Greek Men and Their Weird Cars No. 2
This is a sketch of my brother Alex in the garage that he owns, which specializes in servicing and repairing French cars. To American readers, that might seem a little strange, but in Europe, even in the UK, it’s a realistic and very viable specialization. It also indulges my brother’s love of France. The whole place is a little shrine to the French motor industry, with memorabilia everywhere. There are old posters of Citroëns, little die-cast metal model Renaults, Peugeots and Citroëns and friendly Michelin Men figurines everywhere. For years, I had old French cars that my bro found for me - especially a beloved 2CV that saw me through some hard times - and I felt a bit disloyal buying a German auto a few years back.
Alex once built a six-wheeled Citroën 2CV, with a back like a pick-up truck. He took it to a motor rally in France where somebody fell in love with it and offered to buy it from him. I was sorry to see it go, as it was quite a car. But he gets bored with them, and sells them on so he can buy and refurbish or customize something new. A couple of years ago, he took time out from his garage to work on Tim Burton’s Willy Wonka movie, putting together a workshop of people to turn some old Russian cars into working props for the film. Each car had to be stripped and rebuilt to the production designer’s briefs so they didn’t look like any recognizable make. My brother loves cars like I love comics.
Greek Men and Their Weird Cars No. 1
So, the car decides to break down in a supermarket car park and I can't find anything wrong with it. While I wait for the repair man to arrive, I do a few sketches to pass the time. I wouldn’t mind so much, but the car was serviced yesterday. This puts me in a poor humor.
What strikes me as I wait is how miserable everyone looks as they come out of the supermarket: hurried, anxious, gloomy and generally not of a sunny disposition (just like me). It’s as if the supermarket has deadened the mood of everyone who passes through its doors. On the evidence of this lot, their bags stuffed with readymeals, buying food with the thought of lovingly preparing the evening’s dinner seems to be a national pastime that’s on the slide. Instead, food shopping has become reduced to a simple act of consumerism, another inconvenience to be busily dealt with as fast as possible.
Eventually, the car repair bloke arrives. I greet him with genuine relief and a bright, friendly smile. I'm soon out of there.
I had the ‘flu and with it came a weird hallucinogenic fever. I have really, really bad nightmares when I’m ill like this and things of deep horror visit me, things that creep up grinning from my lower mind. I made these drawings in the middle of the night after I’d woken from one of these dreams, although they’re not pictures of the things I was dreaming about necessarily. They just recall some of the weird feeling of that nightmare.
I was traveling into town on the District line, trying to work out a scene for the second draft of Laika. It's a scene that I'd been thinking about and thumbnailing various versions of for days and I just couldn't get it right. The dialogue seemed overblown and just, well, wrong, so I thought I'd think about it while on the move. This, in my experience, makes one less creatively constipated because there's just so much to meditate upon and enjoy. The Universe usually presents you with the answer in something that you see. It can be quite accommodating, like that.
But it still wasn't really happening, so I drew the two old ladies sitting opposite. Then I got distracted by a very cute, big black girl who got on wearing a grey and white mohair sweater and matching hat. You can tell I got distracted, because the second granny's face is totally missing apart from her eye sockets. Works rather well though, for some reason.
Shortly thereafter, the dialogue for the scene just cohered. I'm telling you, it was that girl in the mohair jumper that jumpstarted it. The Universe does these things for you, if you let it. The deal is, you have to pass the secret on. So that's what I'm doing.