The Free Art Project : Week 101

The free art project was a group effort this week, in the form of an art workshop in The Wallington Arms. We had a full house and after a short art game to encourage our inner artists, we experimented with a range of activities.

I brought along some 10cm square wood panels which people decorated, here’s an excellent daughter and mother combo.

People made large works and small works, landscapes, abstract works, greeting cards and more. I love this 3D panel.

There were luggage tags available for people to add good wishes to. At the end of the session, we tied all the wishes to some bunting hanging up in the pub, leaving the place full of good thoughts for everyone to enjoy.

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One of the artworks made during the day was subsequently auctioned to help raise funds for MacMillan Cancer Research, and as I packed up the workshop, I spotted someone elsewhere in the pub celebrating their 18th birthday. During the workshop I made a panel with a silver and blue leaf design on a white background. I signed the piece and gave it to the person as a small token of celebration. I don’t have a photo of the art work but I consider it, and the workshop itself, to be the 101st week of the free art project.

Thank you to everyone who came along and helped make the event a success, it was lovely to see so many smiling faces throughout the afternoon. Thanks also to The Wallington Arms for hosting us – I couldn’t run these events without their support.


We Are All Artists

Saturday 19th August, Midday. I’m unloading (what feels like) a ton of art materials at The Wallington Arms, to get ready for our first We Are All Artists community art workshop and exhibition. Jon, Rachel and the rest of the staff are on hand, the doors are opened and the set up begins. Carole and Keira come down early to help – that’s much appreciated. Will anyone show up? I’m quietly confident that there are enough curious people in and around town to make this a worthwhile afternoon. We’ll see…

We are due to start at 2pm, and just before then, our first guests arrive. They are quickly followed by more, and more, and more. In a short time – the huge room is full and we are busy playing a drawing game called Finding Lines. The game loosens people up for a brief conversation about community and what that means to our guests. We ponder a while – share a few ideas, then get down to work. Our intention is to create art for our own evening exhibition.

The pub very kindly provided some snacks as people worked, and boy did they work. The room became an outpouring of colour. Acrylics, water colours, Sharpies, pastels, crayons, pencils and more came to life across the room as the art works began to emerge. Jason Goldrick kindly demonstrated a technique involving water colours, salt, clingfilm and a hair dryer (you had to be there). There seemed to be no end to our creative experiments – credit cards were used as brushes, so were fingers and hands. 4pm arrived in the blink of an eye – and our guests departed. We now had just two hours to turn the room from a fully functioning workshop, into an exhibition space. No pressure!

With more help from Carole, Keira, Helen and Aissa, the transformation began. We worked hard, and once the clear up was finished we then had the job of curating the work. I think we did a pretty good job – I hope you will agree.

The exhibition opened at 6pm and our guests had a great evening viewing all the art and having conversations about community. I met Lindsay who recently guessed the location of a Spanish art drop which I was able to hand over, and Stacie came to the exhibition with a piece of free art which I placed in Spain a year ago. She correctly guessed its location at the time – and it was a lovely coincidence to spend time with two people who had both found Spanish free art. The project is full of lovely coincidences like this.

We closed up just after 8pm and I’m heading back to The Wallington Arms in a while to finish taking everything down. I expect the two large murals will stay on the wall for a while, why not pop down soon and take a look at them?

Thank you to everyone who came and made art, and attended the exhibition. Thanks to Carole, Keira, Helen and Aissa for helping with preparations. Thanks to Rachel, Jon and all the staff at The Wallington Arms for being such great hosts, and thanks to Arts Network Sutton for supporting the free art project and providing a grant so this event could take place.


Leap Day Learning

A review of Leap Day 2016

Act One : Scene One

Monday 29th February 2016, a group of 15 intrepid, curious explorers gathered at The British Library. I distributed our Leap Day journals, and read a short poem which we discovered on Leap Day 2012. This poem was printed and stuck into each copy of the journal.

The Leap Day Poem

Act One : Scene Two

With our nod to the previous Leap Day complete – we took time to explore the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at The British Library. As we did so – we thought about beginnings, and before we headed off down the rabbit hole to our next destination, we stood and shared some of the things we found. I’ve written many in my journal, here are just a few:

She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it). Found by Jo Stephenson in the exhibition.

You do not know if
What you leave behind
Will weave into our world
And ignite beauty into our mind

A poem by Meg Peppin

‘It’s too dark to read anything except your thoughts’ I forget who spotted this. If it was you – let me know and I’ll pop your name in here.

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey
Is not to arrive
Anything can happen…
N. Peart

That’s enough about lessons, tell her about games now. Found by Steve Chapman in the exhibition.

With our beginnings shared, we headed off. As we left the building, we shared some home made chocolate and cranberry brownies. When Alice at the ‘Eat Me’ cake, she grew. I wondered how we would grow throughout the day.

Act Two : Scene One

Some of us walked to Tate Modern, some caught the tube. On arrival, we explored an exhibition titled Making Traces and considered a few questions. The questions were:

How do you leave a trace?

A footprint, a photograph or a mark of where you were?
What do traces tell us about what happened before?
What trace would you leave for others to discover?

I traced the outline of my hand into my journal, then made another copy of my hand on a sheet of tracing paper, following the lines of the grain on the wooden floor of the gallery. I overlaid one onto the other. I made some drawings, copying and blind drawing (method illustrated here), and I thought about physical traces, online traces, and legacy too. I found this process thoughtful, enjoyable, uplifting, particularly when considering legacy. Here is some of my work.

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Act Two : Scene Two

As we prepared to leave Tate Modern I distributed pieces of an artwork titled Good Hearts, which I made over the weekend. I wasn’t sure how to integrate this gift into the day, and as we stood together in the gallery, this felt like the right time to give.

Good Hearts

Interlude : Lunch and conversations at Borough Market

Act Three : Scene One

Over lunch, some conversations emerged about what to do next. We decided to walk to the National Theatre where we would stop, and make some art. Like everything in the day – this was an invitation, and on arrival, some of us drew and painted, some of us did other things. Those of us who made art, agreed to distribute it for others to pick up and take home – a collective trace of Leap Day. What a lovely idea. Here is some of our art.

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Act Three : Scene Two

Those of us who remained – drifted to the bar and shared some more good conversation over a drink. Thanks to everyone who came along for a day of useful fun. Without people, you’re nothing.

Exit stage left.

Producer’s notes:

Michelle Parry-Slater has kindly written about her Leap Day experience here.

Steve Chapman has kindly written a piece related to Leap Day and more, here.

I used Twitter and Slack to coordinate Leap Day and correspond with everyone. I think I only sent two emails, both very early on in the preparation. I was new to Slack – and found it a bit tricky to adopt but once I got my feet under the virtual desk, I found it a useful place to share project information, news and updates with the group.

I enjoy this work because: it’s fun, I learn new things, I like doing things for others : making the journals, the Leap Day logo, the art, the chocolate brownies, all these things were a pleasure.

We were short of time at the end of Leap Day and several people left their art with me – I agreed to distribute it for them. Fortunately I was in a position to retrace some of our steps later in the week so the commitment was fulfilled in close proximity to where the making took place. I enjoyed the process of honouring the group and letting go of the work for others to find. As this piece says, ‘JUST CREATE and don’t be attached to it’.

Just Create

Be invitational, be kind, be encouraging, be open to possibilities.