Sometimes, it has felt as if my brain is too old or too stupid or simply too preoccupied with other more important things to even think about undertaking another creative brief ‘for the sake of it’. If I’m thinking this, the guy who sets the Kick-About prompts each fortnight, I’m pretty sure some of the regular kick-abouters have thought it too. Lives get busy. Lives get glum. Interest and energy wanes. The mood passes. Art is fart.
And yet, all that being true, now I’ve gathered here together a year’s worth of new work in a single place, I am reminded of the intrinsic value of ‘making stuff’ and of the power of community. There is little doubt, were it not for the examples set by all the other artists in The Kick-About, I wouldn’t have followed through on these various creative enquiries of my own. It’s quite unlikely I would have started them, and I certainly wouldn’t have finished them, finding a bunch of reasonable excuses to get on with more pressing stuff, or stuff I didn’t need to think about quite as much, or the stuff of watching television and eating bars of cheap chocolate on the sofa. But as it happens, I’ve inflated latex gloves with water to produce wobbling horrors, made moonscapes out of bags of flour, photographed tin-toy chickens obsessively, made short films, written a story about a woman with nasturtium seed for a head, encased a bunch of stuff in ice, and the list goes on – and largely because I wasn’t alone in my endeavours. Somewhere in New York, Kerfe was suspending paper fish inside a litter bin, and somewhere out in Brisbane, James was populating a primordial forest with bare chested brutes; meanwhile, Charly was crocheting a hat of fantastical proportions, Tom was configuring Saul Bass-inspired spirals out of code in Yokohama, and Gary was fashioning a Christmas tree out of hand-foraged willow and meticulous strips of calligraphic paper!
What I particularly enjoy, it seems, is the license to shape-shift in terms of creative work; the Kick-About encourages me to diversify, to jump about a bit. That said, there are obvious preoccupations – a love of in-camera transformations, what we might call ‘analogue magic’, and a preoccupation with the darker side of the human imagination. I blame the Pan Book of Horror and all those brave, strange, mean films of the 1970s.
‘Jumping about a bit’ can be confusing, so I decided to get my ‘art-house’ in order a bit by re-organising my personal website. It might not make a scrap of sense thematically, but at least it’s nice and tidy, right?
Thanks again to all the Kick-Abouters: we’ve been living through some strange rootless times, and your company and creativity has done much to keep my feet on the ground and my imagination a good deal higher up! Onwards…
Welcome to this anniversary edition of The Kick-About, marking two years of creative activity undertaken by an international community of artists… which, when you put it like that sounds very impressive indeed! While those of us who participate in these fortnightly challenges might not regard ourselves as grandly as all that, this is my opportunity to thank everyone for their continuing creativity and companionship over this last year. I also want to reflect on the very real and demonstrable benefits of ‘kicking about’ together: yes, it’s another thing we have to think about, and yes, things don’t always run smoothly or go to plan, but ‘making work’ is always a magical act, and life-affirming too. Thanks again to everyone in the KA community for your boundless imagination and sticking power. Look at what we did!
“What I found the most gratifying about The Kick-About this year was that, for the first time in ages for me personally, it felt like I could take any small idea that I had and bring it to some form of a conclusion without feeling like there was a whole load of mental and skill barriers in the way.
One of the most satisfying projects out of all the ones I produced was the animated short film inspired by Marie Menken for The Kick-About #34. After a very long time of not really making any moving image it felt quite rewarding to just let go and make something with the same kind of ‘just do it and see what happens’ attitude that always felt so inspiring to me as a creative, but perhaps, over the years, got lost in the shuffle of life and other such boring things! These days, just producing work and art is anything but boring for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else might become a makeshift goalpost in the park with all the other fellow Kick-Abouters in the future.”
“I had not heard of Brian Rutenberg (Kick-About No. 32) and the first impression was ‘Wow! Very powerful!’ So I spent quite a bit of time ‘deconstructing’ his technique. The apparent abstract nature is, of course, in reality highly stylised landscapes. If you put aside the idiosyncratic drawing style they are quite simple compositions. The cleverness for me is the use of colour; he has substituted primary or secondary colours for tone on most of the pieces, enhancing the abstract qualities. The texture and randomness is the product of palette knife work – that said, given the size of the canvases, it was more likely a large trowel! A lot of my work is marine in subject, so for the first piece I took an image of reflections on water and upped the colour values and worked largely with a palette knife. I think you can still just about make out it is meant to be liquid. For the other piece, I chose a lake surrounded by trees and threw away the tonal values, replacing them with primary colour. I failed to match the stylisation of Rutenberg, but I think they are just about going in the right direction.”
“The prompt could hardly have been more suited to me and my natural inclinations. It’s inky and leafy and Australian. What strikes me most is the combination of the loosest of ink splatters with far more careful and detailed patterning. I was going to explore some inkiness yesterday (Yep! Last minute again!) to see where an observation of Mungkuri’s work (Kick-About No.37) might take me, especially with regard to the use of white ink patterning over the top of the looser ink layers. But before I could begin something happened… Our bees swarmed! Later, I had a bit of a go at my inky exploration of Peter Mungkuri’s plant drawings, but my mind was full of bees. And joy. So it became an illustration of Hugo and me, arms uplifted to the swarming bees.”
For the Kick-About No. 41 ‘La Ville’ ~ “I used one of my daughter’s photos of an event when Lady Gaga walked down the red carpet, which I firstly painted in watercolour and then recreated it in the style of ?? (You can see why I nearly failed my Art O’ level!) Anyway, I enjoyed creating art in this way and using such zingy colours!”
From The Kick-About No. 51“Print them out and colour in your very own folk art postcards. I used google to translate the English titles into Ukrainian, so apologies for any grammatical errors.”
“Of the prompts I participated in, I think my personal favourite was Kick-About Number 31, Lotte Reiniger. The traditional form of silhouettes and stop-frame animation was more hands-on than my other prompt responses. Less abstracted. And less rooted in technology, which was an invigorating change.
Cutting things out of paper for craft projects is something I’d been doing since I was little, much like Lotte did, so I ran with the nostalgia. Plus, the rudimentary camera setup resulted in an animation with some wonky charm that I quite like!”
“For the second year anniversary post I’ve chosen a little film I made for Kick-About #28. The prompt that week was the garden created by Derek Jarman on the shingle spit of Dungeness. Derek started making the garden during a period of personal crisis, shortly after he had been diagnosed HIV+ in 1986. Back then there was no treatment available for HIV and it was fatal in almost all cases. The garden was a tremendous act of creativity and of defiance in the face of a terminal diagnosis, not least because he built it in one of the most unlikely places in the country, the arid, salty shingle of Dunegness, directly in front of a nuclear power station. And, despite his failing health, the garden provided the backdrop to one of the most dynamic and prolific periods in his life; he crammed in more living and working into those last few years before his death in 1994 than most do in a whole lifetime.
I used the words that close his book, At Your Own Risk, writing them in wax crayon, before brushing some black ink over them. The resist technique didn’t work very well and the words aren’t very legible, so here they are:
‘I am tired tonight. My eyes are out of focus, my body droops under the weight of the day, but as I leave you Queer lads let me leave you singing. I had to write of a sad time as a witness – not to cloud your smiles – please read the cares of the world that I have locked in these pages; and after, put this book aside and love. May you of a better future, love without a care and remember we loved too. As the shadows close in, the starts came out. I am in love.’
As he wrote those words in the early 1990s, he foresaw a better future for the world. Sadly, I’m not sure if this has come to pass, at least not yet. The crisis of AIDS in Derek Jarman’s time has been resolved across most of the world, but the climate crisis and war in Europe threaten chaos on an even greater scale. I wonder what he would make of the world today? I confess I’m pessimistic about what lies ahead for humanity, but Derek’s life provides a kind of blueprint to at least try and deal with the terrible state we’re in; speak out, respond, fight, create, work, and make a little garden to face down the dark forces.”
“I love abstract paintings (Kick-About No.32) particularly as I know what a challenge they can be for composition and colour, light and movement. In my work I also strive to keep the first creative impetus with its full emotional strength before it becomes too cerebral. So this is one of my abstract painting that deals with space, macrocosm and microcosm. Thank you Phil and all the extraordinary artists who make this creative experience so special.”
The Kick-About No. 30:“It was so hard to choose. But I decided to go with the Fundus Photography. The photos themselves are magical, and I feel the watercolors I did inspired by them are some of the best I did all year. They are still hanging in my office, almost the first things I put up when I moved, and every day I enjoy looking at them.”
“I’m choosing my short story, Nasturtiums, to include in this anniversary edition for two reasons: the first being that, at first glance, Sheila Legge’s Phantom of Surrealism (Kick-About No.36) left me scratching my head and worrying at the efficacy of my imagination. My second reason for sharing it is because, once I’d stopped worrying, this short story arrived with surprising ease, and for all its inherent strangeness, felt, in some way, inevitable.”
(I wanted to offer up a little birthday bonus with this edition of the Kick-About, so with the assistance of voice artist, Catherine Bradley, I’m happy to present a little audio-book adaptation of Nasturtiums. Enjoy!)
“My favourite kick about this year has got to be the Stezaker prompt (The Kick-About No. 47) I loved the challenge of creating two parallel stories and then putting them together as one piece. Having said that, the Louis Baldwin took me to new areas of finding and stitching and Splendor Solis gave a rare opportunity to become immersed into a drawing over a long period of time. I just enjoy them all!”
“May 2021 – KA #30 Fundus Photography – has to be the right choice at the right time, with May approaching and a garden offering seemingly endless delights of colour. A reawakening of the senses and added energy by way of summer approaching seems a timely reminder to exploit the daylight hours, be observant, and delight in making use of such inspiration.”
“I have enjoyed so many of our KA prompts this past year, it is difficult to choose a favourite. But I have opted for Kickabout #30 “Fundus Photography”, because I found my “Alien skies” and the poem “Forward, Hover, Focus, Click” flowed so readily and so smoothly that I revelled in the process and now, all these months later, I can still look on the work and be happy. It is very rare for equal pleasure to be found in conception, execution and retrospection (for me, anyway!) so I cherish this!”
“I have decided to choose a recent response for the two year anniversary, which is the prompt of contemporary textile artist – Louise Baldwin (The Kick-About No.48). The outpouring of photography was completely transfixing, utterly intoxicating, but also very unpredictable. It was one of those times where something awoke in me and the tunnel vision of this bizarre creative pursuit was exhilarating – especially because the uncertainty of dumping all those household ingredients into a jar and photographing the bubbling frothy results is a practice I certainly wouldn’t have even attempted if it wasn’t for The Kick-About. But it is one byproduct that the Kick-About can and does unlock, as I do think being an artist means experimenting, breaking the status quo and playing to see what can flourish. So thank you all for the art, the making, and the doing, and helping me to produce things I would never have dreamed of, and thank you Phil for always curating our pursuits into a post I always look forward to.”
“So good to be a part of the KA and see all your fabulous work over the last year – lots to be inspired by and challenged to undertake! Personally I got an enormous amount out of the Sheila Legge challenge (KA 36 – Phantom Of Surrealism). I felt a bit aimless at the start but once my mind began wondering about, while trying to recreate Sheila’s surrealist mask, I zeroed in on the parallel stresses between her era and ours – big scary times. That’s when my image took an environmental posture and I cobbled together imagery to represent power and disaster. I also added ground charcoal textures and hand writing to my photographic images and broke up the framing of the image with staggered photo stripes in the background. It was one of those surprising outcomes that seem to happen so effortlessly its almost as if someone else was giving me a hand. I was also happy that the flower head felt a bit Covidish. Looking forward to the next KA.”
“As many have written over this past year, our lives have become perhaps a tad too much like a De Chirico or Hopper painting. The empty, beguilling landscapes feel a little too familiar for comfort, but nonetheless, these sorts of spaces are my stomping ground. The unease of architectural space has always been an inspiration in my work, and so here are a few strange tableaus inspired by De Chirico’s The Song of Love(Kick-About No. 27).”
“This piece started life as a digital painting, in the style of Rutenberg’s paintings (Kick-About No.32). The more I’ve gotten into his work over the last few years, and as I’ve listened to him speak about his work and process, I’ve absorbed a lot of his wisdom and theory. Painting in Photoshop, from some recent photos I took on holiday in Somerset, I realised that without all the elements of thick oil paint, walnut oil, textured canvas and the monumental scale, this just wasn’t going to cut it. The sense of depth and light depicted in Brian’s work always astounds me, so I took the idea of his interplay of horizontals and verticals into ZBrush. I used the original digital painting to create the colour on the 3D. I made a rough approximation of the artist himself, just as a homage to a bit of a hero of mine, then created a tangle of intersecting forms. I encased this in a glass box to contain this in a 3D space, something the artist conveys so well on his canvases. A departure from my comfort zone on this one, another lesson learned from Rutenberg himself.”
“After a bit of pondering I have chosen the Matisse Kick About (No.38) for the anniversary of this last year’s offerings. I really liked Phil Cooper’s introduction about Matisse and his joy of playing with scissors as an exuberant response to nature. The fact he made these cut outs in later life reminded me of where I am in my own life and the joy I found doing these cut outs and playing with colour, shape and movement. I think I will be going back to them as they have been left out on the desk asking for more from me…”
“I love the shapes Gabo created – the magic of straight lines working together to create curves, and curves working together to create depth and movement. I started playing around with some yarn and metal shapes, and found myself thinking about the shadows these artifacts could create, with the right backdrop and well placed lights. I’m really pleased with the results.”
“In my other creative endeavours I recently came across the peculiar visual effects that can occur when you layer up uneven lines in a 2D or 3D space. In some cases this effect could be seen as undesirable but I very much enjoy the various patterns it generates at different levels of magnification and how it creates multiple levels of texture and visual interest.”
“The prompt brought to mind some small shibori fabric samples I had that I meant to embroider on. I had planned to do several, but time shrinking as it seems to do so well lately, I only got one done. I did, however, manage 5 Japanese style poems to go with the 5 photos attached.”
threads and circles
1 to be a thread held on the wings of birds soaring through vast light-filled air
2 layers merge separate become something else
3 stillness waits to expand beyond what is here
4 particles of light that remain uncaught—a song you can almost hear
5 tethered to itself or maybe nothing at all– just an idea
“I have loved Gabo since I was 15 when I started experimenting with sculpture. I was already interested in light, movement and transparencies and I found traditional sculpture taught at my art school wonderful but not quite my cup of tea, until I discovered Gabo. His work has all those ingredients and an amazing dynamic strength. I was never much for the rounded shapes but I resonate with the way he uses them because they are so powerful and not soft or indecisive. So here is my attempt to create growth in delicacy through my fused glass sculpture.”
“Many of my friends know that I do a lot of arts and crafts and they often give me bits and pieces and say “Can you make some use of this?” Well this is one of those times when the answer is “Yes!” In fact I’m not quite sure what this material actually is. It seems like a stiff and thick type of felt but the difference is I discovered that unlike ordinary felt, if you cut and twist this it will hold its shape beautifully. So I cut and twisted some long strips and twisted them around a central thread and hung my construction in a sunlit window. Next I played around with some recycled ring pulls that I had been saving. Naum Gabo was a trail blazer – I wonder what ideas he would have come up with if he had the resources of today?”
“I love Naum Gabo and I know how much my work has been influenced by him and also that period in time when so many exciting new ideas were being put forward, both in the arts and philosophy. The transparency of the material and desire to stretch the boundaries of them is fascinating. In these times, I am working with cardboard and have been for the past twelve years, turning it backwards into and an organic form of light and transparency in opposition to its mechanical machined square frame. For this kick about my inspiration came initially from the spiral and then I returned to my collection of pods!“
“I fell into looking at the brother, Antoine Pevsner, as his drawings and paintings triggered a desire to deconstruct older still-life paintings with an interest in achieving more spatially ambiguous subject matter and a hope to add more to dynamic composition. A mix of palette knife and brushwork helped counter habits being formed whilst a painting evolves. An enjoyable KA.”
“The following photographs were produced by stringing nylon wire between the legs of a console table pushed up against one long wall in our kitchen, and then using the torch on my knackered old iPhone to produce some high-points of reflection on some wires, and to cast some shadows too. Something expansive and landscape-like got started in these images, and I’m adding these experiments to my list entitled ‘One day, I’ll do this all again on a MUCH bigger scale.’
“Naum Gabo_Linear Construction Number 2 – such a hopeful outlook to art. I used to love string art as a kid, all those rigid lines. On a recent walk I took photos of the rather drab grey and fairly ugly Story Bridge here in Brisbane and drew it in illustrator in a formal fashion in orange. I thought of adding buildings behind or portions of cars but the bridge turned out so complicated I just added a bit of white cloud – a portion of low quality iPhone photo, but I think it worked and it broke up the rigid picture framing a little. It was nice to spend time concentrating on all those bright orange shapes and not on the world as it is.“
And for our next creative run-around together, our prompt is the celebrated Ukrainian folk-artist, Maria Prymachenko.
From the lovely free-wheeling associations of our last Kick-About together, to the pared-down, typographic compositions of graphic designer and film-maker, Saul Bass, welcome to another showcase of new works made in a short time.
“Lots of ideas came and went with this prompt, including the darkness of present day Ukraine but, finally, I settled on something that had, hopefully, a sense of vertigo, as well as a tinge of Hitchcock. I remembered a trip to New Zealand, during which there was a minor earthquake. I was standing outside having walked in a surprisingly calm manner out of the vibrating house (no damage) and watched frozen to the spot, the feeling of the earth beneath my feet no longer being solid, static and secure but moving in waves – a living thing – resulting in a true loss of balance.” Tracing paper, string, cracked mirror, graphite and watercolour on gesso.
“Although I did not know the name of Saul Bass before this prompt, much of his work was instantly recognizable. Here are the film posters I grew up with, and I had a really fun time playing with the colours, the geometrics, and the directness of Bass’s images. I had to find some new techniques and some worked better than others, but overall, I am pleased with the finished object. So next time I want to curl up on the sofa to watch a classic movie, my “Movie Night” throw will be right there with me!”
“Some Saul Bass inspired illustrations from the gorgeous and brutal The Handmaid’s Tale. Its stunning red and teal colour palette was truly calling for it!”
“The work of early motion designers like Saul Bass and John Whitney is something of an enigma, which I think comes from a certain looseness hard to replicate using modern digital animation techniques. Recently, I have begun to pick up a bit of coding to supplement my usual creative outlets and try to understand an entirely new way to generate art and animation that just a few months ago had basically been totally unknown to me.Despite what may sound like quite a rigid and unforgiving system of creativity, I have found there is a kind of looseness in programming graphics that is a lot of fun to play with. Add a few lines or numbers and expressions and just see what happens. Sometimes you can produce some unexpected and interesting results that harken back to the days of the early computer artists and graphics designers.
As for me, it’s very early days, as far as my skills go, but I have been able to produce a few little interesting bits. One of the exciting things about using code is that nearly everything can be randomised or given a level of user interactivity. No two images or animations will appear the completely same. Feel free to generate your own unique versions of these images using the links below.”
“Back when I was teaching an undergraduate course, one of my yearly highlights was a screening for students of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho on the big screen. There are many showier reasons for enjoying this film, but I always loved the Saul Bass-designed opening titles – those simple horizontal lines sliding in across the frame with such urgency, while Bernard Herrmann’s score propelled them along. Working with a few simple elements – dots and dashes, lines and ellipses – I set about producing an affectionate fantasia on some Bass-inspired themes.”
“We have a ‘clattering’ of jackdaws which visit us at least twice a day to gather up the food that has been spilled from our bird feeders by the other smaller birds. One day we noticed one jackdaw was moving around rather strangely and being shooed away by the others. As it hopped about we could then see it had a badly damaged wing, and when the others flew off it quickly ran/jumped away and scuttled into our hedge. Over the last 5 or 6 weeks ‘Hoppy’ has managed to survive by scrounging food from us and various other neighbours in turn. Now he is not intimidated by the other birds and manages to hold his own even against some huge black crows and rooks which sometimes arrive. In fact, he is tolerated quite well by the other birds, and I have even seen a couple of his jackdaw mates fly up and knock food down from the feeders especially for him as he waits below. You can’t help but admire Hoppy, and for this reason I have made him the star of my Saul Bass-style poster.”
“Sorry – bit of a rant but better out than in. The face is made of of little figures – meant to be asexual, they look more like men with extra big hips. I just can’t imagine how awful life must be for the Ukrainians because of that psychopath. Nukes, China? I think at a human level it is well past time to step in.”
“I struggled to find a form of language/text to add to a painting that further portrayed the emotion within the situation I was visualising. I realised that in this most horrific of situations there was ‘voice’ yet their distress calls simply evaporated into the cloud formations above, leaving no hope for those adrift in the English Channel. A bleak painting for bleak times.”
“I remember watching movies as a kid and loving the Saul Bass credit sequences more than the actual film; they seemed more exciting and mysterious by far. Whilst doing a bit of research for this prompt, I came across on old Sci-fi short filmSaul and Elaine Bass directed called Quest. It looks dated and clunky now, but I liked it all the same, with some nice visuals and design. The ending resonated with the current times for me, and it led me to thinking about how precious every day of our lives are. This piece of work might be a poster for the movie. I’d been looking at Saul Bass when I made it. “
Inspired perhaps by the whirling spirograph of Saul Bass’s Vertigo poster, but prompted too by the importance of parsing distinctions between ideologies and individuals, Naum Gabo’s Linear Construction No.2 is our jumping-off point for the next two weeks.