Think Big

This was a collaboration project in a group of four. We had to work on it one day a week for 5 weeks. The brief was to create a 3D interactive life size piece of work which communicated a message regarding Social Responsibility, Environmental awareness or ethics and sustainability.

Our group had the theme “Boris Needs to Reduce Reuse and Recycle”.

As this project was set, we had other projects ongoing, portfolios to sort, interviews as well as normal life to fit it all around. I’m honest, I could have done without it. I didn’t really buy into the concept, but as I’ve learnt in my finance career everything always happens when you’re extremely busy and you may not like or see the point of the special project your manager has asked you to do.

We did come up with a design and a few ideas but changed one because we felt that the initial reduce idea was complicating the message.

  • REDUCE – a party for one sign, with a bottle of wine and a small wine glass
  • REUSE – used masks on a wall, we painted them with green splodges to represent the Covid-19 virus and a sign that said Freshly Washed PPE
  • RECYCLE – earrings made fron lateral flow tests, 100% Covid Guarantee no False +tives sign

However, we don’t have any final images to use as unfortunately they got wiped from our tutors computer, as unless saved to cloud College IT department clear files saved to laptops and PCs overnight.

We had a deadline of Monday 28 February to present the final image of our 2D poster. Unfortunately it’s been half term so no access to go in reshoot it etc. Which, if this had happened in industry and we had a clients brief target deadline to hit we would have had to do.

I have thought about whether to submit a post or not, and decided that actually what I did and the role I played in creating signs from ironing plastic carrier bags together, taking the photos (even though I’m rubbish at studio set ups) etc are all still worth nothing down.

Could I have done more? Probably, I could have taken the data card with the images and downloaded/photoshopped etc but I didn’t. Maybe we all could have been a little more invested in ensuring we had a decent final outcome. After all we’re going to be assessed on our approach to this task. And again, if we were out in the big wide world of advertising and marketing would our client have been happy with the outcome? Would they have bought into the message?

We will unfortunately never know, but I like to think that in a different life we would have pulled it off.

Dance With The Past

The brief for this project was to consider and explore the use of found objects in art and generate ideas.

I found some old ceiling tiles in the builders skip at college, and there was an old pianola roll in the items our tutor had that we could use.

My big confession is that I have absolutely failed on researching artists that have appropriated items in art. I could go and look at artwork that fits my final piece, but it really wouldn’t be right to do that and reference them.

With this project I followed my heart and instincts on where this piece took me. I love music, I’m learning to play the piano and I use to ballroom dance. The music on the pianola roll is “Smoke gets in your eyes” by Jerome Kern. It was described as a foxtrot.

I had this idea that I wanted to cut the plywood into shapes to represent dancers, somehow incorporating the music roll. Then I researched pianolas. The early pianola’s were grand pianos. That was when I had the vision of a grand piano with the pianola music roll dancing it’s way up through the centre.

Our work had to be an exploration of one or all of the following three categories

  • Collections and multiples
  • Deconstruct/Reconstruct
  • Assemblage – a work of art made by grouping together found or unrelated objects.

I started looking into music boxes and found a DIY one on ebay that had the mechanism, sheets of paper to punch holes in of the treble clef and a hole puncher.

Starting from the very bottom I used the fibreglass soundproof part of the tile as a base and lay a piece of plywood on top. Using image transfer I covered the plywoodbwith images of a wooden piano lid.

For the next layers I drew the shape of a grand piano on the plywood and cut using a bansaw, and also used a piece of old kitchen cupboard door for the bottom layer as it was thicker. I had to use a jig saw to cut out the circle in the middle. The legs for the piano were cut from polystyrene and stuck on with wood glue.

I purchased a piano hinge which I cut down to size but due to the ply being so thin the only way I could attach was by using rivets.

I had to make stands to support the middle layer of the piano design on the bottom layer and also a prop for the piano lid. We had a spot welding workshop as part of this project and I made a treble clef out of aluminium strips and used rollers to bend into shape, I also made quavers to use as support stands.

I spent a little of time in the workshop working out solutions of the best way to attach the pieces together, the supports were they better on the side or on the front and back? It felt at times like a game of jenga, one wrong move and it would tumbledown.

Once I started to assemble it all together, it became apparent that it would look better with a holder for the pianola roll. With hindsight, I should have made this so that you could turn the roll but I was feeling time pressured so it was fixed.

I also needed some way of holding the paper up but it looking as though it was floating, after trying wire and cardboard neither of which worked well, my tutor found a piece of perspex that we bent using a hot wire.

I attached the music box to the side and fed the roll of music I had painstakingly punched. Again, I should have used the vocal treble clef rather than the piano treble clef as unfortunately on the piano some of the notes on that clef were below middle C and my paper only went as low as middle C.

I didn’t widen the diameter of the holes in the wood, but again had I measure the paper and thought about how fragile it is, I should have increased the diameter slightly.

I stained the plywood and I’m really pleased with the way the grain came out. I lived using my new found metal and wood working skills and will consider using then again in future projects.

I love the final simplicity of this piece and feel that it not only pays homage to the history of the pianola but is also respectful.

“Dance with the past”

The tent’s story

In the second week of our project we had a workshop to make our own canvas frame and the material used was an old canvas tent. I am rather pleased with my little canvas frame which is 40cm x 40cm and it’s a skill I will use in the future.

However, me being me, decided to go large on the project and use the tent window, to try and convey the visual story.

Although, I knew what the message was I wanted to express in my art, I had lots of ideas in my head. A tip from my tutor was to take a photo of the tent canvas print off and paint my sketch ideas onto them. Pretty good advice as I had also to decide which was going to have the most impact, an image on the canvas window cover or the window itself.

Here are a few of my ideas, some subtle, some not. I really wanted to get across the sense of loss and the huge void that is left behind.

It was difficult to decide and because the success of the work relied on what the observer sees, I canvassed the opinion of several people, horsey, non horsey, fellow art loving friends etc. The final image is a result of a coffee and going through my sketchbook with a friend who’s also an artist. We both had a vision of a fragmented horse and a winding road. I have lots of reference photographs from photography workshops of horses, and I found a stock photo of a road. Using the overlay layers in photoshop and playing with the opacity and adjustment effects, I created the final image.

One thing I have learnt, after running out of time again, is that I have to add contingency into how long it us actually going to take, as yet again events took over and time was not on my side. So to start the final piece I used my tracing line drawing to create an acetate to use with the overhead projector. I then did the outline in chalk and I could get started!

I have explored several ideas and outcomes, and even though I didn’t finish the final piece, it is still a successful outcome. I have managed to tick off several off the points in my paragraph. I’ve tackled painting items, subject matter that I would have panicked over a few months ago. I’ve overcome my blocks and am a lot more confident in my abilities.

I see the final piece hanging from the ceiling in the middle of a galleryby the guy ropes. As you walk around behind you’ll see the lyrics from Iron Maiden’s “When two worlds collide” will be projected onto the back.

I am currently adding the detail to the image. It will have it’s own special blog post, because it’s the largest painting I’ve done, as well as representing a personal journey worth recording.

In search of the present…..

A three week project, the brief to produce something on  subject chosen by me considering current events, personal observations, contemporary society and investigate ways to communicate my own thoughts and ideas.  The paragraph written for the 9 day exercise or Christmas to be used as a reference starting point.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so started with a little bit of a mind dump and highlighted comments made by artists that featured in British Art Show 6, about their work and the message they were trying to convey. I then started looking at things that mattered to me and what resonates with me at the moment.

I have a lot of horse reference photographs from workshops I’ve been on and researching horses in mythology, I though a modern take on the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, or pegasus versus unicorn and the significance of kelpie etc.  Discussing my rather scattered thought processes with a tutor she mentioned the ethics of the racing industry and how many horses die a year.  After a lengthy discussion, it still wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.

Just as many horses are killed a year on British roads.

This is the story I want to tell, the impact on the horse owner, like me and my 9yr old son.  The loss and huge void left when these amazing animals we care for every day, are taken from us tragically and suddenly.

Horses are flight animals by nature and can on occasion jump at their own shadows, without the added risk of cars passing too close, too fast, splashing in that puddle or a drivers momentary distraction.  I would love to not be leading my child’s pony, or riding on the roads these days as they are certainly busier, however a lot of areas don’t have many bridleways and if we do they are not always accessible without traversing busy roads.

Statistics from the British Horse Society, British Horseracing Association, and Horsedeathwatch (Animal Aid)

12 month period 2019-2020

  • 104 horses died on UK roads
  • 130 racehorse deaths
  • 12% of horse fatalities result in death/life changing injures to the rider
  • 1037 incidents reported
    • 40% vehicle passed too quickly
    • 81% passed to close
    • 43% of riders experienced abuse/road rage

In the decade 2010-2020

  • 44 people (riders/carriage drivers/handlers) died on UK roads
  • 2 jockeys died on racetrack

How can I convey this in my art?  How will the emotions touch the observer?  At this point I’m still thinking sculpture.

Collecting cobwebs

9 Squares 9 Days

A short exercise over Christmas break was to fill a square of 8 images and 1 paragraph. It could be a random casual diary, or have a theme.

I chose eyes, because I feel that they truly are the window to the soul. They are a reflection of what is going on at the moment in time capturing that emotion can be very hard to do in a drawing.

I didn’t have time to fully complete the drawings. Using my own reference photos of the animals in my life, I sketched out 8 line drawings.

The horse eyes:

The cats,

The dogs,

And lastly the rabbit.

The final square was to be filled with the kind of art I wish to create, I shall keep coming back to this and checking in. Am I staying true to myself? Is there anything else I need to add as my creative confidence grows? Does anything need to be removed? Do I want to refine anything?

I have challenged myself to complete the eyes using different mediums, I have 8 brilliant line drawings now to trace/scan/project and create as I feel. And by putting it in this blog I am holding myself accountable to finish the challenge.

More importantly though, the paragraph is there for me to keep checking in, listen to that inner voice. It’s going to be interesting to maybe do the paragraph again in a year’s time and see what if anything has changed.

Can you see me?

Our latest project is “Displacement”. The brief was to look at the rules and accepted systems behind composition, shape, form and aesthetics. The idea behind the project was to deconstruct and rearrange compositions of colour and shapes. We had to create a body of work in 2d and 3d.

I’m not certain I followed the brief as intended but in choosing the materials for my first brief my mind went off on a little tangent. Armed with a sheet of braille, neon yellow paper, white card and a bright pink felt tip my first creation was very rectangular and a bit instinctive in approach. When I put my work on the wall I realised that the braille wasn’t obvious. The words “can you see me” formed in my head. So looking up the Braille Alphabet, I decided to colour the raised dots with the pink felt tip.

The pink next to the yellow reminded me of the hi-viz clothing I wear when out and about with the dogs and horses. Amongst the materials we could use I chose a misprinted road sign in blue and silver, neon paper in orange, green, yellow and pink, a cardboard box and a cardboard cone.

I did a couple of visual experiments with the colours, shapes of the box and cone, I also used a torch to see how the special light refraction material of the road sign worked. It was interesting to see the way our focus shifts when looking down the narrower end of the cardboard cone. Our eyes automatically focus on different shapes/colours with the change in field of vision and light change with it.

Can you see me?

I found an image of me and our pony in our reflective gear. I used the same image in all my pieces of work. The final piece I used tracing paper to mute the tones. I had drawn a geometric pattern using the golden ratio and had traced this on the paper to cut shapes out of the neon paper. I then decided to use a black and brown paper background. I wanted to understand which colours and tones stood out the best.

I’ve deliberately used the same image of me and the pony as I wanted to understand how visible that would be. The tracing paper effect is very similar to fading light, misty rain etc.

What colours stand out for you?

I was very surprised at how clearly the neon green stands out and I can see that at different times of the year that mixed with orange and yellow it would be a good colour to wear. The reflective silver is definitely the best choice for cyclists or walkers out at night. Most of my hi-viz are a mix of yellow, orange and pink after doing the exercise I will definitely invest in the silver reflective and neon green.

If I was displaying this body of work in a gallery I would make them larger and try and recreate more shadow effects and use headlight bulbs to show the different effects of the colours and materials and how they all work together to make the wearer more visible. I would also replicate each piece with a bright sunny day image and more summer colours as that would give a more rounded conclusion. The more vulnerable road user groups are just as invisible on a bright sunny day as a gloomy winter one.

So, as I asked in my first piece of work – can you see me?

What is behind the door?

The final option of Edges and Overlaps for me is Interdisciplinary Fine Art. This is my favoured pathway even though I chose to do it last out of the three options. My reason for that is I didn’t want to prejudice my learning experience in the other two pathways, I really wished to have a very open minded experience.

For this pathway I used reference photographs I’d taken whilst on a walk around Burrington Combe. This is an area that is full of history, with Iron Forts, nature reserves, caves to explore and cliff faces to climb if you want to. Having my 9 year old son with me means that we took the path least followed, naturally.

It wasn’t long before we stumbled across the rusting door, the cavern room behind was flooded so we couldn’t really get much of a glimpse inside. It was a natural space that has been repurposed by man and reclaimed by nature. I loved the contrast of the moss and leafy vines against the bluey purple hues of the rusting door. I didn’t wish to recreate the image on a large scale and having developed a taste for using surfaces that aren’t standard canvas/paper, I settled on a piece of cut off MDF worktop.

I spent a couple of days sketching ideas, testing out colour palettes and mixes. I thought I had my acrylic paints all sorted, but as usual once I started actually creating, processes morphed and changed for the better. I have grown more confident in my creativity by asking questions and having some of the techniques explained to me in a very practical application way by my tutor. The issue with being mainly self taught and left to my own devices when I reach a block, is to just stop and put my work to one side with the intention of looking something up and coming back to it. Which, of course, I never actually do.

However, being at college I reached out and asked for assistance, through this I was able to find solutions. Two of the artists I researched in this pathway are Lucien Freud and Jenny Saville. They are both great inspirations for the way I tend to naturally approach my way of thinking and working and how I freely apply the paint. Without realising it I tend to use a lot of Impasto in my work, but in this piece I was able to refine it more with my new understanding of blending, mixing and layering colours both on my palette and the painting itself.

Initially I did an image transfer of my photograph onto the MDF. Then using some pieces of cardboard that was structurally similar to the MDF, I experimented with my ideas of just painting the honeycomb to reflect the surrounding rock face, or layering and painting them? I decided to leave them and paint insitu as I didn’t want to detract from the focus being the door.

I then used blocks of colour to define the lock and painted the rest of the surface using layering and blending techniques. My initial blacks were too dark, as I had used the basic error of actually using black rather than mixing my own blue/black. Unfortunately, the last day I was ill so have had to evaluate on an unfinished piece that still needs highlights and a few patches of colour.

For me, I have really enjoyed the process and I think working through my personal block counts as a success. I still feel that panic and fear of messing up the whole project when I start the highlights. However, it’s not as intense and I’ve come to realise that creating from this place is how I’m going to evolve and produce my best work. And if it all goes horribly wrong? Well that’s where I learn from experimenting.

So what is behind the door?

A world war 2 munitions bunker? A cave closed off for safety? An old quarry store room?

Or, as my son has decided, a prison cell used by troll hunters and dragon kings.

Rewind and Replay

Before we moved onto our final option of Edges and Overlaps, we were set a week long project by our tutors. The project an audio cassette tape in an envelope with the following instructions:

  • I must be the focus of your outcome/s
  • I must be used in my entirety
  • I can be into multiple things or used more than once
  • I can be combined with others on the course
  • I can be used in conjunction with other materials
  • I want to be reinvented

As a music lover who still has cassette tapes in the loft and part of my music collection, I was a little mortified at the expectation of possibly pulling it apart and breaking the tape. Then I really got into the idea of creating a portrait, I mean why not?

I’m really lucky that one of my friend’s has done the same course as me, so a quick message inviting myself for coffee, and we started going through cassette tape art images and ideas. I honestly didn’t realise it was as popular as it is. We also found collages by British artist Veebee Art and I was pretty inspired.

I really wanted to make this my own style, and decided to leave elements of the process as part of the final piece. For the collage I used photocopies of the cassette sleeve as well as the original, and typed up parts of lyrics from the album songs. I took one of the album photos and enlarged it, flipped it, then traced it. I chose a wooden board as my canvas, it’s heavy, but I really like the effect of the grain through the tracing paper. Sticking the tape and following the outline was a little challenging, but I kept the likeness and even though it’s a little abstract I am really pleased with the outcome.

My first portrait, using an unusual media, and of a famous person….. no pressure!

A short fun project that I think was successful. I’ll let you decide.

I am not like my mother, or am I?

The second rotation of Edges and Overlaps finds me in Visual Comminucation, the brief was to create an 8 page Zine using a different topic to the first rotation.  I had an idea straight away and it was based on realisations I had during my time in Surface and Form.  For years I have said I am not like my mum, as in our hobbies and interests are totally different I can’t deny I look like her, or have the same family mannerisms.  However, she loves sewing, knitting, zigsaws, puzzles and reading.  I share her love of reading, but my passions are horses, art, dogs, dancing and music both listening and playing instruments, currently learning the piano.

My mum loves music, she also used to dance as part of her mums Morris dancing troupe back in the 1950s, and dance halls on a Saturday night.  My love of music definitely stems from listening to the top 40 with my mum on Sunday evenings. And my recent realisation is that I loved using textiles to create with rather than dressmaking.

The Zine is to show in a very simple way how our creativity although taking different forms, along with our expression through music and dance overlap.  The brief was that the Zine was to be a limited pallet of black and white and two other colours.   As it was about both of us I asked my mum what colours she thought represented us and the choice was autumnal tones of orange and green.

After researching different collages, illustrations and layouts and idea dumping, I decided on creating a concertina Zine. To incorporate my art the concept of watercolour flowers over photographs on the front and back page.  My first question do months have flowers like birthstones?  Would they correspond with the colours my mum had chosen.  I found out that you can get green Iris’s and orange Daisies so the colour choice for each of us fit with that idea. 

Working out the paper sizes, I could use one sheet of A2 and fold it into A5 but the centre pages would need to be joined.  To reflect my mum’s love all things sewing and needlework, brainstorming both me and my tutor had the lightbulb moment of sewing the two halves together and the idea of two different coloured embroidery threads running through the zine and crossing over on the centre pages came to life.

The first task, find photographs of myself and my mum at a similar age.  I drew the flowers and photocopied them onto acetate.  Following the eight principles of design, I failed a little on the balance and needed to add a little more colour on the bottom of the  pages.  I also needed to tidy up the acetate cutting it closer to the edges of the flowers. For the rest of the pages I think I manged to follow the eight principles of design:

Balance – contrast – emphasis – proportion  – scale – rhythm – direction – unity

The dancers silhouettes I wanted the dresses to portray the fact different genres of dance played a huge part in our family life. Also the fact that my mum made her own and our clothes, and designed her own patterns especially my ballet, tap, ballroom, rollerskating leotards and dresses. I photocopied a scarf my mum knit for me and used that for the ballerina. For the rock and roll dancer, I found a pashmina that had embroidered flowers on it that matched the stitch I was going to use.

The initials in the spheres are my Grans and my sons, to reflect the continuity of family traits, how they are passed from generation to generation.

My mum’s page
My page

The centre pages are created from an illustration I found in a book. I had an image of my mum and me holding hands in my head, but felt the outstretched hands portrayed what I wanted to say so much better. After sewing the two pages together I felt that my original idea of an infinity symbol in the centre wouldn’t work. After going through the meaning of words to describe our bond in a celebratory way, I went with my tutors idea of the scattered word floating between the two.

I really enjoyed following this brief and the concept of celebrating whether I am like my mother or not. I feel it definitely shows our connectedness and bond in a very simple way. It definitely flows whichever way you read the Zine, from front to back, back to front or middle out.

We also created a digital version and I was pleased my design worked just as well as a booklet.

In conclusion, most of my research was primary, talking with my mum and sharing memories and insights on how similar we are over a cup of tea. What has the most influence nature or nurture? Either way, I no longer balk at the concept of like mother, like daughter, as my teenage rebellious self would have done. Rather, I celebrate and embrace it.

The Sound of Silence is…..

…… a constant ringing in my ears, according to the British Tinnitus Association 1 in 8 of the UK population are living with persistent Tinnitus.

“Tinnitus is described as a sensation or awareness of sound that is not caused by a real external sound source.  Approximately half of patients find it moderately or severely distressing with complaints of intrusiveness, emotional stress, insomnia, auditory perceptual problems and difficulties with concentration.”  thebsa.org.uk

How does this relate to art? Our current project is Edges and Overlaps, and honestly I was really struggling to get on board with an idea for this initially.  As I started the first of my option rotations in Surface and Form I was struggling with a migraine hangover and bad noise sensitivity.  Art is usually associated with creating from your passion and what drives you.  I decided to use my apathy for my reference photos from the Bristol trip, my reasons for this, 1) I wanted to do this course to challenge myself and experiment with new mediums and ideas, not fall back to “comfortable” genres.  2) I realised when reviewing the photos that I felt on edge in urban noisy areas because of my Tinnitus and how it was affected.

Tinnitus is a constant that suddenly appeared in February 2019.  It overlaps every single aspect of my life.  On the really bad days my nerves are on edge and I feel like I really can’t take anymore noise.

I really love music and lyrics have always meant a lot to me, I used to play the violin and cello and am currently learning the piano.  To me the ringing in my ears is one continous note that is about 2 octaves higher than the highest note on the treble clef. The best way I could think of representing that is as a minim, or string of minims.  I also wanted to represent it bouncing of a corner.  I designed screenprints with musical notes ideas and chose teal and grey ink, with a splash of orange on the first print, to represent the jarring effect on my nerves most of the time.

After mocking up ideas on a square format in paper, my vision wasn’t really working.  At this point Rachel, my tutor, started going through a couple of books in her room with me for inspirational ideas, and we found a piece of work by Cas Holmes that was like my row of minims on my first screen print.  We then discussed a long wall hanging concept and I went away thinking about how I could change and simplify my idea.

The final concept was decided on and I screenprinted four more pieces of material, and also some repurposed orange safety harness/seatbelt material.  The contrast in the materials and patterns used represent the different effects of Tinnitus and how I feel depending on environment, some days although it is the same pitch, it feels like it fades and softens into the background.  Other days it feels very busy and jarring.

Snippets from my sketch book

I see my final piece hanging in a gallery as part of a larger body of work, something the observer can walk around and see from different perspectives. Hopefully it would give them an idea of what it feels like for me.

For me there were several things I could have done better time management, trusted my instinct more, been braver and more confident in my decision making.

I had to hand sew the shapes, cut out the supportive board in the middle and I forgot to allow enough seam allowance and had to hand sew everything together.these mistakes though made for a more jagged and frayed hemline, as I was running out of time to finish I couldn’t be as picky about neat and tidy seams and overlocking the woolmix weave. The rawness not doing those things has created, make it feel more real and had it been finished neatly it would have a totally different feel.

Thinks I take away from this creative process are:

1. Keep it simple

2. Use my sketchbook more for idea dumping and working through.

3. Trust my instincts

4. Be more confident

5. Experiment more.

I really enjoyed my time in surface and form and am really pleased with the final outcome, for me it reflects the story I wished to tell.