Monday, 19 December 2011

We stood where the two seas meet. . .

Northern-most Denmark, with a Northern-most Dane.

Skagen, Summer 2011

Here I join the other artists - of the surprisingly broad collective known as the Skagen Painters, who worked and caroused in the Northern Danish town of that name in the late 19th century - in a recreation of the local hotel dining room in which they gathered.
I need to work on the beard, obviously.

Photo © 2011 Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck

Bob & Mike

Elsewhere, in my 20th 'bio auto graphic' edition, the Great Bob (Bob Cobbing 1920 – 2002) and I look down upon the shennanigans within the bookartbookshop. . .

On a cold Friday lunchtime on Pitfield Street I did this.

Newer works - late 2011 Number 2: ENSIXTEEN EDITIONS NUMBER 20

The inestimable Tanya Peixoto released a call-out to book arts types recently - to create a new edition in celebration of the tenth year of thebookartbookshop (that's the name of her domain, to be found at Number 17, Pitfield Street, London N1).
As part of this I have created my 20th edition in my 'bio auto graphic' series: 'the power of ten'.

The Creative Circuit?


In 28th October 2005 Mette and I were fortunate to travel on the old Routemaster Number 38 - the final evening that it ran.
Better than that, for the occasion many of the older buses were out of the garage and running one last time. Ours was circa 1960s, I'd say.
The strangeness, the cultural memory of the dimmer upstairs lights, chair fabrics and handrails – all pleasurable details.
The once-mundane made exotic.
The ticket collectors were all in melancholy/jolly mood and issuing tickets for free.
Then came the Day of the Dumb; the 'bendybuses' – their farting and whinnying noises cutting through the dead of night near my flat. Years later - having facilitated millions of pounds of lost revenue in dodged fares - these red white elephants are gone and the 38 route will be the first to usher in Boris Johnson's latest woozy, post-lunch nap dream of London travel: the Routemaster Hybrid.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Me & my Nan Number 2: Spring to Summer in the 1960s

Me & my Nan Number 1: Winter in the 1960s

Newer works - late 2011 Number 1: Craft/Art

I have been working with noted designer/typographer and letterpress guru David Jury, as we plan a joint venture in 2012; an edition merging both our – very different – working methodologies and styles.
It's particularly exciting for me because David's relish of traditional print process and quality materials is a world away from what I myself exploit for my editions to date.
The piece will derive imagery and thinking from debates on what divides art from craft, and where qualities of one cross over into the other.

Her are a couple of my developmental rough sketches; ideas made into lines of ink that have then been scanned and made into pixels.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The More Things Change, The More. . . etc.

I have been scanning in a box of old colour slides that no-one in the family's seen for a few decades.

Here I am in one of these, whiling away my day in the garden of my Nan's house in the mid-1960s – and, in an image from Mette and I's trip to distant Skagen in late Summer 2011, doing much the same in the garden of our hotel.

Time's wing-ed chariot has run over me with around 45 years of wear and tear in the meantime, obviously.

Recent shot © 2011 Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ye Olde Gentlemen of Anciente Provenance

An image here showing that, occasionally, good things come from bad: a rare chance for the three ex-flatmates from 41, Queens Drive, London N4 - back when we were all at St. Martins School of Art and meat was cheap as they say – to reconvene.
They called it the 1980s, I've heard.
The sadness was that it was for the funeral service of another old, dear friend, Vicky Andrew.
To the left - yours truly. In the middle – Phil Baines (who I first met back on our Foundation Course in 1981 Carlisle, and is now a renowned typographic guru and indeed Professor of same in the Brave New World of CSM @ King's Cross). To the right – Andy Altmann (the man who I met on my arrival day at Ralph West Halls of Residence, Battersea in 1982 as we began to prepare for our degree the following Monday – we soon discovered we were born on the same day back in 1962, and have remained soul brothers ever since – he being a founding partner of Why Not Associates).

The roads we have travelled since have taken us very far and back again, and – while Life gets no less complicated and no less sad – it was good to be together once more.
The grinning presence in the background is Richard 'Dickie' Doust, our old tutor in those pre-historic days (who looks absolutely no bloody different 26 years later – extraordinary).

Photo © 2011 Catherine Caldwell, also of the parish of St. Martins, circa 1983 - 6, for which thanks.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Ensixteen Image [&] Narrative

Here's the opening page from my visual essay – 'Time and Relative Dimensions In Storytelling' – (did you see what I did there?) as included in the new issue of 'image [&] narrative' (see, an online academic online journal based in the Netherlands (it's part of the Open Humanities press).
Their remit is to cover 'visual narratology and word and image studies in the broadest sense'.

Guest editors of the issue (Vol 12, No 4 - ISSN 1780-678X) are Manchester-based artist/academics Carson & Miller, who hosted the 2010 Manchester Metropolitan University conference 'The Story of Things: reading narrative in the visual' at which I delivered the original paper on which this essay is based.
All articles are free to download as PDFs but my pages are also to be included in an upcoming 2012 edition. As usual you can click on any images here and they will enlarge for your reading pleasure.


Thanks to London-based arts journalist Ros Ormiston – who I met originally at the September London Art Books Fair at The Whitechapel Gallery – for conducting an e-interview which has now seen the light of the pixelled day as part of the December issue of 'Cassone' (The International Online Magazine of Art and Books).
It's a subscription publication, but good to get the message of Ensixteen out there that bit further. Thanks, Ros.

Photo of yours truly at Smith College, Massachusetts © 2010 Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck

Saturday, 3 December 2011

She's back

The intensity that is Sarah Lund, on the trail of another killer.
BBC 4 or - of course - the treasured iPlayer.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


I have contributed a series of images for a new website by that very nice man, Mark Bedford (thinker, bass player of legendary Madness pedigree and neighbour in leafy Stoke Newington).
You can find it at
Mark has begun to unpack his junk - and there are many gems to listen to, read and look at.
All in all, a pleasant new byway of this virtual world to while away your time.

Should you have strayed this way from that very site via the link - welcome.

Take a look around. . . this is my junk and you're also welcome to it.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Winter's imprint/entropy dancing

Unlike the hardy stone of my Summer scans, this sums up the sense of delicate decay afoot;
the shift in colour, the coming apart of things.
Entirely natural of course – the waltz repeated, season on season.
Click on the image to see a greater detail – I think it's beautiful.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A seed awaits. . .

A fragment of the subtle Winter landscape of Stoke Newington, London N16, as discovered by Mette. A delicate masterpiece. Much like the lady herself.

Then let not winter's ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer ere thou be distilled.

From Sonnet Six
By William Shakespeare

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Small Publishers Fair 2011 - the tenth, in fact

Mette and I will be at the Small Publishers Fair 11th and 12th November.
Please do drop by should you be in the neighbourhood.

Lots of info at

It's their tenth year and a great chance to see (and buy) all manner of fascinating work in the broad range of book arts, self-publishing, experimental writing, spoken word and other forms of creative endeavour. And meet the people who make it.

A feast.

Photo © 2009 RGAP

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Remembered my Dad had mentioned seeing a 'strange car with some sort of camera on a stick on top of it' near the Nicholson Family Seat a couple of years ago. Found this on Googlemap. . .

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Here is the page from my 2006 edition 'Lettering From America Pt.1' which particularly referenced the events of September 11th, 2001. One of the two editions featured in the Smith College exhibition (see previous post). Click on it for a larger version.
The following is an edit of what I wrote to accompany the exhibition:

If my editions are about anything at all, they are about the way things connect.
I began the strand of personal storytelling I call 'bio auto graphic' with an edition entitled 'Issue Zero' in 2004. Fortuitously, the template was set with this modest trial. I had wanted the whole to be flexible enough to embrace shifting senses of memory and location, themes both grand and intimate. . .
The largest themes are reflected in the smallest events.
In Issue Zero, for example, I shift from a farcical domestic anecdote to the events of that week in early September, a day that would knock the world to its knees. I used the outline of the towers as a central element in the design.
In Summer 2005 I made a trip to the USA, beginning in New York. . . Events of the full trip would later become the trilogy of issues I called the 'You, Nighted States' sequence (2005 - 6).
I was again able to suggest the spectre of the fallen towers, in a section that referenced our impression of Manhattan going about its business in the shadow of the recent terrorist atrocities on London's public transport system.
Questions of how we live – practically and spiritually – in times of such raw suspicion and fear fuel this page.
As an adoptive Londoner I had seen the aftermath of half a dozen attacks, but this latest had proven particularly unnerving, and I felt it important to visit 'Ground Zero' while in NYC.

Layer upon layer of meaning surround us every day, and we interpret them how we will. This is like as not shaped by our personalities and belief system – and the latter doesn't have to involve a god.

We connect to the world and it connects to us.
In 1987 I had stood at the top of a Twin Tower and looked to the horizon. An abstract thought passed through my mind: 'What will happen if it falls down?"
I never thought it would – but it did.

And we all still live with the impact of that moment.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Making an Exhibition of Myself - nothing new there then.

Just a note to self (after some breathless weeks of too much on and too little time to process it) and others who may be in either Leeds, Yorkshire, Engerland OR Northampton, Massachusetts, USA – to mention I currently have work in two exhibitions.

Yes indeed – I straddle the Atlantic, oh followers. . .

Barbara Blumenthal allowed me the privilege of having two of my 'bio auto graphic' editions included in the 'Remembering 9/11' show at the Smith College Neilson Library, and Rebecca Lowe at the Leeds School of Art Library did similar for their current 'The Paradise of Individuality – Artists' Books and Graphic Design' show.

People like these can be so important to the recognition and ongoing work of a book artist – and I'm certainly indebted to them.
They join my list of heroes alongside Jayne Burgess, Jonathan Carson and Jane Pendlebury at Manchester Metropolitan University, Linda Newington and Catherine Polley at Winchester School of Art, Diane McCourt at University for the Creative Arts, Maria White at Tate Collections, Elizabeth James at V&A National Art Collection, Michael Kasper at Amherst College and the maestro himself, Martin Antonetti (also at the Smith College Rare Book Room).
Sarah Bodman at UWE in Bristol remains superhumanly attuned to the book artist's lot and has always provided inestimable advice and support.

Friends to the cause all, and without whom. . .

Click on these images to see larger versions.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Comedy Carpet – The Early Morning after.

Here are three Friends From Up North.
Far Left is Andy Altmann – ex- St. Martins School of Art colleague, ex-flatmate, designer of the Carpet itself.
In the middle is Michael Cumming – fellow Windermerean, ex- Carlisle Foundation Course colleague, veteran TV comedy director and documentor on film of the Carpet as it has developed.
And me on the Right. I wrote the various comedian biographies and other material for the printed guide to the Carpet as well as the 'Comedians' section of the official Carpet website at

Photo by Mister Altmann.

Comedy Carpet - The Morning of It.

Here I view with undisguised pleasure a drawing wot I did - made granite;
my rendition of the classic Monty Python 'big foot' (with apologies to Terry Gilliam).

Photo by Why Not designer Clayton Welham.

The Blackpool Comedy Carpet Launch: Monday 10th October, 2011

It was one of the weirdest days I can recall - joining my dear pal Andy Altmann (and colleagues from the company he co-founded, Why Not Associates) for the launch of
'The Blackpool Comedy Carpet'.
This huge typographic pavement, heading out to sea from the base of the Tower itself, is very probably the biggest public arts piece since the Angel of the North. Every step underfoot carries catchphrases, sketches, banter and blather from the town's – and our nation's – long history of comedy.

A crowd – defying easy definition – gathered at the Tower for a reception on the appropriately windswept and rainlashed day.
A day when you genuinely needed a laugh, actually.
The Grand Poobah of British Comedy, Ken Dodd, anointed the day with a handy tickling stick and raised an appropriate titter or two.

It's been a long old slog for Andy and his collaborator, artist Gordon Young - pretty much 5 years - but there it finally was.
And, having built it, they certainly came; members of the public, their children and dogs, amassed journalists with dictaphones and cameras. . . All began reading it and enjoying it as soon as they could step onto it.
Laughter and recognition and the rediscovery of the familiar as the brown seas thrashed the Lancashire coast.
I enjoyed long chats with comedienne Hattie Hayridge – currently touring as part of 'Rory Bremner and Friends' – and esteemed comedy biographer Graham McCann, author of books on Eric and Ernie, Frankie Howerd, Dad's Army and Fawlty Towers amongst others.
Splendid folk.

National newspaper coverage began that morning, and local and national TV news caught up as evening fell.
Having relished an increasingly surreal afternoon in the grandeur of the Tower Ballroom – and refreshed ourselves at the hotel beneath the Pleasure Beach roller-coaster – we repaired to the evening celebrations.
The last laughs were had back on the Carpet, beneath the monolithic Tower, in the early hours.
Design meets art meets cultural heritage.
Old friends and new faces – the end of something and the beginning of it, too.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

ENSIXTEEN EDITIONS No.19 – The Physics of Violence

The three consecutive covers here for the latest Ensixteen edition. Click on the images to get a larger version, as ever.
The three-part set goes out – in alternate versions of a very fetching illustrated bellyband – as Ensixteen's 19th release.

Sophie Hallam, a new reader who picked them up at the recent Whitechapel event, emailed me:

"Just read the physics of violence and it made me shiver. Your writing and illustration create a very delicate and extremely powerful experience."

Clearly a woman of great taste.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Messrs. Fowler, Bryant and May

Author Christopher Fowler – amongst a prolific writing career continuing beyond the novel into theatre, interactive media and a marvellously labyrinthine blog ( – has created the splendidly ideosyncratic detective duo of Arthur Bryant and John May.

Determinedly applying old-school sensibilities of 'copper-ing' to the unfolding madness of the 21st century's weirdest criminal cases these two ageless sleuths, colleagues and friends offer a window into the past, present and future of the metropolis.

The books - as does Chris's site – burst with the accumulated detail of London history, human hopes and despairs.

They're a charming, intelligent read.

And funny, too.

Folding back upon myself – flashbacking to my career as an illustrator of other people's words – I asked Christopher if there were any B & M short stories for which I might create new images.

He emailed me a draft of 'Bryant & May in the Soup' – set in the crippling, claustrophobic smogs of 1952.

Here are the results, as concurrently featured on Chris's site.

As usual, click on the images to see them at a larger size.

This is for me like taking down an old and familiar jacket from the peg – revisiting the bold style of my magazine illustration days for the likes of 'Time Out' and the 'Guardian' newspaper.

Same bloke, different line.

'In the Soup' features in his new 'Red Gloves' two - volume short story collection.

His newest novel is just out: "Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood".

It's their ninth outing and I feel you may enjoy it.

Chris duly featured the images at his website after what was an enjoyable launch of the latest book.

What a nice man.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The Sole Proprietor of Ensixteen Editions

A snapshot of the author by M-S D. Ambeck.
An uncharacteristically upbeat pose is struck, as the events of the 3rd Whitechapel London Art Book Fair unfold; such nice people, such stimulating company - so many sales!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Whitechapel 2011

Images here from the ridiculously flexible iPhone 'Apps' of  my dear friend Vicky Fullick, in the bleary aftermath of the 2nd full day at the Whitechapel Gallery event. 
Myself, Mette and Vick repaired to The White Hart pub, of ancient East End provenance, at the close of play that day. Happy memories of a good day, well-spent, and good friends, well-met.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Do join Mette and I if you are in the area. We're at Stand 50 - in the Upper Gallery space.
M x

NEW ENSIXTEEN - 9/11/11: One into three

Images from the thing I have done most  recently here. Click to enlarge them, as ever.

The new book is actually three books - in a set entitled 'The Physics of Violence'

Part one is called 'Cause', Part Two '&' and Part Three 'Effect'.

This is created as part of my signing up to an interesting project called 'An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street' - in memory of a terrorist attack on an ancient street devoted to the trade and appreciation of books in Baghdad, in 2007.

I completed primary work on the edition on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York - which have infiltrated previous books in the 'bio auto graphic' series since 2004.

The new editions consider what exactly drives members of our society to take such irrevocably damaging actions against others.

Who are they, why do they do it, and what are the repercussions for us all?

They will be first exhibited at the 3rd London Art Book Fair - beginning with a Preview night this very evening at The Whitechapel Gallery.


The Special Collection at Winchester School of Art acquired this new piece during the 2nd day of the event, and old friend of Ensixteen Editions Maria White (Chief Cataloguer for Tate Britain) did the same on the final 3rd day..

Summer fragments 2

The Stones of Skagen - walking the blissfully desolate and empty beaches of the Northernmost point of Denmark in late Summer with Mette - the place where the two seas meet (Baltic and North)

Summer fragments 1

The stones of School Knott - a piece picked up on a walk over the local hill, and down past the modest tarn atop it, while back in Windermere. 

This slate was still deliciously warm in the hand as I pocketed it.

You and Your Town?

Discovered this document from another dimension - well, the hopeful, bright new dawn thinking of the post-WW2 British Welfare State - over the Summer break.

Had travelled to my homeland of the Lakes the morning after the third night of rioting and vile looting in London and elsewhere.

The contrast between the future outlined herein - all local libraries, free health care and citizens bound together in the new towns of the new nation - could not have been more acutely felt.

Today we steal trainers and burn properties for the jealous sake of it, irrespective of the endangerment of innocent families in dwellings above the flames.

A notion of a nation - admittedly a rose-tinted one - here that would have looked on aghast at recent events.

Monday, 8 August 2011


At the end of the last couple of years I have created secular cards to send good wishes to friends and acquaintances (see a much earlier post for the last one from late 2010). Here's the first one - and both tip the hat to the late songsmith Ian Dury, naturally.


In these six fragments of the bigger piece you can see me testing possibilities. . . of interesting tensions between the elements of text and image – the relationships between content and empty space – the cropping of larger images – creation of material that teases a reader, rather than just handing over the goods clearly in terms of what links to what in the scheme of things.
Also here, the hand-written text that has remained throughout my editions, and proven popular with readers it seems.
All these factors have been – I'd like to think – refined in the editions I made from 2004 onwards.