I took the photograph (below) in Katowice, Poland, on the first of my two trips there in 2017 and 2019 respectively. My reason for visiting the city was on account of my collaboration with the orchestra there.
This particular image was taken on my first visit, on a bright winter’s afternoon, as I explored the city in the gap between rehearsal and performance. Léger’s painting, La Ville (the prompt for The Kick-About No. 41) reminded me of this image, something about the absence of any horizon and all those vertical stripes, the prompt sending me back to my archives for a rummage.
The association made, I set myself the task of using this one photograph as the only element in a digital collage, re-sizing it, layering it, rotating it, slicing it up, and then building it back together again. Different layering combinations soon pushed out different colours, and ultimately, different cities, or rather the same city at different times of the day. In common with so many of these Kick-About challenges, I find restricting my available resources to be an effective way of getting into making different types of work.
From the ephemera of the last KA’s flowers of fire, to the more concrete energies of Fernand Leger’s La Ville, it’s another showcase of new works made in a short time by an eclectic group of creatives. We have ‘all sorts’ of different work in the mix – and quite literally this time too! Happy browsing.
“I wanted to create an abstract image that conjured up the feeling of climbing some obscenely huge tower and looking down on the endlessly sprawling megalopolis below.”
“I don’t know why, but Léger’s work reminds me of liquorice allsorts, with a touch of fuzzy felts (remember them?) thrown in… So I spent an enjoyable afternoon playing with sweets, attempting to recreate something vaguely Léger-like, at the same time gobbling the residue – eating the art! Can’t recommend it highly enough!”
In the beginning you can divide the questions into a multitude of forms. For your second act define your journey. Offer your voice to the silence of light. Remember to open the secret red door. Do you know why? It’s too early to be the end. Simple, really.
“My daughter had the good fortune to go to the premiere of the film, House of Gucci, in London recently. Whilst watching the stars parade down the red carpet, she took a fabulous photo on her mobile. It captured Lady Gaga walking through a forest of mobiles held aloft, and with the city lights all around. I thought this was such a great shot and would be just right for this Kick-About. I did a watercolour sketch first and then transcribed it into cubist terms. How times have changed since the times of Leger!”
“I do not share Léger’s delight in modern cities, In fact, the aspect of British cities I most enjoy is the eclectic mixture of architecture from throughout the centuries. Here you are very likely to find long-established shops housed in medieval buildings, sagging gently against a some tall, stern, corsetted Victorian hotel, which is itself being eyeballed by a 1960’s concrete office block. Leger wrote to a friend, ‘I am still constantly astonished by the vertical urge of these people drunk with architecture. From my room on the thirtieth floor, the night is the most astonishing spectacle in the world. Nothing can be compared to it… This city is infernal. A mixture of elegance and toughness.’
I am trying to capture, in crochet, that spirit of a night time cityscape. It is a work in progress, but I started with sketches, then collage, and then began recreating some of those images in what will eventually be, (I think), a five-panelled piece of work. As you can see, there is a way to go!”
“Léger may have lived in an exciting time when cities were evolving rapidly with new industries and styles emerging – and I do love a new architectural design device today but, after the last year and a half, cities have lost a lot of gloss for me. In my KA submission I used building facade photos to recreate the Covid 19 virus model from the CDC and popped a little fiery hell below it. Looks fairly cheery to me!“
“I took this photograph in Katowice, Poland, on the first of my two trips there in 2017 and 2019 respectively. My reason for visiting the city was on account of my collaboration with the orchestra there. This particular image was taken on my first visit, on a bright winter’s afternoon, as I explored the city in the gap between rehearsal and performance. Léger’s painting reminded me of this image, something about the absence of any horizon and all those vertical stripes, the prompt sending me back to my archives for a rummage.
The association made, I set myself the task of using this one photograph as the only element in a digital collage, re-sizing it, layering it, rotating it, slicing it up, and then building it back together again. Different layering combinations soon pushed out different colours, and ultimately, different cities, or rather the same city at different times of the day. In common with so many of these Kick-About challenges, I find restricting my available resources to be an effective way of getting into making different types of work.”
“Léger’s love of the city is evident in his painting, La Ville. It hums with the energy and activity of the ever-changing urban landscape. Everything in the painting looks on the move, new structures are rising up before our eyes, while others are being knocked down to make way for yet more construction.
I live in Berlin, a city with a unique history and a place that’s had more than it’s fair share of destruction and renewal. The life of the city here has ebbed and flowed like the tide, dying down and growing up again dramatically over the last hundred years or so. I’ve been out sketching recently, taking a little folding stool out into the neighbourhood where I live, drawing and painting quickly (because it’s so chilly here at the moment!), responding to the strong shapes of the architecture and the frequently shifting landscape of the streets.
This sketch for the Kick-About is of a ruined old building that was part of a factory complex. Not that old, but derelict and dead, waiting to be cleared away for something else. It was a great subject to paint, probably more interesting than the bland blocks of flats that will undoubtedly take its place soon. Léger celebrated the shiny energy of the new, but I’ve been drawn to the melancholy of the city that is disappearing.”
“With Léger’s La Ville being inspired by the city’s urbanisation I decided to mimic the feeling of constant change. Gritty photos taken on the streets of my current stomping ground in London are meshed together in a smorgasbord of shapes, colours and texture, to highlight the building up and tearing down of the fast paced concrete jungle.”
Thanks to regular Kick-Abouter, Phil Cooper, we have a new prompt, Andy Goldsworthy’sIce Spiral, which is surely a secret wish for the magic of winter and other transformations. Have fun, and see you back here in December.
Our last Kick-About together introduced me to an artist I didn’t know, Peter Mungkuri, whose monochromatic and illustrative paintings simplified plant forms in feathery marks and concentric circles. This week it’s Matisse, an artist with whom we’re likely more familiar, but whose cut-outs remind us of the joy of colour, form and working directly. But just before you settle down to enjoy this week’s showcase of new works made in a short time, a few words of congratulation to regular Kick-Abouter, Brisbane-based artist, James Randall, whose painting,Card Players, is a finalist in the 2021 Brisbane Portrait Prize. Boom! Congratulations, James.
“Matisse said collage was like ‘drawing with scissors’. Having been using collage to make images for quite a few years now, I know what he means. There’s something very direct and liberating about snipping away and playing with cut up paper. I find I can create such lively and dynamic juxtapositions that I’d never be able to make any other way. I think Matisse made his paper cut-outs when he was getting old and increasingly ill. The exuberance and joy in these simple responses to nature, made by a man who was nearing the end of his life, really touch me, and they act as a powerful tonic in these increasingly fractured and unsettling times.
I made this collage using paper I’d painted myself, along with cut up fragments from old magazines I’d bought in a second-hand bookshop. It was made after a magical encounter I’d had with a hare in the forest on the outskirts of Berlin last week. It was dusk, and I was having a break during a cycle ride through the woods. As I was sat on the edge of a sandy glade in the twilight, I noticed the hare, sat upright, about ten feet away from me. We looked at each other for a minute before he loped off into the trees. I’ve never seen a hare so close, they are such beautiful creatures, so when I arrived home that evening, I got out the scissors and paper and set about trying to capture the moment.”
“The idea here was to tap into the seaweed cyanotypes of Anna Atkins by cutting into one of my own, in this case of an iceberg, but sea-related nonetheless. Sadly, time ran out so it didn’t progress from there, but maybe I’ll develop the idea at some point, as it has potential…”
“I’m a big fan of drawing with scissors, as Matisse described it. But I didn’t pick up the scissors. For one thing, the bees kept swarming! Three more times. I mean, crikey! As soon I saw the prompt for the Kick-About, I thought of seaweed, (not bees) and in particular I thought of the seaweed I painted for When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna; the book I have just finished illustrating. There are several pages featuring the sea in this book, and in three of them, I took the opportunity to create underwater scenes full of colourful seaweed. So when I was working on ideas for the endpapers, one of them featured crabs and seaweed. I never finished this concept, because it didn’t seem as apt as some of the other ideas, but after spending a whole day painting tiny crabs, and working them into patterns, I did fall in love with this little guy hiding behind his seaweed…”
“Today, I revisited the unfinished endpapers and played around a little bit more.”
“A fun prompt with so much on-line inspiration available – thanks Evelyn and Chris! Rather than painting paper and cutting it out, I cut, curled and tore a couple of A4 sheets of blank paper then photographed them up close. Then I digitised them and Illustrator and Photoshop combined and coloured them. They evolved quite a bit over the two weeks.”
“Henri Matisse’s cut-outs got me thinking about the shapes that are left behind, not just the pieces cut out, but the effect of the space where the cut-out had been. I used first some old yarn, and them some strips torn from a magazine to glue, in a wrap, around balloons. After several coats of glue had dried and hardened, I burst the balloon and eased the remnants away from the inside of the shapes. Here are the resulting structures.”
“I also tried the same technique with some beautiful autumn leaves, but this was not very successful, partly becasue the leaves needed to be dried for longer, and partly because I cannot tie a knot in a balloon to save my life. The balloon just gently deflated long before the leaves were hard enough to support their own weight. But I could see the potential for some beautiful shapes, so I’ll just have to keep trying.“
I’ve used Matisse and his cut outs so many times as a reference; I found a cut out I photographed at an exhibition at the Boston Museum of Art, one I had never seen before then, and realized the top image reminded me of a devil mask, so that’s what I decided to do, in the spirit of Halloween. I used Mexican masks as an additional reference.
And a poem also in the spirit of Matisse:
The mask is mute—it does not tell what lies beneath– layers falling backward, a way from the present– unglued, it rearranges, becomes paper becomes scissors cutting through the air– thought stilled before form
“Matisse turned to scissors and coloured paper for expediency to produce his celebrate cut-outs, which surely derive their energy from that directness. In thinking about my approach to this prompt, I wanted to identify an equivalency for Matisse’s scissors – a ubiquitous tool – and the speediness of producing shapes, for then combining in different ways. So it was I began my image-making with Powerpoint – oh yes, the infamous ‘presentation-maker’, notorious as software for producing will-sapping slides to be shown in under-ventilated rooms. One of the application’s off-the-peg tools is ‘Insert Shapes’ – which allows you to draw simple shapes with a quick drag of your mouse, and then colour and outline them as you see fit. I used Power Point to produce collections of basic shapes – circles, rectangles and squares – and then brought those ‘cut-outs’ into Photoshop, where I set about layering them one on top of the other with as much immediacy as I could muster.”
“This felt very much like a meditative practice, in which I lost myself in the process of creating such squidgy shapes with an abundance of colour. I wanted to reflect Matisse’s practice and keep things fluid, as he did in his old age. I felt very much like a kid again, by keeping things as practical as possible and avoided any overly cerebral thoughts, so a lot of these designs took on a life of their own, and I thoroughly enjoyed letting them be.”
“Working with a palette knife is refreshing, as it encourages blocking-out of form avoiding details early on in the process. Obviously quite abstracted, this is based upon a partial still-life within the studio, yet the colours were not local to the objects. Once dry I couldn’t resist a bit more control using a brush. Matisse and colour are joyous things to live with.” Oil on canvas board 25 x 25cm.
“I enjoy Matisse’s cut-outs because it’s the type of work that just makes you want to get some colour paper and scissors and get all arty and creative without any inhibitions. Unfortunately, when you use a computer it’s easy to forget all of that, and often I get lost somewhere in the fog of the minutiae of digital art and CG. To be honest, for a while I approached this in completely the wrong way, but in the end I just went with what I can only describe as the CG equivalent of some pieces of colour paper and scissors.“
“I love cut-outs. Mine rarely stay in 2 dimensions. I resisted hanging them and lay them on the background. I still want to hang them and see them moving. Time caught up with my wishing to make a little film of them spinning in space. Later maybe…”
“This was great fun! The wonderful fluid shapes of Matisse are just timeless. They fit in with today’s world as easily as when he created them way back in the 40s. I thought I would use October’s vegetable harvest for my design and chopped a red pepper and cabbage in half and made a sketch of them. Then I looked for some interesting’ Matisse like’ shapes. That actually was the easy bit! The more difficult task for me was arranging my cut out shapes and finding a colour scheme. After many alterations I was happy with my layout of some trees .I then decided to do a second picture and hey presto my shapes had turned into a vase of flowers with the help of a recycled painting that I always knew would come in handy.“
I take Mr Mungkuri’s works to be about a sense of place, memory and stewardship of his country. I tried to evoke a similar sense of capturing memories and the way they integrate but change and blur.
“This image was an attempt at getting a kind of scratchy illustrative quality using the tools that I would typically use to make more polished CG work. I liked the somewhat otherworldly quality of the prompt, so this image, through trial and error, evolved into this big and mysterious organic-looking structure.”
“This work is stunning, so a huge thank you for bringing Peter Mungkuri into my world. To Australian Aboriginals, the land, and all who dwell in it, is sacred, interspersed by marks of great significance. Finding one of the nearest parallels here, I looked back at Medieval Catholicism, where people lived their belief system (sadly that didn’t stretch to the natural world) and pilgrimage was a part of that, so… the circlet of Rowan berries (symbol of the Tree of Life/ protection in Celtic lore) is a kind of ‘votive card’, a prompt on the journey; to remind us we are part of a greater whole (this is where we depart from established religion) where the Sacred truly lies. The woodland floor is ‘now’ – not a Pre-Raphaelite romance, but the reality of finding pharmaceuticals scattered among the beech maasts…”
Rowan circlet. Graphite and watercolour on paper. 6” X 6”
“Pills and Beech Maasts” Graphite on Gesso. 2’ X 4’ ( Diptych)
“I love Aboriginal Art and especially Peter Mungkuri. He paints such wonderful patterns, shapes and colours, which are indicative of his memories of his country. I also learnt he is passionate about teaching the younger generation about taking care of their homeland. Good on him! Whilst doing my research I came across a game the Aboriginies played using stones painted with symbols, with which they used to tell stories. I thought I would try doing a similar thing. Unfortunately, there seems to be a shortage of smooth round pebbles in my area and I spent more time looking for suitable stones than painting them! I tried to think of symbols young children would easily recognise and could turn into a story.”
“‘Monochromatic plant forms’ was the start for me in response to Mungkuri’s painting. I was curious to see how ‘slightly’ I could depict my subject matter, how stripped down, and then use some of the techniques from this previous Kick-About response to produce particular effects. I was also thinking about the direct image-making of producing cyanotypes and how you only get one shot, and how the immediacy of the process produces happy accidents and unpredictability. The resulting images combine drawing onto painted glass (or is it etching?) with long-exposure photography, and I was happy with the resulting mood of them; plant skeletons under moonlight?”
“This painter was a great inspiration, and I am sad not to have spent more time on it. Where I live I am gratefully surrounded by trees in the centre of a busy city. I feel their presence all the time, as I work at home. However, when I am out, the sensation of trees affected by light is what inspires me and gives me their stories. I was intrigued by the black and white of the images. Unusual for me to see Aborigine paintings in monochrome. So I have included 2 drawings in Black and White However I couldn’t resist including the tree outside my window that supplies me daily with stories in full colour, especially at this time of year.
“The layering of the different elements got me thinking about an idea from Claudia McGill that I had copied and saved which I recently found when sorting out files. She took a magazine and tore pages partially out to create a new layered collage-like image. I did not have any magazines with trees, but I have lots of surfing magazines I bought on eBay because they are full of images of sea and sky to use in collage. So I layered the ocean. My poem is a shadorma quadrille for dVerse, using the word provided by Linda, linger.”
weaving light waves that cross over in curved lines, waves that land inside the pause of the edge, waves that linger cusped–
a small piece of time, and yet it fills me up– I balance, holding on to tides synapsed between spells and signs
“I have been looking at some aboriginal art for some time and thinking about how to incorporate the shapes and tones into crochet, so this prompt was just what I needed to give it a go. This first attempt is very simplistic, but I enjoyed creating it, and will definitely return to this prompt in the future.”
“The prompt could hardly have been more suited to me and my natural inclinations. It’s inky and leafy and Australian. What strikes me most is the combination of the loosest of ink splatters with far more careful and detailed patterning. I was going to explore some inkiness yesterday (Yep! Last minute again!) to see where an observation of Mungkuri’s work might take me, especially with regard to the use of white ink patterning over the top of the looser ink layers. But before I could begin something happened… Our bees swarmed! Later, I had a bit of a go at my inky exploration of Peter Mungkuri’s plant drawings, but my mind was full of bees. And joy. So it became an illustration of Hugo and me, arms uplifted to the swarming bees.”
Our last Kick-About together was illuminated by Marie Menken’s experimental film, Lights. Made in 1966, the glow coming off Menken’s film is as much powered by a certain nostalgia for a particular time and place, as it is by electricity. Our attachment to artifacts of the past, and commitment to keeping and collecting moments-in-time, however fleeting, is explored in this week’s showcase of new work created by an eclectic community of creatives in the short space of two weeks. Enjoy.
“In 1959, my Mother took an emotional transatlantic flight from Vancouver to visit her folks in Bournemouth, whom she had not seen since 1951. On return, she brought home ‘memorable somethings’ for each of us four boys. At age seven I was thrilled with owning Sooty, hence today he is the most cherished of my possessions. My little 62 year old muse posed as part of ‘paintings of a morning’ achieved across the 31 days of August 2020, which mostly referenced local produce. This past week, this unassuming 20 x 20cm oil on board portrait was on exhibit in Whitstable’s The View Gallery, alongside 40 of my paintings.”
“Hmmm… Just one word, eh? “Souvenir”. First thought was of those plastic lighthouses from the Isle of Wight filled with bands of different coloured sand; or a “Kiss Me Quick” hat from Blackpool. (Don’t know why. I’ve never owned either of them.) Second thought was the original meaning of the word, “to occur to the mind”. And the third thought was… my little red tartan box! Never having been the sort of person to let one word stand where a few hundred words might happily swarm, I hope the following words and images impart to you something of what my little red box means to me.”
“This is via a friend who has a friend, who bought the watch back from China (obviously a while ago), so not my own souvenir but one I couldn’t resist! The star goes around, and I think the arm must wave on the hour… brilliant. ‘Keeping Time’, graphite and watercolour on paper.
“We recently had a wonderful day visiting the Queensland Art Gallery, which was showing a selection of master works from the Met. Great show. Halfway through it they offered a number of activities to clear away the visual overload, including a costumed life drawing station. I took the weight off my feet and did a quick sketch – my souvenir from the show. Since then I’ve been layering the sketch over some brightly recoloured charcoal layers. A bit of fun for me to do.”
“Here is my souvenir. A shell picked up on some holiday, turned into an etching a long time ago when I was studying under my maestro, now turned into a memento of another time, another place, another life…” Drypoint 15 x 12 cm.
“The prompt of souvenir seemed perfect: my daughter had given me a small sketchbook, and every day I sat on my beach chair with my feet in the waves doing a drawing, and then writing a haiku to accompany it. The sketchbook would be my souvenir.
On the last day the ocean was quite rough, due to Hurricane Henri passing by, so I sat far up on the sand, where only a small piece of a dying wave occasionally brushed my toes. Holding my sketchbook up to let the watercolor pencil drawing dry I was suddenly totally upended by a rogue wave that covered me completely. I stood up, soaked, clutching my pencils in one hand, but watching my sketchbook being pulled under and out to sea. I will replay that image in my mind for a long time, maybe forever. When I got home, I channeled my emotional turmoil into neocolors, drawing from memory the ocean that was now fixed in my mind. The sketchbook drawings were so much more beautiful though. At least that’s how I’ll always remember them.”
I could not look at it from be fore or aft er, only the angle of gone, dissolved, empty, vanishing–
not just the material thing that had been dispossessed, but what it represented– a piece of myself,
never to be recovered–and here I am left watching, clinging to impermanence like water and wind
“I mentioned before I am a bit if a hoarder, and therefore this prompt was rather a godsend to me. I have had some fabulous holidays but one of the most exciting was a trip to Arizona – the highlight being a trip to Tombstone. It was a fascinating place, and kept in it’s original state with a saloon bar, horse drawn carriages, and, of course, the OK Corral. It is said that ‘Death never took a holiday in Tombstone’ My souvenirs include copies of some old posters and a booklet listing the graves in Boothill Graveyard. The headstones include descriptions of how some residents met their demise, such as ‘Hanged by mistake,’ ‘Wagon rang over his head’ and ‘Discussion over fastest way to draw’. Life was tough in those days! Another treasured poster is an original photo of Geronimo and friends in the battlefield in 1886. The scenery of Arizona is breathtaking and I have attempted to paint the Chiracahua National Monument where Geronimo and his Apache band once found refuge.”
“I’ve got a number of scars on my forty-six year old body; the ubiquitous BCG crater on my arm, a hernia scar from when I was a tiny baby, a ‘hole’ between my eyebrows where I picked a chicken pox spot, and more recently acquired, a scattering of other facial scars following a particularly nasty attack of shingles back in the winter of 2015. You might call these dents and puckerings my ‘souvenirs’ of the wear-and-tear of just being alive.
One of my favourite scenes in Jaws (1975), is the sweet, funny moment when grizzled shark-hunter Quint compares war wounds with the more academic oceanographer and shark expert, Matt Hooper. The two men trade stories about the various different ways various different things have taken lumps out of their respective flesh, leaving them with anecdotes written into the surfaces of their bodies. Meanwhile, Chief Brody looks on, deciding against sharing his own battle scar, because, we suspect, his ‘souvenir ‘ is unlikely to impress. I know how Brody feels. With this in mind, I’ve imagined myself as being as colorful a character as Quint, and with just as many stories to tell about terrifying encounters and near-death experiences, and all of them leaving their mark on my body. These imaginary encounters derive from the spectacular dangers of my adolescent life, or rather from my formative confrontations with a host of larger-than-life fictional perils found in paperbacks and on VHS cassette tapes…”
“I don’t know about anyone else but I have felt a shift in the air with things starting to feel more autumnal. I may have been watching too many horror and slasher films, but for this prompt, my head went straight to the macabre…”
“Near to my place here in Japan is a lonely, tucked away and somewhat overgrown Buddhist temple. There are thousands of these all over the country and they are always filled with interesting statues, iconography, mementos and architecture that give us a glimpse and a reminder into the history of places and people. I braved the 32 degree sunshine and mosquitoes so that I could capture the moment of that place and perhaps in the future, look back and be reminded of hot and humid August afternoons somewhere far away from home.”
“Apart from my huge collection of pods I have brought back, or been given, from all over the world my inspiration for this Kick-About came from a specific experience that continually informs my work. I’ve spoken of it before in a previous KA. It’s that time of year again for the storms to transform the coastal dunes around the island of Isle D’Oleron. It will always mark that change for me between Summer and Autumn. So I am taken back to the dunes, and those battered fences that are twisted and turned by the raging sea.”
“I was a bit bamboozled by the dancing chicken clip from ‘Stroszek’ having never watched the film. So I opted for some zany, silly visuals, featuring the chicken, duck and rabbit! I call it ‘Head Banger Stroszek.’“
“I first decided to draw while watching the video on a roll of rice paper that I had. This was a fun exercise, worth thinking about for other videos in the future. Then I did some monoprint outlines, based on those sketches. I tried to monoprint color on top, but that was not as successful, so I improvised with paint. Only the chicken with the blue background did not have a printed outline, it was all drawn in neocolors. There is no cohesiveness to this week’s work, but chickens are endlessly fascinating to draw. So maybe that’s the take-away.”
“I love the dancing chicken. Never would I have thought… Funnily enough, I am just painting a rooster, even if its meaning is a bit of a departure from the prompt. It all started from various kick about prompts actually, tree of life, symbols etc. Here is a bit of my tree of life, more like a climber really, with roots in the sea going up in a dreamy night sky, and my rooster daughter (by the Chinese horoscope), perched on it. Looks like a rooster singing to the moon now.”
“With this task I found myself in the realms of abstract again and fancied concentrating on the marks made by the chicken as it scratched and danced about. I decided to crochet the shape of a chicken, duck and rabbit footprint and stick them onto pieces of card to use as stamps. Next I used acrylics to paint the background and added some contrast printing using recycled packaging. After this I just proceeded to enjoy myself with ‘chicken foot ‘ stamp to make a happy dancing type of pattern. In fact I think there is actually a dance called Chicken in the Straw – so I have renamed this painting ‘Drunken Chicken in the Straw’. Plus had to finish with a little chicken quip – ‘I dream of a better world… where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned!'”
“I was a bit focused on other little projects – though chicken dance was lurking in the back of my mind – originally I was contemplating an image of someone crossing the road, lost battery chicken-like in their smart phone. My final offering quickly took off from a couple of weird things I did and the news feeds bombarding us in Australia on the delta variant, to the point where it feels like we never had alpha at all and that delta just appeared out of the ethers. We Australians really have ourselves to blame for not deciding to bite the bullet and take the not best option astra zenica for delta’s current launch in Sydney. Anyhow, my attempt at a voodooish/distressed thought-bubble.”
“This scene really drew attention to just how bizarre a chicken really is, dancing aside. I realised I’d never really studied one before. Great opportunity to do so, so I took a tonne of screen shots from the film and picked some charismatic head shots. Getting to grips with the mixer brushes in Photoshop now, almost tailor made to paint fur and feathers.”
“I think Werner Herzog used the dancing chicken as some kind of bleak metaphor for the tackiness and the emptiness of modern life at the time. Personally, I wanted to elevate the chicken to something more elegant, while capturing its essence and joie de vivre. In the end, I settled on these black and white images, which were somewhat inspired by an encounter with a rooster and some charcoal during my college days.”
“I got very excited when I first saw this prompt, because I just love chickens! The range of colours and patterns they display in their plumage; their ability to scuttle about very busily, and then stop stock still – like a screen freeze – before resuming their previous activity, as if nothing had happened – and the fact they combine such dignity with such comedic flair. I just love ‘em! But, I have never attempted to capture motion in yarn before, let alone dancing hens. I soon realised crochet does not lend itself easily to “action shots” so it took a lot of head scratching and moaning and groaning before I found a way forward.
I found photos of chickens running, and then got my techie friend to overlap and tessellate them. From that I tried to identify the key shapes that said “chicken”. (See attached scribbles.) From that, I decided on tail shape, coxcomb and legs, and then tried to develop those into a pattern that might suggest movement. I chose colours in keeping with the folksy, children’s story mood of the original prompt. Here are the results. Chicken Runner, anyone?“
“I was struck by the folksy, pop-culture qualities of Herzog’s dancing chicken, and keen to investigate the movement of these performing animals too. The rather forlorn spectacle of these animals, in boxes, existing to entertain through repetitive actions got me thinking about mechanical toys, so I acquired a mass-produced tin toy clock-work chicken and set about trying to capture its efforts to entertain me, in the form of a series of long-exposure photographs.”
“This was a challenge! So based solely on trailers and reviews, my imagination wandered towards Victorian anthropomorphy and the use of animals for amusement, (YouTube awash with examples), looking at the flea circus, kittens tea parties, besuited mice etc. The result? A chicken/human cross!The other image is a set up in my studio: a plastic figure picked up in the street against a favourite haunt in Greece. In Stroszek, the main character lands on a strange shore and never fully integrating, remains an outsider, wandering from place to place. It was this and a sense of the surreal that I was trying to capture.“
And for your delight and delectation, a bit more moving image by way of inspiration for our next run-around together, courtesy of experimental film-maker, Marie Menken, and her 1966 silent short, Lights. Hope this inspires some light-bulb moments of your own!
From the previous Kick-About’s deep and velvety shadows, courtesy of animator of silhouettes, Lotte Reiniger, to this Cinemascopic vista of glowing, saturated colours by the painter, Brian Rutenberg, and all the new work Low Dense has inspired in the same short space of fourteen days. Enjoy the view.
“When I was an ambassador for University one hot summer, similar to the melting heat in the UK at the moment, I was tasked with taking down the graduate shows of the students that proudly presented their creative work to their family, friends and fellow students. I spent a few weeks dismantling the makeshift wooden stages, pulling out nails and painting over the brightly coloured stripes and symbols that students designed to present their work in theme with their creations.
One task I had to do was take large canvases students had painted on, and throw them into the skip near the smokers’ shed (where I spent many lunch breaks laughing and smoking my lungs out with my friends and classmates). It always saddened me to know some students would rather dump their work, no matter how large the canvas, so instead of giving them the heave-ho into the trash, I told my thrifty friends about the canvases, who happily decided to take them back to their uni homes and upcycle them to their hearts’ content, painting and drawing on them however they pleased.
I kept the largest canvas for myself. Dripping in sweat, carrying this beast down the iconic Rochester hill, I ended up sandwiching it into my tiny uni bedroom, but I never did anything with the canvas for years, which has since followed me along with two house moves. I have had ideas; I cut out all the silhouettes I kept from life drawing classes, and thought about doing a collage of all of them together on the large canvas, but never did, but I always knew I would do something with it when the time was right.
I have always loved Rutenberg’s kaleidoscope of colours, with the blocks of different variants of hues having such an immense power of depth to them. I thought it would be the perfect chance to finally let loose upon this canvas, and use the many tubes of paint I have stashed from many Christmas gifts that otherwise have been left to gather dust. I couldn’t think of any better way to spend a hot day – sitting outside in the heat with a cold beer or two, and painting away in the garden. It was a therapeutic experience to say the least. I think I may have to figure out how to make my own canvases”.
“Colour: I’ve had this beautiful little pot of rouge for years and would guess it dates back to the 1930s. It’s such a vivid pink and lifts my spirits in the same way the fabric (a recent buy, reminding me of the 70s) does… a perfect zingy combination! The “rainbow” appeared on the wall of my studio: a tiny oblong of jewelled colour in an otherwise white space.“
“Kick-About colour: I have been toying with a method for applying colour to my electronic scribbles with mezzotint filters in Photoshop. I applied it to a section of a refrigerator totem image I am continuing to work on and it seems to have worked, but you have to zoom in to see the colour which works in a kind of pointillist way without the effort. In other news, I have been short-listed for the Kilgour prize at Newcastle (in New South Wales) Art Gallery with my Isadora Duncan Kick-About painting (red jumpsuit / yellow car). It is a competition that actual artists enter so I feel quite chuffed. It’s now framed and will be couriered down to New South Wales on Friday for judging and exhibiting with the other finalists.*“
This weekend, I happened to go to an exhibition at Bristol’s Botanic garden. It was showing work from a residency by Artist in residence, Alex Hirtzel, in association with biologist, Dr. David Lawson. It was called Displays Decoded – The Multi-sensory language of flowers. In part of that exhibition, the artist had explored how, scientifically, the bee or other insects see colour. For us it appears that they see the ultra violet, and radiation of heat attracts them, as bees particularly cannot feast on the flower until it emits over 30 degrees. So there are lots of them around at the moment. Making hay while the sun shines! Thinking of Brian Rutenberg, I found myself watching a bee entering the Antirrhinums on my balcony and wondered what they would be seeing or feeling within that flower that they seemed to have to force their way in. I have tried to capture some of that possibility without UV! It looks a little Georgia O’Keefe to me now. Getting into sensations and how to describe them needs a lot more exploration.“
“This painting makes me think of shanty towns, rift valleys, and the coming of night. I was interested in the way Rutenberg combines angular blocks of colour with broad sweeps of undefined colours that merge and separate. I played about with some paints and pens, but my thoughts kept turning to how I might create a similar effect with yarn. I decided to have a go. It is still a work in progress, butt here is what I have done so far. In my head, it is called ‘The Last Ray'”.
“I had not heard of Brian Rutenberg 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!
I must admit, as a figurative painter, once I’d analysed the HOW, for me, much of the work lost some of its WOW. It’s the kind of work I have come across in large corporate boardrooms (not that I have been in that many), designed to impress or intimidate.For my pieces I took the technique I had unpicked and tried a few landscapes of my own, with very mixed results. It is one thing to understand a process but quite another to create in that genre. 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 colors immediately made me think of Monet, which made me think of the grids I did based on Monet’s work. This is a very intense way to look at art, and I learned a lot from it as I not only did some of Monet’s paintings, but an entire book of other artists for The Sketchbook Project. The subtleties of color are amazing when you look closely at them. Rutenberg clearly has an eye for color. You can see my work with Monet here and here, and my Sketchbook Project book, Art I Like, here.”
everywhere falls apart mind to eyes expanding
falls apart becomes its opposite expanding into stories
becomes its opposite days into nights into stories the sun intersecting the moon
days into nights future and past the sun intersecting the moon enlarging the horizon
future and past the surprise of delight enlarging the horizon to leave is to arrive
the surprise of delight mind to eyes to leave is to arrive everywhere
“I really love Brian Rutenberg’s painting, with its wonderful explosive colours. My own attempt at an abstract was inspired by my recent (surprise) gliding experience, and the view of the fabulous patchwork of fields below me. I firstly made a rough sketch of my ideas and then took some prewashed pieces of crinkled cotton and stuck them onto A2 paper. After this I proceeded to add acrylics with a very large brush and just primary colours. All the while I tried to remember how it felt to skim 2000 feet up over the air currents. I then used a fine brush to add details of contours and rivers in contrast colours. The thing that I found most difficult was knowing when to stop! I mean, it’s not that easy on an ordinary illustration, but an abstract seems to have its own momentum. Well, I finally came in to land – so to speak. However, the painting as a whole doesn’t seem quite right. My other half says it needs a focal point and I fear he’s right. Ah well, here are the best bits.”
“This is glorious, what a great painting and a new discovery for me, thank you, Phill Hosking, an inspiration, and also a new addition to my list of abstract artists I use for my painting classes – particularly the abstract and colour courses, but also brilliant as an example for composition and depth. So this is one of my abstract paintings that deals with space, macrocosm and microcosm, more than rooted in the landscape, as I feel Brian Rutenberg’s are.” Ink on watercolour paper, 76×56 cm.
“When I looked into Brian Rutenberg’s work, I was struck by the lush sensual paintwork, the bold abstraction, and the immersive scale. I was also intrigued by his limited range of subject matter, and how he explored a few subjects repeatedly, always managing to find new emotional responses. I’ve honed in on a particular landscape that I’m fascinated by; the shingle spit of Dungeness. I’ve made a few semi-abstracted images of the scrubby vegetation that colonises the shingle with Dungeness B nuclear power station looming up behind. I never tire of this place and I could explore the strange, wild landscape over and over. These images are made using the monoprint technique, with two monoprints digitally overlaid and edited to make the final image.”
“After the first big hit of colour, the next most immediate thing I got from Rutenberg’s painting 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 then 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.”
“Looking at the painting, I imagined that I was staring through the viewfinder of an inter-planetary rover on the surface of some dusty and rocky multi-coloured planet. With this planetary vision in mind, I explored the idea of creating computer generated ecosystems. Through multiple iterations and experimentation, it started to develop into models and images that seemed less about surface and into something more microscopic. Perhaps these could even be particles of paint magnified to impossible levels.”
“Rutenberg has me questioning how abstraction evolves from the memory of landscape. So I set up the challenge of memory of still life inspired by his enjoyment and use of colour. Yet I could not break free from the fruit form so, more work ahead on that problem. How jealous I am of his mixing 500ml of richly colour-saturated oil to then apply it with his palm across the canvas!” 25x25cm oil on prepared paper.
“This piece started life as a digital painting, in the style of Rutenberg’s paintings. 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.”
What I love about the Kick-About is the way in which the different prompts send us all haring off in such unexpected directions and producing work we can’t predict. I suspect our newest prompt, courtesy of Tom Beg, will prove no exception: behold Werner Herzog’s celebrated dancing chicken from his 1977 film, Stroszek…
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!”
Our last Kick-About together was inspired by the lunar-like landscape of Dungeness beach and Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. This week’s creative run-around-between-friends is inspired by the actual moon, or rather by Haruki Murakami’s evocative description of its silent, watchful orbit…
“I won’t over explain this, so it is what it is: the human need to control the natural world, and the eye in the sky bearing witness. (Moths were already dead)”. Moon and pinned moths. 2’ X 2’. Graphite, oil paint and pinned Moths on Gesso.
“It is usually thought of that our humble moon is essentially a big dead rock in floating in space, but I have always liked how Murakami imbues the objects and places in the lives of his characters with surrealistic life or uses them to communicate something from other strange and unseen worlds. Perhaps in our world, the moon might just appear to be a a big dead rock in floating in space, but in Murakami’s world things are always saying something, even if they are silent.”
“I used Yupo paper and acrylic oils to produce the marbled background for this picture. For the earth and moon I used tissue paper and water colours. Really not much more to say except I am intrigued by 1Q84 and feel I must make an effort to read it, although 3 volumes is a bit of a tall order for me!”
“Inspiring prompt, this Murakami extract about the moon, so much could be done. Here, I wanted to catch the stillness of the moon, beautifully conveyed in the novel, with the perpetual action and energy of the cosmos around it, and particularly on Earth. The painting started originally as a “calligraphy”, expression humanity and history, then all the movement and happenings over time as creative chaos. The “moon” with her round shape, so self-contained and seemingly detached.”
“I’m always photographing the moon. I decided to go through my archives and make some postcards from some of my pictures. The results proved to me, once again, that if you take enough photos, some are bound to look good. I then consulted with the collage box Oracle. The Oracle knows the moon well.”
“I think this is probably an instance wherein the methodology behind the images is ultimately more arresting than the outcome itself, but having tasked myself with the challenge of trying to recreate the silent surface of the moon under largely straightened circumstances, I ended up working with some very earth-bound materials – principally, eight bags of plain flour, a plastic spatula for contouring, and three big glass paperweights!”
“I feel like with the words of Murakami, the moon has an element of ominous brooding and a spark of stoicism at remembering what used to be. The light I am capturing with these long exposure shots, which rim the highlights of ornate wood panelling and makes the hard wood floor sing with colour, makes me wonder who used to reside in this old house previously? Who wandered through the hallways? Who ran their fingers along the wood panels? Who tended to the rose gardens? Who hung up all the photos that still have a small circular imprint on the ancient stained walls? I imagine the original family in black and white or faded sepia, posed on an old chaise lounge, looking dapper but serious. This old creaky house with its not so glamorous leaks and constantly breaking faucets still has so much charm to it, bursting with history as high as its ceilings. The mammoth floors above us are now converted into flats, but one wonders how it all looked in its original form? How would the moon have shone into those vast rooms above me? I can only fantasise.”
“Once again I appreciated Gary’s KA topic. Very evocative. I made a quick sketch as soon as I read the passage, but it has been quite a long process evolving this into a submittable form. I created several moons with face and/or textures before finding Nasa’s library of images and finally trying to recreate a moon in Illustrator (why didn’t I just use the original photo I ask myself – well I try and justify it with ‘it better fits stylistically with the rest of the image’.) The Earth (temptation) was originally going to be a simple arc containing temptations. It evolved with more Nasa pics, before