The Dialectogram was born at the Red Road flats. It’s where I first applied the ideas I had sketched out in a 2008 exhibition to another place – one that was more complex, challenging and back then, unfamiliar. I arrived at Red Road knowing almost nothing, and left a very different person. Since then there have been many dialectograms in Glasgow, Edinburgh – hell, even England.
So it was a bit weird to come back – not physically, as much of the site is now closed off as the slow, complex demolition process does its thing, but in spirit. Just before Christmas, Glasgow Museums asked me to make for them, the ‘lost’ Red Road dialectogram, a piece we’d discussed a couple of years ago, that would provide an overview of the entire scheme and tie together the other four, much more localised images (The Concierge Station, The Nivens from S(i)even, The Mecca Bingo and The Brig). I had to be honest, thought the idea had been forgotten – I’d certainly forged ahead to other things, and leaving aside the odd encounter on the street, the occasional reminscence, or relatively quick revisitations, it had become something of a thing of the past. And then suddenly, I was ‘back there’, listening to old interviews, sketches and photographs, but also poring over material made newly available to me from Glasgow museums through their exhibitions about Red Road.
The result can be seen here (and will soon be on the Dialectogallery) but I wanted to give you a closer peek at two small comic strips that capture the nature of some of this new material. As was always the case with Red Road, that material could be gritty, funny occasionally a bit much – but never cold. I always think of Red Road as a place of warmth – or rather heat, perhaps. Always intense, never dull, interesting in every sense of the word.
So that’s that – the first issue of the ‘Dialectographer’s Bulletin’, a regular, entirely unasked for update on what I’m doing. Over the coming months I’ll be posting comic strips, concept art, sketchbook excerpts and essays on that stuff wot I do (and not just dialectograms – the next post will give you a peek at something entirely different…). This content is free, and I remain committed to providing free content where I can. On this site, for example you can find ‘zoomable’ versions of several dialectograms. Now – not everyone likes that particular format, so I have also released a number of dialectograms through the social media site ISSUU. You can’t get in as close on these as you can in the zoomable, but you can get a better sense of how it looks in totality. There’s a couple of dialectograms not seen on this site as yet, plus comics and articles.
And it’s at this point I’d like to mention Patreon…
The work I do is slow, complex, long in the making – the Piershill dialectogram for example, took about 8 months of research, drawing and consultation to come about. A Showman’s Yard took about 6, and the most recent Red Road dialectogram is arguably, the culmination of about 4 years of work. Project such as The Free Hetherington are still ongoing and may break all records for creative gestation… The difference between the first of these and the other three is that with Piershill, I was fortunate enough to work under the auspices of some project funding, which gave me at least some support while I did it. In the others, this was done on my own time, with some degree of compensation gained from selling the odd print or negotiating a commission fee. However – and here’s where I get to the nitty gritty – the time invested to make these works will always outstrip what even project funding can support.
Now, that’s something I more or less accept – I could have become a greetings-card guy, or learned techniques that weren’t quite so slow and cumbersome. But, I do think there’s worth in what I do (because otherwise, I really wouldn’t do it). And the people I work with seem to agree. The dialectograms I make show places that are often never seen, frequently forgotten but always, to my mind, worth paying attention to. And, in the next months, I’ve got a number of plans for making dialectograms easier to access, view – but also commission. While I will always be looking to form partnerships with commissioners for large-scale projects, there are a number of smaller, non-profit, community grassroots outfits who would love to work with me, but don’t have the resources. Where I do get project support, I would use the additional capacity offered by Patreon to enhance, and extend that work wherever possible, or, take the chance to advance side projects and new ideas. Possibly even stumble across yet another oddball idea that spawns ill-advised neologisms and bad puns.
So I’m giving Patreon a go. For just a small monthly contribution, you could help me keep going – pay my overheads, my bills and improve what I do. The idea is that you make, a small, but ongoing investment in someone whose work you admire. You can leave the scheme at any time, or change the level to suit your budget. In return, I would keep all patrons regularly updated on new works in process, give sneak peeks and, here and there, exclusive items and content as a token of esteem, and (eternal) gratitude.