The Kick-About #80 ‘Charles Sheeler’

Textile artist, Sheila Hicks, inspired our last Kick-About together, and it was all soft, cushiony forms, meshes and string. This time out, we’re keeping company with Charles Sheeler and his crisp, clean expressions of modernity.

Marion Raper

“I really love the work of Charles Sheeler. How exciting it must have been to live during the 1920s and 30s when industrial buildings provided such a wealth of artistic material. For my first attempt at a painting I began by sticking a lot of newspaper down and did a rough copy of some factories from a magazine, but I felt it needed to be much sharper. Secondly I used an old picture I did some time ago and revamped it.  I have to be honest and say I am not altogether sure where the original inspiration came from, but the colour scheme and shapes are all my own work.

Graeme Daly

“Sheeler’s modernist work makes me ponder the industrial revolution, the building up and tearing down of sprawling metropolises in all their in-betweens of metal, cement and beams. The shapely blocks of colour makes me think of movement, like a time-lapse of something that is always being altered. I created my film by modelling quick and dirty shapes in 3D, then tinkered with the camera to pull the focal length back and added many of the shapes in a line, through which the camera cranes. I added little movements here and there to the shapes to make things feel dynamic.”

@graemedalyart / / / /

Charly Skilling

“When I was browsing through Sheeler’s paintings, I was struck by how clean and colourful his painting is, while his subjects  are often grim and grubby industrial sites.  What’s more, many of his works look like exercises in perspective. Amoskeag Mills 2 particularly caught my eye. A few weeks ago, I decided it might be time to own up to my ignorance and signed-up for an art class to learn some of the basics. (See the effect you guys have on people!). 3 weeks into a 14 week course and perspective is much on my mind, worrying about horizons, vanishing points, and 2-, 3- and multi-point perspectives. I don’t know what the opposite of a ‘Precisionist’ is, but I think, as an “Im-precisionist”, I’ve found my genre!”

Vanessa Clegg

“This was interesting, as I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t come across Sheeler but liked the way he shifted between painting and photography… Wish I could have spent longer exploring the theme, but had to be satisfied by a couple of off-centre shots (lying on the ground) of the Arts complex where I have my studio.”

Phil Gomm

“One of the things guarding against the prettification of my home town is the presence of an aggregate factory slap-bang in the harbour. With Sheeler’s flattened abstractions in my sights, and likewise his use of colour, I went out to photograph the factory buildings, with the idea of collaging them, so moving quickly beyond this first act of recording them. Whitstable is celebrated for its skyscapes. and on this day, the clouds were so much lace and the light was pin-prick clean. Had my camera been old school, I’d have anyway plumped for a polarising filter by which to pull more drama and detail from the clouds; in the instance of these images, I polarised my images in post and licked my lips as the skies offered up all this tonal range and texture. The dystopian vibes of these photographs diverge at once from Sheeler’s calming expressions of modernity; my photographs remind me of sets from science-fiction movies; they’re all a bit Metropolis and I don’t mind saying I’m very happy about that. I walk past this factory all the time; it’s never felt this cinematic before.”

James Randall

“Charles Sheeler created great strongly composed images. So I took off with my camera around Brisbane city and really didn’t take any inspired pics. I did take some textures; a couple were of grey black hoardings on a building site, which I overlayed with a shadow (reversed to be white) of a collapsible clothes dryer. This combination looked like search lights over a ‘war sky’ whatever that is. Thus I lost sight of Mr Sheeler and fell down the war rabbit hole – in Australia there has been so much news coverage about defence spending and new nuclear powered subs – having trouble with government’s spending of tax payer’s money on weapons, while our less wealthy citizens go homeless. Any how, I kept layering parts of my city photos and distorted or modified them and finally added a couple of quick Illustrator drawn figures.”

Kerfe Roig

“I was immediately drawn to Sheeler’s Against the Sky a Web has Spun, as much for the title as the painting. I made a cosmic collage, simplifying the forms, and embroidered a web on top, then wrote a short poem to accompany it.”


our limitations
turn inside
out expand
beyond the webs we build to
house infinity /

And from abstractions inspired by concrete jungles…

The Kick-About / A Third Year Later

Blimey! Now where did that year go?

This moment in my blogging year does remind me a bit of when I used to put all my beloved He-Man figures on display, so I could just sit back with a purring of pleasure, satisfied by the simple act of amassing stuff: or when VHS was a thing, running my fingertip across all the lurid spines of my very many horror videos, finding comfort in the accruing and arranging of like-minded things. Mostly, however, I experience a funny sort of relief because even though this past year of Kick-Abouts has been busy with everything else, this latest miscellany suggests I am bloody-minded enough to hold on to all this thinking, doing and making even when circumstances are far from conducive. When your hands are full, you have to be careful what you put down. Looking back, all these little undertakings feel like spells cast for warding off world events and other slumps, like bobbing up again after intrusive thoughts of sinking and staying sunk.

I owe much of my buoyancy to the other Kick-Abouters, for The Kick-About is a lot like lighting a candle and putting it in my window, and then looking out and seeing all these other candles appearing one-by-one – and oh! the comfort and encouragement that brings!

Read the PDF here

Read the PDF here

Read the PDF here

Hermione Gray & The Murdered Magician

The Kick-About #78 ‘156.536’

Welcome to this anniversary edition of The Kick-About – a fortnightly creative challenge in which a loose community of artists make new works in a short time in response to a specific prompt. Gathered here, and in no particular order, are selections from one year’s worth of online exhibitions, with works inspired by a richly eclectic range of starting points, so everything from drum solos to volcanic eruptions. To everyone who participates, regularly or otherwise, a great big thank you for all your time and energy. I enjoy your company and relish your creativity and very much hope we continue to meet in the park over the coming weeks and months with our jumpers on the grass for goalposts. Happy anniversary to you all!

Francesca Maxwell – The Kick-About No.56

“I find percussions and drums quite fascinating. When I was heavily pregnant with Sophie, we went to a Kodo Drummers gig. I didn’t realise it would be quite so loud and powerful, I could feel the sound waves going through me like through air, I could barely breathe. I was quite worried about Sophie, but she started kicking madly as soon as the sound stopped, which I took as a sign of appreciation. So here I am, back on the heart, and the heart beat responding to the drumming.” Acrylic Inks on watercolour paper, 25×17 cm.

Graeme Daly – The Kick-About No.64

“As always it’s hard to pick a favourite from the past year as the kick about has taken me in places I never imagined. I decided to go with the sound suits Kick-About, purely for the automatic response of chucking a load of sequins into a wok and waving a few LED lights about and not knowing if the output would translate to what I had in mind. I remember feeling so enthralled with the process but contemplating if I had captured anything worthwhile at all; but upon importing the footage to my laptop, the videos I thought were duds turned out to capture the same primal element I got from the soundsuits.  The edit was an absolute dream and all in all one of my favourite Kick-Abouts thus far.”

@graemedalyart / / / /

Phill Hosking – The Kick-About No.67

“On seeing El Anatsui’s incredible sculptures I felt exceptionally inspired to make. There’s something about his process of turning discarded relics of human mass consumption into objects of such beauty that resonated with me. Over recent years I’ve collected bucket loads of plastic from various beaches in Kent, never really knowing what to do with them, suddenly when I laid a bucket full out on the work bench, I started pulling them together and adding some order, which is what I got from Anatsui’s work, order brought to valueless trash. As the wired-together plastic was only about a foot across, I cut out and painted a wooden frame, as if the silhouette was intentional.” / /

Gary Thorne – The Kick-About No.74

“Reflecting back, Kick-About No.74 provides good example of the ‘pleasurable’ creative struggle when handling materials which resist, go against a personal inclination, instead ask for respect to limitations. You just cannot bend something your way, instead its happen-chance and an unpredictability which often rewards you. Which is the joy of KA – in joining up with like minded KA-ers in pursuit of surprises.”

Judy Watson – The Kick-About No.57

“There’s much to explore in response to Peake’s work, and I don’t think I can do it on one hit, so let us see where it takes me. But to begin with, it has taken me back to two mediums I loved in earlier years but have neglected more recently. Obviously this is all about the line. But it’s also about embracing a medium that can’t or won’t be fully controlled. I worked pretty small with these and just enjoyed making lots of small doodles. Perhaps some more finished work will come later.” / /

Tom Beg – The Kick-About No.53

“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!” / /

Kerfe Roig – The Kick-About No.54

‘Whirligigs was a challenge for me in that it called for a three-dimensional response.  I had the idea right away to do something with birds.  But it took a while for me to come up with the rings within rings to incorporate motion.  I wanted to hang all the birds, but couldn’t figure out how to do it.  But I like the way the outer mandala turned out, with all the birds moving at once contrasted with the birds in the center on their strings.  I can’t tell you the steps I took to get there – I just keep going until I get something that works. /

James Randall – The Kick-About No.65

“Sometimes you push and push for the birth of an  idea and sometimes they tumble out of the dark recesses. Tumbling out were my Halloween themed Long Vehicle images responding to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris – home to Jim Morrison etc. I had taken consecutive photos passing a long load truck on a road trip and combined them with other photos into a gothic narrative within five deconstructed letterform frames. Whoosh!”

Phil Cooper – The Kick-About No.66

“I’ve enjoyed the Kick-About posts so much over the last year and I’m gobsmacked every time by all the amazing work people create in just two weeks. One of the many things I love about this forthnightly challenge is how it gets me doing all kinds of things I never usually do in my creative practice. The prompts themselves, and the timescale which stops me overthinking, push me into trying new things and not worrying so much about whether what I’m making is ‘good’. I’ve found it so rewarding and the experience has opened up new ways of working for me.

For this ‘best-of’ edition, I’ve chosen the mask I made last autumn in response to Turner’s Vesuvius painting. If it hadn’t been for the Kick-About, I can’t imagine I would ever make a demon mask out of a paper bag and get my husband to photograph me wearing it whilst wandering around an industrial estate at night. It was great fun and I’m looking forward to trying all kinds of other weird and wonderful things for the Kick-About prompts to come.” / /

Lisa Fox – The Kick-About No.73

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

Jordan Buckner – The Kick-About No.57

“It’s hard to resist that textural ink approach Peake was famous for. I recognised some of Peake’s work but didn’t have a great knowledge on who he was, or what his work amounted to. It’s wonderful to see that even in his more observational work, that gothic storytelling still feels present.”

Charly Skilling – The Kick-About No.64

“I have had great fun with many of the Kick-Abouts this year, but the Nick Cave prompt was undoubtedly one to remember.  It was certainly the only Kick-About to leave me literally breathless with laughter!”

Claire-Beth Gibson – The Kick-About No.65

“I suddenly remembered my idea this morning – and the fact I had not actually made it – so I rustled this up whilst still in my dressing gown. Cemeteries gross me out and my experiences have been grotesque and disorientating. I’ve lost two loved ones to the cold empty box of the same French grave. The absurdity of putting bodies into boxes into little stone houses. A conveyor belt of bodies. Trapped in boxes. In stone houses. The voice says: Dans une boîte / Perimé / Tous ensemble / Détaché : In a box / Expired / All together / Detached.”

@claire_beth_claire / /

Marion Raper – The Kick-About No.67

I very much admire the work of El Anatsui and his amazing way of using recycled items such as bottle tops and turning them into fabulous artworks and metallic cloth sculptures.   I was trying to think of a way that I could emulate such wizardry and came up with the idea of weaving some of my stash of old ties. I used some black crinkly wool for the weft threads, which I stretched over an old picture mount to make a loom. Next, I cut the most colourful ties into long strips and threaded them in and out as the weft threads. I must say I was rather surprised at how a few vividly coloured gents’ ties (from the last few decades) could transpire to resemble a wonderful African fabric, but weirdly they do!

Colin Bean – The Kick-About No.53

“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…”

Jan Blake – The Kick-About No.56

“The one I have chosen is KA 56  For drummers only. This piece was truly compelling and i think it continued into paint in the following KA when I travelled around Cornwall. The anticipation of allowing myself to travel further for the first time during Covid unleashed my imagination. I need to take more journeys!”

Phil Gomm – The Kick-About No.53

“My choice dates all the way back to the short story I wrote in response to a particular painting by Toulouse-Lautrec featuring a clown performing alongside a little black pig. As revenge narratives go, it’s as black-as-pitch and I suppose there’s a part of me that glimmers away quite darkly beneath my otherwise mild-mannered and restrained exterior. I recall a snippet of an interview with the late director, Wes Craven, talking about Hitchcock, saying how Hitchcock presented as an avuncular, rather urbane character, but how there was something feral at work beneath it all, and I’ve always liked and identified with that description. Certainly, it just felt liberating to be in the company of this story’s motley crew of showbiz misfits, and to allow things to run their course – however despicable.”

Vanessa Clegg – The Kick-About No.77

“This was a perfect prompt for me as I’ve long been a fan of Eliot’s work, so pulled out my battered and very old copy of his poetry to refresh my mind as well as do a little online research. The effect of WW1 struck me as the dominant first layer followed by references to sexuality, love and its unpredictable consequences; so with the help of an extremely scratched record, my dansette record player, iPad and a lot of soil and cardboard I cobbled together what I hoped would be (as near as possible) some kind of atmosphere of war and its encroachment on everyday life, as well as the post-war period of the 20s/30s when The Waste Land was published… it was a great way to spend Easter!”

And just like that, the wheel turns and we’re into another cycle of serendipity and playfulness, and we’re kicking things off with the sumptuous large-scale installations of Sheila Hicks. ‘Happy New Year’!

The Kick-About #76 ‘The Painter’s Room’

Our last Kick-About was inspired by Bosch’s painting, The Garden Of Earthly Delights, famous for the unknowability of many of its signs, symbols, allegories and imagery. No less perplexing perhaps is this week’s jumping-off point, a painting by Lucian Freud that shares little with his unflinching representations of the human body, and more with the uncannier tableaux of the likes of Dali and Magritte. For all previous editions of The Kick-About just click here.

Graeme Daly

“The colours of The Painter’s Room, the peculiar cut-out window and, of course, the giraffe, made me think of architecture and elements experienced in a hot climate. I decided to paint simplistic environments and rely solely on the colour, while sprinkling in elements of Freud’s painting throughout.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Gary Thorne

“L. Freud’s fantasy zebra kick-started this adventure. Further influence came by way of the much cherished Oaxaca artist Martin Melchor. Therefore, thanks to James, Freud and Melchor for the most memorable two weeks. Solid blocks of hard foam (15cm tall) were sawed, filed, sanded, primed and painted. I feel the urge for a wildly tropical orchestra to back-up these three soloists.”

Kerfe Roig

“When I saw ‘The Painter’s Room’ I immediately thought of the altered postcards I’m so fond of making.  I decided to use artists’ postcards as my base and collage some of the elements from Freud’s painting–animal, window, plant, furniture, clothing.  Then I consulted the collage box oracle to see what it had to say. I will definitely be doing more of these.” /

James Randall

“I love Lucian’s fleshy portraits but this first significant painting came as a surprise – thought it may have been an early Hockney. Feels like an exercise in assembling a number of mostly unrelated objects in a relatively flat space without a lot of colour. I began by drawing an almost completed bridge over the Brisbane River as a background and using an overlay of three rectangles as a frame for other objects. The other objects didn’t feel comfortable until I went black and white and even then they felt uncomfortable so I replaced them with the horse head photo from many moons ago. I liked the developing tension but it looked a little flat so I added the textures and finally the ‘branches and string lines.’ It turned out to be one of those slowly evolving images that is quite different to what I initially envisioned.”

Marion Raper

Here is a view into my little Painter’s Haven. I am so lucky to have my own room and although it is only the size of a shoebox, you would be surprised what I can fit in it! In one corner is a very ancient wardrobe which is ideal for keeping lots of material , wool and assorted craft items. On the top sits an old suitcase where lots of my art ends up!   I also had a lovely new desk this Christmas, upon which sits my sewing machine, daylight lamp, cd player and an old wooden stationery holder which I rescued. It is ideal for holding brushes, scissors , small notebooks etc. So you can see I am comfortable with an eclectic mix of bits and bobs. All in all, this is my happy place. The place where I can shut the door on the world and do my own thing to my heart’s content. I’m not sure what Freud had in his mind when he created this painting, but perhaps he wanted to show that as long as you enjoy your private space then anything goes – even orange striped zebras!”

Vanessa Clegg

“I was tempted to cover the dreaded blank white board/ canvas/ paper with all the various forms of studio procrastination ie: dustpan/ brush/ ranks of sharpened pencils/endless cups of coffee/ red wine…and so on, but then decided to focus on the couch in the painting and make the link to Lucian’s grandfather, Sigmund Freud, symbolism and analysis… The artist adrift. I have my own  interpretation but will leave it open for others!”

Phil Gomm

“There’s that quote from the movie, Forrest Gump, that famously goes: ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get’. Well, The Kick-About is like that too, so I’m not going to say too much about my response this week, except to say it could only have come from James Randall’s choice of painting – or rather from my impulse to figure out the relationship between the objects in the frame. My immediate thought was I must be looking at an improbable crime scene and that was when the fun began in earnest. In order to get this offering over the line, I begged and borrowed the talents of the kind and wonderful actor, Dan Snelgrove, with whom I’ve collaborated previously on the Chimera audio book. I suppose I should also say the following contains some pretty bad language and scenes of a sexual nature. Ha! How Freudian – and in regards to that quote from Forrest Gump, be warned, for not everything that looks like chocolate is chocolate…”

Hermione Gray & The Murdered Magician

And after spending some playful and productive time in a painter’s room, I welcome you into another evocative space… brought to us by a literary big-hitter! Have fun with whom and what you find in there…

Extract from The Waste Land Part II – A Game of Chess by T.S. Eliot

The Kick-About #75 ‘The Garden Of Earthly Delights’

Our previous Kick-About together was inspired by the organic, floating vessels of Ruth Asawa, exemplars of restraint. Much less so, the teeming visual motifs characterising Bosch’s extraordinary three-act painting, a maximalism of symbols, detail and hybridity. Bosch’s garden has made for a fertile stomping ground for these latest works made in a short time. Welcome to the party – and for all previous editions of The Kick-About, find them compiled right here.

Charly Skilling

“I can’t help wondering what the people around Bosch thought of this painting; family, apprentices, neighbours etc.  I suspect there must have been quite a few raised eyebrows, disapproving looks, perhaps one or two lascivious leers.  But the painting has survived, and been treasured, for over 500 years. You wonder how it would be received if it had been painted today? 

Although Bosch was in middle age and beyond when he painted his Garden of Earthly Delights, I tried to envisage a scene where Bosch’s mother was called in to have one of those chats at his school, when Bosch, as a young boy, first began to show signs of his artistry…”

Kerfe Roig

“I decided to explore the architecture in the Garden…” /

Tom Beg

“When I was a student I made an animation based on The Garden of the Earthly Delights, which now, much to my embarrassment ,is posted on numerous places on the internet and still gets the odd random YouTube comment. Looking at it now, it’s clearly the work of someone still trying to understand the esoteric world of computer animation software with mistakes and oversights galore. I can only say that it is what is, but I used this prompt to go back and refine some of the things on one of the original models. Mostly it’s minor things, like adding ridges or holes where two objects originally penetrated through each other. Going back and fixing some of these has added an extra level believability to the model, and  I have a bit motivation now to give the rest of the models the same 2023 treatment. Stay tuned!” / /

Jan Blake

“I’ve always been intrigued by these paintings of such weirdness and complexity. They remind me of so many things and of the artists who have been influenced by them that, to find my own angle, and what intrigued me, took a while to arrive. So I returned to the earth and the recent work that biologists such as Merlin Sheldrake have been studying  in the realms of the entangled lives of mycorrhizal fungi and mycelial networks. It has turned my head upside down to think about these organisms as being the  predecessors of us as beings and how much we depend on them. My model making does not allow too much close inspection but I did enjoy creating creatures that sprang from the network webbing of the roots that surround us.  They remained white having only recently come out of the earth! We are a flawed species and still evolving but at the beginning we may have been something totally mixed-up. We still enjoy dressing up as creatures whether from this planet or another.  The fantasy of becoming Other is still with us.”

Phil Gomm

“I was very drawn to all those shell-pink structures and prawnish people in Bosch’s wonderfully strange and limpid painting, so set about building a miniature version of something so inspired. Sadly, I couldn’t get my hands on a more lewd assortment of little people, so this lot seem content to stand about as silent spectators. I rather think they’re missing out.”

“Having made my little bit of Bosch, I got thinking about raves in woodlands and the likes of the Glastonbury music festival, and I was reminded of a bit of footage I once saw online of an alfresco raver dancing away in the dawning light – even though the music had long since stopped and everyone else was heading home. I thought about Bosch’s garden revellers and how, exhausted from their various exertions, and stoned on strawberry pips and pectin, they might commune nonetheless with the sunrise. I made this little film quickly and simply, with ‘Tuinvolk’ being Dutch for ‘Garden Folk’.”

Graeme Daly

“I am in the process of a big DIY project at the moment, which is turning a shithole of a room in my shared house that is used for storage and discarded items into an artist’s studio where I can work on creative things such as the Kick-About. In the process, I happened to come across the box where I kept all my life drawings from uni; being the sentimental type I could never throw them away and I always wanted to create this project – so the kick about provides that drive yet again. 

I decided to focus on the busyness of Bosch’s painting with emphasis on the figures and go against my usual likeness towards landscapes. Realising I didn’t need to photograph every sheet of life drawing I dusted off my old hard drive that contains photographs of those life drawings and re-photographed a few that were otherwise of an abysmal quality. I then popped them into Photoshop and cut out each figure from the sheet of paper and collaged them together accordingly. A very sentimental feeling seeing all my uni life drawings in one place together and a fulfilling experience.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Gary Thorne

“There are two portraits in question of the illusive H. Bosch, both proposed as possible self-portraits, and it was this which triggered my thinking across a fortnight of bitterly cold mornings. Catching the first of the sun’s rays as they peaked over the fence, avoided the glass table-top from losing its filter characteristics yet, it demanded a somewhat contortionist approach to taking a selfie.”

Phil Cooper

To me, The Garden of Earthly Delights is one of the most extraordinary paintings every made. I was looking round one of the big state museums here in Berlin last week that had a collection of art from around the same period. I came out feeling like I had gone slightly mad, the paintings and sculptures were so weird, so peculiar to my 21st century eyes that I couldn’t find a way into most of it at all. Having read up about The Garden of Earthly Delights, it seems nobody really knows what the painting is about either. Academics seem to disagree as to whether it is a celebration of erotic joy, of the Garden of Eden before the Fall, or rather an admonition of fleshly pleasures.  Certainly, it is a work of the imagination, a world conjured from the internal life of its maker. So I’ve made a self-portrait image, a photo of me with my eyes closed, looking inward, overlayed with some drawings I made in one of the glasshouses at the Botanical Gardens in Berlin. Many of us yearn for ‘the garden’, whatever that means to each of us, a paradise free from the stresses and strains of the mundane world we live in. Bosch’s painting seems to express that feeling in many of the innocent playful figures that frolic about in the soft light and benign green landscape of its central panel. Sometimes we experience it for real, and sometimes it lives mainly behind our eyelids… / /

Marion Raper

“This is kind of a tall order to condense the woes of civilisation into just two weeks work!  However I’m up for a challenge! Coincidentally,  as I sat looking at the image of The Garden of Earthly Delights the radio played the beautiful song by Mark Knoffler “Are we in trouble now”. How very apt.”

James Randall

“The Garden of Earthly Delights is so dense it was too much for me as a youngster and too strange. Even now I find there is an unpleasant cartoonish characteristic to much of it.

What to say in our AI-driven world? I began this challenge thinking about a visual language beyond zeros and ones perhaps so dense with information that it could be represented by strips of colours so my triptych backgrounds became stretched pixel samples from the original artwork. Then what to say? Something true to homosapiens, and what may come perhaps. I think existence is simple. Then I tried to add a visual representation of this simplicity.”

And with thanks to Brisbane-based artist and regular Kick-Abouter, James Randall, we have our new prompt. And you thought Bosch’s garden took some puzzling out! Have fun in this painter’s room…

The Kick-About #74 ‘Ruth Asawa’

In common with our last Kick-About together, which was inspired by cephalopods (those buoyant, ballooning denizens of the deep), this latest showcase of new works made in a short time features a further array of responses to floating, globular forms – specifically to the work of Ruth Asawa. Happy browsing.

Graeme Daly

“I was reminded very much of the fluid melting magic of lava lamps and, in certain elements of Asawa’s creations, I envisioned eyes that reminded me very much of Hitchcock and Dali’s dream sequence in the film, Spellbound. My images were created from photographing melted wax accumulated on a wine bottle over a period of time, with a couple of videos of my own eyes overlaid on top to pay homage to that surreal dream sequence.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Tom Beg

“I like the contradiction in Ruth Asawa’s art in that her sculptures appear like they are born from geometry and mathematics but are actually delicately crafted hand-made pieces made one loop at a time. The black and white photography of her artwork really imbues the sculptures with a dreamy quality I also wanted to try and capture in these images of undulating circles.” / /

Phil Gomm

“Ruth Asawa’s sculptures at once reminded me of the sorts of drawings produced by childhood Spirographs – not so much the organic shapes, but their transparency, layering, and particularly the densifying of line and mesh as the interior and exterior shapes combine. Without recourse to an abundance of thread (or time), I wondered how I might produce some kind of equivalent impression – of volume, but also some of those wonderful floating overlaps of cross-hatching and shade. Reaching for some acetate sheets, an old wooden ruler, and a permanent marker, I marked up a few of the sheets with lots of fine straight lines, then turned the sheets into funnels and cones with a square or two of Selotape holding them in place. Turns out, when you photograph these cones, something rather lovely transpires. Who’d have thought it?”

Vanessa Clegg

“Encasing what, to me, look like eggs in the sculpture of Ruth Asawa, and combining that with the trauma of the internment camp during her childhood, led me to nests (security/home), this one being empty – the cage, rust and decay. Here’s a book: ‘When the Emperor was Divine’ by Julie Otsuka, which tells the story of an American/Japanese family interned during the war. Highly recommended.” Graphite on paper with felt tip on Perspex as top layer.

Jan Blake

“I felt a sense of a kindred spirit in Ruth Asawa’s work.  The translucence of the hanging sculptures and their derivation from naturally-occurring forms echo my own interests. How curious she was exploring this media many years before and with such versatility AND she had 6 children! She puts my productivity to shame!

I have included in the images a piece I had already started – Pod – and some experiments I have been meaning to do for a while. There is an enormous Cordyline palm that grows in my garden I brought from London nearly 30 years ago as a seeding, which I’d nurtured. It has flourished, so much so it strews plentiful dead swathes of its fronds everywhere. It occurred to me last year that, apart from burning them, I could make use of them, so bundles were made as a temporary fencing, but more kept falling. I started to collect them and strip them apart as they naturally disintegrate into thin strips. It was a bit like making daisy chains as a child, easing holes that became wider to be able to thread them and so on. Soaking them made them more malleable but still tough when I tried to crochet, as Ruth Asawa had done with the metal wire. That was very tricky and needed more time to soak and make them softer to handle… however tiny nests for tiny birds appeared anyway.”

Kerfe Roig

“I went back to my tiny shibori fabric pieces and first did three circles trying to imitate her looped baskets.  I think these were pretty successful.  Then I attempted to layer circles in chain stitch to reproduce the effect of her hanging circles within circles.  I think it might have worked better if I had used one strand of floss instead of two.  But even if it doesn’t resemble Asawa’s layering that closely, it’s an interesting idea for future embroidery explorations.” /

Phil Cooper

“When I saw the Ruth Asawa prompt I immediately thought of the lampshade in our bedroom, a bulb-shaped wire structure that looks a lot like some of her sculptures. I like Asawa’s work very much and I like our lampshade so this was an opportunity to make something for the Kick-About that drew inspiration from both.

I photographed the lampshade and then put the images through the Procreate and Snapseed editing Apps. The sculptural form of the lampshade got flattened, like a Ruth Asawa construction that had been under a steamroller and then I added colour to liven it up. I ended up with what, to me, look like designs for rugs or tapestries. The Kick-About often leaves me with the feeling that, if I could clone myself and have another three lifetimes, I’d like to be a rug-maker, potter, fabric designer, film-maker etc…” / /

Charly Skilling

“I love the simplicity of line and strength of presence of Ruth Asawa’s work and have often thought about how you could achieve something similar. Asawa often uses wire to create shapes that are both sustainable and supported. I have used wire circles to support the main shape, then used balloons and pva glue to ‘encourage’ the crochet to resist gravity.  I don’t know how long my ‘sculpture’ will maintain its shape – and next time I will  spend more time on the mathematics of the shape before starting, rather than working it out as I go along. But, for all that, I have learnt a lot from this exercise and will certainly try it again.”

James Randall

“Thank you Charly for this wonderful prompt and your lovely cephalopod tale last KA. Lots of lovely works. Ruth Asawa’s gentle pieces often feel figurative to me. So I drew up some body shapes and investigated displacement mapping lines across the shapes without a great deal of success. So I turned to filling the shapes with lines that I ‘roughen’ filtered then mirrored these shapes. I layered a couple of photos to form a background then plonked a few test shapes onto the background – they looked insect-like so I kept building up shapes and played with the colours (and line angles to reference weaving) on the rich blue greeen background (which I kept changing). Finally I thought the colour mix needed a dash of yellow green in the background so I combined a few big shapes and filled them with diagonal lines before adding layers of dark graduations left and right to keep the people bugs a bit more contained.”

Gary Thorne

“Amazing that wire can weave such intricate organic forms and leave your 10 digits intact. Local resources return into play for KA#74; as Asawa suggests, play enough with one material and discoveries unfold. Struggles to sway a material to bend your way however, demanded an alternative for the side weave, and to the rescue old-fashioned macrame 3mm cotton-wool twist, adding a pleasing colour. Not a basket for much more than Italian Grissini, but, as a lover of all things Italian, that’s just fine by me.”

Marion Raper

“I remembered I had made a lot of Irish crochet motifs over the years with wonderful designs from Irish patterns inspired by roses, shamrocks, ferns and leaves. I didn’t want to use PVA to stiffen them so I decided to weave some very fine wire around the edges so I could bend them into some unusual shapes.  This proved a rather tricky business, but when I photographed them hanging in the sunlight they appeared like a small delicate chandelier.”

And to mark the occasion of our 75th prompt, I’m inviting you to one hell of a party…

The Kick-About #73 ‘Cephalopod’

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

Marion Raper

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

Gary Thorne

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

Kerfe Roig

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

Lisa Fox

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

James Randall

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

Francesca Maxwell

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

Phill Hosking

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

Graeme Daly

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

Tom Beg

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

Phil Gomm

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

Vanessa Clegg

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

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