Living In A Fisheye Lens

The hermit and the performer, working alone and working out loud.

The title of this post is a line from the song Limelight, by Rush. The song is about life as a performer. It’s a great piece of music which tells a good story, I encourage you to have a listen.

As a visual artist I am sometimes a hermit, sometimes a performer. With Carshalton Artists Open Online Studios fast approaching – I’ll be switching between the two a lot in the coming days, as I flip between making art in my quiet studio space, running live workshops, and (weather permitting) developing a new street art project too.

Since lockdown – I’ve been focusing on drawing as my main creative practice. Drawing is accessible – endlessly adaptable, and it’s great for my wellbeing too. My Chalk And Talk sessions arose from a knee jerk response to ‘do something’ as the country ground to a halt – and here we are some 13 weeks later, having built a really interesting varied body of work using different styles and techniques, while conversation gently ebbs and flows between us. I’ll write more about these experiences another day – for now though – it’s enough to know they’re proving to be great fun and great learning. The preparation is the hermit, the live session is the performer.

Coming back to the online open studios event – and we’ve been invited to consider the theme of water for 2020. We live near The River Wandle, and some of my earliest paintings are a nod to walks by the water.

Door To The River : Close Up. The original acrylic on canvas now resides in the USA.
Flash of Blue : The original of this piece was my first ever art sale on Etsy, and I released a limited edition postcard print as a free art drop for the first CAOS in 2017

I find water a tricky subject to play with – and it’s not something I’ve tackled for a while. Despite my new found interest in drawing – I felt pulled back to my more familiar world of stencil art. If I’m to tackle a tricky subject – then maybe I need to build from a tried and trusted technique. I got to work – and an idea around a fish in the river quickly formed. The hermit does his thing – and several hours later – two stencils emerge into the light.

I’ve not cut anything fiddly for a while and although I now have very sore fingers, I’m happy with these. The next step is to bring the stencil layers together and test them out.

I made four test sprays on vintage sheet music – work in progress. Having invested several hours in the preparation, I’m a little disappointed with the first results. I resolved to play with different colours and effects to try and improve the work. Often when we see the art – we’re only seeing the finished piece. For me the process is really important. I shared these rough drafts online and the variety of responses was interesting and useful for me. Some folk like them as they are – some offered hints and tweaks, and some people simply chatted with me about the process – about doing the work necessary in order to attain the goal, the thing some call a ‘Hard Won Image’.

Carole and I spoke about the stencils – the possible layers and effects, and I realised that although my intention is to see the fish in the water, rather than on top of it – the way I apply the paint means I don’t necessarily have to follow a fixed routine. For example- can control – the way I let the paint leave the can and arrive on the surface – has a profound effect on the finished piece. Having had the chance to reflect – I revisited the work.

The same, but different

Here we see the same fish, and the same river stencil – but the finished piece is quite different. I’ve abandoned the sheet music – it felt too busy with these detailed stencils. Now I’m working on slightly textured cartridge paper – with an initial splashed coat of silver paint as the base. It’s not that easy to see in the photo – but silver is a great highlight colour – it makes the image come alive as it catches the light – and adds interest to the design without dominating it. Next comes the river – lightly sprayed using a mix of blue and green paint. Two colours helps to suggest movement and once again, adds more interest. Finally – the fish – sprayed much more lightly than before. As you can see – even though the fish stencil is the top layer in the image – the fish appears to be submerged in the water.

I’m really pleased with the work – and I’m also pleased I first chose to show it in an unfinished state. For me it is important that art is seen as something accessible, and sharing the creative process is as much a part of the art as the finished piece itself.

This design is titled ‘The Fish Follows The River’ and is available to purchase during Carshalton Artists Online Open Studios. The price is £40 plus £5 P&P in the UK, or £10 P&P internationally. £5 from each sale will be donated to Sutton Counselling. As each art work is handmade they’re all unique and slightly different. Each piece will be signed by the artist prior to dispatch, and will be sent unmounted and unframed. You can send money via my PayPal link or contact me for my bank details – whichever suits you best. Thanks in advance for your support.

Wandering In Imagination

We have a garden. I’ve never been a keen gardener and right now, I’ve never more thankful for immediate access to outdoor space. As well as sitting in the garden, I’ve been contemplating outdoor space artistically too. My new role as Artist In Residence with GameShift, has yielded an opportunity to consider the importance and significance of being outside, and the results of a small garden project will become visible soon. For now, here’s a preamble, in the form of an imaginary path.

I based this drawing on a recollection of a magazine cover. I forget the title of the magazine, but it was something to do with wellbeing and contained an article about being outside. I recalled the image and sketched a version from memory. The work symbolises gratitude. I’m going to offer this A4 pen and watercolour sketch as the next online free art drop. If you are interested in taking part – head over to my Facebook page, where some clues will need to be solved.

As well as thinking about gardens for the GameShift project, I’m also taking time to think about how I chronicle my work in this time of lockdown. The heritage department of our local authority has a project underway called ‘The Locals: Diaries’. It’s an invitation for residents in the borough to keep notes in whatever form they want, and submit copies of the documentation for the borough archives. I’m looking forward to supporting this project, both directly through my own contributions, and as a member of Arts Network Sutton too. More to follow…

Howlin’ At The Moon : The Offcut Project

As the lockdown went live here in the UK, I was fortunate to learn about something called The Offcut Project. It’s a great idea being run by Suki at The Print Block.

Suki has invited artists to send designs to her, and she prints off a limited edition of just 14 prints. The edition is returned to the artist for signing and numbering, then it goes back to The Print Block for sales and distribution.

An image of the artist's hand signing a few limited edition prints. The print design is a silhouette wolf howling at the moon against a backdrop of musical notes.
Signing and numbering the limited edition.

1 copy is retained by the artist, 1 stays with the studio. 2 copies go into a pool of prints to be sent out to each contributing artist at the end of the project, and 10 are made available to purchase at a cost of £30. £10 of each print sale will go to the artist, at least £10 of each print sale will go to food banks through The Trussell Trust. The remaining amount will go to covering costs at the studio. What a lovely idea.

I chose to submit my ‘Howlin’ At The Moon’ design. The term Howling At The Moon is often used to describe the sense of wanting something we cannot have. In these times of social distancing, that feels apt, whether it be a lack of each other’s company, toilet rolls, or something else! The artwork is inspired by a song by Hank Williams, who wrote the song ‘Howlin’ At The Moon’ in 1951 to describe the giddiness of true love. I don’t know about you – but I am fortunate to be experiencing a lot of love too. I’m seeing lots of people doing lots of good, loving things. One of those people is Suki at The Print Block. Thanks for including me Suki.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of ‘Howlin’ At The Moon’ or any of the other prints on offer, you can do so here.