Saturday, November 03, 2012


Winning is nice. In September I won a voucher for £20 worth of handmade organic ice cream in a raffle during the street party (am waiting for the right occasion before I collect it). 

This is a preamble to some philosophising which I would not be doing had I been the winner or the runner-up in a competition which I entered recently. Had I won, all I would be writing today is YES! YES! YES! alongside a photo of myself making that triumphant air-punching gesture that is so popular among footballers and other winning types. Obviously I didn't win since I am philosophising.

Tomorrow in the Observer the winner and the runner-up of this year's graphic story competition (a graphic short story in four pages) will be published. Last night I attended a party in Foyles where the winners and their entries were exhibited and discussed by the judges and previous winners. I liked the winner and the runner-up but not having seen all the other entries, I can't say if they were the best. 

In sport it's fairly easy to measure who wins - the fastest runner is the fastest runner. But in the arts it gets a bit murky. Winners and losers are largely decided by the prevailing cultural, commercial, and aesthetic zeitgeist and by those occupying significant positions within it. If you fit inside that zeitgeist you're likely to win; if you don't, you won't. 
If that sound like sour grapes, really it's not (snarl) I'm aware that I don't fit into the zeitgeist, whatever it is, and never have fitted it. I'm not an Outsider artist in the accepted sense of that term, but neither am I an insider. I've drawn cartoons but I'm not a comics artist. In general, I never know where *any* of my work fits. I'm glad (sob) I didn't win because it forces me to examine what it is I truly want to achieve creatively and...erm...okay. End of philosophy. Fook the zeitgeist.

My entry to this competition, Hindsight, deliberately side-steps the usual comics format. I wanted to do something more like the recent My Life Unfolds and I recycled some of the stencils I had cut for that concertina book, as you can see, and it's autobiography again. I wanted the technique to be more painterly than comics-influenced so I made collagraph cardboard plates for each page, inked them up intaglio, printed them with my etching press and then hand-coloured them, with lots of texture. The text can be interpreted in any way you wish, there could be more than one meaning. 

The originals are A3 size but below I've photographed A4 copies taped together concertina-fashion.

If you want your own mini-version, I've had some postcards printed as a set of four cards in a cellophane bag. I'll be selling them (along with La Vie en Rosé and some other books) at my stand in the Comiket Festival next Saturday, 10th November, 11 am - 7pm. If you're in London, come and see me there.
You can order the cards from me: £2.50 for the set of 4 cards, plus postage to wherever you are. They are beautifully printed by MOO which I can highly recommend. If you've never used them let me know and I can email you a voucher for 10% off your first order. No, I don't work for them! They give this voucher to all their customers.



Anonymous said...

On the strength of these plus all that we have been marvelling at during the past nearly 10 years, you are the winner with us. And we know what we're talking about because we're not hung up on house style, zeitgeist and all the rest of the reductive criteria that dominate the perception of those who judge rather than do. Keep navigating your unique channel, Natalie!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Dick, you've made my day! Those words are music to my ears and food for my soul. Thank you, de tout coeur.

Jean said...

This is so lovely! It seems, both visually and verbally, so effortless and natural, and I can only imagine how difficult it is to achieve that, especially when the material is your own memories.

The postcards are a great idea - as you know, I share your admiration for moo. I look forward to buying some at the forthcoming event.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Jean,thank you. Effortless and natural are exactly what I hoped would come across, even though the technical making of it was anything but! Layers of meaning are there, to be discovered.

marja-leena said...

These are wonderful, Natalie, a continuing theme in variations about your life, and such an interesting life too. So what if you did not win, your work is uniquely you and delightful. I too don't belong to this so-called zeitgeist. I wish I could come to that event - good luck and have fun!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Thanks Marja-Leena, I'll keep plowing my own furrow, no doubt about that.
I too wish you could come to the Fair.

addon said...

Gorgeous! Winning is much over-rated. Like you, do not know what it means in art. "Most liked by those judging", I suppose. Meh!!

We must all decide what we want, maybe self-recognition, maybe peer recognition. Trite?

There is so little time to do everything. Having fun is the best use of what we have.

Oops, got off track there, I think!

Best wishes to you N!

Now to figure out this damn number, crooked letters thing, my old eyes will make my best guess ..
if you see this, I've succeeded!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Adam, you're not off track at all: I wholly agree. Having fun creatively, plus some recognition (if possible!) is the ideal. But plenty of brilliant art has been, and always will be, created with hardly any response/recognition at all. En avant, les enfants!

That captcha thing to enter illegible letters drives me nuts too and I'd rather not have it but when I removed it, there were tons of spam in my mailbox. I must just try without it again.

addon said...

no no Natalie, don't worry about the captcha thing, I should not have whinged ... I can treat it as an intelligence test .... oh no, that would be depressing ha ha

so... here we go again

addon said...

ooooo ... I wasn't asked for it that time ... Natalie, don't bring tons of spam down upon your head, that's the last thing anyone wants.

I'm reading Gogol at the moment, have you ever read his stuff?

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Adam, I removed the blasted captcha thing because I think it puts everyone off. The spam does arrive but goes into into a spam box so I can always delete it there.

Gogol - yes..the Overcoat in particular!

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