Toy, 2015, silverpoint on gesso on board, 12x9cm

This is one of three recent silverpoint drawings belonging to my ongoing series of drawings of toy soldiers (the ones depicting dying soldiers).  I wrote a few things about this series of drawings in my previous ‘I draw’ blog.  There is plenty I could say about these drawings but I would much rather that people make up their own minds.  That isn’t to say that these drawings sit outside of the world of ‘conceptual art’, it’s just that I prefer to let go of any need for others to ‘get it’ in precisely the same way as I do.  It’s really up to you to make up your own mind.  Here are some thoughts that went into my art work.

These drawings take a 1960s plastic toy soldier as the repeated point of reference for a series of drawings… [And at this point I hesitate to say what my artwork is about as my inner editor chips in with a reminder that any truly sincere writing about visual art can so easily come across as pompous or silly.  “It’s just a drawing!” it shouts.  Yes.  It is just a drawing.  It is just hand-drawn lines in the way that a poem is just a line of words.   Somehow words never really ‘get it’ when it comes to writing about Drawing.  Oh well, I’ll continue…] …about presence and about memory.  Drawings (and here I specifically mean hand-made drawings) are never just about the things they depict.  What a drawing means has at least as much to do with the way it is made as with the image the drawing refers to.  For example, a drawing is made up of lines and marks which took time – and so drawings trace the presence of time as well as the presence of the mind which decided to scribe that line in that particular way…and so on.  These drawings are done in silverpoint.  Silverpoint lines are subtle traces of a metal point touching a surface.  Silverpoint lines are gentle things (pressing the point harder won’t make the line any darker or its presence any stronger).  These qualities, and others, make it an appropriate medium for an art concerned with the themes of presence and memory.

The original toy soldier was one I used to play with.  It is modelled on a British infantryman of circa 1960.  My dad painted it as a German soldier (because I didn’t have enough Germans for my British soldiers to fight).  My dad played a modest role in ‘The Last War’ but he had a lot of little stories.  My childhood wargames were played in company with the ‘ghosts’ of remembered events.  I don’t expect anyone else to ‘get’ any of this from looking at my drawings, but it’s all there and I suspect the gist of their presence comes through in some form.  The hard-to-read text beneath each of the drawings, in this series of three, is made up of my memories of his memories of the war.

I’ll write more about my drawings in future ‘I draw’ blog posts.


Dancing Dying Toy Soldier 4’, 2009, silverpoint on gesso on board, approximately 6x5cm

This is a drawing from 2009.  It is one of a series of drawings of mass-produced plastic models of dying soldiers.  Most boxes of plastic soldiers contain at least one figure depicting somebody dying.  These figures are more dramatic than the others because of what they represent: an imagined final moment of life.  This serious little toy is posed at the moment when balance is altered or lost.  It could also be seen as a depiction of someone lost in a moment of ecstatic dancing.  The more you look at something the more you see.

It’s one of a series of drawings that I’ve been working on, on and off, for a few years.  The drawings are small, mostly about 6x5cm (you are probably seeing it much bigger than it is in reality), and they are drawn with silver wire on boards prepared with gesso (an ancient drawing technique known as silverpoint).  I’ve fallen in love with this gentle and labour-intensive drawing medium.  The drawings are worked on over long periods of time.  They are repeatedly redrawn and repeatedly scratched into, worn away and re-drawn.  Traces of earlier drawings remain as fragments of other versions of the same image.  The re-drawing and re-looking brings something new into play.  These works begin as drawings of toys but they become something more through the repeated re-looking.

I would like to be able to do a lot more of these drawings but the cost of framing is always an inhibiting factor in making new work.  This is always the case for those of us who make works of art that are delicate physical objects. Works of art have lives of their own once they leave their maker’s hands.  This particular drawing has been shown in a number of exhibitions including: The Jerwood Drawing Prize, a solo show at Marine Studios in Margate and at Millennium St Ives.  It presently resides at Millennium St Ives but isn’t presently on display (if you were to ask them nicely, the people at Millennium might let you see it).  It’s the image I use for my profile picture for my artist facebook page (  This body of work is ongoing.


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