Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Sweet dreams in Nightmare Hall Part 1

So.....sometimes we like to do things just for fun. Like paint a picture, take some photos or make a video. And it's even more fun when you can combine all three...which is exactly what we did with Sweet Dreams in Nightmare Hall. I enjoy a good challenge and painting large-scales paintings like this is a challenge for me, not having had the opportunity to do it very often.

Sweet Dreams is a collaborative project between myself,  videographer Laura Henry and photographer Karla da Silva. In its most simple terms, the filming documents the creation of a wall painting over 6 hours....but we added our own little quirks along the way and the video should end up a wee work of art in itself. The beautiful photographs Karla captured along the way give a hint into the process with portraits of myself and Laura thrown in there for good measure.

We filmed in the ominously named 'Nightmare Hall', home of music duo and couple Lupen Crook and Willow Vincent who kindly let us in for a day to run riot.

I'm still new to this large-scale painting on walls malarkey and I learn so much each time. I think the most challenging aspect is the time constraints. Decisions have to be made quickly as we are filming in natural light and light tends to change quite rapidly across the course of an afternoon. Also, it helps massively when it comes to the editing! The face-paint worked with the vibe and the theme we were going for....and I love any excuse to bring it out. Back in the day I used to masquerade as a clown called Trixie (very popular in the age-group 5 to 12 I'll have you know) and she creeps back out every now and again...albeit slightly more dishevelled and maladjusted each time. Must be an age thing.

Anyway, it was a fun day and I'm happy with the painting...I like to think of it as a little bit of magic in a gritty corner of East London and I'm ready to do more.

I'll check in again when we publish the video.


Photo by Karla da Silva

Photo by Karla da Silva

Photo by Karla da Silva

Photo by Karla da Silva

Photo by Karla da Silva

Photo by Karla da Silva

Photo by Karla da Silva

Monday, 18 April 2016

Happy Birthday Alex!

Altogether now......"Haaaaappy Biiiiiirthday Alex!"

My lovely pal and singer of my band 'The Great Malarkey' turned the grand old age of (?) yesterday (of course I'm not going to give her age away here.....not that I think she cares to be honest and she's still younger than me anyway!)

This is her dog Buttons who is a wealth of inspiration and cuteness....and who fell asleep on a Doc Marten boot one day. 

Saturday, 19 March 2016


Recently my band embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the the recording of our second album. It's a bit of a beast this music business, eating cash up left, right and centre between recording, mixing, mastering, pressing, distribution and promotion so I am VERY pleased to say we not only reached our target of £5000, but we blew it out of the water and raised over £6500 altogether! We couldn't have done it without the support of our friends and fans and for that I am incredibly grateful.

One of the factors to be considered when making an album is the artwork that will represent it, both digitally and on the physical product of a CD or vinyl record. I know some will argue against but I believe it to be a crucial element sitting right up there with the music itself. The art sits parallel to the music and speaks bucketloads about the band or musician's particular vision and style. The artwork is usually the first thing to be released....even before the fans get to hear a single lyric and then it becomes forever part of that subculture zeitgeist.  Right or wrong, I can't help but judge a band if I find their cover art dull and uninteresting!

We haven't decided yet on what the artwork will be for our forthcoming album or who is going to do it but it did get me thinking about the other album covers my own art has adorned over the last few years and I've chosen 3 of them to show here with a short paragraph about each. (They all have a wee story to tell!) Two of them are the covers in full, with text and any other adjustments that have been added after I handed over the drawings but I don't have the names to hand of who did the graphic design I'm afraid so my apologies for that. In no particular order:

The Peckham Cowboys: "Resplendent in alcohol and sleaze before being dipped in the grimy and grubby underbelly of Mick Jagger's underwear, enter the saloon of your choice a new band crawling out from the London smog"....as described by MetalTalk.

The illustration was based around a photo taken of Mark and Dale after a gig (I don't know who the photographer was) and the rest of the drawn carnage was added in later. I think it's pretty representative of the band's shambolic nature and really fun to draw

I was contacted by Foy Vance's management company about the bull painting which they had seen online and thought would fit perfectly with the theme of the album. The bull was actually part of a series of 4 which I had already exhibited a year previously but I was subsequently commissioned by the company to paint a deer and a highland cow with the same approach and these were to go on the inlay of the album. Foy was recording the music in the Scottish countryside and the animals reflected this spirit . 'Joy of Nothing' won the Northern Ireland Music Prize for best album.

Of course I had to include my own band's first album! I think we all have a slight obsession with bears, particularly pandas. The concept was to be darkly comedic and represents our 'inner animal'. Incidentally....have you ever noticed that all pandas look like men dressed in panda suits? Ironic.
We received very positive reviews all round for this album, however one disgruntled reporter described the cover as being in 'putrid bad taste'....I was rather impressed with that!

So there you have it. It was a short trip down memory lane for me, and although there are plenty more which may warrant another blog post (and hopefully plenty more to come!), I think that's enough for now.

See you soon


Thursday, 10 March 2016


I was recently commissioned by Will Crewdson (guitarist for The Selecter, Adam and the Ants, producer/songwriter for She Made me Do it) to illustrate the latest album cover for his solo project 'Scant Regard'. The brief was quite specific; the album was to be called 'Brush with Death' and Will wanted something that was darkly comedic....him casually brushing his teeth with the Grim Reaper beside him.

I knew I would have fun drawing this.

Will sent me over a few album covers that he liked the look of, one of which was The Black Crowes' 'Warpaint'. Aesthetically I liked the style of the artwork....black ink on a tan background with white lettering. Simple but effective and similar to what I had in mind anyway. So one sketch later and I'm ready to start the actual drawing. ('Lots of shadowy bits' - I had a giggle when I looked back at the sketch later. JUST in case I wasn't convinced it would be dark enough).

I use my preferred weapon of choice which is pen. I go through so many 0.05 fine liners....I like a nice thin line. Then on grey mount card I start drawing. Sometimes, I trace straight from the sketch or photo as it saves time in scaling up. Some people are purists and don't like this method as they think it's cheating....but I don't care. If it was good enough for Rembrandt, it's good enough for me.

I colour in highlights with white pastel pencil however I find this can blunt my nib if I re-draw with pen on top of the coloured areas so it's not ideal for every drawing. I use white ink or pen at the end to touch up the whitest areas, then I'll get to work on drawing the dark areas. The folds of fabric on death's shroud were particularly satisfying to do. Sometimes at this stage I'll use black ink to paint in the darkest areas, and perhaps (intentionally!) mess it up a little but it didn't feel appropriate somehow for this particular piece.

Here is the finished drawing:

And here is the front cover of the album after Will added the text and colour adjustments:

And moving on from the artwork, the music is great! Check it out for yourself below and nab yourself a copy while you're at it:

Until next time,


Friday, 5 February 2016


Listen to your dreams....they are the very deepest part of your subconscious voice, at last allowed to be heard when the incessant chatter of waking life is silenced with sleep. The message usually isn't clear-cut and I'm not saying you should always take it at face-value, however just....listen and be aware.

I had an abortion. Long enough ago that I can write about it without hurt but recent enough that I can still recall the confusion and pain. Without going into detail, I simply wasn't sure that the decision I was about to make was the right one. The night before the operation I lay awake for hours tossing, turning and sobbing....then finally I slipped into a dream which has haunted me ever since.

I am in a river with a man, he looks to be some sort of Bear-Grylls type; I know him although I don't know how and I believe us to be in a swamp in Louisiana or New Orleans and for some reason (who knows the logic of dreams!) we are trying to find our way home to Ireland via these waterways. We are waist-deep in water  and wading slowly but steadily along until eventually we come to a bend in the river and I look up to see a giant tapered tail just ahead. This giant tail is attached to a giant resting crocodile, facing away and ignoring us.

I am terrified and can't move. 

"Don't be afraid" says my friend. "Keep moving, he won't touch you."

"I can't!"

"Yes you can. Just don't look at him and move forward."

"No no no I'm scared"

"Look I will distract him and you keep going. Seriously this is nothing to worry about."

"No. It's not going to happen."

This back and forth continues a little while longer until finally frustrated, my friend turns to me, looks me in the eye and says,

"But haven't you seen what has been swimming alongside us this whole time?"

Almost paralysed with fear I shake my head and slowly look down into the water in which my lower half is submerged. Through the murkiness I can see shapes. I look closer and to my horror I realise there are hundreds of smaller crocodiles propelling themselves along, past my body, twisting and weaving amongst one another. I look up to see my friend smiling kindly at me.

"You weren't afraid before" he said, "because you didn't even know they were there."

The crocodile is the first day sign in the Mayan calendar. It symbolises many things, least of all primal instincts and the maternal need to protect. As water is so closely associated with the crocodile, it is interesting to note that this also represents the birth process and motherhood. Subliminal messaging at it's finest right? Is the body trying to tell the mind something? Who knows? It's fascinating to delve into though and incidentally when I calculated my birthdate and hour, it turns out my Mayan Day Sign is in fact the crocodile.

Just for fun, try calculating your own Mayan Day Sign here:


And just for the record, I also believe my decision was the right one.

Crocodile kisses,



Monday, 1 February 2016


So it just dawned on me recently that even though my blog is called Rhythm and Art, which encompasses my two life passions - drawing and drumming, I've never actually posted anything about my band. Today I'm going to change that and write a brief post about my touring experience in Denmark.

Why Denmark? Well I'm here at the moment on tour with my band The Great Malarkey so it's a perfect place to start. We also have a day off and everyone has taken a jaunt to the nearest town Svendborg so I'm taking advantage of the quiet time to catch up on some artwork and blogging. I always bring my sketchbook with me and besides which I really don't want to take 10 days away from the drawing board!

Tour Dates

One question we get asked a lot is 'why do we play so much in Denmark and not in the UK' and there are two simple answers to that....

  • We actually get paid over here and can thus afford rehearsals, equipment, studio time and the means to front money for flights to play in other countries, as well as payment for each band member. If you take into account that we are a 7-piece, it can get spread pretty thinly!
  • People are happy to see us and the fans are loyal. WE LOVE THEM!

Of course we love our fans in the UK and everywhere else we have played too and would absolutely love to be able to play more for them but it just simply isn't financially viable a lot of the time to tour, even with the tightest of budgets. Isn't it sad that money can be so influential on the direction in which your passion flows?

Hanging out with a fan at Tønder Festival

SO, we come over several times a year and have apparently now grabbed the title of 'festival darlings' (yes really!) from Tønder, an amazing folk festival in the South of Denmark where we have played at twice, gotten National radio airplay, TV and radio interviews and just generally great gigs all round. We have a Danish tour manager called Brian who has been absolutely instrumental in all this and who we randomly met about 3 years ago when he visited London to watch his favourite football team (Ipswich) play on home turf. He popped into the 12 Bar where we happened to be playing that night and in his own words was 'blown away'. Incidentally, the old 12 Bar was on Denmark Street. Fate anyone?


What's so great about the system over here is that the government subsidises (most) music venues with grants each year so that they can properly pay the musicians playing there, like one would expect with any business transaction. Sadly this is the exception, not the rule for most touring bands. Treating your art as business apparently somehow sullies the whole vision...I mean, to have the time of your life doing what you're good at, spread some joy AND get paid for it? Shocking! But please remember that most of us didn't just pick up our instrument 6 months ago and magically manifest the ability to play, write songs and create on the spot. It takes a LOT of practice and dedication and it still saddens me how often this gets overlooked, even by those in the industry!

The tour we are currently on is going to help pay for our new album being recorded in the spring/summer as well as the PR, radio plugging and marketing to go along with it. We are super excited about it and our intention is to tour it as much as we can both in Denmark, the UK and elsewhere in Europe so keep your ears and eyes peeled. You're in for a treat!

Halloween fun

Just for fits and giggles, and while I'm here, a few other observations about Denmark:

  • When you are visiting another country I think it is simple common courtesy to learn at least a few words in the native language....even if it's just 'please', 'thank you' and 'hello'. It is genuinely appreciated and shows you've made even a small effort to learn something about the culture. Danish? Don't bother. Seriously it's IMPOSSIBLE. I've been here so many times and I've done those 6 week online courses, asked Brian's kids to teach me, downloaded an app on my phone and I still can't utter one legible sentence.  So, just don't try. Nah.....only kidding. Give it a go, I'd love to see a video of your efforts! 
  • My experiences and interactions with Danish people have been nothing but positive and pleasant. They are very direct and to-the-point which, to the British uber-polite/skirt around the issue ears, might come off as rude or abrupt. This really isn't the case, and you'll always know where you stand with a Danish person. 
  • It is a really clean country. No litter on the streets here! 
  • The promoters understand that musicians don't live on fresh air so you will have dinner before you play. This is usually a luxury for bands at our level.
  • There are an abnormal amount of jellyfish in the sea surrounding parts of the Danish coastline at certain times of year. A couple of years ago we experienced this first-hand when Owen and I dived off the pier into a swarm of jellyfish to see what it felt like. That's not as crazy as it sounds, these were the 'nice' jellyfish that don't sting.....it's the big red ones with long tentacles you need to watch out for. We saw one but it was far enough away for me to think I could out-swim it if it decided it fancied Irish stew. And what an experience it was....slimy more than anything really....

So that's it really. I love playing in my band, I love Denmark and long may it continue!

J xx

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


Hi everyone,

So in my time-honoured (well, 3 years) tradition of producing anti-valentines artwork around this time of year, I'm excited to present this year's offering 'Your heart belongs to me Now'.

I think it speaks for itself really.

AND because I am particularly feeling the love this year, I'm giving a 10% discount when this and last year's drawing 'But I Love you so much I want to....' (pictured below) are purchased together.

Here is the link to my online shop where you can find both prints:




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