The time has come to consider leaving the sewers.

That’s what they are really – my studios. If you’ve not picked up the coded messages that I’ve been leaving throughout my posts.

exeter-photoFor the past 10 years I’ve been living in a sewer. It feels good to say that. I know I like to project the impression that I am a successful artist – living a vagabond’s existence, scavenging for art supplies – but most of the time, I’m simply scavenging for food. Although I would never say that I was homeless, I live relatively comfortable for someone who doesn’t technically have a roof over his head.

There’s a bridge in Norwich, walk down the bank next to it. As you start to approach the riverbank, trace your fingers over the rough brickwork until you feel them become smooth. The smoothest of these bright red bricks have the roman numerals ‘MMVI’ engraved on them. This is the year I moved in.

exeter-riverKeep edging along, closer to the river bank until you can creep under the bridge itself. Embedded into the curve of the low arch is a wooden door, no taller than 4 foot. Go there and push that door open – discover the life that I left behind.

My Mother traced the call I made last week from the phone box. She’s been searching for me for years – although we’ve been talking regularly.

exeter-artistsI was woken on a Sunday morning, with the weight of 8 cans of Fosters Lagers on my brow, by a knock on my front door. Lifting the stitched blanket of designer fashion clothes from my fully clothed form, I stumbled to the small portal and pulled back the bolt. If I hadn’t been drunk still, I would’ve had the good sense to not answer it. But I was – so I did.

She looked silly there, dressed up in her waterproofs and woollens – always prepared for the worst.

“Hello, Hugh. It’s time to leave here.”

Despite my decade of independence and years as a working artist, I was tired of the sleepless nights. The rattle of the cars, screams of the students and endless hangovers.

art-spaceMy Mother, who I had abandoned 10 years ago – had found me. To birth me anew, out of the dark of a dank, damp existence and into a bright new world – where I could learn to live again.

She’d found me a home, a place to live. Away from Norwich (I never got to say good bye to my saving graces at Greggs!), in the peaceful city of Exeter – far away from my old life. A beautiful artist’s residence, filled with creatives and supplied with all of the materials and tools I would ever need. Occupied by fellow creatives, in a purpose built apartment block – this is my home now.

Instead of living in an abandoned space, alone and cold. I can fall asleep in a bed, in a room with heating. In a building designed by people for people, instead of a squalid hole that I’d simply gotten used to. I met the gentlemen from Architectural Emporium, the designers of the space. They told me how they’d designed the spaces inside to be the ideal situation for creatives. Airy spaces, natural materials and plenty of light – so that only the soft glow of a lamp would be needed to add texture to the comfortable rooms.


I’m glad my Mother found me. My decade long self-exile had ended as abruptly as it began and now I’m slowly recording over the memories of my past life. It’s surprising how quickly you can abandon the habits of the past.

The cans of Fosters Lager, the daily Steak Bakes, the endless blogging.


Francis Bacon. 1970s /Michael Holtz /sc

My art space is overflowing with materials.

I was in no way, shape or form, prepared for the massive influx of goods from The Great Taj. Once I started picking from there each night, I really couldn’t control myself. Still in the heat of summer, my little space under the bridge was warm enough, but now it’s positively roasting with all the extra materials cladding the walls.

I’ve heard that this is a problem that faces many great artists at some point in their working lives. After 10 or 15 years or so of producing work, especially sculpture, the amount they sell becomes disproportionate to the amount they produce. I tend to produce anywhere between 5 and 10 pieces of sculpture a week, recently I’ve only been selling a few a month (which is why a few of my most treasure items are now on sale at a reduced price!) so now I have somewhat of a surplus of stock.

artist-studioI can deal with being surrounded by mountains of quirky re-purposed art, but with the amount of carpets, cutlery, crockery and general paperwork that I’ve been reclaiming from The Great Taj – I’m struggling to get in and out of the place without causing a major avalanche.

On Wednesday evenings, I watch television through other people’s windows. This may sound slightly strange, but as long as the show that’s being watched is absolutely riveting, the owners of the home and television are none the wiser – and I can enjoy an hour or two of visual entertainment. It just so happens that a show I was watching, through the Davies’ window the other day, featured a self-styled decluttering guru showing the public how to organise their lives.

Through the double-glazed windows and the net curtains, I could just about make out the figure of a woman gesticulating at a mess of objects in the corner of a room.

tips_subtitles_cc_mdShe fervently pointed at the camera and seemed very disapproving of a man’s kitchen – it’s a shame I couldn’t hear any of her advice.

For the past month, the Davies’ have had a deaf relative staying with them, so I’ve been able to peek through the curtains and know exactly what’s been going on, thanks to the big multi-coloured subtitles that covered the bottom quarter of the screen. However, it would appear that Penny and her broken ears had left, along with her bright spectrum of helpful on-screen letters.

Just before the show ended, a website was flashed up on the screen. I doubt I’ll ever have the scratch to hire a professional organiser, but if you do then at least you’ll know where to go!

This still doesn’t solve my own organisational issue, however. For the time being, I’m going to put a halt on gathering new materials – and start making a concerted effort to sell more of my goods.

The studio can’t survive for long in this state and I really don’t fancy being buried alive under 50kg of refuse.


There are worlds of broken things beneath the realms that we witness.

norwichThe broken things – men, creatures, bodies – shuffle listlessly with eyes downcast.

Staring at the city streets, daring them to present us with treasures untold – we march the high streets and back alleys of this city of grim passion.

Norwich bleeds.

Although the sadness of decades of guilt weigh down the brows of the city, there are still promising signs of loot to be found amongst it’s beer-stained paths and alleyways.

These are the streets that I patrol on a daily basis, hunting – searching – for a thing of beauty trapped between the drops of rain that smatter the sticky streets, reviving the age-old scents forever baked into the cobbles.

Sunday mornings are the best time to go looking for discoveries.

steak-bakeDuring the height of the Christmas season, when the icy cold and the moisture wakes me beneath the bridge at the crack of dawn. When I wrap and encase myself in woollen goods pilfered from black bags outside of Oxfam.

That is when I can walk the streets unmolested. Around 6am, the streets have emptied of drinkers. All that is left of their adventures, lies glittering on the dew-soaked streets – just waiting for me to find it.

If I’m lucky, Sandra at Greggs gives me a Steak Bake when I pass by the shop at 7. For a while I assumed she simply gave me off-cuts, or out of date pastries, but that was never the case. For two years, whenever she is working the morning shift, she has brought me out a fresh Steak Bake, paid for out of her own pocket. One day, I hope to pay her back. For now, though, I must continue searching for discoveries.

With my belly full of bits of beef I return, reinvigorated. Filled with the warmth of gravy and pastry, I am exalted. Churning with strength from the remaining crumbs, I am reborn.

rubbishThe streets of Norwich are home to my echoing footsteps, as I stalk the hunting grounds of the Drinking District, inspecting bins for forgotten cigarette ends and bits of chicken. An urban survivor always does what he can, to consume all important protein. The realms of taste and class are mere objects of fantasy, to one such as myself. A far off mirage that is not worth chasing.

I begin my walk home at around 9:30am, to avoid the walking dead of drunkards, rolling out of their sleeping arrangements. Groggy and bleary eyed from their Jaeger Bombs, Sour Shots and Vodka Fizzlers – the partying hard population of Norwich are quick to anger and disappointed. Disappointed that the hundreds of pounds that they have spent, have left them with nothing more than a headache and a questionable rash.

With all my treasures from the evening collected together and brought back home, I can spend the rest of the day assessing my finds.

Compiling. Creating. Pricing.

These are the methods of a modern day artist.