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I love Dave McKean's Art, and have had the pleasure of seeing him speak and perform on a number of occasions, so when I saw that he would be appearing at Tate Britain, on Remembrance Sunday to give a performance related to his new graphic novel, Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash I immediately booked a ticket.

I have to admit that I know very little about Paul Nash, and though I have seen some of his paintings, I would not claim to be familiar with his art. But I read a little about him before going - he was born in 1889 and having originally worked primarily as a landscape artist, he then became a War Artist as a result of his service in WW1.

The Menin Road - Paul Nash (Imperial War Museum collection)

The performance on Sunday was a film of Dave McKean's new book, with live music from Dave himself (keyboard), Clare Haythornthwaite (violin) and Matthew Sharp (Cello and voice) plus spoken word narration and dialogue.

It was beautiful and haunting, exploring Nash's experiences and his response to them, his struggles with depression and with the impact on Nash's art of his experiences.

As far as I know, there are no further performances planned, but the book is available from all good bookshops. It's beautiful.

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Saturday morning was devoted to dull but necessary tasks, such as getting up far too early for a Saturday in order to get a 'flu jab, buying food, doing laundry and getting a cat-flap installed ready for when the kittens are allowed out.

The afternoon, however, was much more fun.

This year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature has begun, and one of the events was 'In Conversation with Dave McKean' which took place on Saturday afternoon at the Holburne Museum.

I was  particularly keen to see Dave McKean, partly because I love his work, but also as his event last year had to be cancelled, as he was prevented from getting to Bath by major road delays!

He started his presentation by apologising for last year, and explaining that he had arrived in Bath 3 hours early, this time, to ensure that there wasn't a repeat of that issue!

He then gave us a whistle-stop tour of some of his works, with illustrations,  concentrating in particular on the work he has done with children's books.  It was particularly interesting to me to hear him explaining to people who might not know, who Neil Gaiman is, with particular reference to his Crazy Hair!

He also talked about his work with David Almond (in glowing terms, and pointing out first that David was sitting in the audience!) Richard Dawkins and S.F.Said, speaking a little about the techniques he had used for some of the different art works.

He mentioned that his new film, Luna, is out soon. He didn't play us the trailer, as it is not a children's film (apparently it has just been classified as a 15) but did mention that it will be showing in Bath next month, and that he will be doing a QandA, but he did play us Sheepdip, Johnson and Dupree whicch was fun.

After the event he signed books - sadly the  event bookseller had not brought any copies of his new book Pictures That Tick (Vol 2) - they only had older ones (all of which I already own!) but Dave himself had brought along some spare copies of Jazz (in Quotes) which is a limited edition collection of illustrated quotes, which was produced for SDCC, so I was able to get one of those, and to get Dave to sign a couple of my existing books.

All in all, a most satisfactory evening. And when I got home, I was able to book a ticket for the screening of Luna.

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Did I mention that I really love Dave McKean's work? I really love Dave McKean's work. So going to London to see a live event, with him playing and singing his own music at the British Library was too good to resist.
Dave McKean
Having spent the afternoon at the Foundling Museum, I got to the Library in plenty of time, and was able to have a cup of coffee and admire the Steven Appleby art on the walls (there was an event relating to his book, 'The Good Inn' after the Dave McKean event, and the library appeared to have focussed on that)  before going in to the Auditorium to see and hear Dave McKean.
He was accompanied by a quartet of other musicians, and performed a total of 9 pieces, each accompanied by one of Dave's own short films, all different, and all amazing!
The 9 songs were:
Tempest - a melancholy song of rain, and rising floodwater.
Sheepdip, Johnson and Dupree
His Story - a haunting story from McKean's book 'Pictures That Tick' - the film was a animated version of the art which appears in the book, and left me thinking about the connection between parenthood and childhood, and memory.
Sheepdip, Johnson and Dupree - this was one of the songs which McKean performed at the 'Late at the Library event a couple of weeks ago - I think it would be fair to describe it as weird, but in a good, entertaining, way...
Neon - a strange, ghost story of a song, set in Venice (or a Venice-like city.
Mixed Metaphors - this was an absolutely beautiful piece of animation, the title sequence from 'Luna', (with no titles on it, as yet) beautiful images of paper birds, and flight. It made me  long to see the full film.
Words - another segment from 'Luna'.
The Coast Road - The coast road started life as an art exhibition (which I sadly missed) and became a book (which I happily have). Dave read the full story, with the artwork creating the film, and with the other musicians providing the music. It's a poignant, but ultimately optimistic story, about despair, hope and art.
June - another of the songs which McKean  performed at 'late at the library'.This was apparently written in response to a challenge from his pub music group (and I do wish I lived near a pub where people wrote new songs every month!), and involves a mince pie, and cleavage, and is is solemn and sober as that suggests!
finally, The Cathedral of Trees, a haunting finale to the evening. Dave explained that this was written as part of a collaboration he is working on with a theatre company called 'Wildwalks' (I think) for an immersive production called 'Callisto and the Wolves'  It was strange, haunting, and beautiful (also, the earlier part of the piece, which was filmed inside what I assume is McKean's home, gave me bookshelf envy!)
It was a fantastic evening, and I was very happy to be able to speak briefly to Dave after the event, to get  book signed and to give him some chocolate! Because of the Steve Abbleby event (I assume) the library had not made any specific arrangements for Dave to sign, and they didn't have any of his books for sake, which was a shame.
I would like to be able to mention the other musicians by name, as they were excellent, but unfortunately I was too busy listening to the music and watching the films when they were introduced, to make notes, so I can't provide their names. They were excellent, though.
To my frustration, I got to Paddington about 90 seconds too late to catch the train I had been planning on, so I had to wait an hour for the next one, and finally reached home just before midnight, but it was worth it. I'm glad I went.
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Foyer, British Library
Back in March, I saw that the British Library was going to be having an Exhibition, Comics Unmasked, about (the clue is in the title!) comics. And, even more exciting, from my perspective, that one of the events associated with the exhibition was this one, Neil Gaiman and Tori Amos, in conversation. Followed by Amanda Palmer and guests.

How could I resist?

I was lucky enough to get tickets - I think I must have got in just before the rush started! So Friday morning saw me on a train heading towards London, and a truly excellent day! I t was, of course, disappointing to learn that Amanda wasn't able to be there, but the news that Neil, and Dave McKean, would both be part of the music event was excellent compensation!

After visiting the Vikings exhibition, I met up with my friend A, and we had a very civilised meal in Russell Square Gardens, before heading on the the British Library where we were issued with wrist bands for the evening event, and then we went into the conference centre.

The auditorium was starting to fill up so staff were directing people to specific seats, and we ended up in the second row, right at one end, which turned out to be pretty good seats! (and, although we didn't realise it until she went up to the stage, it turned out that the red-headed lady sitting immediately in front of us for the introductions was Tori Amos herself!)

Neil and Tori

The room seats about 250 people, which feels pretty small and intimate, and the event involved 2 of the exhibition's curators, John Harris Dunning and Paul Gravett, (Paul Gravett has known Neil for years, having been involved in getting Violent Cases published)

It felt less like an interview, and more like a conversation between friends which just happened to be taking place in front of 250 guests!

Neil had just returned from his trip to Jordan for the UNHCR , and looked rather worn out from it, and when he spoke a little about it, later in the evening, it was obvious that those experiences were still very raw.

However, much of the conversation was much more lighthearted and free-ranging moving from how Neil and Tori met, the fact that despite having know one another for years there only seems to be one photo of them together (after Friday night, that will have changed!). They also talked about the reason Blueberry Girl was written, (with a shout out to Tash, who was in the audience) and the reason it was finally published (Neil claimed he got fed up with photocopying it for people who asked for it at readings) .

Neil and Tori were both asked what they would try to teach, if they had an apprentice for a day, and both confirmed that they wouldn't try to teach someone to write, but to think about the creative process (Neil said he would probably take them for a walk, and try to explain what goes on in his head when he goes for a walk. I should love to take that walk!)

There was talk of how Tori and Neil  inspired one another, and Neil mentioned that one of the things he liked about Tori's songs when he heard them was the whole "Me and Neil'll be hanging out with the Dream King" - seeing him as separate from his creation, and also admitted that; "...some of Delirium's best lines were stolen from Tori".

Dave McKean
The conversation was over all too soon, and we all moved from the conference centre into the main entrance hall of the Library, for the second part of the evening: 'Late at the Library', which featured lots of music, and a reading from Neil. We started with some music from Dave McKean, some of which was accompanied by his own animations. I should like to hear, and see more (and luckily, he is appearing again at the Library on 6th and 7th June, so I should get the chance!)

Neil, reading
His performance was followed by a reading by Neil, who read 2 of the stories from 'A Calendar of Tales' (October and July), and 'The Day the Saucers Came'

There was more music from Marc Almond (Whose work,  I must confess, I was not previously familiar with) and the 'Comics Unmasked' exhibition was open throughout the evening.

I had been to look round earlier in the day, but we did go back in, and I have to say the exhibition, which is full of sinister mannequins wearing 'V for Vendetta' masks, as well as the comics), particularly  the 'sex tent' (the section of the exhibit containing the more graphic exhibits, unsuitable for the overly sensitive) works well late at night, with Rock music and the smell of beer and popcorn  in the background!

We didn't stay right to the end, leaving around 10, having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, met various friends and acquaintances, and generally had a stonking good evening.

And there is something utterly wonderful about filling the British Library, of all places, with comics, rock, and partying people!

(more photos here)
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My last post was about my trip to see 'The Hothouse', which was the main purpose of my day trip to London. However, that didn't take all day, I had time to take in a few other points of interest.

I started by going to The Illustration Cupboard, a small gallery/shop, which is currently showing the illustrations from David Almond / Dave McKean's new book, 'Mouse. Bird, Snake, Wolf' .

They are gorgeous (there's a full list, with images, on the gallery's site), and since I got home I have been looking down the back of the sofa in the vain hope of finding £1,500 or so, so I can go back and buy one.(I especially like 'They Made a Wolf', if anyone has a sudden urge to buy me an unbirthday present). The gallery also has lots of other nice art and prints.

My second non-theatre-y indulgence, after the play finished,  before I caught my train home, was more art, at the National Gallery, which has the advantage of being close to the theatre, and of being free, so its possible to call in and spend a little time visiting a few highlights, without feeling that you've wasted the visit.

I spent most of the time I had looking at some of the galleries earliest works, among them one of my personal favourites, the Wilton Diptych, which was made for King Richard II, at the end of the 14th Century.

I love the way that the angels all wear Richard's badge (even if some of them look pretty bored).  I particularly like the white stag on the back of the diptych.

I also enjoy the other early works - the gallery has a couple of Uccellos (including a delightful St George and the Dragon (which seems to show that the dragon was in the RAF, so it seems a little unpatriotic to have killed it...)

Leaving the Gallery I found that Trafalgar Square was full of many competeing groups of Morris Dancers. Which was unexpected. I'd noticed that the pub I ate lunch in seemed to have an unusually high number of men in white with bells round their knees, but I just put it down to the local clientele!

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It's late September again which means the Bath Festival of Children's Literature is here again. This year I shall miss most of it, as I am away next weekend, which is a little sad, as I was going to have gone to see Michael Morpurgo, and Michael Rosen, and Cornelia Funke, but as I still haven't mastered bilocation it can't be done.

Robin Etherington, Garen Ewing nd Dave McKean

Tonight, however, was  this event, which made me go all fangirl  squee when I first saw the programme - Dave McKean, Garen Ewing and Robin Etherington talking graphic novels. To be honest, Dave McKean is the only one of the three I'd heard of, but I am a huge fan of his work and the thought of getting to see him & maybe get some of my books signed was too good to miss.

I was at Bath Guildhall in plenty of time, having spent some considerable time earlier in the day deciding (a) how many books I could legitimately take with me in the hope of getting them signed, and maybe even doodles, and (b) which ones. On browsing the bookstall in the foyer I found that 'Slog's Dad', the new book by David Almond and Dave McKean is now out, so I had to buy that, and I was also tempted to by the first two volumes of Garen Ewing's Rainbow Orchid graphic novel, as I like the look of them.

The Etherington Brothers books are aimed more at children and I did manage to resist 'Monkey Nuts' although  suspect for the average 7-11 year old child it would have vast appeal!
The event was very interesting, all three panellists talking about their latest projects;

 Robin Etherington works with his brother, Lorenzo - Robin does the words and Lorenzo the pictures, and they have the Monkey Nuts books, and a new one called 'The Baggage', about a lost-property worker trying to reunite a very old bag with it's owner - it sounds as though will be good, and more suited to a slightly older reader.

Garen Ewing is working on the third volume of The Rainbow Orchid trilogy, which is set in the 1920's and inspired by adventurers and adventure writers, such as Rider Haggard and Jules Verne - and which he  both writes and draws. The style of his art is linge clair (clear line) , which means that his comics have a familiar look , as it is the style Herge used for the Tintin adventures - I have to admit that it was that similarity which attracted me when I saw the books!

He spoke about his interest in research, for instance, getting the languages right (for a  single frame showing an ancient greek manuscript), and getting things like the appearance of the Natural History Museum in the 1920s accurate, and getting a friend to build a scale model of the bi-plane he chose to use so he could draw this correctly, also. 

Dave McKean spoke about 'Slog's Dad'  by David Almond, which is just out, about the 'The Rut' " exhibition just finishing in London, (and which he confirmed is going to be made into a book, too, which I shall look forward to) and about the other projects he's currently working on - a film (which he didn't give any details about) and the book he is working on with Richard Dawkins, called 'The Magic of Reality' which will be an illustrated book answering questions (such  as why does the sun shine), starting with myths and fables and ways in which people have tried to explain the world, and then giving the scientific explanation.
Dave had some slides of some of the art for the book, which looks amazing; I can't wait to  see the finished article.

All three were asked about getting started, Both Garen and Robin had started with self-publishing and with putting their work up online, and Dave talked about pitching work with Neil Gaiman ("to this day, I'm not sure we had an appointment")
There were then some time for questions from the audience - in response to the 'what advice would you give someone wanting to be you?'

Dave recommended going to art school to (among other things) have time to broaden your horizons and to learn about things  which are not immediately obvious to you, and three seemed to be giving the same advice which is to do what you love, and what is important to you, and to keep doing it, bit by bit. Garen and Robin both also talked about putting work online to get it out there.

I was able to ask about collaboration, and whether there was anyone whom any of them would (in an ideal world) like to work with - Garen talked about the possibility of working with Philip Pullman (and I have to say I think his style would work well if Philip Pullman's 'Sally Lockhart' books were adapted into graphic novels.

Dave McKean mentioned that he and Neil Gaiman were both interested in doing a stage show or musical together, and that he wanted to work more with actors, in lice theatre, and also mentioned wanting to work with Harlan Ellison, and Robin said he wanted to work with Garen Ewing and Dave McKean..!

And there was a certain amount of discussion about the validity of monkeys and zombies in comics.

It was a shame that the event was only an hour long, I would happily have sat listening to the conversation for much longer.

All three were signing afterwards, so I  queued up, and ended up not only with a lovely sketch of Julius Chancer in my copy of the rainbow Orchid, Vol. 1, but also beautiful drawings by Dave McKean in 'Slog's Dad and 'The Graveyard Book'

I think these are so beautiful in their own right, but I was also mesmerised watching Dave draw them, and make such vivid pictures with so few pen strokes.  It's so unfair that anyone should be so talented *and& such a nice person.

While queuing and watching the artists draw we were also talking, one of the subjects being how most adults will see they can't draw, or make things up, but all children will say they can, and considering when and why that changes.

I am just so happy that I was able to go.

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Having spent a short night on the hardest mattress I have slept on for a long time, and had a rather uninspiring breakfast I headed out to Battersea Park, to go to the Pump House Gallery to see the 'HyperComics' exhibition which includes work by Dave McKean and also of Adam DantWarren Pleece and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey.

It was a beautiful morning, so the walk down to Battersea Park, past the Royal Hospital was pleasant, and I had time for a coffee and croissant by the boating lake before the gallery opened.I was the only visitor, which was nice, as it meant I got to have the exhibits to myself, and could spend as long as I liked looking at them from every angle. It was a shame, though - it is a free gallery, in the mifddle of the park which was very busy. It made me a little sad to think of all those people missing out, and I can't help wondering whether this is typical, and if so, whether the gallery can survive.

But perhaps I am overly pessemistic. Maybe comic fans just sleep late on Saturdays.

The gallery is, as the name suggests, the oriiginal pump house, built in 1861. It has four floors, and for this exhibition, one aritist per floor.

On the ground floor, Warren Pleece's "Montague Terrace" which incorporated a video plus 4 different comic strips (including one about a talking rabbit) all of which were slightly disturbing and left one wondering what one's neighbours get up to.

Up on the first floor was Daniel Merlin Goodbrey's - 3 piecs, about an archve (or is it a labyrinth?) about the Glam Rock Dictator Hieronymus Pop ...

Dave McKean's "The Rut" filled the 2nd floor - it is a narrative about an assault / murder - it includes scultpture, photoographs and paintings to tell a stry from he perspectives of victim, perpetrator and witness.

It is both beautiful and disturbing.



I spent the longest time in this part of the gallery.

It was beautiful, but also uncomfortable, you have to think, and how things are not always as black and white as we think, or would like to think.

The final part of the exhibition is Adam Dant's library, which is a trompe l'oeil library of 'Doctor London', a kind of autopsy of london. Odd, but intrigueing.

The top floor of the gallery is a mezzanine floor, so from the library one can look down upon Dave McKean's exhibit.

I am very glad that I went.

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(Originally posted at
I'd been thinking about writing a cheerful Spring-Time post, about how nice it it that there are snowdrops, and a few new bright green leaves beginning to appear, but then on Wednesday we had snow (although it didn't lie) and nothing felt very spring-like.

As weeks go, it started pretty well. My mother had signed up for a two days of patchwork workshops being held just down the road, so she and my dad came to stay with me for a couple of days. We didn't get to spend a whole lot of time together, as I was out at work, but it was good to see them, and coming home to find someone else is cooking supper is nice, too!

My dad sorted out tthe light in my WC (which had started coming on whenever I turned on the light in the bathroom)
I haven't done a whole lot else this week - although I did finally get around to putting my Dave McKean picture (Beachy Head Birdman #4) on the wall.
I bought the picture from his exhibition in Rye in October, but as I was then poorly and couldn't get there to see he exhibition & pick up my picture, it came to me via several friends and family members, finishing by being brought to our family Christmas. Since I got home after new year I have been propping it up in different room trying to decide where to put it. It is in the living room for now, but I am still pondering whether to put it in the bedroom instead, where I could see t eery morning when I wake up (well, once I have managd to get my eyes open & my glasses on, that is)

I think it is beautiful, and it makes me happy.


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