Some of the hole.

I try and avoid mentioning where I live as I find so much of it pretty awful and I don’t want to give its seedier residents any more attention than they deserve, I.e none. If you need a hint though, take the word Hating and then stick two extra S’ in it. S for shitty, s for sordid, s for self absorbed, self indulgent, smug, snidey…. I guess that makes my point.

There’re a few lovely people here, who I collect like precious jewels, and I had a bit of a dilema recently when I was asked to help them produce some prints and cards for an up and coming group art show. The snag was that, apart from her, I had zero respect for pretty much everyone else involved in the show.

It probably helps if give you a bit of background here… 

Hating, as we shall now call it, has a population of over 80,ooo people. Most of the noise in terms of the local arts and entertainment that appears on social media counts for around 50 people. They hold events, slap up posters, chew the ears off whatever local press are not already members of their clique to get more coverage for what to do or are planning to do. Of that number, the most are in their fifties and have moved here from somewhere else, mostly London. They have capitalised on the difference in house prices to clear their mortgages early so that they can now live in relative comfort compared to the hardship beset by either locals or the poor who have washed up here since the thatcher era. Many of these people have taken the opportunity of being mortgage and dependant child free to regress into a second teenage phase and reinvent themselves as creatives, often inventing a backstory where they were something amazing in London or Brighton. 

There is a wonderful little racket that goes on hereabout and it goes like this…

Tosser 1 writes articles for the amateur online local rag, tosser 2 writes for the local paper rag, tosser 3 is brilliant at filling in funding applications. Now imagine what would happen if these three tossers had nothing better to do than prat about bigging up their chums and helping them and themselves to organise hideous little events for which the can cream off a bit of profit here and there. If this were done by a member of the Freemasons or the rotary club it would be seen as corruption, but if you made a point of being conspicuously left wing…. Well, it’s being community minded isn’t it?  Now before you going running to any judgements , I’m extremely left wing myself, more so than any of these clowns, the difference is that I’m not a hypocrite.

With this event like many others in Hating, the bulk of the work is amateurish in the extreme and were it to appear in any other town, in any other setting, it would be met with little more than mild embarrassment, yet this will probably go down in retrospect as yet another triumph for the local community. 

There are a couple of ringers, my friend included, to nudge up the quality level and provide an injection of credibility to the usual dross, but the dross is always there. 

There are better people hereabout, their work sells outside of this town and they quietly get on with what they do regardless of the self promoting crap, they know who these people are and regard them with the contempt that they richly deserve, they don’t, however, spend all their time reviewing themselves for their own group shows article and so it’s rare that they get any local attention. 

What I find truly fascinating is the, given the amount of connected people and the resources they can command, why are they all so consistantly bad? You would think that just by the shear number of things they all put on, at least one of them would be passably average rather than bloody awful, but no, everything they do is terrible. 

I think it’s important to state that these people view me with a mixture of loathing and fear in equal measures. Firstly, because I see right through them, secondly because I know all their nasty little secrets but the main reason is because they cannot buy me, i don’t value anything they could offer me and never did and that terrifies them.

I have had nothing to do with any of these fools for years now and whilst it saddens me that they are still churning out the same pretentious drivel for little more than to impress each other, it doesn’t suprise me in the least. Hopefully it shall be a few years before I get wind of any more of their foul works; although never would be better. 

I guess all I can really do is to keep my head down and get on with my own work.

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You can’t do that!

What do Takashi Murakami, Quentin Blake, Gerald Scarfe, Dave McKean and me have in common? They have all created both potentially offensive images and children’s books. Whilst that is the only time I shall ever put myself in the same sentence as those world class artists, the comparison feels justified as I am trying to prove an important point here. It’s nigh on impossible to produce art for years on end without occasionally running into a spot of bother for something that you’ve made or for the reason why you made it and, frankly, if you don’t upset the odd person, you really aren’t doing your job properly.

It is with a strange sense of pride that I admit that I had a telephone call from the police some  years ago because some of my work had caused offence to a rather corrupt individual. I wasn’t happy at the time because I had only just got out of hospital from having a heart operation but, through the filter of time, I regard it now as a rather impressive achievement. My edgier work falls into two main areas, subjects that are obscene , by which I mean the great evils of the world like corruption, war, genocide, abuse etc and the more personal stuff. When I hear of a person or persons locally who have been getting away with something awful, be it illegal or immoral, I feel it my social duty to comment on it. There is much injustice in this world and I see much in my local neighbourhood and if there is some way I can put the boot in (metaphorically speaking) on a shitty person or two, I will happily do it. I don’t actually name and shame them, but it people already have a clue as to what I’m drawing about, the story of their horrible acts is there to see.

I have on occasion had people come up to me and ask me to tone down my art or my opinions on some subject or other… It rarely ends well. It is rare to see an artist who does what they do for the money, and when they do, they usually get a nasty shock when they look at their bank account. One of the few perks of making art for the most meagre of livings is the level of personal expression that goes with it, if someone tries to take that away…. Oh dear! Not good! 

I recently had a rather sad conversation with a friend of mine, they feared that if we ever fell out, I would do some horrible, spiteful, images of them. I was hurt at the time they said it and by some strange irony we have since had a falling out; six weeks later I still have no desire to do a cruel drawing… I never would. Someone would need to be an utterly disgusting human being to deserve the Chris treatment and my own personal upset rarely comes into it, more a need to balance the scales of justice slightly so the world feels a bit less wrong. 

There is a great deal of social responsibility in placing images in the public arena, I would like to think that I get it right most of the time. That said,  I’m far from perfect and I do occasionally regret something that I’ve put out in public with too much haste. I can get so excited by a concept that I just have to do it. “Oh the cleverness of me!” As Peter Pan would say. Sometimes, “oh the stupidity of me!” Would be far more appropriate.

The one thing that I’ve found that is guaranteed to cause maximum upset isn’t sex, violence or blasphemy, it’s when you show unpleasant people what is lurking beneath their public facade. When a toxic person sees their own Dorain Gray painting that lurks in the attic room of their soul, they don’t like it. Unless you happen to be a politician, in which case you would probably buy the original and hang it in your hallway so everyone sees it… Go figure!

There is one thing that you can rely on with me  and it’s this;  If you tell me not to do something, particularly if there is a threat attached to that demand or even worse, a guilt trip.  Whatever it is, I will go out and do it, and then I will do something even worse, just to prove a point. You have been warned! 

Quicksand

Does anybody make films with quicksand in any more?

I remember, way back at the dawn of time, when I was a child, there was always some adventure movie that featured someone stuck in quicksand. It always gave me nightmares; that slow death of drowning in wet sand, and the more you struggled, the more you would sink. I’m humming the eponymous Bowie tune as I type this out, such is the impact the thought has on me.

It distressed me so much that I did a little research many years ago and found out how to survive should I ever walk into quicksand as is really likely in my mostly urban world. What you have to do is pretty much nothing. A special kind of nothing where you breath in deeply so that the air in your lungs slowly floats you to the surface, where you gently scull your way to solid ground.

I have a dilemma in my life right now. It’s a situation where I truly don’t know if I am doing the slow wait or whether I have been quietly placed in the ‘file and forget’ draw in someone’s mind. I am not a person that is used to being this inactivity , pro-active is much more my style, and biting down on the urge to do something is taking every inch of my energy…

It is strangely exhausting doing nothing, counting the hours and days of giving someone space, all the while hoping , without knowing, that it is the right thing to do. 

There is very little I can add to this, even writing about it might be going to far. All I can hope is that one day the situation rights itself without me further messing it up and that we can meet back on a solid footing. Drowning isn’t much fun. 

Waiting for hell to freeze over

This blog is something of a message in a bottle or Catholic confession if you like. Truth be told, I  don’t think anyone ever actually reads my blogs since a changed addresses and perhaps that’s for the best as, whenever they do actually read them, I get into all sorts of trouble.

I’m going to throw this out there as I’m sick of it rattling around inside my skull. I am currently waiting, Godot style; waiting for someone to get back to me, waiting for the penny to drop, waiting for some sense of rightness or justice to prevail, and I suspect it’s going to be a long one.

Without being indiscreet, I told someone that the married person they were seeing was  a useless lying sack of shit. I must declare that I do have a vested interest in the situation; that said, I would have felt obliged to say it anyway as I could no longer bear this appalling person profiting from their actions. 

There has been radio silence for some six weeks now and I suspect that the situation won’t change and that this is a definite case of ‘shoot the messenger’. I am used to this situation though, metaphorically speaking, I have collected more bullet holes than a target at a rifle range. I guess I would be much better off if I learnt to keep my mouth shut, my iPad unused and my drawing and painting materials locked out of harm’s way. 

However,  while I regret the consequences of this current situation and a fair few of those that came before, I know I did the right thing; not the nicest thing, not the smartest thing, not the best thing for me but it was the right thing…. I’m a total idiot aren’t I? 

Shall I give you something to cry about ?

It’s enough to make you cry isn’t it? 

Erm, no! 

Today I watched a close friend of mine as they burst into tears; whilst 99% of my attention was focused on comforting her, the remaining percentile was locked in a familiar mantra… ‘Just how does she do that? How lucky she is!’ 

That’s a terrible thing to think isn’t it? It makes me sound so callous; and yet there it is again, I am so jealous of people who can cry.

Things have been pretty grim in my world of late, my love life has slipped beyond the realms of farce into some form of Dadaist performance art. My finances are being threatened by something akin to the writings of Kafka as my madness is of the wrong sort and had left me in the position of being too mad to be capable of proving that I am mad. On top of this, I have been researching the possibility of getting a restraining order out against my family as they are hounding me to the point of distraction. 

What  would dearly love to do right now and for the last few weeks is burst into tears and yet I can’t. It must be a tremendous relief to release all that pent up emotion in floods of tears, but that has been denied to me for so long, since around 1996 to be exact. When my father died it was strictly the mum show and for day after day for years I sat as she poured her grief in my ear, like some sort of toxic sludge, as her need to be the staring act in the bereavement show nullified any opportunity for me to grieve at all. This wasn’t the first time of course, being raised by a parent with undiagnosed and untreated mental health problems had already meant decades of squalor and misery to which I had been a helpless witness. Not being allowed to process and properly grieve for my father was merely the rabbit dropping cherry on the dog shit cake, skilfully iced in dioreah. 

For years I was forced to hold off the grieving process as my parents’ toxic marriage was cognatively reframed as the most heavenly thing ever and, when it was time to turn my own waterworks back on, I found that my tears had completely dried up.

I can produce the odd false tear if I yank a stray hair from my nostril or chop up onions but when it comes to that cathartic flood that comes with the release of pent up emotion… Nothing!

One thought does occur to me though, and that is that, were I able to cry, would I produce any of the art I make?  Would that raw emotion need to come out on paper?  I guess, as the pain keeps coming and the tears clearly don’t, I shall never know.

An absence of colour.

I ran out of blue yesterday, cerulean blue to be exact. It’s one of my most frequently used watercolour pigments and I managed to run out of it just before bank holidays plural were due to scupper the postal system and my artwork with it. I tried a little experiment today, I tried to produce a painting without this one shade. I managed to produce a piece of art that I was reasonable satisfied with but it just felt wrong. It mirrors another situation where I am missing the presence of a person, someone who made everything make some sort of sense; I can and have managed without them too, but it feels equally off kilter with their absense.

Many years ago now, I saw Eric Clapton play live and during one song a guitar string snapped. He instantly worked his fingers madly to compensate for the string’s absense on the adjoining strings, finding the missing notes on the higher and lower octaves to play the tune with as little disruption as possible. I wasn’t quite so fortunate or talented and the absense was painfully noticable to me; enough so that I ended up travelling to a town many miles away to locate a precious square of blue paint that would set my world to rights.

The human situation is less easy to resolve as a person  is far less replaceable than a cube of finely ground cobalt mixed into gum Arabic. Paint problems can be fixed by the application of money and a bit of a trek; a human being and their wishes can’t.

The sorry tale of tootancomout 

This is a true story about my sister and a married man called Robert. 

My sister has learning difficulties, they may only be mild but they have caused her problems all her life. For some time in my twenties, we used to share a flat together. It was less than ideal but sometimes we make choices through having very limited options and this was one of those occasions.  

Probably the most frustrating part of this situation was having to deal with the fact that she was seeing a married man; and when I saying ‘seeing’ well…. You know what I mean.

In the whole decade this situation went on I never met him, yet I hated him nonetheless. I called him tootancomout because one minute my sister would be nodding off in front of the television in her pyjamas when a car would toot its horn in the road outside and off she would scurry, to get dressed and shoot out of the door. He’d toot, she’d come out.

There were the usual excuses; his marriage was over, they were staying together for the kids, he’d leave one day when the time was right… Suffice to say, it never was.

I hated that he used my sister and I hated what he took from her. The years that she would never get back, wasted on a liar, a cheat and a complete waste of space. I would cheerfully have beaten the crap out of him… But then I wouldn’t recognise him if I walked straight past him. Snivelling coward that he was.

We can’t choose who we fall for, the world would be so much simpler if we could, but some situations come with nothing but pain. I’m sure there is some excitement at first, the thrill of clandestine meetings and the adrenaline rush of doing something you aren’t supposed to but the other side of the coin is all the unhappiness just waiting to happen. 

The best that can happen in a situation like this is that you end up with someone who you know to be a cheat, hopefully they won’t ever cheat on you, but somewhere deep down you know that capability is there…. But that is ok in most circumstances and relationships are seldom perfect after all. 

In the case of my sister though, it just fizzled out. After years and years of this bloke stringing her along, it just faded into nothing. Suprise, suprise, he never left his wife and he got everything he wanted and suffered zero consequences for his bad behaviour. 

What I hate most in situations like this is the lack of justice, my sister ended up alone while he had his bit of fun. I’m not foolish enough to think that the world is a fare and just place. I just don’t want to be reminded of it.

There is no conclusion to this story, no great wisdom to be extracted from it. It just is what it is, another sad story to be added to the pile. 

If you…

Some four hundred years before Christ reputedly walked the earth, a Chinese warlord by the name of Sun Tzu came out with some of the wisest sayings known to humanity. To my mind, the best of these was this…

“If you wait by the river long enough, you will see the bodies of your enemies float by.”

 You can take this literally, he was a warlord after all, but it can also be interpreted as meaning that if you leave people to it, they will wreak damage on themselves without you ever having to lift a finger.

Every now and then I catch sight of the car of someone who both actively and inadvertently caused me a lot of harm in the past and I see its rapid descent from showroom condition that its previous owner kept it in to that of a stock car. The decay of the car mirrors the decay of the person as the chaos of their life does exactly the same to them. For all the grief they caused me all I really have to do is nothing, they are ruining their life perfectly well on their own. 

When anything traumatic happens most of us feel the need to do something, to express our grief or upset in some way. I am probably more guilty of this than most, for good or bad, I wear my heart on my sleeve and often make rash decisions and do daft things as a result. What I should do is what Sun Tzu would advocate and that is wait…

Waiting is never easy though, we can turn off neither our thoughts nor our emotions and we cause ourselves a great deal of suffering in the process. Learning to trust that things will work out for the best can be the hardest lesson to learn and I have to admit that I am not quite there yet. 

Perhaps one day I will be though and I can take my place by the riverbank and I will be wise enough and calm enough to just wait.

The curse of being articulate.

I am always getting myself into trouble of one sort or another from threats of violence to legal trouble, through filthy looks, intimidation, black balling and every other form of recrimination. I have never, to my knowledge committed a crime or hurt anyone and yet if anything unfortunate were to happen to me, the list of possible suspects would be pretty long. 

I think a major problem is that I am a very honest person, I can’t bear liars and I find it almost impossible to lie myself. I can sugar coat the occasional hard to swallow pill but mostly I find it really hard to lie. Plus, I have a really bad memory for non facts and I would never be able to tell the same fib twice. Added to this, I am a champion blurter; if it’s on my mind, out it comes, there it is, honesty, truth, more honesty with a side order of tactlessness. I drunk alcohol recently for the first time in many years… Bad, bad move. Just crown me king of the blurters and be done with it.

Having abnormally high levels of empathy really doesn’t help, when you hear about some nasty thing someone is doing or has done I can’t help but try and put myself in their position, to try and understand how or why they could have done it; sometimes I can fathom out how things could have got to the point where they could have done X, Y or Z but mostly I can’t. Most of the time I find it impossible to comprehend the smallness of thought, the cruelness, the callousness or overblown self interest that would lead anyone to do anything unpleasant. I tried to put my mind in the head of an adulterer this week and couldn’t do it; no matter how hard I tried couldn’t imagine going back home to a spouse after getting out of someone else’s bed. Granted, compared to trying to comprehend how Tony Blair manages to live with the deaths of hundreds of thousands, it is rather petty, but I still can’t understand it.

Please don’t think for the second that I am some kind of self righteous person, my sins, flaws and failings are many and quite spectacular, but I do have a deeply defined sense of right and wrong and an easily peaked sense of injustice. I don’t really think that anything that I believe is particularly outrageous. I’m not homophobic, sexist, a religious zealot or a crusading atheist, neither am I a racist and I don’t preach my vegetarianism to anyone. The only reason I refuse to list all my shortcomings here is that I already have low s of esteem problems and I don’t wish to make them any worse.

On their own though, none of my opinions or beliefs should really get me into hot water but I suspect that the major cause of my problems is being reasonably articulate both visually and in writing. 
Much of my trouble is because I am capable of visually representing my upset, annoyance or disgust in an easily understood visual format. There is usually just enough detail to make those I am directing my criticism at squirm a little, or even a lot. When you get to the truth of someone and they actually aren’t very pleasant, they tend to get rather cross. Nasty people usually make excuses for themselves and they do it so often that they end up believing their own lies. There is nothing as disquieting to an accomplished deceiver than to be forced to look at their true self. Combine this with my willingness to put what I think in writing , it is easy to see why I have so many enemies for someone who leads an incredibly dull life.

I would be so much better off if I refrained from doing what I do. I would be richer, more successful, have a better love life and all that good stuff that sells things in adverts. Would it make me happier? Who knows? I don’t do the pride thing either, so I’m not going to try and justify who or what I am. Maybe I’m a complete idiot? Maybe I’m not? And to be really, really truthful… Does anyone actually care?

By the least amongst us.

Modern life is starting to feel like a perpetual race to the bottom, this farcical austerity agenda perpetuated for nothing but the most callous of ideological reasons. The banility of the media, the mawkishness of the news and current affairs shows, “show” being the operative word. A male friend of mine recently got stuck in a situation where a potential femail partner was justifying her promiscuity by saying that is was okay for men to do it, so why couldn’t she? A fair point perhaps, although the better conclusion would be to educate young men into not objectifying women and raising the bar on how humans treat each other all round.

In my view, it comes down to respect, respect for others and respect for ourselves. I have suffered from low self esteem in the past and when you are stuck in that hole, it becomes increasingly difficult to fight your way back to some sort equilibrium. For those with self esteem problems, the world throws constant problems at you; challenges present themselves where if you shoot too high, you could be arrogant or petulant and if you aim too low then you allow yourself to be treated poorly and you inevitably get sucked into a cycle of self loathing and depression. Some years ago now, I had to walk away from a potential romantic partner when she put me in direct competition with a particularly loathsome specimen of masculinity. I shall spare you the details but the fact that she even had to think twice about the decision was enough for me to walk away. Whilst I knew that I was doing the right thing, it still stung and still fills me with regret, however unnecessary.

The problem is that dignity, correct self worth, self respect, integrity or principles often come with a price tag attached. Doing the right thing in a situation can often lead to you suffering for it in some way. In my experience, doing the right thing often makes me feel like crap for a very long time, suffering from severe depression as I do. 

And I’ll be completely frank here… Being honest has done me no good whatsoever, it earns me neither friends, money nor does it get me laid. Although I do sleep at nights, that’s something I guess.

In the world today, doing the right thing seems to be seen as something quaint or old fashioned. A throwback to some earlier era that no longer exists. The thing that I don’t understand though is that, to me, a world without an internal sense of morality and common human decency is one that isn’t worth living in and all that we are left with is a big pile of shiny but intrinsically worthless stuff to sit on. 

Terrance McKenna put it best when he said, “we are led by the least amongst us, the least intelligent, the least noble, the least visionary” and it is a situation that oozes from the top down to permeate every level of the world today.

What chance do any of us have when we see a world run by crooks and narcisists? Where celebrity has replaced talent and intelligence and the only heroes left are the kind in stupid costumes in Hollywood movies?

The truth is, that I don’t like the world very much; I find it course, jarring and vulgar in the extreme. Just dealing with the world and its ill thought out wants and desires sucks away at my very soul. Sometimes I wish I could close my eyes and wish really hard so that it will go away. It won’t though. Shame!