Red & Black Drawings

Between 2006 and 2009 most of my artwork stuck to a pretty rigid format. These "Red & Black" drawings, as I call them (despite often including blue), were the first things I ever exhibited publicly and became popular enough to encourage me to take a few (itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie) steps towards selling work for actual money. Money I could spend in shops.

In June 2006, Flesh Design in Edinburgh put on a group exhibition titled Rouge with the theme of, um, rouge (red). I had been invited to submit work by RueFive and would be showing alongside many people I still consider friends. People like Elph, Gopherhead and Concetta Barbera.

At the time, I'd been playing around with a dip pen and figured that a few drawings using red ink might work for the show. I didn't have any "good" paper to draw on besides a big stack of smooth manila card left over from a college project so, rather than leave the house, I just used that.

The ink took to the cardboard surprisingly well - it stayed bright and didn't bleed. Further experimentation found that, if I took my time, fairly fine detail was achievable without making an almighty mess. Great. This'd work. All I needed was something to draw.

God knows where my ideas came from, but they came. They weren't good ideas, but they were better than no ideas. Six fingered hands and balaclava'd characters abounded. What I lacked in drawing ability, I made up for in patience (I still do this).

Somewhere along the way I started using acrylic paint to add black backgrounds. Doing this made the drawings really pop. It also made them kinda spooky, like goth or something. When framed (using simple wooden frames that matched the colour of the cardboard), they felt like weird comic panels and the glass made the acrylic seem completely flawless. People sometimes thought that the drawings were printed or cut outs glued to black paper.

I find this early work, like everyone finds their early work, hard to look back on. I wasn't a particularly good draughtsman and many of my ideas, with their Bunny Suicides humour (which I didn't even like at the time), make me cringe.

After the relative success of Rouge (I sold work!). I made more Red & Black drawings. Loads and loads more. I made them for shows at Analogue, Recoat, Here and Amble. I got better at making them and some (like the ones on this page and these ones), I still really like. I drew so many of the bloody things that I was scared to draw anything else. They were reliably straightforward to produce and generally well received. I covered entire walls with them. It got a bit silly.

It's been a few years since I last made any Red & Black artwork. I still have the cardboard and the pens and there's some part of me that wants to revisit them. A bigger, smarter part of me wants to leave them behind as a weird period in my life that's over now. Anyway, making an arse of the background and having to start again was always so unbelievably frustrating that my old heart probably couldn't take it.

I've put a small collection of these drawings over here: Red & Black Drawings. I will add more of my favourites whenever I get the chance.