The Kick-About #8 ‘Cicada’

Our last Kickabout prompt, based off Sickert’s painting ‘Ennui’, inspired a range of new work by our participating artists on themes of listless, languor and waiting. When you consider the prolonged incubation times of your average cicada, you could say we haven’t moved all that far this week! That said, we’re a long away from Sickert’s rather drab little parlour, as instead we seek to celebrate the life, times and associations of these extraordinary insects.

Tom Beg

Even after I’ve long since left this place I currently call home, cicadas more than anything will be the thing I associate the most about summer in Japan. Of course, the amazing sound they make is their most recognisable and iconic trait, but they have another peculiar behavior I find quite morbidly fascinating. After they do their yearly cicada thing, the final resting place of an unlucky few ends up being in the middle of the street, helplessly stranded on their backs, their legs still sometimes twitching, left to roast in the searing summer heat. Presumably, big black crows (which are the other sound of Japan) then come and scoop them up later on for a crunchy crow feast. Their short-lived life, once they emerge from their slumber, is truly bizarre!

Cicadas are also a traditional subject of origami art because of the charming simplicity of the easiest design which anyone can make, but also because of the huge degree of complexity and mastery required to make more realistic designs such as by the likes of Akira Yoshizawa. I’m not an origami master, in fact I’m quite sure I couldn’t even do a nice mountain fold, so rather than wasting a lot of paper, here’s my tribute to the fallen cicada inspired by origami but not actually origami. /

Vanessa Clegg

 “Took a bit of time finding a way into this but then did and thoroughly enjoyed the process!”


Graphite on Fabriano. 22” X 22”.

Judy Watson

“The prompt is Cicada, and those little creatures are old friends at this stage. I spent two weekends working on this prompt. The first one I spent learning some animation techniques, and my original intention was to make an animation by selecting material from Searching for Cicadas either working with some of the unused artwork, or developing a page from the book.

But on the second weekend I wandered in a different direction. It began with thinking about cicadas in a less realistic way and thinking about drawing some She Cicadas in the style of my Metropolis Bird Women. Then I thought about the unique, and seemingly magical qualities of a cicada (in particular, its life cycle and metamorphosis) and how easily cicadas might fit into a fairy or folk tale. I haven‘t written anything like that since The Woman, the Chicken and the Grapes. And it seemed the perfect break from intense illustration work.

However, I was forgetting my tendency towards perfectionism (strangely combined with a loathing for neatness, exactness or fussiness), and so, Kick-About time is up and the fairy tale is not complete. But never mind! Here are some images I began for it…” / /

Molly Bolder

“Only knowing cicadas from Animal Crossing, I thought I’d have a look into them. Did you know that they can live up to 17 years? AND make a sound louder than 100 decibels! Impressive for a chubby little sap-drinker! They come in a few different colours, but a pastel one really resounded with me so here he is! A digital painting of a vibrant cicada with his little dancing feet.” /

Benedict Blythe

“An epic and bi-sectioned electronic piece telling the story of the cicada life from a more dark point of view. Beware – the first four minutes are much quieter than the last two. Good speakers or headphones are recommended.”

Kerfe Roig

“Cicadas are one of many species that make multiple visible transformations during their lifespans. The longest living insects, they are symbols of both rebirth and immortality. What beautiful wings they have. I first painted the cicada, then glued wax paper down for the wings and embroidered on top.”

drinking deep
of earthy tree sap –
high summer

songs weaving
spells of magical

of transparency
and winglight /

Phil Gomm

“A month or so ago, some old photographs resurfaced of a school production of the musical, Calamity Jane, in which I played the comedic role of Francis Fryer – a vaudeville act booked to perform in a spit-and-sawdust saloon bar for cowboys. The joke, of course, is ‘Francis Fryer’ is assumed to be a female performer, an assumption resulting in an impromptu drag act and a musical number that goes ‘I’ve got a hive full of honey for the right kind of honey bee’.

The year is 1989, I’m fourteen years old and I enjoy this opportunity to dress up and make audiences laugh. Sometime after this, the bullying will start and I will enter a prolonged period of change. You might say, I start to incubate new ideas about myself, not all of them positive. You might say, I start to slough skin – more than one – as I seek to establish some final form.

When I look at these photographs, I do so with discomfort, and not simply because the adolescent in the photograph is so scrawny and such a late-starter. I feel hugely protective of him too, for he knows not what he looks like. He does not know what drag is or what it ‘means’ to the world around him. At the point these photographs were taken, this boy doesn’t know what is coming; he doesn’t know he’s just walked into the cross-hairs. He doesn’t know while he’s making lots of people laugh on stage, he’s making other people hate him or provoking embarrassment and disappointment. When I look at these photographs, I see something soft that is very soon going to learn the art of cocooning for protection. I see a very long period of incubation, and not an ending with a beautiful butterfly in it, but a life-form in lots of ways less graceful, but, also yes, with wings.

The subjects of the three faux zoological plates are digital collages created entirely from the two photographs below and are presented here as curios, a collection of still-incubating lifeforms once forgotten but newly available to scrutiny, dissection and my strange fascination.”

Marion Raper

“I must say that I feel like I have turned into a Cicada in the heatwave this week! I had so many false starts trying to capture the essence of these amazing creatures. Eventually I settled for “Happy little Cicadas” after they have just emerged after 17years underground. Well you would be!”

Gary Thorne

“Cicadas roared in combined force with intense heat and high humidity challenging young (21 year old) endurance levels. That was summer of ’73 in glorious Sydney’s Kirribilli. We were surrounded in the thick of a city wide swarm and whichever way was possible to rattle you it came about, as inside was an inferno, so just you try drowning out mating cicadas when you’re behaving like a heated ‘frog in a sock’.”

Eleanor Spence-Welch

“I’ve been wanting to play around with a fairy/insect taxidermy concept for a while, and this seemed like a good opportunity. I took wings, colours and patterns from pictures of cicadas to make this unfortunate fairy, preserved and pinned, ready to go on the wall.” / /

Marcy Erb

“I didn’t grow up with cicadas or the sounds of cicadas. There are apparently 30 species of cicada found in California (and 3,000 worldwide), but almost none of them are commonly found or heard in the Los Angeles metro area. I remember hearing my first true ear-ringing buzz-saw worthy cicada at a private campground in Arizona as an adult in my early-twenties. True story: I turned to my friend and asked why the campground would play a recording of such demented cricket noises so loud on the PA system. My friend, who also grew up in suburban Los Angeles, shrugged and said she didn’t know. Rest assured, I have now heard the infamous cicada mating calls many times and have been made to understand how much a part of summer they are for many people around the world.

So when the theme for the Kick-About #8 was announced as simply the word “Cicada,” I knew I wanted to lean towards the absurd a little. What is a cicada to someone who has never heard or seen one? Insects are as vulnerable to climate change and extinction as any other creature – what happens when we start asking after cicadas when they don’t emerge as reliably? Or at all?

I wish to emphasize that no bugs were harmed in the making of this art. I went in search of local insects that had met their demise naturally. I was lucky in finding the Swallowtail butterfly wings right away, but then the supply of large naturally-deceased insects dried up. As they say, the fastest way to make something disappear is to go looking for it on a schedule. I finally found a mostly intact green june beetle.”

Charly Skilling

“I was a bit worried when I first saw this prompt. To be honest, I’m not big on bugs. But the more I learnt about cicadas and their life cycle, the more I wondered about their relationship with the trees – trees that sheltered the cicada young, fed them, provided a launch pad for the climax of their lives, and then stood amongst their corpses, while cicada eggs hatched among their leaves and dropped the next generation of cicadas at their roots.

As the prompt originated in Japan, and as seventeen is such a significant number in the cicada’s life, it seemed absolutely right to base my verse structure on the Haiku, a Japanese poetic form consisting of three lines made up of seventeen syllables in a five-seven-five format.”

Francesca Maxwell

“I have two images relating to the new kick-about “Cicada”. I love the sound of summer filling the day, the hot air on the skin, the smell of herbs and grass, they are my childhood summers on the Ligurian coast. One of the paintings is the summer grass, an image I have been trying to paint for many years and will likely keep trying to paint. The other one is a monotype on plastic made with raffia dipped in ink, I was trying to capture the movement of bamboo leaves and insects.”

Phill Hosking

“Just a simple texture study of the Cicada from photo reference taken several years back on holiday in the south of France.”

Graeme Daly

“The sounds of the Cicada’s mating call transports me to a world where my senses are in overload, a world that could be filled with spine tingling horror, but also a world that is somewhat calming. The high pitched calls make the surroundings fill with texture that bounce and dance in conjunction with the cicadas’ return from beneath their muddy graves to molt and leave their skin littered across the land.”

@graemedalyart / / /

A musical prompt this week, folks – John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine – a little something to blow the cobwebs away. See below for new submission date. Buckle up!

16 thoughts on “The Kick-About #8 ‘Cicada’

  1. Another fascinating collection of responses – and great to see some new names joining us. Tom’s little chap reminds me of one of those marble knights laid upon their own tombs in English churches. Love the detail of Kerfe’s cicada wings, and the evocation of summer in Francesca’s grasses. The artistic styles range from scientific to impressionist and back and I find more and more of my Tuesday’s are taken up with viewing the work and reading each person’s comments on their response to the prompt. Lovin’ it!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Ah, darn it. Cicadas are so important to me. This could have been my first contribution, but I missed it.

    Vanessa’s drawing is such an exurgent work of memetics/mimesis, and I use both quite strictly, because not only do we have a volume reduction which is typical of many camouflaging species, but also a social praxis seen in women as to manufacture harmlessness and invisibility in male-dominated spaces. But we also have the synthetic aspect of the drawing, the mimesis aspect, whereupon one dominates alteration by means of vision, wideness, reproduction. It’s incredibly beautiful, as her Art always is.

    I loved loved loved the aesthetic aspect of Judy’s shadow-work, though I could not, perhaps, identify clearly the symbol of cicada. I know that it is present, but the semiotic aspect chasms a bit, as if the shadow is the totality of its presence.

    (I’m also IMMENSELY FOND of Animal Crossing Cicadas!, have you caught them during rainy days, perchance? The flavour text changes and they are no longer audible. A fun fact is that the tymbals of cicadas require atmospheric energy to vibrate, and that is why they sing loudest and strongest at the hottest summer hours.)

    Kerfe’s symbolic prowess is beyond the bounds of speech, this time around. If I were to weave a poem concerning cicadas, despite containing an absurd amount of Sebaldian references, I’d summon the hyalescence Kerfe did; the lipless air of summer, the freedom of movement, as if the ever-barrier of gravity was made song — a cicaedic chant.

    Yours, Phil, strikes me clear, of course. I also have a shoddy homevideo of a gymnastics recital I did when I was about eleven, and my father seethed at its existence. The cicada nymph burrows deep, two-metres deep, and lies in that sombre alcove for years, sometimes upwards of a decade. We know what that is like. My growth of desires for men was symmetric to how undesired I felt to myself, and that is a scar that shall never be disassociated from my experience of trauma. Of course, now, I fight more insidious manias; I wonder if I have an exuviae or if I haul a silentious moulting which is naught but the performance of growth.

    I loved all the aesthetic elements that follow; the colours of Marion Raper and the fauvist glory of Gary Thorne, which aureates all manners of warm impressions, and of course, my dearest dearest favourest most highest of excellence and talent, Francesca. I have an absurd fondness for Francesca’s paintings; they remind me of works of my own expressive wavelength: things heavy and leaden and thronged with a neurological paracosms made of obsessive inflorescence, things such as Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain, or Caretaker’s Everywhere at the end of time, or Ashbery’s Tennis Court Oath. Some artists I can understand and adore and venerate and study, but others, it’s like none of those things even make sense to conceive, such is my coalescence to them.

    I loved this Kick-About.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dear João-Maria, I am blown away by your response to my paintings. Still floating midair. You are so very generous. Thank you for the great description of your feelings, and of all the other artworks. So many years of reading art history, criticism and analysis nobody has ever convey such depth, such imagery and personal connection as you do. Plus the poetry, of course, as Phil said, the vocabulary and not just that but how you put words together into flowing sentences and paragraphs. Thank you also for introducing me to Caretaker’s music and Ashbery’s poetry.
      Great artworks indeed for the “Cicada” all of them resonating, forgive the pun. What a collection, music, poetry, paintings, memories, great animation, I have a soft spot for Daly’s art. Always a joy and these kick-about.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Darn it, indeed! But maybe you’ll take a short ride in a fast machine with us – go on! You really take the time and energy to express bespoke feedback for the artists on here – it’s generous of you, so thank you again for your enthusiasm and attention to detail – oh yes, and for my ever-expanding vocabulary. I suspect I’m not the only one reaching for their dictionary – or maybe it is just me? Haha! Perhaps I should have spent more time reading books in school instead of dressing up as saloon girls? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s, there’s nothing one must be thankful for. It’s symbiosis. I’m not paying for this Art, it is (much more generously so) provided freely to me, and it inspires my own. The best I can do to express that symbiosis is to reflect how that Art embosses me. It’s a duty.

      Now, concerning the vocabulary, I think it’s an aspiring writer’s duty to be prolix and inspire the widening of language, but I do realise the privilege of my knowledge of words. Hand me one of your fancy photography cameras and I know the function of one button and only very barely. Cameras are very complicated devices! Excessively so!

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s