#SaturdaySix (January 2018 edition): Beautiful and doomed

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Gentle reader: What has been a-floating your metaphorical boat so far in 2018? Welcome to my first SaturdaySix – a monthly round-up of six things that have given me a kick or got me thinking in one way or another. I would love to know what’s inspiring you right now. Please get in touch and let me know!

1: An ink, not a drink

For many people this month marks the annual onset of Dry January – a liver-friendly initiative to avoid even a drop of the demon alcohol for an entire month. In light of this, is it OK to use alcohol in the visual arts this month? My wife received a set of alcohol pens in monochromatic shades for Xmas, which she’s kindly allowed me to use. They seem a very different drawing medium to anything I’m used to, and are especially good for slowly building up subtle, spectral gradations of grey. I’ve used ‘em so far for the koi carp picture atop this page, and for the two portraits of fictional ladies below. If you find yourself alcohol pen-curious, here’s a link for further details.

Fictional personage the first…

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Fictional personage the second.

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2. We work in the same way, only in different areas

The eighth of January must surely be one of the most well-starred days on which to be born. It fell on the Monday of this past week, marking the birthdays of many a notable personage – including my good friend Laurie Ruettimann, the shoulda-been 71st birthday of David Bowie, and the shoulda-been 83rd birthday of one Elvis Aaron Presley. I marked the occasion by tweeting Elvis’ duet with Frank Sinatra. This is one of the most joyous video clips – the interplay between the two is a delight. Elvis’ sheer charisma cuts through the extreme low-fidelity of 1950s TV and all the intervening decades to be as vivid as it surely was way back then.

3. The Chinar leaf of Poonam Munshi

I am humbled that my friend Poonam Munshi has allowed me to include her first drawing of 2018 here. It depicts the leaf of the Chinar tree. As well as depicting a quite beautiful subject (you can learn more about the Chinar tree here), this picture is also a great example of Poonam’s incredibly detailed doodles. Her work is a constant inspiration to me. Thank you, Poonam!

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4. The tweetage of Ice-T 

Twitter gifts us the ability to share our thoughts with the world and to communicate instantly with people far and near who we might never meet in real life. If you could have told teenage me that such a medium would a) exist and b) permit me to register as the tiniest and briefest blip in the life of hip hop titan and all-round gent Ice-T, I would’ve been stunned. The other day I was telling my good friend Julie Joyce at how excited I was to’ve received an RT from Ice-T on new year’s eve (he was so kind as to share with the world my honest opinion that the track Civil War by his metal band Body Count Was the greatest song of 2017). I am absolutely delighted to be able to report that Julie went one better. She actually got a tweet proper from Ice-T! Julie said (and I agree fully with her sentiments): “I don’t think anyone’s Twitter feed is as enjoyable as Ice-T’s. He should be our freaking President.” Ice-T’s response? “No sane person would want that Job…”

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5. The art of Mr Heath

This week my friend Simon Heath drew and shared the following fantastic portrait of actor John Boyega – star of the brilliant Joe Cornish film Attack The Block (oh, and he’s in something called Star Wars, too…). Deceptively simple, strong main image and a superbly balanced colour palette – excellent work, Mr Heath! Simon’s as eloquent a writer and speaker as he is adept at the visual arts. Please do consider following Simon on Twitter… and my thanks to him for his kind permission to include his picture here. 

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6. Forever beautiful and doomed?

“Like we’ve known each other for… ever. I love that word. Forever. I love that forever doesn’t exist, but we have a word for it anyway, and use it all the time. It’s beautiful and doomed.” This is musician, filmmaker and mother Viv Albertine, describing – in her extraordinary book Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys – the way that we instantly click with the people who are meant to be in our lives. The book is vividly written throughout. Viv recalls her life in the present tense, sharing often shocking tales with remarkable immediacy (and sometimes balancing them with comments in italics from her wiser, older self). My favourite passage of all is about just how much her and her fellow Slits (the punk band of which Viv was a founder member) loved the song Space Is The Place by Sun Ra. This is a glorious evocation of how music can mean the world to you.

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I love also that the Slits were able to pay a pilgrimage to Sun Ra’s house while on tour in his native Philadelphia. There he was in the Philly telephone directory under “Ra”! And if you’ve never heard

Space Is The Place

, you could do worse than investigate the album on which I first heard it – the fantastic Universal Sounds of America compilation from Soul Jazz Records. 

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