Over the past few months I’ve upped my newsletter intake, with my gateway drug being Warren Ellis’ Sunday special Orbital Operations. That being the keystone, the other standouts are:
Austin Kleon: writing and artistic motivation, mixed in with that week’s discoveries.
Chuck Wendig chums out a rich trail of thoughts, author guest spots and writer’s craft. New posts at, frankly, a terrifying rate compared to everyone else in this list.
Saving the most beautiful and satisfying till last, Disturbances by Jay Owens, aka Hautepop, is an on-going series of long reads on the subject of dust. No, I’m not kidding. Go on, they’re perhaps the best short non-fiction I’ve read in the last couple of years. Dedicated, thorough, absorbing.


You’re looking great, did you have a good summer? Mine has been pretty busy, with some very ace projects that I will hopefully remember to post here in the next while, and I’m working on some big new portfolio pieces which will appear here as soon as they’re done. My other big plan for the next few months is getting back to my plan to make ‘calligraphising’ a legit verb for what I do with my days, because ‘I writ it up all nice and purdy’ is a bit of a mouthful. Meanwhile, here’s me busily calligraphising some ee cummings:

Catch you later!

Duncan of Jordanstone Degree Show 2018

So it was my local neighbourhood art college degree show last week, and amongst the usual suspects were the good, the bad and the eye-burstingly beautiful. I’ve picked the dozen artists who most caught my eye, so here we go:
Isla Valentine Wade was my real stand-out, using playful and experimental techniques to make enormous, fascinating, expressionist art in confident colours. A joy to find.
Zoe Webster is one of a set of this years’ artists looking closely at Scottish geography, in this case how it interacts and intersects with the people living around it. Great linework, and powerful use of charcoal.
Camassia Bruce is another artist looking at her environment, in this case the cross-over between OS maps and the terrain they cover. Her exhibition space was mocked up in the style of a study office, so that her work was presented as working maps to be consulted and studied rather than as art.
Heather McNab is the third wandering artist, creating art based on time spent at mountain-tops, and conveying the physicality of these locations.
Lara Orman, by contrast, makes what seem like abstract landscapes, based on unpopulated or unused spaces.
Lisa Healey used the process of printmaking to explore mental health issues, most notably using objects meant for repeated use to make repetitive marks. Art as, and about, therapy and self-help – one of the most powerful exhibitors this year.
Emma Claire Fallon creates deconstructed portraits and huge crowds of tiny stick people, asking what we see in crowded spaces.
Johanna Tonner made wonderfully cross-pollinated art, combining a flurry of techniques to examine femininity and mental health by way of photography, printmaking and soft sculpture.
Amy Tong made wonderful multi-layered illustrations drawing on East Asian pop culture.
Michael Doherty had a series of beautifully observed, well-coloured oil portraits, while the last of my dozen, Zen O’Conor created glowing, genuinely inner-lit skin tones in portraits and surreal pieces that owe more than a little to Dali and Lovecraft.
Honourable mentions: Li Huang‘s painted hands, Tina Scopa‘s giant plant art, and Jo Hanning‘s self-referential sculpture-paintings, some of which involved painting her own degree show as it happened on the opening night. How that turned out in practice is something I wish I’d seen.

Deep Sea

I’ve always been fascinated by the deep sea, and I’ve nearly always lived in sight of the sea. I love to stand at the shore, my feet at the edge of the water, and think about how from there it’s a straight line all the way to Greenland or Norway or Canada, or a curved line to any damn place. And on the way to that place, what do you pass? Every creature in the sunlit ocean, every thing that swims and crawls and floats and chases and runs and sits and waits, going about their business almost entirely out of sight of people. And you go deeper, out of sight of the sun, and it’s not even a mile away but the rules change entirely, pressure and dark creating entirely alien environments that still fill the usual needs of completely unusual things.

And then there’s the door.

Learning curves

The letter ‘g’ is not what you think it is.

When I was learning calligraphy, ‘g’ was one* of the stranger things I had to wrap my head around. Why does it curve like that? Nobody knows! It lurks in texts, an ambiguous little sound waiting to catch me out as my tired paws stick the belly curve on the wrong way round again. And then it finally makes its counter-intuitive way into your muscle memory, and I can start playing with it, and now that bizarre little loopy thing is one of my favourite letters, having two ends that can turn into great glorious flourishes or subtle little interlinks depending on the mood the pen is in.

*The real strangest thing about calligraphy is that you end up having favourite letters, which is both a sign of a troubled mind and a subject for another day.