Archive for category Publisher: Redstone Press

A Gift from artists, poets and photographers (under 13)

“Out of the mouths of babes”, we say, when a simple and sometimes uncomfortable truth emerges. This child’s eye view of the world has all the charm that characterises everything else Redstone Press have sent me. They seem to have decided that I understand their rather eclectic mindset and sideways views. And, yes, I think I do.

Books like this can easily be – and frequently are – cutesy, saccharine or twee. This, however, relies on its content for impact and has the good sense not to dress it up as anything other than it is. It wears its manifesto on the cover: “The most joyful art is made by children. Adult artists are almost never able to recapture the clarity with which they saw the world in childhood” – a quote by David Shrigley.

And he’s right. For a child, everything is new, is as it is and not to be questioned and above all, black and white. Thus we get “Dear God, Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy” – joy and disappointment in a single thought, honestly expressed without judgement and accepting of the world as it is because to change it is unthinkable. We also get simplicity: asked what they want to be when they grow up, a three year old answers “When I grow up I want to get a hat and put it on”. You see what I mean? Delightful, let’s all go “Awwww”, but acknowledge that the book hasn’t told us to do that. The lack of narrative, particularly a narrative from an adult point of view allows us (the adults) to express our own emotions, not one a random editor has created for us.

Because this is a written review (well spotted, go to the top of the class), I’m having to quote words, but there are, as the subtitle says, pictures as well. I’ll leave you to find the drawing on a sheet headed “Today Was My First Day in Art Class – this is what my teacher looks like”, or a painting, definitely from the naïve school, of the artist’s friend that is so creatively good that it’s in the collection of the Children’s Museum of the Arts. You can look at it for a long time and see depths that an older artist (this one is 8) would have missed through analysis and artifice. The face is open and honest in a way only a child could see.

Why am I reviewing this? Well, because they sent it to me and it would seem curmudgeonly not to, but also because I like it. I don’t belong to the school that insists that everything a child does is brilliant. I’m more with Tristram Shandy’s Uncle Toby. Told that the great Dr Slop composed a work the day he was born, he responded, “They should have wiped it up, and said no more about it”. For the grown-up artist, it’s a break from mundanity and the perfect palate-cleanser.

But, as I said, this has charm and nothing else.

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Everyday Play || ed Julian Rothenstein

That’s the trouble you see. Have a bit of fun with a publisher’s playful jeu d’esprit, as I did with The Book of Emotions and they send you something else in full expectation of a similar sparkle. This stuff doesn’t write itself, you know and I toil for – ooh (never you mind) – to get the right words, all in the right order and a mood that reflects what the author was trying (sometimes successfully) to say.

Once again, this isn’t, on the face of it, a fit for what I write about, but delve below the surface and there’s a lot about art and creativity here. It’s fair to say that neither book is entirely serious and that’s a good thing. Even creatives are allowed to enjoy themselves once in a while. I am right now, for instance. I’m drawn, for example, to the guide to How To Become An Aesthete, which turns out to be a lot harder than just channelling Fotherington Thomas (oh, Google it, for goodness sake). I also chuckled over a shopping list written on a memo sheet for Paul Zee For Senate: “Draino, Plunger, RCA cables, Peaches, Bath Tub Scrub Brush”. The fact that this was apparently found by David Shrigley, wry observer par excellence, just adds to the fun. What tale of domestic meltdown does this betoken and are the peaches part of a weird cleaning ritual or a welcome source of refreshment after doing unspeakable things to drains? And do the cables mean amplified music is a requisite? And is that to relieve the tedium or cover up noises we really shouldn’t think about? No, we shouldn’t be told; speculation is much more fun – and fun is what this book is all about.

There’s so much here. Games, including Dangerous, situated right next to Cricket (a thing my front teeth wouldn’t dispute), insults, book games. Or you might want to try living like Marcel Proust (who was habitually used, to throw buns to the bears, that live under the stairs*). You’d definitely want to dip into Alice in Wonderland, or hobnob with Myles na Gopaleen**.

I could go on, but this coffee won’t drink itself and there’s something interesting happening outside the window which, as all creatives know, absolutely has to be given your full attention. Anyway, thanks for reading, it’s been real.

* That Clerihew is © me, btw.
** AKA Flan O’Brien, aka Brian O’Nolan

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The Book of Emotions || ed Edgar Gerrard Hughes

Sometimes, things arrive on my mat that I’m not expecting and I certainly didn’t expect this one. I wasn’t even quite sure who’d sent it to me, but then I noticed the name of a PR agent who knows me well. Kate, I feel seen – you knew I’d have a go at this, didn’t you?

On the face of it (pun laboriously intended), this isn’t at all a fit for a site that reviews art books, but expressions are, after all, an important part of painting people. There’s a lot here about how emotions develop and are expressed. Some of it is so much self-indulgent guff, but there’s much to enjoy – 30 questions to ask yourself about falling in love, for instance, balanced by another 19 about falling out of love. For all that I dismissed a chunk of the book just now, I think it makes a serious point by not taking itself too seriously. If you want to compile something on How To Be Self-Aware, you might choose this as a starting point. I’m beginning to like Edgar rather a lot, if nothing else because his PhD is in the politics of grief in nineteenth-century Britain, which is definitely a thing.

The reason I have it, and why I’m writing about it is the illustrations. There are artworks, graphic illustrations (the comic book one in the Love section is to die for, and she damn near is), diagrams and photographs. Charles Darwin was fascinated by the way emotions develop and are expressed, studying the faces of his children in microscopic detail (what a dad!). He includes many photographic illustrations in The Expression of The Emotions in Man And Animals and a selection of these, along with some by Duchenne de Boulogne (Mécanisme de la Physionomie Humaine, 1862) are included for our enlightenment and delectation. As well as the author’s own animadversions, there are also pieces by other writers and I particularly enjoyed After the Party by Natalie Hume, along with its full-page colour plate of the blue lobster that forms the centrepiece of the story (actually a generic blue lobster – we don’t need to be that literal).

I could go on, because this is the most enormous fun. To be serious though (I can do serious), if you draw or paint people, this has plenty of reference material that you’ll find useful. A pile of enjoyment is just a completely free bonus.

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