Fizzers exhibition launch

I had the pleasure of attending the launch for the book and the art exhibition for Fizzers: Famous Scottish Faces Caricatured at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Friday evening. It’s a cracking read with a wide range of subjects and it is even better to have the chance to see the original artwork in the gallery. As an old comics hand it was also terrific to see such support and recognition afforded to the genre, not least from the artistic establishment; the National Galleries of Scotland team did the boys of the Glasgow Cartoon Art Studio well and the turnout was terrific, including the actor Brian Cox, although I heard I was one of the few from the bookselling side of things to attend, which shows how much the booktrade has changed – when I first started publishers had to fend off booksellers trying to get into launches and grab free booze. Mel went along with me and was oblivious to the fact that Brian Cox was standing chatting to two ladies right behind her for ten minutes.

Over the last year I’ve reported on increasing instances of comic and cartoon art being accorded serious appreciation from the artistic establishment, with Robert Crumb’s retrospective in London last year and a recent American exhibition of the work of Los Bros Hernandez, so it was a special pleasure to see a body like the National Galleries giving such support to cartoon artwork. The exhibition is terrific (it is now open to the public and runs until the start of July in the Scottish national Portrait Gallery on Queen Street, Edinburgh). The subjects range from contemporary to a bit older, from film stars and TV celebs to authors, sportsfolk and even other artists (the caricature of artist Peter Howson is especially clever, incorporating aspects of the artist’s style into the cartoon).

On a personal note, as I was getting the six artists to sign their own caricatures in my copy of the book I found out that one of them, Edd, was the younger brother of a boy who used to play with me and my mates as boys back home. His dad – also something of an artist – was also there to see his lad’s work hanging on the walls of the National Gallery. His dad still lives a few doors from my parent’s home and he still recalled buying a second hand motorbike (a Matchless 650) from my dad years ago. He also talked to me about bumping into my Uncle Ian, my dad’s old biker chum, recently – Uncle Ian, who isn’t keeping too well I’m afraid, is a chum of his and my dad as well as father to my good mate Colin who I’ve known from school and who still hangs with me, Gordon, Bob and the rest of the gang when we can get together. It really is a small planet, isn’t it?

Montmarte sur Dalry

Saturday morning – lashing rain and wind then heavy hailstones bouncing off the roof followed by bright, clear sunshine. Making the most of it I nipped out to the local shops to run some errands in the sunlight then had an enjoyable trawl through the charity stores, picking up a couple of second hand books of poetry, including one by Meg Bateman. Wandered over to the Old Bakehouse, the truly excellent pastry shop which has an art gallery down the spiral stairs (all minutes from my flat, terrific!) and braved the chilliness of the summer spring to have my first pavement cafe experience of the year, sitting outside in the sun, reading poetry, drinking coffee and eating a gorgeous choux pastry. You could almost convince yourself you were in a small backstreet cafe in Paris, although the Montmarte atmosphere is somewhat broken by the sight of hundreds of Hearts fans marching past on the way to a game! Still, it was highly enjoyable and very relaxing; minutes after I left for home the skies darkened and it started snowing! Rain, hail, sun and snow all inside a few hours – come visit scenic Edinburgh, land of contrasts and diversity…