Thursday, 7 October 2010

THE FACES IN THE WALLPAPER (Why I Love Writing Children's Fiction)

Many people often ask me why I try and write novels for children, particularly novels aimed at the 9 - 12 year-old age group. For one thing, I don't have children myself and rarely come into contact with them. Also, being an English Literature graduate and having worked as an editor of an arts and listings magazine, people often assume I should be dedicating more of my spare time to writing more serious, adult novels: arty, brow-crimpling novels with bleak, sombre-looking covers to satisfy the slightly conservative tastes of dusty academics; gritty, hard-hitting stories about death, sex, recreational drug use, life-threatening illness and the brittleness and ephemera of modern day relationships. After all, I've endured a lot of hardship and emotional turmoil in my own life, and my own personal experiences, if you don't know them already, would probably make even the hardiest of grown-ups reach for a tissue and weep (see my previous blog 'My War On AIDS').

But maybe this is one of the reasons why. Maybe there is a desire in me to find some sort of respite from the harsh realities that life has hurled at me over the years, to hark back to a time when imaginary faces appearing in the patterned wallpaper of my bedroom were the most frightening things I had ever confronted. Not AIDS or terrorism or death or war. It was a time when the head-swirling thrill of a fairground ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach was more satisfying than the yet-to-be-discovered pleasures and pitfalls of sexual intimacy. It was a time of innocence, wonder and discovery, a time before our minds are polluted by the hormonal onslaught of moody adolescence and the acne-ridden sexual awkwardness that follows.

This is not say that everything is wondrous and fluffy and pink in the eyes of a prepubescent child. Emotions are primitive and raw, but the mind of a child can be astonishingly astute. By the ages of nine or ten, most children, if they've been blessed with a decent education, can read quite fluently; and they can be surprisingly sagacious too. They can surf the internet, browse magazines and they are absorbing news and information on a daily basis. They may not fully understand the political and social complexities of the world they live in, but they can certainly grasp the meanings and outcomes of war and death and poverty and injustice. They are already forming opinions about the world around them. And every child has probably witnessed or even experienced first-hand the ugliness of bigotry and prejudice through bullying tactics and cajoling in the school yard. Children can be naive and inexperienced, but they are not fools. And they certainly shouldn't be patronised or talked down to.

Ultimately, I think I write for children because it's fun. Pure unadulterated fun with a capital 'F'. But that isn't to say that writing for children is easy. Far from it. Some established children's writers even argue that writing for children is even more difficult than writing for adults. It's certainly a challenge. In an age when entertainment comes at the push of a button, children bore easily. Their attention spans are limited. Present a child with a weighty-looking book full of pages of descriptive prose and very little dialogue, and the average child would probably recoil in horror. And if a novel or story hasn't fully ensnared their imaginations within the first few pages, the book will be tossed aside like a useless, broken toy, abandoned under a heap of unused action men and armless dolls.

And then there's the question of what literary theorists call 'the implied reader'. Sadly, and entirely due to circumstances beyond my control, I don't have children of my own. But when I sat down to write the first draft of my novel, I already knew that the implied reader imported into my head was myself as a young boy - the shy, dark-haired, freckle-faced boy who would blush easily if spoken to by a grown-up and whose shyness made him quite solitary and lonely. As a child, I was quiet and bookish and, according to my mother, rarely ever seen without my nose in a paperback. Between the ages of eight and twelve, I read voraciously every day: afternoon excursions into Narnia being much more appealing than the knee-scabbing scuffles with the backstreet bullies of working class Lancaster. I read anything I could lay my hands on, vanishing for hours on end into wonderful worlds of words and pictures, rummaging inside the heads of Alan Garner, Roald Dahl, Norton Juster, Kenneth Grahame and Philippa Pearce. It was a thrilling time; and many of the novels I read in the early seventies have haunted my imagination ever since. ('Marianne Dreams' by Catherine Storr still gives me goosepimples after all these years, and images from Ted Hughes' 'The Iron Man' have been permanently imprinted on my brain).

When I began my children's novel I knew that I was writing something I would have enjoyed myself as a child, something that would have filled me with awe and wonder and provided me with a few hours of escapism from the rain-lashed streets of the town I lived in. As I wrote, I found myself connecting with child I once was and using that version of myself to guide me through my story. As I scribbled notes and strummed the keyboard of my computer, memories came gushing back, memories of what I liked to read, of how I spoke and thought, of things that frightened me in the darkness of my bedroom, like the scary faces appearing in the wallpaper. I also began to recall some of the stories I used to write as a child and which were often read out by the headmaster during assembly at school.

In essence, the story I have written, 'Billy Winker and the Library of Dreams', is a dark fairytale set in modern day suburbia (laptops, mobile telephones and computer games are mentioned, but only in passing). It is a story about a ten year-old boy searching for his missing cat. Sounds simple enough, but as the eponymous Billy delivers leaflets and talks to his neighbours, he begins to learn that there is something sinister about the old, crooked house at the end of his street. Intrigued, Billy prompts his neighbours to tell him about the history of the old house and its previous occupants. Fascinated, he listens in awe to his neighbours' tales of adventure, revenge, mystery and horror. All of the stories are vastly different, but all of them focus on the old, creaky house at the end of the street and the various characters who have lived there. Soon, Billy and his new friend, Abigail, begin to unravel the mystery of the house and its current occupant. And as the whereabouts of Billy's missing cat are eventually discovered, Billy and Abigail find themselves in darker, more dangerous waters than either could possibly have foreseen.

I have written the novel in a quirky, individual style which will hopefully whirl the reader along until the surprise ending. There should be enough touches of the macabre to scintillate a few older readers too, including adults. As I have worked as a freelance illustrator, I have also provided some original black and white illustrations which hopefully complement the sinister atmosphere of the story. A very small selection of these illustrations can be seen on my website.

My hopes of 'Billy Winker and the Library of Dreams' being accepted by a publisher are not ridiculously high. I'm being realistic. I have confidence in my novel, but I am fully aware that the market for children's fiction is fiercely competitive, and that children's publishers and literary agents receive hundreds of manuscripts a week. But at least I'm trying my best. And I am approaching potential publishers and agents in a highly professional manner.

At the moment, sample chapters and sample illustrations are now sitting on a slush pile in an office somewhere, waiting to be perused by a reader. I'm already bracing myself for a few rejections, but keeping my fingers crossed at the same time. In the meantime, I have already started plotting my next children's novel, a story about gruesome dinner ladies. Notes are being scribbled, characters are being sketched and ideas are being jotted down.

And who knows, maybe one day I'll write a story about the nightmares faces that appeared in the wallpaper of my childhood bedroom all those years ago. It'll give you the creeps for sure.

Sunday, 22 August 2010



I have something to confess. It's something I want to get off my chest. It's a little embarrassing, and I can already picture some of you rolling your eyes and squinting at the backs of your skulls. Others will be a lot more sympathetic and will probably shudder with an empathetic sigh and continue reading.

I'll come to the point.

I'm arachnophobic. In other words, I have a morbid, uncontrollable fear of spiders. The merest glimpse of a hairy eight-legged predator scuttling menacingly across the sitting room floor is enough to send every hair on the back of my neck standing rigidly on end. I've also been known to scream. Loudly and girlishly: a long drawn-out wail of terror perfectly pitched to shatter a small decanter into a thousand shards of glass.

There. I've said it. I'm out of the closet now. I've confessed. And I can already feel a huge weight being lifted off my mind. And I know I'm not alone. According to statistics, 50% of women and 10% of men show symptoms of arachnophobia. This means that at least 60% of you who are reading this article will be able to empathise with everything I say.

Describing arachnophobia is rather like describing a panic attack. The symptoms are very similar. At the first sight of an eight-legged monstrosity scampering across the carpet or bungee jumping from the ceiling, every corpuscle of blood is drained from my face. Cold fear rises from the bit of my belly and goosebumps blister my flesh. The fear is raw, almost primeval, and every solitary hair on the nape of my neck bristles like a toothbrush. Senses are heightened, eyes are white-rimmed with terror and surges of adrenalin are pumped through the heart.

Some of you - the doubtful 40% - will probably laugh with derision and accuse me of hyperbolising. But let me tell you this: arachnophobia is real and has often caused me considerable distress, insomnia and acute embarrassment in the past.

Many years ago, at university one warm, sunny September, my tutor decided to take his seminar outside, away from the confines of his small, cramped study room. Myself and six other English Literature students formed a small circle on a patch of grass on the outskirts of the university campus. Bums on the dry grass, we sat and discussed how the dominant image of motherhood in some of Virginia Woolf's work was instrumental in undermining the credibility of the Patriarchal society at the time. Or some such malarkey.

All of a sudden, one of the students, who was sitting in a lotus-position directly opposite me, pulled a face and pointed a finger in my direction. She was pointing to something on the front of the hideous, paisley-patterned shirt I happened to be wearing at the time. And judging from the lip-curled grimace of horror on her face, I quickly concluded that it was something a lot more distasteful and alarming than one of the flower-like patterns on my shirt.

Immediately, I looked down.

Crawling up my belly, with every intention of reaching the pimply contours of my face, was one of the most enormous, long-legged house spiders I had ever seen. It was at least as wide as a saucer, and the bristly, black hairs on its legs were as thick as toothpicks. What's more, the spider's pincers were clicking aggressively, salivating at the prospect of taking a dirty great vampire chunk of flesh from out of my vulnerable, bare, white neck.

In a flurry of flailing limbs, I bounced onto my feet and screamed at the top of my voice. "Get it off me! Get it off me!" I yelled, running wildly in circles like a cat with a firecracker attached to its tail. "For god's sake, get it off me!"

Every eyeball was turned in my direction. Jaws were hanging slack. One of the students thought I was having a seizure. Another, who'd spotted the grisly creature climbing up my shirt, merely covered her mouth with her hand and tried not to giggle.

Eventually, after a lot of yelps and cries for help from me and a lot of jigging and hopping about, the sucker-footed monster detached itself from the polyester of my shirt and plummeted back down to the ground. It quickly vanished among the blades of grass, a predator in a jungle once more.

Naturally, I refused to sit back down on the grass. After all, the beady-eyed monster was still lurking about somewhere, waiting to pounce on its prey again, waiting for another opportunity to abseil my paisley-patterned shirt and bite my neck with its poisonous fangs. Bolts of fear were still shooting through my body.

"Oh for heaven's sake," my tutor remarked, looking understandably annoyed as I hovered nervously about with my eyes scanning the undergrowth for signs of the venomous, flesh-eating creature. "It's only a little spider!It can't harm you."

"Only a spider!" I angrily retorted. "That was a fucking tarantula!"

It was an embarrassing and humiliating moment. It was the sort of moment when time seems to stand still and little blotches of redness begin to spread across the face, like jam on a slice of buttered toast. Even Little Miss Muffet from the children's nursery rhyme had been spared the agony of having several eye-witnesses to her brief encounter with a pincer-snapping monster from the bowels of hell. Not only had I made a complete fool of myself in front of six fellow literature students (most of whom were women and who didn't seem the slightest bit put out by the gruesome sight of one of their colleagues being attacked by an eight-legged freak), but I had also just sworn in front of my tutor. I'd even used the 'F' word. And I was only a first-year student too!

A couple of weeks later, I received the results of my essay on Virginia Woolf. I was only awarded a C minus for my efforts, my lowest grade to date. "You need to pay more attention during seminars," my tutor had scribbled at the bottom of the last page.

Even today, I still blame the house spider for my poorly graded essay on Virginia Woolf. I hope the spider came to a horrible, sticky end and is now nothing more than a fading stain of a visceral smear on the sole of somebody's shoe.

Arachnophobia exists. Of that there is little doubt. But what causes the condition is still purely academic.

Even today, in 2010, experts are still uncertain what causes the fear of spiders. There are, of course, many different theories, and one of the most common theories was put forth by evolutionary psychologists. This view suggests that arachnophobia was a survival technique for our ancient ancestors, and that the fear of spiders is a a race memory passed down to us over the millennia. Since most spiders were deadly back then, an instinctive fear of them may have made ancient humans more likely to survive and reproduce. However, other psychologists argue that there were many other animals more likely to pose an even bigger threat to ancient humans, including tigers, wolves and crocodiles. Yet phobias for these animals are not very common. I mean, when was the last time you heard someone say they suffered from 'crocophobia' or that they wouldn't leave the house because they'd spotted tigers prowling among the petunias in the garden outside? Does a word for the fear of crocodiles even exist?

None of this washes with me. I don't believe the psychobabble. At least, not completely. The reason why arachnophobia exists, and the reason why it is so widespread, is simply because spiders are scary. Bloody scary. In fact, they're the scariest things on the planet!

Sir David Attenborough (who is not himself arachnophobic) once suggested that the reason the fear of spiders is so common is because their anatomical make up is so vastly different to our own. I think there's some truth in this. We tend to prefer those animals that are more like us in appearance - animals like cats and dogs that have four limbs, two eyes, a nose and a mouth. A spiders, on the other hand, is the ultimate monster. It has a cluster of eyes on its head, jaws that move sideways and multiple legs that can bend in surprising ways. Spiders are also clever little buggers too, and use a wide range of strategies to ensnare their prey: trapping it in sticky webs, lassoing it with sticky bolas, mimicking their prey to avoid detection, or running it down.

As I said, spiders are clever little buggers and should never be trusted.

I also blame film and television for my condition. As a young boy, and barely knee-high to a tarantula, I will never forget watching Jon Pertwee in 'Doctor Who' in a story called 'Planet of the Spiders'. It was, in my opinion, one of the scariest episodes of 'Doctor Who' ever made. It should have been banned. Mary Whitehouse and the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association should have complained. The story featured some very large spiders that could jump onto people's backs. What's more, these spiders could speak. They were intelligent - highly intelligent - and had telepathic and telekinetic powers. Now stop and think about that for a moment: A very large spider that can speak, is highly intelligent, evil and can possess its victims like the demon in 'The Exorcist'. What the hell were they trying to do to out heads?

And then there was the old pulp sci-fi classic 'The Incredible Shrinking Man'. As a small child, watching Scott, the incredibly shrunken man, plunder his wife's sewing kit for weapons and then waging a primeval battle with a big, fat, hairy spider was a cinematic experience I have never forgotten. Even scenes in Stanley Kubrick's film 'The Shining' can't match the sheer and utter terror of Scott's gladiatorial battle with a spider the size of an elephant, all snapping pincers and beady black eyes. 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' gave me nightmares for years!

There are, of course, a wide range of remedies and treatments available to help those of us who are afflicted by the curse of archnophobia. These include psychotherapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, self-help books, videos and even virtual realty simulators. Call me pessimistic, but I doubt they'll help. My fear and mistrust of spiders is so deeply ingrained into my psyche that only a lobotomy would cure me of my arachnophobia.

And nobody's messing with my brain, thank you very much. Thanks to 'Doctor Who' and 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' it's been messed up already.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

MY WAR ON AIDS A Personal Story by Andrew Hitchen

My friend knew immediately. It was written all over my face: the dilated pupils, the colour draining from my cheeks, the uncontrollable pulse that throbbed in my left temple.

I was in shock.

I had just staggered home from Greenwich District Hospital with the results of my HIV test. The shock was incredible, almost hallucinogenic. It was as if I was slipping away from my body to some unpleasant astral plane.

My friend didn't even ask. She knew where I'd been and had been waiting for me to return. My body language was speaking volumes.

"Oh god," my friend said, putting a hand up to cover her mouth. "Oh god. Oh god."

I sat on the sofa and trembled. Neither of us knew what to say.

After a few more moments had lapsed, my friend made a fresh pot of tea and began to rummage through her CD collection. "Music," she muttered. "We need to play some music."

She knew I was a Bowie fan. Along with Morrissey, he had been one of my idols and his face, in multiple guises (Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke), had adorned my bedroom wall for years.

Still not knowing what to say, my friend quickly slid a disc into her CD player. As a slow but persistent drumbeat began to boom through the speakers, another look of horror was suddenly etched across her face. "Oh my god," she said, looking at me sideways. "What have I done? I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. Do you want me to change the CD?"

I smiled wryly. "No," I replied. "Leave it. It's perfect. Honest, it's perfect."

And then the chords came crashing in and Bowie began to sing:

'Pushing through the market square, so many mothers sighing.
News had just come over - we had five years left to cry in.'

I had to smile. I think I even laughed. Even today, I cannot think of a more ironic song to play to someone who has just been diagnosed with HIV than 'Five Years' by David Bowie. And as Bowie began to screech and wail the words: 'We've got five years stuck on our eyes! We've got five years. What a surprise!' my poor friend was visibly squirming on her chair, horrified by her choice of albums and probably wishing she'd played 'Young Americans' instead.

"Five years," people used to naively say. "If you catch HIV you've probably got about five years left to live."

That was seventeen years ago. It was September 3rd 1993 and I was only 28 years old at the time. I had been living in London for about eighteen months, having moved from Madrid, and before that Manchester. I came out when I was nineteen years old in small-town Lancaster, and I had only ever had monogamous relationships. Yes, there had been one-night stands in between, but my sex life had hardly been shockingly excessive. And I was aware of HIV and AIDS too. No one who lived through the Eighties could ever ignore it. It was on the news every other day, and was often being whipped into homophobic bile in the tabloid newspapers. And who could ever forget Sir James Anderton, Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police, consulting his bible and referring to people with AIDS as "swirling in a cesspit of their own making."

'A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest,' Bowie sang. 'And a queer threw up at the sight of that.'

These were the grim days of Margaret Thatcher, Section 28 and violent Poll Tax riots. They were dark and dismal days, my friends, only brightened by the music of The Smiths.

But it was by being out and about on the London gay scene in the early 1990's that I really began to notice the devastating impact HIV was having on the terrified gay community. It was in London that I first met people who told me they'd been infected by the virus. They were putting on brave faces, but the fear in their eyes shone through. Some of these people have survived and are thankfully still around today; some of them died a long time ago. But it was hearing their different stories that finally prompted me to go for an HIV test.

In the 1980's and 1990's treatment for HIV and AIDS was virtually non-existent. Yes, there were drugs such as AZT and Septrin available, which some people shoveled down their throats like candy. But these drugs were highly toxic and hepatic, and caused many health problems - even death. (One doctor confessed to me: "It isn't just the virus that's killing people, it's the toxicity of the medication.") Deaths were commonplace, and emotionally it was a turbulent time for everyone involved. Everybody seemed to know somebody who had been infected. Everybody knew somebody who had died. Everyone was emotionally charged and always on edge. HIV and AIDS was so terrifying back then, and had so much stigma attached to it, that many people who'd been infected couldn't cope and often resorted to taking their own lives. They were young people too. Men in the twenties. Men who had struggled bravely to come out and now faced what looked like a grisly death sentence. I went to funerals and saw mothers grieving for their sons.

A parent should never see one of their children die. I know it happens, but it shouldn't. If there is a god out there, I'm not sure I like him or her very much.

During this time, I was always very open about my status to potential lovers or partners. Unfortunately, many of them just walked away, nervously apologetic but understandably terrified of being infected.

I was alone. I had battles to fight, but I was on my own.

As a consequence, I remember feeling angry for most of the 1990's. Very angry. And like a pan of boiling milk on a stove, sometimes my anger was hot and uncontrollable, and frequently misdirected. I succumbed to alcohol abuse, took drugs and went clubbing until the early hours of the morning, sometimes making friends, sometimes making enemies. But most of all I was angry with myself, angry for slipping up one night and becoming infected with a potentially life-threatening virus. How could I have done this to my friends and family? How could I have have been so careless and thoughtless and stupid? How could I have done this to myself? Indeed, the self-loathing I felt was so overwhelming that by 1997 I was diagnosed by my doctor and a psychiatrist as clinically depressed.

And then came the panic attacks. One after the other, they came, day after day, week after week - huge, unstoppable surges of adrenalin that left me gasping for breath and frequently lying face downwards on my sitting room floor for hours on end.

Thankfully, by the end of the 1990's, treatment for HIV was improving and becoming a lot more effective. People were living longer and, with guidance from good doctors and health workers, becoming more capable of managing their condition. The treatment was by no means a cure, but the grisly shadow of death was becoming more opaque. People who had been seriously ill with conditions such as PCP and KS began to improve and get better. Hospices began to close down, viral loads were plummeting, and CD4 counts were rising. The battle was being won. A cheery, but cautious optimism began to pervade the gay scene; and the gay scene, after such a long, dark period of uncertainty and unrest, embraced it with welcoming arms.

But it wasn't all good news. A chapter in the story of HIV and AIDS was coming to an end, but another was about to begin. Many people were responding well to the antiretrovirals; others weren't so lucky. The medication for HIV is highly toxic and when I first took the drug Trizivir it is no exaggeration to say that it almost killed me. For several weeks I felt nauseous and dizzy. I had headaches, diarrhoea and every twenty minutes I was dry retching over the toilet bowl. Every night, as I tried in vain to sleep, beads of hot sweat would trickle down my body, soaking my bedsheets. I'd never felt more ill in my entire life! Finally, one afternoon, I received a telephone call from my consultant at Greenwich Hospital. A recent liver function test had revealed that my ALT levels had shot up to an astronomical 700. The drug was killing me. Slowly, but surely, the drug was destroying my liver; and I had to stop taking the medication immediately.

I now take a combination of Kaletra and tenofovir. It's been kinder to my liver, but although my viral load has dropped to an undetectable level, even after ten years of taking this medication my CD4 count rarely rises above 300. In other words, it looks as if my immune system has been permanently damaged by the virus. There are also many side effects of this medication: chronic diarrhoea, muscle pain, high cholesterol levels, extreme fatigue, nausea, to name but a very few. These are manageable, of course, with a good diet and a cupboard full of medicines. But it isn't easy living with these side effects on a day-to-day basis. I also take the drug venlaflaxine to help me cope with my bouts of serious depression and my debilitating anxiety disorder. These attacks still occur every now and then, despite the medication.

Friends of mine, who are taking other anti-HIV medications, are still suffering from the side effects many years later: facial wasting, swollen bellies, cardiovascular problems and neuropahy. And heaven only knows what the long-term side effects of this aggressive medication are going to be.

There has also been another - and perhaps more alarming - side effect since the arrival of the antiretrovirals. As mortality rates have dropped, so too has the fear factor for those uninfected by the virus. A strange complacency and apathy towards HIV and safe sex seems to have wormed its wicked way onto the current gay scene. Over the last few years the number of gay men catching the virus has more than doubled. Recently the THT reported that there had been more new infections than at any other point in the history of the epidemic. Not only do I find this news very alarming, but I also find it deeply disturbing and very shocking. What the hell is going on?

I have deliberately distanced myself from the commercial gay scene over the last few years, so I'm probably not in a position to comment. I gave up drink and recreational drugs a long time ago, and now pursue a quiet, almost hermit-like, lifestyle. I've written and I am currently illustrating a fantasy children's novel, which takes up most of my time; and probably keeps me out of mischief. My two cats, Ziggy and Morrissey, keep me company.

But in the light of recent statistics, the story of HIV and AIDS is far from over; and HIV is beginning to rear its ugly head once more. Although many battles have been won and many lives have been saved, the War on AIDS is far from over. And you can bet your lives there will be many more casualties to come.

Andrew Hitchen

Many thanks to journalist and novelist, Paul Burston, for inspiring me to write this personal account.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Alley Cats Illustration by Andrew Hitchen

For someone who is so obsessed with our furry feline friends, it's curious that cats don't feature more in my illustrations and artwork. But here is a black and white pen and ink drawing I completed quite recently.
Cats have become a major part of my life over the last twenty years. In my neighbourhood in South London I have become quite notorious for rescuing strays and injured cats.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Frog Shower Illustration by Andrew Hitchen

This is another experiment using my original artwork and then manipulating it in Photoshop. The sky was done with soft green pastels, with a touch of yellow. The figure of the man holding an umbrella, the falling frogs and the houses in the background were all done with pen and coloured inks. The different pieces of artwork were scanned and then cobbled together in Photoshop. For the reflections, I simply flipped and inverted the images and then used the opacity control. The rippled water was from a photograph which I saturated with green to reflect the colour of the sky.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Cocoon Illustration by Andrew Hitchen

There was a rustling noise, like the sound of dead leaves crackling along the ground, followed by a grotesque gurgling sound. Above them, the glittery sides of the enormous cocoon began to crease and crumple and swell. Silvery strands of silk were snapping and falling apart.
'Billy,' Abigail said, and she was squeezing his hand so tightly Billy thought his fingers would break. 'I don't like this. I don't like this at all!'
Something was moving inside the cocoon, wriggling and twitching in the last few stages of its metamorphosis. Through the thick, translucent folds of silk, a face was slowly materialising - a man's face, unformed and unfinished, with spidery, red veins creeping across the pale flesh like the tiny hairline cracks in a broken vase.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Springtime by Andrew Hitchen

A Mother's day card I designed. The trees and the sunlight were painted with coloured inks and watercolours. The rays of sunlight were soft yellow and green pastels smudged across the drawing. This was then manilpulated in Photoshop.

My Mum absolutely loved this! She often complains that the bulk of my artwork is quite dark and sinister, so I made an effort and produced something quite pretty for a change.

This was heavily influenced by Claude Monet's 'Le Jardin A Giverny', a print of which I keep on my bedroom wall.

Strawberry Fields Illustration by Andrew Hitchen

Getting to grips with digital techniques.

I'm not a huge fan of digital art, but using Photoshop certainly has its uses. This is a rehash of a piece of artwork I completed last year. The psychedelic sky was a section of an abstract piece called Do We Dream In Colour? The texture you can see is actually the texture of the paper I used. The strawberry-coloured hills were made with non-waterproof ink with crystals of rocky salt sprinkled on top, a nifty little technique I learned from Ian Barraclough at the LCC .

The Dream Catcher

The Dream Catcher, a bizarre and rather mysterious character from a novel I am currently working on. Media: pen and ink, soft pastels, crystals of salt, collage and some digital enhancement.