Monthly Archives: November 2011

Deborah Levy / Dreamers by Ted Hughes.

We didn’t find her – she found us.
She sniffed us out. The Fate she carried
Sniffed us out
And assembled us, inert ingredients
For its experiment. The Fable she carried
Requisitioned you and me and her,
Puppets for its performance.

She fascinated you. Her eyes caressed you,
Melted a weeping glitter at you.
Her German the dark undercurrent
In her Kensington jeweller’s elocution
Was your ancestral Black Forest whisper –
Edged with a greasy, death-camp, soot-softness.
When she suddenly rounded her eyeballs,
Popped them, strangled, she shocked you.
lt was her mock surprise.
But you saw hanged women choke, dumb, through her,
And when she listened, watching you, through smoke,
Her black-ringed grey iris, slightly unnatural,
Was Black Forest wolf, a witch’s daughter
out of Grimm.

Warily you cultivated her,

Her jewishness, her many-blooded beauty,

As if your dream of your dream-self stood there,
A glittering blackness, Europe’s mystical jewel.
A creature from beyond the fringe of your desk-lamp.
Who was this Lilith of abortions
Touching the hair of your children
With tiger-painted nails?

Her speech Harrods, Hitlers mutilations
Kept you company, weeding the onions.
An ex-Nazi Youth Sabra. Her father
Doctor to the Bolshoi Ballet.

She was helpless too.
None of us could wake up.
Nightmare looked out at the poppies.
She sat there, in her soot-wet mascara,
In flame-orange silks, in gold bracelets,
Slightly filthy with erotic mystery –
A German
Russian Israeli with the gaze of a demon
Between curtains of black Mongolian hair.

After a single night under our roof
She told her dream. A giant fish, a pike
Had a globed, golden eye, and in that eye
A throbbing suman foetus –
You were astonished, maybe envious.

I refused to interpret. I saw
The dreamer in her
Had fallen in love with me and she did not know it.

That moment the dreamer in me
Fell in love with her, and I knew it.

Two intensive days working with Deborah Levy produced some really arresting imagery. We looked at Silvia Plath and Ted Hughes, in particular Ted Hughes’ poem dreamers. I really like the way Deborah works when looking at a subject. First the group collects as much information about the chosen subject as possible, following every possible thread.  Then we split into smaller groups and discussed our initial reactions.  Then we chose 5 words that had become important for us and we developed pictures and/or words based around these 5 starting points.

My words.

Oven – black, doors, soot, death camp.

Mirror – she fascinated you. You caressed her.

Doors – giant steel doors shutting down and leaving me less.

Gagged – caged, gagged and populated by the deceased.

Onions – weeding the onions. Making you cry.



Catch up..

Its been a very busy period for me in the last 2 weeks, so busy I havent had a chance to pay attention to my blog. I had a tutorial with Mat where I raised my concerns about not really having a large project to get going with. I feel that i’m doing lots of work but it is currently centred around lots of small things. He reassured me and we had an in depth analysis of my practice which helped me refocus on the core elements of this unit for me -humour and absurdity.

I have been in contact with Zoe Mogridge in regard to getting a funded placement in cornwall. We discussed possibly working with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust or This Is Cornwall magazine. I’m awaiting Zoe to get back to me. I have made an animal specific blog for the wildlife trust to look at in case they are interested, we floated the idea of making some simple pop up cards or books for their shop. animal blog

I’ve set up the 2011-2012 Authorial Illustration blog . The collaborative project ‘Ways to hide a Rag Fief’ is now up and a few of my classmates have added their details. I expect more will follow – it wasnt until the end of last year that I got everyones details on the last one.

I have also done a two day workshop with Deborah Levy including a lecture and a book reading which was excellent as well as an etching induction both of which I shall write about in more depth in separate posts. Oh and I’ve been working on a collaborative project with some writers and illustrators for a Christmas story project. Im currently at the final stage with just some minor alterations (after consulting with the writer of my story -Daniel Oparison) to go but Im very happy with how it’s going. I don’t want to post it b4 it’s finished but here’s a bit of a taster…

Tom Veatch – Humor is Affective Absurdity.













Tom Veatch’s interesting paper on a theory of humour proposes that humorous situations arise when an event/situation is simultaneously perceived as normal (N) and as a violation (V) of some affective commitment of the perceiver to the way something in the situation should be. If one of these factors three factors is not present then humour will not arise. I have tried to illustrate this with the above venn diagram.

Veatch discusses morals and how everybody has a different moral code that will affect their interpretation of different situations. Moral codes vary from person to person, from country to country, from generation to generation and change dramatically throughout a persons lifetime. For the purposes of his theory Veatch describes morals as a persons interpretation of ‘what should be’ . 

The capacity for humour in a situation depends on how strongly a person feels about the violation of their moral principle. If the size of the violation (V) is proportionally far greater than the perception of normality (N) then it is likely to be perceived as not humorous but threatening or offensive.

If however the person feels much less strongly about the perceived violation then it may be interpreted as non – humorous.

Veatch makes the following predictions ( )

In the following predictions, X, Y, and Z, may refer to different individuals, or to the same individual at different times.

Prediction 1: If X finds a situation funny where some principle is violated, and Y instead finds it to be offensive, frightening, or threatening, then we should find that Y is more attached to the principle violated than X, not vice versa.

Prediction 2: If on the other hand, some perceiver Z finds the aforementioned situation unremarkable, then we should find that Z has no personal moral attachment to principles violated; we should not find, for example, that Z is more attached to them than the X is who finds it funny.

Detachment from a violation is another factor that will affect how funny a situation may be perceived.

‘Because of the general fact that a violation that happens to others is not felt as strongly as a violation that happens to oneself, the interpretation is frequently shifted from one of threat or offense (where V predominates) to one of humor (where N predominates), when the object of the violation is another rather than oneself.’

Or as Mel Brooks put it “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall down a manhole and die.”

Also there is a temporal element, for instance an embarrassing or painful event may not seem funny immediately but as time passes it may be possible to see the humour. Veatch argues that this is not necessarily because of a diminishing in moral belief but rather that the person is ‘less emotionally involved in the particular instance of violating the principles. ‘

‘It should be pointed out that a strong V interpretation may be matched by a strongly motivated N interpretation, so that even something quite offensive or threatening can be made to seem funny, if, for example, a joke is told well enough, or is told by someone felt to be “safe”. This suggests that it is the relative strength of the V and N interpretations that is crucial, rather than solely the strength of the V interpretation by itself.’

The intensity of a joke may be magnified if any of the components that make it up are increased. For example if there are more perceived violations or the principle violated is extremely relevant than the joke may be considered more funny. Or if the sense of normality is particularly relevant or gratifying then the same effect may apply.

Veatch argues that humour can have both positive and negative psychological effects. By making a perceived violation ‘normal’ the attachment to the violated principle may be lessened but this may also work the other way around – if a normal situation is violated or it is perceived that the normal situation is being laughed at then it may become offensive.

Order. Veatch suggests that most jokes follow an order of N + V, where a normal situation is revealed that the punchline violates.  Although  humorous situations may arise in either order N+V or V+N. If I go back to the ‘I keep thinking it Tuesday’ joke that I described in a previous post then it would appear to be V+N, a unusual and exotic scene is set (the swamp, hippopotami) then the punchline is so very normal that humour arises.

Relief laughter occurs when something bad is presented (V) followed by something that is perceived as good (V+N). Likewise when we are suddenly presented by bad news there may be a moment of laughter through disbelief (N+V) before belief fastens and all humour is lost (V).

Veatch uses this joke as an example of V+N

Jesus, on the cross, gasps weakly, “Peter, Peter, come here.” Peter puts up a ladder, climbs up, leans his ear close by. Jesus speaks: “Peter, I can see your house from here.”

This joke follows a very similar pattern to the ‘tuesday’ joke although the situation is more of a moral violation. Jesus dying on a cross is a violent and moralistic violation on many levels but the punchline that follows is equally mundane. This joke should work better if the levels of each element are increased without one becoming proportionally much bigger than the other. So by making the set up as elaborately strange or different from the norm (which must be as mundane as possible) gives the joke the best chance of succeeding. However with the jesus joke there would appear to be a large risk that the content would soon become too much of a violation and the joke would become offensive.


A Theory of Humor

Thomas C. Veatch

Humor, the International Journal of Humor Research, May, 1998, copyright Walter de Gruyter


Giraffe Zine Picture.

My picture for the Giraffe publication is a version of the 3D cinema image that I found previously. I have turned the audience into animals, all of which are drawings from one particular animal book (i will find its title later- but its an old animal encyclopedia). I like the idea of taking images from one place and putting them into another picture. I haven’t as yet decided whether to add 3d glasses or not, I shall try it out and see how it looks.

I think the glasses work very well! They create a much better range of tone from black to pure white. They also make the giraffe more significant and the image becomes instantly understandable.

Giraffe zine

As a collaborative course project we are designing a black and white publication where the artists taking part must each draw an enviroment and place in it a giraffe. I think the idea is a kind of ‘Where’s Wally’ but with many different interpretations. I found this image by Bron Smith, It even has a hidden giraffe. (

So I think a crowd scene would work well for this project. My first thought was a video arcade, ‘high score’ – because of the giraffe.. But then i started looking at images of crowds and i found some great images of cinema audiences with 3d glasses on, I thought of this because no one would want to sit behind a giraffe at the cinema. Anne Breathwicks painting captures the idea, lots of scope for a black and white image with the glasses and the suits and ties. I also found this photograph which was obviously used as a major source of reference.