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  • Writer's pictureHarri Lane

To finish a sequence of posts on the topic of childlike art - this is Paul's sleeve for his own band Crawl's 1996 single 'Sourface'. A cover that demonstrates childlike drawing - even moreso than his simpler work like 'The Duck Pond' which we talked about the other day. This is because (as we can see on the label of the sleeve) we don't just have Paul to credit - we also have Heather (aged 5) and Alex (aged 3).

The art is chaotic but innocent and the entire cover is left open to display it. The lines are strongly defined and you can see the messy smudging of what is likely graphite but could be charcoal. I'm very fond of the little extras that adorn this record - like the funny little 'crawl' face on the back - and the anarchic 'sour face' guitar player on the vinyl itself.

While Paul had always played in bands with his friends (often rehearsing in the cellar when they lived together in Ilford) - Crawl had started up in 1995 under the working title of 'Baby Crawling'. Andy Golding (lead guitar), Frank Stebbing (drums), both formerly of the Wolfhounds. Todd Berry (bass), long time musical collaborater of Paul and Andy. Paul was lead vocal, guitar and lyricist. Darren "Des" Penney signed them with Creation.

From Simon Spence, music journalist and Fabulous singer;

'I thought the single they cut was brilliant. I went to watch him rehearse in King’s Cross. I thought and hoped Crawl would go places. It was a hot day. We had a beer or two. Centre of the universe feel. That was the last time I saw Paul. I recall crying watching him play in that little rehearsal… he really moved me.'

Crawl in 1996 © Martyn Goodacre

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  • Writer's pictureHarri Lane

Crayon Room

pencil on card

Izzy Goodhead

b. 2001

On the topic of the last blog posts discussion on childlike influences and the use of the non-dominant hand - we have one of the first pieces commissioned for the project; Crayon Room by Izzy Goodhead. It's a near one-point perspective piece with a viewpoint that's almost a modern swap of Gogh's Bedroom in Arles with similarly popping colours. This is what Izzy had to say about the piece;

‘I was reading through Paul Cannell's obituary, and something that really stuck with me and made me laugh was how his work occasionally looked so much like children's art that he managed to sell art made by actual children as his own. He would use his non dominant hand to achieve this look, so I did the same here. I used the concept of him staring at his ceiling to see the damp water spot, and translated that to the view I had while lying in bed. While trying to make my work seem more childlike, choosing the medium was easy. Crayons are the weapon of choice for nearly all art that gets stuck to the fridge when it's brought home from school, so I picked up my own and started scribbling. I found it really therapeutic to make a piece of art where I knew it wasn't going to look beautiful; it was supposed to be a bit chaotic and messy.’

Izzy Goodhead is an experimental artist who dabbles in several mediums, including digital art using ProCreate and acrylic paints. She’s taken a break from making art since lockdown as she has commitments to her full time employment, but still loves to create when she has the time. You can find her on Instagram at

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  • Writer's pictureHarri Lane

A notable and recurring motif in Paul's work is the childlike quality of a lot of his art. His oils frequently feature vibrant colours, simple blobs and a variety of disconnected facial features. On paper - the shapes he sketches are almost indistinguishable - the general composition uncoordinated and messy. This is actually a result of his usage of his non-dominant hand - a method he would employ to intentionally obfuscate his work.

"I changed my hands about three and half years ago because I was sick of what my left hand was doing. I like drawing with my right hand because it’s messy, it’s like a kid. It’s clumsy. All this clumsy work you’re seeing here, that’s why it’s clumsy. That’s the only way I’ve been able to build abstraction. I was getting too dangerously technical with this arm."

Paul Cannell

And it's true. The piece above - 'The Duck Pond' could very easily be mistaken for something sketched by a toddler after getting home from the park. And there's a certain innocence to it that makes it genuinely fascinating and appealing. In art we already take our time trying to understand the meaning of a piece - sitting and studying a childs drawing and attempting to make out what all of the strange shapes could be isn't vastly different after all.

Paul was clearly very inspired by children's drawings - likely for similar reasons. And though he employed this throughout his work - and even employed the help of children for future pieces (notably his sleeve for his own band Crawl) the ironic comparison was clearly not lost on him;

"I pick up so many kids drawings off the street at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It’s incredible, they’re great. I put them up here and in my house and people go ‘oh, I like this one’ and you say, ‘how much would you pay for it?’ and they’ll go, ‘I’d give you 200 quid for it’ and then you say ‘’s a fucking kid’s drawing mate’. [laughs]."

Paul Cannell

I wouldn't be too surprised to find out 'The Duck Pond' actually was something a child had drawn - from what I know about Paul I think he would have gotten a kick out of exhibiting it with the other Cannellism pieces and having people murmur quietly and attempt to find meaning. But the shapes are just a bit too unclear and I can see his handiwork in the jagged edges and strange structure.

The conversation of comparing modern and abstract art to the work of children has spanned decades - and I recommend a fantastic book on the subject called 'Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That'. But overall I think art that intentionally takes inspiration from the work of children does so for very obvious reasons - the work of children comes from an artistic perspective that most creative people would assuredly endeavor to return to - complete freedom. Freedom to explore and experiment in a free and expressive way without judgement. Who doesn't want that?



The interview portions of this post are from the fantastic interview with Paul conducted in 1992 by Marceline Smith at his Creation Records attic studio. I'll post the full digitized version of this interview soon but until then you can read Marceline's post on Diskant

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