After the first big hit of colour, the next most immediate thing I got from Rutenberg’s painting (the prompt for The Kick-About No. 32) was its three-dimensionality, that strong sense of folded planes and faceting, as if we’re stood on the floor of some Technicoloured canyon, staring off into the distance, or more precariously, standing with one foot on either side of a rainbowed crevasse, and looking down between our feet at the prismatic chasm below. This was a vista I could feel with my fingers and I found the desire to build some Low Dense-inspired ‘chunks’ irresistible.
Fabricated quickly by folding cardboard and taping it into shape, and reaching once again for some tried-and-tested PVA goop, I whipped up some ‘Ruten-Bergs’ and then painted them up in a manner meant to emulate some of the characteristics of the painting.
That done, I pushed my Ruten-Bergs together in different configurations and photographed them in various different ways, under various different lights, until I was achieving some suitably painterly effects. I tried it lots of different ways, including photographing the Ruten-Bergs through a sheet of glass also daubed brushstrokes. Not all the resulting images were ‘on brief’, but I found some of them interesting enough nonetheless. I’ll be sharing a few more examples and different iterations on here over the coming days.
Our previous Kick-About together was inspired by images of the human eye, resulting in an abundance of other-worldly imagery and one short story, in which an elderly man vanishes magically away in the middle of an art exhibition. The pioneering silhouette animations of Lotte Reiniger are likewise preoccupied with all things magical: magical lamps, magical slippers, and magical beings. This week’s showcase of artists’ work riffs on Reiniger’s unique aesthetic and narrative milieu. Happy browsing.
“I always enjoy looking beyond the silhouettes of Lotte Reiniger animations and into the exotic and intricate backgrounds that she made. I get a simple sensory pleasure from the illusion of depth that can be achieved in black and white, just using the basic principles of foreground, midground and background. Visualising big worlds is not something I am particularly good at, but as I started to develop these images, I couldn’t help imagine them as big structures in some vast desolate landscape, where few living things remain.“
“I live in Berlin, just round the corner from where Marlene Dietrich was born, and I’m a big fan of Lotte Reiniger and early German cinema. love the theatricality, the creativity and technical ingenuity that went in to making these animations, as well as the fairy tale subject matter.
A few years ago I was involved in creating some animation sequences and images for screen projection for a stage production of Hansel and Gretel. Lotte Reiniger’s 1955 film of the story, as well as earlier German expressionist cinema were certainly in the mix when I was making this work, and I thought it would fit the bill for the Kick-About prompt this week. I’ve included some images that were made to project onto a screen behind the performers during the scenes when Hansel and Gretel were lost in the forest.”
“When doing research for the Howard Sooley – Prospect Cottage prompt, I came across the inspiring work of Lotte Reiniger, and since then I have been busy cutting, glueing and making for a shadow puppet animated short entitled The Lighthouse Keeper, which centres around the peculiar landscape of Dungeness and a couple of burly blokes. Creating something for the sake of creating and figuring out the hurdles and bumps along the way is what is most enjoyable about delving into a fresh medium I have yet to attempt. The stage is now set, the characters are ready to move, the lights are on and with it, the sheer joy of seeing the cut-out shapes and silhouettes lit up, ablaze. Moving from behind the messy, makeshift backstage to the front brought the biggest smile to my face, which makes the absolute bomb site of my shrinking bedroom all worth it! I am sharing the majority of the cut-out shapes, the stage and silhouettes that will feature in the film, as well as some lighting and staging tests with the main protagonist – while I wait for the delivery for the all important light source before the real fun begins.”
“I realized immediately I had seen Lotte Reiniger’s work before. It did not surprise me to hear Reiniger say, ‘I could cut out silhouettes almost as soon as I could manage to hold a pair of scissors’. Her work is, yes, ‘astonishing’. Me? I never had that dexterity, not even when young. I also don’t work in film, which was Reiniger’s medium. So how to respond to this prompt? I was going to work with simple bird silhouettes, but was unhappy with the ones I made myself. Once again, I had constructed a 3-D collage environment with cardboard pieces inside a paper bag. I decided to use photos of bird silhouettes, and hang them from strings at the top so they would move. I used circles to enclose the bird forms so I could put different photos on each side–the images would change when the dangling circles turned. Using the ceiling fan to create more movement, I began to take photos.”
that song that your words called into my mind, that song is like a lost world, just images in fragments, suspended like a raincloud without rain, a weight that refuses to dissipate–I can almost feel the memory but it won’t land, it keeps circling through the things that aren’t quite there–like a bird call I can’t locate, disembodied wings hovering invisible inside my head
“Lotte Reiniger’s beautiful silhouette works appeared to largely focus on fairy tales, so I wanted to come at it from a different angle. Taking inspiration from something short, like a poem, I delved into some of my childhood books and lit upon Edward Lear’s ‘Complete Nonsense.’ With my poem selected I created the scene with some coloured paper, and rigged up my phone for stop frame-animation. This was quite the challenge without a proper lighting set up, or the ability to ‘onion-skin’ my images, so there are some interesting colour variations caused by cloud cover and some rather choppy movements. But perhaps that adds to the charm of the ‘Young Lady of Portugal’! (Or perhaps I need some more practice and MANY more inbetweens!).”
“Silhouettes have been around for many years and I know that they are very tricky to work convincingly. Lotte Reiniger must have been a very clever mistress of this craft and way ahead of her time. I decided to do some cut work on the facade of a decorative little theatre and inside put a small montage – since my animation skills are nil and it uses up some of my mountain of collage papers! I’m not sure if The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear is still as well known as it was in my schooldays, but its entertaining characters are great for paper modeling, plus the tiny details of jars of honey, runcible spoons etc. So now all that’s left to do is settle back and sing along – ‘The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat…'”
“I loved these early animations. So full of energy and passion. I remember the fascination I felt as a child when adults amused me by making rabbits with their hands on the walls when the sun was out, and in the evenings with little table lights. I love watching moving shadows, and when I was in Mexico there were always shadows, as there never seemed to be a day without sun. A little different here in the past two weeks, so here are a few snatched mages and sounds of PLACE. Guess the Mexican one!”
“Thank you, Graeme, for the inspiring venture into action. Months have passed without life drawing so, the recreation ground provided observation of the figure in motion. This playful solitary kick-about prompted a series of sketches, which later, shifted to paint in the studio. Perhaps a bit of Lowry, if I may indulge myself. The second motion-based work is a spin off from the online RA Saturday Sketch Club which thankfully James Randall introduced me too, I’ve added in the mask which dates the work.” Oil on prepared paper 24 x 65 cm.
“There is an apartment block just across the road from ours – floor to ceiling glass – a very Rear Window stage. Nice simple shapes too. And a jumping off point for fantasy and metaphor.”
“I remember the first time I watched Reiniger’s Cinderella, thrilling at the moment when we see the ugly sister cut off her own toes in order to make the glass slipper fit her foot – a reminder that fairy stories, as written originally, were hardly short on violence and darkness.Take that Walt Disney, with all your syrup!Inspired by folk-tales, and by those who live in the shadows,I’ve written my own fairy story for the Kick-About, crammed with impossible things presented as commonplace, thought probably not anyone’s idea of a bedtime story…’
With thanks to kick-abouter, Phill Hosking (who has just recently started this new blog), we have, as our new prompt, a 2010 oil painting by American artist, Brian Rutenberg, Low Dense, which is just a little over four metres wide! What a welcome kick of mouthwatering colour. Have fun.
The Kick-About No. 29 was inspired by Murakami’s description of the all-seeing moon, and this, our latest creative shindig together, has been prompted by an image of the human eye no less planetary…
“In eyeing things up, this KA drew my attention to the bees snuggling into, and reversing out of the foxgloves so, being nosey I had a peak, and discovered a tunnel of pure exotic joy with bright saturated light (optic disc) at the end of the tunnel. Taking a closer look meant later on recalling sensations, avoiding loyalty to the order of nature’s design, to arrive at – maybe the same for the bee (how presumptuous) – memory of that which came to me as a rush.” Oil on prepared paper 25cm x 25cm.
“Dear Charly Skilling – thank you for your beautiful moon submission – enormous hugs to you and your beloved. Unfortunately I didn’t read it until after bouncing out of the kick-about gates – it would have changed my direction by 180 degrees.
The fundus spiralled me through cyclops thoughts – not wanting to approach the glaucoma too closely. I added some Royal Academy on-line life drawing, a Tasmanian beach and sky, some sea birds from Byron Bay then decided it was to be all about emotion rather than narrative and substituted the cyclops for the falling upside-down life model to get to my pic. During this process I gazed longingly at our washing machine as I removed another load and noticed the similarity between the fundus image and the inside of the machine and took a series of photos with my head and camera wedged there – the obvious ones made sense thematically but I only really like the attached blurry detail.“
“I guess the first thing to establish is no actual eyes were harmed in the making of these images! I should say too, no actual eyes were photographed either. In common with these recent images, I looked to various commonplace things at my disposal and once again channelled my inner low-budget film-maker. I won’t reveal my secrets just yet, but suffice to say there is now a shortage of red food colouring and olive oil in our kitchen. I don’t think I will ever tire of the ‘in-camera’ transformations produced by light, specularity and depth-of-field, the magic that sometimes happens between the subject and the lens. I was inspired by images of cataracts and ‘damage’ to the eye (and I think, more gruesomely, by A Clockwork Orange too). This set of resulting images is but a small sample, as I did a bunch of different things over three different days. From these very biological-seeming images, things became more painterly and strange, so I’ll be sharing some more ‘fundus photography’ in the coming days. I’ve certainly been having some fun.’
“For these images I essentially constructed a mass of veins and vessels and trawled through dozens of randomly generated variations looking for the perfect image akin to how a photographer searches for the image of a perfect snowflake amongst hundreds of failures. I somehow managed to generate the aesthetic that I had in my mind after the first attempt, but beyond that lucky first hit I spent a considerable amount of time just staring at blurry orange images, only occasionally getting a glimpse of the things that had initially made me so excited. In a somewhat scientific manner, and after many experiments and further failures, I was able to come up with the formula and methodology that yielded more productive results. Thus was I finally able to reveal the secrets of ‘the eye‘.”
“I thought I would do a collage pattern of eye shapes, and began by sketching the outlines. As I did this a fantastic SF story came into my mind entitled ‘Dark They Were, and Golden Wyed’ written by Ray Bradbury. So I ended up with “Martian Eyes” which was fun to do. The background is a wax/wash and I used a combination of paper and material scraps.”
“The prompt this week sparked all kinds of thoughts, feelings and associations for me. I’m a visual artist, so the workings of the eye, and the connections between the eyes and the brain are pretty darn important, Artists have been exploring how we see things for a long time, not just how they record visual information, but how they can also play tricks, and see what is not there.
For example, before I get a migraine attack, I sometimes get visual disturbances, like veils of glowing zig-zag patterns that drift into my vision from the periphery of my sight until the cover everything. It was terrifying when it first happened, I thought I was having some sort of brain haemorrhage. And there are certain substances that can produce dramatic hallucinations that are totally convincing, but are created entirely by our minds, but the eye can see them.
I went to see an exhibition recently by Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist who has suffered visual hallucinations most of her life. Early on, she decided to include them in her art and they have become a signature of her work. Kusama has spoken about her wish to create work that conveys her desire to melt into everything, to dissolve and become one with the universe. Her mirrored rooms, or ‘infinity rooms’ as they’re called are particularly effective.
I’ve written a short story about a rather grumpy old man and his family who went to see the Kusama show. He’s a very imperfect man, but not all bad, like most of us, I suppose.”
“Whenever I see one of these retinal photographs, it makes me think of alien skies. Not that I know much about alien skies, except as depicted on the covers of sci-fi paperbacks or in Hollywood’s representations. So I decided to create my own “alien sky” with sharpies and alcohol on ceramic tile. While I was playing, I got to thinking about ‘Ingenuity’, the little drone helicopter NASA is using to map the terrain of Mars. Here are the results.”
“I just really wanted to do some digital drawing, I haven’t done much of it lately and I miss how relaxing it is to put some jazz music on, get in the flow and let the lines go where they may. Picturing different landscapes centred around the fundus photograph, a sprawling metropolis materialised, with vivacious characters and stories between them, feeling so close but far away.”
“I know this orange orb from personal experience. It unnerves me and intrigues me at the same time. A tricky subject for me from a very early age. I became a pirate at 4 with a constant patch over one eye that made my ‘lazy’ eye do a bit more work. Why am I lazy? I queried. Banned from games requiring throwing a ball. I saw two and had no idea which one to catch. At 8, I started putting lions in cages. I hate zoos. Terrified of balls coming towards me. Fascinated by cages and getting out of them. Set caged birds free.”
“Ah, the joy of that tiny piece of plastic. The contact lens! Free at last to see clearly, use make-up, change hair styles, join the world. My eyes did not agree and rebelled years later, after I had often rammed them back in my eyes with grit and detritus just licked off, as there was nowhere to rinse them up mountains in deserts. The dreaded Orange orb showed a bump that was dangerously close to detaching the retina of my right eye. The bump caused a sentence to dip in the middle on the screen or whilst reading a book. Back to wearing glasses despite trials with soft lenses and many a red eye, and now spiders appearing across my eyes! Back in my cage.”
“So why this lengthy preamble? It could have been much worse. I am obsessed with fencing and seeing through. The lion is sleeping, He has left the cage. The cage has transformed naturally.”
“Watching dancers and working for 25 years to understand the body in movement through the Feldenkrais method (Awareness through movement), I understand and feel the natural combination of the spiral of movement from the eye to the feet. It reminds me of twisted fencing that often crops up in my work and connects me to the natural world to which we all belong.”
“Having googled what fundus photography actually was, I realised I was vaguely familiar, as a long-time glasses wearer. Needless to say I was drawn to visually representing my experiences. My most prevalent memory (since I was about 5 years old) is of the ‘balloon machine.’ A standard test in most eye examinations: the grainy image of a distant hot air balloon against a blue sky, blurring and refocusing, is a distinct childhood memory. Plus, the unique set of noises the machine would emit as it altered the focus. It sounded a lot like an antiquated printer. Going beyond the physical tests I’m fairly familiar with, I looked into more metaphorical representations. Fundus photographs show networks of blood vessels. Leading me to networks of nerves, images being processed and the like. So I envisioned snap shots transitioning from one to the next with the blink of an eye!”
“I loved Howard Sooley’s film. It is beautifully peaceful. My image, a single one this time, is simply a rendition of Prospect Cottage, with the garden made even more minimalist, save for a few small creatures dotted about. This little exercise was a useful one for me, in that I was consciously dampening down my rather over-excitable palette, and also practising the careful placement of a few elements in a pared back landscape.”
“I met Derek Jarman in about 1991 when we were both involved in a direct action group called Outrage that was campaigning for equal rights for LGBT people. He was every bit as wonderful and brilliant as you’d imagine. He was just great to be around and has remained one of my great heroes and inspirations ever since.
I came across this film by Howard Sooley a couple of years ago and I thought it would make a interesting prompt for the Kick-About, as it includes such a wide variety of potential jumping off points, as well as just being beautiful to watch. The prompt has given me a good excuse to re-read Modern Nature over the past few days, my favourite of Derek Jarman’s books. The writing includes passages about so many things; his film work, painting, sex life, reminiscences about his childhood, politics, friends, but the garden he was creating at Prospect Cottage twines around everything and binds it together. The book always keeps coming back to the garden. It’s a telling indication of his character that, after being diagnosed with, what was then, a terminal illness, he responded by moving to a wild scrap of land next to a nuclear power station and started to create a garden.
I’ve used a passage from another of his books, At Your Own Risk, to make this little film for the Kick-About. I find the words very moving and full of humanity and also capture something of his essence. His was a life well-lived and he left so much to us after he’d gone.”
“For this prompt I have some photos of things I collected while travelling and objects given by friends and family. I gather them in corners or containers around the house. They are snapshots of memories surrounding us and making our home.”
“Unfortunately, because of living out in the urban sprawl in distant lands far from home, wonderfully empty and bleak places like Dungeness are something of a distant memory. These days, the mention of Dungeness conjures up images of post-apocalyptic landscapes dotted with historical relics, and the windswept houses of but a few lone survivors, but my younger self would have perhaps rolled his eyes at idea of yet another school trip or BTEC National Diploma outing to good old Dungeness to wander around on a quiet beach for two hours without any ice-cream or fish and chips, and no way to escape until herded back onto the chartered coach.
Nowadays, I feel like it would probably be very entertaining to be sat on a beach, look out to the horizon, and not really see anything or anyone, and just watch the time pass. So here is a little graphical ode to doing nothing, from the view of my own cottage on a shingle beach somewhere.”
“When viewing Howard Sooley’s Prospect Cottage, I was instantly drawn to the opening images of the lighthouse and the water, the way those clips moved – like pixilation animation. I wanted to create a moving story using older methods revolving around the landscape of Dungeness and all its quirky unique characteristics, I also just really wanted to make something with my hands. I have fashioned a shadow puppet theatre out of old cardboard, a large picture-less frame and some grease proof paper so that I can bring to life cuttings of the characters and all the little things that make Dungeness so intriguing. While I don’t have the film to show just yet, I do have the storyboard.”
“When I saw these images of Derek Jarman’s garden, I was struck by two quite separate, powerful memories.
The first was of some photographic images by Jan Groszer that I saw in an exhibition a few years back. Jan had captured images of the “industrial heritage” of the Kent coast (i.e. the large chunks of metal and machinery left behind when industry moved on.). Those images conveyed a sense of solitary resilience, a determination to “be” whether men had need of them or not, a life which continued with or without human intervention. That same “resilience” is evident in the planting and “furniture” of the garden at Prospect Cottage.
The second memory was of my childhood. Every year, there was an Arts Festival in the town, and my mother insisted all of us kids (there were 5 of us) participated in everything: – we drew pictures, wrote stories, recited verse, did bible-readings, sang songs, and played piano – with varying degrees of skill and success. All part of the cultural upbringing of middle-class children in the Home Counties during the 1950’s. However, one category I loved was the “Miniature Gardens” competition. I still don’t really understand how it fitted in with the rest, but it was a favourite. I would use a little wooden seed tray, line it with newspaper, then fill it with dirt from the garden, or sand. Then a small mirror to create a pond; moss (for grass); a few of mother’s rather scrawny cacti, or some miniature plants from the garden (sedums, saxifrages, thyme, I think, though I had no idea what they were then) and – Voila! A miniature garden. Of course, if I could get my hands on an Airfix model hut or shed from one of the boys’ model railways (with or without their knowledge), my miniature garden would reach even greater levels of sophistication. The odd drop of water to try and keep everything alive – or at least looking that way – and then, a few days later, after ‘Adjudication’, it would all be dismantled, and anything that could be salvaged was returned to its pot or flowerbed (or model railway).
These are the memories that come flooding back when I look at Prospect Cottage and its garden. There is a randomness in the arrangements, the shingle and plant varieties are so in proportion to each other, they could be scaled up or down easily. And the house itself – well, it really does look quite a lot like an Airfix model.
So here is my miniature ‘Dungeness Garden’. It does not have a model hut, but it does have a bit of “industrial heritage” . It will not be dismantled in a few days, but it may not be completely sustainable in its present form. Think of it as a work in progress – as all gardens are.”
“Thinking of Derek Jarman’s film, ‘The Garden’ and the way he experimented with his medium… so, a small reference to this in the use of the lens from from my old Pentax, using it to tint a shot of my allotment as well as being inspired by his use of black and notebooks… all in the mix.” Notebook with Angelica and Lavender seeds.
“I rather wish I’d been passing by at Prospect Cottage in ’91, when the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence had enthroned Jarman and were acting out his Canonization, as a single sea shell collected would have found itself now enshrined. With some guilt I confess having a few cherished shells from around the world, and yes it feels wrong. Thankfully, times have changed, as countries forbid removal of all that is natural, so here’s a tribute to days gone by.” Oil on prepared paper 25cm x 25cm.
“Memories were sparked by seeing the icon in that interior view of Derek Jarman’s cottage. Derek came to give us a crit on our stage designs for Woyzeck (the play) back in 1981, at the time Caravaggio was formulating, and he was living a wonderful life in Berlin. Aids was about to change lives. He spotted my design for Boris Godunov that was much more interesting to him as I was using the icons in a filmic way and his love of Opera and Russian icons was pertinent. What an inspiring man and how lucky I was to have met him. I moved to Bristol the year he died in 1994. I am still meaning to visit his garden! So taking plants from my garden almost as actors on a stage seems relevant in some way…I had no perception before that that was in my head at the time?
Inspired by Woyzeck, where this ordinary foot soldier is treated as canon fodder and disposable. He is fed a diet of peas to see how he responded. Peas were the first food to be genetically modified. The three graces has a long history to me of the treatment of woman from cradle to grave and preservation of beauty through products. Natural ageing is like a dance and beautiful at every stage. A garden is forever in this cycle of seasons and state of change. When the first Lock-down happened in 2020, I started exploring the idea of these plant portraits painted like an icon with egg and earth.“
“In my own garden, a complete contrast to Prospect Cottage, two enormous sycamore trees rule and I look at it from the top of a hill. A woodland garden in Spring and Winter. A desert often in Summer and Autumn. Everything depends on the growing roots of the trees beneath my feet let alone the raging winds from the West mainly. I talk to my garden. The paths and rocks from the walls tell me when and where the roots are moving underneath them. As time progresses they will start to lift everything up and displace it. These snippets are the beginnings of that process in my mind.”
“Inspired by Howard Sooley’s meditative film on Jarman’s Prospect Cottage, my short stills-based film began with a simple enough observation: living by the sea as we do, we have the obligatory wooden bowl piled high with pebbles collected from the beach. Most of the pebbles date from when we first moved to the coast and each of them, at one time or another, must have been considered special enough to pick up and take home. Looking at them now, it is difficult to recall their unique characteristics or defining features; they appear largely similar, give or take. As a child, I once decided to varnish some pebbles I’d taken from some other beach, in this way keeping them as colourful and bright as when I first plucked them from the shoreline. Anyway, something about the inevitability of pebbles losing their lustre – or rather, keeping secrets of their vibrancy – felt meaningful in storytelling terms and I set myself the challenge of committing an idea to film.”
“Such a lovely prompt! I searched out an old canvas I had tucked in a cupboard for many years and started stitching straight away. I know the style of embroidery is very kitch and chocolate box – but wouldn’t you love a dream cottage like that? I also grabbed my watercolours and enjoyed splodging an imaginary summer’s garden – as I gaze out of the window at the hail stones falling…
My memories take me back to when I was about 7 or 8. I suffered badly from what I now know to be dust or mould allergies. The doctor told my parents to move somewhere with “good country air”. So we did. We moved to a small town in Buckinghamshire and into a newly built bungalow situated on top of a hill, surrounded by fields and woods. It was wonderful and my nasal problems disappeared like magic. There was a lot to do, as the house was literally an undecorated structure, and the garden just part of the field fenced off. My sister and I had to help gather as many stones and flints as possible so my dad could put down concrete paths, and gradually the garden began to take shape. However, my father had grand plans for a wall to divide the front and back. Money being quite tight we couldn’t afford the fancy decorative bricks he wanted – so he made them! He found an advert for this metal brick shaped gadget, which you filled with special cement, and when you tipped it out – hey presto, a raised pattern brick emerged! It was a lovely hot summer and I well remember rows of homemade bricks drying out. The wall my father built with them was a real triumph and people would often stop and ask how he did it!
I went to see the old bungalow recently and was sad to see it is in a bad and sorry state. The grass sways in the breeze and our once beautiful garden looks sadly neglected and unloved to say the least. However, still standing proudly amongst the weeds is my father’s wall. Happy days!”
“In my mind the Prospect Cottage prompt intersected with the Otherworld of Brendan’s earthweal prompt and then merged with my shells, collected over years of visits to the ocean. The shore is where I lose myself and meet “Not Here” and Prospect Cottage felt like it was a portal into that suspension of the normal framing of time and space. “Like landing on the moon,” as the narrator said. Most of my shells are still in storage, but I’ve carried some weathered whelks along with each move I’ve made, both to look at and draw. The spirals sing, and bring the sea to me. I drew three of them from different angles on the same page–first pencil, then colored pencil, then with a brush in gouache. I decided to add grounds. It’s not always easy to tell when you’ve gone too far, but I think I definitely did so with the colored pencils. I may take an eraser to the ground to fade it so the shells don’t get so lost. I was trying to capture the garden of Prospect Cottage. The pencil drawing was impossible to photograph well, but I like the weathered effect. I wrote words around and connecting the shells, which you can see better in the close up. These are quotes from the video, interspersed with my own observations. This one has exactly the feeling I wanted, of secret messages, indecipherable voices on the wind.The painted shells – it felt so good to get my gouache out of storage and paint with it again! – captures the colors I was feeling from both prompts–a sense both of otherness and belonging, of being just exactly in the right place without time.”
I can almost hear them echoed on repeat through my bones spiralled gifts collected in the overlap of landsea the fluid movement that follows after what hasn’t happened yet cleansing
sheer sound waves etched in side winds calling I can see them sometimes—doubled visions currents vibrating against a blurred sky gyring like the shadow of a raptor glimpsed briefly between the singing of reflected light sailed whole
“I’m afraid I didn’t riff off the beautiful, yet vulnerable Jarman garden – I’m sure others will springboard off that nuclear backdrop. I just ran with ‘garden’.
We have just moved to Brisbane after 10 years in the Sydney suburb of Earlwood. I wasn’t going to raid the garden for cuttings before I left, but at the last minute I ended up with about fifty tube stock sized treasures that I will try to keep alive while we wait the seven months to get access to our permanent home in Brisbane. So this vegetation arc is my garden: I took a series of close-up, blurry detail photos of these cuttings to start with. I couldn’t help but think about what I had left behind as a garden in Sydney, and why I had planted what and where, and what I had learnt. I wrote a sentence or two for four photos and layered the text onto each photo. I drifted off thinking about how impermanent the old garden was (the new Earlwood owners have a dog that I am sure will change the landscape very quickly). I partially erased the text over the images and blurred it to reflect evolution and the loss of meaning to our actions. I also put a layer of mezzotint texture on top to push back the reality of the image further. Later, I thought the text could be fractured and moved about, but only a single word in each image. I used the common name of the plant featured in each image and chopped it up in Illustrator, moving around the pieces and changing the resulting shapes. Then I added these words back into the layered Photoshop composition. But I thought if what I had done in the garden was of such a transient nature, then why include the photos in the Kick-About? I concentrated on combining the morphed letter forms of the four words in a single Illustrator composition. That’s where I ended up – with a single image.”
‘I’ve only visited Dungeness a couple of times, one being a college day trip to draw and paint back in my foundation year. I remember that day, and the other worldly feel of the place so well. In the spirit of that trip 29 years ago I’ve gone proper rough and observational here, wish I could have found my drawings from back then, I looked everywhere. I’m definitely taking myself back there this summer to do some plein air sketching…”
There are a number of things I miss about my previous role working in higher education – and many things I do not.
One of the things I miss most about those days was my day-to-day proximity to other creatives, to their respective projects, and to their conversations about them. An average day would see dozens of discussions about storytelling, art direction, materials, research, conceptualisation, producton design, visual representation and promotion. Manifesting ‘something from nothing’ was always the business of the day, as we all worked together to get an idea ‘from script to screen’ or from 2D into 3D, from a dream of a thing to the thing itself. I know now how luxurious my old job was. Actually, I knew it then and never once took it for granted. It was life-affirming to be in the company of people who could first see things in their mind, and then develop those images into concrete, substantive outcomes – an act of magic and an act of faith.
Hardly surprising then I might have wanted some of that back, to work again with a diverse community of artists, to give a fair whack of my time and energy to making a space in which more of those conversations could take place. So it was I had the idea for The Kick-About, a blog-based creative challenge, in which creatives of all kinds were given the chance to make some new work in response to a fortnightly prompt – myself included. One year later, and we’ve just published Edition 26 of The Kick-About, a gathering together of participants’ favourite submissions, and one thing is clear: there is power in community, not least because the expectation of an audience for new work is an effective means of seeing off procrastination and preciousness by encouraging decisiveness and utility. There is creative freedom too in ‘short sharp snaps’ of creative activity, that ability to start something up and then close it down in a succinct period of time.
Speaking personally, I’ve found The Kick-About to be a hugely satisfying experience, and after a decade-or-more of very happily giving my best ideas away to other people, it’s been reassuring and exciting to discover there are still more ideas where all those others came from. I’ve loved the problem-solving aspect of the fortnightly prompts – resolving cogent, authentic responses to the various prompts in lots of different ways. You might also call it ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ – and yes, it’s been fun.
Gathered here are all my Kick-About responses, digital artworks, sculptures, photographs, shorts films and short stories, and collaborations with other artists. Agreed, it makes for an eclectic ensemble, but I’m reminded – happily – of being nineteen years old and studying my Art Foundation course, which was all about trying and doing everything and not worrying about what it was all for, or what you were going to do with it, or what you were going to do next.
So yes, I do feel younger for running around with my fellow kick-abouters, and if not quite nineteen, then not far off. I just want to say a very real and heartfelt thank you to everyone in the Kick-About community, whether you’ve played once, or always. Your company and creativity is, and has been, restorative, and I’m very much looking forward to doing it all again with Kick-About No.27. Onwards!
Welcome to this first anniversary edition of The Kick-About, a fortnightly blog-based creative challenge in which artists of all stripes come together to present work in response to a given prompt. I asked contributors to choose a favourite work of their own from the previous twenty-five editions so I could celebrate them all together here.
I just want to say a personal note of thanks to everyone who takes part. Producing new ideas and new work in under a fortnight brings with it its own challenges, insecurities and pressures, but if you’re anything like me, you will have enjoyed the otherwise simple satisfaction of making work, getting it done, expressing your creativity, and sharing it with a supportive community. Some of you have thanked me for hosting the Kick-About, and some of you have even worried about the work and time I may be giving it; rest assured, this is the work I like to do and I’m very happy to do it.
Thanks to everyone who has taken part this last year, and I’m very much hoping we can continue to combine our efforts as productively and imaginatively in the coming weeks. Now, just look at what you did…
“Thanks for the Kick-About. For some of us, making art is as natural as breathing, and sometimes almost as necessary to life. During a dark time in history, thanks for stimulating art prompts among creative friends, unfettered by constraints, rules or judgement. Freedom to make in any direction. It’s been a joy. And since you want one favourite, I’m selecting those Bird Ladies from Kick-About No.2. And I hope they sort themselves out soon and send that bureaucratic penguin back to Antarctica.”
“I’ve not been as involved as others in the bi-weekly Kick-About posts, but I’ve seriously enjoyed the challenge of completely unexpected briefs. I’ve chosen to include my piece ‘Orpheus’ this week. This one stood out to me for several reasons, partly because it allowed me to flex my digital painting muscles again, something I’d neglected for a while. Also it was a powerful story that instantly brought up images, compositions and drama. That narrative aspect is something I often neglect in my personal work. This was the challenge, like I had to capture the story, as if on the front cover of book. Our hero enters the underworld, ‘hell’ bent on saving his wife ‘Eurydice’ from the clutches of the dark forces below. Everything a digital painter wants in an image.”
“Selecting KA9 is easy, as it reminds me of how important instinct is within process, as well the time span of sitting across 4 hours 40 minutes to complete a process. I trusted my responses to the music, invited in chance, kept the demon of doubt outside the door, and I enjoyed colour as an adventure. KA9 felt like a pure creative experience and it beckons me on to do more. The community of KA has been totally enriching and so rewarding.”
“Kick-About No.1 was a cathartic experience as I’m often caught up on details and reasoning. And those hang-ups can sometimes paralyse my creativity. I realise now, sometimes it’s just a simple premise, and it’s dumb fun and exploration that’s needed. And I definitely found joy and a small sense of achievement in that process!”
“Weirdly enough I’ve chosen this..a tough call but although I loved putting together the installations I only record them as 6” X 4” photos, which are then put into a KA book as a record. However, I do have my drawings, so could take a better photo, as they’re bigger! I chose this as it WAS tedious in its repetitive way, but after a while it became a form of meditation, and I was happy with the outcome, which is rare. Actually I could have chosen any as far as enjoying the process goes, so onwards to the next…” Graphite on Fabriano.
“An epic and bi-sectioned electronic piece telling the story of the cicada life from a more dark point of view. Beware – the first four minutes are much quieter than the last two. Good speakers or headphones are recommended.”
“The Kick About has brought me to places I’ve never dreamed of going. I’ve dipped my toes into mediums, styles and parts of myself that have otherwise been sealed off. I have learned to find magic in the mundane, while learning a great deal about films, authors, and artists, from the many prompts we have created together. I always feel inspired to see what you all have created every fortnight, so for that I am thankful to all you fellow kick-abouters for your words and creations.
In saying that, it is difficult to choose a favourite, as they all have been a joy to see flourish. One Kick-About does come to mind and that is No. 22, which was the art, life and times of the Austrian painter, Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, and with it the Pools film. The reason why it is my favourite is because of the way it came to be and the journey it took to get it to that state. I wasn’t seeking this film out. I wasn’t trying to capture anything like it, I didn’t even know this place existed. I was merely bouncing around the innards of the forestry one bitter cold winter morning when a dumping of snow was beginning to melt, and where I set out to capture the extrusion of thick snow rimmed treetops. I found all that, but I also found this film – in a trench of shallow, glistening water.
Making Poolswas a creative journey, and I’m thankful it happened in such an organic way: from finding the place and deciding to film it, to viewing the resulting footage as flawed, while still being preoccupied by it, to the Kick-About prompt providing the perfect opportunity to salvage the film into something I’m proud of.
It was a pure delve into the unknown to make something just for the sake of it, not knowing how the outcome would look but just enjoying the whole process of making this thing. I think, in its essence, that is what is so great about The Kick About and why I love being a part of it with you all.”
“At the time of the making of my Metropolis images for The Kick-About #2 I had been living in the same apartment for over three years, and for some reason had never really taken the time to explore the surrounding area with the eye of a photographer or an artist, mostly because it all just seemed very boxy and residential in a way that I have become totally accustomed to seeing every day.
However, with a lot of free time and a phone-camera in hand, I thought that surely the true mundaneness of a real metropolis could be made into something interesting somehow. After fiddling with some images, I ended up with some quite authentic looking silent film production set photos which of course really reminded me of that other Metropolis. I think they even capture the unusual atmosphere and uncertainty of the time they were created.”
“I choose this one because I managed to capture a very personal sense of nostalgia, which is something that I had been trying to crack for a while. Also, it was the first time I had been motivated to break out the paints for over a year, which is a long time, especially when I had been making work every day. It highlighted to me that I need to stronger with myself as a creative and have the fortitude to keep pushing through various blocks and it did herald a period of increased productivity. Also, it is one of the artier of my submissions…”
“The Kick-About #6 is still one of my favourite prompts, and one of the most meaningful series of paintings I have done in the last few years. It represents the beginning of a new creative journey for me, a new painting style, and, at the same time, it encompasses much of my life and experiences. For this “anniversary” I picked just one of the four, my favourite, and the first one I painted. It was originally inspired by a photograph of the Canadian winter landscape by Evelin Berg and, as I mentioned, were partly concept paintings for a short animation I haven’t finished yet. The journey, the film, the story….all still ongoing.” Ink on watercolour paper, 240x680cm.
“I have learnt so much over the last year from participating in The Kick-About, and enjoyed so many different aspects, that I found it really difficult to pick a ‘favourite’. Some pieces have stretched me technically, some have taken me into totally unfamiliar territory, some have felt satisfactorily “complete”. But one submission made me smile when it first occurred to me, smile as I worked on it, and smile even now when I read it back. I can’t think of a better reason for re-visiting it, so my ‘Favourite Kick-About’ is Field Guide to Getting Lost and The Ballad of Ethel and Hilda’.
“It’s the Five Canons of Rhetoric! I’ve chosen this one as it made me really think about my work and its origins and process. It led to the story of this Sea Heart pod that continues to fascinate me along with all the other seed-pods in my life! The journey of this pod crept into the following Kick-About as well, maybe because I can’t travel at the moment and I long to be doing so. It always refreshes my mind and creativity… apart from missing my friends in distant lands.”
“The prompt was Cocteau’s Orpheus, because of the element of serendipity: on a Covid walk, I dragged home two entwined ivy trees, saw the prompt, (not sure which happened first) something clicked, and I set about exploring the potential…”
“The KA’s have been a great way to divert my attention and have provided reason for exploration of deep buried thoughts. Thank you’s to all of you who have donated jumping off points – sometimes they resonate so deafeningly – not always at the point of conceptualising – the museum KA didn’t kick-in for me until I started putting paint to paper but then it dragged up some of the creative juices that I thought had been long gone. So I guess that makes it my significant KA moment. I love the tantalising breadth of work created by all of you. KA reveal days are always so exciting. It amazes me how you seem to tumble out great pieces or concepts. Also amazing how open you have been with background stories to some of the works. Thanks again and I hope KA can continue long after lockdown.”
“In response to the “Kick-about anniversary” (and my very small contribution to it) I have chosen to revisit my take on the Eugen von Ransonnet Villez submarine paintings.
Marine paintings have become a large part of my creative output over the last decade. As a graphic designer just over ten years ago my health took something of a wobble and the medical advice was to change lifestyle. This evolved over a few years and resulted in less use of the mouse and tablet and more the old fashioned paintbrush. It became as much as anything else a journey of self discovery. Several visual themes emerged but the one most urgent in my need to explore was the sea. I soon found like minded painters at the National Maritime Museum Art Club where I became chairman. The club has had a couple of identity changes since then but still exists as the Thames Maritime Artists and I am still chairman.
The limpid, accurately observed and interpreted tones and colours used by Ransonnel Villez immediately struck a chord with my own struggle to capture how we see water and objects in water. Seascape and coastal painting is quite a niche area in painting, not fashionable, and hasn’t been since the Royal Navy stopped ruling the waves, but I have never been troubled by fashion. For me the test of how well I am performing is to be judged by peers and to that end over a number of years I have submitted paintings to the Royal Society of Marine Artists annual open exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. For four years I failed to get anything into the show, I was disappointed but not discouraged and eventually in 2019 I got a piece into the show. In 2020 in the middle of the pandemic I got two pieces in – and won the Classic Boat Prize. It certainly does not beat taking your life in your hands going under the sea in a primitive diving bell but sometimes dogged persistence does pay off. I have attached a couple of RSMA exhibition to add to the original set.”
“For the Kick-About I’d like to submit my Symbols piece (#5). Of all the digital work I’ve produced over the last year, it stands out to me as being truly different and emotionally driven. Something in Alice Neel’s original painting really clicked with me.”
“I would like to choose ‘Dance of the Happy Shades’ as my favourite piece. It was my very first appearance on the Kick-about and possibly one of my best works. It involved using the mixed media of silk material and painting, and I felt it was a good showcase for my manipulative skills with fabric. I definitely got a buzz from seeing my picture on the internet and I loved using the bright, cheerful colours. It made me feel excited, hopeful and creative even though it was the start of lockdown.”
“While I haven’t been able to contribute as often as I would like in recent months, The Kick-About is a welcome stretch away from my day-to-day. Working in design, I’ve felt it more and more challenging to work without a brief or steer, to make for the pleasure of making, without feeling the need to justify time spent playing as part of a longer project or showreel piece. The Kick-About has provided that stimulus, giving a direction but not a destination, and a space to remember that away from the rounds of amends, renders and timesheets, making is simply, fun. For this reason, making a witches bottle due to a misreading of a painting by Alice Neel was the most enjoyable project for me, reading and researching down whatever avenue seemed interesting, formulating an idea without thinking of demographics or target audience, and then making something however crudely with real physical materials, not worrying about brand guidelines or alignment or safe margins. Looking at the high quality of the other submissions makes it lucky I’m dressing up my motivation in the same outfit as naive or folk art. However, at a time which created a step back from our daily lives and the time to think about why we do the things we do, for me The Kick-About is the reminder I needed to not pack everything in and try to manage a hedge fund. Joy! It’s all about joy!“
“I’m choosing the Invisible Cities (Ersilla) prompt as my favorite. First, because it was something I wanted to do as soon as I read the book a few years ago, but had never gotten around to. And also because it expanded my work from my usual repertoire, which is basically 2-dimensional.
I would say that almost all the prompts have pushed me further than I would normally go outside my comfort zone which is a very good thing. And everyone else’s work is so inspiring, it keeps my mind full of different ideas and inspiration.”
“I’ve loved being part of the Kick-About over the last year. It’s got me doing things I’ve never done before, such as writing and recording my own voice, and it’s going me doing things that I’d never have done without it, so a big thank you, Phil, for putting this together every fortnight. It’s been a real pleasure seeing how people have responded to the prompts and I’m always in awe of the variety, the talent and the creativity that appears in each post.
I’ve got a few favourites from the past year, but i’m choosing this image, which I called ‘Forest Flare’ and made in response to the Orphée’prompt way back last June I think. I painted some 2D trees, an arch and a sky onto card, and then lit and photographed th em on my desk. The main reason I was pleased with how it turned out is that, in the photographic image, a small figure appeared, sitting on the floor, framed by the arch and looking like a faun that had wandered out of the paper forest. It wasn’t there when I looked at the table top set up, but some magic happened in the camera and the image turned out more interesting that I’d planned – quite spooky!”
“I’ve chosen ‘Baba’s Important Work’ because the resulting short story speaks to the power of a random prompt to produce something satisfying, unpredictable and inevitable-seeming. That a story set in a static caravan, in some dystopian society, should have issued from an old book on nautical knot-work, makes me feel excited about the creative process in all its strangeness. I find it reassuring too, a bit like going to Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, opening its doors, and finding, thank goodness, there are still ideas in there after all.“
“Albatross Box is the only sculpture I’ve done for the Kick Abouts – and it is the one that has proven the most constant source of inspiration since I made it. It is still hung up in my house, changing with the light and day and it is a source of endless fascination for my 3 year old. Once COVID restrictions ease a bit, I’d love to scout out some more bones and do a few more bone shadow boxes with poetry and make it a series (I confess to already rescuing another wooden box from the curb in anticipation!). “
“Picking a personal favourite is so tricky! My mind immediately jumps to the Alice Neel prompt from Kick-About #3. I really enjoyed the making of that piece in it’s simplicity and assemblage of iconography. I also enjoyed Kick-About #23 in which I could channel grief into some strange cardboard constructions. Both of those prompts were so calming and helpful to produce. But if I’m honest with myself, I think the very first Kick-About was my favourite subject, largely because the Max Ernst prompt is well suited to my comfort zone – bizarre landscapes and painting methods. What a boring choice I know, but I remember that painting evolving so clearly in my head, and it was a joy.”
With its associations with protest and freedom of expression, this week’s prompt, courtesy of Kerfe Roig, returns us somewhat to the untaming of our last Kick-About together, but just like everyone else, I suspect, I’ve had the song from Hair going around and around my brain these past two weeks!
“I apologise in advance to any students of colour-theory who might be seeing these images. While it was made in the spirit of peace and love, it might in fact be the colour equivalent an atomic bomb. Really I just wanted to make the animated tye dye t-shirts while listening to the Broadway cast recording of Hair.”
“I did go briefly down a rabbit hole to look up the meaning of the expression in astrological terms. It’s complex but predictably vague and controversial. The Age of Aquarius may have begun in 2600 BCE, or may have begun in the 20th Century or may be yet to begin. Having grown out of what limited interest I had in astrology years ago, this was not a direction that inspired art. It did lead me to quite an interesting little reading session about hippies, beatniks and the New Age movement of the 1960s and 1970s, but the complexity of this material reminded me of why I was never very good at history in school and why I admire people who are good at history!
But visually, the culture of the ’60s and ’70s is interesting. In fact I already had a digital collage with a psychedelic flavour that I made in November last year after watching the progress of the US elections with horror and dread. I had a powerful craving for the dawn of a new era, and for women to play an important role in it.”
“In Australia, that thirst for a change of culture, and a redistribution of power is even stronger now. If you’re interested, journalist Leigh Sales talks about it here, or there’s a briefer version on her Instagram page here. But what the heck. I had to make something new just for this prompt. So I decided that peace, love and harmony were the go, but sticking with the a secondary theme of female solidarity and friendship. And here’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius being celebrated in a small way between two friends. The moon is definitely in the Seventh House. Need you even ask?”
“So this is what I learned during my research into the ‘age of Aquarius’ – that in addition to all the immediate water-based imagery that associates with it, some scholars of all things astrological identify electricity as one of the keenest indications of the Aquarian age. Originally I had film in mind as my response to the prompt, something rather doomy and cynical juxtaposing the optimism given to the age of Aquarius with the lived reality of recent events and the rise of populism in politics… but, while good and worthwhile possibly, it was also going nowhere visually! Instead, I wondered how I might bring the Aquarian motifs of electricity and water together in a suitably cosmic way – without blowing myself up in the process! So it was I returned to the site of the scrying mirror, that small body of water so fascinating to me in its blackness (but which also makes it quite smelly!), and cracked out a few techniques familiar to me from previous photographic adventures in other dark places.It is certainly the dawning of something going on here…”
“I love Hair – it was one of the last shows before covid that we saw that I really enjoyed – just a small production that ran for a few nights at the Sydney Opera House. Yep our poor youngsters will have the same old concerns but worse, I suppose. After a few painted kick-about responses I went back to the computer for some clean lines. I hope it feels like there is some energy in it – it started off feeling that way to me but it always amazes me how much time you spend on a computer to get an image off the ground.“
“This constellation was identified as “The Water Carrier” in the records of the Babylonians, some 6000 years BCE, and has been recognised as such by civilisations ever since. Different ideologies have ascribed different myths, but the common feature throughout has been the urn pouring water from the heavens. Regardless of the meanings ascribed to the constellation, the constellation itself is real and eternal, and humanity has gazed upon it since the first humanoid turned its face to the stars and wondered.
It is about 27,500 years since our solar system last moved through this sector of the sky, and will remain within this sector for approximately 2,150 years. When thinking about these vast periods of time, it is tempting to take comfort in the fact, that whatever the ups and downs of our own little lives, there is a never-changing constancy about the world and its place in the universe. But perhaps the true meaning of the constellation of Aquarius is not that water will always be available, but that all life needs water to survive. Maybe “The Age of Aquarius” is the time to recognize if we continue to use water, consume water, play with water, waste water and pollute water, as we have done over the last couple of centuries, we may have witnessed the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”, but there may be no one much around to witness the twilight.”
“When Phil asked me to choose this week’s Kick-About prompt, I thought immediately of The Age of Aquarius, because I’ve been turning over in my mind the hope that it might be real, that humanity can change. I always loved the music posters of the “Hair” era, and used them as inspiration for my neon colored paintings… Back when the musical “Hair” came out, some astrologers grumbled that it wasn’t really the Age of Aquarius yet. But what did we care? We were tired of the world as it was, ready for Peace, Love and Understanding. Well…maybe not. During 2020 there were rumblings once again online about the REAL Age of Aquarius finally showing up. I was skeptical to say the least.It seems we had the Age of Aquarius skewed, not only in time. Yes, it’s a total tearing down and rebuilding. But it’s going to require hard work. Taking a lot of drugs and wearing tie-dye and listening to songs about love won’t do it. Can we change our entire approach to living together, not only with each other, but with the earth, its creatures, its landscape, its elements? We need to if we want to survive.”
chaotic stillness watching from the whorled center for new beginnings
all those lost patterns – I collect them in my mind, in new rotations
all impermanence – no matter which way you turn the path continues
giving myself hope inside my dark wanderings– a world of wonder
“Firstly, I was gobsmacked by the age of Aquarius song from the musical Hair. It left the hairs standing on my arms with the booming lead singer’s voice being absolutely phenomenal. If this show ever returns to live audiences I would love to see it! The “hippie” people of this era wanted to show their respect and love for the earth and focus on the world around them, while doing it as a group effort to show a sense of community and togetherness. Aquarius is an air sign, and as a fellow air sign myself, they are known to be creative, free spirited, and always seek clarity.
The symbol for Aquarius being the ‘water bearer’, who eternally gives life and spiritual food to the world, while also washing away the past and making room for a fresh start is usually depicted as a mighty figure pouring water from a vessel onto the earth. When seeing the image of the water bearer, I wanted to focus on a previous experience surrounding water that ignited the Pools film from the Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez prompt, which gave me more respect for the earth and the little wonders that happen sporadically, if you are open enough to find them.
These photos show a snapshot of a spectacle that was for my eyes only, where a trickling of snow was melting and forming a mirage of colours in a shallow lagoon of water. It was a joyous occasion to just sit and watch this natural occurrence, and with its dancing display, it allowed me to stop worrying about everything and what the future holds and just be here in this moment. I think experiences like that are important for grounding you and bringing you back to your present reality, where worry has no place, as the hippies in Hair embodied this physicality here and now by dancing and moving their bodies like water…”