Thursday 28 January 2016

Sketchbook Circle

(Front and back of Sketchbook)

The Regular Reader of this blog and its partner, The Cartoonist's Hat, will know I've always had an interest in working interactively with other artists. The Moly exchanges of a few years ago (see links in the sidebar) were really quite stimulating and responding to other's ideas kept me producing new ideas of my own.

So when I discovered Sketchbook Circle in a post on Facebook, I was intrigued.

How does it work?

"Each January a circle is established and then every artist makes work in a book of their choice (although it needs to fit through the letter box.)  They post their books to the person next to them in the circle by the end of January.  Then every artist makes work in response to the work they have received and posts the book back to where it came from.  This means that there are two in-depth artistic conversations occurring over the course of a year (it goes back and forth like a pendulum).  Artists work in any medium and on any scale, sometimes working outside the book and using it just as place to record their making. [.............] It is a demanding project as it is stretching to respond to someone else's artwork, but it is also incredibly rewarding."
The original Sketchbook Circle brought together artist educator friends using sketchbooks as a vehicle for collaboration, who were looking for a way to commit time to their own making around their busy lives working in education and wanted to develop a community of practitioners. I was a little concerned that not being a an "artist educator" I'd not qualify, but it seems this is not the case. So here I am, a participant in Sketchbook Circle 2016.
I'm not by nature a sketchbook artist. I tend to work out my ideas on canvas, but I've come to the conclusion recently that a lot of my unrealised ideas are still unrealised because the initial important stages of investigation and experiment are missing. I'm hoping this Sketchbook Circle experience may go some way to changing that.
In a painfully slow fashion I've started my own sketchbook for this project. After some attempts at just creating covers for the book, I stripped off all the additions and left it as the  somewhat minimalist thing you see above. 
The pages are taking just as long, but I'm starting to get a feel for it. In a way, it may be easier, if a little daunting, to respond to someone else's work, which is what I'll be faced with next month.

Friday 15 January 2016

The People's Show

London Millennium Bridge 
(oil on canvas, 20 x 20 in)

I went to the Private View of the troubled People's Show at the Northumbria Gallery last night and must say I have no problem with the hanging of my painting; it's in the downstairs gallery, on the far wall staring at anyone who comes through the door.

Overall, however, I couldn't help feeling the exhibition was a lacklustre affair. No doubt because of uncertainties about the exhibition even taking place, following the shameful dismissal of Mara-Helen Wood and her staff, there were only around 70 submissions. Out of those, thirty-five were chosen for the show. A high proportion of these are photographs (I'm still a bit sniffy about photographs in an art exhibition. So bite me.) and the rest were, well, by and large, OK paintings. There were some good portraits, but it puzzled me to find that one person had two portrait paintings in the show and another had three. Maybe I misremember - were we allowed to enter more than one painting?

The attendees were what I might expect from a university show - mainly students and liggers. Gone were the people with cheque books who would have bought work at previous People Shows (I've often done well there). I was pleased to find a couple of friends there to have a chat with, even if one conversation was interrupted by the prizewinner unexpectedly hitting on my friend's daughter. Tsk tsk.

I came away with the feeling that the show was put on because the new regime found they'd taken over the Gallery with some submissions already in place and invitation forms distributed all over town. Cancel the show, hand back the submission fees (and the donation from the late Norman Cornish's family)? Or go ahead with an exhibition you don't really care for? I think I know what I'd do, but maybe I'm being unfair. Only time will tell: will there be another People's Show next year?

Friday 1 January 2016

It's Always Boogie Street

"It’s always Boogie Street: Boogie Street in the monastery, Boogie Street on Times Square. You don’t get away from it, No one masters the heart. The heart continues to cook like [a] shish kebab in everybody’s breast, bubbling and dripping, and no one – no one – can escape."

Leonard Cohen quoted in Look Who’s Back at 67: Gentle Leonard Cohen by Frank DiGiacomo (New York Observer, Oct 15, 2001)

Happy New Year to all my Reader!