Posted on Leave a comment

Eric MacLennan: The Open Air Drawing Room

Did I ever tell you that I’m currently exhibiting in the Turner Contemporary in Margate? No, seriously, I am.  Sort of. My watercolour painting of a stone is one among 500 others produced by members of the public as part of Eric MacLennan’s participatory art project The Open Air Drawing Room. https://turnercontemporary.org/whats-on/the-open-air-drawing-room/

I first met Eric in July this year when he brought The Open Air Drawing Room to the Riverside Fringe Festival in Fort Gardens in Gravesend. At the time, I was helping out with another community project where festival goers collaborated to produce a large mural of Gravesend.

I noticed that something very intriguing was going on on the pitch opposite us. At first it looked like a piece of performance art. Two slightly eccentric looking people used a karabina and rope arrangement to draw a perfect circle of sand on the ground. As people stopped to watch, they were invited to stand on the edge of the circle. The performers then handed round small plastic stools, which participants put on their heads. Strange, I thought.

When I looked over again, the group were sitting on their stools, busily drawing something on a small card. Well, I had to find out what was going on, so I popped over, got involved and met Eric.

Eric MacLennan trained in movement in Paris and worked for a while in the theatre, television and film. But over the last ten years he has fulfilled several small commissions that combine performance art with other experiences. ‘I’m interested in things that cross over, that don’t fit neatly into some of the boxes or labels that we use to describe styles of artistic practice,’ he says.

His piece in 2017, called A Voyage Around My Bedroom, which combined philosophy, performance art and one-to-one performance, toured small festivals and fetes. ‘Events that probably couldn’t afford to commission art,’ Eric explains.

Funded by Applause Outdoors  https://applause.org.uk/outdoors/ the production was inspired by the experiences of Xavier de Maistre who, towards the end of the 18th century, was confined to his house in Turin, following a duel. To keep himself from going mad, he made journeys in his mind, describing ordinary, everyday objects in his bedroom as if they were extraordinary and new. ‘I made this big glass box and put a bed inside it and invited individual members of the public to come into the box with me,’ Eric recalls. ‘I’d ask them about their bedroom, drawing their attention to things they probably go past every day and take for granted. The performance offered a way for people to look at the world differently for a moment, slowing down and enjoying what is there.’ http://www.avoyagearoundmybedroom.com/about/

This year Eric has been touring small events around Kent with another commission from Applause Outdoors and Turner Contemporary.  ‘To celebrate Turner Prize 2019, Turner Contemporary were looking for something that would bring people into the gallery to see the Turner Prize finalists who were being exhibited there,’ Eric explains. ‘I suggested that the best way to get people to visit a gallery is if their work is displayed there. And that was the birth of The Open Air Drawing Room.

He calls it ‘socially engaged art’ because the public are not passive viewers but an active and essential part of the experience. The Open Air Drawing Room has several elements. As I described above, each performance starts as a piece of street theatre with passers by watching actors create a sand circle.  But as people join the circle, they are gently drawn into the performance, eventually becoming performers themselves.

Throughout the production are references to the innovative techniques of JMW Turner and John Ruskin, starting with those stool masks. Ruskin is said to have made a card with a hole in it so that he could really look at something closely, without distraction. By wearing the stools as masks, participants have a viewfinder through which they can view the world differently.

After a focus on close observation using the stools and later the thumb grip hole on an artist’s palette, the production changes very subtly from performance to workshop. The artist-facilitators (Eric and his partner) produce a collection of 31 stones, which Eric has collected from around the UK. Each represents and is named after one of the 31 sea areas around the British Isles…Tyne, Dogger, Fisher etc.

Participants now sit on their stools and after choosing a stone, are asked to draw round it before make their own close observational drawing of that stone inside the outline. ‘They use watercolour pencils, smudging the colours as JWM Turner would have done and they produce a painting,’ Eric observes. ‘People find that very liberating and realise, actually, we can all paint.’

Over the course of the project 501 paintings have been produced. You can see them displayed together as ‘one giant beach’ at Turner Contemporary until 12th January 2020. That’s me pointing at mine in the photo at the top of this piece.

And there is one last touch. To acknowledge JWM Turner’s interest in photography, which was in its infancy when he was painting, Eric has taken a photograph of the hand that drew each stone. A Show of Hands, featuring life-size images of the hands of artists aged from two to 86, is displayed outside the gallery. The order of the photographs corresponds to the order of the paintings inside the gallery, so visitors can match the hand to the painting if they wish. Eric has been moved by the emotional response that these hands have evoked. ‘’I is really excited to see young children stop to press their hands against the images, as if to say hello,’ he says. ‘It’s another example of people noticing the small detail that we often rush past because of the busy lives we lead.’

Those of you who know me know I’m a big fan of community art projects (Hand of Cards (2015), Christmas Cards this year https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/04/07/only-261-more-days-until-christmas-time-to-think-about-lunch/ and some of the big Small Towns that I’ve done in schools and elsewhere) and I really enjoyed being involved in Eric’s project. It did feel a little odd at first but working with others in that circle means you’re never exposed and the whole experience really made me think….which is good. If you are inspired to take part too, there is still a chance, with six more performances in the Foyle Room of Turner Contemporary on 21st and 22nd December 2019 at 12 noon, 2pm and 4pm.

Eric is now looking for funding and a gallery partner so that he can continue touring The Open Air Drawing Room over the next two years.  He hopes the final artwork will set a new world record for a painting created by the largest number of artists.

If you want to find out more about Eric MacLennan’s work or if you have questions for him, please visit his website https://www.ericmaclennan.com/

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Updates: Christmas cards, postcards, podcast and pants

 

Visit my gallery

Time for a few more updates

Christmas cards
Christmas is still coming. It’s November, so it is OK to start thinking about it. Are you ready? Have you got your Christmas cards yet? No. Well, I can help you with that.

These boxed sets of 42 beautiful charity Christmas cards and envelopes, each card designed by a different (mostly local) artist, have been on sale for a while now. They are raising money for Christmas dinner, this year, at No. 84 Tearoom and Eatery at Echo Square in Gravesend https://www.no84.co.uk/ Cafe owners Adrian and Andrea offer a free Christmas dinner to people in the local community who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day.

I’m delighted to say that over half of the boxes I got printed have been sold now. In fact, I’ve only got 38 boxes left so don’t miss out.  Boxes are available on this website https://duncangrantartist.com/product-category/charity-christmas-cards/ and in various venues around Gravesend, including https://www.no84.co.uk/ or you can get them from me directly, if you know where to find me.

Each box costs £20 (£24 including postage and packing if you order them from the website) with all profits going to help those less fortunate than ourselves this Christmas. You can find out more about the 2019 Christmas card project here https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/04/07/only-261-more-days-until-christmas-time-to-think-about-lunch/ Apologies to anyone from overseas who tried to order online but found that they needed to take out a bank loan to pay the postage. That has now been put right. Postage to Europe is £10, elsewhere in the world £15.

Art on a postcard
Once again I was honoured to be invited to donate 4 postcard-sized artworks to the 6th Art on a Postcard charity auction to raise money for the Hepatitis C Trust. If you are interested, you can find out more about the charity in my blog from June this year https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/06/26/art-on-a-postcard-urban-contemporary-vs-street-photography/

As well as me, this year’s line up includes anonymous contributions from famous names from the artworld such as Norman Ackroyd RA, Jock McFadyen RA, Carolina Caycedo, Vanessa Jackson RA, Dan Baldwin, Louise Lawler, Florine Démosthène, Joan Snyder, Timothy Hyman RA,  Jeremy Deller, Miya Ando, and Helen Beard. All cards start at £50 so if you think that you can spot a famous artist just from looking at their work, you could snap up a real bargain.  I was really pleased to see that all mine have now had bids so I won’t be consigned to the box of shame and will be raising some money for this good cause. Off to the private view on Tuesday. The auction is online https://paddle8.com/auction/hep-c-trust and runs until 14th November, so there’s still time.

Podcast
Last Wednesday, I met Nathalie Banaigs – Founder and Director of Kent Creative http://kentcreativearts.co.uk/ to record a podcast along with author, Frances Beaumont https://francesbeaumont.co.uk/.  If you haven’t had enough of me already, you can listen in here https://soundcloud.com/user-365282206/2019-11-05-artist-duncan-grant-and-author-frances-beaumont You may need to install Soundcloud to listen. There you’ll find all kinds of interesting chats with local creatives from all branches of the Arts – well worth a browse.

Walking the walk. 
Liberty fabric 'Duncan Grant' shirtIn September, Faversham seamstress Jane Potter https://www.facebook.com/jane.a.potter.textiles posted this on Facebook. Those of you who have been following me this year will recognise the fabric as one of the colourways of a design taken from my 2018 winning #LibertyOpenCall entry. https://www.libertylondon.com/uk/duncan-grant-tana-lawn-cotton-000620140.html?listsrc=Search%20Recommendation If  you don’t know what I’m talking about this blog from explains all. https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/01/30/liberty-open-call/

As part of my prize, I received five metres of green Tana Lawn Duncan Grant from Liberty – was going to post a link but looks like it has sold out – and Jane made this from it for me. Thank you, Jane.

I am going to pursue the fabric design thing. This week, I attended my first ever art-based since school, at the Fashion and Textile Museum, up in that there London, trying to get some Photoshop skills for my design stuff.  https://www.ftmlondon.org/ftm_courses/photoshop-for-textile-designers-3/ Had to walk through the Zandra Rhodes 50 Years of Fabulous exhibition to get to my class., which was kind of ironic because it is one year since I met her in person at the Liberty fabric launch. It was a small group – just four of us – and I’ve learnt a lot, like changing colourways, cropping images, collaging bits of designs and making repeats. Also managed to reset my phone to factory settings and nearly lost my wallet. But more on all that another time maybe 

When I entered the #LibertyOpenCall my mate Richard Marshall said, ‘If you win, I want a pair of pants made out of that’.  Well, Jane can also make boxers, Richard – and here they are! Now just your part of the bargain to fulfil – looking forward to the photoshoot. watch this space, readers.

Posted on Leave a comment

Alison Stirling: You got the Power

Alison Stirling exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Arts 2019

Visit my gallery

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is the largest open call for Artists, with over 16,000 entries each year. https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/

I’ve never found the courage to enter the show but always known it was there. It combines showing Royal Academians, who are selected automatically, with ‘other’ Artists who go through the brutal roller coaster stages of the selection process. Every year there is an exhibition coordinator. Last year, for the 250th anniversary, it was Grayson Perry https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/name/grayson-perry-ra who put on a Graysontastic barn stormer.

At the start of this year I decided that I needed to face the prospect of brutal rejection and embrace it like a flea riddled animal. To stand on the precipice and see where the wind takes me. With so many entries you know that the odds are stacked against you, but still getting an ‘it’s a no from me’ can still take the skin off the heel.

I saw that Jock McFadyen https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/name/jock-mcfadyen-ra was coordinating this year with the theme of art that describes the world. I’ve admired his work for years, he’s a painters’ painter. And there’s the added fact that he has painted the road I live on, not to mention scenes from the Scottish Isles which inspire me greatly. So it seemed right to try this year. It was clear that this year’s show would be one which I would find interesting regardless of the outcome. I spent a few seconds fighting back that faithful hound of doubt and entered two paintings: PYLON and E1. The submission went into cyber space and I returned to planning my next series of work.

You’ll know from my previous blog https://wp.me/pat44M-1iX that I love pylons. Another confession: I am a power station tourist. To be specific coal fired cooling towers. More of a groupie really. They are the crown jewels of the modern British landscape, or ‘the lads’ as they are affectionately known to me.

I’ve often tried to photograph them during my many trips up north visiting family. Most train journeys are spent with my camera pressed against the murky glass with the hope of at least capturing a decent line up of pylons. But when a gang of towers hove into view, that’s when the frenzy of trying to capture the right image begins. On my regular route to Liverpool I know exactly where they hang out, but on a diversion, or unfamiliar turf they can take you by surprise. On a fast train to the East coast of Scotland you can find yourself surrounded by concrete castles, flanked by forts of modernity. Their sudden incongruous presence can take your breath away when you are least expecting it. Then it’s a do or die situation with the camera.

I realised that I had never actually been up close and personal with them so on one dismal Monday morning as commuters flooded into Kings Cross I boarded an empty train to Ratcliffe-on-Soar. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratcliffe-on-Soar_power_station Where? Here lies a beautiful monster. Built in the sixties it used to burn 5.5 million tonnes of coal a year. In the nineties it ran for a record 250,000 hours. Attempts have been made to tame it. One activist Mark Kennedy… that’s another story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Kennedy_%28police_officer%29

With no idea of what I was to expect I arrived at East Midlands Parkway station, right at the foot of the sleeping towers. I asked a café worker if I could get close, right into the belly of the beast. She looked at me suspiciously and said, ‘if you do security will be all over you’. Only slightly phased, I began to take photographs from the station platform. Security warning announcements competed with the sonorous sounds of the rapids – water falling at the base of the towers. After moving on to the edge of the motorway bridge for some obligatory pylon photographs, I took a lonely path which led me to an open field. Sheep stood grazing, blackened by the shadow of the towers. Boats lay abandoned on the soft ground, from a time when the river soar flooded. The towers broad and tall dominated the arena. The sky turned blue and the mid-day sun began to beat. The surreal conditions were perfect: the chance meeting of a sheep, a concrete tower and an abandoned boat. Ankle deep in mud I took my photographs and unpacked my sandwiches.

The Gods of modern industrial structures were kind.

Back in the studio I reflected on the heat of the sun and the obvious cooling process of the towers. I produced a series of pieces which involved heating  and cooling materials.

Meanwhile, I checked my emails. Notifications were appearing on social media about getting through to the second round of the RA Summer Exhibition. And YES! PYLON had gone through to the ‘hanging committee’, a term which made the next round feel even more brutal. Another wait.

On the final notification day for applicants I checked my email and had a brief, ‘god this is stressful’ cry before reading it…. YEP. F%&KING YES! I was on my way to the royal Academy Varnishing Day!

Varnishing Day is a wonderful preview for exhibiting Artists – or commonly known as that bit in the Turner film where Timothy Spall adjusts his painting with red paint to attract attention and piss off Constable. It suddenly struck me that PYLON would be hanging out (literally) with Paula Rego https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/name/paula-rego-ra and Keifer https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/anselm-kiefer and too many others to mention.

On the day itself a steel band led us to a nearby church. I’m normally strictly weddings and funeral only but this was a service to bless the Artists, so I couldn’t miss it. I walked back to the RA somewhat awestruck by the recognisable Artists around me and the prospect of seeing my pylon painting along side their work.

Jock McFadyen created a splendid menagerie in the entrance to the exhibition hall. I had three thoughts, ‘this is incredible, where’s my work and my god that buffet looks good’.

I nervously sought my painting out and couldn’t be happier that it was placed in a room curated by Scottish painter Barbara Rae https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/name/barbara-rae-ra. The room was relatively sparse, works linked together beautifully with a clear nod to the environmental issues of today.

Former president of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/name/christopher-le-brun-pra gave a speech to the Artists against a backdrop of David Hepher’s monumental Hey Wayne on the Meath Estate https://se.royalacademy.org.uk/2019/artworks/david-hepher/272. A nervous ripple went around the room when he pointed out that our work is hanging on the same walls as Constable and Turner. He assured us that we should and must be proud.

It was great to take family friends and students to the subsequent private views and an added compliment that PYLON was bought on the first day.

I am grateful for all those who supported me and I am grateful for the beauty in the brutal.

If you’d like to see more of Alison’s work, including more stunning cooling towers, or if you’d like to know where she is exhibiting, visit her website https://alisonstirlingfineart.com/ or follow her on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/stirling.alison/ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/StirlingAlison/ or Twitter https://twitter.com/StirlingAlison

You can also contact Alison directly about commissions or exhibitions at alisonstirling@hotmail.com

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Vigo RFC

Visit my gallery

When I was a lad, before I went to college, and again during the 80s, I used to play rugby for Vigo RFC https://www.pitchero.com/clubs/vigorfc. I started out playing on the wing and then moved forward as I got older and slower.

Vigo RFC 50th anniversary book
Lineout at Sunset

Well, this year marks the Club’s 50th anniversary and to celebrate that they’ve brought out a limited edition book, charting the history of the club, edited by Trevor Newnham. I was delighted to be asked if I’d do some artwork for the book, based on old photographs. You can see one drawing on the cover, and three others inside.

The club, originally based at the Vigo Inn, near Fairseat in Kent, on the top of the North Downs, has an interesting history. This brief account is based on information from the 50th anniversary book and from Trevor’s article for the Stansted and Fairseat History Society https://stanstedhistory.org/groups-vigo-rfc/ Both contain some fascinating old images.

Rugby wasn’t always the game of choice at The Vigo Inn, formerly called The Upper Drover. Once upon a time, punters used to play ‘daddlums’ a form of table skittles. But everything changed one Sunday lunchtime in 1968 when a group of well-oiled local rugby players – regulars at the pub – came up with the idea that the field at the back of the pub would make a pretty good rugby pitch, and as such would offer ‘an ideal opportunity to combine beer and fitness’. Despite the field in question being ‘none too flat’ and more than somewhat muddy, their beer fuelled vision gradually turned into a plan. There were meetings, a committee and, in 1969, with telegraph poles as goalposts and a disused chicken shed to change in, Vigo RFC was founded. Lillian Ashwell, the pub’s landlady was elected as President – probably the first woman President of a rugby club in England.

Vigo RFC 50th anniversary
Tackle

A couple of players from nearby Gravesend RFC were persuaded to provide some coaching – a necessary first step as many of the prospective players had never touched a rugby ball before. But the team was enthusiastic and willing to learn and most players were soon judged to have ‘mastered basic rugby techniques’ and despite being ‘a little raw in one or two specialist positions, such as hooker’ were ready for fixtures with B teams from other clubs. In their first serious match, away to Deal in 1969, Vigo RFC recorded a ‘resounding’ 3-1 victory.

As the rugby became more serious, the club moved several times. Ten years on, it settled in current home at Swanswood in Harvel, not far fromthe original Vigo Inn.  A club member who was also a builder, supervised the construction of a clubhouse, with the players acting as labourers. And, over the years, through a number of fundraising initiatives, the clubhouse was improved and floodlights were installed.

Since then, the club has gone from strength to strength. It now fields four adult teams, a juniors team, and two junior mini-rugby teams.

Vigo RFC 50th anniversary
Try

As Trevor Newnham writes:
From the grassiest (and muddiest) of grassroots, the Club – Vigo RFC – came into being.  A pub side at heart, a determination to be independent of any brewer, professionalism, and a club that would offer a warm home to anyone who loves this great game.’

The 50th Anniversary Book: Vigo Rugby Football Club 1969-2019 is available now from the club at a cost of £10.

The originals of my drawings for the book and digital prints are available on my website. Just follow the links below:

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Alison Stirling: Pylonlove

Visit my gallery

Hello! It is an honour to be featured Artist on Duncan Grant’s website. I am a great admirer of his work. I have several pieces on my walls, as you may know, they are as addictive to buy as I am sure they are to make. His industrial landscapes are something I can connect with in my own Art work.

My name is Alison Stirling and I paint pylons. My interest stems back to childhood holidays when my dad quit his job and bought a van to drive us around Europe on the cheap. We spent hours and days on motorways. He wanted us to see the Colosseum, Pompeii, the Sistine chapel, but I’d be as fascinated by the journey as the destination – to me, the pylons, the ring roads, the concrete service stations were Disneyland!

Not much has changed in that respect. This year following an exhibition, I went trekking in Peru to research a new series of paintings, ‘Pylons of Peru’.Alison Stirling, artist, on the Inca Trail in Peru

I had wanted to walk the Inca trail for some time and I am interested in how human intervention shapes a landscape. After three days of climbing and descending passes at altitude (one unnervingly named ‘The Dead Woman’s Pass’) through awe-inspiring but unavoidably knackering landscape I found that my legs were reluctant to move. The guide, realising that my pace had slowed down came back. He clearly thought about creative ways to get the part-time hikers moving. ‘If you keep going for half an hour we reach an amazing Inca trail site…..and there’s a pylon,” he said. Pylons and mountains and stairs, oh my! Not even the snake, spectacled bear and poisonous frog shifted me that fast!

Alison Stirling, artist, 'The Pylons of Peru'I get various people taking an interest in my work, not only Art lovers and buyers but as I discovered there’s a whole world of pylon enthusiasts out there, some seriously knowledgeable hardcore spotters – knowing your L2 from your L12 doesn’t even scratch the surface. I started following various groups on social media such as the pylon appreciation society https://www.pylons.org/ headed by the fabulous Flash Bristow. She brings together all kinds of people, whatever the angle (ahem), spotters, line workers, pylon painters, model makers.

There are other group too pylonspostsandlines https://www.instagram.com/pylonspostsandlines/, justpylonthings https://www.instagram.com/justpylonthings/, and my favourite, the Japanese group steeltower_artistic https://www.instagram.com/STEELTOWER_Artistic/. I get some unexpected interest. I’m equally likely to get a ‘like’ or a comment from Bill the lines man in Wyoming as I am from someone interested in painting.

Alison Stirling, artist, paints pylonsI have often wondered what it would be like to be an actual pylon painter. (I once read about an Artist who compared himself to a shepherd because of the solitary nature of the process.) When I am painting, after I’ve had my fun putting down the loose brushstrokes for the sky or a wild landscape, I get down to the long painstaking task of creating tiny geometric lines, constructing the pylon. I tend to work for six hours at a time. If my eyes feel raw, like they are on stalks, by the end of it then it has probably been successful. Alisin Stirling, artist, paints pylonsHowever, the reality is that my work takes place indoors (much of the time) with a strong cup of tea to hand, I’m not dangling 165 feet in the air, inches away from 400,00 volt electricity cables in icy weather. Mind you, if Turner supposedly strapped himself to a mast in a storm …..watch this space!

If you’d like to see more of Alison’s work, including her stunning cooling towers, or if you’d like to know where she is exhibiting, visit her website https://alisonstirlingfineart.com/ or follow her on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/stirling.alison/ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/StirlingAlison/ or Twitter https://twitter.com/StirlingAlison

You can also contact Alison directly about commissions or exhibitions at alisonstirling@hotmail.com

Coming soon….In part two of her guest blog – coming soon – Alison describes how her love of pylons took her all the way to exhibiting  at the 2019 Royal Academy of Art Summer Exhibition. If you’d like to receive a notification when Alison posts again, please subscribe to this website by putting your email in the box above and clicking on the link you receive in reply.

Posted on Leave a comment

Updates: Christmas cards, book cover, spotted in Japan and chewing gum

Visit my gallery

A few updates to give you in this blog.

Christmas cards
In April, I put out a call for designs for Christmas cards to raise money for Christmas dinner, this year, at No. 84 Tearoom and Eatery at Echo Square in Gravesend https://www.no84.co.uk/  Owners Adrian and Andrea offer a free Chrstmas dinner to anyone in the local community who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. Well, the cards have been printed and boxed up. They are available on this website https://duncangrantartist.com/product-category/charity-christmas-cards/ and in various venues around the Gravesend Riverarea, including https://www.no84.co.uk/ https://www.visitgravesend.co.uk/event/hope-and-glory/ (more sellers to be added soon) or you can get them from me directly, if you know where to find me.

There are 42 original card designs, plus envelopes, in each box. Boxes costs £20 (plus postage and packing if you order them from the website). All profits go to helping those less fortunate than ourselves this Christmas. You can find out more about the 2019 Christmas card project here https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/04/07/only-261-more-days-until-christmas-time-to-think-about-lunch/

A big thank-you to everyone who took part! These pictures posted by Cafe No.84 from last year’s Christmas dinner, show the impact the money we raise can have https://www.facebook.com/groups/125240881313495/permalink/680243952479849/

Book cover – The Milkman by Anna Burns
In May, I found out that one of the prints from my winning #LibertyOpenCall Small Town fabric design had been chosen for the cover of a special edition of Faber & Faber’s Booker Prize winning publication, Milkman by Anna Burn. https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/06/02/can-you-judge-a-book-by-its-cover-maybe/

Each year Faber & Faber bring out a classic book, covered in a Liberty fabric (actual fabric, not a picture of it) from the year of publication. This year’s book was to be Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which was first published in 1963.  But because of their Booker Prize success with Milkman, Faber & Faber published an extra edition this year and my Small Town design was in the right place at the right time when they asked Liberty, ‘Have you got anything with houses on it?’

Last week Milkman it appeared in the shops, followed closely by a gift wrapped copy through my letterbox.

Lovely!

Spotted in Japan….
Small Towns have been spotted in Japan!
Japanese company AmandaMandy https://www.instagram.com/amandamandy_official/ seems to have bought a lot of different Liberty fabrics and is turning them into objects for sale – anyone for a Small Town water bottle holder, or a handy fabric covered notebook?

Ben Wilson: Chewing gum man
Artist Ben Wilson completes his latest miniature artwork on chewing gumThree weeks ago my blog featured artist, Ben Wilson aka ‘Chewing Gum Man’ https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/08/25/ben-wilson-chewing-gum-man/ 
Ben paints mini-artworks on discarded chewing gum and at that time was working his way down the Millenium Bridge just outside Tate Modern. My sister Annie met up with him again last week and was pleased to report that he’d reached the door of the Tate. His Kickstarter project to raise funds to produce a book of the Millenium Bridge Chewing Gum Trail reached its total, with just four days to go. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/studiomoe/ben-wilson-the-chewing-gum-man-the-millennium-bridge-gum Congratulations!

Tate Modern has agreed to allow Ben to hide some of his artwork around the gallery. You can see those pieces and keep up with his project on Instagram. benwilsonchewingumman https://www.instagram.com/p/B2EpjpjHzTR/?igshid=hwu58bt7f3t6

Think that’s all the updates for now! I’m trying to add some new artwork to my gallery – some of the stuff I’ve been posting on Facebook and Instagram lately – but have encountered a technical problem. Will let you know when I’ve managed to upload them, or check in here over the next few days https://duncangrantartist.com/product-category/new-artwork/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Ben Wilson: Chewing Gum Man

Artis Ben Wilson aka Chewing Gum Man on the Millenium Bridge

Visit my gallery

Crossing London’s Millenium Bridge always involves negotiating a crowd. There are Londoners with their gaze fixed straight ahead, or on their phones, trying to get from A to B, and tourists taking in the stunning views down the Thames on their way to St Paul’s Cathedral or to see the international art collection at the Tate Modern.

But the bridge hosts a secret art collection. An art collection that you will only see if you look down. An art collection painted on the spat-out chewing gum left on the bridge and its surrounding walkways.

My sister Annie was out around London last week filming and taking photographs for a travel guide project she’s doing. She was taking pictures of the minature artworks on the bridge when she (almost literally) stumbled across the Chewing Gum Man himself – artist, Ben Wilson – lying on the ground, surrounded by a small crowd, adding the finishing touches to his latest mini-masterpiece.  She stopped to take some pictures and he was happy to be photographed and to chat about his work.

Ben is a professional artist with a background in painting, wood-carving and sculpture. He has exhibited all over the world. Check out his listing on Wikipedia to find out more https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Wilson_(artist)

Driven by his dislike of waste and a desire to improve the urban environment, in the late nineties, Ben started experimenting with occasional chewing-gum paintings. Has now created thousands of them across London (particularly in Muswell Hill where he lives) but also around the UK and in Europe. He says he loves the idea of taking something that has been thrown away and transforming it into something amazing.

Each transformation takes between a couple of hours and three days to complete, using a special technique that involves heating the gum with a small blow torch, then coating it with three layers of acrylic enamel, before painting it with special acrylic paints and sealing it with clear lacquer. With the public ‘donating’ an endless supply of canvasses, Ben needs constant inspiration for his creations. His subjects include requests from the public, portraits, mini-landscapes and strange creatures from his imagination. The shape of each painting is determined by where the gum spitting has taken place. On the bridge, where it is squashed into the metal, the images are made up of slightly disconnected oblongs. On the ramps down from the bridge to the river banks, they tend to be round.

Britain spends about £150 million each year cleaning chewing gum from pavement and although Ben’s work does get eroded when the bridge is cleaned, there is no deliberate effort to remove it. In 2009, he was arrested in Trafalgar Square but, he explains that, technically, what he does does not count as criminal damage, because he is painting the gum, not the pavement.

There is a serious intent behind Ben’s chewing gum art. He sees it as a small way of helping people reconnect with their environment. In an Observer article some years ago he said, ‘Kids are not allowed to feel any connection with where they live … They can’t play in the streets because they are likely to get run over; then you have the national curriculum, and all this testing at school, and no opportunity to play or to make things, and everything you do outside is recorded on surveillance cameras. The only imagery that children see around them are billboards and TV; every part of their environment is out of bounds or sold off. That’s why they don’t care about their streets. This is a small way of connecting people.’

At the moment, Ben is using Kickstarter to try to raise funds to produce a book featuring a picture trail of his chewing gum art from St. Pauls, across the Millennium Bridge and into the Tate Modern. He hasn’t reached the Tate Modern yet – he is nearly there – but with only 19 fundraising days to go (ends midday 13th September) he has only raised just over £3000 of the £8000 he needs for publication. You can find out more about the project and, if you want to support him, pledge a donation, here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/studiomoe/ben-wilson-the-chewing-gum-man-the-millennium-bridge-gum. With Kickstarter projects you only pay if the project reaches its target amount. Ben is offering free paperback copies of the book in return for donations.

If you want to see more of Ben’s fascinating work, follow him on Instagram @benwilsonchewinggumman https://instagram.com/benwilsonchewinggumman?igshid=5jm87/ijcs264

And next time you’re in London and you cross the Millenium Bridge, just remember to look down as well as up, if you want to appreciate all the cultural richness the area has to offer.

Posted on Leave a comment

Lino print workshop and a big bike

Visit my gallery

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.

In the meantime, here is an earlier blog I wrote about lino cutting. https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/06/16/what-a-relief-a-blog-about-lino-cutting/  If the summer holidays are beginning to drag maybe try a bit of Dry Point with the kids to get them started. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=you+tube+dry+point+polystyrene+print&view=detail&mid=1AF60B09C714A34E43DF1AF60B09C714A34E43DF&FORM=VIRE

Enjoy the pictures from yesterday. And if you are interested in seeing more of my limited edition relief print work, you can find them all here https://duncangrantartist.com/product-category/prints/lino-cut-prints/

Amanda Groom Davies
Amanda Groom Davies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amana Groom Davies
Mandy Wooding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on 2 Comments

What I did on my holidays in Symi

Visit my Gallery

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. Symi has beautiful beaches only accessible by boatWe 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.

Evenings spent drawing, drinking and watching the world go byAnd 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 drew the beach at SymiI drew the beach at Symi

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!

Drawing olives on the beach in Symi

Olives Symi

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/

Baby pomegranate SymiPomegranates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemons

Oranges

 

 

 

 

 

 

(These citrus pictures are in the Gallery https://duncangrantartist.com/product/fruit-series-oranges/ https://duncangrantartist.com/product/fruit-series-oranges-print/ https://duncangrantartist.com/product/fruit-series-lemons/ https://duncangrantartist.com/product/fruit-series-lemons-print/)

Figs

Figs SymiFigs Symi

Hibiscus

Hibiscus Symi

Hibiscus Symi

And gin in its natural (and more usual) habitat……

Gin in its natural habitat Juniper SymiEvening ginand tonic Symi

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.