Sunday, 29 April 2012

last minute preparations for Monday's drawing workshop


Preparations for workshops are always more involved than I think.
It seemed like a fairly straight forward idea to record people reading, but now I need to edit the files and put them in an order and then in a form that will not fail me during the workshop. There are tiny technical complications that wear out the afternoon. Thank god I have help, well thank David anyway.

Tomorrow is "Drawing from word to image" and the more I get ready for it the more potential I see within the idea. I go off on tangents like an animal sniffing scent then I remember I've got to settle on a structure. I've been pondering it for days, buying drawing materials, popping in and out of Fabrica catching people with poems in the kitchen, in the gallery, in the Friends centre.

I have recorded some poems read by amazing people, in Polish, Spanish, Catalan, Neopolitan, and Greek, they have either unearthed poems that mean something to them or are poets in their own right. They have all done this as a favour and I am moved and grateful for their contributions. However I can't use all the material for this one workshop so I'm agonising over editing down to one poem from each person.
I will be posting all of these poems as sound files on this blog soon, come back and have a listen they are well worth it.

Well it's all safely on a memory stick now in the right order, just need to sort out the bags of stuff and take them in to Fabrica, and then I can worry about what I might have forgotten.

I wonder if it would be an idea to do a drawing marathon at Fabrica sometime, night and day, or a week long. Would that enable me to do everything, to follow all the tangents?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

25/4/12 Mural project

Extramural chats over tea - retirement home
Today I returned with another stack of colour images trawled from the Internet after hours of varying search terms and finding all kinds of unexpected loveliness. It's amazing to think I used to do all this sort of image research from books alone.
I was honing down the style of drawing and painting after our conversation last week based on the landscape pictures I showed them. They had given me good feed back on what they thought was too ugly, too rich, too abstract, too busy, too dark, too naïve etc. as well as good colour, good clear lines, beautiful fragility, cheerful blossom, from which I had gathered an idea about style as well as a better idea about content.
In my search I found an amazing archive of seed packets from 19th century American seed producers like "Childs" and Burpees" on
They were beautifully illustrated with the brightest colours imaginable, and included some flowers I haven't seen for years like these gloxinias...
Everyone loved these pictures but then put them on the too bright pile when they came across the coloured drawings by Charles Renee Mackintosh, these were unanimously liked for their clarity and delicacy...
Today's unanimous favourite image (below) was a plate from a C16th Italian manuscript at Ickworth House. The small pictures of birds by some of these artists were well appreciated too as long as the ones we included in the mural were life sized and not smaller.
Images rejected because of colour or style were by William Morris, Elizabeth Blackadder, William de Morgan and a few random pictures of pomegranates.

The good news today was that the residents have voted to spend money on the materials from their own funds and the council have agreed to match it.

I ended the morning just sitting and listening to a lot of laughing about the very basic nature of some childhood toilets, the surreptitious gathering of veg from allotments to make pies for brothers lunches and new plans to get a group together to make bunting for the 3rd June. If any one reading this has any material in red or white and or blue, and long lengths of cloth tape, please let me know because they are in need of it in the next few weeks.

My next task is to have a good long chat with the volunteers about design and execution based on the images that have been selected by the group I've been talking with. I know there are two volunteers with exactly the right skills to lead the next part, and several more with good drawing and painting skills; I just hope they have the time.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Retirement home visit no.2

Went to the retirement home again today. I took a lot of landscape and garden pictures based on what people had shown a preference for as a subject for their mural at the last coffee morning.

I had just over 60 images of landscapes by painters as disparate as Egon Schiele, Ivon Hitchens and Eric Ravilious. I was fascinated by what people were interested in and what they hated, I was pleased I'd decided to take so many examples to discuss. We passed them around the table a few times, discussing the comparitive merits of colour, perspective and style, putting some to one side and then mixing them up again. Finally I held them up one at a time for mass scrutiny in order to make a pile of images that contained things people liked, and another of what they really didn't.

I asked them to look at the pictures not as complete images but as prompts and samples of nature. So "I like that picture" wasn't a useful comment but "I like the texture of the gold leaves on the ground between the trees, but I don't like the trees and I'd prefer the colours to be more green" about a Klimt painting of a birch tree wood in autumn was just the right kind of information.


I was interested to notice that the Klimt paintings were popular except when they were "too full", it seemed that people generally didn't like the overpowering heaviness in his paintings of trees and plants but liked the colours and some of the shapes. This surprised me because I thought the oppressive floweryness of some of the Klimt gardens full of hollyhocks and delphiniums described a full border at the height of a warm summer perfectly. When I look at those paintings my ears fill with the sound of bees. I had never thought of them as being confusing or too full but I can see their point.


Generally they liked Schiele's crucified yet delicate trees and the muted colours, but they didn't like Ravilious' subject or colour when I showed some of his images of the Downs.


I was struck by how a few people had difficulty reading some of the images; they saw figures with boots on in plants, or snowmen instead of paths, we had a laugh about that.
Anyway I think I can see a way forward to the next stage and we have agreed that I should go back with more specifically garden, blossom tree and plant based images. I have a style of approach in mind from what people said about what they saw so I will be interested if I have got it right.


The overall unanimous favourite painting of the morning was Van Gogh's blossom tree on what looks to be a manganese blue sky (but that might just be my printer).

Drawing event for spring 2012

For the spring show "I see infinite distance between one point and another" by The Otolith Group, I am running a drawing workshop, "Drawing from word to image" about listening to words in familiar and unfamiliar languages. It's a starting point for making drawings about the images that pass through the mind when listening to words, intonation and poetic phrases. It's a workshop about exploring visual translation.

Coincidentally it mirrors the writing workshop that the poet in residence Maria Jastrzebska is running for writers about translating from languages you don't understand, have a look at her blog for more information

see below for details on "Drawing from word to image" to book phone Fabrica 01273 778646


Friday, 13 April 2012

A day; another attempt to find an appropriate blogging form


The retirement home…

Began the day going to meet with the residents of a retirement home who have had their pictures taken down from the corridors between their flats 'because of Health and Safety'. I'm sure there's a sensible way around this but it would take someone time and intelligent and sensitive interpretation of H&S legislation. It seems it's easier to just say no pictures or vases allowed in any of these homes.

They invited me to their regular weekly coffee morning to discuss the possibilities; they think they want a mural. I have been trying to think of an alternative to this solution as I do have a low opinion of murals. The majority of murals tend to be poor attempts at realism and make me shudder, surely the traditional art of the people could be, well, just better.

Anyway enough of my prejudice, they had good reasons for wanting a mural and so I am taking it as a challenge to help them make a good one.

The idea is that I begin the process, based on many years experience of public art commissions, and then hand it on to Fabrica volunteers picked for their commitment and drawing and painting skills to transfer to the wall of choice.

After talking with the residents about what they had been thinking about I suggested to them that we also think about elements that we could invent from the mural to make lots of smaller cut out drawings to place around all the blank walled corridors. As they seem to be most keen on the subject being landscape, gardens and nature I think it would be good to get them to come up with lists of birds, plants, butterflies, insects, that they know, like, see or grow. I think we could have an interesting combination of botanical drawing and drawings of bugs and seed pods etc. scattered about the rest of the corridors so that no place will look the same as any other. I'd like them all to be hand drawn.

I've agreed with them that I will take in as many print outs of landscapes as I can get my hands on so we can all sit around next Wednesday making collages of landscapes together as a way to share ideas and realise what's possible. I'm aware that everyone involved will have their own vision of a landscape; I think it would be good to get them all out on the table in visual form.

The poet's kitchen…

I went home to think about murals for a while over a sandwich and then went off to meet with Maria Jastrzebska who is Fabrica's artist in residence during the spring show "I see infinite distance between one point and another".

Maria is a poet and the film by The Otolith Group depicts Etel Adnan, also a poet, reading her work 'The Sea'. I hadn't met with Maria before today but she was immediately easy to communicate with and fabulously dynamic, I had asked if she would mind me recording her reading some of her work in Polish (she was originally born in Poland and also works as a translator) although she does all her writing in English, her work has been translated into Polish by others.

I am making a collection of poetry read in lots of different languages for a drawing workshop that I'm running at Fabrica on 30th April 1pm - 4pm. I wanted to do something based on how we hear poetry, how we think the concepts, words and rhythms in our minds. Do they make pictures or do the words and sentences find images in our memories.

I am very excited by this as I'm not sure how it will turn out, people often find it difficult to draw from their minds, they feel more at home with the struggle of drawing from a more concrete reality. So I think it will be hard but a true exploration of how we each perceive the poetic.

I was also thrilled to hear that Maria has been thinking along similar lines and is planning a workshop for writers around translating from languages they don't understand. Looking at shape and form. I will be interested to speak with her after and see the results of both workshops side by side.

The Quaker's quiet…

I dropped Maria off in town and went to Fabrica to meet with Eva Kalpadaki who kindly agreed to read me two poems in Greek with her Cretan accent. As everyone was banging and sawing in Fabrica getting the show together we went to the Friends centre and begged the favour of making the recording in the peaceful corridor of their building. The man at the desk said oh no that won't do, come with me you can borrow a better place, and led us to their lovely peaceful 'quiet room'. We spent 15 minutes of tranquillity recording Eva's mesmeric voice, said thank you and left. That’s four poems and two languages I've got today.


I rushed back to Fabrica with half hour to spare with Maria and Jackie Wills (another excellent poet) before the volunteer briefing. This is Fabrica's regular pre-show meet when volunteers get to hear things about the show, i.e. the contents, the commissioning process, the background of the artist, other events and the exhibitions procedure in the sense of how it will work in a practical way.

It’s a great idea because the volunteers who will be the ones out with the exhibition and the visitors for the course of the show get to meet the various people doing things behind the scenes and can ask questions about any aspect they like in an informal way. It's also potentially time for them to get involved in more things going on. We all got to see the film for the first time on the big screen together too.
(Who was the fidget sitting on that squeaky stool at the back?)

Drove Lisa home and flopped out feeling happy and full of more ideas.