The Kick-About #80 ‘Charles Sheeler’

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

Marion Raper

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

Graeme Daly

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

@graemedalyart / / / /

Charly Skilling

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

Vanessa Clegg

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

Phil Gomm

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

James Randall

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

Kerfe Roig

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


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

And from abstractions inspired by concrete jungles…

Throwback Friday #149 Water Lilies (2015)

I can’t recall exactly where this photograph was taken, except it was one of those lovely large houses with lovely large gardens somewhere in Kent, and it was a sunny day in 2015 and we were just mooching about enjoying the view. The breeze was doing nice things to the surface of the water, with the flowers of the water lilies looking very tastefully scattered. Click!

The Kick-About #79 ‘Sheila Hicks’

Our last Kick-About was a celebration of three year’s worth of mucking about with materials, making, inventing, re-imagining and re-purposing. As a result, I suspect some of us have spaces in our homes beginning to pile high with ad-hoc accretions of creative stuff. In terms of scale, none of us may quite have reached the heights of this week’s prompt, the giant textile installations of Sheila Hicks, though one of us is certainly pushing it…

Jan Blake

“I have no idea why i have never seen the work of Sheila Hicks before and other women artists of this particular era!  What a great discovery. Striking and powerful. Having worked myself within vast architectural spaces and in theatre, I felt a kinship with her idea, attention to spaces and love of masses of colour. I like to see through the colours and the mixing of the layers in relationship to one another as they move, held within a skeletal structure in architectural space. I have been collecting these netting pieces that hold fruit and vegetables and the metal tags that are wound round the end that have been waiting in the wings for an opportunity. Their restriction of colour bothered me at first and yet it was a release to see what i could make with them.  They are bouncy and can be twisted into rather wonderful shapes that brought me back to something more organic and lively. Playing with the results on the computer to find new colours was fun if a little bit frustrating as my tech knowledge is rather limited! I was intrigued though about how the overall texture looked more like a tapestry. More food for thought!

Kerfe Roig

“It’s always harder for me to figure out what to do for a textile artist prompt.  I know and like the work of Sheila Hicks, and especially admire how she has never become stuck in one way of working.  I opened a page in a book I have of her work at random to a commission she did for a NYC Wine Bar that consisted of roughly embroidered circles – they look stuffed, but I decided to paint a mandala and then embroider the entire surface.  My colors are brighter than hers, and my stitching is less irregular, but I think the feeling of it is the same.  Start stitching and see what happens. /

Charly Skilling

“Looking at images of Sheila Hicks’ work, I was struck again by how liquid textiles can appear, and it was with that in mind I started hanging bits of yarn from a garden plant support. I became totally absorbed in the task and consequently spent far, far longer on it than originally intended, but I am quite pleased with the way it turned out.”

Vanessa Clegg

“I recently heard the origins of May Day (around “Mayday”), as in the nautical context, and it was one of those ‘Of course! Why didn’t I know that?’ moments. Anyway, as we’re in May, I decided to combine that with very basic weaving and sort of create a vague story… at least, in my head, as I was re-reading Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, so the darker fairy tales were ‘woven’ in. The other is improvised!”

James Randall

“Being the slacker that I am I didn’t find a great deal on the web about Sheila Hicks so I settled on savouring the online visuals and contemplating the art of weaving. Having little in the way of craft skills, I took to the computer for some photo weaving. My idea was to take one pixel wide samples from a thousand photos and as they would be both landscape and portrait oriented combine them into a roughly square image resembling woven fabric. To make them a bit softer looking, I used the warp filter on each strand. I thought I would end up with a soft greyish mass – which I did, but when you zoom in you do get fibres of colour so I think the only way to see it properly is as a high resolution printout. I feel happy to have looked at all the photos – a bit of a self-portrait in a way.”

Phil Gomm

“I was very drawn to Hick’s fabric marshmallow-y boulders but knew right away I didn’t have the resources or the space to emulate the scale of Hick’s installations. But I did have at my disposal a large bag of crimped, shredded cardboard used for packing out parcels and I wondered if I could work with it in such a way as to produce some Hicks-inspired forms, while maintaining some of the material’s frizzy, explosive qualities. I flattened out some fine mesh bags onto a table, and on top of that, layered the shredded cardboard, and then dolloped some quick-drying filler onto the cardboard, before gathering the bag up around the mixture and tying the whole thing off like an improbable dumpling and setting it aside to dry. When I unpeeled the bag, I was left with these unravelled sculptural forms, which I then photographed against some solid colour in another nod to Sheila Hicks. Lots of fun at the arts and crafts table this week!”

Phil Cooper

“After seeing this prompt a couple of weeks ago, I went and looked up Sheila Hicks’ work online. I would love to see it in person to get the full impact of those huge shapes and the wonderful colour. The pieces I was particularly drawn to were the ones that seemed to be flowing down from the gallery ceilings, they look alive.  For my response, I’ve drifted rather a long way from Sheila Hicks’s joyful and exuberant big shapes and drawn something distinctly malevolent-looking over a photo of an interior space I found in a magazine. I think in artspeak terms one could say the black things are ‘disrupting the space’. It looks more like a horror film than a soft sculpture, oh dear!” / /

Graeme Daly

“After having to buy a new washing machine, I kept some of the styrofoam that came in the packaging. Call me a hoarder all you like, but I knew I could make something out of the grooves and shapes warped into the styrofoam mirroring the details of the machine. So I spray painted the styrofoam black and bought a bag of colourful cotton pom-pom balls to design the set of this miniature Hicks installation then lit it ablaze with some dramatic lighting and documented the process. Things took a more sci-fi, macabre turn when I decided to use some red gels.”

@graemedalyart / / / /

Marion Raper

“It amazes me how Sheila Hicks could have so much time and patience to make her huge fabric sculptures. After looking at her work I embarked on making some giant size Suffolk Puffs.  This takes up quite a lot of material so I decided instead of fastening them together I would just place them at random to make pleasing patterns. In some cases I added some denim strips to finish the design.  It is the sort of thing that has infinite possibilities if you had the resources and I rather enjoyed just playing around.”

Francesca Maxwell

“I knew very little about Sheila Hicks and it was quite inspiring to look at her work and read about her life. Colours, texture and layering, what more can I ask?  So here is my output, an image made by multilayered glass, my default material after inks.  Although it is not soft and warm in the way of Sheila’s choice of textile, it is still very tactile.”

And for our next adventure together, the architectural preoccupations of Charles Sheeler (1883 – 1965). Have fun!

The Kick-About / A Third Year Later

Blimey! Now where did that year go?

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

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

Read the PDF here

Read the PDF here

Read the PDF here

Hermione Gray & The Murdered Magician

The Kick-About #78 ‘156.536’

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

Francesca Maxwell – The Kick-About No.56

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

Graeme Daly – The Kick-About No.64

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

@graemedalyart / / / /

Phill Hosking – The Kick-About No.67

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

Gary Thorne – The Kick-About No.74

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

Judy Watson – The Kick-About No.57

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

Tom Beg – The Kick-About No.53

“I was instantly drawn to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s line drawings that he produced much earlier in his career, and felt perhaps there was a way to capture the immediacy, simplicity and instinctiveness of those sketches with the modern digital tools I typically use. Channelling the spirit of an earlier Kick-About, Herzog’s Dancing Chicken, which also evoked manic movement and energy, I just applied the same techniques but attempted to reduce it down even more. I think there is an entire series to be made of these at some point!” / /

Kerfe Roig – The Kick-About No.54

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

James Randall – The Kick-About No.65

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

Phil Cooper – The Kick-About No.66

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

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

Lisa Fox – The Kick-About No.73

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

Jordan Buckner – The Kick-About No.57

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

Charly Skilling – The Kick-About No.64

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

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

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

@claire_beth_claire / /

Marion Raper – The Kick-About No.67

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

Colin Bean – The Kick-About No.53

“I was about eight (late fifties) when, on a Saturday afternoon, the treat was a trip to the circus that had arrived in town. It was traditional in every way, clowns, band, ringmaster, plumed horses  and glamorous riders, acrobats, contortionist, flying trapeze, performing chimps, lions and tamers, tigers and camels.  My great Uncle Arthur was a forward agent for circuses, and I believe he supplied some free tickets. By that time, he had taken over a zoo and kept chimps and a lion called Sultan, amongst others animals. The zoo, and an accompanying Archery Stall, was in Ramsgate on the far end of the sea front, and at the time, part of the complex of amusements known as ‘Merrie England’ (later ‘Pleasurama’).  I doubt if it was that merrie or pleasurable for the animals. Welfare and safety concerns were soon to radically change the idea of circus and zoos. For me, this Kick-About is about nostalgia, and the memory of Merrie England, the circus and zoo, and great Uncle Arthur…”

Jan Blake – The Kick-About No.56

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

Phil Gomm – The Kick-About No.53

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

Vanessa Clegg – The Kick-About No.77

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

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

Short film: Tuinvolk (2023)

This week, The Kick-About No.75 had Hieronymus Bosch’s deliciously abstruse painting, The Garden Of Earthly Delights, as its prompt, and I was prompted to produce a little maquette in homage to the strange pink architecture in Bosch’s landscape and likewise his swarms of small pink people.

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

The Kick-About #73 ‘Cephalopod’

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

Marion Raper

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

Gary Thorne

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

Kerfe Roig

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

Lisa Fox

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

James Randall

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

Francesca Maxwell

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

Phill Hosking

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

Graeme Daly

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

Tom Beg

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

Phil Gomm

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

Vanessa Clegg

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

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

Charly Skilling

A few years ago, my brother Jon went on a trip to the Falklands and South Georgia. He is an avid photographer and bird watcher and came back with trillions of holiday snaps.  Amongst  these was a series of extraordinary photographs of an encounter he witnessed on the shores of South Georgia, an encounter between a seagull and an octopus. As soon as I saw these photos, I was convinced there was a story to be told.  When the KA prompt came up as ‘Cephalopod’, the phrase ‘The Seagull and the Cephalopod’ immediately came to mind and the rhythm and alliteration was stuck in my head until I’d written the poem. The photos actually show a black-backed gull, Jon informs me, but I ignored that and used the term “seagull” or “common gull”… easier for scansion and more potential for humour.  People who know about these things say it is very unlikely for an octopus to be so close to the shore in this area unless it is on the point of death, but I didn’t want to think about this octopus in that way. In other words, don’t look to my work for scientific accuracy, or indeed, any kind of accuracy at all, but the one particular photo that inspired this poem is absolutely genuine and I am very grateful to Jon for allowing me to share it with you.

With thanks to regular Kick-Abouter and conjuror of crochet, Charly Skilling, we have our all-new prompt, courtesy of Ruth Asawa. Enjoy yourselves!

The Kick-About #72 ‘Les Meninas’

The last edition of The Kick-About featured the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, artists celebrated for shrouding familiar things by which to re-vivify their significance. This week, our collective creative muse is Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, another famous artwork equally shrouded to produce speculation and especial attentiveness. Enjoy this latest selection of new works made in a short time.

Charly Skilling

“I find this painting fascinating because it raises so many questions, and not just about  differing  viewpoints.  It’s not a  family group portrait, as the King and Queen are barely there. It’s not a painting to promote the Infanta’s status or prestige, as the people surrounding her are of little political or religious significance. And why is there a man standing in the doorway – is he coming or going or what?  There is a sense the artist has captured a moment on the cusp of some great event, but what could it be? As I couldn’t answer any of these questions, I decided to ignore all the facts known about this painting or this group of people, and make up my own story. There is no truth in my story, but I believe it to be true of its time.”

Gary Thorne

“Not long into KA#72 I realised a Vanitas could highlight some thoughts on Velazquez’s Las Meninas, and later came realisation that 3-D might more easily set-aside symbols of wealth associated with interiors. It is not a Danse Macabre, more a comment on the transience of life, futility of pleasure, and certainty of death. The Spanish Mastiff deserved centre-stage, not because an animal on-stage removes all attention to everything else happening around it, more likely due to the increased love extended onto dogs as result of Covid-19. (What I’ll be doing when Halloween rolls up – is anyone’s guess). ”

Phil Gomm

What really resonated with me in regards to Las Meninas is how ‘meta’ this painting is, in so much as it is a painting about painting; it deconstructs itself by signposting its own artificiality and constructedness. For me, it produces a keen mise-en-abyme effect, as one constructed reality reflects another construction, with surfaces reflecting other surfaces in plain acknowledgment of illusion and artifice. It just feels very playful to me, so with that in mind, I set about bringing together as many reflective surfaces in one space as possible to play a few games of my own.”

Graeme Daly

“I loved the self reflection and self insertion with this painting. I decided to focus on the many frames throughout the studio and, in the same manner, interject some of my own self into my illustrations by adding other photography and drawings within the frames themselves, and into a studio only an artist could make sense of.” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Marion Raper

“This painting is very intriguing, as there are so many possibilities. My ‘take’ is that Velazquez is hoping to paint a normal family picture of the Spanish Royals, but the little ‘infanta’ has other ideas and will not co-operate. Perhaps she stamped her little foot and turned her back on him so he had to reposition not only himself, but the King and Queen also. It was a Prince Louis on the balcony moment! Her ladies-in-waiting tried to coax her to behave and even brought her beloved dog along to try and calm her, whilst various other courtiers were gossiping, “What a terrible child!” Meanwhile the Chancellor has decided to make a discreet exit out of the back door.  Fascinating!”

James Randall

“Velázquez’s painting never feels comfortable to me – courtly children. I jumped off using a picture of one of my lovely nieces (all of them adults now) taken by my sister or mother. It feels full of awkward childhood happiness to me. I added the far side of the street and car to complete it and, in the end, it feels quite unnatural and weird!”

Kerfe Roig

“I know this is considered one of the Great Masterpieces of Western Civilization, and I don’t dispute that it’s painted with great skill, but I can’t muster any enthusiasm for it or any emotional connection to it. Perhaps it’s my distaste for the opulent, decadent, and callous lifestyle of its inhabitants. Still, I can make anything into a collage.”

arrangements re
flect in unintended
parody—the only
thing human is
the dog /

Vanessa Clegg

“This is low-tech verging on Blue Peter, but it was interesting to play around with the characters and change the dynamics a bit. So the dog has assumed prime position, with the infanta becoming a doll under the arm, the two others creeping away at the back, and to help it all along, a cup of tea brought in by the true ‘maid’ in all this! I’ve put myself into the first one as the recorder and included the open door, though nobody has yet appeared… The mirror reflects the back of the figures so trying to introduce the real/ unreal element. Wish I’d had more time to explore the mystery of shadows and dark spaces, which is very Hitchcock.”

Just before I introduce our latest prompt, I wanted to say a lovely big thank you to regular Kick-Abouter and oracle-whisperer, Kerfe Roig for so generously gifting me one of her art pieces produced for The Kick-About No.70. I just really loved Kerfe’s Hilma Af Klint-inspired image, and told her as much, and was rather thrilled to have it arrive a few days ago – along with a 2023 calendar featuring Kerfe’s animal collages, drawings and paintings. A lovely thoughtful gesture – and posted all the way from NYC too! Thanks again, Kerfe!

Now for our next prompt – a single word, but one with eight tangents at least…

The Kick-About #71 ‘Christo & Jeanne-Claude’

If our last Kick-About showcased new works made in a short time inspired by an extraordinary artist with which some of us were unfamiliar, this week’s online exhibition takes its cue from a very famous double-act, famous, that is, for wrapping landmarks and landscapes in swathes of material. Happy browsing.

Gary Thorne

“Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s trees reminded me of an Autumn ’22 visit to Eastwell in Kent, where I did these sketches. For KA, I’ve combined tree structure with architecture to produce this white-card model, but then found myself short of time. The old idiot box was on whilst modelling, conveniently offering some varied backdrops, although as an unfinished KA, I prefer the black backing. being it reminds me I’ve homework to do on this KA.”

Graeme Daly

“I wanted to make a miniature version of Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s impressive, uncanny installation art, but attempt to make it look larger, as if I had the resources to produce something of that scale. So I did some deadheading of branches and flora around my garden, wrapped cling-film around them and stuck the encapsulated snippings into styrofoam to keep them steady as I photographed the results. I loved how, in certain shots of Christo & Claude’s pieces, the sun shone through. It reminds me of poppy seed pods or Chinese lanterns. As I was taking photos, in spurts the sun broke through the clouds of the dreary sky and lit the tombs of these plants in spots and lines. Another treat was after a slight sprinkling of rain, which made me focus more on the intrinsics of the composition rather than its initial scale” / @graemedalyart / / / /

Vanessa Clegg

“This is a pretty basic response so I think you can see my thinking … that is, layers, seeing, not seeing… I found the piece of conifer on the street and, to me, it looked like a bonsai version of the “mother tree” so reflecting our prompt on a mini scale. A screen in front breaks up the image. I wanted to use elements that ran parallel to this: beetle, stone, seed.”

Jan Blake

“These enormous sculptures in the landscape and city scapes that Christo and Jeanne Claude have created over the years have highlighted our attention to these landmarks in a different way, allowing them to be reconsidered/reawaken us when they are revealed again after the wrapping up. ‘Lock-Down’ during the past few years has personally given me the feeling of being wrapped up like an insect in a cocoon. So I started to try and create a kind of cocoon and failed miserably!  However, this searching turned my attention to butterflies and moths that create these extraordinary constructions as a chrysalis. In the past I have used  a translucent silk (organza) to create sculptures to transform internal public spaces, and the silk has come from  the silk worms that feed on bushes so… I took another look at how millions of these moths or butterfly cocoons wrap up trees, bushes and grasses in the landscape. Here are a couple of photos taken in our countryside.”

James Randall

“I’m afraid, although they created beautiful works, the scale and materials Christo and Jeanne Claude used have always made me uncomfortable, as we show little respect for our world’s resources. So I began this KA thinking I’d use some previous pics of tied-up pillows to collage into a tied-up earth, but it looked nothing like the earth or anything tied-up. There was something good happening visually so I returned to the tortured pillows and added an angry Spanish fountain lion head and a lizard leg; it felt angry (about wasting resources). I backgrounded it with pristine rainforest images (abused resources). By this point it wasn’t looking very Christo and Jeanne Claude and my mind was turning to the big industries that manufacture toxic products (like some of the materials Christo and Jeanne Claude used) and I added a power figure wrapped in a couple of cotton sheets, which looked appropriate. Of course, the question arises why we continue to abuse the earth, and then I heard a podcast with Adam Alter on judgement, decision making and social psychology, which threw social media into my mind and resulted in the addition of icons left and right of the figure. Oh, and the halo of fire is a nod to petrochemical industries.”

Phil Gomm

“The short version is we bought a new sofa recently, which turned out to be too big for the room it was meant for. The sofa came wrapped in plastic – and remains so while we wait for some nice people to come and collect it and take it back to wherever unwanted sofas are destined to go. We have been living with this ‘un-sofa’ for quite a few weeks now. I scowl at it every morning, not least because I was responsible for measuring up and only have myself to blame. Still, what is it that chipper types say about making lemonade when life gives you lemons (or outsized sofas)? I started noticing how different types of light at different times of day produced strange mountainous terrains out of the plastic wrapping covering the sofa, so with the Kick-About in mind, I set about investigating them.”