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He was born and grew up in Lisburn, a Catholic in a working class Protestant area. He moved to the Lower Ormeau area of Belfast as a young man and became involved in the alternative music and arts scene. He began contributing to the small press anthology Ximoc in the early 1980s after writing a fan letter, drawing strips like "Chunky and the Green Monkey". His strips, in contrast to the fantasy, science fiction and humour that made up most of the magazine, were strongly political, although they did not address Northern Ireland politics.
He moved to Dublin for a while, living in a squat and singing in a punk band, until he got sacked for singing Beatles songs. Returning to Belfast, he founded the anthology Blast in 1982 with his brother Martin ("Maconov") and school friend Scally Wag. Blast featured an anarchic mix of humour and serious comic strips (contributors included Savage Pencil).
He became respected as an illustrator, moving between Belfast and London, and then studied at Belfast College of Art on York Street, before becoming renowned as a fine artist. After college he worked at King Street Studios and exhibited regularly.
He also wrote short stories and poetry, DJ'd with Blue Juice at various venues in Belfast, and worked as a history of art teacher. He was a volunteer worker for the National Schizophrenia Fellowship and held some charity exibitions alongside the poet Colin Hamilton named hands across the divide. He died in Belfast after a short illness aged 38
Lavery was related to the painter Sir John Lavery.