Category Archives: mental health

Making art out of art


I love marbling with the kids.

If you’ve ever done it before you’ll know that you can get some really cosmic patterns. You’ll also know that you’ve probably got more leftover samples of the stuff than you can shake a big shaky thing at.

So … what to do with all those cosmic castoffs … I know, let’s make a collage.

Start by cutting out shapes from your marbling masterpiece that you want to use in your composition and glue them onto a piece of paper.

Next, sketch in the rest of the composition. Add a bit of a felt tip outline.

I filled in the background with chalk pastel, but you could easily use felt tip, watercolour paint, pencil crayon or coloured paper.

And there you have it – you’ve made art out of art.

There is one other thing…

And, it’s probably the best bit. But I didn’t realise that until it was too late. Instead of cutting the shapes out of your marbling sample willy-nilly like I did, cut them out in the same position that you’re going to stick them on your paper. That way, when you position them next to each other you get a sort of positive/negative effect.

Hindsight? Serendipity? Whatever.

If you haven’t done marbling before you can use off-cuts of old patterned wallpaper, pictures from magazines or gift wrap paper. Or even paint an abstract background and use that.

It’s one more thing to do until the schools reopen in September!

If you want loads more of art activities to do you can sign up to Arc’s free ‘Keeping us together‘ programme. They email you a different art activity every week. (Arc is a brilliant Arts charity based in Stockport.)

And remember, folks – Art is Medicine*!

*Do not swallow art like medicine. It might kill you.

**I am not a trained physician.

***’Art is medicine’ is only my opinion and not a scientific fact.

****Or, is it?

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The Violence of Silence


This is a new poem I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks. It’s not about Black Lives Matter, but it was inspired by it. Or rather, the silence of the white majority to the unfair and unjust treatment of black people and people of colour. The implicit violence that silence can bring.

That is the only connection – silence. And how crushing it can be.

Please be advised that the following poem contains harrowing themes.

The Violence of Silence.

By David Milligan-Croft.

The smirk,

The eyeroll,

The sigh.

The undoing,

The redoing,

The restacking the dishwasher,

The recapping the toothpaste.

The elbow grease on the bath,

The busying of the dishcloth.

The fingertrail in the dust,

The torment,

The subterfuge,

The game.

The song unplayed on the turntable,

The needle stuck in the groove.

The portrait on the wall,

Staring into an unseeable space.

The spent match.

The sheet music on the stand.

The dried paintbrush.

The gagged canvas.

The unwritten manuscript,

Of characters without a story,

Or Motive.

The spoon in the can.

The creeping mould.

The hungry bottle,

The greedy glass.

The torn betting stub.

The baby shoes in their box.

The unworn party dress.

The deflated balloon.

The candle wax on the cake.

The forlorn swing.

The jury’s gaze.

The unwound watch,

Ticking in your head.

The heaving chest,

The eyes cast down,

Searching the floor for an escape route.

The unanswered call.

The empty wardrobe.

The rosary beads on the dresser.

The bulging suitcase.

The silent doorbell.

The ‘closed’ sign on the shop.

Fallen petals on a florist’s floor.

The midnight car lot.

The despondent moon.

The fallen tree in the forest.

The charred embers.

The ripple without a stone.

The starling without a murmuration.

The stalking wolf.

The disused canal.

The stagnant water.

The ghost of a railway line.

The forbidden tunnel.

Fragments of a life unlived;

Or lived.

Who knows?

Or cares.

The drop of the body,

From the bridge.

Falling

Into the darkness.

Silence.

The stoic rocks.

Then violence.

The relevance of the cello piece? I adore the cello and I thought the subject matter of the poem suited the haunting and melancholy sound. If you are familiar with the lyrics of Chandelier by Sia, you’ll see why I chose it as an accompaniment.

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Parr Excellence.


Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Martin Parr would probably groan in pun-staking agony at that headline.

Oh well, you’re here now.

Martin Parr is one of Britain’s greatest photographers. Actually, make that ‘the World’s’.

He manages to capture the zeitgeist of working-class life in all its gaudy technicolour, wherever he goes. Whether that be Barnsley or Brazil.

He’s known for his satirical and ironic documentary-style images that look at our insatiable rapaciousness for consumerism. That, and people eating chips.

Martin Parr

I’m not here to write his biography, just show you some of his brilliant work. If you’d like to know a bit more about him, his life, his work, his foundation and his legacy, click here. But if you just want to see more photos of people eating chips, scroll down.

Ireland.
USA. Kentucky Derby. 2015.
ITALY. Capri. Marina Piccola. 2014.
Sexy Beast, anyone?
Uruguay.
Barry Island. 1996.
WALES. Glamorgan. Tower Colliery. 1993.
Wales. Tenby. 2018.

If you want to have a look at some of his most recent projects, have a look here. You won’t be disappointed.

GB. England. Kent. Margate. 1986.
GB. England. Bristol. Pride. 2019.

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Now, I am not.


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What with the Coronavirus and all this isolation, it’s given us all a lot of time to think about things. Some positive, some not so much.

I’m not a religious person per se, in that, I don’t subscribe to any particular theism. I guess the closest I would come is Pantheism. Even then, I have my own theories about it. In fact, I wrote my own Creation myth to go with it! (I’ll post that at some point in the future.) Or will I? Because the future doesn’t exist. Or, does it? Is everything predetermined… whoa! You’ve got me off track.

Phew, that was close.

We could’ve been here for hours discussing that particular conundrum.

What I do think about a lot is death. Don’t go! I don’t mean that in a depressing way. More of a philosophical one. What happens when we die? Is there an afterlife? Does such a thing as reincarnation exist?

What’s that got to do with Covid-19?

Well, a lot of people have died from it. And nature seems to be thriving since we’ve isolated ourselves from huge swathes of it. So, what is the point of us? Is there one? Are human beings as insignificant as a dandelion? (Or, significant, if you’re a dandelion.)

I dunno. I don’t have the answers.

What I do know is that human beings are made of energy. We can’t live without it. That’s not my opinion, it’s a scientific fact. Another scientific fact is that energy can never be created nor destroyed. The atoms that created you and I came from the Big Bang. And they will not go anywhere, but back into the universe. That means, the atoms that make up you and I have been pottering about the universe for the past 13.8 billion years! God knows what mine have been up to. It can’t have been good.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the energy that keeps you and me alive maintains its sentience once it leaves our bodies. But it did make me think of a poem.

It’s one I wrote a while ago and came to mind because of what’s going on in the world. How quickly and easily life can be arbitarily snuffed out whilst other life thrives. Perhaps the question is not, does human life have purpose? But, doesn’t all life have purpose?

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Now, I am not.

By David Milligan-Croft

 

I am an electron.

I am an atom.

Now, I am not an atom.

I am a star.

I am a white dwarf.

I am primordial gloop.
Now, I am not.

Now, I am molten lava,
Coursing through the juvenile earth.

Now, I am not.

I am a rock.
Marble, to be specific.

From the cliffs of Massa and Carrara.

Now, I am not a rock.

I am an amoeba.
Now, I am two amoeba.

I am sky.

I am cerulean-blue sky.
I am cloud – I am rain – I am river.
I am
w
a
t
e
r
f
a
l
l,

I am ocean.

I am vapour.

I am a droplet of dew on a monkey puzzle tree.
Now, I am not a droplet of dew on a monkey puzzle tree.

I am a puzzled snow monkey in a hot thermal spring.

I am a tiger.

I – am – a – tiger.

Waiting.

Watching.

Padding.

Creeping, slowly through the long grass.

I see you with your spear.

I. Am. Tiger.

Now, I am not.

I am a slave.
Skin flaking from my red-raw back
Like cherry blossom petals.

Now, I am free.

I think I am a Greek.
Therefore, I am not a Greek.

I am a hoplite.
My dory has shivered,
My hoplon is buckling.
Now, I am not.

I am a foetus.
I hear my mother’s muffled weeping
From somewhere close by.
Now, I am not a foetus.

I am the darkness
That envelops you.

I am a judas.
All that have gone before
And all that will come.

Now, I am a magician.
Now, I am not a magician.
Ta-daaaah!

Now, I’m a daddy!
I cradle your delicate life in my trembling palms.

One day, I will be your father no more,

But, for now,

I am.

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Hands up who’s bored!


Lockdown, quarantine, isolation, call it what you will. A lot of people are at the end of their tethers thinking of things to occupy this abundance of time they suddenly find that they have.

Here’s a little activity for adults and children alike. I stole it from a very talented artist called Jodie Silverman. You can have a look at her amazing work by clicking on her name.

Okey dokey, first off, draw around each of your hands on separate sheets of A4 paper.

Next, on one of the hands, (doesn’t matter which you choose), write all of the things you want to keep in your life. Basically, all of the good things that make you happy.

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On the other hand, write down all of the negative things you want to let go of. Things that get you down. Things that are holding you back.

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Once you’ve filled your hands with positives and negatives, it’s time to start decorating them!

There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Use watercolours, felt tips, acrylics, pastels, collage, whatever you feel comfortable with. And whatever you have lying around the house.

You could do an intricate pattern, something abstract or something more realistic like plants and flowers. Let your emotions about the words on each hand guide what comes out onto the paper.

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And, what’s the point of all of this?

Well, doing any kind of art is relaxing and meditative. It focuses the mind and helps you to stay in the moment.

It’s reflective; by contemplating what makes you happy and what doesn’t, you are taking a conscious, positive step toward leading a more fulfilled life.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be all heavy, philosophical stuff. If you wanted to do it with the kids you could ask them to write down what they like/dislike about homeschooling or lockdown in general.

Who knows, you might learn something about yourselves along the way.

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A Walk Among the Gods.


I’m going through a bit of a Greek mythology phase at the moment. I’m fascinated by the myriad of ‘minor’ deities they have to represent nature – they literally have thousands.

While going for a walk in the woods down by the river, I got to thinking about ancient Greece and – if I were alive back then – how many deities I would be walking amongst.

So I wrote a poem about it.

Hope you like it. Stay safe and well during these turbulent times under lockdown.

naiads greece

A WALK AMONG THE GODS

By David Milligan-Croft.

On my morning walk, the goddess of the forest

Spread her roots before me to form a stairway,

So that I may walk down the steep slope of the valley

To where the river naiads skittered above rocks,

Meandering over Gaea’s flesh toward the open arms of Thalassa.

The sun goddess winked and flickered through the branches,

Scintillating off the peaks of the river’s crown.

The sky goddess held up her sister

Enveloping her in a lustrous, cerulean blue cloak.

The goddess of the wind chastised the reeds on the riverbank,

Tousled the leaves in the trees and held aloft the birds,

Who sang their song to the nymphs and protogenoi,

As automobiles droned in the distance, oblivious to the rapture

Of the forest.

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The Devil makes play for idle hands.


That’d make me the Devil then.

Oh well, I’ve been called worse.

Here’s a fun (yes, fun) writing game for kids and growed ups alike.

First off, draw around your hand.

No, the other one. The one you don’t write with.

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Next, you’re going to write a word in each finger.

  1. Think of an object, (such as a lamp, table, doll, trombone, necklace etc), and write it in your pinky finger. Don’t think too hard about it, whatever pops into your mind.
  2. Think of a colour. Write that in your ring finger.
  3. Name a place. Could be a town, a country or somewhere specific, like a treehouse. Write that in your middle finger. (And, don’t show the middle finger to your parents.)
  4. Think of a shape. (Circle, triangle, hexagon, sphere, etc.) Write that in your index finger.
  5. Finally, think of an emotion. (Happy, content, isolated, frustrated, sad, etc.) Write that in your thumb.

Now for the writing exercise.

Write a paragraph that incorporates all of the words you have written in your digits.

They don’t have to be in the order that you have written them down.

And don’t overthink it. Just let it flow. The sillier and more surreal the better.

Once you’ve finished, read out your five things then read your paragraph.

As you can see in the example above, there are three completely different paragraphs using the same five words.

You might be wondering why there are two hands in the picture above. Well, because you can play it with a family member, (if they are in quarantine with you), or you can just overlap your own hand over your previous drawing and colour in the shapes that overlapping them makes.

So, there you go. That should take up about 15 minutes of their day!

Well, they could use the paragraph as a springboard to a longer piece of prose. Or, like the example, they could do several variants using the same words.

It’s good for creativity, prose, composition, spelling, punctuation, grammar and comprehension. (But don’t tell the kids this, or they won’t want to do it!)

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Unleash your inner Tempest


Addendum.

Unfortunately, the Shakespeare exhibition and all workshops have been cancelled until further notice due to the coronavirus.

Apologies for the inconvenience.

 

Fancy contributing to an exhibition based around Shakespeare’s The Tempest?

I’m facilitating an exhibition for Arc in collaboration with Stockport Libraries as part of Shakespeare Week.

The theme for the exhibition is to bring the great bard’s classic play to life visually.

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Here’s one we prepared earlier…

Who can get involved?

Well, there are two groups of people that can take part – locals, and non-locals.

If you’re local to Stockport, you can come along to one of our group sessions at The Heatons and Brinnington libraries. They are on Tuesday 17th March and Friday 20th March respectively.

There are two sessions at each library. 10.30 am – 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm – 3.30 pm.

You can pop along for one, or both sessions. (There’ll be different activities in the morning and afternoon.) Stay for 10 minutes or two hours.

For non-locals who fancy having a go, simply email me a pdf of your piece (or post it if you have time) and I’ll print it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Vermont or Verona, just pick up your pencils and paintbrushes and wear your heart on your sleeve.

It’s quite simple really. I’m asking people to draw or paint on top of The Tempest text, as in the example above. Artwork can be A5, A4 or A3 portrait or landscape and can be in any medium.

Sometimes called Humuments or Black-out poetry. You can use the text as part of a background, or highlight certain parts of the text to make a completely different piece of prose or poetry, which doesn’t have to relate to The Tempest at all.

See examples above and below.

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The exhibition opens on Saturday 28th March at the Arc Centre Gallery Cafe, Hat Works in Stockport at 11 am – 4 pm.

That doesn’t given you long if you’re not local and would like to submit a piece. We’ll be putting the exhibition together w/c 23rd March, so ideally, we would like email/postal submissions by Saturday 21st March please. I’ll be waiting with baited breath.

Email me at thereisnocavalry@icloud.com for more details or my postal address.

Good luck, the world is your oyster.

 

 

 

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The era-defining legacy of Tish Murtha.


Patricia ‘Tish’ Murtha is another photographer I’ve been wanting to write a post about for quite some time. And, like my previous post about Saul Leiter’s early work in New York, Tish Murtha captured the essence of working class Northern England during the late 70s and 80s under Thatcher.

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Tish Murtha 14/3/1956 – 13/3/2013. © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Unlike Leiter, Murtha’s work focuses predominantly on the socially deprived. One of the reasons I love her work so much is that I can empathise with a lot of the shots. I can see myself in them as a kid growing up in Batley in the 60s and 70s.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Her images also remind me of the early social documentary work of legends like Bill Brandt and Don McCullin. The sort of work we don’t see enough of. That’s because people don’t like to look at it. Because it tells us the truth about the society in which we live.

Local Boys in Bradford 1972

Don McCullin

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Bill Brandt

One of the things a great photographer does is make the viewer ask questions. Like, who are they? What are they doing now? In this case, who started the fire? Did they start it? Why are they unconcerned? What are they looking at?

Tish Murtha doesn’t just capture images of the economically deprived in our society, she captures joy and despair. Fear and determination. Hope and uncertainty. Perhaps most importantly – love and kinship.

 

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Tish Murtha would have been have been 64 next month. Sadly, she died at the tender age of 56 in 2013 of a sudden brain aneurysm.

The legacy of Tish Murtha is carried on by her daughter Ella who has kindly given me permission to publisher her mother’s work, and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

Ella posthumously published collections of her mum’s work in the books Youth Unemployment and Elswick Kids which you can find here.

You can also get exhibition prints here.

I could continue this post with Tish Murtha’s work for as many Google pages there are showing it. But that would leave you with nothing to do. To find out more about her era-defining work – and how she saved the lives of four women through organ donation – why not explore her life and work here.

Happy birthday Tish.

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Happy [insert occaison here] Day


Introducing There Is No Cavalry greeting cards.

Something for every occasion. (Because they’re all blank inside, so you can write what the hell you like.)

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What’s the difference between you and Moon Pig?

Some would say, nothing physically.

Others might say that my greetings cards are that little bit more special because they are uniquely hand painted by moi.

And why are you telling me this?

Because I want to give them to you.

Well, when I say ‘give’, I mean give them to you in exchange for money.

That’s right, it’s your once-in-a-lifetime chance to own one of these rare and original works of art. (Maybe twice-in-a-lifetime if this batch sells well.)

So, what have you got?

I have A5 and A6. Which if you don’t know what size they are, A5 is half the size of A4 and A6 is half the size of A5. A3 is twice the size of A4 and A2 (which is pretty big) is twice the size of A3, but that doesn’t matter, because I don’t have any A3 or A2 cards. That would be ridiculous. (Don’t get me started on A0.)

Yeah, but what are they pictures of? They look a bit funny to me.

That’s because they’re abstract landscapes. At least, that’s what I’m calling them.

I potter about the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales quite a lot and they’re impressions of the shapes, textures, colours and light of the landscape.

Then there are also a couple of Japanese-style watercolours, like this…

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I couldn’t possibly afford a once-in-a-lifetime, unique, hand painted card by David Milligan-Croft, could I?

Probably not.

Hold your horses. Let’s not be too darn hasty there, pardner. How much are these pesky little critters?

Since when did you become a cowboy?

Sorry. How much are they?

That’s better. £3.00 each for the A6 and £4.00 each for the A5.

That’s ludicrous! You’re practically giving away these once-in-a-lifetime, hand painted, unique cards, by soon-to-be-famous artist, David Milligan-Croft for nothing!

I know. I’ve not been well.

Where do I sign?

You don’t. You message me which one/s you want, pay into my paypal.me/dmcroft  account, and I pop them in the post to you. But I’ll need to work out postage first depending on where you live, so don’t put any money in just yet. (Unless you just want to make a huge donation.) I’ve put a postage guide at the bottom of the page, but I don’t imagine it will be more than 1 or 2 pounds.

I couldn’t possibly send this to someone else, it’s too unique!

Stick it in a frame then.

Great idea. What if I want a bigger one? I have a portrait of the ex that I quite like the frame of.

I’ll do you a bespoke one if you like. Just let me know which card you like the style of and the size. Obviously, it won’t be an exact copy, it’ll be…

Unique!

That’s right.

Just scroll down to sample my wares and if you’re interested either message me below or email me at thereisnocavalry@icloud.com for details.

Toodle-pip.

 

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1. Watercolour and inktense, A6.

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2. Watercolour, A6.

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3. Watercolour and inktense, A6.

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4. Watercolour, A6.

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5. Wayercolour & inktense, A6.

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6. Acrylic, A6.

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7. Acrylic, A6.

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8. Inktense, A6.

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9. Watercolour, A6.

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10. Watercolour & inktense, A6.

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11. Watercolour & inktense, A5.

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12. Watercolour & inktense, A5.

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13. Watercolour, A5.

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14. Watercolour, A5.

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15. Watercolour, A5.

This last one is slightly different as it’s an A5 black and white print, so I can do as many as you like. What shall we say for this one? [scratches head] Two quid each. They might be prints, but they’re still unique. 🙂

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16. Black & white print, ink on paper, A5.

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In the not too distant future I’m going to be doing a series of landscape photography postcards of my meanderings around the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales.

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