Shadow Monkeys (8/52 cont/d)


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Week eight of 2015: a busy page that’s warranted 2 posts…

And that’s without any mention of the butterflies.

Or Steve Jobs. But that’s all for another day…

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The thing I wanted to tell you about now is monkey related:
Since I spent a weekend in conversation with my daemons, they’ve been magicking themselves into apparency here, there & all over. This week they’ve manifested in a semi-Cubist, heavy handed biro scrawl, merged, their tribal Día de Muertos faces peering out from the recesses of the page.

We’ve been sharing the available space in this mind for a few decades. It’s refreshing to shift the power balance between ‘them’ and ‘us’ (for want of better terms).

So when I read the post from Danny Gregory this week, asking for tales from our Monkeys, another bunch of dots connected: Monkey minded me, the battles with my daemons, and all the reasons it took me so long to go to art school.

I dedicated a corner of a page to the Monkeys (they were chief trouser-wearers and direction-choosers in my life for way too long. They get a corner to play in now. I get the rest of the page. That is ALL) A place to start unscrambling some thoughts:

DSC_4689These are the bare bones of those thoughts:

My monkeys bewilder me with their faultlessly formed logic.

They have faith only in the opinions and the hard-hearted snipes of the the hardcore cynics. They know why I can’t and what I can’t and all the reasons why.

They will poke at me with pointy sticks if I turn my back on them for long. They stand in my way. They say: don’t show yourself, not your real self, cos then the haters aren’t hating the real you. You tricked the haters, the mean kids, the ones who know. You win. See?

The monkey’s logic is flawed at a level so deep I sometimes forget : Do not trust the monkeys.

It was the Monkey’s determination that as art isn’t a real job, and work isn’t supposed to be fun, and all the associated hooey, that defined my existence until quite recently. A large part of life (by my reckoning) is unpicking the knots that we spend the preceding years tying ourselves up in. Unattended monkeys will continue tying knots.

The Art of Letting Go


The things we learn at art school, that aren’t really art…

I’ve learnt how to let go.

I started out with very fixed thinking mentality. I made myself decide what the finished result would look like as a starting point. Then trying to find a path to get from point A (nothing) to point Z (end product). It was hugely frustrating. Not just for me –  I could see it in the face of my tutors too. But I didn’t understand why.

I spent so many years drifty doodling about aimlessly, I had no idea I could choose my direction and just go off n see where I got to.

Stubbornly resistant to the organic process – sketching, researching, dabbling, documenting and recording, experimenting, trial and error, figuring out – I wanted to race to the finish line and then jump into the next thing. Inner kid was at the wheel, and she travels at one speed only – giddyingly fast! Although she brings the very necessary vitality and exuberance, she doesn’t do planning or calm. And in order to get the best results I (we) could, these elements cannot be mutually exclusive.

I look back at early projects and think: what a bizarre way of going about things! (but isn’t that a life thing too?)

I believe we create best within a set of parameters. Told you can only have 3 colours for your painting,  3 notes for your tune, 3 minutes for your idea … set a restriction, and it forces the imagination swell to fill the limits. When you don’t have access to everything in the toy box, you can really set about making the best of what you’ve got.

While I already knew this, my first ‘free choice’ projects at college freaked the bejeebus out of me. The resulting confusion made me panic my own parameters into place. So much so, in the freedom of limitless choicefulness I’d literally hear myself think: Right, so it can be anything??? Ok………<eek> …….. Let’s make it 1.5 metres high, made of fabric, and green. I don’t know what it’s going to be, or why, or anything else. But at least I’ve got some clue what it’s going to look like. And then steadfastly refuse to budge from this plan.

And then reverse engineer my ideas from there.

Top tip, folks: Don’t do it this way!

pin-tail-on-donkeyIn the absence of any solid grounding I had to pin meanings on to the finished article, blindly, like the tail on a donkey.  It didn’t hold up, there was no integrity: just a decorative thing that isn’t an expression of anything.

The whole process was a lot harder than it needed to be, and it didn’t produce good results. I backed myself into a corner and I wasn’t going to let myself out of it for fear of … fear of… fear of the great abyss of everything that’s outside my self imposed boundary,  which is too overwhelming to consider.

So sometimes you gotta follow a route to its ultimate destination before accepting the truth of it, turning round, and going someplace else. Destination disappointment (could’ve done better). And eventually, several disappointments later, I did.

I’ll show you where some of these routes led next…

guinea pig break


hi folks, I’m interupting the twelvty stream of conciousness with a little request…

…would you be guinea pig for me?

Here’s the thing, I’m presenting my project in class tomorrow, a series of portraits.
So, as the deadline creeps up I’ve suddenly taken it into my head to add a short animated doodad into the mix.

I’m fine tuning it just now but I’ll post it up this evening, your constructive criticism would be much appreciated! 😉

TIA! x

Update! It’s much-later o’clock… I realise I’ve been arsing about figuring how to show you this thing… It’s a Flash file (.swf) – which looks all fine n dandy over here but is no good to upload for you to see. Any top tips on converting it to a usable format ?

Update 2! Finally managed it !!! Presentation in class went well (as far as I could tell!) It’s here if you’d like to take a look!

screen printing


This week I’ve thrown my time into screen printing, taking the dayoff work yesterday to use the college print room. Most of the prints are still drying, but I got to bring these 3 home!


I used the backgrounds I created the previous week… plus a bunch of random papers from my ever increasing collection – dyed envelopes, painting experiments, dictionary pages, collages. I’ll post some more up next week 🙂

out of the color zone


One of our major projects for this term is beginning to take shape. I’m expecting it to be a series of images (or ‘outcomes’) with a connecting theme – someone very special to me – as a form of memorial. Incorporating digital photo editing, screenprinting, and some painting. So here’s a little bit of where I’m at just now

It’s looking a bit murky, I’m venturing into muted tones… (it’s weird out there!)

This is a series of experimental backgrounds.

I’d forgotton the salt on watercolor trick. It is actual magic!

Restricting colors to focus on form and layers.

White ink, then dilute black procion dye, then collaged.

I’m looking to get a slightly dream-like, ethereal quality…

This one doesn’t fit with the theme, so will wind up in a future project some day…

Dabbling in doodling. I want a taste of the post WW2 era print designs.

Playing with ink… bound to get a bit spattery 😉

Too dark, but I can see it meeting up with that other one from earlier.

I’ve got some part-written posts on other comings and goings which I must get round to finishing! Feet not touching the floor much these days – but I’ll be back again soon! 😀

thoughts of the moment…


In the accidental gap year I found myself in last year, I determined myself to continue learning. I absorbed a wonderous feast of inspiration and enthusiam from the good folks of the internet. Yes, that includes you. I thank you sincerely.

Day 1 back at school, drawing with strips of paper.

I collected and devoured books and articles, blogs, tutorials and galleries (online and off). I explored new techniques and new media with whole-hearted abandon. I believe I learnt a lot.

close up: 1st in series ‘Structure’, drawing with paper.

Turns out I forgot a lot too.

I forgot the time lost to debating the obvious and making suposition about the intents behind all manner of art. With mind maps.

3d city scape constructed from recycled paper

I forgot that for every hour in the classroom, at least another one or two are needed for research and time lost down figurative blind alleys. I forgot how the time it takes swells and nudges out of place all other aspects of day to day being.

noticing, photographing, recording moments: all that visual stuff other folks don’t see…

I do remember having a big wobble at about this stage on my last course. The initial I’m an art student euphoria has burnt itself out and in its wake sits a mildly stunned version of me, in mini-crisis-of-intent. Just a stage in the process.
The shopping bag by my desk. Thank you for your simple wisdom, orange elephant.

I will always be learning: day 1 :D


Well folks, I’m happy to report the course is running! Big thanks for all your kind support – it really worked!

I haven’t got my student loan through yet, but I’ve got my ID badge and I had first day today!

The story, so far…

Enrollment on Monday was the usual fiasco… but that seems to be the nature of enrollment days. Which baffles me every time, they do it every year, right?

Randomly we were sent about from room to room with groups of other students, and everybodyTalkingAtOnceAndVeryHighSpirits, and then to an induction to the photo studio – which I found the most useful part of the day – although one part-time technician + more than one dedicated photography courses means …well, we’ll see.

I left with very mixed feelings: I have such strong memories of the foundation course 2 years ago. Exhillerating, Mind-expanding, Enlightening, Exciting, So so Stressful, the Self-Doubt, Criticism – internal and external, Judgement, Exhausting, Draining, and Fantastic. I came out with a group of friends I know I’ll keep in touch with for a very long time. And more ideas than I thought my head could contain. And some of gloomiest moments of what’s the point of it all-ism. And an overwhelming need for more. Art IS a drug.

Can I do 3 more years of this? Can it ever live up to that fantastic year? Am I trying to relive the past? A lot of inspiring tutors had taken redundancy last year, the department is stretched. The facilities are ok. Old and tatty, but it has a homely feel.

The course runs Wednesday and Thursday, plus Monday mornings (a bonus 1/2 day of learning. Guess I can juggle to squeeze it in). Advertised to start next week, it began today. Depending who you ask, it’s either Art & Design or Fine Art. Details, details I guess. It’s just there are so many of them.

Throughout Tuesday I swung radically between Pro or Con. I made the decision to give it two weeks. Unless this week was enough to judge, in which case I’d give it one week.

Day One

We are a friendly group of 9, most already know each other from last year, there are 2 others from my year.

As an intro, we were asked to bring an example of recent work and give a short presentation. Well, as you know all my recent art is part of a larger (8 weeks @ a page a day!) format.

I’m going to let you into a little secret here………..
Until today, you were the only ppl who’d seen my project.

I’ve liked it like that, but it was also fun to take him (the book) out into the other world… as I explained why I hadn’t just taken a page or two from the book, I found myself describing him as ‘like a little animal I’ve been feeding and nurturing’. Looking back that might have sounded strange.

In the afternoon we were given 2 hours to produce 10 A3 line drawings from around the college, the theme: structure. As my brain ached from the struggle of translating 3D structures to flat pencil lines (strictly no shading) I thought back to all those hours of drawing practice I’d promised myself, but instead allowed IK distract me into something more messy, colorful, and with sugar-high instant gratification!

I had forgot how mentally and physically just concentrating really hard can be! The mental version of running a marathon straight after a fortnight in bed with flu. And having eaten a big roast dinner. Wearing flip-flops. I told the tutor this. She suggested it was more like a 1/2 marathon.

Some hours on, the drawings don’t look so bad, only one or two were a struggle to identify.

I’m back on that rollercoaster of a learning curve – Weyhey!

beginning of a new adventure


I started the page a day project on 16 March this year. 3 books and 6 months later, what began as a whim rapidly snowballed into an all-out obsession, and I have loved ever minute of it!

This is starting to sound a bit final, a bit endy, and it isn’t that at all. Although I won’t be starting the inevitable book 4 straight away…

Tomorrow I enrol at art school to begin my degree.

I did the same last year, but cos of lack of applicants/the college’s hugely disorganised system, we found out on enrollment day there was no degree course.

My fallback plan was to use this year as training, practice, to develop and explore my creativity alone.

It’s my belief that life throws us curve balls sometimes which don’t make sense til later. It turned out that the last year also saw my home life turned upside down. If I’d been at school most likely I would’ve missed time and been fairly unfocussed as a result. Instead what I needed to balance this chaos was plenty of quiet alone time and to throw my soul into my art. Which I’ve certainly done!

At the time of typing to you, I’m in that space between kid-on-christmas-eve-anticiptation and yeh-like-it’s-gonna-actually-happen-this-time-cynicism. Gotta say, this isn’t a comfy space, but one way or the other, I’ll know by this time tomorrow!

So, watch this space folks – I’ll let you know tomorrow! 😉

resistance to drawing


Funny how some fragments of life become lodged in that part of the memory that keeps rolling back round to the front.

This was part of the conversation in my interview for art school 2 years ago…

Me: I’d really like to learn to draw
Tutor: Huh?
Me: Yeh, I can’t draw, y’know like real things
Tutor: Bullshit!  Fuck, I’m not meant to swear in interviews…

This was the point I knew I was going to fit in.

In class with same tutor some while later we were drawing the music that was playing – the topic came up again: But you are drawing a real thing… or are you saying music isn’t a real thing?

But I still have this resistance towards drawing. I accept I can (to a degree) do it, but something inside me chooses not to. But I want to. But I don’t.

The inner-squabble continues, meanwhile I splosh and splatter and doodle inside the familiar comfort zone, rarely stretching out to sketch and interpret shapes and objects.


Page 32 began with ink and coffee dregs – the ideal background for some drawing of real things! I started out with some stuff in my immediate view – scissors, water jug, paint brushes, my left hand.

Over this I drew some of the imagery from a vivid dream I had the night before. (After all, dreams are real things too, right?)

I will endeavour to do this again. Art is like all exercise – remember to stretch!