Archive | August, 2011

Tiny Art in a Venetian Plastic Sphere

31 Aug

Had a week off and back to the studio today. Strangely I worked better this morning; I’m usually at my best after lunch. I’m a bit tired because we spent most of last week travelling, entertaining, running and digging and now it’s catching up with me. I spent my time finishing my entries for the ‘100 artists’ installation at the Venice Arts Biennale Fringe. It’s a chance to get two tiny artworks into vending machines situated in galleries in Venice. The work will be put into little plastic spheres [smaller than 10 centimetres] and collectors will have to take a chance on what they get for their money.

Drawing / print construction: Pathogen

I’ve made two drawing / print constructions based on a traditional children’s game. ‘Pathogen’ is drawn from dangerous bacteria and viruses that attack the human animal. With the population of the planet increasing to huge numbers it becomes more likely that our species will be slaughtered by these or similar pathogens. The central image of a skull is a lino block print developed from original anatomical drawings. Cheerful aren’t I?

Drawing / print construction: Pathogen interior.

‘Petroglyph’ is based on sketchbook drawings I did during a trip to the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan a couple of years ago. They are ancient rock carvings, picked into roadside boulders by people at least ten thousand years ago and they mostly represent local animals and hunting scenes.

Drawing / print construction: Petroglyph.

 

Their existence is now threatened by the proposed development of a hydro-electric dam in the Indus Valley which will drown this extraordinary monument of early human art. The central image is a lino block print developed from a drawing of an ibex petroglyph.

Drawing / print construction: Petroglyph interior.

 

 

Draw Draw Draw: Feet to the Fore

30 Aug

Ink drawing: My husband's feet.

 

Call me old-fashioned but I draw almost every day and I make no apologies for that. I believe that drawing underpins visual art and that all artists should draw regularly to constantly improve what we do. Sometimes at the end of a long day I don’t really feel like sketching and it’s more out of duty than anything else and this is when feet come in really handy [see what I did there] as they’re never far away and they stay put, so I have quite a few drawings of my feet …… and my husband’s. It’s good practice because they’re not easy to draw so you get some anatomy and perspective practice as well. These ink drawings are in my sketchbook and they’re drawn using the continuous line technique with Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens.

 

Ink drawing: my feet.

 

Archaic Blue Photography [very artgeek stuff]

29 Aug

Cyanotype portrait: Melvyn, Lahore.

I don’t always work from drawings although 90% of my work, or more, is based on sketches. Sometimes I have a bit of a play with photographic imagery and translate it into various forms of printmaking – monotype, block, screen, photogravure and cyanotype.

 

Cyan is the colour blue and also the first four letters of cyanide and it’s this combined with ferric compounds that form the chemical basis for cyanotype, one of the earliest forms of photography. I start by shoving a digital photo through Adobe Photoshop Elements, changing to black and white and inverting it to get a negative. Then I either put it through a Cutout filter to reduce it to four or five greytones, or into Threshold to make it a very stark black and white image, like Pop Art. Then I print it out onto acetate through an inkjet printer so I have a contact negative.

 

The next step is to coat a sheet of Bockingford or Somerset, at least 250gsm, with the cyanotype solution, leaving some brushstrokes around the edges, and dry it off in the darkroom, then into the UV Unit with the negative for 6 minutes [it can be done in daylight but takes a lot longer]. The development is easy; pop it into running cold water until the print turns blue and white and the water runs clear. Leave it to drain for a while then between tissue-lined drying boards while it’s still damp.

 

I took this photo of my husband at night in a rooftop restaurant in Lahore, Pakistan and gave him the cyanotype treatment.

 

A Little Black Panther and Pavlov’s Humans

28 Aug

Ink drawing: two kitties on a cushion.

Our lovely black tomcat, Bola, died a couple of years ago at the age of 19. He was an enormous sleek neutered tom and he looked like a scaled down black panther but he had the sweetest personality and loved food. He was a bit of a gourmet and I know you’re not supposed to do it, but I always let him sit next to me at the table and I fed him tidbits. He liked Indian, Chinese, Italian and Mediterranean food as well as good home cooking. Meat, fish and cheese were his favourites but he’d happily eat rice, pasta and veg as long as there was some sort of gravy or sauce on them.

At the end of the meal he loved to be given a tiny slice of honeydew melon which he’s suck and suck until it was dry. He always had to have his human food at the table – he wouldn’t eat tidbits if I put them in his cat bowl. I wished that there were restaurants that would accept cat guests because he would have loved to be taken out to dine and he was very well-behaved, but that’s ‘Elfin Safety for you!

I swear he had a wristwatch hidden on him somewhere because throughout his long life he never missed a mealtime. We’ve always fed our cats at 7am and 5pm and he’d be there, first thing in the morning, meowing loudly dead on seven o’clock every single day, never understood the concept of a lie-in. Even though he’s been gone now for two years we still automatically wake up at 7am, no need for an alarm clock. It’s like those experiments with Pavlov’s dogs.

This is an ink sketch I did of Bola and Bobbit, our tortoiseshell [calico] queen in a rare moment of tolerating each other, curled up on a chair next to the boiler in the kitchen.

My Cat’s New B.F.F. – the Kettle.

28 Aug

Ink sketch: My Cat's New B.F.F.

We have a big boiler in the kitchen and for the past seventeen years it was ruled by Bobbit, our recently deceased tortoiseshell [calico] queen. It’s been five weeks now since she died and in the past week Ming the Merciless, our next oldest cat, has grabbed the space and made it her own. For the first week or two after Bobbit’s death, she and Sparta took it in turns to sprawl on the boiler top, but after a few scuffles, Ming asserted her dominance and the coveted boiler is hers. It’s covered in cork tiles so it’s exceptionally warm and cosy but she has to share it with the bread maker and the kettle. No problemo. The kettle is warm as well and she’s happy to cwtch up next to it and even curl around it. The kettle is her new Best Friend Forever. I think this is one relationship that’s going to last and last.

Unless we decide to change to a small wall-mounted boiler.

No! NO MING! I didn’t mean it! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

Cooking Celtic Cakes

28 Aug

Ink drawing: Tinker's Cakes on the griddle.

We have a glut of cooking apples this year and they’re a type that doesn’t store very well so I’m trying out as many apple recipes as I can find time to. Today I made Tinker’s Cakes, which are a variation on Welsh Cakes, a traditional Celtic dish, using apples and cinnamon instead of currants and nutmeg. The cakes are cooked on an iron ‘maen’ or ‘planc’ in Welsh, a griddle or bakestone in English. This is a very ancient way of cooking over a fire. Celtic cooking was done either in an iron cauldron, giving rise to one-pot dishes like Irish Stew, Lobscouse from Liverpool and Cawl, a Welsh lamb and vegetable soup, or a griddle. You can still buy cakes and breads cooked in this way from Swansea market and Scottish oatcakes, pikelets, crepes and pancakes are also part of this tradition.

We went for a run along the beach earlier so we were starving when we got back and I thought we deserved some nice Tinker’s Cakes hot off the maen, with some lovely Welsh farmhouse butter melting into them. We nommed the lot! I’ll have to do another run tomorrow to work off the calories!

I did a drawing of the cakes in my sketchbook while they were cooking. It’s in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens, sizes S and F with shading by FCP again, only this time their set of ‘Shades of Grey’ brush pens.

Cooking Celtic Cakes

27 Aug

Ink drawing: Tinker's Cakes on the griddle.

 

We have a glut of cooking apples this year and they’re a type that doesn’t store very well so I’m trying out as many apple recipes as I can find time to. Today I made Tinker’s Cakes, which are a variation on Welsh Cakes, a traditional Celtic dish, using apples and cinnamon instead of currants and nutmeg. The cakes are cooked on an iron ‘maen’ or ‘planc’ in Welsh, a griddle or bakestone in English. This is a very ancient way of cooking over a fire. Celtic cooking was done either in an iron cauldron, giving rise to one-pot dishes like Irish Stew, Lobscouse from Liverpool and Cawl, a Welsh lamb and vegetable soup, or a griddle. You can still buy cakes and breads cooked in this way from Swansea market and Scottish oatcakes, pikelets, crepes and pancakes are also part of this tradition.

We went for a run along the beach earlier so we were starving when we got back and I thought we deserved some nice Tinker’s Cakes hot off the maen, with some lovely Welsh farmhouse butter melting into them. We nommed the lot! I’ll have to do another run tomorrow to work off the calories!

I did a drawing of the cakes in my sketchbook while they were cooking. It’s in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens, sizes S and F with shading by FCP again, only this time their set of ‘Shades of Grey’ brush pens.

My Cat’s New B.F.F. – the Kettle.

26 Aug

Ink sketch: My Cat's New B.F.F.

We have a big boiler in the kitchen and for the past seventeen years it was ruled by Bobbit, our recently deceased tortoiseshell [calico] queen. It’s been five weeks now since she died and in the past week Ming the Merciless, our next oldest cat, has grabbed the space and made it her own. For the first week or two after Bobbit’s death, she and Sparta took it in turns to sprawl on the boiler top, but after a few scuffles, Ming asserted her dominance and the coveted boiler is hers. It’s covered in cork tiles so it’s exceptionally warm and cosy but she has to share it with the bread maker and the kettle. No problemo. The kettle is warm as well and she’s happy to cwtch up next to it and even curl around it. The kettle is her new Best Friend Forever. I think this is one relationship that’s going to last and last.

Unless we decide to change to a small wall-mounted boiler.

No! NO MING! I didn’t mean it! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

Babysitting the Art at Bus Stop Cinema

25 Aug

I volunteer regularly to babysit exhibitions at Elysium Gallery and it’s a chance to catch up on admin on the laptop like cataloguing photos and writing artist statements. This week it’s Bus Stop Cinema, featuring 13 films from international artists, an eclectic mix of art, drama, animation and parody. It’s fun babysitting in the dark and mostly I’m on my own with people popping in and out but no-one yet has had time to watch the whole cycle, so they watch one or two, have a bit of a chat and then off to carry on with their Thursday afternoon activities.

First in was an older local artist during ‘River of Mud’ by Jacob Dwyer and he showed me a small original oil painting he’d bought in a second-hand shop for four quid. The painting was a conventional but pretty landscape in a lovely old-fashioned, well-made stretcher.

 

Ink drawing: a corner at the old Elysium Gallery.

 

Another artist came in during Melvyn William’s first Downfall parody, ‘Jaffa Cakes’. We discussed the call for the forthcoming Venice Biennale fringe exhibition of work in vending machines and talked about the different ways of presenting artwork in a sphere with a ten centimetre diameter – folding, crumpling, digital imagery on a memory stick, tiny art……. which took us through ‘Interior Day’ by Elina Medley.

 

An older woman popped in during Jayne Wilson’s ‘All That Mighty Heart’ and told me about her skateboarding lessons and the disapproval of her neighbours that a woman of her age had taken up the skateboard. She’s learnt five manoeuvres; getting on, getting off, moving in a straight line, going up, going down. She left during ‘Dress, Cover, Interval, Distance’ by Lindsay Foster to go and finish re-pointing her garden wall before it rained again.  A photographer of a certain age asked about opening times next week and we chatted about the Simulacrum exhibition that’s coming up and I gave him flyers for it and the Artawe website for local artists. That took us through David Marchant’s ‘Love Boat’.

 

Three people, also of a certain age, watched the animation ‘Re-Toiled’ by Sean Vicary and got right into it – it’s fantastical and a bit disturbing. The two men thought the second Hitler parody, ‘Self-service Tills’ , was hilarious but the woman found it quite difficult to get beyond the evil that Hitler stood for.  No young people this afternoon, maybe because the students have gone home. All the visitors have been 40+. Like me. Nobody but me saw David Theobald’s ‘Greensleaves’ which is a pity because it’s really funny in a weird way.

The drawing is an ink sketch in my sketchbook of a corner of the last incarnation of the Elysium Gallery when it was situated in a large semi-derelict ex-brothel in Mansel Street. I used Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens.

 

The Duke’s Legs Akimbo in Brighton

22 Aug

Ink sketch: The Duke's Legs.

 

Taking a break for a few days in Brighton, we went to see The Guard, hilariously funny film, at The Duke of York’s Picturehouse. It’s an independent cinema built in 1910 in a rather over-the-top Victorian style; one of those buildings that looks like a wedding cake, all white and stuccoed and covered with curly bits. The most distinctive thing about The Duke’s though is an enormous pair of shapely lady’s legs clad in black stilettos and black and white stripy stockings sticking out of the roof. It’s the sort of sight that makes you think someone’s spiked your drink with something nefarious.

 

I don’t know when they arrived, or why, but they turn a conventional municipal building into something rather groovy. There’s also a lovely mature passion fruit plant scrambling over the stonework. I stood more or less directly underneath the legs, so there’s some acute foreshortening going on. I’m not that keen on drawing architecture and those Victorians were way too fond of decoration for my liking and it made my job much harder – all that frippery took ages to sketch. The drawing is done in Faber Castell Pitt drawing pens in sizes S, F and B into my folded sketchbook, which is why there is a colour cast over some of the drawing.

 

Earlier, we walked past the Royal Pavilion built for George the 4th, which is way over the top like a cross between St. Basil’s in Moscow and a giant exotic mosque, a fantastical building, but it’s a pity that Brighton and Hove Borough Council has decided to paint the entire thing in magnolia. Of all the boring colours on the planet, magnolia has to be the MOST boring.

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