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What’s That When It’s At Home?

24 Nov

I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for decades, just getting on with it, doing my art, mostly sketchbooks from reality, life drawing and printmaking, while working with marginalised people – the homeless and the drug and alcohol dependent. As far as I was concerned, these were not two different things, but are inter-dependent. When people asked what I did, it took ages to explain. Now, apparently, I’m a socially engaged artist. So there we are.

Afghan refugee children

It isn’t just about how I integrate living as an artist with working with people at the edge of society – it also informs the artwork I do. For example, I made this monotype (above) from my first visit to Pakistan over a decade ago now. It was a relatively peaceful period and we were visiting the Khyber Pass and I was inspired by Afghan refugees travelling back to their homes.

walking to greenham

In my sketchbooks, I draw from real life, both the ordinary that’s around me every day and the special events like demonstrations and meetings. Here’s a drawing I did on the march to commemorate Greenham Common back last year.

Here Be Dragons small

Sometimes my work is directly political, like “Here Be Dragons” that was commissioned last year by Sky Arts TV channel.

Flag final

And the flag of Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd designed for the AUOB Cymru marches.

b

Recently, I’ve become an artist-in-residence and researcher in the FIRE Laboratory in Swansea University’s Department of Bioscience, working at the interface between art and environmental science.

Or I just draw people getting on with their lives on the streets of Swansea….

 

So when people ask what I do, now I say “I’m a socially engaged artist” and they go “So what’s that when it’s at home then?”

 

And it takes ages to explain …..

The Debut Of Musical Scribblefish

19 Nov

A blog I wrote for the FIRE Lab (Freshwater Interdisciplinary Research and Evaluation Laboratory) about our new public art engagement activity – it was fun, fishy – and mucky!

SAD 3

Please click on the link below ….

The Debut Of Musical Scribblefish

Strangeness

3 Nov

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Here’s a digital drawing of a strange little fella. S/he will be appearing on Twitter tomorrow on #MacroinvertebrateMonday. Check it out 😀

Brain vs Eye

15 Oct

Zoo lab 3

The Skull On The Wall

I spent an hour sketching in the Zoology Museum at Swansea University this evening. There was this big skull high up on the wall, with HUGE horns. I have no idea what it is, I was so engrossed that I didn’t think to find out it’s name. I started with a quick warm-up sketch, using the blind continuous line technique, looking at the subject rather than the paper and keeping my pen on the paper at all times.

 

Zoo lab 2

 

Drastic!

It was mounted high on the wall so I pulled a chair under it and drew it from below, an unusual angle and one that would give me a bit of a challenge. Well, that was an understatement! The thing is that our brains adjust what we see all the time. The brain often overrides the eyes, making us see what we think we see, not necessarily what’s there in front of us. Especially with some drastic foreshortening like I had here. It was tough to draw, I had to keep telling myself “draw what’s there, not what you think is there”.

 

Zoo lab 1

Apart from the crazy foreshortening, I had trouble drawing the bit where the skull joins the horn so I did a little study of that bit, to analyse and understand it.

 

 

I’m currently artist in residence with the FIRE Laboratory in the Department of Bioscience at Swansea University. It’s great to have access to facilities like this little museum.

Birds And Bugs, Rubbish And Rugby

29 Sep

full set

I’ve just finished an exhausting three days working with Edinburgh-based Australian artist Kelly Stewart to develop a boxed set of small screenprints based on drawings we did from the Swansea Museum archives – taxidermy birds and invertebrates. I also included some imagery based on rubbish – the sort that ends up in our rivers and seas. I wanted to link the two types of images together.

 

Kelly took the group of us through the demanding technical challenge of producing so many multi-layered pieces in a relatively short time. She’s the consumate professional, and a really good sport. She wasn’t at all put out by Wales beating Australia in the Rugby World Cup as we worked. She had tea and Welsh Cakes to console her.

Birds And Bugs

28 Sep

bird 3

 

I spent yesterday drawing at Swansea Museum with a group of artists led by Edinburgh-based artist Kelly Stewart. It was arranged by Swansea Print Workshop who worked with staff from the Museum stores to select antique taxidermy specimens from their collection – a range of birds and bugs. I drew herons, a hawk, cockchafers and beetles.

 

 

I used different papers – Khadi hand-made, Winsor & Newton watercolour, Daler Rowney cartridge – and drawing materials – conté crayons, carbon and my home-made walnut ink.

 

bugs 1

 

Today our group moved to the print workshop to do a two-day screenprint session with Kelly. I took my bugs and birds and the Gelli plate monotypes I did recently and developed the drawings into designs, made them into transparencies and then onto photosensitised silkscreens ready for printing tomorrow. That’s a lot of work done and a lot more to come……..

 

I’m currently artist-in-residence at the FIRE Laboratory in Swansea University, a scientific research project examining the ecology of the River Tawe. If you want to find out more about local freshwater fauna, check this out ….

Rubbish

27 Sep

mono 2

 

I’ve just done a dozen or so monotypes using rubbish. I recently became the artist in residence with the FIRE Lab at Swansea University and I’ve been going out on field trips with the science team along the River Tawe, looking at its ecosystem, which includes noting the rubbish. We used some rubbish we found to make cyanotypes a few weeks ago and I really liked the result, so I decided to try out a different printmaking technique with rubbish and Gelli plates.

 

mono 3

 

I started by inking a Gelli plate with a thin layer of Process Yellow Safewash ink from Caligo Cranfield and stretched a net fruit bag over it. Then I put a piece of Hosho Japanese lightweight paper on top and pressed it with my hands, to lift the ink. I repeated the process with another dozen sheets, putting different pieces of rubbish onto the Gelli plates, including ripped newspaper and old bubblewrap.

 

mono 4

Then I cleaned the equipment (in hot soapy water – so easy) and inked up in Process Red, using fresh pieces of rubbish placed at random on the Gelli plate. I put the yellow-printed papers face down and rubbed so the monotypes became yellow, red and orange.

 

mono 5

 

Finally, after cleaning everything, I repeated the whole thing with Process Blue.

 

mono 6

 

I think the rubbish looks pretty good ……

 

mono 1

…… I have plans for these ……..

Scientific Stars Of Wales

19 Sep

Ser Cymru

 

I spent a day in Cardiff with colleagues from the FIRE Lab. We had a stand at the Sêr Cymru celebration, all about the scientific research projects in universities across Wales funded by the Sêr Cymru research and development programme. It was fascinating to hear about how much high level technological research is going on in this little country of ours. As the team’s artist-in-residence, I did a printmaking demo on our stall, using a vinyl block I had cut based on a drawing I did of a stream bed up in the Brecon Beacons a couple of months ago when I was on a field trip.

 

The Grey Mare

18 Sep

Horsehead 2

 

Here’s another view of the horse skull I drew yesterday evening at the little Zoology Museum at Swansea University’s Wallace Building. The Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) tradition in South Wales centres around a horse skull, which is made into a lifesize puppet and decorated with flowers, bells and ribbons. It’s paraded around on the night of Hen Galan – the Old New Year – as part of a ritual that goes back thousands of years to the ancient Celtic horse goddess Epona, also know as Rhiannon in Wales.

 

 

Drawing A Horse’s Head

17 Sep

Horsehead 1

I spent a great hour or so down at the Zoology Museum in The Wallace Building on the Swansea University Singleton campus this evening. A drawing group meets there twice a month to make the most of the specimens tucked away. I fancied studying a horse’s skull, to tie in with my previous work with the Mari Lwyd. It was nice to draw a still one that wasn’t carousing all over the place. I used a biro pen in the continuous line method with a wash of home-made walnut ink into a small, A6, sketchbook.

 

 

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