Writings

A Hiatus

Strap in friends, it’s time for me to throw many, many words at you! (Don’t worry, I’ll intersperse them with some pictures to make it easier on you. I’m not completely heartless).

Look! A pretty picture! It’s fanart (I make some of that now, apparently) of Rhoda, from @thedungeonrats podcast

You may have noticed that despite my best intentions, this has been somewhat less than a weekly blog this year. I kind of predicted this would happen in my 2018 Goals post, where I talked about wanting to put more of a focus on finishing work than on the potential blog posts they would make. As it turns out, that change has translated to way less blog posts! Surprising absolutely no-one, I was far too ambitious with my goals for the new year, and since we’re well-over the half-way mark now, I took the time to step back and take stock of my artistic situation.

Oh look it’s more fanart! Bugfly from @thedungeonrats this time.

Turns out that it takes me a long-ass time to make art. Shocking! It’s something I’ve always struggled with and felt bad about, but I’m learning to accept that if I rush then the end result suffers. I’m quicker than I used to be and will continue to speed up the more I learn but for right now I can’t make good art at a rapid pace. I just can’t. It ends in bad art and dissatisfaction and I just do not want that. I want to make things that I’m proud of and that I enjoy making otherwise what is even the point?

All this is to say that I’m putting the blog on an official hiatus. That means no posts here because I say there won’t be, not just because I didn’t finish something in time, or I forgot. This hiatus will probably go until the end of September, maybe the end of October. After that time, I’ll be returning with monthly – occasionally bi-monthly – posts featuring new works. And when I’m back posting again, I want to focus on making this blog a place that is specifically about exploring and explaining my process, talking about references and inspirations, about how I make things and what I’m trying to do better at. I want to make this a place that’s substantially different from my tumblr art-blog, which is more about just sharing new work.

it’s not fanart if it’s of my own characters! Jade and Mischa from Wyrdhope

AND SPEAKING OF HIATUSES

Wyrdhope, my webcomic, will also be going on hiatus when the current chapter ends. This is an early, sneaky announcement for that for those of you that follow me in multiple places (consider it a bonus for being thorough in your stalking). It will be returning in October and will also be on a reduced schedule – as it turns out, making comics by yourself is really hard and time-consuming and I have a tendency to over-illustrate things. I love how it looks, I really do, it just. Takes a hot minute to make each page, and as I said before, I hate having to rush things.

That’s about all I have for you today. If you want to keep up with any new things I finish and post during the hiatus, or see occasional sketches and WIP things, you can follow me on all my various social media at the end of this post. I’ll see you all in October (probably)!

fun fact: I have yet to draw a picture of Mischa and Jade where Mischa isn’t using her as a horse

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ART GALLERY TRIP PART TWO – A Game of Find The Gallery & Other Extreme Sports (ft. Sam Gets Overly Enthusiastic About Art History And Yes, Abstraction IS The Hill I Will Die On)

Last week I recounted the incredibly thrilling tale of my misadventures visiting the Tate Modern and the Barbican. This week the journey continues as I visit three galleries and one museum in one day without dying. So without further ado:

FRIDAY

Okay. I have learned from Tuesday. I have checked and double checked which tube stations I need to go to. I have comfier boots. I have half a tube of knockoff Pringles. I am prepared.

And I do it! I get to the right station, on schedule. I find the Victoria Miro gallery. I enter the wrong gallery next door first. I find the actual Victoria Miro gallery and – it’s closed.

What.

The space is being re-organised for a different exhibition. Which, and I may be wrong, I may just not be able to navigate their website effectively, but I read nothing about this before I left. Nada. Nowhere did it mention that this space would be completely closed down. But you know, this is fine, they have two spaces and I was going to visit both, I’ll just go to the other one. No problem.

Despite my comfier boots I am not much comfier trekking through the streets today. I could probably have picked a less humid week for this adventure, but then what would I have to complain about? MUCH LESS, THAT’S WHAT. But I have lost only a very little time, and I spend the journey to Mayfair admiring the very fashionable dude in the red leather jacket overlaid with leather harness, jewelled pumps, fancy hat, huge sunglasses and shiny silver bag. Is he melting under all that? Almost certainly. Do I appreciate the effort in the aesthetic? Absolutely.

I make it to Mayfair, which is full of very big and very loud capitalism, and find the Victoria Miro Mayfair space! What I do not find for the next few minutes is the door for the Victoria Miro Mayfair space, until I remember a review saying the front looks like a residential building. I push the buzzer, nothing happens. I try again and push the door this time, which opens into some kind of art gallery airlock, and watch in confused amazement as the wall in front of me slides away to let me in.

Humidity and power walking always lend to a fun entrance to cool, clean, dead silent gallery spaces. There is nothing worse than being the sole entrant into a quiet space, red-faced, sweating, trying not to breathe like an asthmatic elephant. Luckily there are a few other patrons, so it’s not as awkward as it could have been.

The exhibition here is Surface Work, a collection of abstract works by female artists, something I was very excited about. It’s a small exhibition, and in all honesty there weren’t a huge number of works that I connected with. I enjoyed Jay DeFeo’s White Water, a striking black and white oil painting, depicting an edge and a fall into what is at once water, ice and some cold galactic depth. I was also excited to see one of Yayoi Kusama’s infinity nets – I’ve been intrigued by her work ever since I saw it on the MoMA’s Youtube channel a couple months back. And you can make fun of me all you want for being enthusiastic about spending several minutes staring at a white canvas with hundreds of white and white-ish loops of paint on it, but I like it and that’s what counts.

But like I said, the gallery isn’t very big and I was finished fairly quickly. Since I was ahead of schedule, I decided I’d check out the gallery I’d had to skip on Tuesday – the Whitechapel Gallery. So I’m there and I’m waiting for the train and it’s going to take a while and my phone says it’s only a ten minute walk so I decide ‘screw it! It’s a nice day, my feet don’t hurt, I’ll walk’.

This is where I find out that either my phone is a liar or I took a serious wrong turn because it takes me closer to half a goddamn hour to get there, and I have to go down a food-truck alley and I am both hungry and poor and this is the worst. I make it, though, half-melted and half-dead, but at least my feet don’t hurt as bad as they did on Tuesday and oh look, the station I was waiting for the train to is two feet from the gallery isn’t life great?

The Whitechapel Gallery is spread over about three floors, and while I didn’t explore everything there, what I did take in was excellent. The first was the two Alone Together short art films. Both play at the same time in two joined but separate gallery spaces, the simultaneous audio creating a strange, unsettling, dream-like effect. The first film was an animated figure, a strange humanoid body evolving and growing, breathing and speaking in a shifting void of darkness and coloured shapes. It felt part guided meditation and part hallucination.

The second film was a dance? A movement? It was the members of the youth forum who collaborated in creating the films, moving across different spaces, surrounded by smoke, speaking about bodies and movement. Of the two I preferred the first film, apart from the opening shots of the live-action film; the girl who sits staring into the camera had such a regal, almost goddess-like poise to her expression and her movements, it was captivating.

The other exhibition I took in here was the iSelf Collection: Bumped Bodies. From what I recall it was, I think, the third in a series of exhibitions themed around the body and idea of self. There were hits and misses in the collection for me – quite a lot of sculpture as opposed to the many paintings that I’d been looking at so far. Sculpture designed to look close to human is always slightly unsettling to me, and I’m always impressed by it because, like, how did you do that? Still, it was a very enjoyable exhibition to spend a little while in.

But time was moving on and I had the Tate Britain to get to, so I headed out. I got to then enjoy the slightly surreal but lovely experience of chilling in the tube station, eating my Fake Pringles, listening to guy with his headphones in singing Strawberry Fields off-key. At least until the loud lady on the other platform woke us all from our reverie by yelling into her phone. Joyous.

Onwards, to the Tate Britain! Which I’m sure I went to before on a college trip but it turns out I didn’t go there, I went to the National Gallery, so I’m now very glad I didn’t decide I was too tired for it and skip it for the V&A. It’s quite a jump now, switching to classical art after all the abstraction, but it’s an enjoyable change. The chronological layout takes you through art history and it’s great seeing it shift from fancy commissions of rich people and their families, all the way through to modern art again. It’s at this point I have the startling realisation that I think I enjoy viewing modern and abstract art in galleries more than classical paintings.

I know, hang me for a heretic, but it’s true. Why is this? I don’t know. Maybe because even though Old Master paintings are good and important and vital to study from, I don’t feel that much difference in viewing the original painting than in viewing a decent quality reproduction. Maybe I don’t appreciate them properly because it’s not the area of art history I spend as much time learning about. Who knows.

(But also – some of those paintings? So good. So big. Stop it, it’s intimidating. More on this later)

Anthea Hamilton – The Squash

Moving out of the chronological galleries for a moment, I catch a glimpse of the current performance art piece hosted at the gallery – The Squash, created by Anthea Hamilton.

Look, this is another one of those things you either like or you don’t. you don’t have to get it. I don’t 100% get it but I do know it gave me great joy to watch this person dressed like a surreal alternate universe children’s character with a squash for a head sliding and dancing around the huge grid-space the hall has been turned into. Don’t ask me what it means, it doesn’t have to mean anything. It’s weird and interesting and strange. That’s all it has to be.

After this brief pause I almost leave before realised I’ve stumbled into the MODERN SECTION YES AT LAST. More abstract art! Naum Gabo sculpture in a tiny case! Weird demonic figure paintings! Giant pile of metal and plastic pieces that kind of looks like someone left behind the construction stuff but that’s fine! I don’t have to get it, it’s just there.

Francis Bacon – Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixtion

Here’s a brief digression. I like this part of art. I like the point in art’s history where it moved towards abstraction in a myriad of different ways and everyone just ran with it. I like DaDa and anti-art: not because it’s beautiful and so high-brow and the masses don’t get it, but because there’s nothing to get! It’s anti-art and it’s old-timey shitposting and I love it! And then the surrealists tried to paint their dreams and their psyche and everyone got mad at everyone else, and somehow it all tumbled into what we have now as modern and post-modern art and everyone’s still mad about it.

And like, I get it. Art is weird. There’s stuff I don’t like from the current era of conceptual and performance art. But isn’t it great that we’re still making this stuff? That we’re still trying to out-clever and out-weird each other, and it’s so polarising and isn’t that just the entire point sometimes?

Ahem.

Meanwhile, back at the Tate, I spend some time watching an art film called, I think, The Woolworth Choir. I’m pretty sure at this point I have some kind of heatstroke because my head hurts and I’m a little woozy, so sitting in a dark, cool room with some weird video clips is a perfect idea. So imagine, if you will, me doing that, woozily sipping water, taking all the pins out of my hair in the hopes it’ll make my head stop exploding, watching this Bill-Wurtz-Esque clip show of photo’s of churches intercut with definitions, hand movements and pop-video clips, that transitions into it being connected with a Woolworth’s that burned down back when there were still Woolworth’s to burn down. It was good! Certainly an interesting concept and well edited, but I’d probably enjoy watching it again with a bit more coherence to my brain structure.

And now, at long last, onto the final stage of my journey – to the Victoria & Albert Museum! Another place I’ve never been but always wanted to go to! And I’ve somehow managed to time my travel to be just ahead of rush hour and everything is great.

This is followed by the swift realisation, once there, that all the interesting exhibitions are pair. Then a slightly less swift but equally frustrating realisation that although the museum is open late on Fridays, most of it is still actually closed after 5.45pm. It was close to five when I got there. Cue mild annoyance and panic. There followed then a brief and frantic attempt to find the European medieval and renaissance sections because that stuff is my jam. During this attempt, I managed to stumble into the Raphael Room and here is where we return, as promised, to my point about paintings that are so good and so big.

Because these things? Huge. Astronomically huge. Like, almost the height of a damn house huge, and I did not realise this before now, holy shit. So like any good artist I spent a solid five minutes walking around in front of them just mouthing ‘what the fuck, what the  f u c k’ and staring like an idiot. This impression was not helped by reading the brief biography of Raphael on the wall and learning that he was something like mid-twenties when he was making these and my dude, that’s my age, this is not fair.

And then I dealt with my feelings of crushing insignificance and went to find the other things I was interested in. Which resulted in realising that a lot of what was there, I wasn’t super into. Maybe it was the prelude of all the gallery art and abstraction, but historical artefacts just weren’t grabbing me that much. So my visit here is done inside of an hour and oh, look at that, just in time for the rush hour crush on the tube. My favourite.

Which of course is when my ticket decides to stop functioning for no earthly obvious reason, meaning I have to stand around and try to make eye contact with an attendant at every barrier I want to go through, which is, you know, awesome. The only good thing about that journey back was the slightly passive-aggressive guy with the microphone organising the trains who kept calling everyone out on not moving down inside the train.

And with that, we did it, friends. We made it. Six galleries. Three days. I dreamed an impossible dream and somehow it came true. My brain is full of inspiration, the weather continues to be too humid for anyone’s liking, and I am eternally grateful to Pop My Mind for providing me with the funds to make this possible. (And, side-note, if anyone wants to give me money to go and see other galleries that exist and write moderately entertaining blog posts about them my Ko-Fi link is right there in the sidebar).

Now leave me and my pile of art history books in peace, I’ll see you next week with something a little less wordy for Pride month.

ART GALLERY TRIP PART ONE – Abstract Photography, Improvised Forks & How Not to Navigate the London Tube System

Heads up friends, this is going to be a wordy post, so if you’re mainly here for the pictures you can go ahead and skip this one.

Last week, thanks to the generosity of Pop My Mind, I was able to take two, count ‘em, two, trips to London to do some gallery binging. Using the experience portion of the bursary from my Invention Award, I managed to take in both Tate museums, an exhibition at the Barbican Centre, the Victoria Miro Mayfair gallery, the Whitechapel gallery and squeeze in a brief wander around the V&A.

But Sam, that’s far too much to do in just two days what were you thinking? I hear at least one person crying. And the answer is – art. I wanted to see all of the art and goddammit I pretty much did. Before we get in to it, this, as you can tell by the title, is part one of two. Today’s post will be about my Tuesday trip, and next week you can look forward to my Friday adventures. Both tales may or may not be mildly humorous and infinitely fascinating. I make no promises.

So without further ado:

Tuesday

Folks, I am a planner. We know this. And the plan was to take in three galleries in each trip, with timings carefully planned out to take into account opening times, previous visits, tube travel times and precisely how long it would take me to lace up my boots. You know. A capital-P Plan. Tuesday’s plan was meant to go like this:

Get up exceptionally early, leave exceptionally early, arrive at the station thirty minutes before my train and a full ten minutes before my ticket would so much as let me onto the platform, then finally get to London. After which I would hit up the Tate Modern & The Shape of Light exhibition in the morning, the Whitechapel gallery mid-afternoon, a quick stop to eat and then end the day with Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins at the Barbican Centre. And everything was going great! I was ahead of schedule, I’d gotten in some drawing on the train, the day was bright and sunny and today was going to be awesome!

Then I ended up on the wrong side of London because somewhere along the lines I’d gotten Ealing Broadway and Blackfriars mixed up – don’t ask me how because I honestly do not know. Cut to another half hour of travelling, midday rapidly approaching and me not even in a gallery yet. Cue the self-deprecating tweets and grumpy texting to the boyfriend.

Eventually I make it to the right station, anxiously cross a bridge, clutching my phone like it’s going to spontaneously fly out of my hand and into the Thames and sweating like an art student in a maths exam. But I did it! I’m here! Tate Modern here I come.

Since by this point my day is now pretty far behind my schedule, I decide to cut out the Whitechapel gallery for today and just explore the Tate and the Barbican. So, I haul my sweaty self upstairs to the Shape of Light exhibition. This exhibition was the one I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. 100 years of photography and abstract art? Sign me the hell up.

The exhibition takes up 12 galleries, leading you on a tour through the history of abstract photography and ways it links to other art forms. Abstract art is one of those Marmite things, though, isn’t it? You either like it or you don’t. I freaking love it. I think I spent close on two hours just in that exhibition, staring at rayograms and smears of black and white light and generally having a grand old time being excited about art by myself.

Photography in the exhibition was kind of allowed, but only for personal use, so I won’t share any of my snapshots here. That and my snapshots aren’t very good, they were mainly note-taking of works and artists to look up late. I did do some sketching of pieces that really jumped at me, though, so I’ll include those here:

The Shape of Light is a wonderful exhibition, and if you’re interested in photography or abstraction I highly recommend it. And if, like me, you’re under 25, sign yourself up for a free Tate membership and get your tickets for a fiver. It’s the sensible thing to do.

Paid exhibition complete! Time for lunch and oh…oh no. Despite my careful planning, I have no fork with which to eat my pasta. But I am nothing if not resourceful, and I have a lot of hairgrips in my bag. Problem solved.

Full of pasta, I head back into the Tate to wander around the free exhibition halls. I’ve been to the Modern before, so much of what’s there I’d already seen, and honestly I just wanted to find the Dali’s and other surrealist works and stare at them for ages, so that’s what I ended up doing. And here we take a small digression because while I was trying to have A Moment with Autumnal Cannibalism, I encountered Strange-Yet-Excitable-American-Man. SYEAM, turned to me, motioning at one of the other large paintings on the wall and excitedly told me how this was the real size for a painting, that this was how big we should be working.

Being British, I nod and hum politely and go back to Dali. SYEAM joins me next to the Dali, peering closely at it, then turns to me and asks me about the photography policy. This despite me looking nothing like a Tate employee. But I told him, since I knew, and he proceeded to fail to turn the flash off on his phone and take a close up of the painting. He asks me why flash is not allowed and I awkwardly mutter something about bright light damaging pigments. SYEAM and I part ways at this point and I am left feeling uncomfortable and confused with the Dali.

Once I’m done with the surrealists, and because I realise the Barbican exhibition isn’t open as late as I thought, I head back to the tube. The only interesting point between the station and the Tate is that you pass the Church of Scientology and, like, I didn’t even know we had one of those and now I don’t know what to do with the knowledge.

Feet hurting because I made a poor, yet stylish, choice in boots, I make it to the Barbican and stand there red-faced and sweaty while nicely-dressed people wander around looking busy, making me wonder if I’m even in the right place. I finally cool off, buy my tickets – as with the Tate, being under 25 has its perks in yet another cheap exhibition ticket – and head in. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Another Kind of Life. I knew several of the photographers had explored queer life, which I was very into, but other than that I was going in kind of blind.

This one had a strict No Photo’s Allowed policy, so I don’t have anything to show you here, but believe me when I say it was an excellent exhibition. The explorations of, as the show says, life on the margins, were intriguing, powerful and in places unsettling. As someone who knows pretty much nothing about photography, I was suitably impressed. Sometimes it’s good to stand in a cool gallery and stare at photographs of people who had lives impossibly different from your own, and end up seeing things that connect them to you.

I didn’t spend as long there as I did in the Shape of Light exhibition, in equal parts because my poor-yet-fashionable footwear choices were giving me grief again, and because they closed at six, which it very nearly was. The unfortunate downside to this was that it was now rush-hour at the tube station nearest to the Barbican Centre, and I am 10000% not about that sweaty, angry, post-work, summer-afternoon people crush. So I dragged my screaming feet the twenty minutes it took to get to the next stop over and…somehow went the long way round? I think I change twice, went through the station I’d decided not to get in at because the crush was so bad, until I eventually made it to Liverpool Street and the train home.

And this brings us to the end of Part One of this long, rambling, vaguely amusing retelling of The Time I Went To London. Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion.

Reflections & Expectations

So, 2017 huh? That sure was a…uh…a year. But let’s ignore the world stage for a bit and focus on me, because I’m a narcissist. Things actually went relatively well, I made some art, learned some stuff, had some fun. Let’s have a look back, shall we?

Year In Art Summary

I made more progress between May and December of this year than I did in the whole of 2016 and I entirely put it down to quitting retail and working on my improvement full-time. I still have a lot of things I want to work on and get better at, which is what 2018 is all about, baby.

And since everyone does it at this time of year, here’s  my 2018 art goals:

  • Finish one painting a month
  • Complete the next 2 chapters of Wyrdhope
  • Add daily sketching into my routine
  • Spend more quality time with projects, rather than getting caught up with quantity
  • Promote myself more
  • Work the things I need to improve on into sketching and projects, rather than keeping studying seperate from actual work

I try to keep my New Years goals fairly broad and allow room for interpretation and modification as the year goes on (apart from like, finishing more of Wyrdhope. That’s non-negotiable at this point). In line with one of them – focusing on quality time rather than quantity – I may end up posting less to the blog. There’ll still be at least one post a month, I can guarantee that, and there will likely be more happening on my sketch blog – in line with the ‘sketch daily’ goal. But towards the end of 2017 I found I was worrying more about completing enough work to fill out a blog schedule than actually concentrating on just making the best work that I could which is…not a way to live your life.

Aside from art goals I also have a bunch of other personal goals I’m working towards and, hyper-organised list-maker that I am, I’m super pumped to get started. Bring it on, 2018. I’m so ready.

Obligatory New Years Post!

And so another year is done, and a new one has begun. I’ve officially been A Graduate for over a year now, and I am  possibly more tired than I ever was while I was at uni but there we go. I just wanted to write a quick post summing up my past year, and giving you guys a look at what my plans are for 2017 – which will hopefully be less of a global trainwreck than 2016 has been.

I’ve made a lot of work this year. I’ve done so many doodles and filled so many sketchbooks, but I still feel like I haven’t progressed my actual body of work enough. It was only towards the end of this year that I got more organised and driven about pushing to get projects done, even with my full time hours at work. Free time is for other people, after all.

So this year I’ve planned out far more projects in advance, and some of my long term ideas should come to fruition at the end of 2017. I’ve spent too long thinking about projects I want to do ‘when I have the time’ and not enough time actually making time to do them. Well, now I’m making the time. I want to make these things happen and, for the time being at least, I’m the only one I have to answer to about making them. And I don’t put up with excuses from anyone else, so why should I from myself?

2017 might end with me very tired and covered in ink, passed out over my own keyboard. Honestly, I’m looking forward to it. So keep watching, friends, because I promise you there will be Content on This Blog over the next year.

And if it doesn’t, I give at least ten of you permission to hunt me down with spears.

Happy New Year!

Pop My Mind First Birthday Exhibition

Last year, after I graduated, I was approached by someone to become part of a new, online creative platform that was, essentially, artistic chinese whispers.

This year I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of that platforms first birthday exhibition, and it was a wonderful experience. Two of my own works were on display among many other fantastic works, and I also took part in my first ever live art performance. In collaboration with James Todino, we made improvised music and art together, with both of us responding to the others creations in real time.

Photo credit: Karis Lambert

Photo credit: Karis Lambert

I have never performed with my art before, the closest thing being a Skype collaboration I did – also with Pop My Mind, and another great experience – so I was pretty nervous. But once it got going it was an incredible thing, vaguely sensing people watching around me, while trying to get into my creative headspace enough to make work fast. The speed was another tricky aspect, as anyone who follows this blog will know. I like to work more slowly and methodically usually, researching and planning before I put brush to paper. So doing this was a liberating experience, to see what I could make with my usual self-imposed restrictions removed.

I have to say despite my nerves and the stress of getting back home – missed the train I wanted by a minute and ended up with a 3-hour long train ride home through London in the middle of the night. Not fun! – I’m really glad I pushed myself and went for this experience. It’s the kind of thing you regret not doing, more than you’re afraid of doing it.

To all the people involved in the exhibition, both in setting it up and participating, a big congratulations to you all, and thank you for letting me be involved in this amazing creative experience.

Prints Now Available! (And a website update)

I am The Worst at doing things in a timely manner, but I finally have some print shops set up on both Society6 and Inprnt! There’s a variety of work up there, mostly Sten things for now, but Gormenghast stuff will be being added soon, as well as a few other things that I like. It’s all my black and white work for the time being as well, though once I finish more of various other series’ of things, they will be added too. I just want to wait until I have more than one or two of the things in the series before adding them.

So if you like this piece:

Sten Vs Thoreson

or this one:

Demons Down

or even this one:

Sten creating his knife

You can now get beautiful art prints of them! Though if you live somewhere that isn’t the US, just watch out for the shipping, as it can be a bit pricey. Society6 often has days of free shipping though, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for those kinds of offers.

And just to finish off, you may or may not have noticed that my official website has had a bit of a spring clean, and is now looking much nicer and easier to navigate! So feel free to take a look!