Monday, June 18, 2018


Saturday at the London Wetland Centre on the banks of the Thames, Rachel Rawlings and Dave Bonta orchestrated an inspirational and original event to celebrate with friends and family their recent wedding in Pennsylvania.

It was a greyish and coldish day but warmth and conviviality were generated by the many guests in this magnificent natural setting. Specially composed poems were read, spontaneous, sincere speeches were spoken, specially deejayed music was played, comforting food and drink were consumed, old and new friendships were refreshed. I was happy to be there.

Sunday, June 10, 2018


Watched Germaine Bloody Greer in the BBC2 documentary this evening and enjoyed every minute of it. If you missed it you can still see it on iPlayer but if you don't care for Greer then you won't want to see it.

I love the contrary dame (not a Dame!) and I don't care if she isn't a proper feminist. She was raising the hackles of proper society when she wrote The Female Eunuch and now she's raising hackles of proper feminists (of all genders) by disagreeing with some feminist cast-iron rules and tropes.

Bravo brava Germaine! Long may you continue to challenge the status quo, whenever and wherever it calcifies. As soon as any movement becomes established as an "ism", it seems inevitably to calcify into institutional and intolerant positions it initially battled against. It's as if the vitality of a flowing river freezes into an icy pond - fine to skate on but don't dare to crack holes in it!

Sorry I linked to the Telegraph article below without realising they won't let you read it all without paying!

Friday, May 25, 2018


Does this often happen to you or is it just me? Of course it can't be just me but I'm curious. Here's the thing.

You're talking with someone on the phone (therefore you can't see them) telling them about some incident or other and they're quietly listening. Whilst speaking, you suddenly sense that their silence has changed. It's hard to describe what I mean by 'changed' but there is something different about the person's silence: it's expressing an objection of some kind, even though they haven't made a sound. The conversation continues its normal flow and eventually, casually, the person says something which is exactly what you sensed they were saying silently. 

Now, what was going on? Was it telepathy? Was I reading the person's thought before they expressed it verbally?

This sort of thing happens face to face too but then we get signals from body language etc. so it's easier to catch subtle changes of expression. Anyway I'm interested in this sort of thing. Maybe you are too.

Friday, May 18, 2018


Current outrage put back on the shelf next to past and future outrages to be brought out again whenever their SOS beeps become impossible to ignore.

When my mother, Blanche, was very young she worked for an haute couture atelier in Paris which made flapper-style dresses embellished with wondrous designs in beads and sequins. She had worn some of these herself and kept them carefully over the years. Not long before she died aged 97 - in full possession of all her faculties, by the way - she and I unwrapped these relics and found that, while the beadwork and sequins were intact, the fragile fabrics had more or less disintegrated.

With Blanche's agreement (she was always game for creative adventures) I cut the beaded and sequinned sections away from the crumbling cloth and started playing with ideas of applying them to a modern garment. I sewed them onto a denim jacket I had, combined with swatches of bright-coloured fabrics in a kind of abstract collage. I loved the result but dared to wear it only once - I'm too short to carry it off and anyway I was too much in awe of those gleaming patches of fashion history.

A couple of days ago I finally took the jacket to a local Vintage shop and asked the owner if she'd like to sell it. Instant interest. My 1920s-infused denim collage jacket went into the shop window. It may still be there but I doubt it. I wish I could see who's wearing it now. My Blanche Maman would be pleased.

Below is a Youtube link to a slideshow I made in honour of her and the beautiful paintings she began to create at the age of 94.

My late parents, Sacha and Blanche d'Arbeloff, dancing in their nineties.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


If you are a human being living among other humans there will inevitably be times when you feel outraged. Even if you are alone on a desert island there must be moments when you are outraged by the behaviour of animals not being nice to you or to each other.

Outrage, that mixture of anger, shock, frustration, concern, helplessness, rebellion - a magnified version of IT’S NOT FAIR! - is experienced by all of us to greater or lesser degree when we ourselves. or others close to us, or even far from us, are subjected to injustice, cruelty, humiliation, exploitation, degradation, oppression and other forms of suffering inflicted by humans on other humans. History is mainly an account, slanted according to whoever is telling it, of different kinds of outrage perpetrated by some humans on other humans and of their consequences.

How is the outrage barometer measured? What gives one outrage more attention, more reaction and/or action than another? When there are so many outrages happening in the world at any one time and especially right now, which of them pushes more buttons, grabs more column inches, media reporting, internet space, discussion time, reaction and response time?

 The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893
oil, tempera, pastel, crayon and tempera.
91cm x 73.5 cm (36" x 28.9")
National Gallery and Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway

Sunday, May 13, 2018


I don't see a dividing line between drawings perceived as 'Art' and those perceived as 'cartoons' when the hands which drew them belong to creators who have that spark of genius which can be dissected ad infinitum but never precisely defined - at least not to my satisfaction. Size, location and reputation often influence the way a drawing is labelled or perceived.

Take some of Nick Wadley's small drawings which I snap shot (sorry for reflections) at the opening of the exhibition NICK IN EUROPE on Thursday. Put them on canvas, enlarge them hugely, hang them in the Tate or other temple of Art anywhere, accompany them with a monograph in which the name 'Wadley' has the same resonance as, say, 'Picasso' or 'Warhol' etc....See what I mean?

If you haven't heard of him, see the website nick wadley writes and draws, read the obituary last year by his widow Jasia Reichardt, find his books, and if you're in London see the exhibition at the 12 Star Gallery in Europe House until 25 May.

For a very short time I had the good fortune to know Nick and he most certainly had that elusive, playful spark of genius. My friend Sylvia Libedinsky, multi-talented architect/designer, collaborated with him on many inspired publications, comics and exhibitions.

The serendipitous connection I have with Jasia Reichhardt came about because I had met Franciszca and Stefan Themerson (the legendary Gaberbocchus Press) Jasia's aunt and uncle, when I first arrived in London a long time ago. It was Franciszca who, when she saw a series of...'cartoons'... I had drawn, encouraged me to take up etching and turn them into limited edition artists' books which eventually led to my starting NdA Press.

Below: a few of my favourites from Nick Wadley's exhibition currently at Europe House.


Is there anything more life-enhancing than meeting someone with whom you are so much on the same wavelength that nearly every sentence elicits a Yeah! whether spoken or silent? Thus it was tonight when Fionn Wilson came over to talk about an exhibition she is curating and has invited me to participate in.

Of course I have happily accepted - more details soon. We polished off a nice bottle of red wine along with significant bits of life stories and now I'm a bit delightfully pissed.

Tomorrow I will write about the exhibition of Nick Wadley's genius cartoons which opened on Thursday at Europe House.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


I have three bright beautiful brilliant nieces - Selene, Indira and Sarah. All of them have equally b&b&b spouses and children - Selene in Rome, Indira in San Francisco, Sarah a train-ride from me in the UK. I love them all to bits and I think it's mutual.

On the weekend I met up with Sarah, Elliott and their kids for lunch then a browse of an Aladdin's cave of wonders, the Oriental shop next door to the pub. They came away with two gorgeous wooden carvings.

On the corner outside there's a life-size carved camel sitting down. Creative advertising: people of course stop and take selfies and right above the camel's head is a sign with the shop's website address. Can't miss.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018


Mac photo-booth version of the actual mug a few minutes ago. The paintings are better than photographs, in my opinion. By "better" I mean truer.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018


Isn't it odd that what you're looking at are images of me looking at myself on specific moments in time and since what I saw in a mirror is a reversed image of myself reality is mostly illusion?

Monday, April 30, 2018


Over the years I've painted a lot of self-portraits. It's useful to have a live model who's always there and never complains when being stared at for hours or is offended if portrayed unflatteringly. I try to be as truthful to the moment as my inevitably subjective perception allows and am inevitably surprised, often uncomfortably, by the result.

Here's the latest one, finished (maybe) yesterday. Yes, I've deliberately put one eye higher than the other and yes I've exaggerated everything but there's plenty to exaggerate: the eyebags, the deep crevices etc. Flattering it most definitely is not.

Self-portrait, NdA. April 2018. Oil on canvas. 25cm x 30cm (10" x 12")

Friday, April 27, 2018


On this day fifteen years ago I started a blog called Blaugustine.  Augustine is my cartoon alter ego born in 1984 in a series of comics, The Augustine Adventures also known as Small Packages - details are on my website in the Comics section.

Anyway Blaugustine the blog: if you have nothing better to do for the next hour, two hours or 48 hours you can scroll down down down to the bottom of my blog archive and read your way up all the posts from 27 April 2003 to the present. Nowadays, since hardly anyone blogs or reads blogs anymore, I duplicate my blog posts to Facebook. Yes I know it's objectionable.

I would be super-chuffed if anyone actually undertook to read through my whole archive and then told me what they think. Here is one post I've picked at random - it's from 18 July 2006 and is in 6 panels.

Friday, April 20, 2018


I was at the private view of Shani Rhys James exhibition This Inconstant State yesterday evening at the Connaught Brown gallery in Mayfair. If you're in London do not miss this show. If you're far away, look up some of her work on this BBC video.

It resonates deeply for me, strikes chords I am in tune with. Shani salutes Van Gogh and Soutine and the Fayum portraits of ancient Roman Egypt but without a trace of hero worship or imitation, simply out of comradeship. She is very much her own person, with an uncompromising gaze focused intently on what is around her but through a lens which reflects her interior world. The eyes are all important in her paintings, they have an unquiet, absent expression which at the same time manages to be wholly engaged in the present moment. I love Shani's strong, bold sense of space and drama, her rejection of prettiness and sentimentality - even her flowers are free from 'floweriness'. Yet there is tenderness in all her work and intense empathy with others. Two stunning paintings of Shani's mother in bed (she has suffered a stroke) are almost unbearable in their unvarnished truthfulness from both sides of the trauma: the mother's, and the daughter who is looking on, and looking after.

The colour red plays a dominant role in all the paintings, both as a formal element of design and an emotional key - emotional intelligence you could say - and the thick, sensuous paint seems to me like a fierce struggle to give flesh to memories or moments before they vanish - the paint as a sort of trap for ghosts....this inconstant state.

Shani Rhys James - Quinces 2017
Oil on gesso on board.
29 7/8 x 18 1/8 in. 76 x 46 cm
Connaught Brown
2 Albemarle Street London W1S 4HD

Shani Rhys James, Two Gourds 2017
Oil on linen.
39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. 100 x 100 cm
Connaught Brown
2 Albemarle St.
London W1S 4HD

Shani Rhys James, Blue Top Orange Hairband, 2017
Oil on gesso on board.
24 1/8 x 24 1/8 in. 61 x 61 cm
Connaught Brown
2 Albemarle St.
London W1S 4HD

Thursday, April 19, 2018


My boxwork, Cosmic Sadness of a Teenage Girl Crying in the Shower, which I posted in its early state a while ago, is now finished. The box is deep but the photo doesn't show this three-dimensionality at all. I cut a window into the lid to let more light in. The frame fixed onto the front of the box will have glass fiitted in.

Cosmic Sadness of a Teenage Girl Crying in the Shower

NdA 2018   Boxwork, mixed media 28cm x 28cm x 23cm ( 11" x 11" x 7.5" )

Saturday, April 14, 2018


In my next life I want to be a physicist. Or whatever they'll be called when my next life comes around. Pshaw, I hear you say, there are no next lives. Are you sure? Consider this: there are much stranger things in physics than multiple lives.

It doesn't feel like it but the fact is...the absolute fact which physicists can that past, present and future are illusions. They exist simultaneously in spacetime or as I prefer to call it, timespace. Think about it and watch the above fascinating Youtube lecture.

And there's this:
Julian Barbour, theoretical physicist, author of The End of Time, describes time as "a succession of pictures, a succession of snapshots, changing continuously one into another. I'm looking at you; you're nodding your head. Without that change, we wouldn't have any notion of time."
"Isaac Newton insisted that even if absolutely nothing at all happened, time would be passing, and that I believe is completely wrong.
"....all the evidence we have for time is encoded in static configurations, which we see or experience subjectively, all of them fitting together to make time seem linear."

Friday, March 30, 2018


Outside the door of my local supermarket there's often a homeless man or woman squatting on the pavement. They've changed over the years - the beggar is more likely to be a refugee nowadays - but this specific location seems to be known to the disenfranchised as a kindly one. I am certainly not the only person who has stopped and talked for a while, given money and/or a coffee and sandwich to one or more of these citizens of nowhere.

A few years ago I had several conversations with one of them, a grizzled fellow of indeterminate age, always accompanied by a large brown dog lying quietly under a blanket beside him. I learned that the man had a leg injury, was on a list to be moved into a council flat in a few months but the list was long and he was sleeping rough while waiting. Some time passed and then he was gone from that spot by the supermarket door. 

Yesterday he was there again, same grizzled face, same brown dog, same blanket. Now here's the thing:

I didn't stop to speak to him or give him money or a sandwich. I was annoyed, suspicious. How come he's back again, I thought, it's been years! He was probably lying about the council flat or else they threw him out for drunkenness or something. My benevolent concern for an unfortunate stranger evaporated in an instant. Why? Because his reality seemed to mock me. Disapproval of the man's flaws, whatever they might be, cancelled out the genuine compassion I had felt initially. So it turns out to be all about me, not him at all.

This is my lesson to myself for Easter and Passover and Spring. Kindness, compassion, generosity, concern, are riches we possess and can give away freely, abundantly, spontaneously, without motive, without afterthought, without judgment, without expecting anything in return. Simply given away to float freely in the air, like apple blossoms floating to the ground.

The photo below is not of the man outside my local supermarket but it's not unlike him. It's one I took several years ago of a beggar in Paris.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Speaking of onions, here's an extract from something - maybe a gnovel , maybe not - which I started and have procrastinated about for...uh... seven years.

If you add procrastinitis to distractionitis and inconsistenitis what you get is seven. I can prove it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Did you know that peeling an onion cures a heavy cold? Neither did I. But I peeled an onion and cried as usual and then my heavy cold (are there any light ones?) was cured. Today I am nearly cold-free and I could say it's because the onion cured me but it might also be because the cold was getting better anyway.

All you have to do is assert something in an assertive way:

Photo of cold-puffy celebrity peeling onion.
Bright-eyed celebrity interviewed moments after miraculous onion-cure.
Millions of tweeters tweet that they've always known it, grandma used to rub their chests with a raw onion.
Other tweeters tweet that it's all cobblers.
But by then onions have sold out in all the shops.

My cold really is better though. And the onion I peeled went in the chicken soup.

Monday, March 12, 2018


Sitting in the National Portrait Gallery cafe on 2nd October 2007 I noticed Ken Dodd having tea at another table. Having just seen the portrait of him by David Cobley I decided to go over and ask Ken what he thought of it. He was with his partner Ann Jones. Both were very friendly and we had a conversation as if we were old acquaintances.

Apart from occasional flights of brilliant and surreal invention, his brand of comedy was never really my thing. But I will always remember open, unpretentious and gracious Ken Dodd with affection from that serendipitous meeting and the autograph he gave me has been pinned above my desk ever since.

Monday, March 05, 2018


Teeth. Do you want to talk about teeth? I'll go ahead anyway. A bit of torture at the dentist this morning motivates me.

I was born with wonky teeth. They showed up when baby teeth usually show up. Why didn't my parents notice? Why didn't they take me to an orthodontist immediately? Because it was Paris and they were busy having a good time, I suppose but I could be wrong. Anyway I grew up with wonky teeth, too crowded, whatever. Later in America I was the odd one out in school because all the kids were giants with perfect teeth. 99% of Americans have perfect teeth, it must be all that milk. I was (am) short, hated milk, had buck teeth and spoke with a French accent. As time went by I adapted and my smile was good enough, sexy enough to get by in this tooth-eat-tooth world. 

However, there's always a big however if you're born with wonkies, and as much more time went by the wonkiness played up. I'll skip the details but below is a page from my book Augustine's True Confession (1979) just to illustrate this post. If you want to read the book (it's good and not about teeth) I'll send you a copy, signed, for £10 plus postage. Yes that was a commercial break, an honest one.

As I was saying, lots of time went by and now it's today and I've just been tortured at the dentist because another loose tooth had to go. So today I have only 12 teeth of my own, 4 at the top and 8 at the bottom. Yesterday I had 13.

I know I shouldn't be talking about this because it's a secret. We who are afflicted D starts with dent.....Got it? We who have those fakes have to pretend they're real. But they ain't, right? Fake news ain't real news and never shall be. That's all for today.

Please note well: the page below (from the book) was written in 1979. I do not have pain in my mouth today. The injection before today's extraction was painful but it's gone now and I'm fine.

Thursday, March 01, 2018


Snow is definitely photogenic. Here's my contribution to the snowstorm of snow pics. No snowflakes were harmed in the process. I was snugly hidden at home behind a window.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


This morning, in the waiting room of a local hospital before my dermatology appointment ( a minor skin thing needing occasional review) I watched the people sitting there in total silence, mostly old, mostly grim-faced, and I had an urge to get up and say:

We're all going to die sooner or later so.....let's face the music and dance!

Then I would dance and sing with each one of them. That was the movie in my head. The urge was irresistible but I resisted it.

Another opportunity to change the world missed.

Monday, February 19, 2018


Tonight, 7- 8:30 pm at the Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden, see this the right way round and hear the poems read by their poet, George Szirtes.

I'll be there too.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


The corner of my living room which inspired the setting of the new boxwork and the paintings actually hanging on the wall, mini-versions of which feature in the scene.

 The painting over the mantelpiece is Sonata for Apples and Chairs (2007) - I made a video showing its evolution, here it is.

 In case you're interested, a few other videos I've made are here on Vimeo.

And some are on Youtube.

Of the other two paintings below, one is a self-portrait painted in Sao Paulo, Brazil aged 21.

The other one is Apples Reflected (2011).

Now all I need is a play or an animated film imagining what the angel/paper doll is saying, what the artist is thinking, and what the apple theme is about. Don't ask me, I haven't a clue.