TLF Season One – Diabetes Factories

Excerpt from The Last Flag

Diabetes Factories

The place seemed full, but the herd of obese diners that waddled quickly to and fro seemed to vanish off and on. He’d look and there wasn’t anyone around. He’d look again and the place was full. The patrons ate with gigantic, white, square teeth that were only possible in a dream and he heard their teeth scrape forks and bones, saw the food stains on the white enamel with insane, hyper-detailed clarity. The retro style diner booth he sat in was comfortable and he sank in the red fake leather cushions as the chrome details of the napkin holders reflected the cold hard light. He picked up the menu but it didn’t help much, as every time he read it the text changed, and in the end he just knew to order the Super Big Boy Winter Deluxe Supreme.

The waitress managed to be motherly and sexual, a brunette and a blonde, fat but at times slender, she delivered a plate that took most of the table’s surface. Half of it was loaded with waffles and pancakes, with and without toppings. The other half was covered with omelettes, eggs over easy and scrambled, potatoes and bacon, sausages and hash. His hollow guts growled with anticipation. The food steamed in the cold air and fogged all the windows. God, this is amazing, he thought. If only it wasn’t so damn cold. So cold.

Cagey, he looked over his shoulder; sure someone would come and take his food from him. And with a spike of fear he saw that they were all staring back at him: the waitresses, the cooks, the customers. They watched him like a hawk, while they chewed air like their life depended on it. Jaws muscles bulged and worked under the smiling faces—bulged and worked, the sound getting louder. He better hurry up and eat, he had to get out! He snapped back to his plate and dug in, shoving food into his mouth, an amazing forkful of pancake, bacon and fruit, slathered in real hot maple syrup. He had had to unhinge his jaws like a boa to fit it all in. His audience clapped and chewed louder in admiration. From the corner of his eye he saw cameras. They would love him worldwide. He snapped down his unhinged jaws…

…on a mouthful of cold air and pain. Theo came awake with a yelp, stiff and confused his muscles tight from the cold.
“Ith mah thongue. Owww,” he complained softly and sat up with the taste of blood in his mouth. The earliest of morning light filtered through the windows as he got his bearings, confused he realized that the chewing noises had followed him from his dream and for one crazy second he happily thought that the large breakfast had too. Still groggy from sleep, he turned toward the noise.
Alvin. Busy at Eliza’s neck, stared back at him…

Read what happens next!
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Illustration by U.K. artist Luke Spooner
Luke’s website
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Welcome Artist Luke Spooner

Artist Luke Spooner

Meet British Artist Luke Spooner

It was a pleasant surprise when some weeks back I opened up my mailbox and saw a email from Luke. Very politely and professionally cold calling (writing) to see if he might do some art for NPH. Normally we do that in house but Luke’s work looked great, and I went for it.

His work is great, original and the turnaround speeeedy! Wow. ever so speedy. I always want to introduce and showcase the artist that work and create for us. And Luke kindly agreed to a mini-interview.

Read on!

Artist Luke Spooner
Who are you, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m Luke Spooner, an artist and illustrator from the South of England. I create fairly dark work for a variety of project types and use the alias of Carrion House while forwarding that style. What may surprise people is that I also create more child-friendly work under the guise of Hoodwink House as well.

Who are the artists you like to look at for inspiration/recharging your batteries?
Anything with a captivating narrative is a potential wellspring of creative fuel for me so I tend to just keep my eyes and ears open and allow myself to be inspired from wherever it happens to come rather than cherry-pick and potentially miss out. Visual art, film, video games, literature of all kinds – I’m not really picky as to where I get my fix on the creative fuel front. However, I do draw vast amounts of inspiration, more or less daily, from music. I always have music playing whenever I sit down to work and it comes from all ends of the spectrum as opposed to one specific style or genre.

What was your favorite job so far?
I’m incredibly self critical and, like most artists, don’t really ever consider a piece ‘finished’ because I can always see things I’d like to change, try, test etc. However the need for clients to receive a piece as a result of all this artistic process means that at some point you have to admit that it’s probably ok for the client to use that particular incarnation. If it was up to me I’d just rework each piece constantly and therefore I can’t really throw the spotlight on any piece in particular that I’d consider my favourite as they are all, in my eyes, works in progress.

Do you primarily do digital work?
No. All my professional work starts life as hand drawn or painted pieces. Digital editing is used as a final touch. I also do a lot of straight forward hand draw and hand painted pieces for myself.

Darkness Wired Illustration by Luke Spooner
Darkness Wired Illustration by Luke Spooner

What tools do you use?
I like to remain fairly open to all sorts of mediums and never rule out the idea of picking up something new and playing with it to see how it could potentially benefit the way I make my work. I tend to work in a style which is essentially a mix of ink, watercolour, acrylic, pencil and charcoal. A lot of my past art teachers would be wincing at the very notion of those things mixing regularly but that’s what get’s the job done and it’s what I enjoy. I use digital techniques as a means of editing my work and lifting it that little bit more through changes and alterations that would either be too time consuming or impossible by hand. I think there’s a huge amount of value in the bespoke aesthetic given to anything by the simple fact that it was hand drawn but I don’t like to rule out digital means of boosting a piece. I believe you should be open to anything that makes your artwork the best it can be. I will say though; if something doesn’t work for you then, as long as you’ve tried it, feel free to cast it aside.

Can you tell us about your development as an artist?
I was doodling from the moment I discovered pencils and things to scribble on. In those early formative years it was just a way of emulating what I loved; I used to draw my favourite characters from television shows, books – even imaginary characters that I’d make up and try to explain to others and write stories about. In hindsight; the desire to communicate ideas through visual means actually developed earlier than my attempts at communicating through spoken language. I’m not saying I was any good at it – I’m just saying it was my first port of call once I realized there were things I needed to get out of my head, but gradually, over time, it became a tap – a leaky faucet that you really had to put your back into if you were to have any hope of turning off. It never occurred to me that some people just didn’t do it. It seemed so important and instinctive but as with most things in life; once you arrive at school and find peers of your own age staring back at you, you notice people and they notice you, the things that separate you from them start to become clearer and more definitive.

When I reached the age of 18 I had gathered enough understanding of the world to know that there was a chance I could do something creative, something that involved creating images to convey meaning, for a living – a way of making money to allow me to create images for as long as possible with no interruptions. It was suggested by my art teacher that I undertake a Foundation Degree at the Wimbledon College of Art in London. Following this suggestion and applying myself to getting accepted was a confirmation that I was indeed going to do something creative as a profession; I’d sat across tables from other students with artistic prowess far greater than my own for years by this point and despite this I still felt very strongly that I could find a niche for myself that they couldn’t fit into. That degree, in total, lasted a year and was essentially, what became known in retrospect, as an ‘options year,’ a term suitably vague and confusing. I ended up in a scary umbrella option called ‘visual communication,’ which basically meant commercial imagery in the broadest and (sadly) vaguest sense. I was trapped in a room, right on the edge of Wimbledon like a dirty secret, shoulder to shoulder with photographers, graphic designers, typographers, traditional illustrators, children’s book illustrators and even a couple of fine artists who had severely lost their way but decided that it couldn’t have possibly been there fault. I barely made it out of that year purely through the department’s constant need to try and cover every discipline’s needs on a daily basis. We were essentially a broth with too many chefs and I lost any sort of direction or idea of what I truly wanted to be. However, I did survive it and based on the few tethers I’d managed to grasp over the course of a year under the degree’s instruction I decided to sign up to The University of Portsmouth’s illustration degree.
When I got to Portsmouth everything was confirmed. I was reminded of what I truly enjoyed and what I wanted to do more of in the future. The degree provided the perfect platform for me to start from and presented the bare bones truth of what the world I was trying to install myself into was and would be like, so any second thoughts I would have had were put aside fairly early on. The unofficial mantra that got passed down by the lecturers, and made frequent appearances in our group tutorials like a support meetings code of conduct was “what you put in – you will get out,” and while that obviously sounds like common sense, I can assure you that you’d be amazed at how many people decided to sit back, put in minimum effort and just assume the work would find them both during University and out in the big wide world of work. I heard from one of my friends at a London based art degree while I was Portsmouth that her department’s stock phrase was “nobody wants you,” which although incredibly depressing is an unfortunate truth.
When I left University in 2012 I had finished my illustration degree; handed in work, filled 14 sketchbooks, written a dissertation on film noir, even wall mounted my work for an exhibition to be looked over by a horde of complete strangers – all over the course of the final third year. What I didn’t realise was that we although the work was handed in on 11tth May – we didn’t officially graduate until the 23rd July. This meant that we effectively had two whole months of not having a clue who we were supposed to be; were we students? Were we graduates? Could we start working without knowing whether we’d passed or not? The list of open-ended questions goes on and on but when you’re talking about a department full of potential freelancers you knew you weren’t going to get any answers – even the lecturers gave the impression that they now saw you as competition as opposed to the subordinates they were teaching a week previous.
There was absolutely no hope of turning to your fellow artists and finding out what they had planned because competition was verging on bloodthirsty, so rather than dwelling on it I decided that I didn’t need to know what grade I got, or even whether I’d passed, to be a practicing freelancer. I had a portfolio to my name and a desire to work and seek out potential projects so, for those two months, I emailed and searched, rinsed and repeated, sending upwards of fifty emails a day until eventually one client, just as fresh and new to ‘the game’ as I was, said they wanted me on board for their new project and were willing to pay me actual money in return for my services. That was 7 years ago and I haven’t stopped since

Most artists happily draw all the time, but what do you do when you feel the need for a break?
There is a lot to be said for the ability to step back from your work from time to time so that you may come back to it with a pair of fresh eyes and a new perspective. As an illustrator you find that if you don’t practice your style of work for your own sake, for your own enjoyment, then it can very quickly start to become something that you ‘do for others.’ If you ever want your style to evolve in a more organic way then there has to be a sketchbook or a personal project that you can climb back into whenever things are getting a little bit too heavy with your paid work. It should be a release and an exercise in self-exploration, even if it’s just the simple process of playing with lines or splatting different types of paint onto a page to see the results – it’s something that could lead to and inform something else and that can be very exciting for artists in any medium.

What is one book past or present, that you’d love to illustrate?
I’d loved to have illustrated Stephen King’s ‘It.’

Can you give us some of the titles of the books you worked on?
A few great, and fairly recent projects have been ‘Behold,’ ‘Gutted’ and ‘Fantastic Tales Of Terror’ through Crystal Lake Publishing and ‘Ashes and Entropy’ and ‘Dark And Distant Voices’ through Nightscape Press.

Illustration on website by U.K. artist Luke Spooner For NPHZone
Luke’s website
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TLF Season One – A link To The Outside

Illustration by Luke Spooner for the novel The Last Flag

A link to the outside

Illustration by Luke Spooner for the novel  The Last Flag

The mostly dead woman got up from the graveled ground where she had found herself kneeling, and began to walk down the road, confused as to why she had been there, and confused as to where she was. It felt as if she kept waking from a dream within a dream with shorter interludes of darkness in between. She hated these fugue moments, these blackouts, and she wondered how many she had before she had become aware of them. What happened to me? She thought. What is this, where am I, who am I?

She slowed to a standstill and focused on remembering. Closing her eyes and trying to exclude everything from her mind but memory. Slowly, with a tunnel like focus, it returned to her. The feeling consolidated to a memory. Something in the sky…she had seen something — a plastic bird? No, crazy. A toy then? No! A drone. That’s it—a drone.

Drone, DRONE, drooone, the word itself felt like a victory and she let it repeat in her mind, savoring it, attaching meaning to it. Finding joy as she understood its meaning and connotations.

She thought it had seen her, whoever had piloted it. It had returned for a second swoop, but then it had moved on without seeing her. Maybe there was something like that left in town, something that would allow her to communicate, to call for help. There had been a store. She had seen drones that looked a lot like the one that flew over her. And smartphones. Laptops. Desktops. She closed her eyes again and tried to remember. She stood blind and deaf to the world until it came to her. Schlegel’s Electric Shack and Hobbies.

“Oh God! Yes.” She shouted euphoric for having brought back the memory from the endless dark void her brain seemed to have become. Yet something was wrong…the silence, “Yes!”
No sound came out and after minutes of confusion she gasped like a fish and forced air in her lungs, and let it out as she spoke.

“Oh God, yes.”

There! There, she heard it this time. It had been barely audible, forced, but she heard it. Thank you God, she thought. Thank you God, don’t leave me know.

The crowd that surrounded her noticed too then, paid her the briefest attention before returning to their aimless existence.
The woman had no precise memory of when she had first regained awareness and no memory of her reaction to her blighted dead companions, but she was now blasé to their presence, unafraid of them. She had found them boring at first, but as her consciousness had crept back she had tried to connect. Each one of them had a story they couldn’t tell her, an explanation maybe for the situations that they couldn’t or wouldn’t share. She tried touching them to get a response but there was none, and now it was time for her to move on, and without a backward glance she left for her new goal. It took her hours to walk the relatively short distance to the hobby store. Once there she found the door locked and chained and lost even more time scavenging for something to break in. With a large rock she found a block away, she managed to smash the bottom glass pane of the front door and crawled inside, then sat on the floor of the store as she plucked glass shards from her knees and the palms of her hands. Something oozed out, but it wasn’t blood.

Not good, she thought and stood up in the darkened shop, silhouetted by dim natural light that came through the battered windows and shattered door she staggered behind the counter. A ratty office chair, an old desktop computer, and other pieces of electronics with and without their shells sat to the far side, next to the everyday debris you’d find in a small and old business. But no power; there was no life in these abandoned bits of technology, but surely there’d be a battery here.

She set about scavenging the place. Everything moved so slowly. No, no it didn’t…she was slow. Like a geriatric. Was she one? No, she didn’t think so, but that thought stopped her. Who was she? She stepped in front of a sunglasses display and looked in its mirrors.

Read what happens next!
Also on Kobo and other stores.

Illustration by artist Luke Spooner
Luke’s website
Luke’s Facebook page