If you have been wondering where I have escaped to for the last month or so (and let’s face it, most of you have) I can joyously claim that I’ve actually been getting some bloody work done. The last few weeks have been a relentless pursuit of finished articles before the bite of winter renders the studio I work in uninhabitable. I find it a bit of a struggle to exact a balance between making stuff and networking. Often I fluctuate in preference between one and the other. Over the last few weeks though, a very tangible rhythm has emerged that has resulted in a relative abundance of finished works.
So where the bloody hell are these finished works, I hear you cry. Well, I’m not going to show you them all. Instead, I shall tantalise you simply by producing one piece of work at a time. So let’s start things off in style shall we? Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you, a spice rack. Yes, a spice rack:
This is not just any old spice rack though. Here, I wish to initiate a discourse between the nature of paint and painting. Applying meaning to paint by attaching experiential sentiment to the bottles the paint is contained within. The painting itself is passive, acting merely as a reference to the bottles. The painting is completed to allow an audience to further identify with the paints, but it is not a means to an end in it’s own right. It is within the bottles from which meaning is attached, and so the idea of commercialism and the prospect of purchasing memory and sentiment that is removed from personal experience is called into question.
I am toying with the idea of presenting it for the John Moores painting prize next year. I believe it challenges the idea of what can be considered a painting and as such, it certainly possesses a level of intrigue. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this piece in order for me to attain a reasonable understanding of an audience’s response.
So, I’ve finally gone and done a bit of teaching. I have finally imparted whatever remnants of wisdom I have onto others, which they can apply to their own artistic endeavours. How did it go? Well, rather bloody well actually. And I am very grateful to Cupola Gallery for their hospitality and for thinking that a paint making workshop was a good idea in the first place.
My workshop seems to be pretty solid ‘straight out of the box,’ with only a few tweaks needed for my next gig at Bank Street Arts. 5 people attended, which was perfect because I was able to conduct the workshop with a sense of informality. It felt more like a few friends with like-minded ambitions that came together to chat about an artistic endeavour, which was lovely, as I was instantly able to feel at ease.
I started by introducing myself and my practice and showed examples of my paint applied to a surface. I then proceeded to conduct a working demonstration of how paint is created before the attendees had a go themselves: A pretty simple yet effective workshop model. However, whilst I knew more or less what to expect, what I hadn’t bargained for was how I would feel afterwards. A palpable sense of accomplishment engrossed me as I knew that those who attended had gone away with something useful, tangible and captivating.
However, my workshop was by no means perfect. Hare a few things that I will tweak for the future:
- I need a few more props and materials. – I didn’t bargain for the volume of work that would be created. Bringing too many materials would be more beneficial than bringing just enough. I ran out of eggs part way through – though that was easily redeemed by nipping to ASDA. I also ran short of canvas board. Which was less redeemable, but I got round it by supplying paper and acetate. I also think that a hand-out, describing and imbedding what I said throughout the workshop, would be valuable for attendees to take home.
- I need to remember that there is value in what I have to say – I felt a little awkward initially adopting the role of a teacher. What I do as an artist is quite idiosyncratic and intuitive: But I think that if what I do can’t be imparted in some way, allowing people to apply it to their own way of thinking, then it is useless. Workshops are a good way to share experiences, and the reason why people attend a workshop like this is to learn. Embracing the teacher dynamic with confidence may make for more coherent and engaging workshop in the future.
So, with this, and my experience in mind, I will now strive to make my Bank Street Arts paint making workshop every bit a success.
If you’re interested in attending my paint making workshop at Bank Street Arts on 28th September, you can find details here – https://www.facebook.com/events/649424818409817/?ref=22
There have been a few whisperings reaching me of late suggesting that it might be bloody lovely if I shared a few of my techniques with regard to the process of making paints. Well, guess what? because I’m an unstoppably wonderful young man, I have now gone and included a basic guide to making paints out of food on my Facebook page! Can you believe my generosity? You can view said guide by clicking on the link below:
I hope there is something to be gained from my guide. Sharing knowledge and applying that knowledge is something that art utilises really effectively and it’s an extremely useful way to develop professionally. So, enjoy. And while you’re on my Facebook page, you can even ‘like’ me, if you’re that way inclined. Or check out some of my earlier work, Or just shut the window down and forget it ever happened. Whatever you wish.
Why paint making should be for everyone.
Teaching. It’s a concept I have entertained since watching my year 7 art teacher painstakingly render an accurate yet grossly unnecessary drawing of a dentist’s chair and thinking ‘pfft, I could well easily do that.’
Not that I could draw a dentist’s chair with the same precision as him. In fact, in hindsight, the guy was probably a frustrated yet brilliant designer. But, even as an 11 year old, I did think briefly that the idea of teaching a craft looked fun – you got to do what you loved doing and you got to communicate with others the value of what you are doing.
Of course, what I was witnessing at the time was the teaching of school pupils under a structured syllabus. And I have taught before – In 2009 I belted out a few lectures about the history of British art to summer-school students who, frankly, would have rather been outside than in a stuffy lecture theatre being bombarded with information that they’ll either forget instantly or won’t even listen to in the first place. What concerns me in earth year 2013, however, is the idea of teaching people the practice of making paints: I envision this to occur either in the form of workshops or through guest lecturing.
It is practice steeped in rich history, yet its appeal is diminished with the ease at which paint can be purchased. Yet I believe that it is important to develop a relationship with your materials: materials purchased from a shop contain no presence of an artist. They are joyless, and can be applied to a surface with dispassion, flippancy and disregard. They are a consumable product – untouched by an artist’s hand and, as such, without integrity or passion. If a tangible affinity with materials is established, then it will enable an artist to richly engage with a piece of work on a physical, tactile level. Further, it will considerably develop an artist – allowing a more coherent communication to occur between artist and material and consequently, artist and subject matter.
I will take a conceptual approach to the teaching of paint making and communicate the idea of seeking new directions to achieve an established process – In similar vein to how I extract pigment from food in order to achieve a re-imagining of still-life. Indeed, the practice of producing your own materials is an art in its own right – it contains within it subject matter, craft and can be considered as a concept. I believe that the idea of communicating this and allowing people to engage with their materials has the potential to be extremely valuable and absorbing. Now all that’s left to do is the tiny matter of finding someone who’ll have me teach…
I love to criticise and bitch. It fills part of my moral conscious probably technically reserved for, I don’t know, being able to tolerate children. Problems with this, however, arise when reflecting upon my own practice: I am never fully satisfied with my work because I always seek to criticise my rate of conceptual progression. Upon completing a piece of work, the first thoughts that enter my mind are ‘well, ok, I’ve done that, what can I do now to further the idea? What’s next?’
I now find myself unsatisfied with simply making paints, and one direction I have been attracted to is the idea of converting the paint I have made back into food. This will add a substantial sense of narrative to my work, and highlight that, although food is able to transcend its original purpose, it also remains true to itself: It exists in a state of being between something old and something new.
‘Paint, Then Jam, Then Paint Again’
I see this as a fairly natural progression from the processes and connotations involved in making paint out of food, and there is something curiously indefinite about the whole process: I could spend the rest of my days concerning myself with converting food into paint, then back into food, then back into paint, then into food again until my blood vessels surrender and explode. But because I know that I can do this, there is no point, as professional development would become compromised and new, more engaging directions would not flourish.
So, what’s next?
I’ve made some lovely jars of paint. Now what?
I have now been living in Sheffield for over two months and, frankly, I think I’m doing rather ruddy well. I have secured a house and a studio space. I am critically engaged with an increasingly intriguing aspect of my artistic practice, I have another job that allows me to purchase art materials and pay the bills, and most significantly of all, I’ve got myself two bloody lovely bedside cabinets made from old apple crates.
If I reflect upon my artistic output over the last two months it is fair to conclude that, despite a lack of much actual practical work, it is clear that the notion and process of making paint is increasingly embedding itself as the spine of my artistic output. If anyone were to ask me what kind of art I do, I’d reply assertively with the bellow ‘Well, I make paints using food.’
Yet the process of making paint is not yet a comfortable one: There are still mistakes to be made, egg shells to be cracked in vain, and plenty of grounded food to be condemned to the bin due to some kind of ‘experimental’ failure. There is something fundamentally engaging about artistic practice that is not processional, and a great deal of professional development is emerging with regard to the physical practice of making paint. My confidence in producing quality paint is ever increasing, and eventually I hope that no egg shell will be cracked in vain.
Yet there are still questions to be raised and answers to be given. And one particularly nagging question I find myself posed with currently is ‘what exactly is my end result?’ Is it art, or a commercial product?
The answer, I believe, is both. There is no reason a jar of paint cannot be subjectively engaged with. Yet at the same time, the very reason for a jar of paint is for it to be used. Therein lies a great source of intrigue. If I consider my paint to be a work of art, then it is an evasive one. It doesn’t possess an identity because it has not yet been used. And if it does get used, the conceptions and associations contained within it will still remain: It is possible for my work to exist within another’s work. Incognito, it will not be experienced as pure paint, yet it will always be there, hidden within.
And if it’s a commercial product, then it is one that possesses spiritual and conceptual value. The beauty here is that I am able to market my paint both as a work of art and as a product. A win-win situation, if you will: I am able to exploit the rich conceptual element of my work in order to concern myself with exhibition proposals and research grants, and I am able to provide the public and artists with a unique and usable product. So I guess all that’s left to do now is stop talking and go out there and bloody well sell!