Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Illustrating Proof magazine for The Justice Gap

The Justice Gap is an online magazine campaigning about the difference between law and justice. The latest issue of its printed magazine, Proof, focuses on crime and punishment.

Here are my contributions. For Hardeep Matharu's feature on the lethal spice epidemic in prisons, I co-opted my House Model: 'Hold this stick of chalk and try not to look double-jointed.'

The body combines elements of that spice-induced dead-puppet flop with a bound figure from my NSFW blog:

One section of the magazine covers miscarriages of justice. Without access to Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six I drew him from photos (then and now) - something I generally recoil from, but that's over-fastidious because artists copied photographs and daguerreotypes as soon as they were invented.

Editor Jon Robins's feature about the wrongful convictions of Sam Hallam and Victor Nealon is illustrated with my drawings from their combined, ultimately unsuccessful Supreme Court appeals about compensation in 2018. Sam Hallam served seven years in prison. Victor Nealon served 17 years.
Heather Williams QC on behalf of Hallam...

...and Dinah Rose QC on behalf of Nealon

Patrick Maguire (left, and see below) outside court before Hallam/Nealon appeals

A preview of the next issue of Proof, featuring justice in a time of austerity, highlights the case of a father with complex legal needs, separated from his wife and stuck in a 'legal aid advice desert' in Suffolk.

Nothing comes out of nowhere: at the back of my mind was a black and white family snap of a paddling moment which became my first attempt at a lithograph decades later:

Other illustrations include drawings by Patrick Maguire of the Maguire Seven, who was wrongfully imprisoned at the age of 14. There are also pictures selected by the Koestler Trust which encourages prisoners, secure patients and detainees to engage with art. Among the photographs are several by Andrew Aitchison who documents life behind bars.

Monday, 6 May 2019

More shodō, tensho and wrong-hand drawing

Helvetica Medium in Letraset - remember that?
'Tensho,' muses my friend Pete as we walk up Baker Street to our shodō class, 'is the Helvetica of Japanese calligraphy.'

A functional administrative script introduced to Japan from China, tensho was inscribed into stone, wood, bone or tortoise-shell, and carved into seals, before brush and ink took over. Its no-nonsense sans-serif uniformity has none of those characterful flicky bits or drying-out strokes you get with brushes. In the same spirit, Helvetica is an efficient Swiss mid-twentieth century design meant for neutral public uses.

'Bird' in tensho by Taki Kodaira
Eventually the kaisho style evolved, allowing more expression of the soul. I'd twin it with Perpetua, developed in the 1920s by Eric Gill: this font shows his roots in stone-carving but has a classic beauty and is used for poetry by Faber & Faber.

'Home' in kaisho by Taki Kodaira

Monotype Perpetua

I won't show my own efforts which reveal the backwardness of my right (wrong) hand in calligraphy, which is nothing like drawing. Writing is learned. Drawing is autobiographical. I have pens I can draw but not write with. I am puzzled by the simplest writing brush stroke which reminds me of the years it took me to learn how to tie a bow - the breakthrough came when I realised that the grown-ups did it wrongly.

In life class that evening I'm asked if I've changed my name as I'm initialling everything R.H. It stands for right hand. The body of a calligraphic character is harder for me to read than the body of the model.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Launch of the bands 2019

It's the launch of the bands at the Tabernacle for this year's Notting Hill Carnival, hosted by Ty Mas, Adunni Adams and Nadia Valeri. Upstairs in the mirror-walled studio, people are getting ready.

Quick sketches:

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

More shodō (書道) with Taki Kodaira

For shodō (書道), Japanese calligraphy with brush and ink, one has to be poised and calm. Not trying to disassemble the Daiwa Foundation's multi-leaved dining table so that the class can fit around it. Star pupil Peter makes pleasingly calligraphic shapes with his legs:

Janick, joining us for one lesson before his next cycling tour (Alaska), produces photos of his trips to China and Japan. As a left-hander I'm struggling with having to achieve serenity right-handed, so I'm a bit jealous to see a southpaw in one of Janick's pictures.

I can't bear to show you my stuff so here is some more beautiful calligraphy from our teacher, Taki Kodaira. On 1 May, when Crown Prince Naruhito ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne following the abdication of  his father Emperor Akihito, Japan will replace the Heisei ('achieving peace') era with the epoch of Reiwa ('orderly peace' or 'beautiful harmony' depending on your standpoint):

 The pavement outside the Daiwa Foundation has mysterious calligraphic markings:

Calligraphy in the morning; life class in the evening where I can use my left:

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Learning shodo with Taki Kodaira

To learn shodō (書道), a form of Japanese calligraphy, one should be calm of mind, maybe with a view of cherry blossom. Instead I'm ferociously chewing off my lipstick and by the end of the class I look like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

I have a brainwave.  I'll ask my friend Peter to join the class for moral support. He's a graphic designer with a latent talent for long-range shooting, which is all about focus, waiting for the right moment and doing the tricky sniping stuff as you breathe out, just like shodō. I'm hoping he'll be a shodō black belt in no time.


On our way to the next lesson at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, we pass the TfL lost property office with its affectionate window display, including a flat iron left on the number 23 bus in 1934. 

Peter mentions a mutual friend. 'Half his flat's in there,' he muses. 'And a lot of his portfolios.'


I've done some drawings in a calligraphic style but calligraphy is not drawing, not the same at all. This is Ayumi LaNoire performing on a golden pole:

But in class I'm struggling to be spontaneous. over and over again.