THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS…

…DRAWN DARKLY

Another year passes, another Hanukkah arrives. For those unfamiliar with the story of the festival, I explain quite a lot about it here, in last year’s post. The reason it held a particular attraction for me as a child was – apart from the delicious foods, fun rituals and of course, the presents – was that it emanated from a period of history that fascinated me from an early age. So much did the story interest me in fact, that at some point, when I was about fourteen I decided to turn it into a comic strip.

Obsessed as I was with the actual history behind the story, rather than with the traditions and alleged miracles, I was keen for the strip to be as close to the ancient reality as possible. Hence, the “evil Greek soldiers” were less evil Greek, and more, ruthless, professional Macedonian mercenaries; while my “heroic freedom-fighter” Maccabees were more, (equally) ruthless, uncompromising zealots. Moreover, although the comic never made it that deep into the narrative, I intended to portray the Hellenised Jews, as less “treacherous collaborators” and more, worldly, pragmatic rationalists (one of which I would like to think I would have been myself!).

However, as was often the case with my juvenile projects, the initial flame of enthusiasm died out before I’d really got going – in this case, after barely the first two pages.

Nevertheless, it remains fun to look at now, and had I finished it, with its austere red-to-black tonality, it might have emerged as an early example of the graphic novel.

In the meantime, I wish all my Jewish readers a very happy, healthy and peaceful Hannukah, and a very merry Christmas to everyone else!

LOVE AND MARRIAGE – and a few laughs

With Valentine’s Day less than a month away and in light of the favourable response to my two recent greetings cards posts, here are some of the more successful designs I made back in the 1990’s with a romantic theme. While some were done specifically for the feast of said Valentinus, most were commissioned to cover the themes of wedding and / or non-specific anniversaries of a romantic nature.

The more conventional designs were for the UK market with the more quirky, and risqué images proving popular with Scandinavian, Dutch and German clients — although how they translated the captions, I have no idea.

My particular favourite — albeit retrospectively — is “You’re Just My Skype”, which originally bore the caption “Think of Me Always”. Given that the card was published in 1998, a full five years before Skype was launched I’m struggling to remember what influenced the design? Maybe it was just my “Jules Verne” moment…

CHRISTMAS CARDS – THE BI-POLAR SERIES

Of all the people I ever dealt with in the various branches of the art world – “fine” and commercial – by far the most disreputable (and this includes gallery owners, art dealers, advertising bods, and even agents!!) were the greetings cards companies.

A good example of what I mean is represented by the set of cards displayed below. Around 1990 I had the idea of doing humerous cards based on Arctic/Antarctic/Polar themes. I was particularly pleased with the way the dark blue starry skies and snowy landscapes threw the subject matter into sharp relief. They just looked great and I knew they worked and I knew they would sell well.

Anyhow, that Spring I arranged a meeting at the offices of one of the UK’s leading card companies to see what they thought of the designs. After a brief discussion the lady who interviewed me asked if she could keep the pictures for a week or so to enable the “production team” to give them full consideration…

Stupidly, I agreed to this, without even so much as a signed receipt from her proving that she had taken temporary possession of the designs.

About a week later, the lady met me in a cafe behind Selfridges in London and returned the artwork to me, saying that “the team” had decided that the designs were not for them after all.

To my dumb and ingenuous horror, my designs, redrawn by different artists appeared in the shops later that year. After speaking with a top London copyright lawyer I realised that my position was probably hopeless as I had no sure way of proving that the company had had possession of my designs, or that my designs predated those now being printed and sold – in their thousands! Moreover, he told me, even if I did win a legal case – back in those days at least – I would still most likely have ended up out of pocket.

It was an exceptionally painful lesson which contributed significantly to my decision to turn away from art.

Nevertheless, presented here, for the first time is that series of original designs. I think you’ll enjoy them – even if you’ve seen them before – sort of…

MY “DON’T” SERIES – (of greetings cards)

Can’t recall if I already mentioned that for a while I made a modest crust designing greetings cards and I also can’t  recall what on earth the concept was behind this “DON’T” series?  I cannot think of many occasions when one would either present, or wish to be presented with the sort of messages displayed here. Perhaps I actually intended them as posters for a psychiatrist’s waiting room? Who knows?

They were done using sheets of coloured acetates with drawn-then-stenciled figures positioned beneath. In the pre-digital age, this was a tried and tested method for artists on low budgets (without access to things like lithography or screen printing) to achieve clean blocks of solid colour and sharp edges.

Whatever, the images seem reasonably affecting looking at them now.

DOG DAYS 5 – “SHORT-BACK-AND-BOOBS”

This is almost totally true except for the fact that the lady cutting my hair had two girlfriends in the salon with her and for much of the time my head was compressed by three sets of boobs rather than just merely one as they passed the time of day over my poor noggin!

The “salon” was situated in our local pueblo blanco, where, back in the 90’s “men were men” and never entered – let alone got their hair cut in such a “feminine” establishment. Thus, the hairdresser’s surprise and thrill at getting her hands on a head like mine was extreme.

Fortunately, Dido took pity on me and immediately raced me down to our local town on the coast for a remedial styling…