Thursday, 11 November 2010

My Manifesto

After visiting the Van Doesburg and his Contemporaries exhibition at Tate Modern I thought about the reasons why many art movements in the 20th Century organised their philosophies in the form of a manifesto. Art is political whether we like it or not. My political beliefs certainly affect my storytelling. Even some graphic design students at the London College of Communication have had to create manifestos as a means of promoting their skills and qualities to potential employers. In this world you always have to hustle for change.

As an artist I can be quite self-absorbed. I fully understand why I think the way I do. I know what is important to me and why. These factors continue to assist me with my creative work.

I decided to write and publish my own manifesto on my Blogs. I might display this political track in straightforward prose or as bullet points or limited characters (this is the age of Twitter after all).

I will employ three methods to help me write my manifesto.
Method 1 Start at the beginning. The story of my story
Method 2 Proposal for MPhil/ PhD
Method 3 Survey Colleagues and friends their opinions on my practice

Method 1 Start at the beginning. The story of my story
My Grandfather told me stories when I was a boy my earliest memories are filled with these stories that happened in a far off place known as ‘Home’. ‘Home’ was Barbados in the Caribbean. My Grandfather who was born in 1915 left Barbados in 1955 to come to the ‘The Mother Country’. To me the characters in these stories were larger than life. They could not be found in my daily existence. I’m not sure how many of the stories were true but they did become part of my personal mythology.

These stories worked their way into Aesop’s fables, Biblical stories and fiction about the Second World War. I started to write stories as soon as I was taught to write. My 5 years old imagination satisfied itself with war stories (all the boys in my class were as obsessed by warfare and the wild west). We were encouraged to illustrate our stories (I was an illustrator from the beginning of my school life). My images were naïve but fairly gruesome and I have never shied away from bloodshed (other peoples blood not my own).

Nosey and noisy child that I was always asking questions, demanding justice and the truth. Biblical truth. I had no father and wanted to know where he was. Why was he not living with us?
I never got an answer. I had to decide for myself that my parents must be divorced (When I was 17 I discovered he had abandoned my mother and me soon after my birth, still coping with that knowledge to this day).

My older brother I led astray several times encouraging him to search private places. We found comic books published by Marvel and EC. EC comics scared us both. Marvel comics with their brightly coloured supermen made an indelible impression on my brother and I. We resolved to be comic book producers. We started writing and illustrating our own stories. We were competitive from the start I think we imagined we mimicked the rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics. I aged seven, my brother was nine we began our enterprise. My nosey qualities helped me to discover approx 5000 sheets of A4 paper in my mother locked sideboard cupboard. I purloined the paper perhaps 100 sheets at a time. We hid what we were up to from our mother. We created heroes and villains and supporting casts. Influenced heavily by the Marvel Universe but our own domestic situation and the council estate we now resided permeated the content.

My brother’s imagination transported him to ancient woodland and the superhero as master of his own super-powered community. My stories contained my anger at the world and focussed on the protagonists finding love. All love in these stories was unrequited. I could not find love in real life so I retreated into a fantasy proxy. I would not overcome this inferiority complex until I was 24 years old. The paper we used to make our comics with had a faint pink impression on them. It was too indistinct for us to work out what this was. After four years the paper ran out. Years later our mother explained that the paper was meant for us all along. The faint pink impression came from Pools coupons that the printing firm she had worked printed. A sheet of paper was placed between each coupon while the ink dried. If there is any luck from the Pools I think it might have rubbed off on my life.

Stories were everywhere I couldn’t get enough of them. I read, I watched and I thought big thoughts. How can I create the best story? I wanted to out do Marvel and DC Comics. How can I write scripts for TV and film?

Whilst growing up my brother and I shared a bedroom and we would spend each night before falling to sleep telling each other stories – the stories merged. I had my hero group Mighty’s Gang and Floyd had Chimpboy’s Army – we clashed quite a bit over the direction of these stories. I wanted to dominate everything. I wanted to win and get the girls in the stories. Chimpboy was an avatar of Floyd and Mighty was my avatar. These avatars were happier versions of us.

I was criticised daily as a boy. Everyone had a put down for me. My comics were only stealing from Marvel. I was angry about this attitude to my work. I knew I had to prove to people that I could create original heroes and stories using my imagination.

I grew out of making comics and reading them. At 15 Mighty Comics was no more. My brother still kept the flame burning. He became adept at writing plots. He started to hire me to draw, ink and colour his comics. The Hawks, Chimpboy’s Army and Catman.

I stilled dreamed about making comics but I began to learn about ‘serious’ art and wondered how to make it a grown-up artist. Illustration beckoned. My imagination would have full range and most importantly I could be original.

In 1985 I went to Maidstone College of Art to study graphic design. I was finally able to seize my destiny and control the direction of my life. Aged 20 I was reborn. I thought about writing a manifesto…


Method 2 Proposal for MPhil/ PhD
A manifesto might help me to discover the question I wish to find answers for and help me with the direction of my doctoral study.

With the thought of writing and 88,000 word paper ahead of me I need to find a question that will sustain my focus for up to 5 years. I’ve been advised to write about something I’m really passionate about. I’m passionate about stories and the structural mechanisms use to construct them.

Initial thoughts so far:
Does the economic position of the state affect the type of stories that can be told?
What is the impact of capitalist/ Marxist influence on the production of fiction?
Whatever happened to the lost narratives?
How can literacy help people to improve their economic prosperity?

So many questions now for the answers…


Method 3 Survey Colleagues and friends their opinions on my practice
I will use Survey Monkey to gather this information. My initial thoughts for questions so far:

Q1. Are you able to categorise my work?

Q2. How would describe my personality? Please select one of the following:
Other (please specify)

Q3. What aspect/s of my work do you like best?

Q4. On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being very important) how important is fiction to your life?

Q5. Can you suggest 5 words or phrases that best describe my work?

Well that's a start any way.


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