An interview with Bevin Richardson about his alternative The Dharma Bums book made from a seven 1.5 meter scroll painted in wine.
Bevian Richardson is a UK based illustrator, graphic designer and general creative. His work ranges from posters, business cards, photography and logos to painting, drawing and conceptual artwork. He follows lines of enquiry in many areas of the art world and has experience in numerous creative vocations.
Hello Bevin! Please tell us about yourself.
I’m 24, born in Wolverhampton and I’ve lived most of my life in a small town called Stourbridge in the black country.
I lived in Plymouth for three years while studying at university and I currently live in Sheffield, where I have recently moved to. I have a studio in Sheffield, which I have just moved into also. It needs insulating though!
I have worked in pubs for many years and I currently work in the Rutland Arms hotel.
Pubs have been a great source of inspiration for me as you meet many people from different walks of life all with different stories.
I decided to become a writer when I was just 7 years old. I don’t know why, but this thought just came to my mind one sunny day. How did you decide to become a painter, designer and artist?
I have always felt quite lucky as I have never had to question what I would do with my time and my life. Art has always been there as the obvious answer. The areas I now work in are ones that I have defined over years of practice.
By the way, do you call yourself a painter or designer, or maybe just an artist?
I try to keep away from names and titles. I am a person who spends many hours drawing and painting but I like many other things too. Before everything I am a human; I don’t wish to define myself solely by what I do and how I spend my time here.
A creative is probably the best word if we had to choose one, as I just like creating in whichever format takes my fancy. I like to write, too: mostly free-verse poetry, but this is more for my own reflective practice than for anything else.
Have you seen the latest cover for The Dharma Bums? Some people didn’t like it; some called it worst Kerouac’s cover, because it looks like a graphic novel. Why did they portray Jack like a dog if it’s well known that he liked cats?
Whether it relates well to Kerouac himself I don’t know, but everyone is only ever working from their own understanding of something, in this case “The Dharma Bums”.
I quite like the colours, font and the layout, but I see no need for animals of any variety… The unnecessary parts of it are the side “comic” bits which may take away from the meaning.
I think we can all get a bit too caught up in thinking we know what is right and wrong, but overall it is just someone’s interpretation and should be appreciated as such.
For more discussion on this controversial cover, see this Beatdom article: https://www.beatdom.com/the-dharma-bums-judging-a-book-by-its-cover
What is your favorite The Dharma Bums cover?
The pink and orange one (US, Penguin, 1980) is my overall favourite if talking design and graphics-wise, but it doesn’t describe the content of the book very well. The one of the gold Buddha with the American flag (UK, Panther, 1977) is my favourite content-wise as they hold many key aspects of the story and concepts within it.
My favorite one is the black one with mountains and green title (US, Penguin, 1994). But I like the version you made too. Very modern. Why black and white? What was the inspiration for you?
I love working in black and white and I love using lino printing as a technique. This cover was a lino print. For the cover I tried to sum up the general themes within the book, travel, drinking and Buddhism.
Why did you choose this book, and not On the Road? It is more famous.
I read On the Road before I read The Dharma Bums and after having heard so much about it and how great it was I felt let down as there wasn’t as much depth as I was looking for.
It was much more of a diary. The Dharma Bums vibed with me much better as it went deeper into conversations and Buddhist concepts.
The Buddhist aspect was a main draw for me as I had been looking into Buddhism more and more, originally starting with The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which I also based two projects of work on and is one, which I would like to come back to.
In a post-modernist sense I have nothing new to say, every idea has been thought and every action been made.
What I want to do is point people to the things which I have found have helped me develop my mind and expand this consciousness.
I say this, but you cannot help but add to the layers of influence that exist, as by merely being here you make an impact of some variety. By pointing, I am creating something else that almost takes away from the original point. Even Kerouac’s work is pointing to the Sutras, Vedas and Upanishads from thousands of years ago.
What impressed me so much is not the cover, but an alternative book you made from a seven 1.5 meter scrolls, which consists of illustrations and quotes from the original book. How did you come to this idea?
I wanted to illustrate the book but I didn’t want to just create individual pictures from the text that would sit inside the book relative to a chapter.
I also wanted to play with the concertina layout for books as I had only done one like that prior to this. I chose the scroll format to reflect the way Kerouac worked (even though it was On the Road that was written on a scroll). When reading the book there were certain parts and certain conversations and ideas that I wanted to bring out and focus on.
The idea of a stand-alone book/interpretation of the original seemed a much better idea as it was not changing anything or missing anything out (like a comic may do) as it is not the same book; it is something that would go alongside the original book. It is a way of pointing to Kerouac’s work but also showing what I found interesting from it in my own version.
How much time did you spend on each scroll? What techniques did you use?
After thumbnailing and doing visuals, working out the sequence and the style of how I wanted the piece I began the final scrolls.There were four layers for each scroll: pencil, ink, text and wine.
The overall time it took me was 9 days, straight. I woke up at about 9 a.m., rolled out of bed and began until lunch when I had an hours break. Then I would carry on painting until about 1:30 a.m. next day. I repeated this until it was finished.
Did you really use wine? How old it was? How much is left in the bottle?
I decided to paint in wine as it is a common theme in the book and because it was a common theme in Kerouac’s life. It was also something I had recently acquired a taste for.
I found the slightly purplish tones of the wine gave the whole piece a bit more depth than just black and white.
It is interesting to see now, as the wine is much more of an orangey colour than before.
There was no wine left when I had finished… I think I got through about two bottles… but less than a quarter of a bottle was needed for the scrolls.
It was an Argentinian Malbec… mmm!
You know, there is also a naked woman in this art. Do you think kids can see your work? How old, you think, a kid should be to read Kerouac?
I’m not sure about this. I don’t think nudity is or should be an issue.We are all naked under our clothing and the human body, of whatever shape, is nothing to be ashamed of.
It is an incredibly beautifully built machine that should be appreciated as such. Clothes are necessary for warmth but should not be the defining factor of a person.
I think the nudity in this work is very mild and playful and should not be censored, it is not overtly sexual. It is just what happened in the book.
I think The Dharma Bums is suitable for teenagers upwards as sex is not something that should be hidden or shamed. It is a natural and fundamental part of life.
What you are going to do with this work: to sell or keep it?
I have kept it stored away recently but it is going to be in a show in Sheffield at some point.
I am looking at making copies of the book to sell on but the original is also for sale to anyone who is interested.
Officially the Beat movement died somewhere in 60s. Then came the hippies. Before it were the hipsters. I believe that all these movements exist nowadays. Maybe media don’t call people beatniks or hippies anymore, but this lifestyle, when people don’t accept major society rules, is eternal. Do you agree?
I think so. The nature of things always leads to a balance, whatever movement is happening there will always be an opposing one. Whatever name we give to it doesn’t matter. It is more about the ideas and morals that are being employed and promoted, that are relevant. It is also a natural part of the way society runs currently.
Society creates certain roles that will be filled through the way it functions. With capitalism working the way it does, it creates roles for the people who see the truth of the situation. These are the people who embodied these movements as a society, not functioning on behalf of everyone, and it leads to some people realizing this is probably not the best way to conduct ourselves and these people rebel against the unjust format that exists.
In Russia this lifestyle is getting popular nowadays. How it’s in England?
Worldwide we can see that the idea of getting out of the whole cycle that enslaves man and doesn’t empower him is being broken. More and more people are realizing that it’s not a great idea to destroy the planet and each other, or to let the people who are doing so get away with it.
I think the people making these changes are doing something great! They are returning to the natural way of man, to explore inner and outer space and to be at one with the universe. They are creating in whatever from they choose, not just fitting into the system as they’ve been told they have to since birth.
All social changes are slow processes, but I think it is just something we all have to promote and stick with although it is difficult. It is easy slot into the machine… but who said that easy is good?
The American Dream is everywhere now. What do you dream about?
This is a difficult question. I have been trying to practice non-attachment and not to desire things… This is hard and I always seem to imagine possibilities of the way I would like things to be, without war and needless, perpetuated violence. I dream of many things but I will quote Khalil Gibran from his book The Prophet, from the chapter on houses. This is a dream I have very often:
“…Would that I could gather your houses into my hand and like a sower scatter them in the forest and meadow. Would that the valleys were your streets and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments. But these things are not yet to be…”
This quote sums up how I would like to live.
My goal is to have a field on which I can build a house, grow food, and build a studio to draw and paint.
I wish your dream will come true. Meanwhile, you likely will agree that to spend 60 plus days in the cabin on the top of the mountain, like Kerouac did, is a good way not to pay rent for at least 2 months.
I agree. It is a great way to not pay rent! Since I read The Dharma Bums I have thought about this a lot and I think at some point I will have to do it. I have thought about it a lot and it is something that I will do in my life if it is long enough to. It would be a very good practice to go somewhere completely remote and to sit with your own mind and enjoy being, in nature. It would be a great time to create a piece of work and develop new ideas.
Okay, what is your choice: mountains, forest, desert, some island in the sea or northern areas with a lot of snow and ice?
Anywhere in nature is where I would like to be… preferably with a little forest. I would like to start a creative community in the countryside and live self-sufficiently.
Sean Monahan in The Dharma Bums is my favourite character as he lives in the way I envision living. Taking days off when he wishes and having parties when it is time.
At the same time he found a great job at Desolation Peak. Now Sweden is changing to 30 hours working week. How many hours you think people should work?
Different people work in different ways but working too long for something you do not enjoy is not good for you. Personally, I am always working in some way or another, if it is earning money directly, drawing for a client, drawing for my own projects or just practicing it is all a kind of work.
I never see myself retiring, as I will always be creating. In this sense, I love working. I feel quite out of touch with other people’s concept of 9 to 5 working and then doing other things in your own time separately.
I try to make my work and my play all the same thing. I think this is also about how you decide to see and experience things in your mind.
What else you do, let’s say, if you would like to have a break from painting and designing?
Other than art I like to read books, watch films, skate longboards, talk to people, walk in the countryside, cook, drink, smoke and have sex. I like simple pleasures.
I never see myself stopping creating overall. I enjoy it too much. Even if I stopped creating for other people, I would still draw in my own time for my own pleasure. Even now I try and focus my work to things I enjoy doing as I don’t wish to spend my life doing things I don’t enjoy.
Only if I decided to lead a purely spiritual life, to give up everything and live in the mountains, would I stop creating.
What places you’ve been? What is your style of traveling?
I have been to many places on holiday and I can thank my parents for that, as they always made sure we went away at least once a year. In the last couple of years I have been to Berlin, Italy, Scotland, and many places in England. I like to travel in the UK as it is easy and it is so beautiful and full of history.
When I travel I go to see people rather than to see places. There are many beautiful places in the world, but none that can compare with good companionship.
I have a £40 black military back pack that extends out to add another 20 inches. This has been perfect for me. I use a big hiking bag that I’ve had for years but only ever use when
carrying a tent and food as well.
I usually take enough clothes to last 6 days, a jacket, a towel, a book, a sketchbook, pencils and pens, a knife, some string, cards, water and money. I try to buy my food as I go to save carrying it.
I always have books and pens with me to draw but it is not an essential, I can always find paper and pens in other places.
When I read about Kerouac and other Beats, they spent so much time “on the road” in their solo travels, but at the end of the day (or better to say, “the road”) they all had wives, family members, friends. Do you think a man can live alone?
A man can live alone for sure, whether it would be positive to live alone is down to the individual. It is also good to have space from the ones you love as it helps you all grow as individual people. It helps to keep relationships fresh.
When you travel, particularly with walking, there is a certain head-space that is very self-reflective. One where you can truly look into your own mind.
Traveling, for that reason, is something we should all do as it brings you out of the insular world you can find yourself in when stuck in one place for too long. Too much traveling on the other hand, I don’t think is good either, as you lose touch with the reality of the way things are.
Are you a happy person? What makes you a happy?
I am a happy person, like everyone there are ups and downs but I try to stay balanced in my mind. I try to stay balanced in my body too but smoking is a vice I should let go of, and I should do more yoga. Generally, I am in good health otherwise.
I try to practice being content with wherever I am as happiness like sadness is an extreme of emotion, no extreme is good for you. I am content in my day to day life although I stress myself out with ideas of what I should be doing but I try to let these go.
I only really become sad when I read news and see how people treat each other with such hate and intolerance.
You also made a poster to the “The Dharma Bums” book. It has a quote “One man practicing kindness alone in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls.” What is your temple?
Just like the quote says, I try to have no temple as temples are an abstraction from the truth which is within each of us.
I’d rather be the one man practicing kindness alone in the wilderness.
Thank you Bevin!
Thank you Ivan.