I murder my own drawings. I don’t mean to do it but I can’t help myself. I either work them to death or I lose faith in them and they die of neglect. Either way, most of my time seems to be spent working on things that never become finished works of art that anyone will ever see.

It’s disheartening to spend so much time and to have so little to show for it. I tell myself that all this effort is an investment for future, and as yet unimagined, works of art. I do hope so.

Here are some dead drawings. Some of them might just be resting. The common link with all of these works is that they all have something to do with Margate (my home town). Some of the drawings of heads are based on tiny photographs found in a junk shop in Margate. They were taken in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. I’m gradually building a body of work about people and moments which have Margate as their meeting point.

In these drawings I’m resurrecting some discarded traces of people’s lives. These people were alive in Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s. But what can we imagine about someone from the way they look?

Drawings take time. To draw something is to pay careful attention to its presence and to create a new trace of its presence. We change our minds as we draw. The outcome is always unpredictable.

I don’t know if I’ve quite lost faith in these drawings just yet, not quite. There is still hope. Perhaps it’s just the hope of hope but that will have to do.


Thursday was the one hundredth anniversary of the 25th May 1917 Folkestone Air Raid.

Here are some pictures of part of the commemorative event which included an exhibition in The Folkestone Methodist Church in Sandgate Road, a memorial service, an unveiling of a plaque and a walking tour.

It was organised by Margaret Care (a descendant of William Stokes – one of the air raid’s victims) and local historian Martin Easdown (Martin has researched and written two books about the air raid).  They originally expected about 40 people to attend.  As it turned out, there were a lot more than that and there weren’t enough seats for everyone at the church service.

I displayed my silverpoint drawing “They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…” . This work is about the people killed by the bomb in Tontine Street.

I’m glad I was there – a mixture of being drawn close to a horrible event of a hundred years ago and of connecting a moment in the past with the present moment and of one hundred year old threads of memories being drawn together in a room on a hot sunny day in Folkestone.  I had fascinating conversations with relatives of people who were there a hundred years ago and I am sure that I must have missed out on many other conversions.  At times I had the strange experience of seeing, or imagining I was seeing, family-resemblances in people that I had made drawings of.

I’m still processing what I experienced on Thursday but here’s one little detail from the event: Annie Beer was killed in Tontine Street along with her daughter and nephews.  Her husband eventually remarried in the 1930s but he didn’t speak much about his first wife and family and so when he died, so the story goes, friends were surprised to find that he had a picture of his first wife within a locket (on the inside of a pocket watch in fact) which he had with him at the time of death.  I already knew this story and I had included it in my drawing.  However, I had no idea this object still existed anywhere in the world.  And yet, there, on one of the display tables, was the actual pocket watch and that photograph of Annie Beer.  Later in the afternoon I found myself speaking to a woman who was the granddaughter from that second marriage.

I’m glad I made my artwork about those people.  I hope it’s a good work of art.  First and foremost it is a work of art and not an illustration of historical details.  I hope it’s a true and respectful work of art.

Some of the relatives of people in my drawing had seen the work in The Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibitions or via the internet.  Even before yesterday, people had contacted me and shared family memories which I hope I can place in future work.  Ideally I would like to make a new body of work about this.  Time will tell.

This memorial event coincided with an excellent Radio Four Afternoon Play, ‘A Lightening’ by Sarah Daniels – I recommend you have a listen to it on BBC Radio4 iPlayer.

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Here is a drawing I worked on in 2011-2012.  It will be on show, for just a few hours in a Church in Folkestone on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday will be the 100th anniversary of ‘The Great Folkestone Air Raid’ of 25th May 1917.  The people organising a memorial event have asked me to show this drawing as part of the day’s commemorations.  This work is about the people who were killed by a bomb which exploded amidst a queue of people standing outside Stokes’ greengrocers in Tontine Street at about 6.22pm on 25th May 1917.

The drawing consists of sixty-eight small panels containing drawings of some of the people who were killed and handwritten text listing their names, ages, cause of death and, perhaps some other details about them.  Where there is no visual reference for their appearance to draw from there is simply text.  The title of the piece – “They looked like silver birds. The sun was shining on them…”  comes from an eye witness account of seeing the German Gotha bombers high up in the late afternoon sunlight just a few moments before the bomb was dropped on Tontine Street.

This work is part of an occasional ongoing body of work about the victims of the 25th May 1917 Folkestone Air Raid.  It is ‘occasionally ongoing’ partly due to lack of time and money needed to make the work I’d like to make but partly also because of the upsetting subject matter of the work; it’s emotionally difficult to concentrate on such a sad story for long periods of time.  I made this work because I wanted people to know about this story as it seemed as though it might soon be forgotten.  The story itself is sad but it can have a bigger meaning in that it can stand for similar stories we hear about in the news all the time.

This particular drawing has been seen in various galleries around the country including The Jerwood Space in London, The Hatton Gallery in Newcastle, Plymouth Arts Centre/Plymouth College of Art, The Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury (all these as part of the 2013 Jerwood Drawing Prize) as well as in my hometown of Margate (at The Pie Factory Gallery and East Kent Artists Open Houses).  At last it will be seen in Folkestone.

In Folkestone it will be displayed on a table in a church rather than in the more usual ‘white cube’ style gallery space.  Ordinarily I might worry about the placing of this work, but on Thursday the overriding significance of its placing will be its presence in the town of Folkestone.  Some of the relatives of the victims of the air raid will also be present.

The medium of the drawing is silverpoint on gesso.  Silverpoint drawings are literally the traces of metal drawn over a prepared surface (similar to the sort of mark you might make if you were to drag a coin across an emulsion-painted wall).  It’s an extremely subtle drawing medium which leaves an ever-so-slight trace of its touch upon the surface.  It’s a gentle medium but the mark it leaves is indelible.  Its delicacy and its quality of ‘trace’, which this medium brings to the fore, make it an appropriate medium for an art about memory and presence.

The exhibition opens at 2pm at The Folkestone Methodist Church on Sandgate Road (CT20 2DA).   I shall be at the Methodist Church to talk about the work from 2pm until 5pm.  Come along and say hello if you can make it along to Folkestone on Thursday afternoon.

You might also find the BBC Radio 4 drama series ‘Home Front’ interesting in relation to this too.

The day’s events have been organised by the local historian, Martin Easdown, and a descendent of one of the victims, Margaret Care – this is a labour of love.

For more information about the Folkestone air raid memorial service go to: http://www.leshaigh.co.uk/folkestone/tontinememorialservice.html

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To draw is to take time to pay attention to the presence of something.  This drawing is one of a series of metalpoint drawings based on photo booth portraits.

My artworks tend to focus on themes to do with memory and presence; silverpoint drawings (literally the trace of a point the metal across a prepared surface) is the perfect medium to suit my ideas.  All hand-made drawings are mediums of trace but I think metalpoint drawings emphasise this characteristic in a particularly sensitive and beautiful way.

It isn’t possible to capture the subtleties of the silverpoint medium in scans or in photographs and so I’ve taken a few photographs here from different angles to try to give some idea of how these drawings look in real life.  This piece is about the size of a sheet of A5.

These are drawings of little, otherwise unimportant, moments of a life.  Here was a point in time in which someone was present.  My drawings are a kind of souvenir of these little, lived, moments.