This afternoon I was looking for a number. An hour or so, forgotten scraps of paper with strangers numbers, business cards handed to me, stuffed in a drawer full of pills, old spectacles. Polish bank notes, a key ring from Oporto, ticket stubs, football matches, an opera. Restaurant and post office receipts from 2008. History. Couldn't find a surname, found an email printout from December 2006. Two shocking emails from writer Jan Needle. Nudged me off the rung. Two hours of sliding down the ladder. That week, I gave a talk about the drawing of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame at Kingston University. That night I delivered probably one of the most excruciating talks delivered by my egocentric self. Anyway that's a footnote. The following morning after my 'triumphant' performance and a top seat at the table as a special guest of the publisher, I was treated like a biblical leper at the Walker gates when I went to collect some of my artwork. It was hinted that I had produced something that was not somehow appropriate for a childrens book publisher to be publishing. I was ushered from reception post haste (is that the expression?)down the steps to Vauxhall Walk, musn't taint the teddy bears, musn't contaminate the bunnies. It was only when I returned home and read the second email from Mr. Needle that I fully realised the extent of my sordid work was to have on my career as a picture book illustrator.
I'd forgotten how much I invested in those drawings. And for what? To be dropped by the publisher. Bloody naive fool. The brief asked for forty five hand lettered chapter headings and forty illustrations. I drew something in the region of a hundred and forty illustrations and forty five hand lettered chapter headings. The novel is adult in content. I was serious with intent. Why commission me? They had a choice to edit the work, to leave out the offensive, the graffiti. They chose not to. This afternoon I flicked through the pages with mixed emotions. I like to think I produced some of my best work to decorate Hugo's masterpiece via the Needle and for what. What a waste. The book was so beautifully produced, the best my pencil work has ever been reproduced. Great printing with the silver as a second colour. A fantastic looking book. I'll never better it. It's history. It's done. Use it to ignite the bonfire with.
The offending image: Original.