Archives for the month of: June, 2010

I was asked to make another temporary wall painting for the Culture of the Countryside project, this time for the show at Wingfield Barns. Yesterday I spent the day in the barn with my Mac, a projector and Jo Wylie at Glastonbury on the radio. It took from 9.30 to 5.30 to do, with a twenty minute break for lunch. I used umber, white, black and cerulean blue acrylic paint to restrict the palette. I had been asked to mention the field names and the villages of the schools that had taken part in the show which gave the initial map the range. I had been supplied with a scan of a Victorian OS type map and a detail of the Wingfield college site. I had taken a photo of a fold out map in a book of the Wingfield College estate with the field names on. There was no way the scale of these maps would marry up at all. I did mention the notion of a palimpsest during the planning stage.

Final map painting at 5.30pm on Saturday.

The previous map painting I made using an overhead projector and I arranged the digital files and printed them out onto transparent sheet. This time I decided to use a digital projector as I thought I would be able to control the light and darkness in the room more easily. It also meant that I didn’t have to prep the image in the same way. I used Google maps to make a basic map of the whole region which is what I did for the Halesworth one. Then I found appropriate digital images and put them in a folder. On my way to the site I stopped a took a photo of St Andrew’s church from the top of the hill and used that as well.

This meant that I could be a bit looser about the image construction. I started with the google map and then started layering the Wingfield detail and then the field map and the Victorian OS map, more or less centred over Wingfield.

The manner of the images came about because I had discussed the practicalities of the piece with the art centre manager who was worried about the expensive tiled floor. I had reassured her that I wouldn’t drip paint at all as I hadn’t done at all for the Halesworth one. “You’re not doing a Rolf Harris then?” she said. When I got there in the morning I was given a very fine heavy weight dust sheet which it seemed a shame not to make full use of. I also thought, as the morning wore on, that thin paint would be quicker to use and would help with the palimpsest effect that I was after, it would allow the layers to show through. There was a time limit to the work and I thought it would probably be more fun to use thin paint and be a bit looser about it. And I was right; it was more fun and quicker. I was doing the images in about twenty minutes each with a bit of Photoshopping on the images before projection, specifically gray scaling and increasing the contract and brightness. So the look of the piece evolved during the day and was a mixture of preparation, having a fairly clear outline idea in my head and improvising on the day. The outline in my head was vague in detail but I had a conception of what it would look like. Quite what that idea in my head looks like is difficult to explain as it is purposely vague and I did no prep drawing or sketch.

I realise, once I’d done it that I could have been much more orderly about it. I could have measured out the wall and designed the whole thing in Photoshop before I got there and then just traced it on. I could have arranged all the overlaps and so on and made all the decisions before I got near the wall. Why didn’t I? The fact that I didn’t and did it the way I did seems interesting and the process that I have used seems to have lead to the image looking in a certain way. There is an interaction between the circumstances, the time allowed, the materials, the brief and with the manager. Interesting. Is there any meaning in that? Is this creativity?

All things must end and sadly Henrietta, our very fine Saint Phalle figure, had to go this week. She has done sterling service in the art college and on display in the covered courtyard at school for over a term but it was time for her to go. We considered putting her top of my garage to the delight of my neighbours no doubt, or taking her on a valedictory tour of Lowestoft in the back of Mrs Lewis’ lorry but in the end we decided she would have to go in the recycling bin. My technical support team have had some fun with this. Henrietta has been replaced with a show of hands.

Henrietta meets her end

A Show of Hands

In the print workshop for the afternoon once more. Craft learnt in a month of Thursdays. Two plates on the go, the big one with shoes on it, which is supposed to be an ironic reference to an art room standby, and a smaller one, 8×10 inches, of small art objects in a Morandiesque still life. The large one has been aquatinted by Ernst and I am going to dip it in a minute and the smaller one is in the acid for a nice long steep.

I have dipped the small one twice and managed to pull a proof. It looks OK. Big scratch across it which I hadn’t noticed during the drawing phase. I don’t invite these but it goes with the plates being seconds and in being carried back and forth in a bag, sometimes on a bike. The damage reminds me of tin types and other photographic damage. There is a photographic link to the etchings. The size is a photo half plate for one.

Things went well until I managed to get a blob of ink on the blanket of the big press. a cardinal sin in the print workshop so my name’s mud at the moment. Easy done, blob on the apron, lean on the roller to put the blankets on the print and then transfer it to blanket. Bugger. Sorry Ernst.

Still life in a Morandiesque manner. Small art objects from a shelf.

Last week we went down to Northgate High School in Ipswich for the opening of the Beneath the Surface exhibition of work by Jevan Watkins Jones made during his residency as an artist there over the past two years. The work mainly consisted of the large ceramic mural made by year seven pupils on large white tiles donated by a local tiling firm. Jevan had done a huge and very beautiful drawing based on the pupil’s drawings of people in the playground and this was used as the basis of the large mural. The pupils had filled in the images on the tiles with oxides and glazes.

The other work was based on prints of cells and two very large photo-grams which I unsuccessfully photographed in the stair well. There was also a text piece on a window. These all part of Jevan’s legacy work. We had a look round the art rooms and there was a lot of high quality stuff going on. It made me think about working in a high school where there was this level of enthusiasm and effort going into the art. I have become a specialist in working with a general population of pupils who may or may not like art. It is a long, long time since I worked with volunteers. Perhaps it is time to start.

I enjoyed Jevan’s studio and again he was very generous with his sketchbooks and prep work. We had a chat about our various projects and his upcoming show at the Drawing school in London. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a diverse practice which I have been thinking about since. Jevan was concerned about the way the residency had diversified his work in a way and made it difficult to focus. I liked that about his work though, the way it covered drawing, science, photo-grams, computer work and sculpture and so on, just in this show. But, thinking about it, and doing some writing about the diversity of my own work I am more troubled. At least Jevan can think about his own work as an entity he might want to get back to but I am not sure what my work would be like any more if I was left to my own devises. My work over the past year has covered an enormous amount of ground in a wide range of media, some because of teaching, some as my ‘own work’, some in between, some because of the PhD. Trying to write down what the common threads are is very difficult, apart from me, ‘all made by the one hand’ as someone said of my NUCA show.

Perhaps that’s a warning. Keep making extremely diverse work and forget what it is like not to? Along the way I can remember things that have seemed to make it OK to have a diverse work pattern. I remember seeing a show of Braque at the RA years ago and thinking that here was a chap untroubled by the idea of making his ‘typical’ work. I wonder how much of an artist’s style comes about post-mortem. Is it the modern manner to have a range of work or styles to suit every occasion? I have been thinking about this and attempting the beginning of a Catalogue of My Own Styles or A Personal Art History.

Jevan emailed back:

Thanks Paul great blog and thanks for turning out I really appreciate it. It’s my last week in London this week and we had the thrill of meeting HRH The Prince of Wales at a reception in Winsor Castle on Monday eve and I sold two drawings there, so that’s fab! I will email again in response to your blog on the issue of ‘diversification’ the story of are times but I feel on reflection, as you reassured, genre variation to a healthy degree is lively & good but I do feel there is a depth of substance compromised that a dedication to a single discipline gives…..will keep thinking!!


Half term week so planning a day in the print studio tomorrow. I worked on a plate this afternoon, a plate that has been hanging around since last summer. I made up a big plate that was beyond my technical capabilities and inclination which, as I tend to do, I kept for ‘best’. Which means I will leave it in my will. But, you can’t do that so I used it to make a drawing of shoes outside on the terrace this afternoon. Why shoes? Well, it’s something of a school art room cliche for one. It’s a reference to Van Gogh though somewhat ironic as these shoes are leisure shoes, sports shoes, indeed. They are sitting on a cycling and an art magazine. The idea is that it is part of this set of ‘still life’ drawings of things things that are lying around me in some way. Allegorical personal images in that tradition. I shall dip it tomorrow and print the drawing I made last week of bits and pieces on the table.