Our last Kick-About together was characterised by a whirl of ingenuity, with our community of artists reaching for ad-hoc materials and digging out old tools by which to produce their ‘new works in a short time’. With Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings as this edition’s start-point, the range of work is no less inventive, and in common with Basquiat’s Untitled (1981), offers up an intriguing x-ray of the creative mind.
“Some expressionistic ramblings for this Basquiat prompt, feeling very much cathartic and automatic. I am sure there’s some hidden meanings in there somewhere!”
“I always find Basquiat fascinating, mostly because I cannot paint like him, so it is a sort of magic to me. To try and paint something inspired by him was a challenge, and, at the same time, it gave me a sense of freedom I haven’t felt in my creative endeavours for a while.
In the last few months I had a painting in my head which I couldn’t express. I had heart surgery to remove a tumour and wanted to paint the experience somehow, and Basquiat’s rich and symbolic, and, at the same time, innocent style seemed to be a good way. So this is painting over an old painting, multi layered and using different techniques.” “To My Heart’s Content” Inks, acrylic and crayons on paper. 76×56 cm.
“Skulls are ubiquitous in the work of Basquiat. He’s also famous for using whatever material he had at hand–newspaper, cardboard, a refrigerator, a door. I’ve been meaning to revive my Headline Haiku series, that I did when Nina and I started the blog, using the news in the newspaper to collage or stitch or draw on and words from the accompanying articles for haiku-like poems. In the past I’ve cut out actual headlines, or fed text into an online poetry generator, but in this case I did blackout poems from the news stories.
I used two pages from the war in Ukraine, one about the million deaths in the US from Covid, and one listing the gun-supporting Republicans with quotes from them about guns, along with how much money they get from the NRA, as backdrops for some skulls painted somewhat in the style of Basquiat. I believe were he still alive he would find all of those issues to be fodder for his work. At any rate, I’m hoping for some cheerier news soon. At least you have the Queen to distract you for a few days…“
“Lucian Freud’s dynamic portrait of ER II immediately sprang to mind. Freud and Basquiat’s portraits share a bold three-dimensionality carved out in 2-D. With ER II proving hard to ignore, all cupboards were raided for this project. 1952 features on the front propellor whilst 2022 adorns its rear, throwing ER I into the mix and, ‘spiking ER II’ a-top a candlestick base added up to a crazy-fun KA!”
“When I was ignorantly young I found a portal into the Andy Warhol world through his Interview magazine and discovered this street artist – so exciting! This Kick-About I implored Gary Thorne to allow me to use his selfie (and ultimately his last KA effort as well) to memorialise his and my husband’s 1978 excursion to the Venice Biennale (as Gary has just returned from this year’s event.) There were so many birds in the previous KA that I mistook Gary’s swimmer for a bird-like manifestation, so this round he became a yellow breasted Gary with masked plumage, and my husband became a crested red legged Gerry! ‘New is bad’ is a recent thought bubble about the environment, but I thought a bit of graffiti text and bright colour might edge me towards a KA pass (sorry Jean-Michel). It was also a bit of a play with composition, dividing the picture plane left right 50:50 then the left half 50:50 then the bottom left quarter 50:50. Bit of a miss mash image but fun to do.”
“I took the opportunity of this latest prompt to do something I don’t usually do or identify with particularly, which was to style myself as a ‘painter’, and undertake some expressionist self-portraits. The last time I did a self-portrait, it was in black biro pen and completed about twenty-five years ago, so I knew I was going to have to work-up to producing something. With this in mind, I set myself the restriction of working on one piece of yellow A2 paper, and working fast (20 minute stints) and using wax crayons, chalks and acrylic paint squeezed straight from the tube – and painting on top, and over, all previous various efforts. This way I hoped I could accumulate enough energy and courage to arrive at something I might otherwise have struggled to envision or produce, and move myself away from worrying too much about accuracy in favour of semblances. Now I have to laugh though, with the faces looking back at me ranging from Rasputin, the mad monk, to Max von Sydow as Flash Gordon’s Ming the Merciless! They all look rather sad, or haughty, or haunted. A bit taken back, people sometimes say to me, ‘How can you write those nasty little short stories of yours? You seem like such a nice bloke.’ Haha. I think ‘the bloke’ in some of these portraits is better placed to answer that question.”
“Jean-Michel Basquiat is an artist I’ve often heard mentioned but knew very little about, so after I saw the new Kick-About prompt I went and watched a few documentary films online to find out more. I admire how quickly and freely he worked. I read he used to work on several images at a time, with the TV on, music blaring, and reference books open everywhere. I think my head would explode if I tried something similar, but I can see how such an approach could stop you thinking too much, you’d just get into a flow of responses which could be creatively liberating. I made some paper collages with this aspect of Basquiat’s process in mind, and forced myself to work quickly, trying not to judge what I was doing; just put an image down, snap a photo, then rearrange and do another one.”
“It is a strange coincidence that this time the Kick-About concerns a wonderful picture of a head by Jean-Michel Basquiat, as I have recently spent some time in A and E with a fractured jaw! The body is an amazing concept with its own protective mechanisms which,until we do something to ‘test it’ so to speak, we have no knowledge of (although I wouldnt recommend this!). For example, swelling around a damaged bone as protection ,and also bone spicules, which are little unwanted slithers of tooth/bone which work their way out through the gums to help the healing process. Amazing! No wonder Jean-Michel was intrigued as a boy after his broken arm and spleen surgery… My collage was done a while ago using cut scraps from a magazine, and the portrait is from a recent art class – which really made me concentrate on bone structure.”
“Jean-Michel Basquiat is new to me, and I was drawn to his use of colour and the strong sense of playfulness in some of his work. When I saw his Dinosaur (Pez Dispenser), it immediately brought a broad smile to my face and memories of Pez dispensers I have known (mostly Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Pluto that I recall, though I am sure there have been many more over the years! Did you know you can still get them? On Amazon, of course. Amazing!) Anyway, Basquiat’s dinosaur got me thinking about how I would create its like in crochet and my path was set.”
“Three related graffiti images appeared en route (on pathway, road and wall) between my home and the supermarket, each outline in a different situation, but all with a red spray can ‘shot’ in the head. The wall version is pictured running from a large white cloud with the word ‘Life’ centred in it, and the colours used are red, white and black. The narrative of my panel re-uses those images and adds to it associated human and animal ‘chance encounters and irrational meetings’ on the walk. The panel itself recollects a much larger French tapestry. Not far off what the Surrealists and Dadaist were trying out and experimenting with in the 20’s.
The central panel is satin stitch, and detail are simple straight stitch or zig zag, the dots hole-punched in card, used as stencil with a felt tip. The design was reversed and traced with an embroidery pencil onto ordinary tracing paper… you just iron on and the lines transfer. The narrow panels are just freely stitched with separated threads of tapestry wool. The cans were internet images cut up and zig zagged on, as were the scrap white cotton for the bags. Cannabis leaves were felt tipped in before embroidery. The two lines above and below the text were ‘built in’ embroidery stitches already in the sewing machine. The lettering was hand-drawn with no font used, and as for the coloured lettering, that’s created with thread that is bought already randomly variegated, so the colour changes as you stitch.”
“Some of Basquiat’s portraits have a kind of looseness that looks like threads unravelling, so it got me to once more reach for the sewing bag and start stitching. Building the colours and trying to get a ‘drawn’ element, this eventually resulted in ‘Eve.’ – a bit of a crazed-looking individual, but a great way to work (ie: starting with no idea what to do but letting it evolve) for someone who researches and plans assiduously, so another triumph for the Kick-About in it’s continual way of challenging and stimulating through each prompt. So glad to be back!”
Thanks to crochet queen and regular Kick-Abouter, Charly Skilling, we have a brand new prompt: “Drum roll, please…”