31 Dec

Mrs H Sings – The Book

I got to know Harriette, Ted and the other members of the Singalong Band after Ted’s partner bought a painting of mine at the Battersea Art Fair. Ted rang me and asked if I would design an image for their CD cover, and subsequently I also created the cat logo for them.

I first met them at the Union Chapel in Islington. They were performing and over a thousand people turned up. They had used quite a bit of my artwork without asking, which made me laugh. I thought it was great to hear lovely music that both children and parents enjoyed.

They approached me last Christmas to ask if I was interested in creating a children’s book with their lyrics and my images. I thought the best way to join the songs together visually was to create some additional characters. The cat was already there, and Harriette had used the image of herself in a white dress and umbrella, so I invented a monkey to join the cat, so that the cat could have a partner in crime as it where.

I designed the book with an image in my mind of a child in the back seat of a car on a long journey. The book is aimed at children between three and six, but the band have been quite insistent that the song lyrics would also accompany the illustrations so that older readers could follow along.

I liked the idea of creating lots of different scenario’s that could be shared. I put various things in the illustrations that amused me, including a granny who goes on a cruise, a same sex couple, someone covered in tattoo’s, a woman flying a plane and people from all over the world. In the illustration for the song City Bells, I put in images from the train journey up from Sussex, via Blackfriars to the Tate. I teach a couple of days a week in a prison and put in one of the officers from a specialist wing of the prison.

Three of the band – Harriette, Ted and Ali – came down to Sussex on several occasions to look at progress. They crowd funded the whole project, which gave us carte blanche to do exactly what we wanted to do. The funding campaign started the day Brexit happened, and I worried that we would never reach our target. Toby Jones came on board which was an endorsement. It was completely addictive watching the campaign, and the target was reached and then surpassed – I think we got around 300 backers in the end. The book looks great now, and you can buy it on their website.

30 Dec

The Fluffy tapes – ten years on

I have been able to secure the services of the ideal interviewer, an imaginary figure called Fluffy The Bunny who has figured in my work. It follows an interview we did 10 years ago.

Fluffy: I can’t quite believe that its ten years since you last had a solo show.

Lamb:   Well neither can I. In the last ten years I have continued to paint, show in places, and teach a couple of days a week. I do seem much busier than I was ten years ago.

Fluffy: In what way?

Lamb: I continue to paint pictures, but in the last ten years I have also started a design label called the Feral Housewife. This year I illustrated a children’s book called Mrs H Sings whilst continuing to teach a couple of days a week.

Fluffy: Are you painting the same things?

Lamb: The paintings evolve, but they are freer. I have become more adroit at coming to conclusions quicker and with more assurance. However I still find it impossible not to allow humour and strands of narrative to creep into my work.

Fluffy: Tell me about the graphic work?

Lamb: Well as you know Fluffy, I have had quite a dialogue with you. I get a guilty enjoyment of making cards and pictures featuring you in my studio, and sniggering at them. The design work is beginning to have more of an impact on my paintings, making my line flow in a simpler way. I am hovering on dramatically reinventing it in painting.

Fluffy: I notice that some of your design work also features a lot of text?

Lamb: Yes, I have played with making text part of my work. It continues to be a challenge but is also evolving. A lot of calligraphers and designers get quite anal about the perfect lettering etc. – my approach instead is to look back to the Punk movement and the Beat Generation for inspiration, and try and make words work as pictures.

Fluffy: What about the children’s book?

Lamb: My work can have a somewhat dark sense of humour to it, and so I had to work quite hard to soften this whilst keeping the childlike sense of fun you want in a children’s book. It was an enjoyable challenge, and working with the Singalong Band to create the images for the book of songs was exciting. I would quite like to explore it further with another book or even contributing to an animation for kids.

Fluffy: What happened about the Prison series and the dark garden series?

Lamb: I am still developing them, although I hanker after a larger studio and more time. In a recent show with Chris Milton I used fairy tales as inspiration and examined the complicit arrangements between the various protagonists’ in each story. I used Velasquez as inspiration.

Fluffy: What about the drawing and painting?

Lamb: Over the last ten years I have sometimes revisited my past by playing at being an academic painter of objects, although I think this period in my work has come to an end. Drawing from life is important and I continue to attend regular life classes.

Fluffy: How do feel about your work?

Lamb: Art has given me a lifelong enjoyment of looking and making art. It still continues to intrigue me, I would like to spend more time doing it, and I am glad that I still show work and sell.

Fluffy: What is next for you?

Lamb: I believe my work has got better, stronger and there are still new ideas and subjects that I would like to explore. I have a show coming up in May at St. Anne’s Galleries – people can contact me if they want to come.

18 Jun

New Book

I have almost completed the work for the upcoming book I am producing with Mrs H and the Singalong Band.

I think it looks really good and can’t wait to see it in print.

The band are just about to start a Kickstarter page to raise funds for the project – you can sign up on their website for updates or follow them on Twitter.

Here  are some of the early drafts of the work:

Book Panels
23 Sep

Come to my Autumn show in Arundel

The show will run 3-24 October at the Project Gallery in Arundel.

My paintings for this Show are an adult take on fairytales, and creating the work has been an opportunity to revisit narrative painting. The work often focuses on the relationships between protagonists and the sometimes complicit understanding between victim and perpetrator. The compositions combine and contrast innocence with desire and purity with danger, an underlying edge which I have enjoyed painting. I often went back to thinking about Velasquez, the Renaissance and Indian painting where visual clues are more or less recognizable.

I have known Chris Milton for many years and have always admired his work. We discussed back last January that this Show would be loosely based on stories, myths and legends. It’s been great fun and I hope that the theme has helped me channel a little of my inner wildness to match Chris’s exuberant style.

You can read my artist’s statement for the show here. 

30 Dec

The Fluffy Interview

I have been able to secure the services of the ideal interviewer, an imaginary figure called Fluffy The Bunny who has figured in my work.

Fluffy: How do you begin a painting?

Lamb: I always keep a sketchbook in my bag and often jot down ideas, writers or poets that have inspired me, and a lot of observed sketches. My work is underpinned by observational drawing, sometimes photographs. Most paintings arrive after a gestation, a fight, a struggle, but I always look for clarity, a sense of design, colour and narrative: you find your own voice as a painter by a process of elimination. A painting arrives after a lot of looking.

Fluffy: Tell me about your abstract images.

Lamb: I trained in printed textiles and fine art, and have often felt that a sense of pattern and colour is something that I should pay more attention to. I love buying paints, looking at the names, Venetian Red, Burnt Sienna, Veronese Green, Prussian Blue, Rose Madder, and making paintings that are just about playing colour against another colour, how one colour can make another colour recede or scream.

The series of drawings and paintings that evolved were done over quite a long period, coming into the studio, observing and then changing a small bit of a painting, often it does work, and sometimes it does not, which appeals to the gambler in me.

The idea of meditating before the image as the Japanese apparently do before making a woodcut appeals to me too. The little green paintings in this show are about shapes that interconnect with each other, they are about watching insects, flowers and leaves slowly moving on the top of a pond in Africa.

Fluffy: Tell me more about the imagery.

Lamb: I teach part-time at Lewes Prison, and find the landscape of greys, the flint walls, the labyrinth of passages, the opening of doors powerful imagery. We ran an inspiring Art Summer School this year. In fact, Fluffy you have been in the Prison as part of an illustration project with a group of guys.

Fluffy: How do you arrive at the titles?

Lamb: Well, I did live in Newhaven for a while, lots of things happened there, the new build construction was a bit like watching a very menacing choreograph of a grim ballet, the coastguard helicopter flying overhead, birds flying in and out, and the large ferry coming and going. I love the tones and the activity of the scrap heap. ‘The Newhaven of My Mind’ is taken from a poet called Lawrence Ferlinghetti who wrote ‘A Coney Island of my Mind.”

Fluffy: Which artists do you admire and where do you get your inspiration?

Lamb: I collect tin toys, robots, plastic virgins and other religious icons. I like objets trouve, tourist tat, graffiti and paper fruit wrappers. I admire Goya, Phillip Guston, Gillian Ayres, Sonia Lawson, Paul Nash, Frank Auerbach, Ken Kiff, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leon Kossoff, Peter Doig, and certainly some contemporary artists from Africa.

Fluffy: What might you do next?

Lamb: I would like to develop the Prison series, and I am thinking about a dark garden series.

Fluffy: What about me?

Lamb: Well Fluffy, without you and a sense of humour one might as well give up.