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A Child of Our Time / 26 October 2011

pen and ink drawing of admiral's park from the graphic novel justin sane

Admiral's Park - pen and ink drawing from the graphic novel 'Justin Sane' © Charles Devus

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I suppose I owe a lot to fate. My parents were both artists. My mother was abusive and my father ran away in a cloud of vainglorious egomania. I learned a lot about Wagner, Nietzche and Platonic dialogue and how to fear childhood. It was easier to dream of growing up for then I could fulfill my father’s brief to be an artistic genius. Not too much of a genius mind you, but just enough of one to realise and appreciate my father’s godhead.

In short I was raised to be the tortured artist and it is a rule I have attained on realising, that it is merely the template set for me. The irony is that the only way I can escape it and all its ramifications is to live it until the role has no meaning. The battle for myself is to be fought against myself and the field is to be the myriad of uncompleted projects that hold the key to the gently rotting past.

The Uncompleted
There is a lot to do; mainly written projects. But one that seems to have caught the popular imagination - least ways among those I have shown it to - is an on-going graphic novel called Justin Sane. He is a detective in the, (to me), un-fictional city of Rowfontine.

I had always wanted to do a graphic novel since reading Herge’s Tintin books as a child. The irony is that despite all my father’s grandiose lectures on art history it was my mother's influence, primarily, that I drew encouragement from. Since 1992 I have filled notebooks with abstract pictures and little characters who seemed to attach themselves to stories connected with Justin Sane. Tintin seems to have inherited the role of father of Justin Sane.

Mars Ascending
During the scorching summer of 2003 I became homeless and ended up living in the YMCA in Brighton. That October, with Mars looming ominously in the Western sky, I filled a little blue notebook with several hundred characters and vehicles. It was feverish and they would not stop coming. The following summer I did a children’s picture book illustration course and was able to storyboard the idea into some form of structure. However I was given the Marlborough Theatre to play with in the autumn, which was such a wonderful opportunity that I couldn’t let it pass.

In January 2007, after returning from Tunisia, I answered an ad from someone wanting designs for T-shirts. I sweated blood on a little drawing of the Justin Sane character, his little son Cedric and his two friends Thing-Thing and Jeremy. It was worth the effort for at last I had the definitive definition of the characters. I made a princely $50.00.

Another little irony was that they could not use the image for technical reasons but they did use another image I supplied called Dogely-Wogely, a little doodle of a dog done in the graphics package in Microsoft Windows Word.

Creative Futures and Disability Arts Online
This year thanks to Simon Powell of Creative Future, who has kindly consented to mentor the project, and to Colin Hambrook of DAO, things are really taking off and I am looking to develop the storyboards into complete scenarios.

I’ve also made contact with Outside In at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester and have been invited to show my work on the November 3. I shall keep you posted on how things work out.