“Having swam my way through sciatica, it seemed appropriate to channel that commitment into a Whirligig self-portrait. It is not quite pivoting smoothly on turning into the wind – so more engineering fun ahead yet, it was massive fun to make. Apology for the amateur film making!”
“I found myself with a bit of time for a 50 second whirligig video, made of junk I had, but not having touched Premiere or After Effects for years – and playing in Garage Band too… It was fun. Thank you very much! “
“I had no illusions I could construct an actual whirligig. But I figured I could do something that moved, with birds. As usual, not much like my original vague idea. And I had a very hard time finding a place to hang it where there wouldn’t be too much stuff in the background for a photo. As a result, the photos aren’t great, but they do give an idea of how it looks in motion. And now that it’s fan weather, it’s in motion much of the time.“
“Rowland Emett was a cartoonist and sculptor of automata. He created things that are whimsical, English and eccentric and which serve the purpose to raise a smile and be enjoyed (Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway Festival of Britain 1951). To me, his work is like a cross between early steampunk and Festival of Britain surrealism. I also wanted a theme to work around, and an illustration of the cross section of the (art nouveau/steampunk) Nautilus in a 1950’s Disney children’s book provided the theme. The first idea was to imagine a whirligig (generally a wind driven automata) for Captain Nemo’s garden. Unfortunately, he never made land and I am no mechanical engineer, but I did put one together and rough-tested it with white card model. However, a lot of time was spent in the processing and considering its movement, and I felt the fantasy and whimsical Emmet elements were getting a little lost, so in the late and last hour, to refresh, I returned to doodling and to the train idea. Times up and I have a beginning and some initial responses. It’s been another great Kick-About and provided a lot of material to mine….. plenty more left in this Kick-About to chase.“
“Developing some ideas first inspired by a previous bird-based Kick-About, I set about thinking about how I might release a bird into the rooms of my home and photograph it. Actually, I set about constructing a cardboard, bird-shaped whirligig that I could suspend along a length of white elastic, which I then sent twanging around the low-ceilings of our tiny seaside home and photographing on longish-exposures. From humble ad-hoc origins (I spray-painted the cardboard bird-thing with cans of old car paint from the shed, using our landfill wheelie bin as an impromptu spray booth…), I was able to produce some surprisingly transformative photographs. Some of them even left me thinking, ‘It’s an actual bloody bird!’. I did four different shoots over four different days – an hour-a-piece – and tried a few different things each time, with the resulting photographs moving quickly towards more impressionistic effects.”
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…”
“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.
I take Mr Mungkuri’s works to be about a sense of place, memory and stewardship of his country. I tried to evoke a similar sense of capturing memories and the way they integrate but change and blur.
“This image was an attempt at getting a kind of scratchy illustrative quality using the tools that I would typically use to make more polished CG work. I liked the somewhat otherworldly quality of the prompt, so this image, through trial and error, evolved into this big and mysterious organic-looking structure.”
“This work is stunning, so a huge thank you for bringing Peter Mungkuri into my world. To Australian Aboriginals, the land, and all who dwell in it, is sacred, interspersed by marks of great significance. Finding one of the nearest parallels here, I looked back at Medieval Catholicism, where people lived their belief system (sadly that didn’t stretch to the natural world) and pilgrimage was a part of that, so… the circlet of Rowan berries (symbol of the Tree of Life/ protection in Celtic lore) is a kind of ‘votive card’, a prompt on the journey; to remind us we are part of a greater whole (this is where we depart from established religion) where the Sacred truly lies. The woodland floor is ‘now’ – not a Pre-Raphaelite romance, but the reality of finding pharmaceuticals scattered among the beech maasts…”
Rowan circlet. Graphite and watercolour on paper. 6” X 6”
“Pills and Beech Maasts” Graphite on Gesso. 2’ X 4’ ( Diptych)
“I love Aboriginal Art and especially Peter Mungkuri. He paints such wonderful patterns, shapes and colours, which are indicative of his memories of his country. I also learnt he is passionate about teaching the younger generation about taking care of their homeland. Good on him! Whilst doing my research I came across a game the Aboriginies played using stones painted with symbols, with which they used to tell stories. I thought I would try doing a similar thing. Unfortunately, there seems to be a shortage of smooth round pebbles in my area and I spent more time looking for suitable stones than painting them! I tried to think of symbols young children would easily recognise and could turn into a story.”
“‘Monochromatic plant forms’ was the start for me in response to Mungkuri’s painting. I was curious to see how ‘slightly’ I could depict my subject matter, how stripped down, and then use some of the techniques from this previous Kick-About response to produce particular effects. I was also thinking about the direct image-making of producing cyanotypes and how you only get one shot, and how the immediacy of the process produces happy accidents and unpredictability. The resulting images combine drawing onto painted glass (or is it etching?) with long-exposure photography, and I was happy with the resulting mood of them; plant skeletons under moonlight?”
“This painter was a great inspiration, and I am sad not to have spent more time on it. Where I live I am gratefully surrounded by trees in the centre of a busy city. I feel their presence all the time, as I work at home. However, when I am out, the sensation of trees affected by light is what inspires me and gives me their stories. I was intrigued by the black and white of the images. Unusual for me to see Aborigine paintings in monochrome. So I have included 2 drawings in Black and White However I couldn’t resist including the tree outside my window that supplies me daily with stories in full colour, especially at this time of year.
“The layering of the different elements got me thinking about an idea from Claudia McGill that I had copied and saved which I recently found when sorting out files. She took a magazine and tore pages partially out to create a new layered collage-like image. I did not have any magazines with trees, but I have lots of surfing magazines I bought on eBay because they are full of images of sea and sky to use in collage. So I layered the ocean. My poem is a shadorma quadrille for dVerse, using the word provided by Linda, linger.”
weaving light waves that cross over in curved lines, waves that land inside the pause of the edge, waves that linger cusped–
a small piece of time, and yet it fills me up– I balance, holding on to tides synapsed between spells and signs
“I have been looking at some aboriginal art for some time and thinking about how to incorporate the shapes and tones into crochet, so this prompt was just what I needed to give it a go. This first attempt is very simplistic, but I enjoyed creating it, and will definitely return to this prompt in the future.”
“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 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.”
With its sepia tint, post-card proportions, and London landmark, this week’s prompt, Sheila Legge’s Phantom of Surrealism, might just as easily have surfaced as part of our previous Kick-About, inspired by the word souvenir – though, as holiday snaps go, this one could take some explaining. This week, Legge’s abstruse tableau has prompted paintings, collage, computer-generated landscapes, creative writing and some rather extraordinary headgear… Happy browsing!
“This prompt made me think of world conditions acting on Surrealists – where do movements come from – so my response is a meld of the flower head with environmental issues, and how I think the level of denial everyone has, to so many issues, comes into play.”
“Using the kind of desert backdrop that sets the stage of many surrealist paintings, I set out to create some of my own phantoms in the desert, and had a go at generating some suitably dreamy visions inspired by the motifs in the photograph.”
“When reading about Sheila Legge’s inspiration behind her walking real surrealist exhibition, and how she was so inspired by the paintings of Dalí, I decided to create some Dalí-esque dream-like landscapes, while paying homage to Legge’s faceful of flowers.”
“Taking Sheila Legge’s image and Kafka’s Gregor Samsa as equal parts inspiration, I arrived at this short story. There’s a bit of horticultural knowledge in there too, a thing about nasturtiums thriving in the poorest conditions, and likewise, the situation unfolding in Afghanistanfor women and girls.”
“I’m not sure if this is surrealism or the stuff of nightmares! I think, subconsciously, I was reflecting on the plight of women under the Taliban regime ,and on other women who are trying to break free from cruelty etc. Don’t ask me what the blue doughnuts symbolise – maybe hunger? Enjoyed doing this and definitely made me think and be thankful.”
“I was surprised to find this photo was taken as early as 1936. When I first saw it, it reminded me strongly of a 1950-60’s fashion shot. I have no references for this, it was just what came to mind. However, it got me thinking about fashion, face-coverings, Gertrude Shilling and Afghanistan’s women, and I started working on hyperbolic crocheted decoration for an old straw hat. However, while hyperbolic crochet makes amazing, wonderful shapes, the process itself can be tedious, and as I worked on it, my brain ran on to thinking about what had prompted Sheila Legge to create that image in the first place. What was she trying to convey? What was I trying to convey? The old straw hat was discarded, a new hat structure created, and as my hands worked on the hat, my brain worked on the process, resulting in the short poem below. The poem came after the hat, so it may make sense to read it after viewing the images. Or not at all. Up to you.”
It starts as a glimmer, little more than a glow, A smouldering fuse that might spark or no. But then it starts burning a hole through your brain, And scuppers your routines, sleep derailed like a train. Once it colours your vision and pounds in your ear, Ties you up in the passion, the self-doubt, the fear, And even your loved ones decide to steer clear – Then you’re in the grip of a Brilliant Idea! Maybe.
“Robert Benayoun suggested that while Surrealism exalted ‘la femme’, the Surrealists did not equally revere ‘les femmes’. The histories of female Surrealists have often remained buried under those of male Surrealists, who have gained wider public recognition. Well, Sheila Legge with her head covered, sums this up nicely, as does the Magritte painting surrounded by the above. Referencing their artwork and naming all the mainly, “forgotten” women, I felt went somewhere towards redressing the balance!”
René Magritte, I Do Not See the [Woman] Hidden in the Forest, 1929
Vanessa Clegg, Ink and watercolour over print, (2021)
“I had a lot of ideas for this, but only had time for one. Perhaps I’ll get to the others for some future collage. The statuesque quality was what stood out for me, and of course, I can never resist birds…”
phantasma goria exposed by shadows dissolving into borrowed wings eclipsed by casting out light
“So there’s a coincidence! Just when I was reading the short stories of Leonora Carrington, who met Max Ernst and became involved with the surrealists in 1937 at the age of 20, the Kick-About veered into the very same territory with Sheila Legge. All I have to offer the Kick-About today is the beginnings of a… something… featuring some bird-headed, flower-headed women. They will possibly eat one another. I may add colour if there’s anything left of them by tomorrow…”
With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, James Randall, our new prompt for our thirty-seventh run-around: Peter Mungkuri’s Punu Ngura (2019). Have fun and see you back here soon for another celebration of creativity, process and lateral-thinking. As ever, looking forward to it.
Last year, composer Andrew Fisher very kindly agreed to write the theme for my audiobook adaptation of my first children’s book, Chimera Book 1. Andrew nailed it first time out, taking all the inspiration he needed from artist Phil Cooper’s artwork, and delivering a wonderful mix of b-movie-meets-magic, all shimmer, Halloween chills and a pang of melancholy. A few months later, Andrew invited me on as his first guest on his all-new The Two Rivers Café podcast, where he challenged me to make a new short film on a given theme, to which he would then compose an original score. The theme I chose to work with was ‘wine’ – which was counter-intuitive considering wine doesn’t agree with me! You can listen to our conversation here and watch the film we made together below. Andrew will be talking to, and collaborating with, other creatives in subsequent episodes, and I’m looking forward to spending more time in The Two Rivers Café .
Wine Doesn’t Agree With Me (2021) Phil Gomm / Andrew Fisher
Our last Kick-About together was illuminated by Marie Menken’s experimental film, Lights. Made in 1966, the glow coming off Menken’s film is as much powered by a certain nostalgia for a particular time and place, as it is by electricity. Our attachment to artifacts of the past, and commitment to keeping and collecting moments-in-time, however fleeting, is explored in this week’s showcase of new work created by an eclectic community of creatives in the short space of two weeks. Enjoy.
“In 1959, my Mother took an emotional transatlantic flight from Vancouver to visit her folks in Bournemouth, whom she had not seen since 1951. On return, she brought home ‘memorable somethings’ for each of us four boys. At age seven I was thrilled with owning Sooty, hence today he is the most cherished of my possessions. My little 62 year old muse posed as part of ‘paintings of a morning’ achieved across the 31 days of August 2020, which mostly referenced local produce. This past week, this unassuming 20 x 20cm oil on board portrait was on exhibit in Whitstable’s The View Gallery, alongside 40 of my paintings.”
“Hmmm… Just one word, eh? “Souvenir”. First thought was of those plastic lighthouses from the Isle of Wight filled with bands of different coloured sand; or a “Kiss Me Quick” hat from Blackpool. (Don’t know why. I’ve never owned either of them.) Second thought was the original meaning of the word, “to occur to the mind”. And the third thought was… my little red tartan box! Never having been the sort of person to let one word stand where a few hundred words might happily swarm, I hope the following words and images impart to you something of what my little red box means to me.”
“This is via a friend who has a friend, who bought the watch back from China (obviously a while ago), so not my own souvenir but one I couldn’t resist! The star goes around, and I think the arm must wave on the hour… brilliant. ‘Keeping Time’, graphite and watercolour on paper.
“We recently had a wonderful day visiting the Queensland Art Gallery, which was showing a selection of master works from the Met. Great show. Halfway through it they offered a number of activities to clear away the visual overload, including a costumed life drawing station. I took the weight off my feet and did a quick sketch – my souvenir from the show. Since then I’ve been layering the sketch over some brightly recoloured charcoal layers. A bit of fun for me to do.”
“Here is my souvenir. A shell picked up on some holiday, turned into an etching a long time ago when I was studying under my maestro, now turned into a memento of another time, another place, another life…” Drypoint 15 x 12 cm.
“The prompt of souvenir seemed perfect: my daughter had given me a small sketchbook, and every day I sat on my beach chair with my feet in the waves doing a drawing, and then writing a haiku to accompany it. The sketchbook would be my souvenir.
On the last day the ocean was quite rough, due to Hurricane Henri passing by, so I sat far up on the sand, where only a small piece of a dying wave occasionally brushed my toes. Holding my sketchbook up to let the watercolor pencil drawing dry I was suddenly totally upended by a rogue wave that covered me completely. I stood up, soaked, clutching my pencils in one hand, but watching my sketchbook being pulled under and out to sea. I will replay that image in my mind for a long time, maybe forever. When I got home, I channeled my emotional turmoil into neocolors, drawing from memory the ocean that was now fixed in my mind. The sketchbook drawings were so much more beautiful though. At least that’s how I’ll always remember them.”
I could not look at it from be fore or aft er, only the angle of gone, dissolved, empty, vanishing–
not just the material thing that had been dispossessed, but what it represented– a piece of myself,
never to be recovered–and here I am left watching, clinging to impermanence like water and wind
“I mentioned before I am a bit if a hoarder, and therefore this prompt was rather a godsend to me. I have had some fabulous holidays but one of the most exciting was a trip to Arizona – the highlight being a trip to Tombstone. It was a fascinating place, and kept in it’s original state with a saloon bar, horse drawn carriages, and, of course, the OK Corral. It is said that ‘Death never took a holiday in Tombstone’ My souvenirs include copies of some old posters and a booklet listing the graves in Boothill Graveyard. The headstones include descriptions of how some residents met their demise, such as ‘Hanged by mistake,’ ‘Wagon rang over his head’ and ‘Discussion over fastest way to draw’. Life was tough in those days! Another treasured poster is an original photo of Geronimo and friends in the battlefield in 1886. The scenery of Arizona is breathtaking and I have attempted to paint the Chiracahua National Monument where Geronimo and his Apache band once found refuge.”
“I’ve got a number of scars on my forty-six year old body; the ubiquitous BCG crater on my arm, a hernia scar from when I was a tiny baby, a ‘hole’ between my eyebrows where I picked a chicken pox spot, and more recently acquired, a scattering of other facial scars following a particularly nasty attack of shingles back in the winter of 2015. You might call these dents and puckerings my ‘souvenirs’ of the wear-and-tear of just being alive.
One of my favourite scenes in Jaws (1975), is the sweet, funny moment when grizzled shark-hunter Quint compares war wounds with the more academic oceanographer and shark expert, Matt Hooper. The two men trade stories about the various different ways various different things have taken lumps out of their respective flesh, leaving them with anecdotes written into the surfaces of their bodies. Meanwhile, Chief Brody looks on, deciding against sharing his own battle scar, because, we suspect, his ‘souvenir ‘ is unlikely to impress. I know how Brody feels. With this in mind, I’ve imagined myself as being as colorful a character as Quint, and with just as many stories to tell about terrifying encounters and near-death experiences, and all of them leaving their mark on my body. These imaginary encounters derive from the spectacular dangers of my adolescent life, or rather from my formative confrontations with a host of larger-than-life fictional perils found in paperbacks and on VHS cassette tapes…”
“I don’t know about anyone else but I have felt a shift in the air with things starting to feel more autumnal. I may have been watching too many horror and slasher films, but for this prompt, my head went straight to the macabre…”
“Near to my place here in Japan is a lonely, tucked away and somewhat overgrown Buddhist temple. There are thousands of these all over the country and they are always filled with interesting statues, iconography, mementos and architecture that give us a glimpse and a reminder into the history of places and people. I braved the 32 degree sunshine and mosquitoes so that I could capture the moment of that place and perhaps in the future, look back and be reminded of hot and humid August afternoons somewhere far away from home.”
“Apart from my huge collection of pods I have brought back, or been given, from all over the world my inspiration for this Kick-About came from a specific experience that continually informs my work. I’ve spoken of it before in a previous KA. It’s that time of year again for the storms to transform the coastal dunes around the island of Isle D’Oleron. It will always mark that change for me between Summer and Autumn. So I am taken back to the dunes, and those battered fences that are twisted and turned by the raging sea.”
“I love the prompt for the Kick About this week. Ever since I can remember I’ve been excited by Christmas lights and decorations, things that only have one purpose and that’s to be lovely to look at. As a kid I yearned for Christmas as it was a time of the year when the beige colour palette of 70’s life was momentarily broken and you didn’t need any excuse to cover things in glitter and garishly-coloured baubles. Marie Menken’s film makes me quite wistful for those childhood Christmases. It’s summer and still sweltering here in Berlin, though, and Christmas trees feel a very long way off. So, for my response, I’ve filmed some Alder trees which overhang one of our favourite bathing lakes in the Grunewald forest to the south east of the city. In the late afternoon the sunlight is reflected off the rippling surface of the lake onto the undersides of the Alder leaves and the effect is like being in a giant green disco ball. It’s rather lovely, relaxing and cheering at the same time.”
“The theme of lights made me think of city lights and as I was enraptured with the Olympics I managed to find a wonderful photograph of the city of Tokyo. It’s so dazzling and vibrant I feel that you would need to wear sunglasses permanantly if you lived or worked there. I just love the contrast of the vivid reds and neon oranges against the blue of the skyscraper buildings. You can just imagine the crowds of onlookers gazing up in awe and wonderment. Not so sure what they would think of my Japanese lettering however!”
“There is something so emancipating about Menken’s experimental short film, Lights; it expresses a sort of child-like wonder in the way in which the camera transforms what it sees – municipal Christmas decorations into streaking discs of glowing colour and traffic into living electrified scribbles. You get a sense of Menken playing and exploring, embracing the ‘failure’ of the technology at her disposal to cope with light, time and motion, producing vibrant smears and patterns from otherwise rather ubiquitous components.
With this playfulness very much in mind, I tried something quick and dirty: painting a sheet of glass with black acrylic, before scratching parts of the painted surface away in the form of lines of irregular dots and dashes. Very simply, the painted sheet of glass was then positioned in front of windows, bright environments and television screens, and the surface of the glass photographed. Sometimes, during one exposure, I would push the focus from pin-prick sharp to diffuse, which had the satisfying effect of ‘spherizing’ the scratched patterns on the surface of the glass, producing the illusion of strings of lights or illuminated bubbles. I don’t mind admitting some of the resulting images had me laughing out loud with pleasure, so closely did they recall the aesthetic of mid-century avant-garde animations and the like. It gave me a secret squizz of pleasure too – the trick of it, the very fact of me not, in fact, photographing strings of fairy-lights or pastel-coloured Christmas baubles, or those long balloons out of which you might fashion a poodle: no, just a sheet of glass, painted black, with marks scratched into it using the end of a matchstick and a zester swiped from the kitchen drawer.
After that, there was no stopping me, and for days afterwards, I was lying on different floors around my house trying a bunch of different things with this same sheet of hurriedly painted glass. There have been moments over this last fortnight when I have been completely at peace creatively, just trying stuff out and worrying not at all about the other things a man of my age and responsibilities should probably be thinking about.”
“I wanted the capture the potential that experimental filmmakers like Marie Menken saw in the mediums of their era, and just make something that moved and tickled the senses, without being overly narrative driven or thematic. I’ve always been inspired by the directness of film, and the lack of control, so when using modern software, I try to look for ways of losing control to get the kind of happy accidents that occur when you use analogue formats.
The lights and camera effects in this animation were all generated semi-randomly so seeing the final visuals in this animation made me feel in the same way that Menken and her peers probably felt when they got their processed film back, and marveled at the bizarre and wonderful things they had captured. In the spirit of that, I named the animation after her.”
“This prompt was perfect for an idea I’ve wanted to try for awhile. I did a layered collage with a drawing and a map with circles cut out on top awhile ago, but I wanted to try it with two layers of pattern, and the lights were a good inspiration. It took me a while to figure out how to do the watercolor to get the effect I wanted, but finally I got two paintings I thought would work well as layers. I cut circles out of one of them, and made different arrangements of all 3 components–ground, cut circle painting, and the circles themselves. I’ve photographed both the original elements and some different layerings. I was pleased with the way it managed to evoke the flashing and moving lights of the film.”
“I See The Lights: I’ve been taking a lot of iPhone shots of light through windows landing on walls – through palm trees outside and through screens so I used those as a basis for this KA. Layered them in different colours then added some charcoal scribbles and a few shapes from previous Illustrator files. Not exactly cheery again – maybe therapy!”
Chris Rutter & Evelyn Bennett
“Evelyn is being ‘Guided by the Lights’ in her painting. I am noodling on ‘Always on your Mind’ by Elvis (today I bought a motorbike, which is the same as Elvis used in ‘Roustabout’). Evelyn was wearing a cowboy hat, as she was feeling Mexican. Alf Rutter did the filming. Loved the last Kick-About…”
“I did not know the work of Marie Menken so as often with the Kick- About, I have to do some research and to enter an unknown realm. It led me to wander round with my camera to my garden. It sent me back to childhood and watching the sparkle of sun through trees and fences near the cherry tree that supported my swing. I have tried to recreate this feeling by moving the camera in that lulling motion.’
“After watching Marie Menken’s ‘Lights’, I found myself walking around muttering ‘lights, lights, lights, lights’ over and over in a sort of chant. As I did, I became very aware of the number of lights, large and small, significant and insignificant, that fill our modern lives. This poem is my attempt to express that awareness.”
“These long exposure photographs were taken a while ago, situated in one of the turrets in our home and framed by its long theatrical curtains. One day I would like to try and make an animation out of these techniques and mimic Menken’s inspirational film more.”