When riding the bus between Bristol and Bath I sometimes see railway workmen out on the line.
I've heard rumour of an elite troupe of Dutch railway engineers who are helicoptered in to fight service delays. They carry two magic poles; purpose unknown, and wear helmets made from polished narwhal tusk.
I have just spent the last couple of days in Falmouth, Cornwall, where I studied commercial illustration. I was asked to give a lecture on my path from BA to freelance and talk about business advice and the like. Though I felt horrendously under-qualified for this role, I decided to make a nice looking presentation in the hope that Microsoft's brand of jerky animations and limited formatting software would serve as my shield.
One of my favourite plants is the Crocosmia, or Montbretia. It dominates many of the cliffs of the North Cornish Coast in late summer and casts a striking shadow of warm red against the cool slate and granite rocks.
Here we have the first in a new set of images from the project Images from Abstract/Arbitrary Starting Points. I've got around 30 of these to do over the coming months, so watch this space.
The top image is a tiny circle taken from a large watercolour painting. The details, colours and composition give me the starting points to imagine an image. In this case a scene. I can't say that I knew what would be happening in the scene when I started drawing; rather that the shapes and colours instructed me on what to draw. I find it difficult to lay claim to the characters or their motives and actions. They are up for interpretation.
Having said that my interpretation is this:
As punishment for his infidelity, Hank's horse was magicked into a hollow log. Maggie-Lee had turned to the occult three months ago, and, driven by desperation after finding her good-for-nothin'-excuse'v-a-man dangling his pail in other woman's wells she dragged her young'uns outside and made them watch their father's humiliating and abrupt dismount.
My Dad is a software engineer. From a very young age I have asked him what his job entails but now days the image above is what I prefer to imagine. I know that he sits at a desk with a computer and has files and a waste paper bin. I know that he understands the intricacies of computer code. But I haven't the slightest clue what he actually does with his knowledge and his objects. His expertise is to such a degree that the most crystalline elucidation is a simplified series of 1s and 0s. Ultimately; you have to be a computer to understand it (and Dad is a computer, really, at least when he is at work: his job is to compute, and to deal in absolutes).
So, to help myself, I imagine there must be plasmatic fluid that suspends many amorphous shapes and it is the software engineer's task to tag these shapes with ones or zeros, therein giving the shapes a sense of purpose, clarity and identity and thus arranging them into groups depending on their persuasion. The software engineer carries a satchel containing square plates that can be placed over an existing denomination to alter its value. There is an ambient warm light in the plasma and also an army of Microsoft Paper clips and Linux Penguins that try to stop the engineers from completing their task. The army comprises the guardians of vagueness and is unified in its belief that 'All things are Wiggles' and that 'Mankind's arrogant attempts to compartmentalise and categorise the ephemera of nature are misguided and destructive and so must be fought.'
A drastic relocation has taken place. I've moved to the town of Bath in Somerset. It is from here that I'll now be working.
I took my boat from London's Regent's Canal all the way to the West Country, via the River Thames and the Kennet & Avon Canal. There was one week of rapturous sunshine, then about two more of what has by August sadly become the status-quo: misery. Whilst tillering dutifully at high speeds of 3-5mph (though don't tell ANYONE about that last digit or I'm in BIG trouble) and shielding my eyes from the inexorable misery that was creeping around the lining of my raincoat my mind turned to the devotees of the British 'Staycation' and the gaudy servants who fête them. For the minions of the holiday camp I felt their pain. My summer holiday in the rain only lasted less than two weeks, and had purpose, even obligation, at the end of it.
One day short of arriving in Bath my brother and I stopped in Bradford-on-Avon to eat and play cards. The rain was so heavy as we sat in the cafe. I looked across at the matte, pock-scarred canal and saw an alternative reflection: the bulbous, sodden clouds stretched out ceaselessly over the Minehead in my mind. An Endless Summer.
Bath is a UNESCO World heritage site largely because its was planned out in circles and crescents and is uniformly beige (not figuratively but literally - although I do have an inkling it might be both). I'll be set up with a studio some time next week.
Here is an example of the process I have been using to generate images for my new project 'Images from Arbitrary Starting Points', currently on show at the Royal College of Art 2012 Show. Its something quite addictive, in fact I've found it hard to stop producing images in this way. As such it is a work in progress.
Firstly, we start with an ordinary abstract watercolour painting. Just your run-of-the-mill, average non-descript abstract watercolour painting. Then, we look a little closer.....
Here you can see I have drawn some squares and rectangles. These show areas I have decided make interesting compositions and include preferable colour combinations. Lets take one of these as an example...say the one on the middle.
Now zoom in....
Here it is, in all its random glory! I find it quite amazing that I made this image without knowing it. That there are in fact thousands if not millions of images like this within my painting. And furthermore that we obliviously make thousands if not millions of images every day: the arrangement of dust over a bedside table as you scrabble for your untimely alarm clock; the greasy mark left by a sleeping man's hair on the foggy window of the number 19 bus; the trail of drying blood across a concrete floor left by the battle-weary tom as he finds a quiet chassis under which to lick his wounds...and how you choose to crop and orientate further broadens the spectrum of images created by these random moments in time.
Anyway, the final step inwhich I reach my conclusion is this: using the composition and colours in the previous image I made this view of a soldier surveying a distant landscape.
Hopefully you can see that whilst the final image is an ending in itself, the production of it, for me, feeds my desire to find other, new worlds within this colourful landscape. I believe that if I were to continue this process ad infinitum a coherent narrative would eventually emerge; the images linking through my own psychological ordering system that chooses to see mountains, flags and a setting sun where others might see something else altogether. If this is not the case then the work serves as an ode to infinite possibility, and that exploring and scrutinising these possibilities weilds nothing more than a perpetuation of infinity; a terrifying prospect.
With the final show at the RCA about to begin I thought I'd upload a few samples of what I have been up to these past few months. These prints are based on tiny sections of a larger watercolour painting. I will explain this more thoroughly in a later post, with photos. Right now it's too early in the morning and the English Summer is making itself heard on the roof of the boat.
Also, I have been attempting to resurrect my knowledge of html and make a new website. After a few hours of attempting, I succumbed to ineptitude and got this free website-maker-thing. I'm not sure how well the website works so any comments would be appreciated.
The Sento is a Japanese public bathing house. There was one just near to where I lived in Kyoto and I would go there nearly every weekend. I enjoyed the feeling of stepping out of the torrid sauna into an ice-cold bath and sitting very still for about ten minutes. It was whilst doing this, and looking at the walls, that I chose my subject for some woodblock prints.
Ukiyo-e landscape artists (Hokusai and Hiroshige are famous examples) sometimes depicted fleeting and energetic moments of nature in a clean, linear and precise way. The medium of wood dictated it. Using this idea, I thought it would be a challenging exercise to capture the odd visual effects caused by emerging my body in drastically different temperatures. Like the Ukiyo-e masters, my intention was to balance this representational element with a harmony of composition and colour.
The two prints above were exhibited at the KCUA International Students Exhibition 2011, at Kyoto Art Centre.
Ukiyo, or 'The Floating World', was the term given to the pleasure seeking urban lifestyle of the merchant classes in Edo Period Japan. Drinking, Geisha, socialising, sex, theatre, sumo-wrestling and tea drinking were all part of the night's entertainment. The documents of these times were the Ukiyo-e, or 'Floating World Pictures'. Ukiyo-e were woodblock prints that celebrated this decadent lifestyle. Often drawn from above, as if the viewer is literally 'floating' above the scene, the Ukiyo-e became a very popular form of public entertainment and developed into including broader themes such as landscape, mythology and battle scenes.
Here are a small series of images that tell the story of Sakezou-kun, a salaryman who enjoys the revels of 21st century Japan's nightlife. However, the story is circular and Sakezou is destined to repeat his drunken night for eternity.
Flag enthusiast and illustrator Robert G. Fresson has spent the last few years honing the usage of technical drawing tools and materials. He has his own drawing board and some French curves. He also has an inclination towards off-white papers, Ukiyo-e from Japan and CMYK colour separation. Humour is an important aspect to his work, and he has been quoted as saying (probably to himself): “while it is difficult for me to be seriously funny, I find I have an aptitude for being funnily serious”. He is a huge fan of his Grandmother’s and is interested in taking his time where possible. His lifelong dream is to own a cabin in Novascotia, though conversely he currently lives on a boat on the River Avon in Bath.