Stanley Spencer was an English Neo-romantic painter who was greatly inspired by the ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, with whom I share a birthday, give or take a few decades (what with him being born 14th December 1959). Whilst in later life he often only produced landscapes out of commercial necessity, his early work featured a much more eccentric energy and his use of vidi colour really set him apart. The influence of this Pre-raphaelite inspiration can be observed in the level of detail and way that he chooses to compose each scene i order to communicate his compassion for there residences and also his romantic and sexual obsessions.
Carrying Mattresses 1921
Christ Preaching at Cookam Regatta 1954
What I really get out of looking at Spencer work, and what I feel is most important to me, is the way that he composes his scenes and the way that they create for themselves a vast sense of space that really draws you in and gives the illusion that there is so much more going on in the world of the painting that you can’t see. They don’t stand alone but instead give you a glimpse into a wider world distilled into a moment.
This level of detail and story telling, makes Stanley’s work quite illustrative and allow him to communicate much more than in a simple still life modeled piece.
The painting above is my favorite example of this. The composition and the vibrant use of colour and shade make the quality of the space illustrated in this painting so expressive and gives it such a busy atmosphere. Spencer communicates a clear narrative with a large number of active characters that each play a part in the wider world of the setting.
Taking inspiration from Spencer’s world building and narrative landscapes, I’ve gone about looking at my own use of negative space, focused areas of detail and use of observed characters. While I have maintained a more character focus and kept to a more obviously narrative driven piece, I have tried to emulate aspects of his compassion and word building in this landscape.
As part of Professional practise Sam has set up a student Zine that will be published each week and feature illustrations all based on a theme that changes every week. For the first edition, inspired by the Beast from the East that descended on Cardiff covering it in a thick layer of snow and ice, the theme was snow globes. While I was away in Cumbria, due to my broken leg, I didn’t get to enjoy the snow and didn’t get as much at home as in Cardiff, but I did have a lot of time on my hands. So in the time that I was home I got loads of work done and also had more than enough time to create a submission for the Zine.
My take on the them wasn’t all that literal, not having anything to do with snow an’ all, instead I used the snow globe to create an enclosed galaxy. The inspiration came from my astronaut character that features in a lot of my personal work. They are floating in a self contained space holding onto a circular life line that doesn’t go anywhere. It was inspired by how isolated I felt from Cardiff and how my injury has essentially put quite a lot of my life on hold.
I as really pleased with how it came out, but I didn’t have access to the quality scanners at uni or to anything with a better camera than my phone, so the photo and edit that I could get of the drawing wasn’t up to the quality that I wanted. Luckily, zines are quite a small format publication, so it doesn’t effect it too badly, however I will defiantly be submitting a better quality image next week.
The finished Zine looked really good and was quite professional. All the other submissions were really good and everyone had really individual interpretations of the theme. Sam did a really good job formatting and adding text to each submission, the publication only cost 3.70 each, so it was also really well priced. I’m really happy with how it all came out and will defiantly be regularly submitting to the Zine, hopefully we could maybe keep it going even after we graduate, zines are a really good simple way to get exposure and theres quite a few different zines fairs were you can display and sell them.
In a resent episode of Money Box on radio four (a show that reports on financial issues and provides advice), ‘The Cost of Homelessness’, in light of Prime Minister Theresa May’s comment of homelessness being a “national disgrace”, the show investigated the current state of homelessness across the UK.
In the show they sited official data that suggests that thousands of people sleep out each night, but they’re just the visible homeless. There are many more “hidden” homeless in temporary accommodation like hostels or bed and breakfasts, sofa surfing with friends and family or in bedsits. They spoke to three people, about their experiences of living on the streets, in hostels or precarious accommodation, about how they manage their limited income and the tough decisions they have to make.
Also, with a new law coming into force in England next month which extends local authorities’ duty of care to homeless people, they considered the bigger picture and the financial implications for taxpayers. Could the UK adopt a more effective and more cost-effective approach to homelessness?
They also spoke to Hannah Gousy, Policy and Public Affairs manager at Crisis, a charity for homeless people. She’s worked at the Parole Board and in the mental health sector, as well as at the Centre for Social Justice, which was co-founded by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative Party leader and former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
The programme was very hard hitting and showed the stark reality of the difficulties that homeless individuals face when trying to break the cycle of homelessness. One of the most eye opening people that they spoke too was a man living in a hostel in London. The hostel where e was staying is not fit for purpose and is extremely costly to the council who has to pay the rent, more worryingly, the property is a dingy and very damp basement flat that has no ventilation and a serious damp problem that is causing problems for the occupants emphysema. The cost of the rent (which is covered by the council), the basic amenities (which are not) and the fact that the stove provided in the flat is unusable, all adds up to an extortionate amount of money.
While listening to this horror story, I created an editorial style drawing of what I was hearing. the quote “We’ve gotten used to the poor having to pay more for things…” really stood out for me as I listened to the report. It’s unfortunately very true, and the man who was being interview had no choice in any of this, he could only take what he was given ad what the council could provide. This is not just an isolated problem though, as all this ridiculous cost is passed onto the taxi payer and drains council funds that could be spent so much better, both for the taxi payer and the individual receiving the service.
Since the very start of this year I’ve been very heavily focused on observational drawing in public spaces, both relevant o the narrative landscapes that I stared with and the subject f homelessness that I ultimately I chose to focus on.
With this in mind, I’ve spent some of my tie away from uni finding places to observe and draw that are relevant to my project. In Cardiff Queen St is one of the most popular places where you will see begging and the visible homeless community, this is mostly due to how busy this one street meaning that those who find refuge there are most likely to get the most money when compared to other streets. It is therefore a very good place for me to sit and draw. The natural scenes on the street and the interactions between those who stop to speak with a homeless individual, or even those who selectively ignore their presents, creates an organic narrative for me to consider in my work.
The short amount of time that I had to draw each of my subjects was a challenge, While i do draw people from life regularly, my usual haunts are coffee shops, waiting rooms or anywhere that I’m sat boredly waiting for something or someone. So it took me a few attempts to get used to the fast pace of trying to draw people as the pass on the street.
Challenges aside, I’m really happy with the figures that I did manage to capture. Particularly I really liked the two figures in the centre of the second image, the scale of their difference in height and the detail that I had chance to add to the older ladies face gave the drawings a real sense of space and they both look quite well proportioned, considering that I as drawing them on the fly.
Drawing in this way really opens me up to draw more fluidly and to really focus on the basic shapes and lines in my work. This has given these drawings a better sense of weight and presents on the page.
From these drawings I created a couple of basic landscapes or street scenes using the figures and putting them into the context of the street together. By putting them into a scene, I was trying to build up a narrative in the landscape. This piece in particular, I don’t think was very effective; the street is too empty and the ‘narrative’ is too basic. I’m also not happy with my colour choices, the tones are too dark and dull, also I don’t believe that the medias that used interacted as well as I’d hope that they would.
Alternatively, these piece I feel was more effective. The pallet is much more effective and while the narrative is no more complicated, or even less complicated, I feel like the tone of the pice s better communicated.
However, in my latest tutorials, the advice that I’ve received is that I need to move on from pieces like this and that I need to be developing my work and its message away from my current direction.
Moving forward I will be focusing on changing my focus to a more positive approach to homelessness, from the research that I have been doing, the most interesting and unsaturated areas are about the ways that we can really help the homeless and highlighting programmes that the public can contribute to that offer effective help and opportunities that can get people out of the circle of homelessness.
As graduation looms overhead, getting ever closer at seemingly increasing speed, I have been looking into constructive ways to spend my time this summer. In past years I have worked in order to build up some cash for the next year in university, but as I plan to return to Cardiff after this summer specifically to work, there is little point in this.
My latest round of research has turned up an Artist Trainee course based in Peckham in London (where most of the arts courses that I have been able to find have frustratingly been primarily based).
Bold Tendencies is an arts centre based in Peckham that offers a 6 week summer (May to September) course that offers participants the opportunity to learn more about jobs and opportunities in the arts industry. It features mentor, educational and administration programmes that are designed to better inform you of the many and varied roles that one can play in the arts industry.
“Our interns are involved with all aspects of the summer programme, assisting the Bold Tendencies team working on site and our many artistic collaborators. Caring for the commissions and the site, welcoming visitors, giving tours for visitors and school groups and helping with front of house on our summer-long events programme, interns are integral to shaping the Bold Tendencies programme. Interns also help maintain the mailing list and newsletter and other administrative aspects of running an arts organisation and assist with activities for kids and young people as part of our extensive educational programme. The tasks at Bo ld Tendencies are varied and this is something that past interns have always enjoyed.
Far from the White Cube Gallery setting, Bold Tendencies offers another perspective into the world of commissioning contemporary art and architecture and the daily functioning and problem solving involved in a fledgling organisation and enterprise. For many Bold Tendencies has provided an alternative context and unique setting to gain valuable experience and insight into the world of creative disciplines across the spectrum.”
Both the programme and the organization behind it look really very intregine, it also fits nicely into what I have loosely planned for next year, ie: moving back to Cardiff to live with a few of my current course mates, work and become more involved with the current Cardiff art scene, aiming to find a space to exhibit and collaborate within my first year in Cardiff.
The visual narrative shown in Perry’s ‘Map of Truths and Beliefs’ is a sort of nonlinear big picture of all the main aspects on the subject of modernism of “raw creativity and sensuous desire, and the rules of society” (Source linked above^^). It’s a wonderful illustration of how Perry researches and immerses himself into a concept.
“The female figure at the far left represents the aggressive consumerism of modern life: she has a black trouser suit, two iPhones and straightened hair. The boy at the centre is innocent logic. He’s got his set-square, his toy car and camouflage trousers; he’s trying to make sense of the universe. The bear is a wild, emotional vision of the world and the woman opposite in folk costume represents tradition.”
Within the piece feature symbols of the many pitfalls and aspects of this concept that we can explore in the world around us and come together in this one place as a summary of what Perry has com to understand of it.
It’s this summative and informative narrative that interests me and is most relevant to my work. The role of this piece is to inform it’s audience using this visual and illustrative medium; it’s this educational role that I need to consider in y own work. The point of my project should not only to be present the problem of rising homelessness in the UK, as this is a stale topic that has been covered in numerous ways by countless artists and illustrators before me (if I were to only try to present the same message I would be pitting myself against too much competition and repeating a dry retaric). Instead, I would like to take a cue from Perry and look at how I can inform my audience, not just of the issue, but of the ways to combat and reduce it in a way that they can appreciate and contribute too.
I think that looking at how Perry has immersed himself in the topics that he covers, such as when the way that he seeks out and engaged with the subjects featured in his tapestries:
Is a prime example of how I should engage myself going forward. This would entail both a great deal more secondary and Primary research.
Disaster strikes… On the 17th the February, while out running, I made the very ill advised decision to cross the road without properly checking the road and ran head on into a cyclist. Fortunately, the cyclist was was unhurt, but I broken both bones in my ankle. Here’s a diagram:
After a week in hospital and surgery to put pins and a plate into my leg to secure the bones, I had to go home for 2 weeks in order for me to adjust to being on crutches and also because my mum wanted to make sure that I’d be properly looked after post surgery (there was really no point arguing with her). My surgery was done on the 22nd of february and I was sent home the following Saturday (24th). Because of the severity of my brake I was put in a non weight bearing cast for 6 weeks and am therefore on crutches during this time. Getting to and from uni while I am on crutches and unable to weight bear will require me to take a lot of taxis, so in order to manage this I have applied to the hardship fund in order to get some support to cover the cost.
In addition to applying to the hardship fund, I have applied to mitigating circumstances to get an extended deadline or clearance to submit my work for assessment in August. Hopefully by doing this I will still be able to complete my work to a high level of quality and be able to graduate along side the rest of my year.
The most frustrating part of this whole ordeal has been that only the day before I had been to the Wallich Volunteer open day and gotten my DBS clearance. The Monday after my accident I received a call from the ‘breakfast run programme’ that I had been most interested in volunteering with. Of course I had to explain my situation and that I wouldn’t be able to volunteer until I am out of my cast. So this set back has really badly affected my progress and derailed the timetable that I had put in place for my project.
However, I am due to get my cast removed on the 5th of April and full intent to hit the ground running (in all senses but literal, as I will still need some physio and more recovery time before I can go out running again unfortunately) and get back into the volunteer programme as soon as I am able. Because the 5th of April is the first week of the Eater break, this should mean that I can use this time to catch up with as much work as I can manage, which will hopefully put me in a much better place at the start of the final summer term.