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As a result of revisiting my HST issue, I got from Amazon a copy of Ralph Steadmans book The Jokes Over – Memories of Hunter S Thompson.

And despite only reading 43 pages at the time of this blog post, I am glad I got it.

I discovered Ralph Steadmans work long before I found the connection with Hunter, or Hunter for that matter! I found a copy of I Leonardo in a second hand shop for a fiver. His work is just so wonderfully alive and chaotic, his characters grotesque (much like my own) and his style hard to beat, and so utterly heretical compared to my own illustration style, which leaned towards obsessive Durer engravings in biro.

It was about 1990, the second hand shop was in Canterbury where I was homeless at the time, and I got a copy of Animals by Pink Floyd at the same time. (As you might note, being homeless didn’t stop me shopping)

Steadman joined my list of favourite artists, along with Patrick Woodroffe and Alan Aldridge.

I was overjoyed when I finally made the connection between the good Doctor and one of my favourite artists. It seemed almost instantly a match made, if not in heaven, them some liberal part of hell, where naughty rock stars and people of bugger sheep go after death.

But, at the point of starting to read The Jokes Over, I was engaged in a personal struggle with a portrait of a friend and enjoying the struggle as I always do. Its a weird thing for an artist. You want to create something and its like trying to hold an eel with your bare hands. It wiggles this way and that, especially if you are desperate to achieve a recognisable likeness and avoid insulting the subject. Its a battle between you and your medium, your skill or talent and the physical reality you  are trying to create. Personally I feel that artists are the actual medium and a truly inspired idea is something living, alive and waiting to be created.

It already exists, it the artists job to facilitate this birth.

Years ago when I was in my twenties, I was travelling in Zimbabwe and growing more and more fascinated by the type of rock sculpting they do there. I was up towards the mountians in the East and pulled up at a shack where they were selling carvings. I said I wanted to buy some stone and one of the group of carvers there squated down in the dirt and showed by a big lump of Veridian, a beautiful green stone that he had just started working on. It didnt look like much to me. In the end there was me and about a dozen locals all squating in the dirt and the first guy turned it this way and that, chipping little pieces off what was actually a carving of a bird. They all in part explained to me that the bird was in the rock, it was already there, waiting. Its the carvers job to release it.

Thats why I always feel kind of a fraud when doing pictures on demand so to speak, for other people. Its forced, a caesarian rather than a natural birth. Its not inpiration, your making it up. I hate doing stuff like that.

It always feels better when you feel its something that has just come to you, gifting you with the opportunity to let it be born.

But it can still be a struggle and I am grateful to mr Steadman for expressing that within the brief part of the book I’ve read so far. Glad that I’m not just a daubing, stratching, scribbling freak you enjoys metaphorically wrestling with a notion manifest in art, hoping to cross the finish line with something that does the inspiration justice. If I dont some other bugger will I’m sure of it.

Thats the thing you see.

If you are inspired and fuck it up, that idea will move on to the next nerd with a scrap of artistic talent and give them a shot. Same with writing. Thats why you come across people who have ideas or write stuff or draw things that you just  thought of or are in the process of doing, or more annoyingly have just finished.

You fucked up.

You werent quick enough, you sniveling wannabe artist. You’re just dross, thick phlegm clinging to the back of inspirations throat. Can’t swallow it, can’t cough it up and purge it!

Inspiration pondered your inadequate efforts and thought “sod this, I’m off”, leaving you to continue pathetically while its finds someone who can get the job done.

Inspiration is a cruel thing.


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