The last edition of The Kick-About marked our second birthday and two year’s of fortnightly creative challenges encouraging artists of all stripes to make new work in a short time. As such, it was something of a three-ringed circus, an eclectic, celebratory showcase with a little bit of something for everyone. How appropriate then our first prompt of the new Kick-About year should focus our attention on the circus paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec. ‘Roll up, roll up!’
“I was instantly drawn to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s line drawings that he produced much earlier in his career, and felt perhaps there was a way to capture the immediacy, simplicity and instinctiveness of those sketches with the modern digital tools I typically use. Channelling the spirit of an earlier Kick-About, Herzog’s Dancing Chicken, which also evoked manic movement and energy, I just applied the same techniques but attempted to reduce it down even more. I think there is an entire series to be made of these at some point!”
“I was about eight (late fifties) when, on a Saturday afternoon, the treat was a trip to the circus that had arrived in town. It was traditional in every way, clowns, band, ringmaster, plumed horses and glamorous riders, acrobats, contortionist, flying trapeze, performing chimps, lions and tamers, tigers and camels. My great Uncle Arthur was a forward agent for circuses, and I believe he supplied some free tickets. By that time, he had taken over a zoo and kept chimps and a lion called Sultan, amongst others animals. The zoo, and an accompanying Archery Stall, was in Ramsgate on the far end of the sea front, and at the time, part of the complex of amusements known as ‘Merrie England’ (later ‘Pleasurama’). I doubt if it was that merrie or pleasurable for the animals. Welfare and safety concerns were soon to radically change the idea of circus and zoos. For me, this Kick-About is about nostalgia, and the memory of Merrie England, the circus and zoo, and great Uncle Arthur…”
“Toulouse: What a great prompt. We don’t see a lot of his work down here but his use of colour certainly has burnt into my mind. I was a bit short of time, though I think I got the essence of what I was after – would benefit from actually being painted. I saw a man dangling from ropes cleaning an old brick building with a high pressure water hose – bit like an acrobat – with an audience at the stop lights. I was thinking of the figure with the ropes pressing around him and experimented with photographing a pillow tied up with string – not wanting to throw the images out, I put them in the background building’s windows (who knows what goes on in the buildings we walk past every day!) I kind of turned the image from day to night and took the photos to use as spotlights behind the dangling man. Anyway fodder for a later project perhaps.”
“A circus immediately brings to mind clowns, a disguise that has always seemed a bit creepy to me. But it also reminded me of a book of photos taken by Matthew Rolston of some of the ventriloquist dummies in the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. Haunting and aware, I’ve always wanted to try to capture some of the sentience of the photos in a drawing. And so I did, randomly opening the book to four different faces. One of the essays in the book says they are meant “to suggest life”, but any supposedly “inanimate” object so entwined with a human life is alive. Any child can tell you that. They may have been separated from their humans, but these faces remember them. Here’s a link to Roston’s photos.”
“Initially, I had the idea of loading up an old battered and broken blue iPhone that I didn’t expect to turn on, from which to rip some photographs from a circus I attended with friends, the circus standing tall on the iconic Rochester hill where I went to uni. Amazingly, the phone turned on with its red battery charging symbol loading through the cracked pixelated screen. The joy on my face when I held the tiny phone in my comically large hands… However in my many attempts to get all those photos off this ancient iPhone, technology somehow fucked me over and devastatingly wiped every single photo from the phone, including all the photos I wanted to use for this week’s prompt!
I ended up sitting and sulking on the idea for a while and contemplated coming up with something completely different, but stubbornly I didn’t want to, and I did have a handful of those very photos from that iPhone stored on my laptop that I never deleted. So instead of being a moody little shit, I decided to try and make something from them by duplicating the original photos and using previous creations and random photos laid on top to attempt to create some new compositions exploring the light, energy and disorientating weirdness of a circus. I guess with the recent anniversary of the Kick-About, in some ways it can seem poetic to use a bunch of outpourings from previous Kick-Abouts to create something completely new.”
“You can thank Tod Browning’s notorious 1932 film, Freaks, for what follows, ladies and gents, which is certainly one of the most vivid circus-centric narratives I know. The important thing about Browning’s unfairly maligned movie is where the director puts our sympathies – we are never in any doubt – and likewise the age-old question it asks as to the difference between men and ‘monsters’. I’m not going to say much more about the short story that follows, except to say it was inspired first and foremost by Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting of a clown performing with his black pig, and also this: The Greatest Showman it is not…”
Welcome to this anniversary edition of The Kick-About, marking two years of creative activity undertaken by an international community of artists… which, when you put it like that sounds very impressive indeed! While those of us who participate in these fortnightly challenges might not regard ourselves as grandly as all that, this is my opportunity to thank everyone for their continuing creativity and companionship over this last year. I also want to reflect on the very real and demonstrable benefits of ‘kicking about’ together: yes, it’s another thing we have to think about, and yes, things don’t always run smoothly or go to plan, but ‘making work’ is always a magical act, and life-affirming too. Thanks again to everyone in the KA community for your boundless imagination and sticking power. Look at what we did!
“What I found the most gratifying about The Kick-About this year was that, for the first time in ages for me personally, it felt like I could take any small idea that I had and bring it to some form of a conclusion without feeling like there was a whole load of mental and skill barriers in the way.
One of the most satisfying projects out of all the ones I produced was the animated short film inspired by Marie Menken for The Kick-About #34. After a very long time of not really making any moving image it felt quite rewarding to just let go and make something with the same kind of ‘just do it and see what happens’ attitude that always felt so inspiring to me as a creative, but perhaps, over the years, got lost in the shuffle of life and other such boring things! These days, just producing work and art is anything but boring for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else might become a makeshift goalpost in the park with all the other fellow Kick-Abouters in the future.”
“I had not heard of Brian Rutenberg (Kick-About No. 32) and the first impression was ‘Wow! Very powerful!’ So I spent quite a bit of time ‘deconstructing’ his technique. The apparent abstract nature is, of course, in reality highly stylised landscapes. If you put aside the idiosyncratic drawing style they are quite simple compositions. The cleverness for me is the use of colour; he has substituted primary or secondary colours for tone on most of the pieces, enhancing the abstract qualities. The texture and randomness is the product of palette knife work – that said, given the size of the canvases, it was more likely a large trowel! A lot of my work is marine in subject, so for the first piece I took an image of reflections on water and upped the colour values and worked largely with a palette knife. I think you can still just about make out it is meant to be liquid. For the other piece, I chose a lake surrounded by trees and threw away the tonal values, replacing them with primary colour. I failed to match the stylisation of Rutenberg, but I think they are just about going in the right direction.”
“The prompt could hardly have been more suited to me and my natural inclinations. It’s inky and leafy and Australian. What strikes me most is the combination of the loosest of ink splatters with far more careful and detailed patterning. I was going to explore some inkiness yesterday (Yep! Last minute again!) to see where an observation of Mungkuri’s work (Kick-About No.37) might take me, especially with regard to the use of white ink patterning over the top of the looser ink layers. But before I could begin something happened… Our bees swarmed! Later, I had a bit of a go at my inky exploration of Peter Mungkuri’s plant drawings, but my mind was full of bees. And joy. So it became an illustration of Hugo and me, arms uplifted to the swarming bees.”
For the Kick-About No. 41 ‘La Ville’ ~ “I used one of my daughter’s photos of an event when Lady Gaga walked down the red carpet, which I firstly painted in watercolour and then recreated it in the style of ?? (You can see why I nearly failed my Art O’ level!) Anyway, I enjoyed creating art in this way and using such zingy colours!”
From The Kick-About No. 51“Print them out and colour in your very own folk art postcards. I used google to translate the English titles into Ukrainian, so apologies for any grammatical errors.”
“Of the prompts I participated in, I think my personal favourite was Kick-About Number 31, Lotte Reiniger. The traditional form of silhouettes and stop-frame animation was more hands-on than my other prompt responses. Less abstracted. And less rooted in technology, which was an invigorating change.
Cutting things out of paper for craft projects is something I’d been doing since I was little, much like Lotte did, so I ran with the nostalgia. Plus, the rudimentary camera setup resulted in an animation with some wonky charm that I quite like!”
“For the second year anniversary post I’ve chosen a little film I made for Kick-About #28. The prompt that week was the garden created by Derek Jarman on the shingle spit of Dungeness. Derek started making the garden during a period of personal crisis, shortly after he had been diagnosed HIV+ in 1986. Back then there was no treatment available for HIV and it was fatal in almost all cases. The garden was a tremendous act of creativity and of defiance in the face of a terminal diagnosis, not least because he built it in one of the most unlikely places in the country, the arid, salty shingle of Dunegness, directly in front of a nuclear power station. And, despite his failing health, the garden provided the backdrop to one of the most dynamic and prolific periods in his life; he crammed in more living and working into those last few years before his death in 1994 than most do in a whole lifetime.
I used the words that close his book, At Your Own Risk, writing them in wax crayon, before brushing some black ink over them. The resist technique didn’t work very well and the words aren’t very legible, so here they are:
‘I am tired tonight. My eyes are out of focus, my body droops under the weight of the day, but as I leave you Queer lads let me leave you singing. I had to write of a sad time as a witness – not to cloud your smiles – please read the cares of the world that I have locked in these pages; and after, put this book aside and love. May you of a better future, love without a care and remember we loved too. As the shadows close in, the starts came out. I am in love.’
As he wrote those words in the early 1990s, he foresaw a better future for the world. Sadly, I’m not sure if this has come to pass, at least not yet. The crisis of AIDS in Derek Jarman’s time has been resolved across most of the world, but the climate crisis and war in Europe threaten chaos on an even greater scale. I wonder what he would make of the world today? I confess I’m pessimistic about what lies ahead for humanity, but Derek’s life provides a kind of blueprint to at least try and deal with the terrible state we’re in; speak out, respond, fight, create, work, and make a little garden to face down the dark forces.”
“I love abstract paintings (Kick-About No.32) particularly as I know what a challenge they can be for composition and colour, light and movement. In my work I also strive to keep the first creative impetus with its full emotional strength before it becomes too cerebral. So this is one of my abstract painting that deals with space, macrocosm and microcosm. Thank you Phil and all the extraordinary artists who make this creative experience so special.”
The Kick-About No. 30:“It was so hard to choose. But I decided to go with the Fundus Photography. The photos themselves are magical, and I feel the watercolors I did inspired by them are some of the best I did all year. They are still hanging in my office, almost the first things I put up when I moved, and every day I enjoy looking at them.”
“I’m choosing my short story, Nasturtiums, to include in this anniversary edition for two reasons: the first being that, at first glance, Sheila Legge’s Phantom of Surrealism (Kick-About No.36) left me scratching my head and worrying at the efficacy of my imagination. My second reason for sharing it is because, once I’d stopped worrying, this short story arrived with surprising ease, and for all its inherent strangeness, felt, in some way, inevitable.”
(I wanted to offer up a little birthday bonus with this edition of the Kick-About, so with the assistance of voice artist, Catherine Bradley, I’m happy to present a little audio-book adaptation of Nasturtiums. Enjoy!)
“My favourite kick about this year has got to be the Stezaker prompt (The Kick-About No. 47) I loved the challenge of creating two parallel stories and then putting them together as one piece. Having said that, the Louis Baldwin took me to new areas of finding and stitching and Splendor Solis gave a rare opportunity to become immersed into a drawing over a long period of time. I just enjoy them all!”
“May 2021 – KA #30 Fundus Photography – has to be the right choice at the right time, with May approaching and a garden offering seemingly endless delights of colour. A reawakening of the senses and added energy by way of summer approaching seems a timely reminder to exploit the daylight hours, be observant, and delight in making use of such inspiration.”
“I have enjoyed so many of our KA prompts this past year, it is difficult to choose a favourite. But I have opted for Kickabout #30 “Fundus Photography”, because I found my “Alien skies” and the poem “Forward, Hover, Focus, Click” flowed so readily and so smoothly that I revelled in the process and now, all these months later, I can still look on the work and be happy. It is very rare for equal pleasure to be found in conception, execution and retrospection (for me, anyway!) so I cherish this!”
“I have decided to choose a recent response for the two year anniversary, which is the prompt of contemporary textile artist – Louise Baldwin (The Kick-About No.48). The outpouring of photography was completely transfixing, utterly intoxicating, but also very unpredictable. It was one of those times where something awoke in me and the tunnel vision of this bizarre creative pursuit was exhilarating – especially because the uncertainty of dumping all those household ingredients into a jar and photographing the bubbling frothy results is a practice I certainly wouldn’t have even attempted if it wasn’t for The Kick-About. But it is one byproduct that the Kick-About can and does unlock, as I do think being an artist means experimenting, breaking the status quo and playing to see what can flourish. So thank you all for the art, the making, and the doing, and helping me to produce things I would never have dreamed of, and thank you Phil for always curating our pursuits into a post I always look forward to.”
“So good to be a part of the KA and see all your fabulous work over the last year – lots to be inspired by and challenged to undertake! Personally I got an enormous amount out of the Sheila Legge challenge (KA 36 – Phantom Of Surrealism). I felt a bit aimless at the start but once my mind began wondering about, while trying to recreate Sheila’s surrealist mask, I zeroed in on the parallel stresses between her era and ours – big scary times. That’s when my image took an environmental posture and I cobbled together imagery to represent power and disaster. I also added ground charcoal textures and hand writing to my photographic images and broke up the framing of the image with staggered photo stripes in the background. It was one of those surprising outcomes that seem to happen so effortlessly its almost as if someone else was giving me a hand. I was also happy that the flower head felt a bit Covidish. Looking forward to the next KA.”
“As many have written over this past year, our lives have become perhaps a tad too much like a De Chirico or Hopper painting. The empty, beguilling landscapes feel a little too familiar for comfort, but nonetheless, these sorts of spaces are my stomping ground. The unease of architectural space has always been an inspiration in my work, and so here are a few strange tableaus inspired by De Chirico’s The Song of Love(Kick-About No. 27).”
“This piece started life as a digital painting, in the style of Rutenberg’s paintings (Kick-About No.32). The more I’ve gotten into his work over the last few years, and as I’ve listened to him speak about his work and process, I’ve absorbed a lot of his wisdom and theory. Painting in Photoshop, from some recent photos I took on holiday in Somerset, I realised that without all the elements of thick oil paint, walnut oil, textured canvas and the monumental scale, this just wasn’t going to cut it. The sense of depth and light depicted in Brian’s work always astounds me, so I took the idea of his interplay of horizontals and verticals into ZBrush. I used the original digital painting to create the colour on the 3D. I made a rough approximation of the artist himself, just as a homage to a bit of a hero of mine, then created a tangle of intersecting forms. I encased this in a glass box to contain this in a 3D space, something the artist conveys so well on his canvases. A departure from my comfort zone on this one, another lesson learned from Rutenberg himself.”
“After a bit of pondering I have chosen the Matisse Kick About (No.38) for the anniversary of this last year’s offerings. I really liked Phil Cooper’s introduction about Matisse and his joy of playing with scissors as an exuberant response to nature. The fact he made these cut outs in later life reminded me of where I am in my own life and the joy I found doing these cut outs and playing with colour, shape and movement. I think I will be going back to them as they have been left out on the desk asking for more from me…”
Following the linear, pared-back abstractions of our last Kick-About together, the folk art of Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko inspires our fifty-first showcase of new works made in a short time. Art, and the making of it, allows us welcome respite from what is dispiriting about world events and our feelings of powerlessness in the face of them. That said, art, and the making of it, also allows us the opportunity to say something about those same world events, and in so doing, feel a little less numbed, a little less muted.
“An instinctive reaction to the prompt..not overthinking just doing and ending up with a kind of children’s illustration with a political edge.” Coloured crayon on paper. 25cm X 42cm.
“Print them out and colour in your very own folk art postcards. I used google to translate the English titles into Ukrainian, so apologies for any grammatical errors.”
“I love the artwork of Maria Prymachenko – especially the vibrant colours which to me shows the happiness and love of her country. I decided to try and use some similar colours and design an animal rondelle using some of our British wildlife, and also encorporate a new technique I recently learned using ink and bleach. I have to say it all turned out not completely as intended, but I enjoyed the process and think there may be more to come!“
“Apart from her pieces being so connected to the senseless goings on in Ukraine, Maria Prymachenko‘s works are simply beautiful – what a great kick-off point. I just jumped onto the animal theme and let it rip with some images from around the bridge I portrayed in the previous KA. We see Eastern Water Dragons here and there around the river edge sunning themselves – they are about a foot and a half long – so a dragon was an obvious animal choice. The big challenge for me was massaging a number of photos into a single image that had a sensible narrative – in my head. So it has to do with life philosophy and choice and our collective future. Got it to a point close to resolution but when you touch one thing it throws others out. If its not complete its time for a long break, and probably would benefit from being painted but thats for another two weeks! Last KA entries were so brilliant – loved having the opportunity to see them – thanks KAers.”
“KA surprises me, or maybe its the way my head works that surprises me. Three days ago my laboured outcome revealed I’d used the most banal part of my brain ,so out it went (the work)! With no time to spare, a less conscious response kicked-in, resulting in a self-portrait x-ray. I revisited Prymachenko’s paintings last week, and later on – in a relaxed state – thought of two things; the head and body often come across as disconnected and the overall impression is transparency revealing ideas within. Funny thing is, my x-ray revealed nothing of interest within. Perhaps once dry, I’ll put within a bit of angst.”
“I didn’t know Maria Prymachenko’s work before this Kick-About prompt, but I’ve really enjoyed exploring her world and the strong shapes and bold colour that she uses to bring it life. Against the hellish background of the war in Ukraine at the moment, and the horrific images coming from the conflict, these paintings are bitter-sweet to look at. But their joy and energy feels defiant right now, and reminds us oppression can never win in the long run if we stand united against it. In response, I’ve painted a sunflower seed head. The flower has finished, but the seeds are being carried away by the birds, to germinate, grow and produce more seed, on and on…“
“There are images that capture ‘perfectly’ the awfulness of conflict, and this photograph of a shelled Ukrainian kindergarten achieves just that. The juxtaposition of the colourful toys with the white blasted bricks needs no further explanation. For my part, I chose to recreate the scene using Plasticine, a medium seeking to mirror the instinctive simplicity of Prymachenko’s paintings.”
“I was most taken by Maria’s composite creatures, strange combinations of pattern, plant, animal, and human.”
“Prymachenko’s work is bright, colourful and full of life – a marked contrast to the images of Ukraine we see nightly on our televisions. The horror and the suffering to which the Ukrainian people are being subjected is heart-breaking. It leaves me, like most people, feeling angry, helpless, fearful and full of a deep, deep sadness. The sunflower is a powerful symbol in Ukraine and appears often in Prymachenko’s work. She also uses a red flower-shape, which, with its orange centre and sharply-defined petals, creates an explosion of colour. I have tried to bring these images and ideas together in this week’s submission. There are two versions, the best of several I worked on, one on ceramic tile, which allowed the ink to flow like tears when sprayed with alcohol, the other on card, which restricted the alcohol spread and left sharper, stronger lines.”
In common with our last anniversary Kick-About, Edition No. 52 will see the Kick-Abouters select a favourite from their own works produced over the course of this second year of collective creative challenges. The big number relates to the total number of weeks we’ve been producing work together – 104.286 weeks’ worth of ideation, experimentation, doing stuff, and sharing it. I look forward to celebrating with you. Just drop me a line to let me know your choice in advance of the anniversary showcase, and likewise your reasons for choosing it, which I’ll include by way of a preface.
“I love the shapes Gabo created – the magic of straight lines working together to create curves, and curves working together to create depth and movement. I started playing around with some yarn and metal shapes, and found myself thinking about the shadows these artifacts could create, with the right backdrop and well placed lights. I’m really pleased with the results.”
“In my other creative endeavours I recently came across the peculiar visual effects that can occur when you layer up uneven lines in a 2D or 3D space. In some cases this effect could be seen as undesirable but I very much enjoy the various patterns it generates at different levels of magnification and how it creates multiple levels of texture and visual interest.”
“The prompt brought to mind some small shibori fabric samples I had that I meant to embroider on. I had planned to do several, but time shrinking as it seems to do so well lately, I only got one done. I did, however, manage 5 Japanese style poems to go with the 5 photos attached.”
threads and circles
1 to be a thread held on the wings of birds soaring through vast light-filled air
2 layers merge separate become something else
3 stillness waits to expand beyond what is here
4 particles of light that remain uncaught—a song you can almost hear
5 tethered to itself or maybe nothing at all– just an idea
“I have loved Gabo since I was 15 when I started experimenting with sculpture. I was already interested in light, movement and transparencies and I found traditional sculpture taught at my art school wonderful but not quite my cup of tea, until I discovered Gabo. His work has all those ingredients and an amazing dynamic strength. I was never much for the rounded shapes but I resonate with the way he uses them because they are so powerful and not soft or indecisive. So here is my attempt to create growth in delicacy through my fused glass sculpture.”
“Many of my friends know that I do a lot of arts and crafts and they often give me bits and pieces and say “Can you make some use of this?” Well this is one of those times when the answer is “Yes!” In fact I’m not quite sure what this material actually is. It seems like a stiff and thick type of felt but the difference is I discovered that unlike ordinary felt, if you cut and twist this it will hold its shape beautifully. So I cut and twisted some long strips and twisted them around a central thread and hung my construction in a sunlit window. Next I played around with some recycled ring pulls that I had been saving. Naum Gabo was a trail blazer – I wonder what ideas he would have come up with if he had the resources of today?”
“I love Naum Gabo and I know how much my work has been influenced by him and also that period in time when so many exciting new ideas were being put forward, both in the arts and philosophy. The transparency of the material and desire to stretch the boundaries of them is fascinating. In these times, I am working with cardboard and have been for the past twelve years, turning it backwards into and an organic form of light and transparency in opposition to its mechanical machined square frame. For this kick about my inspiration came initially from the spiral and then I returned to my collection of pods!“
“I fell into looking at the brother, Antoine Pevsner, as his drawings and paintings triggered a desire to deconstruct older still-life paintings with an interest in achieving more spatially ambiguous subject matter and a hope to add more to dynamic composition. A mix of palette knife and brushwork helped counter habits being formed whilst a painting evolves. An enjoyable KA.”
“The following photographs were produced by stringing nylon wire between the legs of a console table pushed up against one long wall in our kitchen, and then using the torch on my knackered old iPhone to produce some high-points of reflection on some wires, and to cast some shadows too. Something expansive and landscape-like got started in these images, and I’m adding these experiments to my list entitled ‘One day, I’ll do this all again on a MUCH bigger scale.’
“Naum Gabo_Linear Construction Number 2 – such a hopeful outlook to art. I used to love string art as a kid, all those rigid lines. On a recent walk I took photos of the rather drab grey and fairly ugly Story Bridge here in Brisbane and drew it in illustrator in a formal fashion in orange. I thought of adding buildings behind or portions of cars but the bridge turned out so complicated I just added a bit of white cloud – a portion of low quality iPhone photo, but I think it worked and it broke up the rigid picture framing a little. It was nice to spend time concentrating on all those bright orange shapes and not on the world as it is.“
And for our next creative run-around together, our prompt is the celebrated Ukrainian folk-artist, Maria Prymachenko.
From the lovely free-wheeling associations of our last Kick-About together, to the pared-down, typographic compositions of graphic designer and film-maker, Saul Bass, welcome to another showcase of new works made in a short time.
“Lots of ideas came and went with this prompt, including the darkness of present day Ukraine but, finally, I settled on something that had, hopefully, a sense of vertigo, as well as a tinge of Hitchcock. I remembered a trip to New Zealand, during which there was a minor earthquake. I was standing outside having walked in a surprisingly calm manner out of the vibrating house (no damage) and watched frozen to the spot, the feeling of the earth beneath my feet no longer being solid, static and secure but moving in waves – a living thing – resulting in a true loss of balance.” Tracing paper, string, cracked mirror, graphite and watercolour on gesso.
“Although I did not know the name of Saul Bass before this prompt, much of his work was instantly recognizable. Here are the film posters I grew up with, and I had a really fun time playing with the colours, the geometrics, and the directness of Bass’s images. I had to find some new techniques and some worked better than others, but overall, I am pleased with the finished object. So next time I want to curl up on the sofa to watch a classic movie, my “Movie Night” throw will be right there with me!”
“Some Saul Bass inspired illustrations from the gorgeous and brutal The Handmaid’s Tale. Its stunning red and teal colour palette was truly calling for it!”
“The work of early motion designers like Saul Bass and John Whitney is something of an enigma, which I think comes from a certain looseness hard to replicate using modern digital animation techniques. Recently, I have begun to pick up a bit of coding to supplement my usual creative outlets and try to understand an entirely new way to generate art and animation that just a few months ago had basically been totally unknown to me.Despite what may sound like quite a rigid and unforgiving system of creativity, I have found there is a kind of looseness in programming graphics that is a lot of fun to play with. Add a few lines or numbers and expressions and just see what happens. Sometimes you can produce some unexpected and interesting results that harken back to the days of the early computer artists and graphics designers.
As for me, it’s very early days, as far as my skills go, but I have been able to produce a few little interesting bits. One of the exciting things about using code is that nearly everything can be randomised or given a level of user interactivity. No two images or animations will appear the completely same. Feel free to generate your own unique versions of these images using the links below.”
“Back when I was teaching an undergraduate course, one of my yearly highlights was a screening for students of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on the big screen. There are many showier reasons for enjoying this film, but I always loved the Saul Bass-designed opening titles – those simple horizontal lines sliding in across the frame with such urgency, while Bernard Herrmann’s score propelled them along. Working with a few simple elements – dots and dashes, lines and ellipses – I set about producing an affectionate fantasia on some Bass-inspired themes.”
“We have a ‘clattering’ of jackdaws which visit us at least twice a day to gather up the food that has been spilled from our bird feeders by the other smaller birds. One day we noticed one jackdaw was moving around rather strangely and being shooed away by the others. As it hopped about we could then see it had a badly damaged wing, and when the others flew off it quickly ran/jumped away and scuttled into our hedge. Over the last 5 or 6 weeks ‘Hoppy’ has managed to survive by scrounging food from us and various other neighbours in turn. Now he is not intimidated by the other birds and manages to hold his own even against some huge black crows and rooks which sometimes arrive. In fact, he is tolerated quite well by the other birds, and I have even seen a couple of his jackdaw mates fly up and knock food down from the feeders especially for him as he waits below. You can’t help but admire Hoppy, and for this reason I have made him the star of my Saul Bass-style poster.”
“Sorry – bit of a rant but better out than in. The face is made of of little figures – meant to be asexual, they look more like men with extra big hips. I just can’t imagine how awful life must be for the Ukrainians because of that psychopath. Nukes, China? I think at a human level it is well past time to step in.”
“I struggled to find a form of language/text to add to a painting that further portrayed the emotion within the situation I was visualising. I realised that in this most horrific of situations there was ‘voice’ yet their distress calls simply evaporated into the cloud formations above, leaving no hope for those adrift in the English Channel. A bleak painting for bleak times.”
“I remember watching movies as a kid and loving the Saul Bass credit sequences more than the actual film; they seemed more exciting and mysterious by far. Whilst doing a bit of research for this prompt, I came across on old Sci-fi short filmSaul and Elaine Bass directed called Quest. It looks dated and clunky now, but I liked it all the same, with some nice visuals and design. The ending resonated with the current times for me, and it led me to thinking about how precious every day of our lives are. This piece of work might be a poster for the movie. I’d been looking at Saul Bass when I made it. “
Inspired perhaps by the whirling spirograph of Saul Bass’s Vertigo poster, but prompted too by the importance of parsing distinctions between ideologies and individuals, Naum Gabo’s Linear Construction No.2 is our jumping-off point for the next two weeks.
“Well my life has certainly been bound up with fabric and stitch. I always have something ‘on the go’. From my earliest days I was making crocheted hairbands, scarves and berets (as worn by Bonnie Parker!) We thought we were so chic! Then came the ‘fab’ colourful clothes of the 60s with such happy memories of village hall discos and crazy parties! The 70s were slightly more sedate as lacemaking and patchwork reappeared. Like countless other sewers, I have a bag of leftover scraps of fabric that instantly take me back to when I made a certain dress, where I wore it and the people I was with then. Next came the wonderful Stage Shows and Carnival Costumes of the 80s. Such a tapestry of music and mayhem with enough memories to fill a book. Even now I am making a baby shawl for a great nephew arriving soon. Time moves on and the world seems a more dangerous place. Yet the basic fabric of life is still the same. There will always be a need for a baby’s shawl.”
“I’ve been saving the wrappings on my favourite Spanish sugar biscuits and this seemed the ideal prompt to put some to use…it also gave me a theme. So, despite having a schoolgirl knowledge of stitch work (Charly, avert your eyes!) I had a great time cobbling this together.”
“After wallowing in the talent on display from the last KA, I rushed off to read about Louise Baldwin and took away sewing and recycling to present you with fabric and a local garbo. I’ve been snapping people from our second story apartment thinking about contemporary reality and how we don’t acknowledge the people who look after our day to day (essential) needs. I drew up the snapped garbo and his trusty truck in Illustrator and filled the shapes with with fabrics from the web – I’ve wanted to try this “fill with texture thing” for a while but have been a little afraid of it resulting in a total time consuming mess – I think it worked though.”
“And because I had the time, I decided to try and push the sewing aspect and digitally ripped the image and “sewed” it down – concept fully abused!”
“I didn’t know Louise Baldwin’s work before this prompt, but I’ve really enjoyed getting to know it over the past couple of weeks. I love the colour and texture of course, and there’s a dreaminess to the work I’m drawn to. a mood that seems to float between various emotional states. Reading up about Louise’s process I could see how this rather ambiguous sensibility might come about; working directly with the materials, responding to each piece as it is made rather than having a pre-conceived idea of what it was going to be.
This led me to thinking about my own approach to making work, how much of it was intuitive and responsive and how much was planned and conceived. I talked about it to a friend who directed my gaze to the surface of my art table, covered with spattered layers of paint and pigment that had built over many years of working on this surface. The marks were entirely accidental, but this had generated its own particular quality and magic so that the table top ended up looking like an abstract expressionist painting from the 1950s. It’s a lovely thing in its own right, the random marks and colour like a palimpsest, recording the days of my working and living.”
“With sewing not in my skill set, the focus landed on Baldwin’s layering with some interest on pattern, to be applied to still-life painting. Leaning towards a darker palette established a preferred mood, and the overlapping nature of form seems to add spatial ambiguity which is a rewarding discovery for me. There may be an edgy threat within, most likely influenced by the worrying state of current affairs.” Oil on prepared paper 65cmx50cm.
“What a joyful prompt this was! Baldwin’s work gave me permission to draw quickly and instinctively, and embrace colour and abstraction, to produce a whole series of exuberant large-scale compositions. I just sat down and drew a few impressions of some of our many houseplants – in this instance, a Pilea peperomioides – and then used them to produce some big bold abstracts. In truth, I could have gone on and on with this, wishing I had the resources to produce them as massive prints for the soft white walls of some airy penthouse atelier. There is such pleasure to be found in colour and the rush and whirl of a few bold lines.”
“I made several attempts to do this in textiles, but it just wasn’t working for me. The design looks much more painterly than textile-ish to my eye, and has an Asian feeling. So I combined watercolor and origami paper. For the first one I glued 3 squares of origami paper on some rice paper and used watercolor and black ink on top. The second one was painted first, then I cut out origami paper dots and glued them on, stitching some embellishment as a nod to the stitching in Baldwin’s piece. Her focus on spontaneity is often my approach in watercolor so that felt right as well.“
“They are like the bits of information, memories and desires that float around our brains”.
I usually spend several days just thinking about a new KA prompt; mulling ideas over, discarding them, then resurrecting them for a second try. Usually, I have a fairly clear plan in my head before I ever pick up crochet hook or pen. But this time I decided to set all prior planning aside and see what was “floating around my brain.” I selected a yarn of which I had sufficient stock for experimenting, found an appropriate size hook, and began to crochet, changing colour, direction or stitch as the whim took me.
At first I just thought “green, nature, outdoors” but as the piece progressed, I found myself thinking more and more of the chalk hills of The Chilterns, where so much of my life has been spent. These chalk ridges, created long ago from the skeletons of innumerable tiny creatures, roll in waves across much of southern England, an everlasting memorial to a receding prehistoric sea. The high ridges have been grazed by sheep and walked by man for millennia, and the thin topsoil has been scraped, and shaped, by Nature and by design, to reveal flowing lines and wondrous shapes, all gleaming white chalk against the green sward.It doesn’t seem so long ago we were flying kites on Ivinghoe Beacon, rolling down Combe Hill’s steep inclines, or chasing across Dunstable Downs, arms stretched wide and coats flapping behind, as though we might take flight at any moment!”
And for our next runaround together, our next creative muse is graphic designer and filmmaker, Saul Bass. Have lots of bold, colourful and typographical fun!
Our last Kick-About, inspired by the writings of Gaston Bachelard, encouraged us to examine our domestic spaces and think about the physical and emotional parameters of home. Now, with John Stezaker’s uneasy marriage between photographic fragments as our starting pointing, we’re exploring issues of identity, affinity and discord.
“Life can be scary – survival of the fittest – relationships can bring together different strengths, and if nothing more, give you the courage to bungle on. My image is simple – a river pushing dangerous detritus along – life. I was wanting to have an overlay of two figures swirling about and holding hands but it was too naive looking, and too complicated with the background, so I struggled to find an alternative representation. The lines represent two different shades of people (a couple – sorry such a vanilla representation of marriage) and their individual positive qualities merging to form a barrier protecting the couple from the detritus. The ring blur demonstrates how marriage can soften the edges of thorny life. The colour is joyous (I hope) as marriage is to me (if a lot quieter.)”
“When I started looking at John Stezaker’s ‘Marriage’, the thing that struck me most was that ever-present straight line running through each image, often more than once Was this the joint where two personalities dovetailed? Or a boundary line, safeguarding personal territory? Are people diminished by marriage? Or magnified? So I started thinking about some of the models of marriage I’ve come across. and came up with some ‘Marital Maths’.”
“I’m always doing that surrealist kind of thing with human bodies and collage so I decided to try something different. I liked the idea of using one or two inserted elements, as my work is usually much more complex. Instead of using classic film stars I decided to use the work of classic painters. I took Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, cut it up, and inserted it into works by Monet, Gauguin, Matisse and Homer. They work together quite well I think.”
“I luckily came across some old toys belonging to my grandsons which were waiting to be recycled and I thought they would look great if I combined a few of them and turned them into some very strange looking creatures. This then inspired me to do some collage using some old photos and magazine cuttings to create some more fantastical beings, which looked like they had sprung from the pages of a Marvel comic.”
“By putting two different images together Stezaker seems to create a third dimension, so, ‘sort of’ following this train of thought I’ve dovetailed two extreme scenarios on an old alarm clock set to silent. (Another thought.. weren’t the lurid green numbers painted with something containing uranium to make it shine in the dark?).
Scenario 1: Apocalypse – midnight on the doomsday clock. A young girl runs for her life, her clothes shredded, the sky dark, as a mushroom cloud reaches the stars.
Scenario 2: The clock strikes twelve. Cinderella flees from the ball as her coach, horses, footmen and dress disappear in a puff of pink smoke…the fairy Godmother waves her wand… Abracadabra!”
“A strange and unsettling prompt this time. John Stezaker’s work stirs up a variety of different feelings when I look at them, feelings that are quite difficult to articulate. There is something about the violence of cutting up a picture of a human face that makes such images as ‘Marriage’ quite a visceral experience for me. I can almost feel the slice of the scalpel, and I wince at the thought of accidents and slips with the knife; as an artist who uses collage a lot in my work, I’m well used to my hands sporting at least a couple of plasters covering cuts and scrapes.
Stezaker’s portraits also make me think of Francis Bacon paintings, of how he attacked the faces of his sitters in paint, carving them open with the brush to create images that look like something from a butcher’s shop window. I’ve gone down a similar route with my Kick-About response this week, cutting up photos of glamorous people from glossy magazines, smearing their faces with oil pastel, and mangling them further in Procreate to make fractured images of half-remembered nightmares.”
“Because Stezaker drew inspiration from dadaism and surrealism by kitbashing and appropriating images into bizarre collages, I decided to splice together some absurdities in a fun, no fucks given kind of way – all images nicked from the public domain, of course.”
“All of this began simply enough: try and construct a new face from fragments in a Stezaker-style, and in so doing, seek to produce something as unsettling as some of the photographer’s sepia chimeras.
Reaching for the remainders of some nylon tights and toy-stuffing left-over from the very first Kick-About, I set about sewing together a new face around the shell of a white balaclava. I wanted to produce a fine-art object, as opposed to anything too illusionist, something a bit deconstructed, with its seams showing and the fact of its construction left conspicuous. In this, I looked to Stezaker’s own collages, which likewise make no secret of their provenance of different parts.“
“The head-thing fabricated, I then left it about the house, like a thing left behind or dropped, and photographed it in situ. At times creepy, and at other times just rather sad-seeming, this quickly-produced face-of-bits kept accruing personality and the uncanny ability to seem life-like, even in spite of its obvious anatomical imprecisions and sticky-out bits of thread. That’s the thing about faces, I suppose – even the ones fashioned badly out of tights and Kapok; we can’t help relating to them.”
“The other bit of the prompt I was interested in was the title of Stezaker’s collages, ‘Marriage’: I happen to be married to someone who is willing to share his home with a disembodied head, and the guy who made it. These last photographs are for my husband, Paul, by way of reassurance: however weird things get, I’m still right here and laughing my arse off.”
With many thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, Marion Raper, we have our new prompt, the work of contemporary textile artist, Louise Baldwin. Have fun.
“I’m calling this ‘ROOM FOR SALE’ making homage to Philip Guston’s titled work ‘Room’, and Kandinsky’s colouration of sound. I considered the vacated domestic space and its dynamism. Although Dulux helps erase hand-me-down occupant existence, a persistent association with the past can linger, creating at times a lively sensation, a bit like a stage set just after the performance. I wonder if we’d be more fluid and poetically connected without redecorating? (This KA reminds me of Charly’s KA#7 prompt ‘Ennui’ by Sickert).” Oil paint on primed paper 75cm x 55cm
“When I was exploring this prompt, I came across another quote from Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, which got stuck in my head and wouldn’t be shifted. It was this: ‘Words … are little houses, each with its cellar and garret. Common sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to engage in ‘foreign commerce’ on the same level as the others, as the passers-by, who are never dreamers. To go upstairs in the word house is to withdraw step by step; while to go down to the cellar is to dream.’ The following poem needs more work, certainly some polishing, but such as it is, I share it with you.”
“The prompt this week coincided with my first visit in a long time back to the U.K. to visit mum. She still lives in the Victorian town house where I grew up and, despite having left when I was 18, which is now nearly 30 years ago, it still feels like the family home, the place where we gather together when we can. Dad passed away a few years ago, but the house is full of memories of him. Looking around the old home, there are traces of all of us; gifts we gave each other, things brought back from holidays, family heirlooms, antiques, and things bought for pennies in junk shops. Each object has its own associations, memories of people and places and of particular moments in our shared histories. I’ve photographed a small fraction of them, taking them out of their usual environment of the windowsill or mantelpiece where they have become so familiar. I’ve enjoyed handling them, feeling the vibrations of their stories resonate again down through the years to the present moment. They still feel very alive and the memories they stir up so vivid and poignant.”
“So lovely to see the continuation of everyones amazing creative work over the past few Kick-Abouts… I have spent a lot of time inside these four walls lately, and I have brought the trees with me. The outside is so close to me here in both directions, even though I live in the centre of a city. It’s as if the walls no longer exist, except perhaps in winter, when the shutters are closed early and the fire is lit. Yet the wood of the shutters are my trees in winter and the wind is my music. It is already lit throughout now with sunshine as I write this, and I feel its true self. The outside is also the inside and I am the bird perched high on the hill, ready to fly off. Curiously the work I have been doing feels appropriate. I am inside the tree.”
“I found Gaston Bachelard’s words very inspiring – along with a recent chat with Phil G. I too wanted to capture that feeling of space feeling occupied, by showing the wondrous shedding of life of which lived-in spaces have an abundance – especially in the depths of where you don’t look. I live in an old Victorian house, and me being a hairy bastard I have so much copious scatterings of hair matted into carpets you could make a toupée. Pictured here are clumps of my hair, with the usual sprinklings of dust, dead skin cells and other oddities that life and space deposit”