Thursday, October 28, 2010

'If God had intended us to follow recipes, he wouldn't have given us Grandmothers.'

The Family Dinners is a beautifully-produced new book by Laurie David, film producer, environmental campaigner, activist, and Mum, and her cook Kirsten Uhrenholdt, with illustrations by me.

Now wait, stop there - cook? The woman has a cook? Yes, she does. Once you've read the head-spinning list of things Laurie does for a living - including the all-consuming environmental activism which partly powered this book into life (she co-produced Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' amongst other monumental achievements), you can understand why she decided something had to go. 'I initially dismissed the idea of help because my my middle-class upbringing made me uncomfortable about accepting it,' she says. 'How do you hire someone to do what Moms are supposed to do?'

However, Kirsten was indeed hired, and hers and Laurie's joint production is this book, advocating the urgent importance of eating together as a family at least once a day. The statistics are that only half of modern western families eat together more than 3-5 times a week (note that's 3-5 meals, not 3 days!) Most meals last less than 20 minutes, and most are eaten in front of the TV. On average, children today spend almost seven and a half hours a day using some form of electronic media. People claim they 'don't have time to cook', but somehow the western hemisphere has found an additional two hours a day to 'go online'. And these facts have a proven link to obesity, communication problems within families, diabetes, children's developing social skills and family closeness. Dinner times at a table with other people enable children (and indeed, some adults) to learn and develop social skills and protocols, the art of conversation, and mutual co-operation with prep, cooking and post-dinner cleanup. Training them, if you like, to fit into a civilised human society.

But there is a lot more to this book than that. The recipes are delicious and easy, the writing is relaxed and readable, and include basic rules for a successful dinnertime: everyone must show up at the same time, the same meal for everyone, everyone must try all of the food at least once, no electronic devices - that includes the adults - no TV, everyone helps clean up after-wards.

My illustrations are dotted throughout the book and on the cover, as well as being used on a set of endpapers - the first time I've done one of those. All drawn in ink with digital colour (for speed and flexibility), they enliven the book's sensitive typography and bright, down-to-earth writing.
To finish, I think this person sums it up very nicely indeed.
'Among the many wonderful things about being president, the best is that I get to live above the office and see my family every day. We have dinner every night. It is the thing that sustains me'.
President Barack Obama.

(Oh and what's the book standing on? This! The De-Luxe Book Spider. Dating from at least the 1960s, but we suspect earlier. Every home should have one.)

The book has its own website:

Read about Laurie here:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

'Oh, we loved what you did, but...'

A special Hallowe'en episode of 'The Ones That Got Away'

I've picked out a couple of suitably-themed rejects from the recently-opened vaults. As the bats and dust flew up into my face, I was reminded of this beauty for Macmillan, which I really enjoyed doing and which I thought - if I may be so bold - worked a treat. Among shelves and shelves of 'white & red on black' vampire covers, these would have stood out like Dracula's bride at a vegan bake-off. The art director fought my corner, but tragically lost.

Scroll down to see the cover they eventually went with - not one of mine!

Speaking of the current trend for 'white & red on black' vampire covers, this one for Summersdale was a brave attempt by me to buck the trend by presenting a bone-white cover with blood and charcoal text. For teenage girls (duh), this book actually had a bit more to it than met the eye - so I didn't want it to disappear into blood-suckers' corner without a trace. At the bottom is the one they went with. Oh well. I had a go. Maybe next year the shelves will be an ocean of white covers, as far as the eye can see...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inkymole Is Running For Cash: The Final Analysis!

No. of runners: 15,000 (ish)
Miles: 13.1 / 21.09km
Amount of cash raised for Mind: £1061 and counting
Chip time: 2 h 30 mins
How long did that silly grin stay on my face? 2 h 30 mins!
Place finish: 9433rd
No. of stops/pauses to walk: 0
No. of bottles of water: 3
No. of Strawberry Shot blox: 5
Silly running costumes spotted: 4 - a fish, a dinosaur, a 3D Mind logo, a ballerina
Chances of me doing it again: 100%

Crikey, I am my dad in this picture!

The day was overcast, cool, with outbreaks of sun or gentle cool breezes just when we needed them - and the most breathtaking atmosphere. I was so excited, and the miles just flew by, as did Buckingham Palace, Pall Mall, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, the Millennium Eye, and the Thames - if you'd like to see the route here it is.

Thanks to every client, friend, relative, neighbour, yoga classmate and fellow illustrator who tucked cash into my trainers. I had an excellent time, and am already getting 'the twitch' for the next one.

If you were one of those (and you know who you are!) who were 'waiting to see if I did it' before chipping in - well, here's ( where you go to make good on that promise!

Can't wait to get out for a run again, at the end of the week. Meanwhile here's my sustainable wooden medal. Nice!

Friday, October 08, 2010

The last but 1.

I've just done the last little run before the big one on Sunday. Really little. Just 15 minutes. But lately it seems to be all about the numbers.

Since the day I decided to do it, I've done 51 training runs, slugged down 4 litres of beetroot juice this week alone, run all but half a mile of the 13.1, and eaten my 5 a day. After each run I've religiously done the 7 leg-hip-yoga-poses Anna The Yoga teacher invented for me, and sat with my legs up the wall for 5 minutes (highly recommended). My mile time has speeded up by an average of 90 seconds, and I've broken in my 2nd pair of running shoes, got hooked on 6-packs of strawberry Shot Blox and ironed 8 letters onto my running vest.

I've also raised a total of £952 for Mind. I'm still aiming for £1000 and will be unsubtly chasing up the few mates who still haven't sponsored me. Even tonight, Chan at the corner shop and Linda over the road popped round with a fiver each, and I still have two mystery donors who may never come to light. I've been a bit overawed by people's generosity.

3,2,1. I'm really, really looking forward to it.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Hidden Sparkles.

In a flurry of party goodbyes on Friday, I was given this hand-made brooch by our friend Lisa. Lisa is the partner of Chris, aka CT, who also shares the dubious honour of being the first person ever to allow needles onto his skin in the shape of Inkymole's daubings. Several times. Erm, lots of times. And with whom we used to while away the small hours when we ran a pirate radio station.

But I digress. Lisa is not only CT's girlfriend but a very creative person with a bright robust spirit and a unique energy. She's also a mother to two boys, but she isn't, and never has been, solely that. Lisa is always making something and I suspect will one day be making things a lot more, when little boys are not so little.

The brooch was presented in a little green bag with a hand-made Mole brooch, and everything on it has been chosen to reflect what Lisa associates with me - kinky boots (owned, worn and blogged about), a black leaf (a frequent motif in my work), yellow for the rain mac she sees me flying about in round town, a 45rpm adapter for our shared musical past, and a Blythe doll badge holding it all together (since I have a red-headed one, a birthday present from Leigh and much-loved in her winter poncho and pink eyes).

I love it. Really love it. Sometimes little things just come out of the blue and make you catch your breath, don't they?

This is Lisa:

and this is me with CT (we look mean, but we were just cold):
"They say you should pick your battles wisely, but some of us have no choice"

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Factory Town.

All my life I've lived near a massive knitting factory. I thought that was a long time, but in fact there's been a factory on the same site since 1722.

You see part of the reason I decided to stay and work in this town where I grew up - apart from the low cost of living, proximity to Shakespeare, family/best mate and rich countryside - is that it has a thoroughly industrious vibe, being the core of the UK's hosiery industry and populated by two things: factories, and pubs (we had 133 pubs near the turn of the century - the number of factories I'm less sure about). That vibe has permeated our workspace and work ethic, our home having always been our own little factory - hence Factoryroad . Our new studio has been careful to reflect the factory-heavy street we live in, and the many years the people living here have spent working early mornings and late nights, watching the workers clock in at 7am and out at 4, with fag breaks rigorously observed in all weathers.

This massive factory is known locally as the Atkins building, but is actually called the Goddard Building, and is a beautiful example of solid, elegant Grade II listed architecture built in 1875, just a few years before our house and the factory built behind it (our house was built for its owner, Mr Thomas Ironmonger, Chairman of the Urban District Council).

The Goddard Building has recently been saved from the insurance-arson/dereliction/lunatic-bulldozer which our council is sadly renowned for, and subjected to an impressive transformation into a new creative centre and part of the new art school. The art school, originally in the next town, is decades old, taught both my uncles, and was the place I taught part time for six years as a fresh and enthusiastic graduate. The new building I can virtually see from my window, which will make guest lectures easier in future, and will bring much-needed energy to an area beset by neglect and a declining pub trade.

I went to the building's opening last week, and took some pictures. I think they've done a handsome job, and feel pleased that such a massive endeavour has been channelled towards the arts, rather than yet another sport venue/takeaway.

Some links for further reading: (we're in the Domesday book)


I've decided to re-post this blog, because on Friday I received a call out of the blue from one of the artists involved in this show, Jack, who told me that my short but positive review of his painting had kept him going (and painting) through one of the hardest times of his life. And that call was followed up by a little envelope containing £20 for my run for Mind on Sunday. I don't mind admitting a tiny tear was shed as a result - albeit with a big smile at how bloody amazing humans can be.


I went to a private view last night, one which, unusually, was held in my home town. A ten minute walk was refreshing ('private view' usually means a car or train trip to London or further afield) and the little gallery, Ten Two, where I used to have a studio a few years ago, was filled with people and the smell of warm bready things and coffee. (I should mention the gallery has its own cafe, very cosy with very large sandwiches.)

The work was 'Identity', the NHS Open Art Show 2009, which is touring. It's art by people who have suffered or still are suffering from health difficulties, with an apparent emphasis on mental health problems, whether currently in treatment or not. Some people had never made art before, some were postgraduate creatives, but the art was linked by an urge to communicate, express, explore, or deal with something personal and important.

Take 'Painting Mum' by Jan Welch. This is the one that had me standing in the corner in my unsubtle canary yellow rain mac trying not to show the reddening eyeballs. (I apologise that the iPhotos here are further affected by the glass reflections) Terribly moving in its simplicity, Jan had painted her Mum in a simple and realistic way, through three 'screens' of colour - pink for the positive outlook she retained throughout her life, grey for the Alzheimer's which eventually claimed her memory (but not her spirit) and yellow for the fear she felt 'most of the time'. In addition to this, the artist had painted over the photographs of the woman's three children, because the Alzheimer's eventually meant she forgot who they were.

Jack Shotbolt's 'Threadbare' is an ordered but frantic weaving of thick paint, a deep mesh of luminous colours and powerful strokes. This is a close-up. Of it, Jack says: 'In recent times I have repeatedly found myself in turbulent circumstances beyond my control that have rocked my world. The only constant has been my need to make sense of all this change by making paintings'.

This one I didn't record the artist for - sorry - but the position of the figure says it all. And the light. And the face...

This one I wanted to buy - but it was sadly the only one marked 'NFS': 'Covered ID' by Lou Woods (ID as in identity, or 'id' as in Freud?)

These delicate bowls called 'Change' and 'Gone' were made by Maggi Gamble after her mastectomy; tiny and fragile, they really needed no further explanation:

There were many others worthy of mention. Mat Brandford's 'The Gift And The Curse' was his first ever piece of artwork - a brave move then, to show such a thing in public - after 20 years of struggling to know 'which face to wear in which circumstances and with which people'. He had a past which included 'bullets' and a 'Teflon-coated' career in crime, and his brutally honest drawing shows his continuing struggle between the two 'faces'. I wish there was somewhere else online you could see all these - as there were plenty more I'd like to have mentioned.

This wasn't artwork shown for its awards, slickness, or clever concepts. To be presented with such raw and honest expressions was humbling and a little moving, and made me happy for the artists (to have such an outlet) and sad that they had cause to work in this way, though the resulting work was often beautiful. Some actually saw their mental / health problems as a gift, and chose to celebrate the different-ness it gives them. But mostly, it made me appreciate how lucky I am never to have been affected by such issues, and aware that one is always only ever a hair's breadth away from them.


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