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"You've Got to Sleep With Your Mum and Dad" is now available on Amazon. Childhood angst, marathon swimming, international exploitation and the threat of impending pinniped intimacy. on 2014-08-13
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Have a look at my page on Amazon. Still plenty of summer left for challenging literature. on 2014-08-13
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Check out my Amazon Kindle page. 'The Baby Who Killed People for Money' is now available. An utterly charming child with a unique and lucrative skill. A father with no defence against his daughter's impulses. Would you take your little girl around Europe for a spot of murder tourism? Of course you would. on 2014-06-30
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My story on the Tate gallery website on 2013-11-11
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A Thousand Natural Shocks An anthology that includes two of my stories. Available now at Amazon. on 2013-11-11
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Posted January 31, 2014
  Posted by in Uncategorized

This took a long time…


When I decided that I was going to make etchings, one of my aims was to develop some of the skills of the great 19th century natural history illustrators. When I was a child, I marvelled at Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur and, when I got hold of the appropriate materials, I wanted to do something of my own that might approach the weird brilliance of those images.

When I lived in Manly (Sydney) in 1989, I found an Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii) outside my house. He lived in the house for a few days until I released him into the wilds of North Head.

scan0007scan0006Click on any of these for larger versions.

He was a classic dragon and it was he whose image I wanted to use.

I did some hard and soft ground etchings of plants from Kew Gardens until I thought I was ready to tackle my Dragon Project.

These were the stages:

1. Cover the zinc plate with wax (hard resist). Let it set.

2. Engrave the picture of the dragon into wax. This took about 40 hours. It’s quite intricate.

3. Etch in mordant solution using a swan feather to brush away bubbles. The swan feather seems to be standard equipment in etching.

4. Use a mordant-resistant paint to cover the parts of the plate that I want to be light-coloured on the final print.

5. Using bunsen burners in a chemistry lab fume cupboard, heat the plate, then sprinkle it with a hideous dust. Where it lands on the plate, it stays there. The plate is now coated with uniform dots.

6. Etch the cooled plate in mordant. The unpainted parts are now etched with a uniform pattern of tiny pits. The original etched lines are still visible.

dragon-227. Soak the plate in turpentine and scrub until everything is off. Paint the parts of the plate that I want to be very light coloured in the print.

8. Repeat the fume cupboard treatment, etching and scrubbing. After 80 hours of work, I now have the finished plate.

9. Soak several sheets of printing paper, ink up the plate and try to prepare it so that there is a decent amount of ink in the lines and pits but none on the high parts or the edges.

10. Place the plate face up on the bed of the roller. Take a sheet of paper from the water bath, squeeze the paper to remove excess water and lay it on top of the plate. Place a felt blanket over the paper and run the bed through the roller. Surprisingly good arm exercise, this.

11. Remove the blanket, then very carefully take the paper from the plate.

12. Clean everything and start 9 and 10 again. Repeat dozens of times until you get a plate that you like.


A far easier method is drypoint. You etch directly onto the plate. No shading but it’s probably closer to that 19th century effect for which I was aiming. Here’s a silver birch. My favourite print.


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Posted January 31, 2014
  Posted by in Uncategorized

This sounds like more fun than it was. I used to work in a girls’ school in England. There were a lot of charitable activities. In one of these, someone had the wonderful idea of bringing in someone to wax some of the teachers for charity. I think I volunteered to get my legs waxed but the comically hairy nature of my back was revealed by some of my ‘friends’ with whom I went swimming. Hence, one lunch time, there I was on the stage in the main hall, lying on what looked like a surgical bench, with an efficient woman tearing clumps of hair from my back. Not such a bad idea, I thought.

At this stage, a colleague thought we might be able to make a bit more money if students paid a pound for the privilege of tearing one of the strips off. Then followed an unending stream of girls queuing for the unique sensation of ripping hair off a male teacher and seeing him in pain. Things became worse when we ran out of back hair and shifted to the chest. I could probably have called a halt at this stage but the general air of excitement and continued calls of ‘We’re making so much money’ meant that the uproar would have been considerable.

The chest waxing really hurt. Each waxing strip looked like a dead squirrel when it came off and left a field of pinpricks on my chest. There was quite a bit of blood. The girls were fascinated. The look of schadenfreude when some of them ripped another patch of skin off me was frightening. The whole horrible thing was only halted by the bell at the end of lunch time. The waxing woman decided to end with a flourish and wax all of my chest except for a little hairy heart right in the centre. My wife did not find this in any way funny or stylish or romantic.

The Heart of Hair, complemented by a similarly Valentinic pastry

The Heart of Hair, complemented by a similarly Valentinic pastry

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