Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ambitious Trousers

Assignment 2: AMBITIOUS TROUSERS. That's your title, which does not necessarily have to be in the main text. Exactly 100 words, please.

I could take on the world in those, I thought; the high nipped-in waist; five perfectly-formed red buttons; hip-skimming soft black fabric highlighted with fine red stripes (of the pin variety), each held in line by a very satisfying 2.5” cuff.

I headed straight for the fitting room, imagining a female version of Clark Kent stepping into a phone box, to emerge as … Michelin Man. I had to tackle the buttons – a superhero’s nemesis. Last one…there. Note to self: must not breathe.

“Any good?” enquired the assistant.
“Just right," I said. My face had turned blue.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Assignment 1

Assignment : Seventy-five words exactly. The piece must contain the words 'question', 'library', 'invisible' 'nurse' and 'ambition'. The piece must end with one of these words.

She rarely spoke. Some would question her mental state, but this child was bright and full of ambition. The library was her favourite haunt. She fingered each book, searching for the ideal occupation: dentist, nurse, doctor…SURGEON.

It began with Teddy’s leg. Amputation. The stitches were crude and some stuffing escaped, but with practice…

She progressed from toys to small creatures: a winged mouse. Perfect, she thought, tying off the thread, the seams now almost invisible.

“To be or not to be: that is the quibble”

(Oulipo Compendium. Ed. H Matthews & A Brotchie 2005. P.202)

I am first and foremost an illustrator, and recently completed an MA in Sequential Illustration at the University of Brighton, but during the course I also became interested in writing, and have managed to persuade my ex-tutor and friend to set me a writing task every week, each with a very specific set of rules and constraints.

Oulipo (founded by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais) are a group of writers and mathematicians who have been creating literature using these kinds of techniques since 1960. The name is short for “Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle” or “Workshop of Potential Literature.”

The N+7 method invented by Oulipian Jean Lescure, is a technique whereby each noun is replaced by the seventh noun following it in a dictionary. The result is different each time depending on the choice of dictionary. The following example is given in the Oulipo Compendium (Matthews & Brotchie):

In the behest God created the heckelphone and the easement. And the easement was without format, and void; and darshan was upon the facial of the defeasance. And the spirituousness of God moved upon the facial of the wattles. And God said, Let there be lights: and there was lights. (p.202)

My own assignments will vary in length and difficulty and the aim is not to create a masterpiece, but to make myself really think about the task in hand and to deliberate over each word used as though painting from a very limited palette:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. William Strunk (The Elements of Style. William Strunk JR. and E.B. White 4th ed 2000)

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Little Critters

These little fellas are a selection from a set of miniature paintings that were recently for sale in "io", a gallery in the North Laines in Brighton ( There are still a few available; bugs, bees, butterflies, beetles etc, so do get in touch if you are interested in giving them a good home. Each painting is a signed original, approximately 4cm in size.