Monday, 16 April 2018

'Catch me when I fall.'

'Take your time' and 'Catch me when I fall' are what I overhear most often at this weekend's moko jumbie workshop for children and adults.
A moko jumbie is a stilt dancer in a tradition out of West Africa via the Caribbean. Fully fledged performers wear stilts ranging from four to ten feet high, but here the pupils have shorter practice sticks.

Everyone is calm and happy here. People can't afford to be cross or spiky - they'd topple over. The children are naturals and a grown-up beginner is soon filming herself striding around with confidence.

After walking comes stomping, hopping and dancing for some. No tantrums except from me when I get home and realise that the ink I've been sketching with isn't waterproof. That means I can't just add streaks of colour which I'd hoped to do.

The workshop (led by Alan Vaughan, supported by Marcio Antonio and Igor Tavares) is part of a programme of hands-on carnival arts workshops organised by Carnival Village Trust in Notting Hill.

Life class

Facilitated by Ron Best in Portobello.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Brexit criminal law seminar. No spoilers necessary.

Brexit comes early to Notting Hill
No chance of good news about Brexit: the speaker is wearing his brown trousers.

Unless we can find a way out of this fix, we are being fast-backwarded to the sick-man-of-Europe days while proving de Gaulle right. I remember being bewildered as an infant by maypole dancing, but at least it was affordable entertainment.

I am at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies for a seminar given by Professor John Spencer: Where are we now with Brexit? It is organised in collaboration with the European Criminal Law Association (UK), who are seeking new members.

He is 'in despair about Brexit', which will foster the free movement in Europe of criminals 'unless we go the way of North Korea'.

He has perky slides, such as Bugs Bunny showing us how to fall off a cliff. Another slide refers to the Bayeux Tapestry, itself a victim of Brexit: Macron's good-cop gesture of lending us the fragile tapestry (to sugar the pill of being a Brexit bad cop) is deplored by art conservators. 

Professor Spencer points out that Brexiteers aim to 'wave two fingers at Brussels and moon at Strasbourg'; sections of the media peddle folk myths (for example, that the EU makes member states pressure-cook dead pets); but, in reality, those representing British criminal law interests in Europe post-Brexit are likely to share the curse on the Gibeonites in the Book of Joshua by becoming 'hewers of wood and drawers of water'.

'We've never lived up to what we contributed...never punched our weight,' he says, because of Eurosceptic Brexiteer reservations. Nor is he is kind about the 'feeble, self-referential' campaign for Remain which helped to land us here. He introduces the spectre of Brexit 2.0 - the plan to drag the UK (or what's left of it) out of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In this lecture theatre, the graffito on the dun-coloured concrete wall, UNITED, always has its more or less ironic part to play. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

Old Bailey judge in crime cover-up

Tom Keating
Cold case - evidence sought. In 1979 a crime was committed in the dock of Court no. 1 at the Old Bailey, in front of the judge.

The perpetrator was Tom Keating, the artist, picture restorer and master forger. On trial for unleashing his 'Sexton Blakes' (rhyming slang for fakes) on to the art market, he was defended by the redoubtable Lord Hutchinson.

Here is an extract from Jeremy Hutchinson's Case Histories by Thomas Grant QC:

"Meanwhile Keating himself spent his time in court drawing. It was reported that he had already accomplished seven sketches of faces in court and that the 'policeman whose job it is to make sure he doesn't bolt for it was full of admiration for his work'."

Sir James Miskin by Richard Stone Guildhall Art Gallery
It is illegal to draw in the courts below the Supreme Court. When I tell people this, they visualise all those pastel courtroom sketches and say I am deluded. But these have to be drawn from memory. Please see section 41, Criminal Justice Act 1925. The penalty for drawing in a court or its ill-defined precincts is a fine and a criminal record.

Judges have no discretion in the matter. Except for one, it seems. Was Sir James Miskin, the Recorder of London, indulgent, unobservant or just a bit rusty on the Criminal Justice Act?

He and Keating are now dead. Does anyone know what happened to the sketches?

The prosecution abandoned the case after Keating came off his motorbike and was not well enough to attend court. Some said the art market should have been in the dock, rather than Keating, who became a folk hero. If you find Civilisations a tad disappointing I suggest you watch his enlightening Channel 4 series Tom Keating on Painters on YouTube.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Havona laugh

I return to the long-running disruption that is Havona House (planning permission applied for in 2009). Here is the impression on the website of the project's original architects. They have removed the zebra crossing at the foot of Portobello Road:

Architects' impression, minus zebra crossing

Real version with cheeky garage

The original architects say: Havona House, Pembridge Villas, is a 10,000 sq ft new build house in Notting Hill Gate... The new property totals seven floors, including the largest private indoor swimming pool in London within a four storey basement. A traditional facade design is based on the Tower of the Winds, including a set of modern sculptures commissioned from celebrated artist Theo Gayer Anderson. The design emulates the historic development of the Notting Hill Gate area, which saw the 18th century house type develop into Italianate Villas in the late 19th century.
CLIENT: Private 
YEAR: 2011
BUDGET: £3.5 million

It's hard getting the garage gates even
I am envious of my neighbour Barry, who saw a car being driven into the garage, or rather car lift. To the mournful crossing-sweepers and apple-cheeked rapscallions merrily whipping their hoops along the cobbles hereabouts, that would be a bigger treat than seeing Tower Bridge open.

View from front door

View from front door

Barrier inside balcony
View through side gate to back garden & overlooking properties

In the picture above you can glimpse a spiral staircase and, at the back, one of the windows in the overlooking properties.
Only the garage is lit at night in the empty house

There are more than 1500 empty homes in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. We're waiting for this one to have a resident. Must like swimming and balls.

Previous post about it is here

Monday, 12 February 2018

UK Supreme Court Yearbook

..."and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversation?"

The UK Supreme Court Yearbook is more Wisden than Wonderland but passes Alice's test if you interpret 'conversation' generously. I'm asked to do a couple of new drawings for re-issued back numbers.

First, would I depict the court's emblem? Logos are sacrosanct but I persuade myself that it would be OK to represent the iridescent wall panel in Court 2, in the spirit of fan-fiction. I learn a new word - guilloché, the term for the intricate waves visible if you stand close to the panel. Apologies and respect to Yvonne Holton, Herald Painter in Scotland at the Court of the Lord Lyon and Dingwall Pursuivant of Arms, who created the emblem.

The editors select just the central posy (Tudor rose for England, flax flower for Northern Ireland, leek leaves for Wales, thistle for Scotland, let's not think about breaking the union). But here is the complete picture which includes omega (court of last resort) and Libra (justice), as well as my windblown colour tests.

Then, would I draw the building? I've got an unfinished sketch (a preliminary drawing for the cover of my harrowing exposé, The Supreme Court: A Guide for Bears), so I rub out my furry friends and continue. To allow a clear view I ignore a tree and the stone benches guarding the front.

I'm asked if the court is a little, erm, left-leaning. It's a fair cop - I have a strong left-handed curve. The original is above; in the Yearbook the court has shifted to the right.

The UK Supreme Court Yearbook, Volumes 1-8, published by Appellate Press, is available from bookshops including Wildy & Sons and online retailers. The latest issue has a sketch of Miller, the Article 50 appeal, by Robin Sukatorn, whose book Drawing Democracy is out this month.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The right trousers

I inherited six manual typewriters, gave away five and regret it. Please send unwanted ones my way.

I use my remaining one to hammer out the words on the cover illustration below: it needs an air of effort and energy, to reflect the work of the students who've written Big Voice London's look-alike Law Commission reports.

Graphic design: Peter Sloper
I want a colourful background. The overalls worn by Ben Wilson, the Chewing Gum Artist, are perfect. He paints miniatures on gum deposits in London and beyond, using acrylics, car varnish and a mini-blowtorch. His uncle worked on an oil tanker, hence the orange cotton serge jumpsuits.

Uncharacteristically monochrome - Ben Wilson
The sun was bouncing off the paint crust on Ben's overalls last time I visited him on the Millennium Bridge. You'll find hundreds of his works there; he also paints on more portable objects such as bricks.

He depicts the passing scene or fulfils orders in his notebook, many of which commemorate births, marriages and deaths. He also paints at the whim of tourists.

One tourist, a girl of ten in an expensive coat, was showing off about having a YouTube channel and bullying her kid sister, who didn't. Ben stood up, spread his arms wide like the Angel of the North and gave the girls a ringing explanation of human values.

Oxford Street

Lichen on Ted Hughes's memorial stone, Dartmoor