This is where it starts. With doodling and scribbling and sketchbooks. Just chilling out and playing with some materials, tonight some black conte crayon into my A5 hardbacked sketchbook. I’ve been doing a lot of work recently from drawings and photos I did at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial in the snow a couple of years ago and the monochrommatic and dynamic images have obviously influenced these sketches. I don’t know where they will lead, I hope eventually to some lino block prints or etchings, but for the moment I’m enjoying this phase of playing with the conte crayon across the pristine white page, seeing where it’ll take me.
I’m taking part in a ‘Museum Experience’ at Swansea Museum, beginning on March 31st and carrying through to May 17th. It’s called ‘PROCESS’, because it focuses on the processes that artists use to create their work. More than an exhibition of work on walls, ‘PROCESS’ also showcases sketchbooks, tools and materials to foster an understanding of how artists create art.
There’s an opening at Swansea Museum with tea and Welshcakes in a family-friendly event on Easter Sunday afternoon (April the 5th) from 2-4pm to launch it. You’re very welcome to join us in this fabulous Victorian museum, a proper cabinet of curiosities and there’s an art-trail for children to do as well.
The show, with other members of the 15 Hundred Lives collective, covers painting, drawing, printmaking, collage and electronic media, and there’s also a programme of interactive arts events throughout March, April and May.
My part of the show features some of my block (relief) prints – lino, wood and foamboard. These portrait heads are based on photos and drawings I did during a visit to Pakistan and they’re incised into offcuts of Foamex signwriters board. It’s a fairly hard PVC foamboard that’s great for cutting very fine lines, much finer than you can get with lino or softwood. It’s the first time I’ve exhibited these portraits as a group. If you’re in the area, it would be lovely to see you.
Richard the Bird, our little visitor, returned home to his humans today. They’re back from their travels and picked him up this evening so I had a final few scribbles. He’s been with us for a month and we’re missing the little tyke already. He’d gotten used to us and treated Husb like some sort of parrot god. I wasn’t so honoured, mostly he ignored me, except when he tried to pull my hair out and then bit me. But the past few days he’s given me some more attention, which Sparta Puss didn’t like, so she started stalking him. Luckily he has a very sturdy cage. I enjoyed seeing him sitting on Husb’s shoulder, watching the television together. He particularly liked the rugby internationals and The Voice.
There’s a big space in the living room now where his cage was and it’s so quiet. The cats don’t speak much. But his humans do a lot of travelling so I’m sure he’ll be holidaying with us again. I drew these into my A5 hardbacked sketchbook with a Faber Castell Pitt drawing pen, size F.
I spent the day at the fabulous Workers Gallery and Workshop in Ynyshir in the Rhondda Valley. I did a one-day drawing residency, working on a manier noir drawing based on photographs I took of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial in the snow a couple of years ago. A lot of people came in to see what I was doing and find out more about the technique and my work. I had a lot of very interesting conversations throughout the day and I started and finished an A2 size drawing.
The Valleys has a difficult reputation in the media, but I find people interested and engaged, maybe because there is so little investment and so few services, people seem genuinely keen on seeing what’s going on in the new gallery. I think the media image these towns have is nothing more than blatant class prejudice in my opinion. It’s easy to pick on working class communities who don’t have control over media output. I am really happy with the drawing and the discussions and feedback I had throughout the day, and grateful for the opportunity given by the gallery artists, Gayle Rogers and Chris Williams.
I scribble into my sketchbook more or less every day. Find a place, take a few minutes and scribble. It’s good practice and mostly I’m not noticed. I used a graphite stick into my A5 hardback sketchbook.
It’s Swansea Print Workshop’s 15th anniversary party this coming Friday 27th March from 7pm with a lovely exhibition of original prints from artists who have produced art here throughout our 15 years. There will also be wine and food and cake and our wonderful antique printing presses. Please pop in and bring your friends if you’re in the area.
And then on Saturday the 28th of March, the Swansea Print Workshop is hosting an Open Studio visit, a behind-the-scenes view of a lively print studio. Drop by and see artists / printmakers at work, our vintage and modern presses in action and the hand made prints created at this thriving artist collective between the city and the beach. Family friendly but small children will need to be supervised. From 11.00 am to 4.00 pm
Just look at these presses and typeface!
I had a sneaky digital scribble this evening, looking at Richard the Bird through the bars of his cage as he glared malevolently back at me with his yellow beady eye. He was having a hissy fit because I gave him a fresh raspberry, foraged at the local supermarket, but he wanted Husb, the parrot god, to give it to him. I am just not good enough. So he snatched the raspberry from my hand and threw it out of his cage in contempt! He didn’t even taste it.
Richard the Bird, Senegal parrot, is still holidaying with us, so we’ve been looking at parrot websites to make sure we know what we’re doing. The birds need to come out of their cage every day for exercise. This means that I have to take protective measures since the biting incident a few days ago. So I hide my hair under Husb’s woolly hat that he got in Iceland; put on my tough, outdoor hiking jacket that zips up around my ears; Husb’s extra thick skiing gloves and a pair of specs and that’s how I sit in my chair while Richard gets his ‘exercise’. Which means sitting on Husb’s shoulder watching telly. He’s such a couch potato.
Husb and I went to the pictures this morning to see the new Russell Crowe film, The Water Diviner. It’s a very good film, quite sad, a one-and-a-half-hanky film. I can cope with that much crying, but anything more than a three hanky film is one I won’t watch again. I had a quick scribble before the film began, drawing 6 heads in about 3 minutes, about 30 seconds each. Working at this speed really hones my observational skills and also the very physical dexterity in my right hand. My fingers, hand, wrist and shoulder have to be able to keep up with the speed of my eyes and brain. Art is a very physical occupation, well, the sort of art I do is. I drew with a Faber Castell Pitt drawing pen into my A5 clothbound sketchbook.
For people outside the UK, the ‘pictures’ is the cinema or the movies.
Three years ago I visited Berlin, the temperature was around minus 20 degrees C and there was a couple of feet of snow everywhere. I went to the Holocaust Memorial, thousands of black stelae in a grid across the landscape and the deep snow threw ethereal shadows between the columns. I took a lot of photos because I was immensely moved by the sight – and sound – it was so muffled because of the snow. It’s taken all this time to really get to grips with it, to find a way of expressing the imagery in some way, to know what to do with it.
I think I’ve found a way forward with it at last, developing the work through the manier noir reductive drawing technique over the past two days at the Creative Bubble artspace in Swansea. The original photos, five of them in this slideshow, are the basis of the work, but once I’ve roughly mapped them onto the prepared paper with chalk, they start to become something else, they get a life of their own. I don’t normally work like this, it’s a new direction for me but I’m enjoying cutting myself loose.