Welcome to the archive of the John Barleycorn blog, produced by Howard Gayton and Rex Van Ryn during the process of creating their graphic novel John Barleycorn Must Die. As part of that process, you'll find discussions of magic, of creativity, and 'Around the Table' discussions with a range of internationally known artists, writers and film makers. The graphic novel was printed in a limited edition, so if you managed to get one, good for you! Although this project is over now, we're leaving this blog online as an archive and as a snap shot in time.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Around the table with...Dharmaruci.

Dharmaruci was born on 12th February 1958, at 17:37 in London. He runs Astrotabletalk, an astrology blog, and lives on Dartmoor.

Dharmaruci, Howard and Rex.

H - Dharmaruci, thanks for coming. As you know, Rex and I are writing a graphic novel about a 'magician sleuth.' Rex has told me you are a practicing magician. I'm not going to beat-about-the-bush. Are you a magician?
D - I don’t know, Howard. I haven’t thought about it like that….
H - Rex, I thought you said --
R - Let him finish.
D - To call yourself a magician is to give yourself a superior identity. That’s usually something that people do when they're in need of an identity. I tend to find that real power lies in people that don’t refer to themselves in such a way.
H - So do you believe in magic?
D – In the sense of magic being an awareness of unseen forces and powers (which a lot of people would ridicule): yes, some of the time, when it's appropriate. When you're doing astrology, it allows you to see behind and into things in a way that the ordinary five senses, and intuition, can’t. The astrologer Richard Tarnas was working as an experimental psychologist with Stanislav Grof in the 1970s, and when they tried using astrology, they found that they got to the heart of people’s issues much more quickly than with conventional psychological methods. Astrology is like a looking glass into what is actually happening. That's why I'm so often amazed by it, as there is no reason it should work, but it does.
H - Do you have an understanding of how it works?
       D - I often talk about this on my blog. I currently think it has to do with reality having a way of becoming whatever you think it is, particularly if you're part of a collective that shares your view. I haven’t entirely worked this one out yet, though, because of course you also get delusion, where reality clearly contradicts what you think it is.... 

      The scientific view, for example, is not as objective as most scientists would have us believe; it is a consensual view of reality that we take as an absolute truth. We think of the universe as ‘scientific,’ and it becomes that. We think of the universe in astrological terms, and it becomes that. It's very mysterious. There's an intimate connection between the universe and consciousness, each shaping the other -- as any mystic or half-way decent system of knowledge would tell you. Mainstream science is very naïve and literal in this respect. 
       H – So you view astrology, then, as an alternate way of understanding reality?
       D - I think of astrology as a system of knowledge that respects and uses all our faculties. Science is very strong on rationality and sensation (air and earth) but not very respectful of intuition and feeling (fire and air). . . and so to me, astrology is a more complete system of knowledge than science. Jung saw astrology as the summation of ancient knowledge -- as an umbrella, if you like, that can incorporate all other systems. A proper relationship between astrology and science would see science as a specialisation within this broader tradition. What we have instead is a Sorcerer’s Apprentice situation: We have many brilliant scientific inventions, but havoc is being wreaked within the psyche because the apprentice has taken over, pretending to knowledge outside of his areas of competence.
       H – And yet many people would argue that the 'truths' of science can be tested and proved, while the 'truths' of astrology are more subjective. . . . 
       D - Astrology works, but it can't be explained in scientific terms. Like science, it is empirical, it is based on observation, but its truths are not statistical. They don't rely on laboratories and ‘double-blind’ tests. They are the truths of a novelist, or of a work of art. It would seem ridiculous to try to reduce the insights of a novelist to a lab situation...but that's what the scientists want to do with astrology in order to discredit it. It is more than a Sorcerer’s Apprentice situation: the apprentice has become bold enough to stage a coup!
       R – Yes, there are many things that are real and 'true' that can't be tested by the scientific method. For example, there is no scientific test for whether you love someone or not!
D - No, you can't prove it in a scientific sense. Or look at evolution. It's an example of a theory that has become an accepted fact in science, but you can't observe it or test it.
R – Well, you can observe it. There are moths in the black country [the industrial midlands of England] which changed their wing coloring over the course of a few generations as a result of the pollution in the atmosphere, in order to hide from their predators.
D – Yes, you can observe the odd smaller change, which supports the theory. But evolution involves massive change and development, and you can’t observe that within a human timescale. Don’t get me wrong: I think that the process of evolution does occur, it is true, but it can't be proved in a scientific sense. And I don’t think the mechanism is understood yet either – I think evolution happens far more quickly than a process of natural selection and random mutation alone would seem to allow for. This is an area where scientists are willing to forgo their usual criteria of strict observational laboratory experiments and still accept it as truth -- yet in another area, like homeopathy, for example, they will apply endless tests to prove it is untrue and thus reject it as having any validity.
Evolution, like many scientific theories, is now seen as an absolute truth. We have developed a new Creation Myth – Evolution – that reflects the tribal myths we live by.
R - Dharmaruci, you and I have known each other for about 14 years?
D - Yes, Rex.
R - I wanted to talk a little about achieving altered states, because this plays a part in our graphic novel. You and I went to Peru together, where, amongst other things, we took part in ayahuasca ceremonies. Ayahuasca is seen by many South American shamans as a 'teacher plant.' Do you advocate achieving altered states through the ingesting of plant matter?
D - Yes. I don’t do it now myself. I probably would if I got the chance, but it doesn’t really come my way. There's someone I know who uses peyote – and they use it in a traditional way within a traditional context.
R – There's a lot of anthropological evidence of the use of teacher plants in traditional ceremonies as a means of acquiring knowledge. In Peru, the shamans we worked with were seeking knowledge of the past or future by journeying into what Howard and I, in our book, call the mundus.
D – For us, these plants are foreign and exotic and glamorous and dispensed by master shamans, but I’m sure for traditional people they would have been more ordinary and down-to-earth, and used for particular reasons. For one person I know who uses a teacher plant regularly in a traditional manner, my observation is that this person tends to get rigid and literal in their everyday life, and the plant is a way of loosening them up. The spirits did indeed tell them to go on that path, but ‘the spirits’ can be very down to earth!
       So these kinds of plants suit different people in different ways...and some people not at all! Some people are inclined to drift off into other states of consciousness anyway, where they can drift out of time, or have spirit guides turn up. There isn’t a place for that in our society, it seems -- though if they lived in a tribal society, they'd be given proper training and called medicine men.
R - Whereas in our society they are just considered mad!
H - Fritjof Capra (author of The Tao of Physics), discusses a similar issue in his book The Turning Point. He posits the theory that all systems are trying to reach balance and homeostasis. Humans too. He thinks that instead of dosing ‘mad’ people with pharmaceutical drugs, they can be helped to reach balance by allowing them to express whatever it is that they are going through, and that in that expression there is often a good deal of wisdom. It's an interesting subject: What is mad? Who decides what is and isn’t mad?
D - The great psychologist R.D. Laing, as a young man, thought that it was the doctors who often were more nuts than the patients!
H - We seem to have started to discuss issues that verge on psychology. Is there a link between psychology and magic do you think?
D - Certainly astrology has gone in that direction. It used to be events-based: If you have this chart you will have a noble birth, for example; or if you have this one you will be unlucky in love.
R - I have both of those charts!
D - Nowadays, though, there are far more choices as to what people can do with their lives and far more fluidity between the various levels of society. So it’s harder to predict what would suit someone or what they will do. And also, I think we have become psychically eviscerated because what I call the Western negative Saturn, the 'Protestant work ethic' if you like, has taken over, so that now it's what you do and how much you earn that matters, in quite an extreme way. So astrology is becoming more psychological in response to this. It says that the planets are named after gods because the planets are gods and they inhabit each one of us, so get to know them and honor them and you will be fulfilled. Ignore them at your peril. Look at what Poseidon/Neptune did to Odysseus who, in his hubris after Troy, thought he was a match for the gods!
So astrological psychology, if you like, is magical and ritualistic: you are invoking the gods. When I write about Pluto, he turns up behind me in the room. He likes me honoring him, he wants me to write about him. What did the astronomers do with Pluto a few years ago? They demoted him to the status of a dwarf planet. What a thing to do to the Lord of the Underworld! What does that say about our collective hubris, our inflated belief that humans and their reason are the summit of creation and all should bow to that?
I think that astrology gives psychology a relationship to the archetypal forces within us; it gives us a relationship that the ancients would have felt, though for them probably in a more externalised (though no less real) way. And without these forces around you, personal transformation is difficult, and the universe is a much less interesting place!
       R – One thing I found interesting when you did a reading for me, Dharmaruci, was that it was like a whole day, an event.
D - There's an important point in that. It is worth traveling for a week, if necessary, just to get to that hour of the reading. It is an event.
R - My first introduction to shamanic practice was in the Lake District, and I remember that the train journey there, the course, and the journey back, were all integral to the process of discovery that I went through, were all a part of the psychology of it.
H - I often find that, too. When I go through deep processes of inner change and inner work, the events that surround those times are an important part of the process. Another important part is the way these ceremonies are held. Would you agree?
D – Yes. Ritual and theatre is a part of the practice, an integral part. You need to somehow signal that we are entering a different space together. You need to bring yourself to an inner space, where the inner transformation can happen.
H - Which might be through a long journey – or through the creation of the ceremonial atmosphere, for example. 
R - When I used to run ceremonies, I’d become the part of the shaman. It acted like a trigger for myself and for others to respond to.
H - Which brings us back to psychology again. The ceremony leader playing a role in order to allow other people the space to go where they need to internally for psychological change to happen.
D - It's a complicated issue, however. What too often happens is that people then afford these ‘leaders’ a superior position afterwards, sort of projecting a need onto them. People get involved in some group that is meant to be of spiritual or psychological benefit, and that can be a good thing. But after the initial benefit, the next step should be to reclaim your power from the leader, in the sense of relying on yourself for guidance, rather than on that other person. It's very natural for people to give their own sense of authority to someone who knows more, or who seems to – and, sadly, it's often the norm for people who lead this kind of stuff to not step out of that role once the ceremony is finished. It is the minority only who can step out of it. In religion you see this, too: priests becoming completely wrapped up in their role and the kudos and identity it gives. It's normally the genuine mystics who don’t give a shit about it all, for they have something more genuine going on. They don’t need an identity, and that’s rare.
H - I wonder sometimes if that giving away of power, and the learning to take it back, is a necessary part of the journey, part of the learning?
R – Like, you get there in the end....
D - Yes, it's all part of the process. How else would you learn?
R - Dharmaruci, what do you think about Aleister Crowley's definition of magic as the ability to affect matter with thought. Is it real? Has it ever been real?
D – That's only a partial definition of magic, as you can transform yourself psychologically through magical processes. Magic isn’t just about transforming matter with thought; it's also about transforming thought with thought. Actually, if anything, I’d give the opposite definition to Crowley. I’d say magic is the ability to affect thought through matter – you do the ritual (matter), and it changes you (thought). To me, Crowley’s definition has the suggestion of a thirst for power about it. Yes, you can change matter with thought, but why emphasise that?
H - I wonder if the medieval alchemists were trying to transform thought with thought as much as matter with thought?
D – That seems to be how the alchemists are seen nowadays: that the project of transmuting lead into gold reflected a goal of inner transformation. It was ritualistic. Religions tend to work in a more static form: obey these rules and you will be saved. If you are transforming your thoughts, you are transforming your beliefs, and there isn’t room for that in religion. 
R - You were a Buddhist monk, weren’t you?
D - I wouldn’t say monk. I was part of that tradition for 18 years. It was my extended misspent youth!
R - What kind of influence has that had on how you see the world now?
D - I think that practically everyone in their twenties gives their power away to someone -- and eventually, hopefully, we claim it back. What I was doing was allowing a teacher to have power over me. The expression ‘Giving your power away’ has become a bit clichéd. What I mean is letting someone have undue influence over you, of not having the confidence to stand up to them and not having confidence in your own judgement. It can happen at any age, in any relationship: with your boss, with your parents, with a ‘spiritual’ teacher, or even with a written tradition. Few people would admit they are doing it, but nonetheless many people are quite happy like this. It provides a kind of security and certainty. But for some of us there seems to be a desire to awaken, and so it becomes a conflict that can take many years to resolve, bit by bit.
       For myself, I still struggle with Science as a system of knowledge. I’m aware that it has a hold over how I see things, that it interferes with my ability to see the world in my own way. You can’t always just decide to claim the power back. You struggle, but it is a death and rebirth that are needed when the time is right, and you need the gods with you. This is because the power is not ‘yours’, it belongs to a deeper level of the psyche that in reality calls the shots. That is why the gods need to be honored. Astrology teaches us this.
       So in my late 30s my world began to rock, after years of rumblings, and it was essentially this process of starting to trust my own judgement in a way that I hadn’t before. So that, if you like, is how Buddhism has influenced the way I see the world: the importance of trusting your own judgement, even when everyone else thinks you’re wrong. A fantastic lesson, a deep and powerful lesson, but there was nothing special to Buddhism about it; Buddhism just happened to be the wall against which I’d been banging my head for all those years.
R - From the age of 11, I knew I wanted to draw comic books...and it has taken me 40 years to come to a point where that is all I do now. I'm doing what I've always wanted to do. It's as though you know your path from the day you're born, although sometimes you have to re-find it.
H - It’s like your favorite book, Rex: Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, but Coelho's basic point is that the treasure you're seeking is found where you started from...though you have to go on a long journey in order to come back there to find it! And that seems like a good place to finish today. Thank you for talking with us, Dharmaruci. One last question: What is your favorite song?
D - ‘Bad Things’ by Jake Everett!
H - Let’s spin that tune...

Friday, 18 March 2011

mens agitat molem

Study - David Wyatt.

H - This week we start to look at magic....

R - Wow!

H - Yes, quite, wow. Next week, we’ll have an around the table discussion with a magician, Dharmaruci, a long time friends of yours Rex, is that correct?

R - It is. I’ve known Dharmaruci for about thirteen years, and we’ve been on various expeditions together - both physically, to the shamans of the Peruvian jungles, and metaphysically, to various altered states of consciousness. 

H - And he is a magician?

R - Yes. Definitely!

H - I look forward to it. In preparation for this, I want to begin our exploration of magical philosophies by looking at the medieval and Renaissance magic tradition – since this is precisely the tradition that our comic's magician, John Barleycorn, comes out of.  
Before we can talk about “magic,” however, we must decide what it is we mean by the term – and that's not an easy thing to do.  The Oxford Dictionary defines magic as the “supposed art of influencing the course of events by occult control of nature or spirits; witchcraft; conjuring tricks; inexplicable or remarkable influence.” The French magician Eliphas Levi, in The History of Magic, says that magic is “that which it is, drawing on itself only, even as mathematics do, for it is the exact and absolute science of Nature and her laws.” In Magic and Mysticism, esoteric historian Arthur Versluis points out how difficult it is to differentiate magic from mysticism: “Many magicians seem rather mystical in inclination; and conversely, some mystics seem rather close to magic in what they espouse and claim.”  

There is no single, clear-cut definition of magic because it has so many facets. Shrouded in mystery, it is connected to charlatanism, religion, politics, science, and even art. It asks questions about the deepest levels of the human experience: the nature of and reasons for existence, the nature of life and of death; and in so doing, it taps into primeval fears and desires.  For the purposes of this post, however, I will define magic as this: the manipulation of occult, hidden connections at a foundational level of being in order to bring about changes in the material realm, including changes within the body or psyche of the magician.
The foundations of Western magical thought lay in the Platonic philosophies and mystery schools of the ancient world -- beliefs which were carried forward, in revised form, with the Christianization of the Roman Empire, and the subsequent collapse of the Holy Roman Empire. The philosophies that would go on to play a decisive role in Renaissance magic were carried through the Middle Ages in various strands: In Persia, the magical tradition was kept alive by Moslem scholars, alchemists, and astrologers. In Moorish Spain, the Jewish Cabala was advanced; in the Byzantium empire, Hermetic and Platonic magical texts, forgotten in the West, were still to be found in monasteries and libraries. In Europe, these strands of magic can be broken into two broad types: ‘Folk’ and ‘Scholarly’ (with the magician and alchemist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535 c.e.) joining the two in the early Renaissance).  In this post, I am going to concentrate on Scholarly magic, because that's the tradition John Barleycorn comes out of, rather than on the herblore, charms, prayers, and beliefs of the Folk tradition (interesting as they, too, may be).
The foundations of Scholarly magic are found in pagan Platonic and Neoplatonic views on the nature of reality – which, in simplified form, suggest that there is a One, beyond definition, which emanates through a series of levels (or worlds), eventually giving rise to the material world which humans inhabit. The power of the One, manifesting as different archetypical energies, is transferred through each of the levels: the Super-celestial, the realm of ideas, beyond the stars; the Celestial, the metaphysical correspondences of the stars and planets; and the Material. Because each level gives rise to the level below it, there is an occult connection between all parts of creation. The archetypal energy of Love, for example, may have a correspondence in the material world with a rose, through the influence of Venus. The working mechanisms that oversee the interchanges between the levels are daimons, spirits that act as intermediaries. 
Much pagan philosophy was lost by the Middle Ages, but smatterings of it were purloined by the early Church Fathers to act as a basis for Christian theology. In this way, some pagan thought was incorporated into Christian studies. It is not surprising then, that we find “magic” appearing in the writings of certain monks throughout the Middle Ages. The Church, of course, had long promoted what to all intents and purposes was magic: the miracles of Christ, the Apostles, and the early Saints, but a distinction was drawn between the work of God, and the work of the devil. The dividing line between the two, however, was not always clear, and monks like Albertus Magnus (1200-1280 c.e.) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 c.e.) would claim that their own beliefs and practices were legitimate because they practiced only natural magic -- that is, working with the occult properties of the natural world -- as opposed to magic which relied on the agency of demons. 
Reactions to magic throughout history has been split between those who believe in its efficacy, and those who do not. Those who believe are further split into those who see all magic as dangerous, and those who accept certain types of magic as legitimate. The Middle Ages were no exception to this, and debate about acceptable and unacceptable practices raged within the church throughout the period. Demonic magic, however, was almost universally condemned. 
In the early Middle Ages, St. Augustine (354 – 430 c.e.) wrote The City of God, in which he created a hierarchy of angelic beings -- and in so doing, effectively turned all pagan daimons into demons. In her interesting book The Art of Memory, Frances Yates gives a good account of how these demons were turned into caricatures and used as preaching tools in the later medieval church. Thus popular images of demons, perhaps fueled by the ravages of plagues and famine, became almost cartoon-like at the time. This is an example of what I see as general trend in medieval magic: that its beliefs and practices gradually became two-dimensional, ‘black and white,’ and superstitious. Astrology, for example, lost many of its original ideas about the occult channels of energy via the metaphorical stars and became more about the stars controlling the Fate and Destiny of man. As often happens when dogma becomes rigid, the metaphorical ideas behind it are lost. Symbols loose their nuanced, layered meanings, turning into flat images. This was to change quite radically in the Renaissance. 
At that time, Europe was undergoing the humanist revolution, and was opening up to new ideas. In magical thought, ideas from the Islamic East re-introduced strands of Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy to the West; while mystical systems of Cabala, which were evolving among Jewish sects in Spain, influenced Italian culture when Jews expelled from Spain in the fourteenth century settled in Italy. Likewise, refuges from the Byzantium Eastern Church fled to Italy during the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, bringing with them “lost” texts that were to have a profound impact on magical thinking. 

The most influential of these magical texts was undoubtedly the Corpus Hermeticum. The Corpus is a collection of writings from around the second century, c.e. -- although throughout the Renaissance, it was mistakenly attributed to Hermes Trismegistus and thought to be contemporaneous with Moses. Widespread belief in a former Golden Age (from which mankind had fallen) meant that the Corpus was accorded great esteem -- because the older a religious text was believed to be, the more wisdom it was thought to contain.
Marsilio Ficino (1443-1499 c.e.) translated the Corpus in 1463. The underlying Hermetic philosophy within it made magical thinking more theologically acceptable, and in this we see a clear distinction between medieval and Renaissance magic. There were, of course, backlashes within the church against magical practices, and the Inquisition was gaining ground, but Hermetic philosophy was now used to justify a certain type of magical practice within Christianity -- and this, in turn, resulted in a greater experimentation and philosophizing on the nature of magic. Some of the calcification that had happened to magical practices in the Middle Ages was now broken down. Ficino, for example, reinvigorated ideas about the occult influences of the planets, rehabilitating astrology from the superstitious medieval concept that the planets decided the destiny of those on earth. Imagination, an important part of magical practice, was freed by the new ideas, and was now used in guise of the Hermetic mens as the connecting point between mankind and the realm of Plato's Ideals. The God of the Middle Ages, separate from man in his Heaven, was now immanent in Nature. 
 In The Art of Memory, Frances Yates states clearly the importance of the imagination:
"We come back here to that basic difference between Middle Ages and Renaissance, the change in the attitude to the imagination. From a lower power which may be used in memory as a concession to weak men who may use corporeal similitudes because only so he can retain his spiritual intentions towards the intelligible world, it has become man’s highest power, by means of which he can grasp the intelligible world beyond appearances through laying hold of significant images."
Perhaps the greatest philosophical distinction between medieval and Renaissance thought is given voice by Pico della Mirandola (1463-494 c.e.). In his famous Oration on the Dignity of Man, written in 1486, Pico exclaims, “What a great miracle is Man, O Asclepius, a being worthy of reverence and honour.” Ficino had placed mankind in an exulted position on the ladder of the hierarchy of being, but Pico freed man from the ladder entirely. Man could either become divine or be like a beast. In terms of Christian theology, this was absolutely revolutionary. Man was no longer subject to Nature, Fate, or God. He could now act upon creation, as a god. Pico’s Oration was, of course, condemned by the church; but the spread of its ideas gave permission for man to investigate, and led to new types of magical thought.
Giordano Bruno (1548-1600 c.e.), who joined the Dominican order in Naples in 1565, was certainly a man who investigated. He was accused in 1576 of having studied prohibited books, and subsequently left the Dominicans. Through these, and his subsequent studies, he came to understand the power of symbol and image. In our own image saturated world, we’re aware of the power of image to move and effect the mind; the political propaganda posters of Stalin and Hitler are good examples of how powerfully images can be manipulated. Modern politics, too, is obsessed with image, and advertising industries spend vast sums of money using image to brand companies.  Image and symbols are, without doubt, powerful tools in the manipulation of mankind's psyche. Hundreds of years ago, Bruno understood this, and he used this understanding to develop a complex system of 'memory magic' which  pulled together several strands of magical thinking (including pagan symbolism and astrology) into an 'art of memory' that still influences esoteric philosophies and practices to this day. But that is a whole essay in itself, and we'll save it for another post.... 
To conclude today: Many of the ideas on which medieval magic was based can still be found in Renaissance magic, though often in a more refined form. The occult influence of the stars and planets, the system of angels and demons, and the use of symbols as conduits for astral influence were present in both periods; but the discovery of the Corpus Hermeticum at the beginning of the Renaissance changed the underlying philosophy, and thus practice, of magic in a deeply fundamental way. The imagination was released, as if a creative movement, a mixing, was suddenly allowed.  Renaissance magicians built upon medieval beliefs to create exciting new forms and philosophies of magic . . . which in turn created fertile ground for many modern strands of thought in psychology, magic, science and the arts. 

Friday, 11 March 2011

ad referendum

H - Well, Rex, we have a number of pages of the first draft to post this week.

R - Yes.

H - We've made some stylistic changes since we posted the first nine pages, haven't we?

R - Yes.

H - We've added drop shadows to the word balloons....

R - Yes.

H - Right, clearly you are in mono-syllabic mode, Rex, so let's just post them, yes?

R - Yes.

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Friday, 4 March 2011

in limine

H - After the excitement of our discussion with Rima over the past two weeks, we return to our comic. And on this front, too, there is some rather exciting news, isn’t there, Rex? 
R - Yes! My old friend and collaborator Rick Fairlamb has very kindly colored the comic's cover for us.

 H - It’s an absolutely stunning piece of art, which we will talk a little about in a bit. But first, tell me about Rick. What’s his story?
R – Rick is a storyboard artist and illustrator. I’ve known him for about twenty years. We shared a Soho studio in London for ten years, working on storyboards and illustrations mostly for TV. I consider him one of the finest illustrators around. Many’s the time that Rick came and dragged me out of my local pub so that we could pull an all-nighter. One time I was so drunk I couldn’t get off the bar stool! This was in the days before mobile phones. He called the pub and I said: “I can’t come back to work, I can’t stand up, you’ll have to come and get me!” So he came to the pub in a taxi to take me back to work, since once I got behind my desk I was able to draw all night no matter what state I was in. That was what advertising was like in those days. When we finished in the morning, I’d say, “Well, we got away with that again.” And Rick would say, “Forget it, Jack, it’s Chinatown.”
H - Why did he say that?
R - It’s the last line in the film Chinatown, Howard, and it just seemed appropriate. Also, we were in Chinatown.
H - I thought you said you were in Soho...?
R - Okay, smart arse, we were close to Chinatown. We ate there a lot.
H – That’s enough reminiscences for now, Rex. You’ve gone all teary eyed! Let’s get back to the cover art. I love the creative use of light sources in the way Rick colored your drawing, and beautiful touches such as the camera flares, which makes it look like a photograph. The detail is also quite amazing. How did you and Rick work on this?
R - I sent Rick an outline of my drawing, and also an inked version, to give him an indication of the light source that I wanted. I had a brief discussion with him about the color palette: a moody sky with a storm brewing, but with the sun breaking through the clouds throwing light onto John Barleycorn’s back. I knew he’d know what to do with it straight away.
H - Looking at your original drawing, I am quite surprised at the way he has developed your concept. The clouds for example weren’t in your original sketch, and the way he has colored the barley, so that it is slightly out of focus. He seems to have put in a lot of his own ideas.  
R - Yes. It was Rick's idea to render the barley in the foreground out of focus in order to throw the viewer's attention onto the figure. I knew he’d love the composition and get into the image, as when we worked together we would compete to create the most outrageous poses for characters, with the most drama and tension. 
H – Looking at the way Rick's color transforms your art, I'm reminded of our previous discussions about the use of color in the comic. At the moment the book is in black-and-white, but we've often said that we'd love to produce the whole comic in color. Yet we know that if we're going to publish it ourselves, financial constraints make this impossible. So now we're torn between wanting to publish the book ourselves, maintaining complete control of it, and wanting to find a publisher who'd be willing to fund an all-color comic.
R - I'd deliberately inked the pages for black-and-white, assuming the book would be self-published -- but that's before we started this collaboration. Now I'm tempted to reach for the sky! 
H - The pages do work in black-and-white...but I love what colorists can do with light sources these days, using computers to add such depth to a picture. We've seen this in some of the art we've put up in our ‘Around the table with…’ discussions, such as paintings by Didier and Dave Wyatt. So it seems this will be an on-going question: do we color the book or stay with black-and-white? What is the benefit of black-and-white, Rex?
R - The benefit is the atmosphere that black-and-white art creates, a kind of film noire feel. The subject matter of our comic fits that look: the magician sleuth, poking his nose into dark happenings. 
H - And the advantage of color, if we are lucky enough to have the choice? 
R - Color can give an extra dimension to the story's environments. And we've talked about using different styles of coloring to make clear distinctions between the mundus and the real world.
H - Yes, we'd discussed using color to give depth to the ‘real’ world scenes, in a realistic way, then using an old-style comic book flat color for scenes in the mundus.
R – Color can give the characters more depth too, as you can see the colors of the clothes that they wear. Maggie, for example, might wear really loud colored clothes... 
H - ...and Drake might sport a deep velvet jacket.
R - Yes, but you need to give it a color, Howard.
H - Huh?
R – Velvet is a fabric, not a color!
H - Oh, yeah, right…a deep blue velvet jacket.
R - Better. And maybe a deep red jacket as well, since he might have more than one!
H – Right, you're getting sarcastic now, Rex. I think we’ll stop.

ad referendum.