Wednesday, 29 February 2012

I Will Make a Scale Model

After watching David Hockney on the Culture Show, I have decided to make a scale model in cardboard of the exhibition space at the Cooper Gallery. This will aid the planning process and help de-scramble my very full head....
An unrelated drawing

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Spectator vs. The Expert

This is my first appearance on the 154 blog (except for the rather cool photo of me below – thank you Yvonne!) but I have been beavering away on the project for the past few weeks.  I’ve had a fair few meetings and chats with the other artists, discussed ideas with friends, spoken with a number of community groups and most importantly I’ve spent 3 good days in Barnsley, 1 in Newham and of course been on a rather long and winding road trip (thank you again Yvonne for driving – sorry to everybody for my navigation); getting a feel for the places, sketching out some ideas for stories and taking the odd photo for inspiration.  It’s going really well and I now find myself surrounded by all sorts of scraps of writing, ideas and photos, trying to find some sense of order or narrative to what’s strewn in front of me.
This is very unusual for me.  Normally I struggle to get started on a new project.
I suppose like many people I usually find the beginning the hardest part; the ‘in’ if you will on any given project, and I tend to find myself circling the edges over and over; like the dad who finds himself staring over the edge of a 10 metre diving board wondering what the hell he’s doing up there, desperately trying to work up the courage to jump rather than disappoint his doting daughter.  It usually takes me a long time to jump.

Just not on this occasion. 

This is an unnerving experience for me; where I would normally be hesitantly crawling to the edge of the diving board I now seem to be running at full tilt ready to dive bomb the water below and, dare I say it, enjoying myself.  I’m not sure I like it.

I like the familiar feel of over analysing things; of finding faults in my ideas; over complicating processes; and generally paralysing my hand as I force it to pick up a pen and write some words on some paper. Any words... In short, I like to worry.  The rewards when the words finally start to flow are all the sweeter after such a self imposed torture.

On this occasion, though of course I’m a long way from any finished piece, I just seem to be enjoying the process.  So I decided to find something to worry about. Anything. 

Imagine my relief when I met with Emma Adams for breakfast one day and she gave me that something: a question.  Just a small thing, but I’ve clung to it dearly and built it up in my head, and generally turned it into a big dilemma; I feel satisfied now.

In truth (and reality), it’s actually a very interesting question and one I would welcome other people’s opinions on hence this post.

“Can you write about a place or person without an expert understanding of your subject?"

I had met with Emma to chat about ideas for the project and her potential involvement.  Can I just randomly say at this point that when we arrived at the cafe the waitress asked if we’d like to see the breakfast menu and naturally, being there for breakfast, we both said yes.  After a few minutes the waitress returned with the menu for us to peruse.  It was an A5 piece of card with black type across the centre that simply said “Scrambled Eggs on Toast”.  For once, I had no problem making a decision. I had the scrambled eggs on toast without the scrambled eggs; Emma, to my surprise, ordered everything on the menu.

Anyway, during our chat Emma raised a concern she had relating to the time she could give to the project and in the process posed the above question to me saying that she felt if she could not fully immerse herself in the project (get to fully understand the two places meet lots of people etc.) she didn’t feel she could do the project justice. She needed to become an expert and was not sure if she had the time to do it.

What followed was a really interesting debate on the merits of the Expert vs. The Spectator and certainly (as we did) you can make a convincing argument for both sides of the question.  Certainly, in specific circumstances, the role of the Spectator is vitally important; observing and reacting to what happens around them, interpreting events and conjuring stories from the impressions that are made on them.  Equally though, there is a place for the Expert, interpreting what they see with a knowledge and context of the place around them. Conveying hidden depths to people and revealing unknown places or characteristics through the stories both real and imagined they choose to write.

The question we were mulling over was which of these approaches best suited this project.

Neither of us are from Barnsley or Newham and both acknowledged that, if we needed to become an expert in these communities in order to portray them, this would mean committing a lot of time to research and many days spent in the respective places; meeting people, digging around and discovering the hidden angels and demons; something we both relish doing.  On the other hand, this is a project about two communities 154 miles apart with little apparent knowledge of each other and approaching the project from this stand point would allow for a more reactionary response that the spectator might bring, still spending plenty of time in each place but with less researched knowledge behind us.

As a comparison to this we discussed our opinions of our own home towns.  I am a Bristol lad and one of the main traits of a Bristolian is to be fiercely Bristolian.  This has both its pluses and its minuses. On the one hand I pride myself on my knowledge of the city and am a constant champion of it as a place and the people that live there (friendliest place in Europe don’t you know!). I am also very honest about its shortcomings... to a degree.  However, I must begrudgingly confess to perhaps having a somewhat blinkered or (dare I say it?) bias towards the place.  This therefore, if I were ever to work on a piece about the city, would require the role of a spectator to even the balance. 

Well, if only it were that simple... I should also mention that I haven't lived in Bristol for almost 12 years (like I said - fiercely Bristolian) and yet I still consider myself an expert; I still visit regularly! Perhaps the notion of Expert itself needs to be further explored?

Anyway, ignoring my questionable expertise of Bristol, with the 154 collective we have found ourselves in the reverse roles; the spectators without an expert.  This ultimately was Emma’s worry and led to her concerns over the time she had to become an ‘expert’.

At the start of our scrambled eggs (without the eggs) this had not really been an issue I had considered but by the time we had paid the bill I did share Emma’s concerns.  This was not only an issue of choosing a perspective from which to work but also in ensuring an integrity and validity to the final exhibition as well.

I left the cafe with a spring in my step and a glint in my eye; at last I have something to worry about and to stew over and over.  My cocky confidence had gone, long live the sweating dad on the high board crawling to the edge with a fixed smile for his audience of one.

In recent weeks I have, sadly, found a myself in a more happy place with this issue; though to tell you my position would perhaps influence your own opinion, not to mention making a long blog longer.

So for now I would be content with your opinions on the question I’ve posed above: "Can you write about a place or person without an expert understanding of your subject?"  I would be genuinely interested in your opinions on this; not least as it might just fuel the fire and reignite my anxieties.

Friday, 24 February 2012

154 Day 2 too part one

Driving into the city Centre, not a cloud in the sky apart from beautiful scars from aeroplane tracks. See trees with lumps that I love, must include them in a painting soon. I like the colours of the Barnsley stone.
Cafe first?
Whats so funny is I end up , unintentionally patronising the same cafe + even sitting in the same place! which I had wanted to move from last time but already have developed a habit. You have to listen out for your number, have to locate which cafe your number relates too, makes me a little nervous - how ridiculous. I'm very close to people that I'm drawing whilst I wait- very sneaky looking. Is that an encroachment of privacy? that I'm even inspecting, at close hand the detailed pattern of someones ear? Seeing lots of heads.
Now I recognise the coleslaw as before.

Someone leans over from the adjacent cafe and chats to someone - "Good afternoon, you over having a change?" "Yes, having Shepherds pie" "Nowt wrong with that"

Pictures and Words

Yvonne and Dan have begun work on their 154 Collaborative Project: Pictures and Words. Dan is creating a series of stories inspired by a selection of images captured by Yvonne. And Yvonne will produce a series of images inspired by a selection of stories written by Dan. This will hopefully culminate into 10 pairs of Pictures and Words based on the 154 theme of Journeys. Very exciting! Here is the first image, which has just been sent to Dan. Check back soon to discover the stories behind the picture...

Beyond The Bin

154 Day 2 too part 2

Onto my spot outside for drawing. 0 degrees (Cant find a little circle sign on my computer so have to write out the whole word), can feel the warmth of the sun on my back. Hotel California on the Andean Pan pipes- Bizarre, and the cold makes me make less lines- which I like. All this time I've been taking some lines for granted. Drawing in and out of consciousness- or rather drawing some times with consciousness and sometimes they just appear- I like those ones.

What is it with Barnsley City Centre and a plethora of mobility scooters? A very active mobility awareness? I find myself drawing lots of them as they criss cross my vision. There are 2 people chat chat chatting alongside each other whilst driving across from right to left, then a few minutes later back, left to right, then a 1/2 hour later right to left again.
I begin to notice everything with wheels, pushchairs, wheel chairs, trolleys, wheelie bin and it's man. "If you look at things with a pencil + paper in your hands you are going to see far more " D. Hockney.
Over and out til next time, watch this spot. LS

Tidal Wave

Another installment from a sketchshare session with Jonathan Grauel in North Carolina.
Tidal Wave - FL & JG

Newham Docklands

Yvonne Roberts is currently working on a series of images that have been captured and processed entirely on mobile devices, including the iPhone and the iPad. Here is an image captured by Yvonne at Newham Docklands, during the recent Road Trip.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Journey Continues....

Here is a sneak peek of the 'roughs' that Anna has started to put together for the Journey book, developed with children in Hoyland. Its going to be beautiful!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Spoon 154

Journey themed Sketchshare doodle created live with Jonathan Grauel drawing in North Carolina, USA, me drawing in Yorkshire. Amazing app on the iPad for drawing simultaniously with up to 4 people anywhere in the world using internet connected iPads. Lots of potential for the Newham - Barnsley link up here!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Barnsley to Newham

My head is still spinning from the excitement of our recent road trip from Barnsley to Newham. It was a whirlwind couple of days stacked with lots of photography, filmmaking, drawing, writing, walking, talking, looking,  exploring, thinking, sharing....and driving!! We set off with bags full of ideas and have come back with even more! The scale of the project has suddenly presented itself and whilst being quite daunting it is fantastic to be part of such an exciting, challenging and inspirational project. I took literally hundreds of pictures during the road trip including our start and end point - the Town Halls in each location.

 Plus here are a few images captured along the way at Creswell Crags...

 And here's a little taster of whats to come...

Early morning at the Docks

Street Cleaning

I am working on many more images from the Barnsley to Newham Trip and am beginning to draw parallels with the images I have already captured in Barnsley. I promise to post more very soon, so please keep checking back!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Character Designs fo the 'Journey' Book

Here are 4 character designs painted in water-colour by children from Hoyland, working with 154 Collective artist Anna Connor.

Back From Newham.....

On Sunday three of the 154 Collective headed down to Newham to spend a little time getting to know the place before we start to develop ideas and create new work for the 154 exhibition. I think its accurate to say that all our heads are spinning and full of possibilities, so for now here is a picture of a couple of chicken huts i photographed on the way down at Creswell Crags.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Currently working on......

...a new iPad painting inspired by spending time drawing in Barnsley Town Centre. Lots more to come!

Duck Feet Cold Light System Commissioned

Wonderful master of the lo-fi and friend to the 154 Collective, Duck Feet Cold Light System has been commissioned to compose 154, a musical journey in 154 seconds in 5:4 time. The music will feature as part of the 154 exhibition in June at the Cooper Gallery, Barnsley. We are asking for anyone out there who travels in or out of Barnsley to record a short (under 20 second) audio clip of their journey, on their mobile phone and email it to, to be used to inspire the creation of the track.

More artists in Barnsley...

Yvonne with iPhone at the ready

Another productive day in Barnsley with Dan, Yvonne and Richard, a visit to the Cooper Gallery to check out the 'Journey' exhibition, and sorting out details for our road trip to Newham on Sunday.....  exciting stuff!

Dan planning in the New Market Diner
Yvonne's iPhoneography

Phone Box - captured and processed on the iPhone by Yvonne Roberts

Thursday, 9 February 2012

154 Day 1 for me

I arrived. I had imagined (And had been doing so for days, concocting a plan in my head) that I would arrive, just set up on a spot that I would stay in until I had completed 154 drawings. This came to me as an idea whilst at the swimming pool, to start myself off on this project I would draw 154 drawings from one place, photograph each drawing in order to make a kind of film flip book. Technically I had no idea if it would work, or if it would look rubbish. Fabric Lenny had previously encouraged me to experiment with a drawing animation and that had partly fired me onto this idea. Anyway technicalities didn’t come into it yet, except from within our own brains- there was so much to look at, how do I choose? too much to draw, How do I start? Where shall I stand? Does it matter? It’s all very well Hockney saying that drawing can be an excuse to stare but then to make decisions about what you choose to draw- another step, maybe its just a diving board that you have to breathe in deeply and dive. I think I wont start just yet, I need to look around a bit,(Am I always making excuses for that start? Why? When I so love doing it?) I’ll go into the cafes for a cuppa.. and maybe a lunch before I start. Potts Bakers Kays Café Hiltons New Market Diner

 How do I choose which café? What to eat? So much choice. How do other people choose which café?, loyalties?, connections?, habit? Economics? Food? No wonder we become creatures of habit-its for an easier life- there is so much going on….

In the café-

Newborn baby and Dad?

Lots of women sitting on their own. Mother and daughter (?) in similar ponchos keep looking over at me. I suppose I imagine I’m invisible when I draw because it often feels that I inhabit a parallel universe.

“No Toast after 11,30”- why not?

Young boy completely covered over by his coat

“7?,7?7?” is called out, “here love” – the woman with 3 boys + one with his coat over his head.

“17?” over at Kays

So many glimpses of peoples lives, I start to draw, not much elbow room in winter cos wearing so much clothing. I feel a little guilty that I’m not only a furtive twitter stalker but also a life observer stalker. (bit of a cop out?)

 Drawing, -there you go- I came with an idea that I had been mulling over for a while and then after all that I change my mind …because I can.

I don’t want to familiarize myself too quickly cos then I may lose the freshness of seeing for the first time, and drawing is seeing, even if it isn’t directly observational. I want the drawings to do the seeing, + the finding out for me. That way I am “taken” on a treasure hunt? The drawing can spot a funny drain- cover or odd socks, before I can, that’s the next joy that I love, and then when I arrive home and look at the drawings again, sometimes as if for the first time.

I hadn’t felt like coming and now my heart is pumping fast with the excitement of it all.

I go outside to my spot- (Made a snap decision -there- steady on girl) it’s the entrance to the market, it’s slightly discreet, and under the staircase so not fully exposed to elements or people. I draw fast without thinking much. I pick up ideas as I go. It begins to rain and then it begins to snow. As soon as my marks get gratuitous I stop. I can come back again, and again and again- there is so much to do and see. I’m away with it, jumped, swimming strongly , thought I could do 154 drawings in one fair gulp, did 23 in 3 hours, another 131 to go and can't wait to do more and more...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Benjamin Rabe Invited to Create New Work by154 Collective

I'm Moving to a New City
About Bubbles
A Pointed Though
German Mobile Artist and 'Fingerpainter' Benjamin Rabe has been invited to create a triptych art work to form part of the 154 exhibition which launches at the Cooper Gallery, Barnsley in June 2012. Benjamin paints using only his finger on the touch screen of the iPad or iPhone. His work has been included in several international art-shows and has been featured in many global publications. In 2011 he co-organized the first worldwide appearance of finger paintings in a museum, at the MK&G in Hamburg. We are hoping that Benjamin will join us for the launch of the exhibition, and deliver a fingerpainting workshop for the people of Barnsley. You can see more of his work here.
Benjamin Rabe - Fingerpainter

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Fabric Lenny Paints Micro Canvas

Following a few days thinking and drawing and sketching in Barnsley town centre, I stumbled upon a bounty of mini canvases and promptly ordered 154 of them..... here is the first exploration.

Illustration Workshop Continues...

Anna Connor continued her work with pupils from St Helens Catholic Primary School in Hoyland, Barnsley this week creating, images for a children's picture book based on the theme of journeys. The finished work will be exhibited as part of the 154 Exhibition at the Cooper Gallery in June. Photographs by Yvonne Roberts.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Making Art In Barnsley

Fabric Lenny, Lou Sumray and Yvonne Roberts have been busy making art in Barnsley today. Each have focused on a different artform and together have produced timelapse sequences, digital images and observational sketches, along with making plans and sharing ideas for works in development. Here are a few images Yvonne has been working on which have been captured and processed entirely on the iPhone...many more to come!