The Kick-About #73 ‘Cephalopod’

Our last Kick-About was prompted by a work of art celebrated for its complex commentary on the act of looking. The subject of this week’s showcase of new works made in a short time is no less enigmatic – the otherworldly cephalopod. Enjoy this latest dive into the deep waters of creative play…

Marion Raper

“I have to say that cephalopods are not really my favourite thing. They are rather too wriggly and slippery for my liking and have too many tentacles and suckers to grab their unsuspecting prey!  However, I do admit they are super-amazing in their ability to survive this world for so long by camouflage and cleverness. I especially like the information I read about the octopus that sneaked out of its tank, climbed over to another fish tank, ate the fish inside and then sneaked  back again! I used some yuppo paper, which I marbled to create my octopus collage, with some added acrylic paint.” 

Gary Thorne

“So fascinating, I’ve learned so much about the Octopus; its brainy capabilities, balletic physicality; capacity to mimic and play, and dodge harm coming its way. I’m now full of ‘respect’ for this amazingly exotic creature. Perhaps it’s the playful nature which inspired this simple colourful child-like 8-propellor whirligig.”

Kerfe Roig

“I wasn’t sure what to do after a drawing failed to excite me, but I found some pieces of African fabrics that I decided to make into a stuffed animal. I made no pattern but just started cutting and stitching in the manner of my collages except with fabric and thread instead of paper and glue. My cuttlefish is totally not anatomically correct, but has the general form and spirit of a sea creature with tentacles that can change the color and pattern of its skin.  I photographed it on a few different backgrounds, and also did one photo of the bottom. I wanted to do some more embroidery on it but ran out of time…” /

Lisa Fox

“How this piece came about is when I became part of a postcard exchange mail group and was making my first group of cards to mail out. I looked to a book I have called Art Deco: Design Fantasies by E.H. Raskin and took illustration #7 as my starting point for inspiration. From there, it took on a life of its own. As I put it together, I imagined two spiny sea creatures, cephalopods, if you will, reaching out for each other. Of course my mind operates in metaphors and I see them as two people who ordinarily do not do well with others but still need the comfort of human companionship, reaching out to each other. The companionship is represented by the little pink in the center.”

James Randall

“I had seen a ghostly pickled giant squid (and other cephalopods) at the Queensland Museum recently, so I headed back there with my camera on a 35 degree day. The museum opened at 9.30 and even then it was full of people (definitely a free public museum in need of expansion.) In the darkish venue I took my blurry pics of the decaying white carcasses. Back home I used Photoshop and Illustrator to come up wth an image. I also began reading Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith: I didn’t get far, but I noted how far back on the evolutionary tree that cephalopods branched away from humans and how their minds developed independently to ours. At that time I also listened to a podcast about AI art – How will AI change our understanding of Art? – my takeaway from that was to ask why we would engage computers to create art when that is something we simply enjoy doing (at the fundamental level of painting and writing) and can use to honestly question existence. We don’t properly question science; we just pursue all of its branches in pursuit of the mighty dollar or genuine, but sometimes flawed curiosity. I think occasionally you need to ask why and say no. I don’t think we will ask ourselves if AI should be pursued, so that generated thoughts on evolution and what hope the future holds if our next iteration is formed from minds that pursue power and profit above all else… So with that I added a couple of words to my image.”

Francesca Maxwell

“I love cephalopods, my favourite creatures. So beautiful and so intelligent. So much so, that an octopus is one of the main characters in a story I wrote years ago for a little animation film. Still working on it! It might never become a film but it has become the inspiration for a lot of my paintings. So here is my friend coming to the surface to greet, help and guide the lost girl of the story.”

Phill Hosking

“These are taken from a set of posts I made a while ago, during a time of drawing practice exploring a new subject every month. These are in various mediums, including coloured pencils, markers, inks and digital. A good subject for loose and expressive mark-making.” / /

Graeme Daly

“There was a few failed attempts at different iterations for this weeks kick about, one of which was a lot less colourful and leaning a lot towards the the horror side. I decided to salvage one of the 3D models from that attempt and use the gooey textures from a previous kick about onto the 3D models of Octopuses. Things started to take place when I laid the 3D models onto of each other – as if the octopuses are in some sort of a dance together, possibly one of the lethal kind.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Tom Beg

“I’ve used this technique a lot in past Kick-Abouts for generating all sorts of things in a loose but still recognisable form. It feels like sketching in 3D and it’s always satisfying to see what kind of forms emerge in a natural way, and given the chameleonic nature of cephalopods. I thought I would dust it off for perhaps one last spin. Its tentacle-like quality seemed a perfect fit for creating some abstract and otherworldly octopus-like creatures… although, apparently, an octopus technically doesn’t have tentacles!” / /

Phil Gomm

“There’s a longer bit of preamble for another time in which I reveal how the images in this short film were made, but, in typical Kick-About style, no actual cephalopods were employed in the making of it. Instead, this whole thing began with a white bathroom tile, a fish bowl and a single flashing light source, lo-fi, low-budget japes ensuing! Inspired directly by this footage of a sleeping octopus, I went about imagining both the interior and exterior expression of a dreaming cephalopod, further inspired by the finale to Spielberg’s wonderful Close Encounters of The Third Kind.”

Vanessa Clegg

“I wanted to do a simple drawing for a change and approach it from a slightly sideways direction. The suckers reminded me of the ‘cupping’ the early doctors/quaks were so fond of by applying leeches for almost any ailment…also of the marks left by giant squid down in the infinite deep whilst battling with sperm whales.”

“This is a strange, calm underwater world where octopuses, and maybe a giant squid or two, roam … above, the world is in turmoil. The merman/maid has yet to be discovered.”

Charly Skilling

A few years ago, my brother Jon went on a trip to the Falklands and South Georgia. He is an avid photographer and bird watcher and came back with trillions of holiday snaps.  Amongst  these was a series of extraordinary photographs of an encounter he witnessed on the shores of South Georgia, an encounter between a seagull and an octopus. As soon as I saw these photos, I was convinced there was a story to be told.  When the KA prompt came up as ‘Cephalopod’, the phrase ‘The Seagull and the Cephalopod’ immediately came to mind and the rhythm and alliteration was stuck in my head until I’d written the poem. The photos actually show a black-backed gull, Jon informs me, but I ignored that and used the term “seagull” or “common gull”… easier for scansion and more potential for humour.  People who know about these things say it is very unlikely for an octopus to be so close to the shore in this area unless it is on the point of death, but I didn’t want to think about this octopus in that way. In other words, don’t look to my work for scientific accuracy, or indeed, any kind of accuracy at all, but the one particular photo that inspired this poem is absolutely genuine and I am very grateful to Jon for allowing me to share it with you.

With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter and conjuror of crochet, Charly Skilling, we have our all-new prompt, courtesy of Ruth Asawa. Enjoy yourselves!

Les miroirs (2023)

What really resonated with me in regards to Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (our latest Kick-About prompt) is how ‘meta’ this painting is, in so much as it is a painting about painting. Las Meninas deconstructs itself by signposting its own artificiality and constructedness. For me, it produces a keen mise-en-abyme effect, as one constructed reality reflects another construction, with surfaces reflecting other surfaces in plain acknowledgment of illusion and artifice. It just feels very playful to me, so with that in mind, I set about bringing together as many reflective surfaces in one space as possible to play a few games of my own.

The Kick-About #72 ‘Les Meninas’

The last edition of The Kick-About featured the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, artists celebrated for shrouding familiar things by which to re-vivify their significance. This week, our collective creative muse is Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, another famous artwork equally shrouded to produce speculation and especial attentiveness. Enjoy this latest selection of new works made in a short time.

Charly Skilling

“I find this painting fascinating because it raises so many questions, and not just about  differing  viewpoints.  It’s not a  family group portrait, as the King and Queen are barely there. It’s not a painting to promote the Infanta’s status or prestige, as the people surrounding her are of little political or religious significance. And why is there a man standing in the doorway – is he coming or going or what?  There is a sense the artist has captured a moment on the cusp of some great event, but what could it be? As I couldn’t answer any of these questions, I decided to ignore all the facts known about this painting or this group of people, and make up my own story. There is no truth in my story, but I believe it to be true of its time.”

Gary Thorne

“Not long into KA#72 I realised a Vanitas could highlight some thoughts on Velazquez’s Las Meninas, and later came realisation that 3-D might more easily set-aside symbols of wealth associated with interiors. It is not a Danse Macabre, more a comment on the transience of life, futility of pleasure, and certainty of death. The Spanish Mastiff deserved centre-stage, not because an animal on-stage removes all attention to everything else happening around it, more likely due to the increased love extended onto dogs as result of Covid-19. (What I’ll be doing when Halloween rolls up – is anyone’s guess). ”

Phil Gomm

What really resonated with me in regards to Las Meninas is how ‘meta’ this painting is, in so much as it is a painting about painting; it deconstructs itself by signposting its own artificiality and constructedness. For me, it produces a keen mise-en-abyme effect, as one constructed reality reflects another construction, with surfaces reflecting other surfaces in plain acknowledgment of illusion and artifice. It just feels very playful to me, so with that in mind, I set about bringing together as many reflective surfaces in one space as possible to play a few games of my own.”

Graeme Daly

“I loved the self reflection and self insertion with this painting. I decided to focus on the many frames throughout the studio and, in the same manner, interject some of my own self into my illustrations by adding other photography and drawings within the frames themselves, and into a studio only an artist could make sense of.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Marion Raper

“This painting is very intriguing, as there are so many possibilities. My ‘take’ is that Velazquez is hoping to paint a normal family picture of the Spanish Royals, but the little ‘infanta’ has other ideas and will not co-operate. Perhaps she stamped her little foot and turned her back on him so he had to reposition not only himself, but the King and Queen also. It was a Prince Louis on the balcony moment! Her ladies-in-waiting tried to coax her to behave and even brought her beloved dog along to try and calm her, whilst various other courtiers were gossiping, “What a terrible child!” Meanwhile the Chancellor has decided to make a discreet exit out of the back door.  Fascinating!”

James Randall

“Velázquez’s painting never feels comfortable to me – courtly children. I jumped off using a picture of one of my lovely nieces (all of them adults now) taken by my sister or mother. It feels full of awkward childhood happiness to me. I added the far side of the street and car to complete it and, in the end, it feels quite unnatural and weird!”

Kerfe Roig

“I know this is considered one of the Great Masterpieces of Western Civilization, and I don’t dispute that it’s painted with great skill, but I can’t muster any enthusiasm for it or any emotional connection to it. Perhaps it’s my distaste for the opulent, decadent, and callous lifestyle of its inhabitants. Still, I can make anything into a collage.”

arrangements re
flect in unintended
parody—the only
thing human is
the dog /

Vanessa Clegg

“This is low-tech verging on Blue Peter, but it was interesting to play around with the characters and change the dynamics a bit. So the dog has assumed prime position, with the infanta becoming a doll under the arm, the two others creeping away at the back, and to help it all along, a cup of tea brought in by the true ‘maid’ in all this! I’ve put myself into the first one as the recorder and included the open door, though nobody has yet appeared… The mirror reflects the back of the figures so trying to introduce the real/ unreal element. Wish I’d had more time to explore the mystery of shadows and dark spaces, which is very Hitchcock.”

Just before I introduce our latest prompt, I wanted to say a lovely big thank you to regular Kick-Abouter and oracle-whisperer, Kerfe Roig for so generously gifting me one of her art pieces produced for The Kick-About No.70. I just really loved Kerfe’s Hilma Af Klint-inspired image, and told her as much, and was rather thrilled to have it arrive a few days ago – along with a 2023 calendar featuring Kerfe’s animal collages, drawings and paintings. A lovely thoughtful gesture – and posted all the way from NYC too! Thanks again, Kerfe!

Now for our next prompt – a single word, but one with eight tangents at least…

Throwback Friday #140 ‘Bust, Barcelona’ 2015

Don’t quote me, but I’m pretty sure I tool this photograph at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in February 2015. I mean, I know I took it back then, during a pretty wonderful student field trip to Barcelona, but I’m not 100% sure in which museum I was at the time. What I remember much more clearly about that visit was the weather, which was wonderfully warm and sunny, and the food, and the irrepressibly upbeat company of all those bright young things.

Short Story: The Mistress’s Quilt (2023)

Better late than never, right? So this short story was inspired by the narrative quilts of Harriet Powers, the prompt for The Kick-About No.68. I wasn’t able to complete the story by the original submission deadline and have been working away on it since. Thematically, it takes the idea of patchworks to express composite identities and their complexities and the idea of individuals and their emotional lives comprising contrary shades and textures.

You can view a PDF version here.

Un-sofa #1 (2023)

The short version is we bought a new leather sofa recently, which turned out to be too big for the room it was meant for. The sofa came wrapped in plastic – and remains so while we wait for some nice people to come and collect it and take it back to wherever unwanted sofas are destined to go. We have been living with this ‘un-sofa’ for quite a few weeks now – not sitting on it, not daring too, goaded by its postponement of creature comforts. I scowl at it every morning, not least because I was responsible for measuring up and only have myself to blame. Still, what is it that insufferably chipper types say about making lemonade when life gives you lemons (or outsized sofas)? I started noticing how different types of light at different times of day produced strange mountainous terrains out of the plastic wrapping covering the sofa, so with The Kick-About No.71 firmly in mind, I set about investigating them.