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A Really Difficult Birth

I have never really been noted for either my patience or having an even tempered nature.  But the launch of my current project could test the patience of Job.


This is a project that has spanned a little over four years.  It is a book on the subject of beauty called Beauty in Every Form.   This book asks some pretty searching questions:  Just what is beauty? Is beauty merely skin deep? Can an inner beauty shine out? Is it only for the young and athletic?  Are we all judged? And if so just who gets to judge us?


The contributors are an interesting group from around the world and come from a range of viewpoints and a rich variety of life experiences, taking part are photographers, artists, poets, academics, publishers, students, health workers, writers, models and dancers.  There are people from alternative life styles, people who have disfigurements and disabilities.  I have every confidence in the words and pictures, the contributors are a wonderful group and it has been a privilege compiling this book.


The thing that has hacked me off more than a little is the process we have had to undergo getting it into print.  I won’t name the company as it really doesn’t show them up in a very good light, but industry professionals will no doubt guess who they are.  They are not just printers but are global distributors and supposedly the world leaders in what they do.  If so, maybe there is a gap in the market?


The book, as I said, took four years to put together and edit, the biggest project of this kind I have ever undertaken.  The first hitch was the paper size.  The company producing the book had changed its standard paper dimensions, only by a few millimetres, but it was enough to make necessary a complete redesign of every page.   Irritating, but as I am the designer I re-cut it all to fit the new paper.  Hitch two, the cover also didn’t fit, but I sort of expected that; the block (inner pages assembled) had changed so the outer cover would need to be altered too.  There was one curious feature in the template they supplied; the spine was sizably larger than I had expected.  I mentioned it to the publisher, but we decided to roll with it as this was uncharted territory for both of us.   Hitch three, the cover template was incorrect, it was for a hardback and this is to be a paperback book, so the cover needed to be changed.  This is my 86th cover so, well, it is not a big fix to change the cover.  All ok, all loaded, all approved, I took the strategy of announcing the book launch to the press, now adding a time constraint to the project.  But all was well, the book was fine wasn’t it?  And there was a proof copy sent out in the post.  Hitch four, the paper quality was so buttock clenchingly piss poor we could not release it!  This was on their standard quality paper.  Now if it had been budget paper, or draft quality, I could have understood it.  Totally unacceptable, so we upgraded the paper to premium quality.   Hitch five, with the premium paper the spine of the book increased, necessitating another redesign of the cover to accommodate the extra spine depth.  At this point I checked every picture in the book, just to make sure, it took time but I had the book back to the publisher in less than 12 hours.  A good job I thought.  The book needed to be re-uploaded and we expected another week’s delay.  Which we got.  Surely nothing else could go wrong?  Hitch six, the printing company bounced the next printed book because of a bent cover, another weeks delay.  Hitch seven, we discover the print company sent the proof to my publisher’s previous address, despite being told the correct address and despite the fact they sent the skanky copy to the correct address!  Another weeks delay.

I would not say that my book when it is born will not be a welcome child, but it has been a far from easy birth.  My turn for the gas and air.


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A new year, a clean sheet of paper.

Contemplation webContemplation, pencil on pastel paper, 2013

There is nothing quite like a fresh start, a clean slate.  From the artistic point of view, some folk are intimidated by a blank sheet.  What Earnest Hemingway called the White Bull, the blank page.  When I teach art it is a recurring problem, students saying, “but it doesn’t look right.”  When I look at their work, there is nothing wrong, except for the simple fact they have not coloured the page and the white of the paper glares out at them.  There was an American TV artist of the 1970’s, a lady called Nancy Kominsky, a great inspiration to me for her flamboyant use of the pallet knife for applying oil paint.  Yet as skilled as she was, she had a dislike of stark white canvas and used to stain it with a thin mix of burnt umber ant turpentine, just to get rid of the white.

As for myself, to be the first to put a mark on a clean blank page is a glorious thing. I love a pure white virginal sheet, a myriad of possibilities stretching before me.  The joy of starting a new project seems to renew my love of art.  There is an overwhelming feeling of optimism; will this be the best work I have ever done?  Will this be the pinnacle of my achievement?  And the heady mix of both wanting it to be, and not wanting to be, because if it was the pinnacle there is nowhere to go from there but down.  Even with that mix I know that the next crisp white sheet will renew my optimism.

Outside the Menier Gallery with fellow artist Paul Ballard

Outside the Menier Gallery with fellow artist Paul Ballard

I feel likewise with the New Year ahead.  The new sheet of the year spreads before me.  Already the folder marked 2013 has a new picture in it and I contemplate my next project.  This week I set up for the first exhibition of the year, The Beauty of Women, a Guild of Erotic Artists exhibition at the Menier  Gallery in South London, running until 19th January.  Two more exhibitions are planned for March and a smattering of exhibitions spread before me over the year.  A book I have been working on for over four years is coming to its finish, and publication is very soon.  Though already scribbled on, the new sheet of this New Year still gleams with the promise of this being my best artistic year ever and at the same time I still feel there is more to follow next year…

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