Barbara Jackson - Artist

This accomplished printmaker has contributed line drawings to Brandon's books.

Born in London, artist Barbara Jackson has a reputation for memorable etchings as well as teaching art to Holocaust survivor victims. She has received five prizes for her printmaking. On several occasions her work has appeared at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, as well as at the Mall and OXO galleries in London.

A graduate of the prestigious St Martin's School of Art in London, Barbara chose etching as her main art form, the process of incising or etching lines in a metal printing plate after which ink is applied to form the image on a sheet of paper. It's a highly specialist difficult process traditionally used by artists such as Rembrandt, Goya and Picasso.

"I'm a printmaker and painter who is fascinated by conveying people and architecture in a moody atmospheric manner which tells a story," she says. "I love capturing the play of light and tonality of an image".

As a special treat for readers, we have the rare honour to view the line-drawing doodles of this award-winning artist. Doodles aren't usually meant for an audience: in this case drawn while she was busy speaking on the telephone...

Barbara Jackson and Brandon Broll

British voice actor Peter Stern narrated the audiobook Still-life of a Pandemic.

With a background in music, acting and improvisation, Peter Stern has wide experience in voice-over projects including commercials, documentaries and film animated characters. Peter was the perfect fit to tackle the challenge of reading Still-life of a Pandemic: Street of the Hollow Eyes at the height of the pandemic in July 2020.

Knowing little about the life of a voice actor, Peter shared with Brandon a few highlights of his career: (1) My first commercial made a big impact on me because it was my first for a car dealership in Manchester; (2) My longest commute was the day I travelled all the way to Norway and back to spend five hours in a studio; (3) Once I spent two weeks cooped up in a voice booth being a purple weasel for an animated series; (4) Narrating a ten episode documentary on American National Parks for Discovery Channel; (5) Still hearing my voice at Ripley's museum whenever I'm at the Trocadero in London.

Why did Peter decide to read Still-life of a Pandemic? "I don't get to record poetry very often and certainly not of this length, so it was a challenge I knew I'd enjoy. There were several layers of difficulty in this project conveying the intended meaning while giving myself the freedom to apply my own meaning where allowed, providing emotion without going overboard and keeping the sizeable text fresh to hold attention. To help me, I asked you what certain sections meant to you. It's important to understand the intentions of the author. You also highlighted patterns in the writing I hadn't spotted.

I tried to make sure no two (repetitive) refrains were delivered the same way and they needed to reflect the mood of the preceding stanza. I decided that lines like 'yet still you are alive' could be read as second person, as if the father is talking to himself. The added complication here is that this poem is being read by someone who has already died. How do you put yourself in that position?"

Peter Stern - Voice Actor

Peter Stern and Brandon Broll, sitting outside and socially distanced during the Covid-19 pandemic (July 2020)

Did Peter's background in music help the reading? "Rhythm is certainly employed, so hopefully I was able to make it count. Also I didn't want to turn this into a drama by overacting the part, but there are sections that need a little more emotion. The text definitely needs to be delivered rather than simply read out so intonation and diction are important."

Asked how Peter got into character for the role, he replied: "I think the pandemic has made all of us more aware of people around us and our immediate neighbourhoods in particular. Many neighbourhoods have been brought closer together and ours is no different. My wife had symptoms of Covid-19 and had to isolate. It obviously had an effect on me and my daughter. You do start to think about what could happen given all the unknowns so it wasn't difficult to recall these feelings at the time."