As a follow up from Snail #9 which I completed a week or so ago, I’ve actually completed a second piece in this series. Here’s Snail #8. Both are layered and hand cut pictures created from 15 individual original photographs.Honestly, it’s been like pulling teeth trying to get these done. I feel I’ve been cutting paper for far too long now and I need to have a break and think about the direction I’m heading in. I’m always trying to make progress in my own head….
Reading back that last sentence makes sense to me but I know it sounds a bit odd so I’ll try and explain. I’m always trying to move myself forward mentally. I cut pictures and create art for my own mental well-being. I challenge my own creative thinking and in turn it enables me to challenge my own thinking with other things that I do. By continually using the same method to create things I end up stagnating. I end up resenting the work I’m making and avoiding the studio. It’s for this reason I don’t want to make any more snail pictures. The Do Snails Believe in Reincarnation series is complete (or suspended indefinitely). If there is nowhere new for it to go then I don’t want to go there. So Snail #9 and Snail #8 will be the only two framed pieces created from the ten original snail sculptures I made for the ….Reincarnation series.*
So where next? I’m planning on revisiting some concept art I made a while back for a client which was ultimately rejected. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with it but I know it will be framed when it’s finished. It will be based on a photograph but no layers and no cutting. I feel like it needs to be a collage of some sort though. Give me a while to order my ideas. Perhaps until the end of summer… or the end of the year at my current rate of working!
I’m hoping to get Snail #9 and Snail #8 on show at a gallery soon. Meanwhile I’m showing as part of the Taboo exhibition at the Workers gallery in Ynyshir, Wales. This runs until 4th August. Click HERE to find out more.
*If I ever make it famous I’ll delete this blog. Completists in auction houses across the globe will be hunting forever for the rest of this series. “Where are Snails #1-7 ?” they’ll ask. I’ll be giggling from the afterlife….. or not… and I’m wasting my time and only a tiny handful of people will ever own my art. As long as it gives them pleasure I’m happy 🙂
I was involved recently in an exhibition in St Pancras Hospital called Memories…. There’s Always Tomorrow. The thought of Art crossing over into the world of medicine isn’t always the first that springs to mind but at St Pancras the connections feel quite natural. Here’s a documentary all about it by the wonderful Anna Bowman. You can see my art from around 10 minutes 50 sec.
‘John, Alan, and Jane Too’ [detail]
I’ve been very slow in producing new art work this year. You could almost say I’m working at a snail’s pace.
It’s a very strange feeling. I sit down to start some work and then avoidance and procrastination become my two new best friends. I start over-analysing what will become of the final product rather than enjoying creating for the sake of creating. I find myself occupied with other tasks that suddenly become more important. I start to knock myself for my own ineptitude and decide that the whole thing is ultimately futile and I should not even bother.
So I stop.
A week or so later I pick it up again and have another go.
And the whole cycle continues.
A creative block is nothing new but I’ve not experienced one this long before. Usually I work it through using sheer stubbornness. I yell at my self-doubt, laugh at my loathing, and run headlong into making for the sake of making. This year I just haven’t found myself able to do that. Rather than try to fight it or work around it I just stop. This isn’t like me at all and it’s something that has gone on far too long. I can’t just keep stopping and keep taking stock of the situation. I need to reach a conclusion and work out where the next step will be.
So, like I say, I’m working at a snail’s pace. The Do Snails believe in Reincarnation? pieces I created at my Worker’s Gallery residency in [June? May?] the Spring have moved on to appear at the Venice Vending Machine Show at the Tate Exchange Liverpool. They will be on show from 30th July to 5th August. Despite the CV looking very healthy I’m still finding myself questioning the veracity of my practice. What place is framed work taking in my new creative endeavours? Is there even a place for my photography work in my practice any more?
In order to try and answer this I’m making [trying to make] a series of framed cut pieces based on my collection Do Snails believe in Reincarnation? The first of these is an 8″ x 8″ layered piece called Snail #9. There are ten snails in the …Reincarnation series so I’ll be working with each of them in turn. Fifteen layers of hand cut photograph form the images you see here.
I started at Snail #9 because I felt this image would motivate me. Start with what you love and the rest will fall into place… I hope. Or alternatively I’ll just stop here and avoid going any further for a few months. I would say ‘watch this space’ but you’re probably better off doing something else more useful with your time for the next half a year.
Back in Newtown, Powys, on Friday delivering Continuing Professional Development to primary school teachers from the region on behalf of NAWR Arts and Education Network Mid and West Wales. The workshop, based in Oriel Davies, is all about using i-Pads to make photographs, edit using PS Express, and create storyboards.
Spending the day with primary school teachers is always an enlightening experience. These professionals spend each day crossing curricular disciplines in helping children see their world as a connected and exciting place to be. Suddenly making storyboards on the i-Pad becomes less about design and more about the environment, advertising, creative writing, non-verbal communication, Geography, History, and Citizenship. Meanwhile a photography exercise on ‘Selfies’ morphs into a project on superheroes, anatomy, self-esteem, belonging, citizenship, and nature. There seems to be no end to the inventiveness and resourcefulness of these talented people.
In all my workshops I believe in giving people the time and the space to play. It’s no good being bombarded with handouts and theory without being able to practice. I want all my participants to get hands-on, and by the end of the day feel that they can immediately deliver their new found knowledge to their students. It’s no good telling teachers what their students should be experiencing, it’s much better instead for teachers to experience it for themselves. The average CPD course for teachers involves sitting around a table listening so I don’t think anyone expected to be outside quite as much as they were. Having space to think and absorb is a great stress reliever too.
We’re hoping to deliver this course again soon to other regions in the NAWR network so that more teachers across Mid and South West Wales get to add to their skills portfolio. Watch this space!
Photograph: Bethan Page
I’ve been in Newtown, Powys, today delivering Continuing Professional Development to art teachers from the region on behalf of NAWR Arts and Education Network Mid and West Wales. The workshop, based in Oriel Davies, is all about using i-Pads to make photographs, edit using PS Express, and create storyboards.
I always aim to deliver workshops and training that I would enjoy myself. I have a short attention span and I learn best when I’m doing (rather than just seeing and listening) so I try to accommodate fellow doodlers and fidget bottoms like me. As you can see from the picture, nobody stayed in their seats for very long. Getting to grips with new technology is something that needs practice rather than lecturing. Confidence is something that grows, and by the end of the day I wanted everyone to feel at one with their i-Pads. On a sunny day like today it made sense to me then to get everybody out into the park by the magnificent River Severn
It’s a real privilege to be working with teachers, listening to their ideas, and how they feel they can enhance the awesome work they already do with some new techniques. Health and well-being is part and parcel of seeing and creating, so I feel it is very important that everyone today had space to think, relax, and consider. Thankfully nobody was so relaxed by the river that they forgot to come back!
I’ll be back here again on July 6th delivering a similar course to Primary School Teachers. I can’t wait!
Spring and Summer are always a busy time in the art calendar so I thought I’d let you know when and where you can find my art this summer.
This year the focus has been on very small sculptures, no bigger than 8cm by 8cm. It’s really exciting working in 3D on such a small scale. Of course it has the added advantage that shipping is cheap and easy too! The downside is that when you find yourself in a gallery the instinct is to be drawn to big canvases and larger imposing artworks. There’s a temptation to miss the little pieces as you get swept along in your own thoughts. It’s important then that my tiny artworks are with the best curators who know how to work with small art.
This summer then why not pop over to Aabenraa in Denmark and have a look in the window of local artist Eskild Beck. He’s curated the show Small Worlds which features tiny artworks from international artists (including myself). The idea of a window display in a busy pedestrianised street is genius. Passers by can peer in and see these little pieces and spend time admiring the intricate details as many times as they like. The show has been so successful that we’re looking at moving the show to another gallery in Denmark from mid-August onwards.
Meanwhile, in the UK, I’m making some more little pieces for a show which will take place at the Tate Liverpool as part of this year’s Liverpool Biennial. I can’t give you much detail on that at the moment but either way you should be heading to Liverpool this summer to see some of the best the UK has to offer. Taking place over 15 weeks across the city in public spaces, galleries, museums and online, Liverpool Biennial commissions artists from around the world to make and present work. Somewhere between 14th July and 28th October some little pieces of mine will be on show.
Finally, there’s some little A5 drawings of mine which will be on sale at this year’s Environment Trust Secret Art Sale in London. This will be the third consecutive year I’m taking part in this exhibition. On 15-16th September anonymously donated artworks by acclaimed artists, art students, celebrities, architects, illustrators, jewellers and photographers will be available for sale for just £40. Only after buying a piece do you find out who the artist is. Naturally I can’t show you the pictures I’ve submitted for this year’s show until after the event. There is a list of biographies from participating artists which you can find HERE. This list will be added to throughout the summer. In 2016 I found my art exhibited alongside an illustration by acclaimed illustrator Peter Blake so I’m always very excited to find out who has signed up this year.
‘Big Pharma’ showing now in Aabenraa, Denmark
Let’s travel back in time and have a look at the 14 year old version of me. She’d just dropped Art and opted for all the Sciences for GCSE in school, and was travelling on a completely different path than the current version of me. The young me hated the thought of having to create stuff to a deadline and was petrified of not being able to create, or draw, things perfectly when she needed to. She found writing a few lines in a Science exam much more preferable option. She hated anything to do with computers and was totally technophobic. She rebelled against it all by doing Science and Maths. It was far easier to get good grades with just a pen and paper in the science lab than rely on creativity to order, or those weird new-fangled computer things.
Fast forward a billion years to today and I’m still inclined to take the lazy option given the choice. I still fear drawing to order, and the language of computers fills me with dread but I’ve learned how to work around it all. Using photography as a means of expression has given me a new outlet that just wasn’t available back when I was in school. I can finally be creative without the hours of frustration at trying to get my hands to do what my mind sees. I can use photography to enhance what I feel the need to create and I’m more confident in experimenting in other creative fields as a result.
Digital photography as a research tool is liberating too. Collecting source material as inspiration is so easy with cameras on mobile phones. Having the best cameras in your pocket and within easy reach ticks every lazy box going. The cycle of being able to see, photograph, delete, retry, and succeed is so fast and natural that it removes any slow-burning frustration the younger version of me felt about Art.
The instant gratification of knowing that what you’ve created feels good is a great boost to health and well-being too. A lot of the community courses I run have the idea of using photography as a confidence building tool at their core. I’m always thinking of digital cameras as conduits to a good feeling, rather than scary technical devices.
So when NAWR Arts and Education Network asked me to provide a professional learning opportunity aimed at Art teachers I jumped at the chance. I’ve created a package of ideas for i-Pads using PS Express which are easy to learn and even easier to implement. On June 21st I’ll be at Oriel Davies in Newtown, Powys sharing exercises I’ve developed for use in the classroom. I’ve made sure that they’re appropriate for a range of skills and abilities and can be used by anyone… especially the technophobic, atelodemiourgiopapyrophobic* younger version of me.
*atelodemiourgiopapyrophobia is the fear of imperfect creativity on paper.