by Zeek Fharkha

Insect, by Zeek Farkha

Dad (a portrait of Mike Hall) by Zeek Farkha

Mom (Dallis Hall) by Zeek Fharkha

Guru, by Zeek Fharkha

i, by Zeek Fharkha

Angel, by Zeek Fharkha

Hell, by Zeek Fharkha

Zeek Fharkha (Christopher Robert Hall) and his son Kane

Zeek Fharkha is an artist, musician, punk, with 2 masters and an honours degree. Fine arts, digital arts and an MBA. He is reading for a PhD at wits business school in Design thinking.

Dancing to the beat of my art

Detail from Pure Bliss, Tasneem Shaikh

Exhibiting at the World Art Fair in 2022 and 2023

by Tasneem Shaikh

My heart races unusually fast. My joy has no bounds. For the first time, I am exhibiting my paintings at a major event, at World Art Dubai (WAD). It is March 2022. So far, I have only conducted art classes, lead art clubs and held small exhibitions, but this is different altogether. It is a beautiful feeling to plan the exhibit wall and buy the art materials.

I live in a remote area of Abu Dhabi, in the Western province, so I had to drive to the city to buy the art materials. I have a full-time job as a lecturer and I also have to do research for my PhD. I did not have enough time to shop for canvas rolls and frame each canvas individually, so I settled for the generic Winsor & Newton brand of stretched canvases, which I bought at a well-known book-store in the city.

For me, unwrapping the canvases, and the smell of the primed stretched canvas itself, produces a sensation of bliss.

Banff Mountains, Tasneem Shaikh

In January, I started preparing for the 2022 exhibition. I was excited and anxious about meeting the deadline. I made up my mind to finish on time. I dedicated most evenings to completing my paintings. All my paintings were a tribute to the Canadian landscape. I intentionally incorporated teal and turquoise into many of them because these colours remind me of the Banff lakes in Alberta. Some paintings were a breeze. I could finish them within an hour. In contrast, completing other paintings was more difficult. I felt like I had to discipline myself, as one might discipline a hyperactive child. By the end of February, I was brimming with pride; I had completed sixteen paintings, and chose nine paintings for the exhibition.

 Who knew that packing and moving the artworks would be such a humongous task? I was clueless. Then lovely YouTube videos came to my rescue. Following the advice of YouTubers, I was able to do it. I made a wise decision and invested in a four-wheeled dolly, an electric drill, nails, and a hammer. Bless the local handyman who taught me how to drill into a wooden box. The box was a gift from my friend Peter, who gave it to me before he said goodbye and returned to Manchester.

I did everything myself. I could afford to hire help, but I am wary when it comes to letting people touch my paintings. Call me whatever you may, but I guard my paintings like a mother does her infant children. I feel uncomfortable when people try to touch them.

In the late evening, on the day before the exhibition, I reached the exhibition hall. It was a three-hour drive after a long day’s work. I was tired and anxious, but happy. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions. Looking for the wall I was to mount my paintings on in the exhibition maze, I peeked at the stunning art on display. The other artists exhibiting were probably much more experienced. Their work took my breath away.

On the first day of the exhibition, I met talented artists from different parts of the world. They talk differently from ordinary people. They dress differently. I stood there, watching these brilliant, creative people in awe. I have this distinct memory stuck in my mind. I saw this lovely European artist dressed in a bright multi-coloured gown. She wore a fashionable hat which had a scarf wrapped around it. I work in a college where everyone suits up. Artists have a very different dress code. Gradually, I was absorbed into the mix of people.

Calm Blue

Calm Blue, Tasneem Shaikh

On the second day, the curators selected my Calm Blue painting for the art walk. The art walk is a segment of the World Art event in which the curator committee select paintings that catch their eye. The artists are then asked to walk down a ramp holding their pieces. I was unsure how doing this walk down a ramp in front of everybody would help me develop as an artist. I relished the feeling of being chosen. In my head, I felt like a champion.

Representatives from different art galleries and collectors showed interest in my paintings. One collector complimented my work, he said “You are gifted.” Of course, I thanked him for the generous compliment. I don’t know if I am gifted, but I know that I have a gift for enjoying the process of making art. It is therapeutic. It is a way to release stress. The viewers at the exhibition who saw my paintings said they felt peace and calm when they looked at them. Peace and calm were certainly not my frame of mind while painting them. I was stressed, anxious and recovering from a bad back.

Golden Sunrise, permanent exhibition at the Haegeumgang Theme Museum, Tasneem Shaikh

Then, in June, The Geoje International Art Festival selected my painting Golden Sunrise for permanent display at the Haegeumgang Theme Museum in South Korea. This is the description they attached to it:

The rise of dawn symbolizes a new era, rising up from the darkness and illumination. The layers of blue, lavender and golden hues take us to a wonderland that promises abundance. This abstract painting represents that everything is possible in life as long as we have faith and love. We continue to work until we achieve our goals, though they may seem impossible. It is possible for anyone of us to make a difference in someone’s life; the same applies to Mother Nature. Today is our day and we can turn lives around by possibly being a mere catalyst. If ever in doubt, then look around and reassure yourself with the overwhelming evidence our bountiful nature has to offer us.

Red Romance, Tasneem Shaikh

WAD ’23

The overall experience of participating in this big exhibition motivated me to participate in it again in World Art Dubai 2023. Again, it felt good. But this time, I was not a rookie. I had learned a lot. 2023 was pretty challenging in comparison to 2022. Work got harder. Tasks piled up and seized my weekends. In the end, I had less than ten days to complete nine paintings. Whenever I had time, I planned out each painting; the composition, the hues, the presentation and the whole shebang. This time I dedicated my work not to the Canadian landscape, but to my one year yoga experience. Yes, it took me almost one year to be able to perform the sun salutation, the ultimate yoga asana, which must be performed at sunrise.

Over both years, the four-day event felt like a celebration. Diverse artists displayed their unique art, including sculptures, mixed media paintings, live urban street art and pendulum paintings. The energy is contagious. I love the feeling of being a part of a greater art community.

I was moved by the experience that World Art Dubai offered. World Art Dubai is an unforgettable spectacle! I cherish those delightful moments when I can bask blissfully in my new life in art. The sensation of trying something new, pushing boundaries, defying expectations, facing fears and dancing to the beat of my heart is delightful.

Hamba kahle, Harry. 


1st May 1939 – 9th October 2022

by Leigh Voigt

How does one give an unbiased, honest appraisal of one’s own husband and have the gall to call it an obituary? Does one resort to clichés? Borrow words from the pens of others? No, one hones in on an aspect seldom seen by the general public – that of an artist, a private man, who worked in solitude and quiet contemplation.  

    Only someone who took in his tea, (me) and perhaps paused for moments of brief conversation, will notice the subtle changes in the making of a painting from beginning to end.

    The painting in this case is a portrait of Tony Hall. Neighbour, friend, journalist, activist, socialist, conservationist, in a word, a mensch.

Tony Hall, oil on canvas, Harold Voigt

    The inspiration behind wanting to do a portrait of Tony Hall was a charcoal sketch by John Singer Sargent of General Christiaan de Wet, who bore a remarkable likeness to Tony. Another was the 1832 portrait by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres of Monsieur Louis-François Bertin. Both served as ‘back of the mind’ motivations for the portrait done in 2000. Tony was a charismatic figure with a colourful background and equally striking features.


Harry Voigt Exhibition, 2004

   Harold Voigt first had to persuade Tony that a portrait would be a fitting acknowledgement of their friendship. Tony acquiesced, no payment required, just a few hours of his time, during which all Tony had to do was to sit still. A few photographs were taken and good-natured banter ensued until Harry had enough visual information stored in his receptive mind. Months went past during which the portrait slowly took shape. It was Harry mastering his craft, from a spontaneous, loose drawing straight onto a large prepared canvas, to the final measuring by the grid system of a photograph.

The painting took at least 6 months to complete. He would work on other smaller canvasses at the same time, but always be drawn to work on the portrait. He became obsessed with the painting, every now and again calling someone in for confirmation that he was going in the right direction, getting it right. We always tactfully assured him that it was. Although he was supremely confident that his work was good, he often sought a sounding board, someone’s comment, either positive or critical. He seldom took any notice, just wanted interaction with another voice, a viewer with an opinion. Any passer-by or lunch guest would be called in to comment, for Harry to watch their response, if any.

The Studio Chair, Harold Voigt

  Nearly all Harold Voigt’s paintings were produced in this way, carefully considered, altered, reconsidered, scrapped, reworked, until suddenly one day I would go into his studio to find it signed.

   Harold defined and refined the techniques of the Old Masters. His dog-eared Degas monograph, his second-hand John Singer Sargent open on the table next to his once-white chair, all bore testament to his desperate need to improve, to perfect, to supersede the best of the best, if not for the world, then just for himself.  

Last minute touch up

  In Harry’s studio, in a home we have lived in for nearly fifty years, his studio was a sanctum; cluttered, redolent with artist’s studio smells; oil paint, turps, oils, books, marble dust and rabbit glue. An alchemist’s laboratory, a craftsman’s workroom.  His tools – his brushes, pens, pencils, crayon, chalks, nibs, scrapers, markers, all laid neatly in rows.

‘An alchemist’s laboratory, a craftsman’s workroom’

Studio Green Chair, Harold Voigt (detail)

   The windows with some of his aphorisms written in yellow crayon can never be Windolened, his walls never repainted, his stuff never recycled. Here a plaster cast of Mrs Piles, there a child’s zither, a set of Arthur Mee’s encyclopaedia, at least fifteen dusty old telephones, none of which work. His collection of little radios, Sony, Sanyo, Phillips and Grundig, occasionally appeared in his paintings, as did lamps, kettles, spectacles and chairs, plenty of chairs. A simple chair could become an object of sheer beauty, or nostalgia or even loneliness. Günter Schlosser once said Harold Voigt could make something out of nothing. A rusty wheelbarrow tells a story. A spade. A bell.

The Trowel, Harold Voigt

 Sketches, scribbles and colour swatches scattered all over the place, taped to the walls, propped against easels, on the floor. Not quite like Francis Bacon’s studio, but pretty close.

    Harry was an extraordinary man. Head and shoulders above the rest. With very deep footprints, long strides and with his quiet reliability in a marriage lasting 56 years, he is present in every brick, every nail, every brushstroke and in every curry I make.

The Guest Room Lamp, Harold Voigt

Winter Sunlight, Harold Voigt

Wilderness Blue and Ochre, Harold Voigt

Wheelbarrow, mixed media on canvas, Harold Voigt

Abandoned Building in Desolate Landscape, Harold Voigt

Buffalo Skull and Sheep’s Bell (detail), Harold Voigt

Mrs Piles, 2020, Harold Voigt

After a long and difficult struggle with many health problems, especially Parkinson’s, Harry died in his sleep at 12.15 am, on the 9th October, 2022, in his own bed at home, watched over by his two sons, Max and Walter, and his wife, Leigh.

    We shall miss his eccentric, intelligent and creative mind; his extensive knowledge, his guidance and most of all, his presence.

    His beautiful paintings, his self-built house and his remarkable self-discipline will serve as a benchmark for his family and future generations, and his paintings will be his legacy.   

Hamba kahle, Harry. 

Photographs through an art filter

Experiments with photo art applications, in particular the PRISMA application.

by Philip Hall

Passing photos through ready-made filters hasn’t really taught me much about how paintings and drawings are made, but doing this for a decade has taught me how important it is to have an artist’s eye and how the artist’s eye – even when it is automated and a little sugary – can be so transformative.

My first experience of art was difficult. I was six and my father dragged me around the Louvre in Paris and all I wanted to do was to sit down. I tried to show interest. I remember the little picture of the Mona Lisa at the end of our long walk through the galleries.

There was a cordon to stop you from getting too close. It was a little dark. There, a lady with a smile looked at me from the painting. She had a strange, high, wrinkle-free forehead. It was mysterious; why was my father showing me this? I wasn’t tall enough to see the pictures, either, so I had to crane. There was another small picture my father looked at for a while. What was he looking at? I asked him. I think he said it was a picture of Adam and Eve. Well, my mother’s name was Eve, so I looked up at it. But it was quite a dark painting. I couldn’t make anything out.

The art that my parents seemed to value was African art. Even the drawings and paintings on the wall. Wherever we went, our parents bought handicrafts and the creative work of the people of the countries in which we lived. Pride of place were Makonde carvings, ancient and abstract. They showed circles of people intertwined or holding hands and forming one sculpture made from ebony. Dark, hard, ebony.

My next encounter with art was in France, where my grandfather – despite the fact that he said he didn’t like modern art – took me to all the modern art galleries along the Cote d’ Azur. I visited them arm-in-arm with my grandmother. The highlight for me was the Chapel Matisse, which, strangely, at age 14, made me cry. I came back 40 years later with my wife to see it again and I cried again. And I hardly ever cry.

When I was older, I read John Berger and John Berger said something that made a lot of sense. Art was paid for by the rich and very often reflected the concerns of the rich and so, the artists had to paint beyond the intelligence or understanding of the mercenary aristocrats and merchants. Or s/he had to paint with their complicity. Like a sort of court jester, or a confidant.

I saw The Draughtsman’s Contract. An aristocratic and childless couple hires a young artist. The husband is infertile. The draughtsman thinks he has been hired because he is talented and witty and good company. What he does not know is the wittier and cleverer he is, the more he seals his doom. He is there to impregnate the character played by Janet Suzman and then be killed.

The wealthy are more concerned with conserving their wealth and power through inheritance than they are with wit, science and art. The movie was off-putting because there were sex scenes with Janet Suzman, who got down on her knees like a brood mare (Peter Greenaway was being obvious here) and Janet Suzman was my mother’s best friend throughout school.

John Berger said that there was a fetish about original art and that there was very little difference between a reproduction and the original. The original was used as a way of monetising something because there was only one of it. He pointed out that the art of the rich shows off the possessions of the rich and presents the picture the powerful and wealthy want to present as a form of propaganda and that the art of that time objectified women.

I did not know at the time that Berger was responding to a much greater, deeper and interesting set of observations made by Kenneth Clark in his series Civilisation. Neither did I realise that Berger was contradicting the art critic Walter Benjamin, who believed that original art retained an ‘aura’.

When I was 18, suffering like hell, I travelled across to France to see my old school friends and my first proper girlfriend and then broke up with her. But it was a messy breakup. As we always did in Paris, we visited modern art museums and saw art house movies. I wasn’t as pretentious as my friends, but I tried to catch up. It didn’t come as naturally to me as it did to them. That’s where I first noticed Gustave Moreau. I still like his work.

We met again in Switzerland and I had an awful time with no money in Italy and finally had to try to get back and hitched across Austria. And I mention this because in Austria an artist gave me a ride from Vienna to Innsbruck in his combi. He was working for a quiz show programme where people answered questions from a telephone box and his job was to set up the telephone box. He said he would give me a lift if I helped him and I did. I set up his telephone box in the rain and the bright lights of the TV switched on and the quiz show hosts suddenly switched on their charm, too. Just like that. It was rather shocking and sinister.

But on our long drive, the quiz booth man explained conceptual art to me and told me about the marvellous Marcel Duchamp. He himself was a conceptual artist, you see. I and I saw what he meant and why Duchamp was great.

Remember, in literature and art, with semiology, the question of authorship is disputable. We are talking about the subjectivity of the viewer, mediated by society, and the subjectivity of the artist and his or her intentions and unconscious intentions and the influence of society on that author and so on and so forth. The 80s and early 90s were the time of post-modernism when D.Js like Fatboy Slim were mixing other people’s music and experimenting with it and calling it their own. It was the age of commercialisation, theft and sarcasm.

In Madrid in the late eighties, briefly, I spent time with an aspiring Australian film director who had just made a film called ‘Saliva‘ and who wore ski pants. I annoyed her a lot because I argued, having read something in El Pais, that the CIA had supported the abstract art of people like Rothko and Pollock and later Schnabel, as a way of undercutting the influence of radical figurative art. They didn’t want any Diego Riveras, thank you very much. They didn’t want political art, they wanted Andy Warhol. The Australian was furious with me. Abstract US art was sacred to her.

And I could continue to recount all the experiences that formed my appreciation of art, but I won’t. I just want to explain why I decided to take using an art app with a phone seriously. Without any pretensions to being an artist, I wanted to experiment by trying to take the pictures that I wanted to and then layering them over with filters.

In an age of a billion photographers, what does it matter? I can co-create. Did the app create art from my photo or did the photo allow the app to make it more like art?

Moreover, the technology is a phone. So, I have been using phones, which are annoying because the designer of the phone camera always automates it and tries to second guess the user. The photo that you take is already ersatz before you actually pass it through a filter. The following pictures are the selection of result of a decade of amateur experimentation with art filters, mainly from the application PRISMA.

Passing photos through ready-made filters hasn’t really taught me much about how paintings and drawings are made, but doing this has taught me how important it is to have an artist’s eye and how the artist’s eye – even when it is automated and a little sugary – can be transformative.

And now, in a strange turnabout, I have met an artist who says he is willing to contemplate turning some of these pictures into actual paintings, changing them again in the process. We shall see.

Pete in Rahima (2013)

The Other Side of the Sun (2014)

Southern Trains (2014)

Eve (2020)

For we like Sheep …(2018)

Fair at the Museum (2016)

Barbican (2021)

Ventilator (2021)

Sea Horse (2015)

Winchester (2019)

Fallen Tree, North Downs Way (2018)

Sodium Light of the Gulf (2012)

Self Portrait, Saudi Arabia (2014)

River Itchen (2018)

Thames Path (2022)

Flowers (2015)

Richmond Park, Ladderstyle Entrance (2022)

Pilgrim’s Way (2018)

Gertrude (2018)

Train to Venice (2013)

The Triangle (2021)

Gertrude (2021)

Stone Lamb (2022)

Brothers after COVID (2022)

Mini (2021)

John and Tere in Richmond Park (2022)

Flowers (2012)

Kitchen Still Life (2022)

Carmen Drinking Coffee (2017)

Piccadilly (2015)

View over Ranmore Common (2019)

Trees in Winter on Coombe Hill (2020)

New Malden Station (2014)

Peter Cowlam (2022)

Ice Cream, Venice (2013)

Net Curtains (2020)

Kingston Rowing Club (2020)

To and Fro (2014)

Vaporetto (2013)

Fox (2020)

Pollarded Tree (2021)

Eve’s room (2016)

Flower (2017)

Epping Forest (2022)

Pembroke Lodge Approach (2022)

Tea Shop in Skipton (2022)

Twickenham (2020)

River (2022)

Night Tree (2016)

Window (2021)

Screen (2021)

Skipton market (2022)

Coarse Art

By Paul Halas

The democratisation of the image

Art is everywhere, whether it’s highbrow gallery art, pulp, throwaway art, or the vast array of moving images available to us. Perhaps because my parents excelled in the production of animated films – possessing talents I sadly didn’t inherit – I was always fascinated by the incredible amount of visual images – art – that were part of family life. As well as creating animated films in a wide variety of styles, my mother and father surrounded themselves with drawings, paintings, an incredible number of artsy, newsy magazines, and books of drawings, cartoons and comic strips. In our home there was an extravaganza for the eyes, and I gorged myself on it. And somewhere in among all that visual overstimulation I developed a taste for the coarse, the weird, the knockabout, and the sort of stuff not intended for little children. Maybe most kids would do the same, but alongside the Beano and Dandy I had the chance to thumb through Lilliput Magazines, Aubrey Beardsley prints, innumerable gallery catalogues, L’il Abner comics and art books… Which leads me to a personal look at people’s art – from an aficionado who’s very far from scholarly.


One of the first artists to captivate my sister and me was Peter Breughel the Elder. At the time I suppose we were drawn to the colour, the bustle, the unfamiliar landscapes and buildings of the 17th Century Lowlands… and above all the affection shown for the ordinary people depicted in many of the works. Which after my wayward preamble brings me to the point of this article.

Breughel the Elder was probably the first painter (whose work survives) to make common men and women the subjects of this paintings. Others – such as Caravaggio, Albrecht Durer and Da Vinci – had used ordinary people as models, but Breughel made them the subject matter of many of his later paintings. Hitherto painting had been either religious in subject matter, or vanity projects to flatter the rich and powerful. It was exclusive and expensive, not for the hoi polloy. But by the 1550s and 1560s, when Breughel was at his peak, the Reformation was in full swing and also Humanist ideas were gaining ground. It was against that background that Breughel’s genre painting emerged. It was art of the people – but not yet for the people. His illustrations for books gained a lot of popularity, but they would certainly have been expensive, and his paintings were still only possible through the patronage of wealthy collectors. But the fact that collectors wanted to possess pictures of peasants and tradespeople and the lower orders living very real lives reflects the germination of societal change.

Breughel the Elder – celebrating ordinary people’s lives.


Art about the people for the people still had to wait a while. Until the 18th Century was underway art was generally about nobs for nobs – with perhaps the honourable exception of some of our Dutch genre friends. Lorraine, Gainsborough, Fragonard, Constable, El Greco, Titian and company were true masters (even if Fragonard elongated ladies’ thighs a tad), but the swains and milkmaids that appeared in their paintings were little more than background decoration. What began to set art before the masses was the evolution to the printing process. As the 18th Century progressed there was a proliferation of affordable news-sheets, pamphlets and posters, and an illustration industry was born. William Hogarth (and others such as Goya) had already started using ordinary people as subject matter (ie, The Shrimp Girl), but it was the reproduction of his illustrations, most notably the Rake’s and Harlot’s Progress, Gin Lane and Beer Street, that gained him great and lasting fame.

Memorably Hogarth.

Many wonderful cartoonists and lampooners made full use of the craze for prints and magazine illustrations, with artists such as Thomas Rowlandson, George Cruikshank and James Gillray (and many, many others no longer remembered) producing a vast number of the most scurrilous and frequently obscene images.

This contains an image of: "King George IV as the Prince of Wales" by George Cruikshank, 1792-1878
Lampooning George IV, by George Cruikshank.

Many were political, but others simply humorous slices of life of the great, the good and the common with no deference to rank or station in life whatsoever. My favourite of these scandalous illustrators is Thomas Rowlanson, whose enormous volume of obscene works is wonderfully funny.

Thomas Rowlandson bawdiness.

(As an aside, it’s noticeable how many people of colour appear in these cartoons, and how seldom they do in the literature and histories of the time. Odd, that.)


Throughout the 19th Century books and magazines frequently contained illustrations. Even Charles Dickens’ work, which was frequently concerned with social problems and people on the edges of society, carried accompanying pictures. It seems odd to mention Gustav Dore here, whose work was mainly far from coarse, but his London prints of the early 1870s show the plight of the English poor as few other artists had (even if retrospectively some silly arses have accused the works of being poverty porn).

Dore’s London. Poverty porn?

At the common end of the market were the cheap, sensationalist publications, Penny Dreadfuls, macabre tales, titillating horror, horrendous true crime… nearly all with wonderfully lurid illustrations by often very talented artists – who were doubtless paid a pittance and have been long forgotten.

Penny Dreadfuls – wonderful pulp.

Having spent most of my life penning a different form of pulp, but pulp nonetheless, I have a great affection for these god-awful publications. They are the precursor of the absolute avalanche of 20th Century throwaway publications, much of it trashy art, but still containing multiple gems.


Many fine illustrators emerged in the late 19th Century and early 20th. One, whose work centred on working class people and the social conditions of the day, was Heinrich Zille. In late 19th Century Germany there was a mass migration of people into the cities, particularly Berlin. People lived in cramped conditions, the hoped for jobs frequently failed to materialise, and poverty was rife. Zille drew it all, the tragedies and the joys, the passions and the agonies, warts and all. He was sometimes accused of being a pornographer (I’d say he simply had an eye for real life), but during the heady days of the Berlin Secession his work became celebrated.

Heinrich Zille. Intimate social commentary.

He found a sympathetic home with the Simplicissimus Magazine, a left-field publication specialising in satire, politics and the arts, which continued to support him right through to the 1920s, by which time he had become a national institution. Heinrich Zille was the consummate artist of the people.


If any medium can be considered coarse art it’s the Ninth Art – comics. At their best, comics are of course art of the very highest calibre, but for the most part they’re ephemeral, disposable, lightweight entertainment. And from an early age I’ve loved them (and spent forty years of my life writing them).

Like the telephone, many nations lay claim to inventing comics. And like the telephone, comics became widespread in the USA before anywhere else. But just to be contrary, I’m including the British “Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday”, simply because to the modern eye it looks so very weird. About an idler who’ll do anything to avoid work or making an effort, Ally expends an enormous amount of effort in his “sloping”. First appearing in the 1880s, Ally Sloper is reckoned to be the first recurring character in comics. Whether or not that claim is true, Ally gained an enormous working class following – and also gained cult status among the artsy-fartsy, bohemian middle classes.

The very strange Ally Sloper.

But across the Atlantic is where comics really took off, especially newspaper strips. Newspapers helped comics gain a wide audience, and boy did comics bump up newspaper circulation figures. Comics fans have great reverence for the finest of the old strips, such as Crazy Kat and Little Nemo in Slumberland – brilliant, surreal art of the highest order. But most of the popular comics reflected the lives of the working class people who read them, populist art, strips such Mutt and Jeff, Gasoline Alley, Moon Mullins, Blondie, Li’l Abner…


The 20th Century was also a golden age for the newspaper political cartoon. Few represented the concerns of the common man (and woman) in the middle of the century than the American Bill Mauldin. He gained fame for presenting the real lives of American soldiers – the dogfaces – in the Second World War, drawing from the front lines where the bullets were flying in both Europe and the Pacific. He also followed the fortunes and misfortunes of de-mobbed GIs in the post war period and never pulled any punches. His stance on social issues, racism and the hypocrisy of politicians landed him in trouble with the McCarthyist witch-hunt and many newspapers were forced to drop him, his work retained a mass following.

Willie and Joe – America’s favourite dogfaces.


While endless forests were felled to satisfy the demand for pulp reading, an even bigger revolution was taking place with celluloid. Moving pictures. According to one movie mogul no one ever lost money by underestimating public taste, and while the medium produced art of the finest quality in both live actiand animated films there was also a conveyor belt of instantly forgettable mediocrity that the public couldn’t get enough of.

Artist inspired by Betty Boop & Fleischer Studios - on the Betty Boop blog
From low to high art. A matter of generations.

The old animations from the first half of the 20th Century are very much in vogue, but at the time most were looked down upon by the arty intelligencia and therefore qualify as coarse art. Wonderful coarse art.

There were mediocre movies, B movies, downright bad movies and absolutely terrible movies – and the latter category has gained quite a following. Of course they number thousands, and we Spotty Herberts all have our favourites, but I’ll just mention the obvious: Edward D Wood’s immortal “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. As a dreadful movie it ticks all the boxes and is truly memorable.

When trash gains immortality.

Before leaving moving images there’s TV. The medium that bewitched the masses. No need to mention more, just switch the bloody thing on. And quickly off again.


Before winding up I’ve got to plug underground comix, a largely American medium (and very much a reaction to America) with notable contributions from Europe, that sprang up in the mid 1960s. They were independent, scurrilous, violent, obscene, fantastic, political, surreal, very funny and above all brutally honest. From the first time I clapped eyes on a Zap Comix in around 1969 I was hooked for life. They changed the way I looked at life far more than any drug, politician or textbook. They epitomise coarse art, and if more people had read them I’m sure the world would be a much better place.

The master. Crumb goes political.


Finally I suppose I have to catch up with the age of the computer, the mobile phone and social media. And memes. They’re bloody everywhere – and they’re certainly coarse art and art of the people. And a few of them are really quite good.

A meme that sums up the great political hatchet job.

Paul Halas’s escape from 1970s hippidom was the discovery that he could invent stories. He spent forty years contributing to various Disney magazines and books, as well as a variety of non-Disney comics, books and animated films. His retirement from commercial writing coincided with Jeremy Corbyn becoming the Labour Party leader, which led to five years’ political activism. He left the party two years ago with a heavy heart.

Depression: episode 31

By Dan Pearce

Dan Pearce has done editorial work for many magazines and newspapers including New Society, Honey, 19, Oz, The Observer, The Times and Sunday Times, Mayfair and Penthouse. Dan has created book and record covers, political cartoons, comic strips and caricatures and he has written two graphic novels: ‘Critical Mess’ (against the nuclear industry) and ‘Oscar: The Second Coming’. His labour of love is the graphic novel, ‘Depression’ which is unfinished. He lived in Andalucia and then Umbria before coming back to live in the UK in Hastings. Dan went to the Colchester School of Art and the Central School of Art and his last painting was well received at the Sussex Open.

Dan has written two graphic novels. One of them, called Critical Mess, was against nuclear power and the most recent is Oscar: The Second Coming. Dan is a painter, he has always painted and the last time he exhibited was at Sussex Open in 2017. His Labour of love is a graphic novel called Depression which is unfinished. Dan lived in Andalucia and Umbria for 18 years before coming back to England to live in Hastings.

I create the stars as I go…

Making keepsakes with pyrography

By Gill Rippingale

I’ve been making Keepsakes for a number of years now, and have posted pictures of various pieces on my blog, on Instagram, Etsy, Pinterest, and on my Facebook page, Hug-the-Tree Pyrography, together with descriptions, but of course the information can get buried quickly!

So perhaps a recap of my methods for making these small art pieces is in order.

Creativity is me being me!

I want to begin however by mentioning an important factor, probably the most important, behind the creation of these pieces and behind all of my artwork; the reason for creating it in the first place.

Creativity is my personal spiritual path and practice, and the way I interact with and interpret the world around me. It’s me being me, and an expression of feelings and subtle insights garnered through the interaction of my senses with the outer world, particularly the world of nature- a world which brings me joy and happiness.

Blackbird in the pyracantha, photo Gill Rippingale

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never really lost the sense that creating something that has never existed before and will never exist again seems inherently magical and extraordinary! Making new lines on a blank sheet of paper or wood is wondrous and exciting and utterly compelling!

So, creating a new Wood Keepsake begins with impressions received through my sense of touch.

Holly, Hornbeam, Box, Hazel, Pear, Apple, Pyracantha, Yew and Birch.

The best woods to use are slow growing, light coloured woods. I have a collection of small, oddly shaped pieces of exotic or native hardwoods, such as Holly, Hornbeam, Box (Buxus) Hazel, Pear, Apple and Pyracantha. Occasionally, I use Yew or Birch. They usually retain some bark on one or more sides, and are sliced through or with the grain, or both. The side with the bark will be rough, pitted and greyish, and the other sides will be sanded smooth and will often show growth rings and patterns. Even at this stage, before any artwork has begun, each of these pieces is unique, with its own history, its own life and its own beauty. with not too much grain.

‘…turning the wood pieces over in my hand, gazing at them, admiring them’ Pyracantha, photo Gill Rippingale

I handle my wood pieces frequently, sorting them out, turning them over in my hand, gazing at them, admiring them, and eventually I select a particular piece to work on.

‘…the finest grades of sandpaper creates the smoothest of surfaces’ Box wood (Buxus), photo Gill Rippingale

More sanding, using the finest grades of sandpaper creates the smoothest of surfaces, beautiful to behold and to touch. And now I begin to take in the shape, the colour, the patterns of the grain and allow these impressions to work together to conjure an image. Images may or may not arise – some wood pieces remain in the pile for years!

using the finest grades of sandpaper creates the smoothest of surfaces, beautiful to behold and to touch

When I do have an initial impression or idea, I’ll visualise how the design might fit and work with the particular shape of the wood piece. If the design is going to cover three or four sides , I need to have a rough idea of where particular elements of the design will look best. The top of a wood slice becomes an extension of the main face. The left and right sides can also be treated as an extension to the main face.

‘I often … include a little sleeping mouse or creature among the roots.’ photo Gill Rippingale

Even the base may be incorporated as an extension of the main face, or it may be treated as a separate design. For instance, if the main face will feature a woodland scene with trees, I may extend the roots down into the base. I often do this, and include a little sleeping mouse or creature among the roots. But I may decide on a two in one design, with unrelated images on different faces of the wood.

Having mapped out an approximate design in my head, I begin to pencil in rough outlines on the wood. I don’t pencil in much detail at this stage, just rough outlines of animals and trees etc.

It’s time then to take up my hotwire pyro stylus and begin the burn!

It’s time then to take up my hotwire pyro stylus and begin the burn! It’s always exciting to begin work on a new piece of wood and I quickly become absorbed in my work as I work around the outlines with my stylus, I always fill in the background first, which is almost always a dark starry sky and very slow and detailed work, as I create the ‘stars’ as I go.

I always fill in the background first, which is almost always a dark starry sky …

I often listen to music while I work, and allow other features of the design to unfold by themselves. It’s a little like telling a story, making it up as you go along! 

A commissioned piece, photo Gill Rippingale

When the background is complete, which might take a day or two, I begin adding shade and detail to the trees and animals. This is very slow work. Because I work on such a small scale, lines for animal faces, fur, paws etc must be extremely fine. The only way to create such fine lines is to use the edge of my spoon tip and adjust the heat to a very low setting. The whisker and fur strokes have to be precise and miniscule, with no room for error; the slightest slip or line in the wrong place can completely throw out the rest of the features of the animal, and there’s no rubbing out! 

Pyrographic keepsake by Gill Rippingale

Concentration is absolute. I frequently discover that I’m hardly breathing! But working like this does require frequent breaks. I get up and leave my work space roughly every fifteen minutes, just for a few minutes, which allows my eyes to readjust.

Those who are familiar with pyrography sometimes ask which tips I use. I create my pieces almost entirely using just my spoon tip. I adjust the temperature settings constantly, and I apply wax polish to finished pieces, but never varnish!

The wood must of course be seasoned, and sanded as finely as possible.

‘…viewed from different angles in the light.’

It is quite difficult to show photos that really capture the keepsakes – they are best being held and turned and viewed from different angles in the light.

Reprinted from an original article first published on the author’s blog.

Of The Earth

By Thomas Gilbert

Life’s fortunes take us down a trail
Through fog and wind and rain and hail
But sometimes sun and warmth and peace
come by to help us find release.

Tobogganing, by Thomas and Emma Gilbert

Jamie, do you want to go sledding at the toboggan run this afternoon? Her dad asks her.

 Oh, yes. I’d love to! Can Carli come, too?

 Of course, but first finish all of your lunch, so we can get ready. Jamie giggles with anticipation. Two of her front teeth, one top, one bottom, are missing, as new ones, barely visible, are coming in.

 Daddy, we got an assignment at school yesterday. I’m supposed to ask you about your job and tell everybody else at school on Monday.

 So, you want to interview me, eh?


 What would you like to know?

 Mommy, can I get the list that Mrs. Kelsey gave me from my book bag?

 Yes, dear. Jamie runs from the kitchen to the den and rummages through her backpack.

 She’s really excited about this. She was telling me about it on the way home from school yesterday.

 I can see that she is. Jamie re-enters the kitchen, carrying her book bag, paper, and a tape recorder.

 What have you got there?

 A tape recorder.

 Oh, I see, a real professional, eh?

 I need to remember what you say, so I can write down your answers.

 Great idea.

 Are you ready, Daddy? There’s a lot of questions.

 Let me put down my Saturday paper. Her father folds his arms across his chest, leans back in his chair, paper still in his hand, rolled up in a cylinder, and taps it against his knee, carelessly.

 Jamie sets her list down on the table, brushes the hair from in front of her face, and stares at her mom and then at her dad. She then reaches across to push the record button on the tape player, looks at her paper again, and then starts confidently:

Tell me where you work, please, and what do you do?

 O.K., I work at the Cleveland Salt Mine, just west of downtown Cleveland and beside Lake Erie. I’m a foreman and a manager of a team of 25 men and women gathering salt from the mines beneath Lake Erie.

 O.K. And how do you mine the salt?

 We use trucks and bulldozers and explosives, and we work about 2,000 feet below the surface of the ground.

Salt mining, painting by Thomas and Emma Gilbert


And what do you do with the salt when you bring it up out of the ground?

 We put it in huge piles on the ground, right outside of the mine shafts.

 Then what do you do with it?

 Big huge trucks from ODOT, that’s the Ohio Department of Transportation, County Cuyahoga, and various cities around Cleveland and the state, drive up to get their trucks filled. Then they take the salt to their cities where it’s stored for use in the wintertime. We even load salt onto train cars where it gets shipped to other parts of the country.

 Jaimie looked away from her list. Why do they do that?

 Well, in the wintertime, when it gets really cold and the roads get covered with snow and ice, trucks called salt trucks fill up with the salt that we mine at our company. Then they spread the salt onto the roads to help melt the snow and ice so people can drive more safely on the roads.

 How much salt do they use?

 In an average winter, here in Cleveland and around the county, they use somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 tons of salt on the roads to fight the snow and ice.

 She put her head on her hands, with her elbows propped on the table. How much is a ton?

 A ton is 2,000 pounds.



 Then what happens to all the salt on the roads?

 Well, as long as the temperature stays pretty much above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the salt melts the ice and snow, and it gets all over the cars and trucks and buses that run over it.

 It does? She looked at her mother.

 Yes, said her mother. In the wintertime right now, if you go out to our car port and look at our car, it’s all splattered with salt residue from the spray of salt water from the roads that were covered with salt to melt the snow.

 Oh, like on the windshield! When we drive behind cars and trucks and it gets all over the windshield, and we can’t see, and you have to press the sprayer on the wipers to get the window clean?

 Exactly, said her dad.

She turned to face her Dad, What is the stuff that cleans the windshield?

 It’s the blue washer fluid that we get at the gas station. We have to put it into a special container under the front hood of the car and make sure we have enough to last us when the weather gets bad, because we have to be able to see when we’re driving in order to be safe.

Can you drink that stuff?

No, absolutely not. It’s very poisonous.

Is the salt poisonous?

Well, it’s not exactly clean. The salt is basically sodium chloride, like table salt, but because of the other things mixed in with it when it comes out of the ground, it’s not really safe to eat. Sodium is a mineral and chloride is just chlorine, which is a pale green gas. So road salt is a combination of these elements. Some elements are good for you; others are not so good. Our bodies can use various minerals and salts in small amounts. Too much, or the wrong combinations, can be dangerous or even poisonous. The salt we get from under Lake Erie is basically sodium chloride — table salt, and too much of that in our systems can be really bad, just like too much salt can be really bad for fresh water fish, land animals, and plants and trees. We all need salt to survive, but too much salt is harmful.

Windshield, by Thomas and Emma Gilbert

 What happens to all the salt and washer fluid on the cars and buses and trucks?

 Well, the rain rinses it off, or we go to the car wash and wash it  off, or we wash our cars in our own driveways at home.

 But where does it all go?

 Oh, you mean down the drains, into the sewers?


 Well, some of it can leach right down into the ground beside the roads, or into the surface groundwater, and some of it goes into the water treatment plants, and some of it goes into the drainage ditches beside the roads and highways, and then into small streams and eventually drains into rivers and ponds and lakes.

 But I thought you once told me that the water we get out of the sink comes from Lake Erie?

 Yes, I did.

 But you said that too much salt is dangerous and the washer fluid is poisonous?

 Uh, huh.

 But if we’re not supposed to drink that blue stuff, and the salt should only be taken in small amounts, why do we put them in places where they will end up in the water we drink?

 That’s a good reason for getting bottled water at the store.

 But doesn’t that come from the lake, too?

 Oh, no. Big water bottling companies go to places where they can get water from mountain streams, springs, and artesian wells where there’s really fresh water, or they process water to purify it before they bottle it.

Does this fresh water come from Ohio?

I don’t know. Some companies get their water from sources in the Appalachian Mountains, some from the Rocky Mountains, and some get their water from overseas.


Some big companies get their water from places like Brazil, and France, and Indonesia, and even India.

Where is India?

On the other side of this planet.

Why would they do that?

Well, some big companies make a deal with governments to drill huge wells to tap into deep underground rivers and lakes, and other water sources that have very pure water. They have these huge plants that collect the water, and they bottle it right there, and then ship it back over here for us to drink.

They take water from India and bring it all the way back here?

Uh huh.

Don’t the people in India need their water?

Well, unfortunately, some of the deep wells that our companies drill to get fresh water often take away the surface water from the farmers who have cultivated the land around these plants for hundreds of years. In some cases, it is so severe that they are left with empty wells and have no water for their crops or their animals, and they don’t even have drinking water for their families.

What happens to their farm land?

Over time it dries out so completely, it ends up producing a landscape covered with nothing but mineral deposits and salt.

Then the farmers in India could do what you do, Daddy?

Yes, I suppose they could, Jamie. I suppose they could.

Are you ready for tobogganing?

Yes, I’m ready.

Jamie put her papers into her book bag and pushes the stop button on the tape recorder, and her Mom and Dad stare at each other in silence across the table.

Drawing by Thomas and Emma Gilbert

So tell me students of the world
What lessons have the Fates now hurled
Upon the table with these dice
As sevens, snake eyes, cold as ice?

Can books remain where they’re not read,
Like stones upon the buried dead?
Or will we crack these useful pages,
And learn from thoughts of wondrous sages?

Thomas Gilbert has spent the better part of the last 52 years in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the last 30 years he has produced a program for teaching full literacy skills to those within this population with Aspergers, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, dyslexia, traumatic brain injury, ADD and ADHD.

Thomas’s web site on literacy acquisition is www.literacyforanyone.com It is 100% free to use and share and download. Thomas also dabbles in writing poetry, short stories and novels He has composed simple musical compositions for piano. Thomas also has a deep curiosity about metaphysics and mysticism.

What will it take for the British to reach a tipping point and realise they are being shafted by this bunch of Eton inbreds?

…and ban plastic grass!

Zombie Apocalypse, 05th Aug 2021

By Gordon Liddle

As miserable weather continues with more miserable weather, the crop from the garden is poor this year. Polytunnel is miles behind last year and even the potatoes outside have been poor. If we had to survive on what we grow we would have had to put in a lot more effort than we did this year. Growing organically, it is hard to keep ahead of weeds, pests and fungi but at least we get to see the animals and insects thrive.  Or do we. There have been a lot less butterflies, hoverfly’s, bees, wasps and generally most insects this year, even though I know they are somewhere as out bird and bat population here seem to be fine. The empty snail shell around the Thrush anvil is proof to that. However, we are a small hotspot in an area of farmlands and gardens that poison everything and anything in sight, and the residues wash down to us, killing plants and wildlife in no small quantities. These poisons are readily available in all supermarkets and garden shops and it’s time to ban them all. Oh, and whilst we are at banning stuff, can we also ban plastic grass. Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to cover acres of gardens in a plastic carpet which degrades and ends up as micro particles in the rivers and oceans should be taken out and tarred and feathered. I bet it was someone linked to the oil industry, ‘what other shit can we make from the oil, oh I know, plastic grass!’

Oh, and whilst we are at banning stuff, can we also ban plastic grass.

So instead of intensive gardening I have been working in the studio, trying to bring on a painting I started about seven years ago, part of the Sixth Extinction Series, a painting which involves a lot of animals and a few figures, including a child. We used our grandchild for the figure and there is an old saying, never work with children or animals, for good reason. Trying to pose a cute granddaughter and not make it look cute chocolate box is almost impossible, but the weight of the rest of the painting which includes a hanging scene should temper the cute bit. Now if the animals and Gaia (metaphor only, no teleological link) decided to hang a few humans for destroying the planet then you would think there would be quite a list of possibilities to step up to the scaffold (or in this case to be lifted up off the ground by a snake). The list is endless and getting longer by the day, but I finally decided on one of the most evil men I could think of but you will have to guess whom until the painting is finished. I will give you a clue, he has probably financed more global warming and ecological collapse denial and obfuscation groups and think tanks than any other man on the planet, and yet most people have never heard of him. And no, he isn’t, as far as I know, building a spaceship.

Trying to pose a cute granddaughter and not make it look cute chocolate box is almost impossible

So, apparently the Olympics are going on, more bread and circuses to distract the gullible whilst the world burns. I was so uninterested I did some synchronised strimming over the weekend to tidy up the meadow. I feel sorry for the athletes as a severe lack of crowds and the risks of catching the virus are high and it seems to have affected the performances of some, and, like the football did, brought out the racist hoards to mock and abuse black athletes. I have watched Simone Biles’s floor routine in slow motion, and it is incredible, she seems to defy gravity and the laws of physics at the end. No wonder a bout of the ‘twisty’s’ is so hard on her. Without total focus and spacial awareness, it would have been downright dangerous for her to attempt it. She’ll get another chance.

We have slid very far down the slippery slope.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, our politicians and journalists are carrying on as normal. The politicians ramp up the fraud, corruption and downright theft and the media cover up the lies by omission, disinformation and untruths to keep their cosy positions and access all areas. It stinks. Using burner phones is all the rage apparently so as to hand contracts to their pals whilst being untraceable and hands off. There are no depths to which this government will stoop as they know they will get away with it and the press pack will move on by the next morning, the public will shrug their shoulders and the next deal can be lined up by Friday. New laws are being rushed through Parliament to give protesters ten years in the jug for protesting, fourteen years in prison for journalists who embarrass the State and actually do their fecking job, bringing out the truth. Holding power to account. We have a bill on the statute book which allows police to secretly abduct, torture, rape and murder political dissidents. This isn’t Belarus we are talking about, or even America, this in Britain in 2021. We have Assange being held as a political prisoner in Belmarsh for bringing war crimes to light. This week Craig Murray was sent down for a year for reporting a trial. A trial where the alleged perpetrator was found not guilty. The State will brook no dissent. You have been warned. Protesters who protested against the crime bill have just been jailed for three years for protesting the Bill. We have slid very far down the slippery slope.

We have Assange being held as a political prisoner in Belmarsh for bringing war crimes to light.

Last year we had ‘eat out to die out’ but it seems this year, as Brexit hits home, we will have ‘eat nowt as the shops and restaurants are empty!’ The Chimps got their Brexit ‘Done’, but they can’t have the tea party as there is absolutely f—k all to put on the table. The big lie of glorious Britain is being cruelly exposed, and it will be interesting to see how the experiment progresses as the shops and supply chains start to crumble and the food is rotting in the fields because we don’t have any lorry drivers. Will people wake up? Most will be whinging about the weather and wondering if they can party or top up their tan, whilst the nurses and health staff are once again fighting to deal with trauma in ICU’s, as the Tories utterly fail once again to deal with this crisis. 257 deaths in the last 48 hours. Hundreds of thousand with long covid. What will it take for the British to reach a tipping point and realise they are being shafted by his bunch of Eton inbreeds? Whilst the Zombie Apocalypse rages, the world burns and the supply chains dissolve, our glorious leader is suggesting hi-viz chain gangs for prisoners and teaching Latin in all schools. I can imagine a chain gang of artists and intellectuals, dissidents of all types, led by Craig Murray, digging for chicken nuggets in the wastelands of Chipping Norton, singing old negro slave songs and asking for a break, ‘wiping off here bass, wiping off!’ Or in Latin, ‘accipies confractus’ (apologies for my Latin, it’s a bit rusty, just like my pitchfork).

What will it take for the British to reach a tipping point and realise they are being shafted by his bunch of Eton inbreeds?

Meanwhile Farage has declared war on the RNLA for saving migrants in the channel. Apparently, it would be better for them to drown than for the RNLI to be a’ taxi service by taking them to shore.’ Known locally as the C-nt in Kent, Farage seems to have endless time to get out to sea in a boat and fetishize sinking dinghies and their desperate occupants like some old twat watching a snuff movie. Who pays for all this propaganda and hate? He seems to be doing very well out of it all, although the fishermen and farmers he spent a decade ’defending’ seem to have been dropped in the doo-doo. Never mentions them now. Brexit is so yesterday.

He is taking the piss out of the Red Wall and they will suck it up because ‘Boris is a bit of a lad, and his hair, chortle.’ The English are dumber than paint.

Sir Rodney Woodentop has said he is about to relaunch his leadership campaign in the autumn, for the umpteenth time, and is desperately scrambling around for ideas, whilst inviting rich Corporate funders to come up with some cash to help him think. Having squandered the £27 Million Corbyn left as funds, and purged any real socialist and non-Zionist Jews from the Party, he has to resort to the begging bowl. To oil the corporate wheels, he is to model his version of Nu Nu Labour on Nu Labour and rehabilitate Blair’s ideas as a starting point. So, expect more wars, tough on the causes of crime, cutting the workshy of their benefits and PFI to finance the Green New Deal which he has downgraded from the 2019 manifesto commitment of £250 billion to £30 billion. That should just about cover the cost of a new app once the corruption team have used their burner phones to give it to their mates. Don’t think the PLP are any less corrupt than the Tories. Other than a few very quiet socialist cowards you could swap the lot with the Tories and not notice much difference. We get the government we deserve. Spaffer mocks the miners claiming she who can’t be named did it to stop using coal because of climate change. No mention of then importing coal from Columbia and elsewhere using child slave labour. He is taking the piss out of the Red Wall and they will suck it up because ‘Boris is a bit of a lad, and his hair, chortle.’ The English are dumber than paint.

Eight separate teams of scientists are reporting the Gulf Stream is near to collapse

Meanwhile, the forests across the Arctic, Siberia, Turkey, Greece, Canada and the US are burning brightly. In Athens last night a close friend of Yannis Varoufakis died in his room, of smoke inhalation. Whole villages have burnt to the ground in Turkey. Eight separate teams of scientists are reporting the Gulf Stream is near to collapse, with catastrophic results for huge swathes of ocean and landmass ecosystems. Our PM’s big idea this week is to ‘wash your plates before putting them in the dishwasher!’ Yup, that’s going to stop the Gulf Stream from imploding.

These people are psychopaths. We can see the tsunami coming, the warning bells have been ringing for decades, but they aren’t listening.

Cop26 is approaching. The great and good will gather in Glasgow to decide humanity’s next steps. Nothing will happen. They will argue and pose, strut about what type of fire extinguisher is the most cost effective as the house is burning down. The Oligarchs and their influential Think Tanks and media puppets will heave out loads of copy saying, ‘it’s too late now, we can’t stop it, we need to adapt,’ The Doomster message is all they have left because the argument of the deniers is lost. Because they still think things can carry on as normal. Their ‘normal. Neoliberal Consumer Capitalism. They can neither conceive nor permit any other version of civilisation that does not revolve around greed, free taking and consuming (burning) of the commons, and free reign to destroy any eco-system on the planet for profit. They will mumble about carbon offsetting and other ridiculous ‘cures’ which is like a family head cooking a big dinner for himself (this is a very male problem btw) and telling the rest of the family they can share a carrot. Ignoring the fact that two of these carbon offset forests burned to the ground last week these ideas are just perpetuating more of the same. These people are psychopaths. We can see the tsunami coming, the warning bells have been ringing for decades, but they aren’t listening. We are tying our hands behind our backs for a rich elite to carry on plundering the planet. Extinction Rebellion will wave a few flags outside and maybe block an underpass or a public square, and The Greens (middle class liberals in wellies) will mutter about losing their lattes or a particular mammal or butterfly they like, but the plunder will carry on regardless. If you look at the earth from the space station, there are no border lines drawn on the landscape, there is just this beautiful blue planet awash with a myriad of species. Yet our governments cannot agree a plan for those species. The more you know, the more you understand what is happening, the greater the rage. Are we really not going to fight these bastards and fight for a life worthy of what we could call a morally just civilisation? Do we condemn entire species to a grim future and risk everything because of lethargy and ignorance? Because we lacked vision? Because we couldn’t be bothered? The left is fractured, atomised, almost imperceptible in the States, even the ‘Squad’ are limp liberals and Imperialists. I am convinced the only way through this battle is ecological based socialism. No ‘free market’ is going to coagulate around a ‘Manhattan type’ project to buckle down and tackle the upcoming storm. It will take coordinated multi-State co-operation to do so. A war footing no less.

Keep washing your hands.

Gordon Liddle was born 1956, Horden, County Durham, United Kingdom Married, lives and works at his Derbyshire studio. BA Hons, Sheffield Psalter Lane Art College Gordon has had numerous positions and travelled extensively through the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Yemen, Lebanon, Bahrain, Africa and Europe, with particular interests in religion, democracy, politics, economics, MMT, and culture. The results of these studies form the basis of the series of works now under way. Numerous works bought by private collectors #Madonna Victorian Mood Bought by Andrew Cavendish the 11th Duke of Devonshire is owned by the Chatsworth Collection. ‘Celestial Teapot’ was exhibited at La Galleria Pall Mall in London for one week in 2013, 4 days at Art Basel in 2014. Currently working on Gaia, The Sixth Extinction Series, of paintings, woodcuts and hopefully etchings soon. Also writing two books and a book of poems and rants. Gordon is on Twitter @sutongirotcip and his website is pictorignotus.com 

Gill Rippingale’s Forest of Dreams

Finding Gill Rippingale’s work was a moment of recognition. Hers is sacred art. For years we lived in Jalisco. The Huichol people would come down from the cloud forest to sell their art. I remember seeing the bright beaded embodiment of the Great Mother. From every part of her being animals emerged: deer, snakes, spiders, coyotes, rabbits. Once, at the entrance to church a Huichol man, before he returned home, was selling a large amate he had painted which had won a prize at a competition held in the city. It was a painting on bark of a great, stylised, orange deer.

I saw the same vision of the Huichol in Gill Rippingale’s own orange fox, though Gill’s paintings are often tiny enough to enclose in the palm of your hand. All of her paintings should be examined closely in order to appreciate the magisterial detail. More recently, Gill has been drawing small figures on wood in fire. There is something that lies behind Gill Rippingale’s drawn and painted lines. Perhaps, like me, you too can sense the wonder, love and magic.

Gill Rippingale ©

Forest of dreams is the name I give to the mythic realm in my artwork. It is a realm in which I wander when seeking creative inspiration. Where I may meet with animals in a slightly different form to those in the ‘real’ world and sometimes listen to their stories. These animals are of spirit form and are, like the realm in which they exist, real at some level.

Gill Rippingdale ©, words by D. H. Lawrence

The forest of dreams is always accessible to me as it exists apart from time and space. I carry it wherever I go…indeed, a small part of me is present there at all times…in meditation with Tashi, running with Fox Linden, and resting with The White Hare in the innermost sacred grove.

Gill Rippingale ©

The beautiful line arising, plays across the page

Crystallized in time – in service to the unseen


Paper, pigment, muse, bring joy and terror, death

and deliverance with every stroke.

Gill Rippingale
Gill Rippingale ©

Gill Rippingale ©

Gill Rippingale ©

Gill Rippingale ©

Gill Rippingale ©

Gracious Spirit and Lord of the Forest,

Wise Protector, swift and strong Forest Dancer

Through thy grace, beauty and Compassion

may we be healed …  made whole and One with Life

Reveal to us the hidden pathways

and let us follow in thy tracks, leading us onwards …

from darkness into Light.

And may we be filled with the peaceful, silent beauty of our own

True Forest Home.

May the Blessings of the Forest ever be with us

and may all the creatures of the world abide in Peace.

Gill Rippingale

Gill Rippingale ©

Bear’s Vow, drawn with fire by Gill Rippingale ©

The Green Lady, Gill Rippingale

I utterly need Green around me!  I am experiencing a kind of lack of it at the moment, as I moved to the seaside. The sea is wonderful,  but I am hankering after Forest… I’ve never been really drawn to deserts, although my eldest son really wants to experience a desert, but he wants to go to the Atacama.

The House of the Green Lady

Vive les BDs!

Bandes dessinees (comics) – the French do it so much better.

Most of my working life was spent churning out comics scripts for the Disney characters, but much of my comics background was shaped by a culture on the other side of the Atlantic from “the evil empire”. I read and was influenced by French comics from a pretty young age. The examples I’ll write about are very much a personal and far from exhaustive selection of those that that fed my addiction.

The first comic book to tempt me away from a diet of Beanos and Dandys was King Ottakar’s Sceptre starring the boy reporter Tintin. (Okay, Herge was Belgian, but Tintin fits right into the francophone comics tradition.) Hitherto all the comics I’d read were one or two pagers, with gags rather than stories, and pretty inconsequential ones at that. Although I couldn’t understand the French text, the Tintin books were feature-length stories with proper plots and well defined characters. I could sort of follow the stories; they were so much better than anything produced in England. I do wonder how many others found Tintin their gateway drug to better things?

What more is there to say about Tintin? In the UK he has to be the best known of foreign language comics characters. The main criticism of the books has to be creator Herge’s racism, which is unfortunately all too apparent – especially in the earlier titles, such as Tintin au Congo.

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Tintin au Congo

He eventually came to accept there was a problem, although in his later, more “aware” books there was still a tendency towards racial stereotyping. There was also criticism of Herge for continuing to work for a Belgian newspaper that allegedly followed a collaborationist line during WWII. I’d a say a lot of people did worse; and more generally I think one just has to concede that Herge’s comics were of their time and brilliant with it. After all, it wasn’t until the late 1960s that some comics started to move ahead of society at large in terms of enlightened sensibilities. (Yes, I can defend that sweeping statement, but not here.)

When I was seventeen I started spending some of my school holidays with relatives in Paris. This opened me up to a ready supply of French cigarettes, fascinating alcoholic drinks, blues records… and a new vein of comics to mine. The first that grabbed me was Asterix the Gaul.

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Asterix and Obelix

I was an instant fan. The simple, cartoony characters belied the wit and humour of the writing; they were wonderful stories and helped me enormously in learning French. The books are well-known in the UK, and in spite of the fact that many of the original puns are untranslatable from the original French, the translators have done a very good job of replacing them.

While the creators, Goscinny and Uderzo, are guilty of a degree of racial stereotyping, they do it in a typically French chauvinistic way. They’ve got it in for everybody, and that includes themselves.

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A stereotype or two

In 1949 the French government had brought in measures restricting the import of American films and comics in order the maintain the purity of French culture. DeGaulle must’ve been delighted with Asterix. As an aside, at the height of Asterix’s popularity, an earnest journalist asked Rene Goscinny, the books’ writer, whether Asterix was a metaphor for the French A Bomb. No, Goscinny answered, it’s about Gauls bashing up Romans.

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Gratuitous Roman-bashing

Another discovery during my Paris visits, more of a slow burn initially, but subsequently of greater import, was Pilote magazine. Unlike Tintin and Asterix, which appeared in full-length, album format, Pilote featured comics of varying lengths by a variety of creators. Initially, in the early 1960s, Pilote catered for a predominantly young readership, but with the passage of time it carried comics for a more varied range of ages. Asterix was serialised in it, as was Lucky Luke, but from the late 60s and through the 70s many “grown up” comics appeared. Artists such as Philippe Druillet, Claire Bretecher and Jean Giraud (Moebius) published in Pilote before going onto grander things – plus a long, long list of others.

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A breeding ground for talent.

Pilote was another gateway drug for me – transitioning from the comics of my youth to the adult fare I’d unknowingly craved. It paved the way for the seminal moment in my comics history: seeing my first American underground comic, “Zap” (which had a similar effect on me to my first acid trip). The beauty of Pilote, along with much of the French comics scene, was that it didn’t set out to be overtly “counterculture”. Underground and overground meshed seamlessly together. Pilote eventually fizzled out in the late 1980s, but I remember it with great affection.

After leaving school my periodic visits to Paris continued. By then my sister had moved to the city (where she lived for over 25 years, working as a graphic designer), so as well as staying with my French relatives I could impose on her hospitality. One of my first ports of call in Paris would be the Left Bank book and comics shops, trawling for fresh discoveries. I was never disappointed.

Bookshops were crammed with comics albums of all sorts, for all ages. Several adult comics magazines sprang up during the late 60s and 70s, such as l’Echo des Savannes, Hara-Kiri, Psychopat, Charlie, Fluide Glacial… which featured a miscellany of characters and creators. In terms of content they could be humorous, violent, satirical, obscene, political…

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Underground comix overground.

They were underground comics but unlike in the UK, where you had to search out the few underground comics available in one or two well-hidden head-shops, here they were on display in virtually every book shop and news-kiosk across the land.

The variety was staggering, and what made the best of them stand out was that unlike the overground factory-comics system in the UK and USA , French publishers often allowed their creators complete artistic freedom. A favourite of mine was a “superhero” (I detest superheroes) called Superdupont, dedicated to the elimination of all un-French influences, who was born in Pilote and continued in Fluide Glacial, jammed by various creators.

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A bas les etrangers…

Another was Nikita Mandryka, who managed to combine surrealism, grotesqueness, cuteness and obscenity in one homogeneous mess.

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Cute, huh?

Reiser and Georges Wolinski (murdered in his 80s in the Charlie Hebdo massacre) combined deceptively crude drawing styles with slice o’ life short strips about the human condition and very incorrect sexual politics. I absolutely loved them. Their strips appeared in all the monthlies plus in collections of their own work.

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The incorrect world of Georges Wolinksi

I have to put in a mention for fantasy comics as well. They’re not my natural habitat, but the French have been immensely strong in that area and to this day fantasy fans are spoilt for choice in France. Initially a quarterly, Metal Hurlant first appeared in the early 1970s, the brainchild of Philippe Druillet, Jean Giraud and the writer Jean-Pierre Dionnet. It went on the showcase the very best in sci-fi and fantasy comics, and subsequently appeared in a USA version called Heavy Metal.

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For all fantasy and SF addicts

I’ve been a frequent visitor to France right up to the present, and I don’t suppose Brexit will stop that. I always look out for new material, but also keep an eye open for any old favourites cropping up. Anything illustrated by Jacques Tardi I grab; I simply adore his work. His career got underway in the early 1970s, but I believe he’s still working. His genres are historical and detective fiction, mixed with some fantasy, steampunk and surrealism. His hard boiled gumshoe series Nestor Burma I love, with its wonderfully evocative period backgrounds…

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The Parisian answer to Philip Marlowe.

but my favourite of his works is Ici Meme, written by Jean-Claude Forest (oddly of Barbarella fame), but uniquely Tardi’s vision. 90% surrealism and 10% political satire, it involves a displaced man who lives on top of the walls of the properties he believes he’s been cheated out of. It is both quintessentially French and other-worldly at the same time – and I’ve read it God knows how many times.

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The enigmatic Arthur Meme.

How is it that 22 miles of water separates two such utterly different comics worlds? Grudgingly I suppose it’s getting a little better in the UK. Waterstones now has small sections for graphic novels. But compare that to French bookshops and news-stands, which have comics by the train-load.

I think a main part of the difference comes from the French tradition of making album length books out of any comics character that’s learned to walk. That involves writing longer and more intricate stories. Even children’s characters such as Pif and Becassine were involved in longer stories in France, whereas in the UK kids subsisted on a diet of one and two pagers in the Beano etc. I believe that has led to a high level of comics illiteracy in the UK, plus the attitude that comics are just for kids.

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Even Becassine (nee 1905) appeared in properly structured stories.

Sure, there has been a constant supply of American material to these shores since the early 1950s, of mainly superhero-type comics (did I mention I detest superheroes?), but in my humble opinion they only add to the popular UK view that comics are for kids and overgrown spotty Herberts who will never have girlfriends. Okay – attitudes are slowly shifting – but in France comics are far more intellectually acceptable and the choice is staggering.

Worldwide, there are three major comics festivals: Comiket in Tokyo, the San Diego Comic-Con and Angouleme – a small city in south west France.

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Mecca for comics freaks.

I’ve tried to attend the Angouleme festival, but it appears you have to book at least a decade in advance to get accommodation. I’ve visited the city though, and it’s an eye-opener. It has a vast comics museum that I could happily get lost in for days, there are independent comics publishers dotted all over the city and its university runs several different courses on comics creation, illustration, history and theory… It is the city of comics…

In the land of comics. Vive les BDs!

Paul Halas’s escape from 1970s hippidom was the discovery that he could invent stories. He spent forty years contributing to various Disney magazines and books, as well as a variety of non-Disney comics, books and animated films. His retirement from commercial writing coincided with Jeremy Corbyn becoming the Labour Party leader, which led to five years’ political activism. He left the party two years ago with a heavy heart.

British Artists in Mexico

England is, as far as colours go, fairly subdued and uniform. Mexico is the opposite

By Simon Brewster

Although I have lived and worked in Mexico for almost 40 years, my first impressions of the country are still very vivid. After landing in Mexico after a stopover in the Bahamas, as we drove into the city that was to be my home for so many years, I was conscious not just of the size and chaos compared to what I had known anywhere before but the colours.

England is, as far as colours go, fairly subdued and uniform. Mexico is the opposite, I could see from my windows houses painted bright yellow, pink and blue. There seemed to be a happy abandon in the use of colours which I discovered is a part of Mexican culture. The street markets use awnings made of a pinkish red material. Mexican textiles, many of which are handmade, have richly coloured textures. Perhaps it has to do with the huge variety of flowers, fruits and spices that you can find here. Going to a Mexican market exposes you to an almost overwhelming variety of colours, aromas and flavours. Even The Day of the Dead is characterised by the deep yellow and strong, almost sweet, smell of Mexican marigolds which decorate the altars in many homes.

The Day of the Dead is characterised by the deep yellow and strong, almost sweet, smell of Mexican marigolds

Small wonder then that some British artists have found inspiration in Mexico.

A number of British artists were inspired to produce some of their great work in Mexico. One was Daniel Thomas Egerton (1797-1842) who was one of the first travelling painters to arrive in Mexico after independence when the borders were opened to non-Hispanics.

He stayed in the country from 1829 to 1836 depicting agricultural and commercial scenes from the cities of Puebla and Guadalajara as well as the mining town, Zacatecas. On his return to England in 1840 he published Vistas de Mexico which consisted of 12 plates. Egerton returned to Mexico late in 1840 and took up residence in Tacubaya a suburb of Mexico City.  Sadly, his career was cut short as he was murdered with his wife Alice in 1842. Mystery surrounds the murders as the motive was attributed to robbery, but Egerton was carrying large amounts of money, and both he and his wife were wearing jewelry, though none of this was taken.

British diplomatic pressure to solve the crime led to the arrest of three local petty thieves, two of whom were hanged, and one of whom was allowed to escape from prison. Other motives that have been suggested include Egerton’s alleged involvement in fraudulent land sales in Texas, his ties with a Masonic order, or an unknown jealous lover of Alice. There were even rumours that he was a spy working for the British government.

The example of one of his landscapes below sits in the British Embassy Residence in Mexico City and shows the Valley of Mexico with the snow-covered Iztaccihuatl volcano in the background.

Egerton, Daniel Thomas; The Valley of Mexico; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-valley-of-mexico-28144

Frederick Catherwood (1799 – 1854) was a contemporary of Egerton and was an architect and explorer as well as a talented artist. I first noticed his lithographs as some copies were hanging in the main meeting room of the Anglo Mexican Foundation where I worked. I think they had been donated by someone at some stage in the past. I have to confess that when my mind wandered at certain moments, my eyes were drawn to the lithographs on the wall in front of me. I could picture this lone English artist hacking through the undergrowth in Yucatan led by trusty local guides and coming across Mayan ruins that had been abandoned for centuries and capturing the beauty of their sculptures and buildings on his sketch pad.

Portion of a building, Las Monjas, Yucatan by Frederick Catherwood

Together with travel writer John Lloyd Stephens, in 1839 Catherwood formed an expedition to explore dozens of Mayan ruins resulting in the detailed description of 44 sites. It can be argued that Stephens and Catherwood are responsible for the rediscovery of the Maya civilization, and thanks to their publications the Maya civilization became known to the Western World.

It can be argued that Stephens and Catherwood are responsible for the rediscovery of the Maya civilization

The expedition resulted in the publication in 1841 of Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucutan. The text was written by Stephens and the engravings were based on the drawings of Catherwood.  In 1843 they returned to Yucatan to make further explorations, publishing Incidents of Travel in Yucatan.

In 1844 Catherwood produced Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, with 25 colour lithographs from water colours he made at various ruins. The example below shows you the amount of detail he was able to capture in his paintings of Mayan ruins partly hidden by the encroaching vegetation. 

Three other British artists are also worthy of mention. The first is It can be argued that Stephens and Catherwood are responsible for the rediscovery of the Maya civilization (1907-1984) poet, sculptor and patron of the arts.

The eccentric Edward James inherited a fortune and large estate in England from his father. He was an enthusiastic supporter of surrealism and helped artists such as Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte. He also was a loyal patron of British artist Leonora Carrington.  His great project in Mexico, in which he invested US$5 million, was ‘Las Pozas’ in the village of Xilitla, in the state of San Luis Potosi.

Edward James, Garden Las Pozas, Photo by Jesse, https://anearthlyparadise.com/blog-2/2019/9/5/las-pozas-xilitla

From the early 1950s he transformed a former coffee plantation into one of the largest and least known artistic monuments of the 20th century. James planted enormous numbers of exotic plants and orchids and created a unique world of sculptures based on his sketches and constructed by a small army of local indigenous groups who must have seem James as a benefactor given the large sums of money he lavished on his pet project.

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), like her patron and friend, Edward James came from a wealthy background but rebelled against this running away to Paris at the age of 20 to live with the much older artist Max Ernst. There she met a number of surrealist painters including Pablo Picasso, Andre Breton, Salvador Dali and Leonor Fini and began painting herself. After escaping from Nazi occupied France following the internment of Max Ernst she had a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a mental hospital against her will. She managed to escape by a marriage of convenience with a Mexican diplomat, Renato Leduc, and after a year in New York she moved to Mexico City and divorced Leduc in 1942 and stayed there the rest of her life.

Her paintings reflect her surrealist background but also other themes: alchemy, magic and renaissance paintings. I have to confess I do not like her paintings very much but I do admire her technical skill and some of the finer draftsmanship in her paintings can only have been achieved with immense patience and very fine brushes! Of all the painters I have included in this article, she is the one who in my view was the least influenced by Mexico. Her fantasy world of strange ethereal shapes, fantastic animals, symbolism and translucent colours is probably not linked to any culture and existed in her imagination more than anywhere else. You can see the kind of things I am talking about in this painting .


The Old Maids by Leonora Carrington

Irish-born Phil Kelly (1950-2010) is the final artist we will look at. The first time I saw a Phil Kelly painting was in the library of the Foundation. It was a given in in return for an exhibition we had hosted. In common with a lot of his paintings, it was a riot of richly applied oils showing a traffic jam in Mexico City and featuring a green ‘ecological’ VW Beetle taxi, now sadly replaced by a Japanese model.

If you look at the paintings Phil [Kelly] did before he came to Mexico they don’t have the same light and colour his Mexican paintings possess. 

If you look at the paintings Phil did before he came to Mexico they don’t have the same light and colour his Mexican paintings possess. 

This street scene of Mexico City captures so much about the city and country: bright sun; buildings painted in powerful, strong colours; telephone and electricity cables strung out above the streets; the roof of a taxi and a pedestrian crossing which anyone valuing their lives will never cross unless the cars are a long way off and even when a traffic light turns to red, you should always wait before crossing or risk being mown down by cars that will jump the light rather than stop for pedestrians.

Phil Kelly got to know the city by travelling on public transport and walking around while going to teach English classes.  The importance of Mexico City in inspiring his paintings is clear from his own words:

“You can’t be a painter if you’re not curious about your surroundings. What I very consciously try to do is to find something every day. The color of a truck. The way that someone crosses the street. The garbage trucks, two in a row going down the boulevard. Or the steam coming from a vat of tamales.”

Phil Kelly
Amarillo Anahuac by Phil Kelly

I will continue to appreciate the colours that are so much part of Mexico and make every day in some ways a painting to enjoy.

Simon Brewster

Simon Brewster has lived and worked in Mexico for over 40 years. He has taught English and trained teachers in the UK, Italy and Mexico. He originally studied history at the University of Cambridge before training as a teacher and later he took a Master’s in Business Administration. He has written more than 10 textbooks for adults, high school and secondary students. At present, he is Chief Academic Officer of the Anglo Mexican Foundation in Mexico City.  In his spare time he draws and paints, reads, spends time with his Polish wife, Justine, and tries to play tennis. 

They drew the 20th Century

By Paul Halas

Cartoons that were art.

Growing up in a family that was immersed in the visual arts – chiefly in the form of animated films – it’s little wonder I had access to all kinds of books filled with the most wonderful illustrations. From children’s illustrated books, to old “Punch” almanacs, ditto New Yorker, to collections of offbeat cartoons and drawings, to fine-art illustrations… I was always dazzled by the skill and wit of those putting pen to paper, and in retrospect I’m immensely grateful to all the publishers that sold so many beautifully produced works of art – which certainly cannot have sold in sufficient numbers to make them a pot of money. They heyday of such publications was the middle part of the century (excluding of course the war years and the immediate austerity following them); and while I have no doubt there are legions of wonderful illustrators at work today, the wonderful, whimsical books of cartoons I grew up with don’t seem to be produced any more.

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Old collections of cartoons and illustrations can still be found in antique and bric-a-brac shops – for a price – and also if one is lucky at car boot sales. Specialist book sellers can source them too, but again they don’t come cheap. I’m lucky in that I inherited a small collection of them; others are simply indelibly imprinted in my memory. With no attempt to present these artists in any sort of order of merit, here is a collection of some of those I’ve thumbed through innumerable times.

H M Bateman will forever be known as the creator of “The Man Who…” series of cartoons, depicting the foibles and social mores of his contemporaries. As a child I was attracted to his attention to detail and the accuracy with which he depicted contemporary fashion, décor and incidental detail. Growing up, I went through a period of thinking he must have been the most outrageous snob, given that so much of his humour was based on social faux-pas – but then he was simply reflecting the society he was a part of. The Britain he inhabited was probably the most snobbish, class-obsessed nation on Earth; H M Bateman reflected that with considerable genius.

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Most young boys of my vintage went through a period of loving railways and trains, and none were quirkier or more original than the creations of Rowland Emett. Emett’s way-out inventiveness was on a par with W Heath Robinson (who should get more of a mention here but doesn’t), creating a parallel universe in which the laws of physics did wonderfully impossible things. He was known for cartoons lampooning bureaucracy and quirky reflections on life in war-torn Britain, but for most people he’ll chiefly be remembered for his wonderful railways and trains – the stuff of dreams. Eat your hearts out Thomas the Tank Engine and Ivor the Engine.

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A book of my parents’ that intrigued me as a nine or ten year old was “The Half-Naked Knight” by Andre Francois, not that I had any great interest in semi-dressed men. Francois (Ne Farkas) was a French cartoonist of Romanian origin who specialised in visual humour. His style was very contemporary 1950s and 60s, and I imagine had he not progressed to fine art paining he would have also made a superb graphic designer. His themes were predominantly adult, yet I found the drawings oddly compelling.

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Ronald Searle is remembered by most as the creator of the notorious St Trinians School characters, which were published in a range of magazines such as “Lilliput”, as well as being immortalised on celluloid by the likes of Alastair Simm and George Cole. But type-casting Searle as simply the creator of St Trinians does him a disservice. His unique penmanship made him highly collectable as a fine artist, a renowned book illustrator and highly-regarded sculptor. He produced a series of drawings during and after his time as a POW in a WW2 Japanese prison camp that are both moving and distressing, which had a similar effect on me to the few images I had seen of the Holocaust. That said, I was a huge fan of Searle’s provocative schoolgirls.

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Just as Ronald Searle cannot escape his St Trinians legacy, Charles Addams will forever be associated with the Addams Family, of both TV and silver screen fame, but in his case with more justification. I always loved a book of his drawings entitled “The Groaning Board”, which contained a mixture of Addams Family and stand alone macabre cartoons drawings. It may be apocryphal, but it is said that Addams’ first job was for “True Detective” Magazine, where he had to retouch photos of corpses to make them appear less gruesome. He is alleged to have said he preferred them in their original state. It was the macabre nature of Addams’ cartoons that appealed to me.

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One couldn’t really describe Frans Masereel as a cartoonist, in fact apart from woodcut-maker it is hard to pigeon-hole him, but as creator of wonderful surreal images I wanted to look at again and again I had to include him in this list. (I could also have included the great Lynd Ward, who also created wordless stories in woodcuts, but as Ward was greatly influenced by Masereel it is the Flemish artist who has pride of place.) I was captivated by his book “The Idea” from an early age – not simply because it featured an odd naked woman floating around – and sought out his other woodcut illustrated works later in life. His dreamlike images, similar in mood to the best of German Expressionist cinema, are all admirable works of art.

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Michael Ffolkes was an astonishingly prolific cartoonist who supplied illustrations to nearly every magazine on British news-stands for nearly fifty years. He had a dry understated wit, and I think my parents liked his work because it succeeded in marrying a playful decorativeness with an unerring sense of design. His drawings are exceedingly easy on the eye – which apparently didn’t mean that he was easy company. Apparently at “Private Eye” magazine’s 21st birthday bash the cartoonist Martin Honeysett became so exasperated he threw a large, gooey cake over the “notoriously pompous” Ffolkes’ head.

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Another artist who is difficult to categorise is the great Saul Steinberg. Born in Romania, a naturalised American, Steinberg was both a stalwart of the gallery scene and an in-demand magazine illustrator/cartoonist, his work appearing in countless New Yorker magazines. His subject matter varied from surrealism, to whimsy, to visual gags and to hard political satire; his visual style both absorbed and parodied almost every artistic movement of the 20th Century, always with an immaculate sense of design. Anyone labouring under the delusion than cartooning cannot be great art needs to look at Saul Steinberg’s work.

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Highly controversial, not the least because of some questionably anti-Semitic remarks (his defence was that he was supporting the Palestinian people. Hmmm), Sine (Maurice Sinet) married a deceptively simple drawing style, scribbles almost, with subject matter that could be witty, outrageous, obscene, or highly contentious. His politics were far left, to the extent that he was even banned by l’Humanite, the French Communist newspaper, and tended to fall out with nearly every periodical or publisher that took him on. Latterly he found his natural home with the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine – although his life was claimed by cancer rather than terrorists’ bullets.

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I’m aware this list is highly subjective and probably owes more to my parents’ tastes than anything else; I’m also very aware of the absence of any women cartoonists. Given that my mother was a highly gifted artist/animator/illustrator I find that pretty shocking, and can only surmise that in the middle part of the 20th Century women cartoonists were very thin on the ground. My mother always remarked that she lived in a man’s world, and while there were always a number of excellent women film animators they were always overwhelmingly outnumbered by the men. But if anyone knows of any outstanding women cartoonist/illustrators working earlier in the 20th Century, I’d love to know more.

Paul Halas is a writer of Jewish heritage whose escape from 1970s hippidom was the discovery that he could invent stories. He spent forty years contributing to various Disney magazines and books, as well as a variety of non-Disney comics, books and animated films. His retirement from commercial writing coincided with Jeremy Corbyn becoming the Labour Party leader. He is a self described Corbynista. As a result he has been a Labour activist for the past five years – and most of his current writing is political. He is currently hoping to find something funny to write about.

Animation with a social conscience

Halas and Batchelor, Animal Farm

Halas & Batchelor Cartoon Films 1940 – 1995

By Vivien Halas

This year marks the 80th year since my parents, John Halas and Joy Batchelor founded Halas & Batchelor Cartoons, in its day a household name responsible for over 2000 animated films. 

Their best-known film Animal Farm (1954) was the first animated feature to be made in the UK. It has become increasingly relevant, as George Orwell’s fable of power, revolution and corruption continues to have fresh resonance today, 70 years after the writer’s death. Students are still amazed by wonderfully fluid 2D animation made long before the introduction computers or digitization to the medium.

All animals are equal, from Halas and Batchelor, Animal Farm

The studio’s output covered a huge number of genres from propaganda and information films during World War 2 including Dustbin Parade (1941) and the Charley Series that introduced the idea of social welfare (1946/7), to entertainment films such as The History of the Cinema (1957), Tales from Hoffnung (1964) and the FooFoo series (1960). They also made films for children such as Hamilton the Musical Elephant (1961), the Snip and Snap series (1964) and experimental films such as the Owl and the Pussycat (1952) and the Figurehead (1953), including early computer animation like Dilemma (1979), educational films such as the Evolution of Life (1964) and What is a Computer? (1967). 

With the money made from these they were able to make personal films that expressed their own beliefs such as Magic Canvas (1948), The Question (1967), and Automania 2000 (1963), which was the first animated film be nominated for an Oscar and remarkable for its script by my mother, foreseeing the terrible effects of consumerism.

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“Automania 2000”

My father was born Halász János (later anglicised to John Halas) in Budapest’s Petersezbet district on 16 April 1912 (died in London on 21 January 1995). He was the seventh son of a Jewish couple, Gyözö Halász, a journalist and Bertha Singer, who had been a dancer in Vienna when young. Their comfortable life before my father was born ended with the increasing intolerance of Jews, when the family was forced out of the centre of Budapest to a shared house in an outer suburb where my father remembered sleeping under the table. The family was so poor that my father was sent to stay with an aunt in Zurich to be better fed. He remembered the Red Cross giving him food on the train and how his greed made him sick. It was the first of many journeys John made during his formative years that fuelled his appetite for escaping his background.

Although clever at school, John spent his time truanting, playing football with a gypsy friend, hiding under cinema seats to see films for free and running errands for his father. He made money from painting film poster hoardings and eventually got a job at Hunnia Film, putting subtitles onto silent movies. It was here that he met George Pal, the renowned puppet-film maker, and together they taught themselves to animate by embellishing the titles with moving figures. 

Having no money, John blagged his way into art school. He persuaded the painter and graphic designer Sandor Bortnyik to hire him as an assistant at the renowned Muhely Atelier that taught Bauhaus principles. This brought John into contact with thevartists Victor Vasarely and Moholy Nagy. He was able to help them with their kinetic experiments while they imbued him with the Bauhaus ethos. He said ‘I learnt construction from them and how to look behind the surface to solve a problem’. It was here that he met his future partners Gyula Macskassy and Felix Kassowitz. They started their first studio in 1932, making ads and short films. When in 1936 a client asked them to set up a studio in London to make an entertainment series, John jumped at the chance and set off, undaunted by his lack of language. He was a natural communicator.

Once in London my father put an ad in a newspaper calling for animators. This was how he met my mother, Joy Batchelor. A happy accident, strangely brought about by the forces of rising anti-Semitism in Europe. His drive and my mother’s talent for drawing, animating and writing ensured their success in difficult times and underpinned their belief that animation was the most complete art form that could make the world a better place. 

Joy was born in Watford, England, 12 May 1914 (died in London 14 May 1991). Her father Edward Joseph Batchelor worked in London as a lithographic draughtsman. Her mother Ethel gave up running a prestigious golf club to marry Edward, and Joy was born exactly nine months after the wedding. 

Joy took interest in drawing from an early age, encouraged by her father who brought home long paper off-cuts for her to draw on. Always top of her class in everything Joy won a scholarship to grammar school, and later to the Watford School of Art. Though she was subsequently offered a scholarship to the Slade, she could not afford to go, so instead she looked for work.

The best she could find was painting trinkets in an assembly line. The job ended quickly as she criticised the working conditions and was fired. In 1934, she went to work for Dennis Connelly’s animation studio in London. She had had no training in animation but learned on the job and was soon promoted to key animator and trained the other animators. By the time she saw John Halas’s ad for an experienced animator, she was ready. 

John and Joy started working together on a film titled Music Man, very loosely based on the life of Liszt. John took the production and Joy back to Budapest as he already had a studio there. Joy remembered that time with nostalgia as she was made a great fuss of by all the partners. By then she and John were in love. The idyll was soon ended as Hitler entered Vienna and their funding was abruptly cut off. In fear for their safety John and Joy borrowed money to flee on one of the last trains out of Budapest, in June 1938. 

John and Joy in Budapest

Once back in London they took any graphic design work they could find. John’s English was almost non-existent, so it was Joy who looked for employment. She found illustration work for newspapers, Harpers magazine and cookery books. John, who was an expert with the airbrush, was lucky as Moholy Nagy (who was briefly art director for Simpsons on the Strand) gave him a few ads to design.

Eventually they found work at the J Walter Thompson agency in Bush House. Although there was a shortage of paper there was still a film unit and at last they were back in business making animated ads, for Lux soap and Brook Bond Tea. As the war started in earnest, the agency was taken over by the Government and the couple found themselves making information and propaganda films for the war effort, for which my father was given special dispensation to stay in England. However, to be paid they were obliged to set up a company, and to save John from internment they got married. Both events took place in May 1940.

This backfired slightly as by marrying my father Joy found herself stripped of her British citizenship and suddenly considered Hungarian; an enemy alien in her own country! 

She said, “I ended up being Hungarian on paper. There were some inconveniences, like observing an 8 pm curfew, or not being allowed to own a bicycle, but John and I survived this period quite well’. They did indeed as during the war they made over 70 films, two of which were feature length training films. In this way they honed their skills and developed a sophisticated style. My mother in particular had the knack of turning dry subjects into engaging films. 

After the war they continued making information films for the Marshall Plan and the reconstruction of Europe. One of them, The Shoemaker and the Hatter (1949), explaining how lowering trade tariffs and working together would encourage prosperity, was responsible for the studio being asked to make Animal Farm in 1951.


From that time they expanded the company and continued until the early eighties, becoming the most influential animation studio in Western Europe, responsible for employing and training many new generations of animators. Without them British animation would not have flourished as it did and still continues today.

Their story and that of the studio was recently seen in a new documentary made by Richard Shaw at Unity House, broadcast on Sky Arts this spring. Also visit our website http://www.halasandbatchelor.co.uk where you can watch clips of the films, buy DVDs, the book ‘Halas & Batchelor, an animated history’ and ‘A Moving Image’ that traces the life and work of my mother.

First published in The Jewish Review

Vivien Halas, March 2020

For more information please go to:


The Animated World of Halas and Batchelor –

Vivien Halas

Vivien Halas

​She is co-author of Halas & Batchelor, an animated history 2006 and A Moving Image, Joy Batchelor 1914-91, Artist, Writer and Animator 2014. With the help of Martin Pickles, Vivien has directed and produced two documentaries on her parents, Remembering John Halas 2012 and Ode to Joy 2014. She has contributed to numerous animation and design publications worldwide and served on many juries at international animation film festivals. In her spare time she is a printmaker.


Ars Notoria is pleased to present the fifth episode in the comic series, Depression, by Dan Pearce.

Dan Pearce

Dan has written two graphic novels. One of them, called Critical Mess, was against nuclear power and the most recent is Oscar: The Second Coming. Dan is a painter, he has always painted and the last time he exhibited was at Sussex Open in 2017. His Labour of love is a graphic novel called Depression which is unfinished. Dan lived in Andalucia and Umbria for 18 years before coming back to England to live in Hastings.

4# Depression

Ars Notoria is pleased to present the fourth episode in the comic series by Dan Pearce.

Dan Pearce

Dan has written two graphic novels. One of them, called Critical Mess, was against nuclear power and the most recent is Oscar: The Second Coming. Dan is a painter, he has always painted and the last time he exhibited was at Sussex Open in 2017. His Labour of love is a graphic novel called Depression which is unfinished. Dan lived in Andalucia and Umbria for 18 years before coming back to England to live in Hastings.

3# Depression

Ars Notoria is pleased to present the third episode in the comic series by Dan Pearce.

Dan Pearce

Dan Pearce has done editorial work for many magazines and newspapers including New Society, Honey, 19, Oz, The Observer, The Times and Sunday Times, Mayfair and Penthouse. Dan has created book and record covers, political cartoons, comic strips and caricatures and he has written two graphic novels: ‘Critical Mess’ (against the nuclear industry) and ‘Oscar: The Second Coming’. His labour of love is the graphic novel, ‘Depression’ which is unfinished. He lived in Andalucia and then Umbria before coming back to live in the UK in Hastings. Dan went to the Colchester School of Art and the Central School of Art and his last painting was well received at the Sussex Open.

Two Tall Trees

Two Tall Trees

There’s a window in the bathroom and if you stand at the bottom of the stairs you can see 2 tall trees through it.

And if you walk 2 steps up you can see the leaves on the 2 tall trees through the window in the bathroom.

And at 9 and something in any given June you can see the sun setting through the leaves on the 2 tall trees through the window in the bathroom.

I don’t know what will be of me, or what will be of you, or of the poor bees.

But I think perhaps, when enough years have passed, when my mind starts putting out its own flames and and becomes slow burning wood.

I’ll close my eyes and see,

The sun setting through the leaves, on the 2 tall trees, you can see through the window in the bathroom.

By Eve Hall

Eve Hall

Eve Hall is currently completing a degree in Arts Management at Goldsmith’s University where she is on the governing board as a student representative. Eve moved from Mexico City to London when she was young. She also lived for a period in Johannesburg. For three years Eve participated in the Youth Theatre at the Rose. She acted in several plays. Her last play was Animal Farm. She also co-directed several plays for the company including A Doll’s House by Ibsen. Despite being commended on her monologue performance by both the director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Anthony Hopkins she decided that she preferred the arts to acting. She set up and ran an arts workshop programme for children in Uruapan Michoacan, Mexico in 2018. In 2019 she ran weekly life drawing classes at a cinema in South East London. Eve has worked intensively in events management and is currently contracted to the Tate events management team. She is a talented artist and poet.

Photo-essay: Holi, Holi, Holi

Celebrations in the streets of Dharavi, Mumbai

By Andy Hall

The principle practice in street photography, and why I love it, is the immersive experience. That’s the only way you’re going to snatch those serendipitous, split-second moments you long for, as you wade through the river of human activity around you; all the time not asking, not showing, just shooting.

But I got more than I bargained for when I took the opportunity to jump on a plane and go and photograph Holi festival in the tight streets and alleyways of Dharavi, the biggest informal urban settlement in Asia. Not least because immersion, quite literally,  is the name of the game, as you get mobbed by everybody around you in what has to be the one of the most colourful, messy, anarchic, good-natured festivals going.

I’m quick to whip out my camera from underneath my armpit then, and just as quickly I curl my torso protectively over it as I walk on.

Also, I am obviously not from India, let alone Dharavi, and that means I’m not going to be that anonymous person I am when I’m using my trusty little Leica in most European and American cities. And until I’m covered in a cocktail of water and coloured powder, I am not going to blend in with the locals. Which means another hazard I’m not used to in this particular street photography venture – trying not to get my expensive little camera ruined as, invariably, I get mobbed by random groups of passers-by. I’m quick to whip out my camera from underneath my armpit then, and just as quickly, I curl my torso protectively over it as I walk on.

By now, I have abandoned the plastic bag the camera body was inside as it only complicates things. I have to be quick. There are alleyways where I am on the look out to sprint through , knowing I will be drenched from above; then,

of course, in such a densely packed place full of blind corners and doors that might open onto you at any moment, I have to keep my eyes peeled for an “ambush”, as well meaning smiling residents, noting an outsider, cover your face and hair with coloured powder which you obligingly accept. Then come the little platoons of teenagers and men with water pistols, ready to turn that powder into colourful mud that smears all over as the hugs and mayhem continue.

All the while, you’re furiously checking to see if your camera (with one fixed lens – far too dangerous for your equipment for you to switch lenses) still works. The only time you get to shoot for a few minutes without being love bombed, is when you get to a little clearing or “square” of sorts in between the alleyways, where loud music is playing and the dancing is in full swing. 

Our guide leads us out into the main roads that join up with Mumbai proper; and it’s over as soon as it’s begun – my brother and I laugh at how ridiculous we look, and its back to the hotel for several showers to try and get the stuff off.

It doesn’t prove that successful. My Brother Chris is a pilot for Virgin Atlantic who flew us to Mumbai and sorted out our foray into Dharavi. He now cuts a dash walking in full uniform onto the plane and into the cockpit with green sideburns and his neck, jutting out from his collar has a purple hue. We head back to London.

Selfie: Chris Hall, Captain / Andy Hall, Photographer

Andy Hall is based in London and has been a freelance photographer since 1989. His work has taken him on a wide range of commissioned news for numerous publications around the world. Andy is contracted to the Observer and the Guardian, but he has also published many times in The Times magazine, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, the Independent on Sunday and the New York Times Magazine. He has also been commissioned by Red Bulletin Magazine, Newsweek, GQ Magazine and Der Speigel Magazine.

Andy’s commercial clients include Transport for London, and he has also worked as a stills photographer for Film Four, and Channel Four. Throughout his career, Andy has gone on assignments for aid agencies and NGO’s including Oxfam, Save the Children and Action Aid. Andy also works on a regular basis with UNHCR. His portraits of film directors and celebrities have been shown in numerous Getty-sponsored exhibitions around the world.

Andy has collaborated in book projects ranging from “Montreal – Eye on the metropolis”(2000), to the British press photography anthology – “Eyewitness; five thousand days”(2004), “Muhammad Ali – the glory years” (2002), as well as the book project “UK at home”(2008). His commissioned work on the ongoing hunger crisis in sub-saharan Africa was screened at visa pour L’image, Perpignan in 2012.

Andy is also an established street photographer, having had his work published in specialist magazines such as PDN (Photo District News) and Eyeshot magazine. He is also one of the winners of the PDN sponsored “Best of Street Photography 2016”, and has given talks on his work in the Street London Festival in 2017 and on Radio London in 2018. He runs street photography workshops and judges street photography competitions on the “Photocrowd” photography website. Andy was recently awarded series finalist in the Brussels Street Photography Festival 2019.

Andy Hall can be contacted via his website at:


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