Why my day hasn’t got off to a good start… Warning: Rant Alert!


I know you probably come here to read about positive, art related stuff and check out how I’m doing (or not doing) with whatever I’m attempting to create but, although it’s art related (sort of) this post is not very positive.

But do not fear, it’s not that serious it’s just, well, annoying.

I’ve always had an abiding hatred of bureaucracy, no doubt programmed into me at a young and impressionable age by my father, who had an equally passionate hatred for the deliberate creation of paperwork for the sake of creating paperwork. We didn’t agree on a great deal but that was one of the things we did.

A couple of days ago I ordered some much needed Jacksons’ Acrylic Matt Gel which, frankly, doesn’t go too far when you’re collaging large bits of paper. I ordered it directly from the commendably easy to use Jacksons website and opted, in hindsight rather foolishly, to have it delivered to a local Collect Plus shop rather than my flat. This would give me, I reasoned, a much higher chance of getting it on the day of delivery, as there wouldn’t be the risk of the item turning up on my doorstep just at the point where I’d had to go out.

I know what you’re thinking; surely it could just be left at a neighbours? A fair point and one that in reality I could probably have relied upon but why take the risk when all I have to do is pop in to the newsagent while on my morning bike ride and coffee run and there it will be?
Simple…
Apparently not.

Presenting myself to the young lady at the counter I first produced my barcode, then produced my I.D. (apologies if you now have Whiskey in the Jar running through your head) and said I’d like my parcel. Things started to go downhill from there. Having disappeared into the back of the shop to retrieve the package she re-appeared with nothing. She studied the sheet of paper that contained the barcode and her quizzical expression became one of vague understanding. I was confident at this point that she now had all the information required and all would be well.

She disappeared again. And re-appeared again, as equally unencumbered by a parcel as on the previous occasion. Now I was starting to get a little worried.
“Who was it from?” she asked.
“Jacksons”, I replied.
In what was now becoming a tediously repetitive scenario she disappeared again. And re-appeared again. But lo! (as any good Fortean would exclaim in such a circumstance) what is that I see under her arm? Could it be my parcel? Could be! (As any fan of Hong Kong Phooey would exclaim in such a circumstance).

Things were at last starting to look up. With the package still securely at her side she started tapping keys on a small yellow box on the counter. The PayPoint logo on the box allowed my Homes like detective reasoning to deduced that this was the PayPoint terminal, and that it clearly needed to be fed vital information to allow our business to be concluded.
Oh dear. That quizzical expression was back and looked a lot more severe; something was amiss.
“Can you hang on a bit? the system isn’t working” she said.
“No problem” I said, aware that this was not strictly true as I had a life outside the shop and it had been my intention to get back to at some point during this century.

After serving the customers that by now had been gathering behind me she looked back at the terminal. The quizzical expression changed to one of relief (as did mine) at which point she picked up a barcode scanner and wielded the thing in an impressively Xena like way in the direction of the barcode.
There was a reassuringly loud beep. Perhaps I would leave the shop with just stumble rather than a full beard.
Oh.
“Sorry”, she said (and I have to admit I fully expected this to be followed with a “computer says no”) “the system still isn’t working, you’ll have to come back tomorrow”.

At this point my otherwise patient and pleasant demeanour took a rather serious turn for the worse. It was bad enough that I’d spent half my life waiting for the parcel, but to be told I couldn’t have it just because the bleedin’ system wasn’t working was too much.

I tried to persuade her that if I left the barcode with her she could sort out whatever bureaucratic process needed to be concluded while I was happily creating works of art in the safety of my home.
“No” she said. “You’ll have to come back tomorrow”.
I didn’t exactly turn green and rampage through the shop, partly because I was mindful of the fact that as a member of staff she was just following orders, but I did express my annoyance at what seemed to be an unnecessary protocol, one that ignored the very thing that should have been the priority; the needs of the customer.

So, with a sense of pre-determined destiny, I went home without my package.
Having got that off my chest I shall now send an email to Collect Plus and share my displeasure with them. They will no doubt point out that it’s not their fault that the PayPoint machine wasn’t working.

I don’t know, if you want something done in this country

Meanwhile, Brigantia and the collaging I was planning to do will have to wait (probably a good thing as I still can’t decide an whether the drawing is right), so I’d best get on with my next pencil drawing instead, the progress of which I’ll update you on in my next post.

Let us hope that it is a more positive report than today.

And if you’d like to share that would be fab…

Brigantia.. a new hope


I’ve explained my tale of woe concerning the York Art Heritage project and I’m sure you’ll be overwhelmed with joy to learn that I’m well under way with my latest version of Brigantia but, I’m not sure… again.

Perhaps It’s not clear in my mind what I expect her to look like. She’s a goddess, so she should look powerful, and she’s a Celtic goddess of the ancient Britons, so she should look like a Briton but with a primitive kind of beauty.

If that makes sense.

Might have a break and come back to her…

And if you’d like to share that would be fab…

Spirits: York | Brigantia


Over the years I’ve come up with many ideas for making money. All, as far as I was concerned, had an absolute, sure fire, one hundred per cent guarantee of success. All, alas, failed dismally. Fortunately most of them never got past the planning stage, which is because I’d tell my mate Paul and he’d give me a look, one that he’s cultivated over many years of listening to me expounding the virtues of whatever completely stupid idea I’ve just had, and one that manages to convey both sympathy, pity and a world weary sense of patience. Once I got that look my enthusiasm, fortunately, would dissolve and the reality of the idea would present itself in all its flawed glory.

Never mind, soon think of another one.

One of these many ideas was York Art Heritage. The idea being that I would first create twelve pieces of art that corresponded with York’s historical timeline, and given that York has such an involved history it wasn’t too difficult coming up with the characters that would feature in each picture. Once completed they would be used initially as a calendar and also as part of a range of York themed gifts. Each character would have their own gift box that would feature their art on the box lid and inside would be a gift item that suited the theme of the character.
Given that it was all based on a timeline, January’s image, in keeping with the dawn of a new year, was to be represented by the fledgling state of York’s history. When the Romans arrived two thousand years ago the area that would become Yorkshire was inhabited by the Brigantes, a tribe of Celts. There was apparently a lot of squabbling between the two, which was perhaps inevitable given that they were being invaded, and equally as inevitable was the Romans seeing the Celts off and establishing a fortress at what they named Eboracum. After a lot of argy bargy and a number of occupational changes the town eventually became York and lots of people started making chocolate.

Given that the Brigantes were there first, they were the ones I decided to use as a theme for January. Although not a great deal is known about the tribe, historians have established that they had a goddess known as Brigantia, who, along with everything else, was assimilated by the Romans and equated with their own Victoria, although that didn’t stop them using her proper name when writing a dedication to her on an altar at Adel, just north of what is now Leeds. An inscription to her has also been found at their fort in Birrens, located in what is now Dumfries and Galloway in south west Scotland.

Suitably enthused I began work on a depiction of Brigantia in a hard line style. This was to emulate the products that were being created by Mocha and his Victorian contemporaries and which I thought would work best for the art heritage concept. Unfortunately, after many weeks work, I decided that it was completely wrong.

The picture at the top of the post was my second attempt to draw her and I wasn’t happy with this version either. At this point I’d spent so long trying to get the January drawing sorted that I gave up on the whole project, which at least meant that Paul was spared from having to listen to all the details and didn’t have to utilise that look.

When i started my Spirits fine art work, it occurred to me that these characters were the spirits of York. As such, they’ve been drafted into the project and will be created in a very different style. I’ve started work on Brigantia (again) and I’ll post the pencil drawing when there’s enough of it to be interesting.

Let’s hope I have more success getting her right this time…

And if you’d like to share that would be fab…

Painting With Scissors


Matisse apparently called collage “painting with scissors”. I only found that out the other day and it struck a chord, as I’d had a thought (it happens occasionally) a month or so back, while I was developing the Spirits idea, that I was painting with paper. At the time it struck me as being a bit pretentious but I like to think that matisse would tell me not to be stupid and get on with what I want to do.

I have worked with paint, mainly acrylic and oil, and some of the effects and shapes I’m trying to achieve with paper are pretty much the same as if I was using a paintbrush.

That said, I know that a friend of mine, who has, let us say, a more traditional outlook on art and its creation, would insist that I should be using the paintbrush, otherwise it’s not proper art. But it wouldn’t be the same. There is a look and feel to the end result of a collage that you don’t get with paint; and the same is equally true in reverse. So to my mind all materials, whether paint, graphite, bits of paper or the powder from all the pencil sharpening that I’ve just chucked on to a piece of art (fabulous grunge effect!) are all entirely legitimate.

The Matisse reference I obviously found positive. Unfortunately I also read something that made me wonder why and who makes up all the rules for the various ways of creating art. Apparently (and this was according to a professional graphite artist) you are not supposed to blend the pencil by rubbing it; this is despite the fact that there is a tool known as a Tortillon (which is a posh French word for blending stump) that has been around since the fifteenth century and is a rolled up bit of paper that tapers to a point. These smudge sticks are readily available from art shops, or you can make your own (which I do because I’m a poor artist) and they are designed, and used for, rubbing the pencil to blend it.
So why are you not supposed to do it?
The only answer to that question I can come up with is that graphite can easily become polished when rubbed, which will happen even if you just work on a specific area to make it darker, creating a shiny surface which some pencil artists (including me) hate. Others don’t seem to have a problem with it but I don’t like it and I can see why there are artists who might avoid smudging for that reason. Fortunately for me, the pencil drawing is just part of a collage, and when the finished piece is protected with a matt top coat of acrylic gel any shine on the pencil work gets removed, which is fab (thanks to Anastasia Swarts for demonstrating this in a little video, which you can take a look at here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D9yX–zE6w) so I can happily smudge away and not worry.

And if you’d like to share that would be fab…