This is a drawing I’ve done for a Stations of the Cross, which will be displayed, along with work by other artists, in shop windows in Leigh-on-Sea over the Easter weekend. Come along on Good Friday morning as we walk around them, if you’re local and that’s your kind of thing. It was drawn on a very smooth canvas with marker pens. I considered painting it (I have a D in A-level art and have attended several evening classes, remember), but went with the ‘safe’ option of using a pen.
The image depicts Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry his cross, as described in the Gospels. I based the figure of Christ on one I found in an outdoor sculpture in Retz, Austria, by Jakob Seer. The figure of Simon I made up, and the background involves a lot of scribbling.
The message from this Station is often ‘We should help others with their burdens’, which is a good sentiment, though given that the account we have tells us that Simon was compelled to carry the cross, rather than it being an act of generosity, I’m not sure that quite works as the intention of the writers of the Gospel. I’ll leave that side of things for theologians to debate, but in any case it was an interesting local project to be part of.
My process for this drawing was, in summary: two weeks of anxiety, worrying about what to do, how to do it, whether it would end up being rubbish, followed by two hours of frenetic scrawling. And (honest appraisal) I’m fairly happy with the result – the light and dark at least, if not every aspect of the detail of the figures.
On the subject of drawing, I wanted to say something about the direction of my current work. Some of you will be aware that I’ve drawn a weekly cartoon for the Church Times newspaper since 2005. I’m so fortunate to have been able to have done this, have eight books of these cartoons published, and much more besides.
I’m very aware that my life isn’t difficult, but the process of producing a weekly cartoon isn’t one I’m particularly good at, and in recent months, without going into details, it hasn’t been doing me a lot of good. So, for the sake of my general well-being, I’m not going to be drawing a Church Times cartoon for a while. At the moment I can’t define how long ‘a while’ will be, I’m afraid. I’d like to emphasise that this is my choice, and that the Church Times have always been excellent in all my dealings with them.
What will I be doing instead? Well, the good news is that you should start to see a lot more of my work appearing online. I’m now focussing on drawing diagrams on sustainable transport themes, particularly on cycling and active travel, but hopefully more than that too. These are topics that interest me, but are also increasingly important as we face a climate crisis, and must make changes to the way we move from A to B. I’m hoping that I can communicate about that in a useful way, but also with humour. Well, it’s worth a try.
In preparation for this change I’ve been taking a break, had a bit of a creative reset, but have also been rethinking my website and online presence. You may or may not notice that this website has changed slightly, with different things highlighted. As always, it’s a work in progress, and improvements can be made. I’ve also been doing things like trying TikTok, which has been fun, and potentially a good way to reach new audiences.
In order to do this new work I’m going to need your support. It is my intention that my diagrams themselves will always remain free for everyone to view online. Therefore, my plan is to offer a ‘membership’ or ‘subscription’ (precise name still to be established) so that supporters of my work who can afford to do so can pay a small amount each month, and in return receive various benefits. These might include a behind-the-scenes view into my processes, useful and fun things to print, the possibility of reusing my work, the chance to guide the topics I cover, actual physical art through the post, and other things as I think of them.
A lot of artists use a platform called ‘Patreon’ for this, but I’m doing it myself, as it will allow me to do more, particularly when it comes to having a library of images for subscribers to use, and I’ve learned a lot about doing so through my CartoonChurch site (which will still continue, by the way). But essentially, I’d love some of you to become ‘patrons’, and I hope it will be fun and worthwhile. I entirely understand that not everyone will be able to, and that is absolutely fine.
More progress will hopefully be made on this new phase, and on new art, in the next few weeks. But in the meantime: thank you for your support, and I hope you have a happy Easter.
[If you have any thoughts about any of this, you’re always welcome to send me an email.]