known only to the present incumbent.


Well, when you start poking around in the bookshelves sorting piles of books according to the first letter of the authorís surname, you find all sorts of books youíve forgotten. You also find out that you have more books by authors whose surname begins with M, than any other letter. And of course you come across such classics as these:


Then you find things youíve put on the shelves in a time when there was more space than books. Such as your collection of 45s. Which includes the first record you ever bought:


*a system of memory training, devised by Christopher Pelman, a British psychologist, and later used to describe a species of card game.

Posted by john at 10:42 PM | Comments (2)

The joys of floor tiling

It didnít help that there was underfloor heating.

It didnít help that the thermostat for said underfloor heating was 3mm thicker than any other part of the underfloor heating and had to lay between the elements and not down one side or set into the floor.

It didnít help that the special floor tile cement for underfloor heating stuck to everything except 1. the underfloor heating and 2. the underside of the tiles.

It didnít help that the special floor tile cement for underfloor heating was black as soot and turned everything it touched black as soot.

It didnít help that the floor tiles were nearly white.

Not that Iím complaining. Playing with plasticky sticky stuff sticking to everything in a room six foot square when you canít walk on most of the floor because there are tiles recently stuck to it is a good time to reflect on some of the teachings of Lao Tzu.

Posted by john at 09:04 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2007

Of marble tiles and soil stacks

Tomorrow I'm back amongst the water pipes.


Laying a marble floor no less, Travertine Marble I believe, though apparently it isn't marble.


watch this space, as they say...

Posted by john at 09:57 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2007

Babbling Fools

Back among the Babbling Fools,
sorting through yards of digital footage.

The Man on the Street: ďThatíll be virtual yards, then?Ē
Myself: ďSorry?Ē
The Man on the Street: ďVirtual Ė if itís digital, it doesnít exist, surely?Ē
Myself: ďIt was recorded on tape, digitally, so it has a palpable presence.Ē
The Man on the Street: ďFair enough.Ē

Anyway, hereís a trailer:

Posted by john at 02:00 PM | Comments (2)