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Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

curated by Thornton Rigg

Category

illustration

Baking with Kafka : Tom Gauld

… a delight … 

zombie apocalypse skeleton

Baking with Kafka is a delight – full of whimsical musings on reading, writing and how to get a publishing deal after a skeleton apocalypse.

I can’t really do justice to the range over topics Tom covers with his clean, flat drawings and economical writing style so here’s some titles of his cartoons to give you a flavour :

  • War and Peace Clickbait
  • Keyboard Shortcuts for Novelists
  • JG Ballard’s Books for Children were not a Success
  • Dystopian Road signs.

Highly recommended.

Tom Gauld grew up in Scotland and now lives with his family in London. His work is regularly published in the The Guardian, The New York Times and New Scientist. To learn more about him, click here for his website. You can also go to the Guardian website’s profile of him for his latest cartoons for the newspaper.

But really, Tom‘s latest hardback needs to be bought.

Baking with Kafka, Comics by Tom Gauld was published by Canongate Books in September 2017.

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Ravilious & Co : Compton Verney

… a fascinating exhibition …

horse design westbury england

This marvellous show traces the story of a dynamic group of British artist/designers from the first half of the 20th century. Taking a collective approach, the two major gallery spaces of Compton Verney are absolutely crammed full of paintings and woodcuts, fabric prints, book covers, ceramics and wallpapers, and the curators are able to create a wonderful sense of how this close network of artists interacted with one another. Leading with Eric Ravilious, the exhibition also includes the Nash brothers, Enid Marx, Edward Bawden, Barnett Freedman, Helen Binyon and many others. It’s definitely worth a visit – and taking your time to enjoy the creativity.

Here are a few of my absolute favourites to give you a flavour of what’s on offer …

  1. You are greeted by Eric Ravilious‘ Wedgwood Boat Race Bowl, 1938. A beautiful piece celebrating this most English tradition. Don’t forget to look at the design inside and around the sides to find this gorgeous mermaid with her honour guard of oars.Boat race mermaid guard wedgwood
  2. In the same room is RaviliousWestbury Horse, 1939, in watercolour and pencil (see above). Here one can really see his pattern making in action with the round horse against the voluminous hills set in contrast to the grey patchwork of the fields and train track.
  3. There is also some gorgeous paper ephemera including this Ravilious fishy sketch on an envelope … ( I now hope to address all my letters like this) …envelope fish watercolour inks
  4. … and this Peepshow called In Winter and In Summer created by Barnett Freedman in 1932 for Shell.shell oil diorama peep show
  5. There’s also the frankly disturbing set of wood engravings by Tirzah Garwood called The Relations. Here’s  The Husband, 1929, a marvellous piece of creeping anxiety. If you gaze at it for a moment ,you’ll understand what I mean. marrow coat wood

I think the gentleman in the trench coat has mistaken marrows for guns. What do you reckon?

Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship. English Artist Designers 1922-1942 at Compton Verney runs from 17 March until 10 June 2018 (Tue – Sun 11am – 5pm) and is definitely worth a visit. In fact two or three visits. Plan at least 2 hours to look around and then have some cake.

Instead of an exhibition catalogue, the accompanying book is a brilliant new biography, Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship by Andy Friend, which was published last April by Thames & Hudson.

This is the final leg of the exhibition’s tour and was originally staged at Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, May –September 2017 and then at the Millennium Galleries, Sheffield, October 2017 – January 2018.

If you haven’t been to Compton Verney before, I urge you to go.   The exhibition space, permanent exhibitions and park are a delight and make a great day out for both art fiends, nature lovers and families.  There’s a lovely cafe, an adventure playground for children, and boardwalks and pond dipping around the lake.  Click here to be directed to their website.

The British Countryside : Are you Rustic or Lyrical?

Another trend I’ve spotted from my favourites reviews of 2017 is the artists and writers’ response to nature.

basic nest architecture poems seren

Are we down in the terrifying muddy ditches of the Cumbrian badlands with Jacob Polley‘s sparkling poems about Jackself : “By head-lice powder, Paraquat / snapdragon’s snap and rat-tat-tat / who’s at the door / of the door of the door / it’s Jackself in his toadskin hat?” ? (Every Creeping Thing in Jackself : Jacob Polley.) And dying, sodden and foolish, from wearing Italian walking gear in a collection of ephemera created by Rebecca Chesney‘s Death by Denim. (Creating the Countryside : Compton Verney) ?

denim

Or are we celebrating the lyricism in nature along with Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane in their stunning The Lost Words – a beguiling mix of illuminated manuscript and spell grimoire? And reflecting how nature can enrich our lives with Alex Preston and Neil Gower in the delightful birder’s book As Kingfishers Catch Fire. ?

Of course it’s both – but the oscillation between the two sides I find do fascinating.

I am also intrigued to find that most of these meditations on nature are through illustration and poetry  – as if the elusive quality of our responses cannot be tied down in prose. As Polly Atkins writes: “All I can do / is believe you will keep on being the warm / vaulting life, ravelled round mine, / although I may never hold you.” (Rabbit in morning in Basic Nest Architecture)

Wishing you all a very happy New Year.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire : Alex Preston & Neil Gower

… deep joy from looking up and writing down …

birds kingfishers poetry

A gem like collection of reminiscence, poetry, description and birding facts, Alex Preston has teamed up with the brilliant graphic artist Neil Gower to produce a wonderfully engaging commonplace book – perfect for Winter reading and musing.

In 21 chapters from Peregrine to Nightingale, Alex weaves his personal history around a wide ranging collection of poetry and descriptions of birds. Each chapter is illuminated by Neil’s art. Their enthusiasm spills over into some delightfully discursive end notes and beautifully designed end papers. If you like Robert Macfarlane‘s works such as The Old Ways this is definitely for you.

As Alex says in his introduction : “This book is, above all, a history of the deep joy that comes from looking up and writing down.”

Highly recommended.

Alex Preston is an award-winning novelist. He writes for magazines as well as monthly fiction reviews for the Observer. He is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Kent. He is @ahmpreston on Twitter.

Over the past 30 years Neil Gower‘s clients have included most major publishing houses in the UK & US. He spent 10 years as Contributing Artist to Conde Nast Traveler in New York. He runs a delightfully engaging website which includes his background notes to creating this book here. Neil can also be found on twitter here.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire was published by corsair, an imprint of Little, Brown on 13 July 2017 and is my twentieth review for the British Books Challenge 2017.

Quentin Blake : Inside Stories : Compton Verney

… full of inspiration, creativity and generosity …

quentin blake compton verney exhibition illustration

This exuberant exhibition is full of inspiration, creativity and positively glows with Quentin Blake‘s joie-de-vivre and generosity of spirit.

It features a huge range of finished illustrations, working drawings and crossed out snippets showing his process including sketches for Roald Dahl’s The Twits, BFG and Matilda, The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams, and his tremendous series of illustrations to accompany Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. (And the outline Rosen emailed to his publisher entitled: Is this a Book?)

The show includes over 140 original works, as well as some of his artists tools and a couple of short films in which Quentin demonstrates his techniques.

Excellent. Couldn’t stop smiling all the way round.

The exhibition runs until 17 December 2017 (Tue – Fri 11am – 4pm; Weekends – 11am – 5pm) and is definitely worth a visit. The marvellous The Lost Words exhibition is running at the same time. If you haven’t been to Compton Verney before, I urge you to go.   The exhibition space, permanent exhibitions and park are a delight and make a great day out for both art fiends, nature lovers and families.  There’s a lovely cafe, an adventure playground for children, and boardwalks and pond dipping around the lake.  Click here to be directed to their website.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories is a touring exhibition from the brilliant House of Illustration. This charity, based in London, is the UK’s only public gallery dedicated to illustration and the graphic arts was founded by Sir Quentin Blake in 2014. To learn more about their splendid work visit their website here.

Illustration © Quentin Blake

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