Thursday, 10 July 2014

Antiques while you wait

This massive, bill-board size drawing in Walcot Street was made for the Bath Festival by my mate, Stanley Donwood.

I missed the actual event due to poor publicity, but I am told there was a series of images projected onto it when it was dark on the night of the opening.

Stanley (not his real name, as mine isn't Tom) is best known as the designer of all the Radiohead album covers, but he also writes under the same name, and the stuff I have read is dark and humorous. He is another Bell regular.

Shortly after this went up in the street, I began to notice lots of monochrome pictures of heavily-wooded paths leading to nowhere. If you turn around from facing this billboard, there is a framed drawing/print in a design shop window which looks very similar, and my eye has been caught by the same subject matter all over town and in various magazines.

Maybe  - as when you own a particular model of car, then start to see the same model everywhere - I have just become tuned-in to these images, or maybe they are fashionable right now.

I have always been attracted to that area which cannot be clearly defined as 'Fine Art', but hovers somewhere between graphics and painting. The few paintings I made when at art school fell uncomfortably into this bracket, and the snide thing for real painters to say at the time was "Maybe you should transfer to the Graphics Department?" H.I. still says this from time to time, but not with the same malice as it was said to me by my teachers.

The one thing I have noticed about real painters is that - typically - that is the only thing that they can do really well, if they do it well at all. Stick most of them on a desert island, and they would wither away in a matter of weeks, I think. Cro is obviously an exception to this 'rule', until it comes to assembling flat-pack wheel-barrows.

It has been a very long time since I was so absorbed in my work that I have lost all sense of time. Maybe the last time this happened was when pubs had strict opening times, and desperate men could be seen hovering around their doors, waiting for 5.30.

The thing is that - these days - I am paid by results, not by the hour. I often work right next to highly talented young stonemasons (but I try to avoid it) and they cannot understand how I can command such high rates for doing about a quarter of the work they bust their guts on between 8 and 5.

It's not as if - in their eyes - I have paid my dues. I was talking to a Westminster Abbey trained stonemason some years ago, when he suddenly became flushed with a sense of injustice.

"You're not a real stonemason!" he blurted.

"You're right. I'm not, nor have I ever pretended to be," was my irritating response to him.

The difference is that now he is a project-manager for various building works, whereas I am still bashing away at stone and marble.

The only plan I had years ago, was to make myself indispensable and irreplaceable. The plan seems to have worked, and now I am cursed by it for the rest of my life - not that I am complaining, you understand, but I no longer take youthful pride in speed.


  1. I hope you're not accusing me of being a 'flat pack expert'. Heaven forbid.

  2. Indispensable and irreplaceable - the two words which immediately spring to mind when I think of your blog Tom!

    1. Aww, Weave - that was a nice thing to say, even if you do hate me.

  3. You are a medieval artisan lost in time.

    1. 'Pilgrim' - what a great idea for a never-ending thriller series.

  4. I missed the indispensable and irreplaceable bit; I thought the plan is enough money to buy nice things.
    I like the Donwood poster. I like pictures of paths to the horizon, although this has a mildly sinister twist.

    1. If my plan was about money, I wouldn't be moaning about bankers all the time, now would I?

      Donwood specialises in the mild and not so mildly sinister.

    2. Ah, I see. No expenditure plan. You do need to be indispensable and irreplaceable.

    3. Now you understand. I have always had a vague expenditure plan. It's the income one which has tended to be a little hazy in concept. I never listened to Dickens, you see.