The Picture has been hanging on my wall for many, many years. I drew it when I was seventeen, egged on by my good friend Andy Wicks. One of these days I’ll prise it out of its frame, slap it on a big flatbed scanner and make myself a decent digital copy. Until then, you’ll have to make do with the hasty snap above, and the gallery of shaky close-ups below.
The Picture grew out of a series of comic strips Andy and I drew instead of studying Chaucer texts for our A-Level English exams. Movie geeks that we were, we couldn’t resist sneaking in-jokes from our favourite films into the corners of the frames. Thus was created the concept of a single picture that was nothing but in-jokes.
So what’s it a picture of? Well, it’s a party, the guest list for which comprises no less than 214 characters from all our favourite science fiction and fantasy movies and books … plus a host of others. The ship’s bipolar artificial gravity field means that half the visitors appear to be suspended from the ceiling (or maybe I just hung the damn thing upside-down). Parked outside the spaceship’s giant picture window are the 117 spaceships and sundry vehicles they used to get to the party.
It’s an eclectic mix. Look hard and you’ll see the cast of Star Wars rubbing shoulders with Superman, Indiana Jones and a host of aliens from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There’s a Triffid and a Tribble, that funky beach-ball alien from Dark Star, the Alien is playing saxophone and … well, I think I’ll leave you to pick out the rest.
It took me 135 hours to draw The Picture, between the spring of 1982 and the spring of 1983. When it was finished, I immediately set to work on the sequel: The Picture Strikes Back, a wide-angle view of a spaceport arrivals area, with countless passengers disembarking from the requisite vast array of assorted craft. It was more ambitious than its predecessor: a full-colour acrylic painting instead of a mere black-and-white ink drawing.
The Picture Strikes Back got off to a good start – I finished most of the spaceships, and maybe 25% of the passengers. But I never finished it. It’s now languishing in a portfolio in the attic, gathering dust, and occasionally calling to me that it wants to fulfil its destiny. Maybe one day I’ll pick up the paintbrush again.