The Kick-About #15 ‘High Street’


After the informality of our collective Boogie Doodle, this week’s responses take as their starting points the urbane visions of Eric Ravilious’ High Street, beguiling in their nostalgia and just as bitter-sweet considering our current circumstances. Somewhere out there, some opportunist on Instagram is no doubt augmenting Ravilious’ shop windows with social distancing stickers and ‘Please Wear A Face Mask’ notifications. I don’t know if this is clever or just very depressing.


James Randall

“Another brilliant challenge! It had me going up to the high street at dawn over a few days to get some nice light and look around – camera in hand. Our suburb Earlwood is a bit of a sleepy hollow coming out of Sydney’s inner west – but I avoid the high street, a thoroughfare to the city, so heavy with traffic and fairly grotty. Earl wood is also a suburb with a large Greek population so there is a bit of Greek colour. I was heading down a few different directions with the snaps and colour and reflections were more predominant but at the end of the day I just slapped a mix together. I hope it gives you a bit of an idea of what makes up Earlwood.”



Kerfe Roig

“I was immediately drawn to the shop full of masks, above. I’ve drawn, painted, stitched and collaged many masks over the years, and I also have quite a few that I’ve collected, stored and waiting for a place to be displayed.For the prompt, I decided to focus on Mexican animal masks, since the animal masks in the shop illustration seemed to be the most prominent element. Masking has a long history in the indigenous culture of the Americas, and animals are commonly used in dances, ritual, and ceremonies, often combined with Christian stories and characters. Masks are vessels in which a powerful energy is stored, an energy than can help cross the boundaries between human and animal, creating a co-existence of spirits in the same body. The technique I used was the Rorschach monoprint–I painted one side and folded the paper in the center and pressed down to create a mirror image. I confess that once I got started with these it was hard to stop.”


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Marion Raper

This was right up my street! (Ouch!) I feel like I have stepped back in time and especially with Christmas approaching I remember how lovely it was as a child to gaze into the shop windows and dream of what might appear in your stocking.   I also feel very ancient when I recall how we used to save up our bus money to buy sweets and then walk home.  There was a small shop right near to where I caught the bus home from junior school called Mr Whips.  He was a very kind old man and let me pay for my mum’s birthday present in instalments. It was a green glass ring costing 5 shillings or about 4 weeks bus fare!  Those were the days! However it was a life lesson in honesty I never forgot.  Eric Ravilious’ wonderful lithographs bring back the mood of those happy times, which perhaps sadly we may not see again for a while.”



Phil Cooper

“I adore the Eric Ravilious’ illustrations for High Street. There’s something delightfully cosy and reassuring about them at first glance. The shops have a wonderful English charm, they look well-stocked, the customers look comfortably off, and Ravilious’ tremendous skill in lithography ensures that everything is perfectly judged, the overall effect so satisfying.

There are some weird details in some of the illustrations, though. The vision of idyllic pre-war life on the High Street only makes the strange objects in the shop windows even more sinister; those peculiar masks, the diving equipment and the furriers are all more than slightly odd. Is this such an idyllic place after all, or is it, like those alien planets sometimes visited by the Star Trek crew, actually a crazy zombie-cannibal cult masquerading as utopia?

My first attempt at responding to the prompt was to make an image of a fictional shop (from Chimera by Phil Gomm no less!) in the same style. I soon discovered how deceptively simple those illustrations are. My attempt was a flop, and so I decided to abandon trying to ‘do a Ravilious’ and go in a completely different direction. My images are from an imaginary 1920’s German animation called ‘High Street’. It’s set in a remote forest village and the story is probably heavy on horror and phantasmagoria. I think I’m channelling the early silent horror film Der Golem here (and the bridge is straight out of Dr. Caligari); quite a long way from Ravilious’ neat and slightly whimsical scenes. The photos are of some card and plaster models I made a few years ago when I was exploring working in 3D for the first time. I’d been exploring the expressionist architecture of my new home city, Berlin, and also watching plenty of expressionist films, which I think is quite apparent from the resulting images!”


instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Jan Blake

I love the Ravillious prints as a starting point. His use of colour is so subtle in comparison to the images I have included here. His choice of colour remind me of that era before the war and into the 50’s. My contribution has not really come to fruition in any art form, except some photographs of shop fronts in the area where I live and shop. So this time I feel more like an observer/researcher.The photos show a curious Bohemian area very close to the centre of Bristol where I shop. The architecture of the shop fronts is very reiminiscent of those Victorian ones that Ravillious has depicted in his prints. Many of them have become homes rather than shops yet people are using their front window to say something visually that defines their life now or they have blocked out the world completely such as the corner shop that is totally painted green and a green that says British Rail to me of the 40’s and 50’s model railways. It’s rather sad and neglected.


janblake.co.uk


Charly Skilling

“Eric Ravilious’ depictions of high street shops reminded me so strongly of the high street in the small market town I grew up in, they set off a flood of memories. 

Although my childhood post-dated Ravilious’ illustrations by some twenty years, much was little changed. Not so many milliners and furriers perhaps, and a few more domestic appliance sales rooms and record shops, but all the fundamentals were the same –  butcher, baker, grocer, draper.

It’s these memories I wanted to share with the Kickabout crowd.  I am aware many of you are too young to remember life in the 1950s, but I hope this reminiscence can evoke an impression of the high street of my childhood.

(Pop your headphones on for the best listening experience)



Phil Gomm

“I responded very strongly to these images, particularly Ravilious’ image of the high-end interiors shop, A Pollard. It says more about me, I suppose, that I detected some shadow at work in these nostalgic images of these well-to-do shops. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the flicker of immediate associations included the animated series, Mr Ben, the production art for Disney’s 101 Dalmations and H. G. Wells’ The Magic Shop. I was struck too by the inter-war period, and it got me thinking about ideas of luxury and leisure time, and how doomed it all was, given what was looming on the horizon, but also about how wonderful it would be to discover a shop like Pollard’s on your high street and the sorts of people it would attract, and the tensions in a small community it might produce. It doesn’t always happen – and it rarely happens when a clock is ticking – but this story just wanted out – and out it came!”


You can find a ‘large print’ PDF version here.


Graeme Daly

“Drawing Inspiration from the gorgeous high street Illustrations of Eric Ravilious, I drew one of my favorite places to have a drink – or ten – with my friends back in my home turf in shop street, Galway city – a place that is always bustling with the right amount of life.”


@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly / gentlegiant.blog


Emily Clarkson

“The subject of the high street feels rather pertinent, what with so many businesses being shut for the lockdown currently in effect. I went out and photographed some shop fronts of my local high street for inspiration. Of course, many were closed or had social distancing measures in place. It’s uncanny in a way. Familiar, but not quite right. With some local reference, I attempted to digitally replicate a Ravilious styled shop front.”


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Kevin Clarkson

“I have been a devotee of Ravilious since my student days. At that time he was regarded as a minor artist, not really rated alongside Nash, Bawden or John Piper and his works were fairly inexpensive (Still beyond my student purse however). Although I love his playful lithographs for the Curwen press and the “High Street’ I am captivated by his watercolours. The reason I am late is I spent too much time trying to unpick his technique. It looks immediate and freely applied – it isn’t! I chose a stretch of Watling Street in Gillingham with a parade of shops photographed I think in the late 1940’s, a year or two after Ravillious died in 1942 as a war artist off Iceland, as I am sure everyone knows. My intention was to apply some of his watercolour techniques to a “High Street” subject. Sadly I ran out of time.”


kevinclarkson.co.uk /artfinder.com/kevin-clarkson / kevinclarksonart.blogspot.com


So after browsing an Eric Ravilious well-to-do high street, we’re next taking a journey into some snowy woods, lovely, dark and deep, with thanks to the artist Francesca Maxwell for our brand new prompt. As ever, if you’ve enjoyed the work here and fancy a go in the sand-pit yourself, have a bash and get in touch.


The Secret World Of Foley (2014)


When it came to my parenting, my step-dad had one solemn rule: I was never ever to tell him how certain things in his favourite movies were accomplished. Accordingly, behind-the-scenes documentaries were forbidden. My breathless chatter about puppets, animatronics and green-screen wizardry were quickly curtailed. For my step-dad, movies are real, dialogue arriving in the actors’ mouths spontaneously and as required. Special effects are nothing of the sort – they’re documentary footage. For this reason, watching a good film with him is one of my great pleasures; watching him watching movies returns me to the powerful magic of cinema.

That said, I think even my step-dad would enjoy Daniel Jewel’s wonderful The Secret World Of Foley, for though it certainly lifts the curtain between appearance and reality, it’s a backstage secret serving only to re-magic the illusions of cinematic storytelling.

I am always left invigorated by this short film. It never fails to get me off my arse.


The Kick-About #3 ‘Dance Of The Happy Shades’


Metropolis – our last kick-about prompt – inspired a wide-range of creative responses from a wide-range of creatives. I experienced a proper thrill of anticipation as the submissions began to arrive via email, blogposts and Twitter. ‘Metropolis’ brought with it some very clear and beloved associations; many of us couldn’t wait to channel our inner Fritz Lang. Prompt No 3 – ‘Dance of the Happy Shades’ – was an arguably more elusive start-point inspiring another rich collection of responses in a variety of different media. Enjoy!


Phil Cooper

“I started off by painting some foliage and flower shapes onto tracing paper, cutting them out, placing on a light box and photographing them. I meant the results to be shadowy and rather gothic, but they turned out rather different. Perhaps because it feels like full-on summer here in Berlin this week, and perhaps because I watched Picnic at Hanging Rock the other night, the photos have more the atmosphere of a languorous sunny afternoon in the garden –  not what I set out to do at all.  I was so seduced by the colour palette of Picnic at Hanging Rock, I’ve let the images go in this direction…”


instagram.com/philcoops / hedgecrows.wordpress.com / phil-cooper.com


Francesca Maxwell

“On reading the title “Dance of the Happy Shades” I immediately thought of shadows, and the shades of tones in the shadows, rather than shades of greys and colours. I thought of the subtle tones in a desaturated situation, like during twilight, one of my favourite times of day. Still, I needed a relatively strong source of light to create the shadows. Also, I was looking at translucent rather than solid objects, to get more nuances in the tones, as well as texture – translucency and texture being also some of the things that most inspire and attract me. I tried and looked at few different things, including rereading “In the Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki, and watching the Zhang Yimou’s film “Shadow” – an amazing film. In the end, it was the moving reflection on the wall of three glass flowers I made few years back standing on my mantelpiece that I wanted to do. I was originally going to paint them with the Chinese ink and brush technique, but I started sketching them out in colour pencil and rather enjoyed the process, and the result was close to my idea. Pencils on hot press watercolour paper. 84×60 cm.



www.FBM.me.uk


Emily Clarkson

“I’ve got two quite different responses this week. Firstly, one very silly gif. This was inspired by a friend, when I asked her, ‘What do you think of when I say ‘Dance of the Happy Shades’?’ she responded, ‘I just see a dude dancing in shades.’ Her response made me think of an older gent embodying a Dad-joke of sorts…”



“The second idea that came to mind was old Disney style – Fantasia – but instead of brooms and the like, it was floor lamps, with shades. (It’s a tenuous link, I know!). I hadn’t fully worked out how I could animate the idea (plus I left it too late anyway) but that didn’t mean I couldn’t embody it somehow! So here’s a silly storyboard of some dancing floor lamps! I put together a quick animatic – it’s not as motion-filled as I’d like, but I hope it gets my daft idea across a bit better. Haha!”



instagram.com/eclarkson2012 / twitter.com/eclarkson2012 / linkedin.com/in/emily-clarkson


Phil Gomm

Inspiration came from Alice Munro’s Walker Brothers Cowboy, the very first story in Munro’s Dance Of The Happy Shades. In it, a little girl and her brother are too hot and listless in the back of their father’s car. They play I Spy to pass the time:

“We play I Spy, but it is hard to find many colours.  Grey for the barns and sheds and toilets and houses, brown for the yard and fields, black or brown for the dogs.  The rusting cars show rainbow patches, in which I strain to pick out purple or green; likewise I peer at doors for shreds of peeling paint, maroon or yellow.”

I wanted to evoke the languor of a similarly long hot day and the way lethargy encourages you to look for escape-routes in ordinary and over-looked places – like the peeling paint on a garage door, which if you squint, might come to resemble some glinting sea or exotic terrain. With the exception of a few sound effects purloined from the BBC SFX archive, the majority of sounds in the film were recorded in an around the rather careworn seaside town I call home. At risk of sounding bossy, grab some headphones for a suitably immersive experience.




Kerfe Roig

“My Rorschach ancestor mirrors himself and transforms in both vertical and horizontal directions.  It was fun to add a little nonsensical creation to my days.”



He seems friendly
enough, this presence
of the past, shifting
languorously as if
drugged by sun
light shining in his eyes
after a thundering rain

In truth his voice
is seldom called
upon—an apparition
furniturial, fixed
impermanently in
corners and along
walls



His dance contains
unpredictable
undertones—the hours
move around him
as his buddha smile
glimmers knowingly
in the dark


kblog.blog / methodtwomadness.wordpress.com


Liam Scarlino

“I found a photo of the author of Dance Of The Happy Shades, Alice Munro from 1971, a couple of years after the book was published. I thought it would be nice to add some colour to it. While it was possible to find photos from a few years later that I could reference for eye colour, skin tones, hair etc, I still feel there’s a large degree of fiction in this, or any other colourised photo. Where the photo was taken, what time of day, what colour clothing all became something imagined without proper sources. This is an interesting contradiction for me, because by trying to bring something to life, it actually makes it more like a woozy loose memory. I’ve been doing something similar with old family photos recently, and have been able to test the memories of elder relatives in the photos for details. While a modern sheen of colour makes the image feel more appealing, I often wonder if the photos are more meaningful in their original state.”


 liamscarlino.net vimeo.com/liamscarlino


Vikki Kerslake

“My mind went straight to ballerina dancers and wanted to capture them in a loose style, and was thinking of black and grey shades. So I did some small charcoal sketches of ballerina dancers as an initial response while sitting out in the park… I moved them into Photoshop and did some tweaking and painting to make them fit into a more complete image.”  


twitter.com/ambivalent__cat


Marion Raper

“I was thinking of a very exuberant Flamenco Dancer wearing a fabulous skirt of happy, bright and gaudy layers. I painted on Yupo paper for the woman’s figure and used scraps of silk and net individually twisted and bound for her skirt. I enjoyed the whole task very much and it definitely made me want to do a happy dance!”



Annie Roberts

“Originally, I wanted to respond to a couple of quotes within the book, make some kind of lively piece with dancers and muted colours, but after reading up on Orfeo ed Eurydice, I decided instead to look to the Greek god of the underworld, Hades. Not only did it relate to this Kick-About prompt, but also to another project I’ve been working on. Right now, it’s called “So, this is life?” and involves a goddess in the stars being banished from the heavens and forced to live among humans. I’m basing the characters on constellations and Greek mythologies, so Hades was perfect. I’m still working out kinks on the story but the basic world-building is the “constellation” gods and goddesses watch over whatever humans were born under their star and act as lore keepers for them. When the humans die, they must journey to Hades and the constellations hand over their lore to Hades. This current design of Hades is the first iteration. He’s bound to change as I develop this concept further.”


linkedin.com/in/annie-roberts / twitter.com/owljunk / owljunk.wixsite.com


Graeme Daly

“I am absolutely loving these Kick Abouts! It has completely opened my eyes to the possibility of doing quick little ‘micro shorts’ – and this time I decided to give it a whirl for a film of sorts.  For the Metropolis prompt, I was drawing and animating the creative responses using a particular set of Photoshop brushes that are always my go to.  I was in my bathroom and opened up my medicine cabinet, and just as I did, the light from outside was shining into the window and through a crack of the medicine cabinet door. It created this brilliant concentrated brush stroke of dancing illuminating light that mimics one of the brushes I love to use in Photoshop. I took out my phone and filmed myself opening and closing the medicine cabinet door over and over again, as I knew this would not last long because of how pinprick precise the light was in that moment. I realised I could work with the videos to produce something for the kick-about, so I started to play. 

A lot of what is going in the film fell into place through experimenting by mixing all the videos together, playing with blend modes, light, shadow and shapes. The song is Grey Drops by Sergey Cheremisinov. When listening to Cheremisinov’s unique pieces I always imagine something odd and intriguing coming to life, something with a lot of texture. I envisioned things moving in the shadows that shouldn’t move. The best thing about creating like this is something magical happens by itself; as I was swinging the medicine cabinet door, I noticed it looked like the light was giving way to these phantom spectres that were projecting part of themselves away and then consuming it again with every swing of the door. Everything started to intensify as I edited the film together, and then a story started to flourish.”



@graemedalyart / vimeo.com/graemedaly / linkedin.com/in/graeme-daly / twitter.com/Graeme_Daly


Tom Beg

“Dance of the Happy Shades is a title as evocative as it is elusive. In an attempt to understand the mystery and make the shades dance, here is a little series of blindingly colourful, expressionist and illusionistic photographic manipulations.”


twitter.com/earthlystranger / vimeo.com/tombeg


Gary Thorne

It all turned about-face after the start. The studio’s sense of itself took over. Nuances I set about exploring ended up as grey-scale shades flowing from colour. HB pencil, on Artistico Fabriano 640gsm hot pressed. 77cm x 56cm. 24 hour drawing.”


linkedin.com/in/gary-thorne


Charly Skilling

“I was going through some old paperwork when a photo fluttered to the ground, one of me as a child, which prompted a rush of memories. I found other photos, of other times, and I tried to set down in words the feelings and images they evoked.  I recalled sounds, music, voices, and wanted to find a way to combine images, words and sounds to share with others the emotions they aroused in me.  I don’t have the technical knowledge or skills to create what I envisaged – but luckily, I know a man who does!  We talked for a long time about the ways and means, of shape and substance and then he took my words, my images, my memories, and between us produced the following short film.



Jordan Buckner

“Optimism isn’t my comfort zone, but it was lovely to work more abstractly and suggestively than usual. I’ve never read Dance of the Happy Shades, but the title alone suggests to me the movements of grass fields, dappled sunlight and a shifting summer breeze. This is the best I can do to evoke Van Gogh. Unfortunately, the grey British skies did not imbue my blood with a great talent for evoking the beauty of the sun!”


instagram.com/jordan_buckner / twitter.com/jordan_buckner /linkedin.com/in/jordan-buckner jordanbuckner.co.uk

Watch Jordan paint live at twitch.tv/jordan_buckner


Courtesy of Berlin-based artist, Phil Cooper, we have our new prompt – a short sequence from Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus (1950). In common with all previous kick-abouts, you’re invited to respond to the new prompt in anyway that gets your juices flowing, and if you’ve enjoyed this third creative run-around and you want to get involved, then crack on!





Throwback Friday #7 Meeting Freddy Pearl (2002)

A photo of the original Dewback from Fred Pearl’s scrapbook


Back in May, 2002, I was asked to make a short documentary on Fred Pearl. Fred Pearl worked for the toy manufacturer, Lines Brothers, as a model maker of dolls and toys in their factory. He went on to make a wide range of models for films, and set up his own model making business, Art Models Ltd., producing models for further films, television, museums and exhibitions. Arguably the most well-known of Fred’s creations were for the original 1977 Star Wars, including the Dewback, as glimpsed on the planet of Tatooine.


A stormtrooper riding the Dewback in Star Wars (1977)

Art Models Ltd. was a specialist art-fabrication company owned and managed by Fred Pearl, located in Wimbledon, about 20 miles from the studio at Elstree. They had previously done work for the industry including speciality costumes for Space: 1999. Fred Pearl and his small team (which included his daughters) were hired to build full-size, practical set pieces of both the Jerba (named for the small island in Tunisia where the Mos Eisley scenes were filmed and the creature appeared) and the Dewback. Two Jerba creatures were built, and one Dewback.” Continue reading here.


Fred Pearl with C-3PO artifacts circa 2005


What struck me most when making the film was ‘the sense of an ending’ – that Fred Pearl’s world was facing an extinction event ushered in by computer generated imagery. His workshop – a wunderkammer filled with relics from a fast-fading age – was an amazing space, an ark for dinosaurs literal and figurative.