I’ve been working on the roads pretty much full time over the last few weeks so not much time for doing art or blogging about it. So it was really good yesterday, to kick back with a few others for a day of lino cutting at St. Andrew’s Arts Centre in Gravesend http://www.graveshamarts.co.uk/. It was a mixed group in terms of previous lino cutting experience but, as you can see from the pictures below (with thanks to Mandy Wooding and Amanda Groom Davies) everyone had got the hang of it – with minimal blood letting – and everyone produced some great work by the end of the day.
Was good also to see ‘Penny Les’ New who dropped in on his massive bike, pictured here outside St Andrew’s and the magnificent LV21 https://lv21.co.uk/
If there’s enough interest I’d love to run another workshop soon and am happy to come and work with groups if anyone would like me to. Just contact me via the website. If you haven’t already subscribed to my website, please do, then you’ll get regular updates of forthcoming events. Just put your email in the subscription box and click on the link it sends. You won’t get bombarded with stuff, I promise.
After this week of record temperatures during which I’ve mostly been standing around on hot asphalt – where it was 52°C – wearing a plastic hat, man made trousers, reflective jacket and gloves, I found myself thinking back to May this year when I was on holiday with my wife on the beautiful Greek island of Symi.
Symi is about two hours by boat from Rhodes. You arrive at Gialos harbour which is surrounded on all sides by pastel-coloured neoclassical Italian-style houses. The island used to be known for sponge diving and building wooden ships but now the main source of income is tourism. You can find out more about Symi on the Visit Greece website http://www.visitgreece.gr/en/greek_islands/symi_more_than_words_can_say
I guess we’ve been to Symi about six times. We love it there because it is so peaceful, the food is delicious and the people are very friendly. It can get a bit busy in the day with island hopping tourists dropping in, so we usually take Captain Yanis’s taxi boat to one of the more isolated beaches and tavernas. In the evenings, it’s really nice just to chill with a drink or two, down by the harbour and watch the people coming and going as the sun goes down.
And of course there is plenty of time to sit on the beach and draw.
We went to Symi in May this year and after all the excitement of the Liberty London fabric design competition https://www.libertylondon.com/uk/search?q=small+town, I was moving away a bit from drawing ‘Small Towns’ and trying a few new designs featuring flowers, fruit and veg.
Symi has has plenty of the above – wild oregano, thyme and dill, olive groves, figs, juniper, citrus trees, pomegranates and a host of plants such as jasmine and hibiscus, that are a lot more difficult to find in the Gravesend Riverarea. And once I’d run out of new ideas in the flora department, well I drew the beach!
I only took pen and paper with me: no colours. So, lately, when I’ve got a while, I’ve been finishing them off. Not all of them have been coloured in yet and not all of them are in my Gallery yet, but I’ll be adding them as soon as they are finished and when Roger has photographed them for me. I have had some of them photographed in black and white for a possible colouring book project I’ve got im mind. Otherwise, the photos in this blog are mainly just from my phone.
There are small olive groves dotted about the landscape on Symi. The olives ripen in late October or early November. Because Symi is so dry, few people have water to irrigate their olives. Symi used to import all its water by boat from neighbouring Rhodes – it still imports some in busy periods. But now a new desalination plant means that the island is more self-sufficient in water and there is a new by-product – Symi sea salt!
Pomegranates are grow on the island. Pomegranate trees like olive, fig and citrus trees are usually grown by families in small gardens for their own use. They then pool olives to produce olive oil. Here is a photograph of a baby pomegranate and a picture I drew. I’ve sold the original drawing but prints are available here https://duncangrantartist.com/product/fruit-series-pomegranates-print/
All the food on Symi is influenced by what is available locally seafood, goat, lamb, lemons, tyme, coriander, juniper and so on. We love the Symi shrimp – one of the specialites of the island …oh and lemon potatoes…. stuffed vegetables…!
I’m toying with the idea of running a one week art workshop on Symi if there is enough interest. There is a really good venue Villa Poseidon in Yialos on Symi (pictures below). It has a large downstairs workshop/gallery space and two double bedrooms upstairs. The owner also has other accomodation available nearby. If you are interested in taking part in a workshop, drop me a line via the contacts tab on this site.
While I was adding some more pictures to my gallery a couple of weeks ago, I came across a series of lino prints that I did for a local art project in 2017, based around Joseph Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness. https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/526
Heart of Darkness begins aboard the British ship, Nellie, which is anchored in the Thames, near Gravesend. As the crew wait for the weather to clear, one of the sailors, Marlow, tells the story of the time that he travelled in a steamboat up the River Congo. He describes his shock at the European traders’ treatment of the natives and how the experience of trading in Africa changes people. He relates what he has learnt about the darkness of the human heart, and the things of which that darkness is capable.
In Chapter One, Conrad describes the scene from the ship, Nellie, looking up the river towards London.
The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman light-house, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway—a great stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars.
Several local artists, including me, provided artwork, inspired by scenes from the book. Others involved were Matt Kilda, Jane Prangnell, Mark Wrangham and Nikki Price.
Mental health is a key theme in Heat of Darkness and the show was produced in association with North Kent MIND http://northkentmind.co.uk/, with all ticket money donated to them.
If you missed it, these You Tube clips give a flavour of the event.
If you’ve read the book you’ll know that, as well as being an adventure story, Heart of Darkness is bleak. It explores thenes of greed, cruelty and humanity, and raises troubling questions about imperialism. It is said that Conrad made the book deliberately hard to read. He wanted the reader to feel as though they were fighting through the jungle, just like Marlow did in search of the desperate and deranged ivory trader Kurtz.
My pictures, all lino cuts for the project, focused mainly on the weird and the macabre in the book, plus a couple of others on a maritime theme.
As a boy, Marlow, the storyteller in Heart of Darkness, was fascinated by maps and longed to be an explorer. After several years sailing in the Pacific he returns to London, and inspired by a map of Africa and the Congo River that he sees in a shop window, he takes a job as a steamboat pilot and sets off into Africa dreaming of adventure.
But Marlow’s comparison of the river to a coiled snake is a portent of the evil he would later encounter.
But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird – a silly little bird.
Marlow soon realises that his employer, ‘the company’, is in the Congo for gain and to spread European ideals. ‘The company’ say they are ’emissaries of light’, but what Marlow sees are ‘groves of death’.
The heads on sticks appear at the end of the book and symbolise Kurtz, the ivory trader’s, excessive brutality and madness.
Now I had suddenly a nearer view, and its first result was to make me throw my head back as if before a blow. Then I went carefully from post to post with my glass, and I saw my mistake. These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing—food for thought and also for vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascend the pole. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house. Only one, the first I had made out, was facing my way. I was not so shocked as you may think. The start back I had given was really nothing but a movement of surprise. I had expected to see a knob of wood there, you know. I returned deliberately to the first I had seen—and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids—a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling, too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.
I was interested to find out that the film Apocalypse Now was based on the Heart of Darkness, but set in the jungles of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It explores the ways in which the ‘darkness’ of Vietnam caused an apocalypse in the hearts of those sent there to fight, just as the ‘darkness’ of the Congo revealed the darkness in the hearts of the European traders.
For the last three years, I’ve been invited to submit mini artworks for a secret auction by Art on a Postcard www.artonapostcard.com. This brilliant art charity raises money for The Hepatitis C Trust’s campaign to eliminate hepatitis C in the UK by 2025. http://www.hepctrust.org.uk/
It works like this. Famous and emerging artists are invited to donate postcard-sized (10cmx15cm) original, images for auction. Over the years Art on a Postcard have had postcards donated by Sir Peter Blake, Damien Hirst, Harland Miller, Gavin Turk, Rachel Howard, Gilbert and George, Polly Morgan, John Wragg RA, Stephen Chambers RA, Michael Craig-Martin, Chantal Joffe, Cecily Brown, Grayson Perry, Julian Opie and Jeremy Deller. The cards are displayed to the public in a gallery exhibition and, simultaneously, on online auction site, Paddle8. https://paddle8.com/
The twist is that although the names of all the contributing artists are published as a list, you don’t find out which artist produced which work until after the auction is over. You have to guess.
Trying to match artists to their pictures in a kind of artistic Whodunnit is part of the fun, and with bids starting at around £50, there is a chance that you could buy something from an artist that you probably could never ordinarily afford.
‘We have a group of men who pride themselves on knowing who everyone is, even the more obscure artists’ she says. ‘But last year they got the Marina Abramovic totally wrong! And another year, the money went everywhere because nobody could work out which was the Damien Hirst, and a huge amount of money went on a picture of a pig by a relatively unknown artist, because bidders decided that was the one.’
Last year’s Art on a Postcard raised £81,000 for the Trust.
The fight against Hepatitis C Hepatitis C is a virus that is transmitted from person to person by infected blood. 90 per cent of people with hepatitis C have contracted it through injecting drugs with contaminated needles. Others will have got it perhaps from having tattos or medical treatment abroad, or in the UK, pre 1991, from infected blood products. https://www.infectedbloodinquiry.org.uk/
To eliminate the disease by 2015, everyone who is affected needs to be found, diagnosed and treated. Drug treatment has improved greatly in the last few years, and as more people are cured, there are fewer people with hepatitis C to infect others. ‘It’s that last ten percent who are the most difficult to reach,’ says Gemma Peppé. ‘General awareness campaigns just don’t work. People don’t really take any notice unless hepatitis C is already on their minds. And they’re not going to pay any attention to material that is aimed at drug users, if they just injected drugs once, years ago at university, because they wouldn’t see themselves as that. But people do engage with Art on a Postcard and it just might reach that target group.’
Gemma discovered that she had hepatitis C fourteen years after contracting it in 1988. While she was ill she started working for The Hepatitis C Trust on their celebrity-led awareness campaigns but after being cured in 2013, she regained her energy and, in 2014, launched the first Art on a Postcard auction, with a colleague.
Since then Art on a Postcard has gone from strength. Gemma now produces a fine art postcard auction each November – that’s the one I’ve contributed to – and two photographic auction events. One auction takes place as part of Photo London, held each May at Somerset House in London. The Hepatitis C Trust is the official partner charity.
This year the auction is curated by street artist Ben Eine and street photographer Dougie Wallace. It features over 600 images by some of the most collectable and interesting contemporary urban artists, including Anthony Lister, Vhils, Ed Kashi, Melanie Einzig, Shok1, Sandra Chevrier, Nick Thomm. View the list of participating artists and the auction catalogue here https://www.artonapostcard.com/spitalfields-2019
If you are interested in getting involved, the Private View is on 2nd July Central Mezzanine at Old Spitalfields Market, 16 Commercial Street, London E1 6EW. At this event, Art on a Postcard will join forces with Jealous Galleryhttps://www.jealousgallery.com/ who will be live screen printing and releasing an iconic Ben Eine ‘S’ for Spitalfields.If you would like to attend the private view, you can but tickets here https://aoap.eventbrite.co.uk.
The exhibition continues at Spitalfields until 7th July. If you can’t wait or you can’t get there, the auction itself starts today and runs until 10 July 2019. You can browse and bid on Paddle8. https://paddle8.com/auction/art-on-a-postcard.And on Saturday 6th July, Art on a Postcard will be curating five stalls in Old Spitalfields Market and will be joined by the artists Sara Pope and Rugman. So do pop along there if you get the chance.
Look out too for other Art on a Postcard events too. They’ve done one off-events such as Art on a Ukulele and there is an annual car boot sale, which has attracted artists like Tracy Emin, Peter Blake and Gavin Turk. ‘The trick is to get a destination artist,’ explains Gemma Peppé. ‘The year we had Harland Miller, people started queueing from 2pm the day before.’
Last weekend I did a lino cutting workshop at Northfleet Central, Northfleet Big Local’s community centre http://www.northfleetbiglocal.com/ After a short demonstration, everyone got going and produced some amazing work – see the slideshow below. Thanks to Mandy Wooding and Mandi Knight for the photographs.
Lino cutting is a type of relief printing. It developed from wood cutting, which was the main way of illustrating books before hot metal etching plates were used.
Lino (linoleum) was invented and used as a floor covering in 1863. It’s a natural product made from solidified linseed oil, pine rosin, ground cork dust, sawdust, and chalk. The name was coined by Frederick Walton who combined the Latin word for flax, ‘linum’ with the Latin word for oil, ‘oleum’.
The lino cutting technique wasn’t really used by artists until the 1900s. Some of the first examples of lino printing as art came from artists in Die Brücke, Germany, where the technique had previously been used for printing wallpaper. In 1911, ‘linoleum art’ by Vojtěch Preissig made its first appearance in a gallery in New York City.
When Picasso and Matisse used lino cutting in their work, it became an established professional print medium.
The lino cutting technique is quite simple. I start by cutting my lino squares. Because it is a natural material, if it is cold, lino can be brittle and break. So I work with two pieces at once. I sit on one to warm it up while I work with the other.
Lino is a great medium for printing because, once it is warm, it is soft, pliable and easy to cut. Also, unlike wood, it doesn’t have a grain so you can cut in all directions equally easily. Before you start to cut, sand the lino gently with a fine grade sandpaper. This helps the ink to stick and makes it easier to get a consistent result when you print.
In the UK , lino was made in Kirkcaldy, Scotland by the Nairn family. It is still used as flooring in hospitals and prisons because it is so durable and hardwearing, but it has been largely superseded in by vinyl and laminate flooring for domestic use. This means it is now quite difficult to get off-cuts to use for artwork, although there is still a major lino stockist in East London. You can, however, buy alternatives to lino in art shops. So, for example, children often learn relief printing using ‘dry point’ on thin polystyrene tiles.
Anyway, once you have your lino ready, you cut your design with sharp V- or U-shaped tools. Be careful, lino cutting is a blood sport! Remember, the uncut (raised) areas are a reverse of the image you want to print.
Next you spread a thin layer of ink on a glass plate. I use a glass chopping board from Lidl. Then, you ink up your carved lino with a roller, called a brayer, and then place it on to a sheet of paper, holding it carefully in one position. You need to press down evenly. I do this by hand, using a metal spoon, pressing it all over so I get an even print. Some people use a printing press. This YouTube video gives a good introduction.
I’ve been lino printing now for about five years – I’m not sure how long really. I like it because it is so ‘hands on’. As a teenager I was always whittling away, turning bits of wood into animals and other objects, and it’s really the tactile nature of lino printing that appeals to me. It allows you to put your ideas directly into your hands as you carve your design and, although you’ve got to concentrate, it’s relaxing because you’re not thinking too deeply, you’re just there in the moment with your design. As far as the prints go, I quite like the monochrome effect and also that sense of never quite knowing what you’re going to get when you peel that first print off the lino.
I’m not sure that the image that they’re using at the moment will be the final cover. I’m expecting some more information nearer to the publication date, but look out for my Small Town design on the publicity when it’s launched.
Have you read the book? I’ve just started reading it on my holidays. I think its pretty good. Quite experimental, so for instance, none of the characters have names.
The online reviews are mixed. Here is what the publishers say: In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes ‘interesting’. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous. Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.
And talking of artwork, I’ve just added some new pieces for June, to the gallery on my website – originals, lino prints and digital prints – some of them are recent, some have been around a while and you may have seen them before. Do pop in and have a look. http://www.duncangrantartist.com/product-category/new-artwork/
What a fantastic opening night of my What a Liberty! exhibition at the beautiful Hot Tin https://www.the-hot-tin.co.uk/ in Faversham, Kent! Thank you to everyone who came. Thanks to our hosts, Mike and Romana. And thanks Roger Crosby, Karen Glykys (Instagram @karenglykys) and Emma Hill www.emmahill.co.uk for the images in this blog.
The exhibition featured some of my art,
plus some pieces from the other three #LibertyOpen Call winners – Emma Hill, Natasha Coverdale and Catherine Rowe.
It was great that Natasha and Emma could be there too with their families.
Fuelled by The Hot Tin’s cocktail ‘The Drunken Duncan’ (gin, lime , lovage and absinthe) concocted specially for the occasion we talked and danced through the evening to Northern Soul, from DJ Ged ‘Stax Volt’ Kelly.
I got a 5m length of Tana Lawn in green as part of my prize, so I draped that above the bar.
I also bought a metre each of the other 5 fabrics that are now on sale at https://www.libertylondon.com/uk/edits/open-call/ (‘How much!’ As my Dad would say). These were stylishly modelled by the lovely Melanie, Starry and Misty, throughout the evening.
Well, what a day. Today I finally got to see the fabrics created from my winning #LibertyOpenCall design for sale on the shelves of Liberty! It was the first time seeing them for real. We only saw the strike offs when we visited the factory in Milan. The fabrics looks fantastic, brilliant quality and great colours. I have three colourway of one design ‘Duncan Grant’ on Tana Lawn and three of a second design ‘Small Town’ on silk.
To mark the launch, the store was decorated with panels of our fabrics and information about each of the four winners all the way up the stairs and around the Haberdashery Department.
We were treated to breakfast with the design and sales team and then signed copies of our original designs, which will go into the famous Liberty archive.
We each received 5metres of one of our fabrics – I chose the one closest to my original design in terms of colour, and then I couldn’t resist buying a metre of each of the others.
As one part of the journey ends, another begins. We’ll be kept informed of how our fabrics are used. So if, say, a fashion house uses one of our designs of fabrics for a garment in their 2020 season collections, Liberty will tell us and will keep our names with the designs as far as they can.
Will let you know about any developments on here. Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me, voted for me and supported me so far. One of you is getting a pair of designer boxers. You know who you are!
Here are the links to my fabrics on the Liberty website: