News

Illustration For Mark Haddon's New Novel

First Look

In exciting news this week, Mark Haddon’s first novel in seven years was announced. The Porpoise is an “ambitious and dazzling” book based on the epic tale of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Over land, air and sea, richly described layers of time and place fold and then unfold as this utterly unique story weaves its way. Publishers Chatto & Windus (an imprint of Penguin) describe an “exhilarating adventure, an immersive story” transporting readers from the present day to ancient times and back again.

Mark states “after The Pier Falls was published, my agent commented that I write novels in which nothing happens and short stories in which everything happens. In The Porpoise I seem to have combined both models and written a novel in which everything happens.”

Top left: digital prototype of the front cover | Top right: full width of the artwork to be converted into jacket form | Below: detail from Folds (gouache on wood, 2016—2018)

As a fan of Mark’s since childhood, I was humbled to have been approached by Suzanne Dean – the extremely gifted Creative Director of the Penguin Random House Group – to work with her on the artwork for the book. We used Folds as our foundation: completely re-working it layer by layer, mirroring the structure of the book itself. Lettering was hand-stencilled and painted in gouache, as were the motifs and stylised porpoise shown here. See more in the printed book next May. It’s been a real pleasure to work on this project, and I urge you all to pre-order.

A deeply affecting and beautifully-written tale about a family – a woman, a man and a child – apparently lost to one another, who must journey through an unstable world, to find a place they can call home.

Mark is author of the 2003 award-winning novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which was subsequently adapted in 2012 for the stage. His most recent novel The Red House was released in 2012 and his debut collection of short stories – The Peir Falls – followed in 2016. I am currently listening to the latter whilst painting, brilliantly narrated by Clare Corbett & Daniel Weyman. Incidentally, I most often listen to books whilst painting.

RWS Update

The following explains my decision to step down from the Royal Watercolour Society

The RWS (London) is the oldest and most prominent watercolour society in the world. As that beacon, one would want for the society to embrace all the exciting possibilities the medium holds. We have an abundance of artists at all levels exploring the medium in the UK: producing a wealth of innovative work by painting in watercolour on a wide array of non-traditional surfaces, as I myself do. For its shows and competitions, the society will accept only watercolours painted on paper. Upon election as a RWS associate, one of my key aims was to advocate for a broadening of the acceptance criteria. My non-traditional approach and use of watercolour upon found-objects was, after all, one reason I was invited by the society for interview in the first instance.

Two proposals to the council over the last two years – that the RWS should consider expanding the range of accepted production materials – have been denied and finally rejected outright. Although I understand the desire to honour long-standing traditions within such an established society, I personally do not feel that this ethos is compatible with my own ever-evolving and experimental practice. I firmly believe that creativity and innovations should not be bound and restricted by tradition, but should be a founding basis for a sustainable and supportive culture and development of that same tradition. For this reason, and with regret, I have decided to leave.

Many positions come and go during an artist’s working life. Sometimes one must try something out in order to determine if there is space for it to sit in harmony with one’s methods of creation. As an artist and a collaborator I have always endeavoured to avoid situations where restriction exists. In my career thus far I have spent time exploring a variety of ventures in order to help extend my practice, find balance and learn new skills that feed into my principal output.

It is an honour to be recognised by such a prominent institution. Yet – as in many aspects of life – if a scenario is incompatible it shouldn’t be pursued against one’s principles simply because it is associated with a level of prestige. Leaving is a step forward.

Below image: paintings in (mostly) watercolour & gouache upon a variety of found surfaces: wood, antique canvas, stone, card & metal.

FlashFlood

 

Basilica of San Frediano

Exaggerated Inundation in Lucca • Based on imagery of Lucca's 1996 flood • 9 x 14cm • Available for purchase

 

19th June 1996: Flash-flood in Lucca, Tuscany

I spend one day a week researching as part of my Florence in flood project - there's always new facts to discover (and new ephemera to source and purchase) relating to the November 1966 flood that's occupied my practice for the last couple of years. This research informs and supports my painted artworks. During this week's reading I came across news articles describing inundations in the province of Lucca in 1996 - somewhere I've visited regularly over the last few years. Caught completely off guard, the region endured severe flooding: one of the strongest flash-floods in history (in the Apuan Alps) according to EU MetStat. Several small villages in the foothills of the Appenines were literally ripped apart by the fierce floodwaters.

View archival news footage here

Read more here