Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blind One.

We've got a row of 8 blinds across the back of the new studio space, which are presently white and which cover the floor-to-ceiling glass doors. These can be opened out onto the garden which, once it's recovered from the devastation of building work, will be green and handsome and, we hope, full of birds!

Right now the snow covers only the beginnings of a pond and a half-built wood store, so the blinds are closed as early as four o'clock. We came up with the idea, some time ago, of having each of our artist friends decorate a blind for us, so we'd have a ready-made installation of eight pieces of art to continually feast our eyes on after dark. Since we can only remove one blind at a time (or face being exposed to the entire street 24/7), we're doing them one by one.

The first is by Kelly Merrell. Kelly works mainly in felt pens and fine liners, and doodles rather than draws - her work has an obsessive intensity which belies the fact that she creates it in actually a rather casual, relaxed way; in front of the TV, in bed, on the sofa...but to gaze into it, you might think it's the product of hours spent in a darkened room alone with one's own thoughts and demons, no books, no phone, no daylight, no...

We gave her a brief and she produced a sketch - not Kelly's usual way of working, since her pieces are nearly always the product of a spontaneous imagination and are essentially self-perpetuating - then she got stuck in with black Poscas (in different sizes, leaving plenty of space in which the really intense parts could breathe). Result! It's possible to stare at it for hours and see things you haven't spotted before. You can also see more of Kelly's doodles on her Flickr page.

We've got the next few artists lined up, but we'll leave it till the winter's over before starting the next one. Brrrr. By then, the back wall should be built, so far fewer nosy neighbours will get a look-in... they're missing out on some great art though, poor souls.

Kelly's sketch:

Work in progress:

In situ:


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Birthday suit.

On August 30th I gathered together a nude model, two men with cameras and a tea-making heat-overseeing logistics man to create what was a spur-of-the-moment idea, triggered by a request for some voluntary art by an American client.

Sometimes, I'm amazed how far people will go to help when they're inspired by something. A large American cancer charity asked me to create an illustration for their new fund raising website, through a creative agency (a previous client), to expand on the theme of 'birthdays'. Now I've been involved in tattoos for a number of years, just lately doing a few more, and the first idea that occurred to me was 'I have to draw on a body!' Because, of course, what is cancer all about? The body, and its survival and battles when invaded by cancer.

This of course meant a photographic approach rather than one on paper. Which meant I needed a cameraman, or two. Michael at Zensplash, who takes care of all things web and screen on the Inkymole team, volunteered immediately. And then I needed a model. Up popped Danielle, who's done a bit of modeling before but is more usually found in the worlds of books, languages and hardcore academic debate. Since we decided to make a film of the work in progress too, it also needed stop-motion photographs and filming. Step forward Andy.

With the studio still at the stage of being empty with underfloor-heated concrete, the space under our big skylight was ideal for the drawing. So armed with lights, camera and some serious tea action, we began.

I drew on Danielle using a handful of surgical skin markers bought from a medical supplier, which gave exactly the right purplish hue, but would clean off with relative ease (though Danielle would be the ultimate judge of that). The theme was 'Birthdays' - based on the concept that the cancer charity allows cancer sufferers to celebrate more of them - and the particular quote I'd been asked to illustrate was its founding in 1946 and the amount of money it had raised since - lots of figures and words, but I concentrated too on what are actually the very beautiful shapes and structures of cancer cells; divorcing myself from their devastating nature, I looked closely at their form and construction, organic and creeping, and built those into the illustration.

As it turned out, the illustration took an unintended 'clothing' shape, which if I'd had more than a day I'd like to have extended further across and down the body - but I hope I'll do this again so I can try that next time. The resulting film, painstakingly edited by Michael and with a completely charming bespoke soundtrack by our friend 47trees, is destined for the website, and very large prints of the photographs shown below will go on sale to raise money for the charity. A thoroughly satisfying day with an experimental but beautiful outcome, and one which we'll remember for all sorts of reasons.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

13 Witches at 71

Saturday 6th saw the inaugural show in the Factory Road gallery - a new venture which gets its own blog from 2011!

For the last time me, Tom Hare, Ed Garland and Anthony Saint James resurrected The Witches, the body of work created originally for TBWA's Hallowe'en show in Manchester, and expanded on for its own show last October at the East Gallery, Brick Lane, London. Neither Anthony nor Ed could be present since they're in different parts of the world, but Tom came to dress the space with trees and help paint the faux-shadows behind them...of which one guest said he was 'taken apart' on noticing a crow without any obvious physical origin...

The space works exceptionally well as the gallery we intended it to be when we started planning a couple of years ago but, as with every show we've ever done, erecting it was a far more complex matter than just lining up a few framed bits and some foam-board labels. A week was spent plotting where things should sit, hang and be lit, the end result eased supernaturally into its space by Tom's trees, which appeared for all the world to emerge from the floor as if they'd forced their way through in the middle of the night. The soundtrack couldn't be live this time (we had Demdike Stare play live at the London show), but was a nonetheless murky compilation of Demdike, Boards of Canada, Marcus Fjellstrom and assorted grainy voodoo songs of bedevilment and woe.

Guests were treated to locally-brewed ale and home-made breads, made by Bob who installed himself in the kitchen for most of the evening. Danielle, who shall shortly make an appearance in another blog, worked tirelessly to keep the tea going and produced bowls of dal and piles of chappatis. There were many others involved in the smooth running of the evening, which was overall a very satisfying experience despite contrary weather and the dazzling rival charms of the many fireworks popping outside.

There's a sequence of shows planned for 2011 and beyond, so keep your eyeballs peeled for news and invites. We're excited.

The witches' poppets dangle asphyxiatedly from Tom's branches, Ed's stories and Mole's interpretations behind.

A long view of one half of the space.

This fella carved by Simon Wood greeted anyone reaching for food.

...and this is said carver, Mr Wood. Mr Wood, meet Chattox, who is made of wood.

Much discussion.

...questions were asked.

Here's a close-up of the missing crow.

And the emerging human hand branches.

Nesting, in front of work in progress.

Anthony's photographic pieces - Witches Chattox, Alice Grey, Anne Redferne, James Device.

The evil Chattox, head of the most heinous family and arch enemy of Demdike, here re-envisioned by Anthony as an inked-up self-carving young haggard.

And ponderment - the talented Mrs Tranter, who also shares a special relationship with the trees and whose work is already starting to grace our home.

Bob's Bakery.

This shawl, in constant use in winter months, was crocheted by my Mum in 1979.
Top Shop Vintage can bugger off: this is an ORIGINAL!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

'See the attached samples'...

This little piece of work started off badly. The client sent me someone else's work for reference, thinking it to be mine. The same person, in fact, who I blogged about in a previous post. ('It Wasn't Me').

This does happen. More often than you might think. But obviously, art directors and buyers look at lots of different artists as options and, in firing off emails to them all, sometimes forget to change the name and artwork attached - and their manners. (Yes, I'm afraid it IS bad manners, no matter how busy someone is!)

However I don't take it personally. Of course several of us are in the running - I'm not joking when I tell people I have to compete for every job - and who knows how many people I might have had to pip to the post to get the last one? It's the reason I stay humble and grateful for every single offer of work. No - the best thing to do is turn it around, like this one. I made it clear I didn't do the artwork attached, but yes! didn't the work of this much younger illustrator bear a striking resemblance? Nonetheless I explained that if I did it, it would look different. Did they still want me to do it, and were they sure the Other Artist wasn't available if they were their first choice?

No, they were sure they wanted me, and so I got on with it. The result was pretty and clean, vaguely folky I thought, and the client, The Royal College of Midwives, was delighted. Very often a negative gets magically transformed into a positive just by staying reasonable and humble. The other artist may have said no, or been too busy - but it would have been all too easy to miffed about the initial clumsy approach, and this pretty piece of work would never have graced my folio - or the RCM's 2011 diaries!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Grater. Scalpel. Holes.

I've just drawn on a cap for New Era's 90th birthday exhibition. I had grand ideas for this project, but with the cap arriving from New York much later than expected and with only a few days to fit it in, I went with a different version altogether.

This hat is tattooed and tired with piercing holes and injuries. It's had a hard life. I really wanted to hurt this cap; it came out of its box so smugly pristine and perfect and in immaculate expensive packaging that my first thought was 'Grater. Scalpel. Holes'. It was almost begging to be abused!

There is a rationale behind the choice of 'tattoos' on the skin-coloured stitched-together panels but if you're interested to know, you'll have to ask. The fact that the hat isn't made in the USA had something to do with my thinking. And I really enjoyed the sewing, rudimentary as it was - in there you'll find stab stitch, blanket stitch, overstitch, cross-stitch, and a sore finger and numb thumb. Oh and I tagged the box in true street style. I'm not sure I was supposed to do that...

The hat goes into an exhibition in LA and NYC along with some hats designed by students (who clearly had a lot more time to play with theirs - look at these! Oh to be a student again...) and a selection of other artists from Bernstein & Andriulli and Central Illustration. If you're into headwear, and live in the US, you might like it. Keep your eyes peeled for the dates.


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