Weekend links 613

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An engraving by Rafael Custos from Cabala, Spiegel der Kunst und Natur, In Alchymia (1615) by “Father C.R.C.”.

• “Writing is very subconscious and the last thing I want to do is think about it.” Cormac McCarthy responded to a handful of questions from a couple of lucky high-school students. Lithub’s list of McCarthy’s rare public manifestations missed this chatty encounter with the Coen Brothers from 2007.

• Strange Flowers celebrates Rosa Bonheur, “the most famous and successful woman artist of the 19th century, dressing in men’s clothing, smoking cigars, riding astride and living openly with female partners.”

A Secret Between Gentlemen by Peter Jordaan “details a British Government coverup of a gay scandal involving great names. Hidden for 120 years, it is a history that has never been told, and until recently could not be told.”

[Mark E. Smith] liked HP Lovecraft, whose monster of The Call of Cthulhu and The Dunwich Horror appears in the song N.W.R.A., “Body a tentacle mess”. He quite liked MR James’ Ghost Stories. He liked the more recent, seemingly disgraced, and by then unfashionable, occult fiction of Colin Wilson: The Black Room and Ritual in the Dark. But He LOVED the writing of early twentieth century Arthur Machen. “Machen’s fucking brilliant.” In his autobiography Renegade he comments, “He lives in this alternative world: the real occult’s not in Egypt, but in the pubs of the East End and the stinking boats of the Thames—on your doorstep, basically.”

Woebot goes deep into the grotesque and esoteric worlds of Mark E. Smith and The Fall

• “It sometimes seems as though inn signs are the symbols and the focus of some great alchemical experiment in the landscape of England.” Mark Valentine on inn signs and some of the theories about their origins.

• “…we’re going back into this shipwreck and, you know, pulling out the gold pieces”. Dennis Bovell on reworking the Pop Group’s incendiary debut album as Y in Dub.

• Mixes of the week: A Wendy Carlos mix by Erik DeLuca for The Wire, and a psychedelic/post-punk mix by Robert Hampson for NTS.

Landscapes is an exhibition of torn-paper collages by Jordan Belson at Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

• “A force entirely of itself”: Robert Fripp on the difficult legacy of King Crimson.

White Landscape I (1971) by Douglas Leedy | John Cage: In A Landscape (1994) performed by Stephen Drury | Primordial Landscape (2013) by Patrick Cowley

Weekend links 600

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My kind of window. From a collection of machine-learning images by Unlimited Dream Co. Via Bruce Sterling.

• “I will never call myself a queer. That word is one of the things that I detest that has happened, and it’s almost being forced now. For me, you cannot separate that word from the hatred and violence that once accompanied it. When I read it being used in The New York Times, I think, ‘It’s their word and they can fucking have it all they want.’ I will never use ‘queer.’ It’s an ugly word.” John Rechy, still active at the age of 90, talking to Jeff Weiss about hustling, social opprobrium, and his pioneering books.

• “At a time when we are being constantly told that humanity is destroying the planet, it is somehow comforting to see nature not merely outlasting, but triumphing over humanity’s constructions—as nature does in many of Piranesi’s Views of Rome.” Alasdair Palmer on Piranesi’s peerless renderings of Roman ruins.

• “The magical aspect of Get Back is its total refusal to adhere to the standard tropes of music documentaries. There are no talking heads commenting on the Beatles’ greatness, no continual barrage of quick edits and highlights.” Geeta Dayal on Peter Jackson’s resurrection of the Fab Four.

But men are not traditionally meant to be objects of art. “Men look at women,” John Berger wrote. “Women watch themselves being looked at.” When men look at men, however, they break rules. “I didn’t set out to be radical,” says Miller. “But I was at a fair and I had a huge nude on a stand by Michael Leonard. I’d only been open ten minutes and a woman started having a go and saying it’s filth. What I found fascinating is she’d walked past a whole span of female nudes. I think society is just immune to female nudity. People don’t see it. If you take this to the straight world of an art fair, it provokes reactions other dealers don’t get. There isn’t anyone else like me.”

Tony Wilkes talks to Henry Miller, owner of an art gallery devoted to the male form

• “I imagine men with starched collars, horrified by an animal with no hard edges to grab onto, no solidity to venerate. Something low, lateral, creeping.” Fiona Glen on “Devil Fish”, Cthulhu and cephalomania.

• I like glowing things so Brian Eno’s glowing record turntable has an immediate appeal. A shame it’s a very limited production which is almost certainly sold out by now.

• The next release on the Ghost Box label will be A Letter from TreeTops by Pneumatic Tubes.

• At Dangerous Minds: A Sight for Sore Eyes Vol. 1, a visual history of The Residents.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on the supernatural thrillers of Archie Roy.

• Mix of the week: A reflection on 2021 at A Strangely Isolated Place.

Swan River Press looks back over a year of book production.

• New music: Spherical Harmonics by Joseph Hyde.

Octopus’s Garden (1969) by The Beatles | The Kraken (2006) by Hans Zimmer | Kraken (2017) by Dave Clarkson

Prints update

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The Major Arcana (2006): a C-type print on Fuji gloss paper. A1 or A2 sizes.

I’m continuing to add artwork to Etsy which will be available as prints in a variety of sizes and papers. I would have done more of this by now but I’m still very busy working through the commissions of the past few months so progress has been slow. The system does actually work as intended, however, with orders being routed automatically to the printer then printed and shipped within 24 hours. The initial setup may take longer than places like CafePress but the benefits are multiple, not only a faster turnaround (and cheaper worldwide postage) but now I can create prints of any size I want, and with a variety of papers and finishes. Most of the items there at the moment are the things I consider “greatest hits” so the latest additions include new poster versions of my psychedelic Alice in Wonderland artwork, together with the International Symbols Tarot poster and yet more Lovecraftiana. Requests are, of course, still welcome.

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Psychedelic Wonderland (2009): a C-type print on Fuji gloss paper. A1 or A2 sizes.

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Psychedelic Looking-Glass (2010): a C-type print on Fuji gloss paper. A1 or A2 sizes.

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Cthulhu (1998): a giclée print on Canson Aquarelle rag paper. A3 size.

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Dagon (1999): a giclée print on Canson Aquarelle rag paper. A3 size.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Prints at Etsy

Weekend links 597

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Untitled art by Toshio Okazaki from JCA Annual 5, 1984.

• “Yeah, when I first started writing it, nobody knew what to call it at all. I mean, the publishers didn’t know what to call it. They thought that Tolkien was (writing about) a post-apocalyptic nuclear world. That’s the only way they could perceive an alternate world, in other words. And it was the same with Mervyn Peake… they’re all interpreted that way. The idea of putting ‘fantasy’ on a book meant usually meant that it was a children’s book. And if you put fantasy as the genre, they usually put ‘SF’ larger than ‘fantasy’ to show that it was what it was.” Michael Moorcock (again) talking to Derek Garcia about fiction, games, and (of course) Elric.

• “Non-payment, low payment, late payment and promises of jam tomorrow, or at some unspecified future date, bedevil the freelance life as they did five centuries ago.” Indeed. Boyd Tonkin on Albrecht Dürer, patron saint of stroppy freelancers.

• “All at once, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret is tender, outrageous and daft.” Patrick Clarke compiles an oral history of Soft Cell’s debut album.

Yeah, it was kind of a media hype. In January [1967], the media said, [breathless] ‘Oh my god, San Francisco is the place to be. Come to San Francisco, wear flowers in your hair.’ So we had a meeting of the people in the Haight-Ashbury about how we were going to deal with so many people coming. The Diggers decided to kind of make it a university of the streets, an alternative anarchist culture.

We knew that all these people were coming to San Francisco, and we knew they weren’t going to stay. And we thought, well, the best thing we could do would be to kind of educate them about the kinds of things that are possible in society, and then let them go back to where they’re from, and they would carry these ideas. And that is what happened. We were quite successful in that.

Judy Goldhaft of the San Francisco Diggers talking to Jay Babcock for another installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists

• “What ‘impossible’ meant to Richard Feynman; what I learned when I challenged the legendary physicist,” by Paul J. Steinhardt.

• At Strange Flowers: part one of James Conway’s essential end-of-year shopping list, Secret Satan.

• Mixes of the week: Part II and Part III of the three-part At The Outer Marker series by David Colohan.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Olivia Duval presents…Suave: A History of Les Disques du Crépuscule.

Mystery and Truth of the Cthulhu Myth, a Japanese guide to the Cthulhu Mythos.

• Intimacy, Loss and Hope: Inside Florian Hetz’s beautiful 2020 photo diary.

• New music: The Tower (The City) by Vanessa Rossetto/Lionel Marchetti.

Nite Jewel’s favourite albums.

• RIP Stephen Sondheim.

Nothing Is Impossible (1974) by The Interns | Mission Impossible Theme (1981) by Ippu-Do | Impossible Guitar (1982) by Phil Manzanera

Resurrecting R’lyeh

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Then, driven ahead by curiosity in their captured yacht under Johansen’s command, the men sight a great stone pillar sticking out of the sea, and in S. Latitude 47°9′, W. Longitude 126°43′, come upon a coastline of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror—the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults and sending out at last, after cycles incalculable, the thoughts that spread fear to the dreams of the sensitive and called imperiously to the faithful to come on a pilgrimage of liberation and restoration.

HP Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu (1928)

Behold the fruits of a more benevolent pilgrimage of liberation and restoration. It was just over a year ago that I decided to draw an exact replica of the R’lyeh triple-spread from my comic-strip adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu, the intention being to make the picture available as a poster-sized print once I had a print-ordering system in place. The picture may now be purchased here as a giclée print on Hahnemüle Pearl art paper. This is a big picture (870.46 x 401.15 mm or 34.27 x 15.793 ins), and unlike my other Etsy prints I’m afraid there won’t be a half-size version which means the price will remain relatively high. I’m also keeping it as a black-and-white piece despite the temptation to create a tinted version.

And so to the obvious question: why did I want to redraw a large and very detailed piece of art in the first place? Pull up a weed-festooned Cyclopean bollard and I’ll explain…

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Creation Books, 1994. Cover art by Peter Smith.

I spent 17 months drawing The Call of Cthulhu, from January 1987 to May 1988, using my preferred media of the time, a 0.2 mm Rotring Variant pen on A3 sheets of Daler cartridge paper. The story took its time getting into print but it was eventually published in 1994 by Creation Books as part of The Starry Wisdom, a collection of Lovecraftian fiction edited by DM Mitchell. I was very pleased to be represented in the book but the pleasure turned to dismay when it transpired that all the artwork had vanished after the printing was done. Or almost all the artwork… To this day I don’t know whether the drawings by other artists suffered the same fate, but my Cthulhu pages disappeared along with the anatomical cross-section and the Yuggoth collage that I created specially for the collection. I still don’t know what really happened either, whether the drawings were stolen (possible), thrown away deliberately (unlikely), or thrown away accidentally (also possible). The lack of resolution to the whole business is partly my fault. Losing all that art was a painful thing to consider, and I couldn’t accuse the printer of anything when nobody could say what had happened (I was in the Creation office during one of the phone conversations between publisher and printer). The printer was also located in the middle of a rural county somewhere so journeying there would have been difficult for this non-driver, as well as being pointless if they could only tell me what I knew already. Time passed and I did my best to put the whole episode behind me.

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Drawing technology then and now: the Variant pen I used throughout the 1980s and the Wacom stylus I use today. That Variant nib is so fine that I have a faint ink dot tattooed on one of my knuckles from where I accidentally stabbed it into my hand. The Wacom pen looks stubby in comparison but is capable of drawing equally fine lines and much more besides.

On the plus side (there was one), the printer had done a good job of half-toning the artwork, so even though the Starry Wisdom pages are rather small the detail in the drawings is still evident. And I also had a complete set of photocopies of the A3-sized originals. I’d been working for Savoy Books since 1989 during which time making photocopies of new drawings had become second nature. Since 1994 this set of copies has become the original art for the Call of Cthulhu strip, rather like the surviving prints of Murnau’s Nosferatu which are all that anyone can see of his film today. The analogy is an apt one since it also extends to picture quality. Just as silent films always look their best when they’ve been restored from the camera negative, my Rotring drawings really need to be reproduced from the originals. The 0.2 mm pen that I insisted on using throughout the 1980s was too fine for the photocopy machines of the time, especially when my shading was so densely rendered that I might as well have been using a pencil. This isn’t so much of a problem if the pages are being reduced in size but it became one last year when I had the idea of making a print of the R’lyeh panorama that would be the same size as the original drawings. Giclée printing is an ink-jet process that reproduces fine detail with great accuracy, so while I could make full-size prints of the Cthulhu pages they’d never look better than what they were, photocopies that hadn’t fully captured the fine lines of the drawings. This wasn’t the only problem.

Continue reading “Resurrecting R’lyeh”