Tuesday, 10 January 2012

An old obsession

I went to my studio today for the first time in a while.  Before Christmas I brought a load of boxes here from our old house and then delivered a stack of folios and so on, delivered to our new house from storage.

I had intended to get on with some writing, but made the fatal mistake of opening the folios.  I had not seen any of this work for five years, but some of it had been in drawers and folios for a lot longer than that.

Before we left Norfolk for Cambridge I had periodic burnings of artwork.  My wife would get upset at this, but there was no way I could keep all of the work I generated at The Economist and The Independent. A lot of it wasn't very good, to be honest.  It was done to such tight deadlines and to such specific briefs that although I could take pride in having delivered something, the result was not something I wanted to live with.  I didn't want to be the curator of some kind of archive of me.

Besides there is something cathartic about such destruction.  I have always believed I have better work ahead of me.  When I stop believing that I will stop creating.

The problem with destroying work is that perceptions change.  What seemed valuable can seem worthless a few years down the line.  The reverse is clearly also true.  I just have to hope I didn't destroy anything I wouldn't destroy today.  I'm pretty sure I didn't.  I'll never know in any case so why worry?

I am pleased I have hung on to this drawing though.  I must have been about sixteen when I did it, maybe younger, but certainly no older.  It is an illustration to Frankenstein and it shows an early eagerness to counter the cinematic image of the creature.

Mister Creecher was being formed in those ink marks.


  1. Very sympathetic depiction of the poor doomed Creature.

  2. Thanks. It is interesting to see that I drew him as young - as a kind of teenager. It's fascinating how long these ideas rattle around your head. Or MY head anyway!

  3. Has a Heathcliff feeling him, don't you think? Different ways are 'monsters' made...

  4. Over Christmas I discovered bags and bags of artwork from the 70's and 80's in my dad's loft, things not seen in decades, some drawings go back to when I was 14 or 15. Much of it should have been thrown away years ago, but looking at it all now somehow age has given all the work a value, even the rubbish stuff and sketches.
    I threw out tons of old advertising work when I left Tokyo and came back to the UK. Unfortunately a few really important pieces accidentally got mixed up with the rubbish, the loss is painful. But at least I have scans.

  5. The Heathcliff thing is interesting Kathryn. Both Romantic anti-heroes and neither quite what you expect from cinematic versions.

    And John - you're right, things do start to have a value just because they are old and they show where you came from. You are lucky to have scans. I stopped work at as a cartoonist in 98 and was still delivering artwork. Lots would go missing. Especially at the Independent. People would just walk off with it.

  6. I have a question regarding Mister Creecher.
    The cip page says it takes place in 1918, yet the text says in takes place in 1818. Which one is correct?
    I am writing a quiz over your book for the Scholastic Reading Counts program and want to make sure I have the information correct.
    Thanks. Janet Thomas

  7. Where does it say the action takes place in 1918 Janet? I haven't spotted that anywhere. The action takes place in 1818 - as I hope is obvious from the book! Frankenstein was published 1 January 1818 - which is where Mister Creecher begins. Please let me know where you saw the error though. That is very annoying.

  8. Had no idea of your artistic leanings, Mr Priestley. it looks fab.

  9. Thanks Candy. I was an artist for far longer than I have been a published author (though I have always written).