David Shrigley

How Are You Feeling?

“What if this book doesn't work?
It will work.
But I cannot stand the not-knowing-for-sure.
This book will help with the not-knowing-for-sure.
Is it guaranteed to help with the not-knowing-for-sure?

Have you ever felt like your head is made of yarn? Or you’re rowing uphill on a river of glue? Trapped on a wagon wheel? Do you feel like a bubble being pierced by a knife? In a boxing match to the death? Crossing a rickety bridge over a giant phallus? Skewered on the tree of knowledge?

This *might* be the book for you, David Shrigley’s (born September 17, 1968) How Are You Feeling? At the Centre of the Inside of the Human Brain’s Mind.

(But there’s no guarantee it will work.)

In Japanese folklore, there is a fantastical creature called nurikabe. This imagined phenomenon appears as a wall that restricts movement. It occurs when someone is walking alone, perhaps at night, in an unfamiliar area. Who hasn’t felt this psychosomatic effect of fear or exhaustion? Nurikabe is ominous but not permanent; it can be vanquished if struck at its base.1

The bond between visual metaphor and emotion is instinctual: “Metaphor is a way of thought long before it is a way with words,” linguist James Geary instructs us in his rich study of metaphor.

Let’s try it.

I am as tired as an umbrella. Leaning, crooked, the wall holding me up. Balance of gravity shifting. I need to move or I will slide down and lie flat in a puddle of my own making. That floor looks mighty comfortable.

How are you feeling? Are you alright?

British visual artist David Shrigley wants to know, wants to help with his armoury of metaphor, written and illustrated.

How are you feeling? Are you alright? If you could open your mind like a handbag and show us what was inside, what would we see? A bit of a mess? Don’t worry. This is a self-help book. You’ll feel better very soon.

If I were to open my mind like a handbag… well I wouldn’t need to, the thinning bottom wore through miles ago and I lost everything.

With rosy optimism open How Are You Feeling? and see a woman in a shoe shop asking for a hat.

David Shrigley, "How Are You Feeling?"
“I would like to buy a hat.”

This makes sense! This doesn’t make sense but I’ll read on.

How Are You Feeling? not a self-help book (and thank goodness) but rather, it is a self-self book. Shrigley on Shrigley, in writing and verse. Real, imagined, amplified, projected and all things at once.

And he’s here to help.

David Shrigley, "How Are You Feeling?"
“Your head is made of yard.”

A book aware of itself in such a brilliant fashion, it visualizes all the things you might be thinking. In metaphor, of course. Which can feel equal parts comforting and disconcerting. You might think: I could draw this.

But could you? Have you?

So why don’t you?

What if this book doesn’t work?
It will work.
Is it guaranteed to work?
No. But I cannot stand the not-knowing-for-sure.
This book will help with the not-knowing-for-sure.
Is it guaranteed to help with the not-knowing-for-sure?

Internal Wiring

We all have internal wiring sometimes this wiring comes loose. And it ceases to function properly. Check for loose wires and re-fasten them with glue. sometimes dust can accumulate on the wires. The dust can be removed with a miniature vacuum cleaner.

A self-reflective mind trying to make sense of itself, a confused but deliberate spirit existing in a world where the absurd is normalized daily and our standards of life and what is acceptable slip and slide out from under us.

Rules of Love

Love does not hit, punch bite, stab, attempt to poison, etc.
Love does not use abusive language when talking about a friend.
Love does not steal from a friend’s house.
Love is nice to a friend’s wife/husband/children/family.
Love does not attempt to have sexual relations with a friend’s wife/husband/children, family.
Love does not laugh when a friend is injured or sad.

“I’m hanging on quite comfortably.”

Become A Better Conversationalist

Listen with interest.
Avoid talking about anything interesting or worthwhile.

Become A Better Conversationalist


“How Are You Feeling?” is the opposite of a self-help book in our post-post modern existence where methods of “help” are Post-It Notes on the mirror with reminders of mindfulness and feelings expressed on clothing not faces.

And yet, How Do You Feel? will help your self. Unnerving as it is, the crude lines and subject matter (is there still such a thing as crude?) enacting things straight from dreamscapes, Shrigley makes it permissible to yell, scream, shout, or drip softly, resolutely to the ground like denuded feathers, all with the light touch of a black felt tip.

“How I feel.”

Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska wrote of how she used to visit her memory like it was on a stage. There is a gallery in the Victoria & Albert Museum where I like to sit and visualize my emotions. It’s the ironwork hall, usually empty, the patterned forms are either rigid or flowing just as I need them to be.

“Some people can handle it. And some people cannot.” Shrigley says.

David Shrigley in 2009.

A glass wine bottle balanced on the exact edge of a table. That is how I feel right now.

Read more from this wonderful waking-dream book here, and contemplate if it holds – admittedly bizarrely – the same mind and heart-space as Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking and Ocean Vuong’s poetry of being and becoming and Camus’ timeless advice to laugh rather than weep in the face of indifference.

Above all, consider visiting or even supporting the Sidmouth Art School a collaborative, educational space Shrigley founded based on the principles of art at all times, everywhere, for everyone as a means of self-expression.

All images are ⓒ David Shrigley, 2022 and provided courtesy of Canongate Press.