This blog is a record of my 3 years in Cardiff Metropolitan as a Fine Art Student. Each tab on the left reflects on individual areas of study. Feel free to explore.
I’m a first year Fine Art undergraduate from Cardiff Metropolitan University. My first year of study is almost at an end. I’m writhing this blog in an attempt to record this journey. I’ll try to include the highs and lows, the successes and failings of my chosen path. I will endeavor to show you my creative processes, sketch books and finished pieces. I’ll explain some of my thought process as well as influences. If you join me for the long haul or only a short time, you’re wholeheartedly welcome…….pull up a stool my friend and I will begin.
I started attending life drawing classes in Cardiff when I first arrived over here from Ireland. Every Tuesday evening from 6pm to 7.30pm in Ten Feet Tall. I attended most weeks up until December. I’ve been away for a while but recently started back again. Some weeks I find my drawing looser than others as you can see from my Life Drawing Gallery. Practice makes perfect as they say. I’ve met some really lovely people at these events, we enjoy sharing our work, ideas and techniques at the end of the sessions. It has become a bit of a social outlet for me and I highly recommend it.
I’ve also attended more comprehensive life drawing classes in University. I felt I learned the most from these as they showed me how to look and how to draw as well as having something to draw. Sometimes it’s a purpose built sculpture with a collection of objects and shapes and other times it’s a life model.
The first module I took part in was Colour and Line. In this project we were encouraged to explore how colours physical and optical properties can create the illusion of space.
We started off examining the colour wheel and in particular complimentary and sympathetic colours. We also looked at cool and warm colours. In the first workshop we had to find a colour and using a set of primary colours we had to attempt to recreate it. This was a great exercise, how many times have I tried to recreate an image and spent too much time trying to mix the perfect colours that I need. We created colour strips and started a colour Diary which I am still using nine months on. I now take more notice of how one colour reacts with another, how it plays on our optical senses. I am also noticing how other artists use colour in their works. In one particular oil painting tutorial on clouds, the artist said to use cold blues to create depth and warmer colours for the parts of the cloud that come to the front of the paining. I tried this technique in my Blue Ginkgo Leaves Flying print. However I didn’t make the foreground leaves warm enough. However I do feel the dark blue does enhance the optical illusion of depth.
I’ve also looked at some artists and how they use complimentary colour. You can see an example of the use of complimentary blues and oranges a painting by Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889 . It can also be seen in paintings by Henri Matisse, one example is The Dance, 1910.
I’ve also looked at some modern contemporary artists in regard to their use of colour to create line and dimension. One such artist is Franz Ackermann. One of his works that I particularly like is Mental Map: Evasion 1996
In the second workshop we had to produce line drawings from a purpose built sculpture. We used the paint that we created in the first workshop. I find line drawing difficult as I have a tendency to try to overly recreate what I see. I know sometimes less is more in this regard. My paintings eventually take on a more fluid and abstract and relaxed feel the more I worked with them. I was also very surprised at how exhausting I found the day. Some may never understand how the creative process can be hard work.
To complete the module we had to produce 3 artworks that explore the representation of space through colour and line. One of which had to be produced using muted whites.
I had experimented with a few things some more successful than others. I created a textured tree painting, where the bark was the background and a negative space tree shape in the centre of the bark, like a window to what the background should have been. It was fun to make but ascetically terrible. In the end I pegged it to experimentation and painted it gray like commercial concrete and threw red and white paint on it just like you might see on a unkempt building site. This also represented an opposite of sorts, the natural form of the tree becoming something more manmade and unnatural. One of many failing attempts but still a learning curve and a fun process.
I also created some complimentary colour chalk rubbings of Ginkgo leaves. Gingko trees are amazingly beautiful and their leaves are quite sculptural. But it is their history and uses that interested me the most. Their leaves are used to make herbal remedies that are associated with aiding higher brain function and helping the neurons fire. I used the colours blue and orange as these seem to be common colours found in photos associated with firing synapses in the brain. However on further research it seems that this herb can also exasperate other conditions so I advise to thoroughly review before self-prescribing.
I’m keen to experiment more with using digital techniques in my art work I’ve noticed other artists painting using digital tablets and mobile phones. One such artist is David Hockney. He inspired me to expand my creative process and in response I created two digital art paintings, that are abstractions from tree bark that I had seen in Bute park.
The final 3 pieces:
1. Silk Screen Print – Blue Gingko Leaves in Flight 2012
In this piece I was exploring how the different shades of blue could give the illusion of dept. I experimented with Gingko leaves because of their wonderful shape and also because of the interesting history and healing benefits. The Gingko tree has not changed since the Jurassic era and it’s the oldest tree species on the planet. It is supposed to have healing properties particularly associated with brain function. Nature supplying us with what we need.
2. Muted White Acrylic Painting – Untitled 2012
I struggled with conceiving a muted white painting. I made a few different attempts in my creative process. In the end I remembered some of Ben Nicholson’s reliefs and sculptures. I used his piece, 1936 (White Relief Sculpture – Version 1) for my inspiration.
3. Found Textile, Felt, Stich and Acrylic Paint – Forest 2012
In this mixed media piece I tried to use complimentary colours to show depth. The woodland scenes of David Fitzjohn’s painting, The Reindeer Pass and David Hockney’s, Winters Timbers inspired this piece.
I also produced a Colour Diary and 10 negative space and line drawings.
Some other artists that I looked at were:
This module investigated how to reproduce images in a manner that accurately depicts how we as humans see. An example of this would be how my nose and glasses are constantly visible to me however my mind chooses to ignore these unless I think about it. I’ve also noticed that the centre of my vision is always more in focus while the peripheral field blurs and loses colour the further it extends. Personally I feel that my field of vision is framed by my nose, cheeks and eyebrows giving me a figure of eight type visual frame. I had always assumed it was rectangle as I had never given it much thought and because the shape we seem to be always presented with is rectangular i.e. screens, paper, canvas and photographs. I was surprised by this and it made me look more at photographs, because I am always terribly disappointed at the inability of a photograph to accurately capture what I am viewing. I now realise why; 1. it’s the shape of the paper, 2. it’s the flatness of the paper as our vision seems to be more curved or wrapped around and 3. our eyes travel and take in much more than a camera lens can.
We looked at artists and their works such as: Evan Walters double vision paintings, David Hockney’s joiners, Francis Bacon’s Triptych 1972 and the Oaks Brothers. I was particularly enthralled by the Oakes Brothers drawing technique.
I enjoyed exploring many aspects of this module. I produced a number of sketches from looking at the same item without moving my eyes. I found there was always a central focus on the eyes while the further edges seemed to dissipate. I also tried to draw myself by only looking at myself and not at the page whilst also keeping the pencil on the page. Another is drawn with my left hand and one is drawn using only horizontal lines similar to a style of Evan Walters.
The finished pieces are:
1. Joiner – Black Weir, Bute Park – My Crossings 2012
This David Hockney inspired Joiner records a specific part of a journey I take nearly every day. I’ve tried to capture the beauty of this place in a single photo on several occasions, but I have never been able to capture its awesome panoramic frame. It amazes me how much the eye can take in. The rectangular cut off shape of a photograph can never capture what the human eye can. I was also trying to express to the viewer the amount of times I’ve crossed this bridge and the motion of doing so.
This video is a record of my journey to University each day. I was interested in the impossibility of accurately sharing this experience. How I see the world around me is completely different than other people. I may see colours slightly different, my glasses, nose and cheeks frame my line of sight. I’ve tried to present this by manipulating photos of my glasses, nose and cheeks so that they form a simulation to what I see in my visual frame. Whilst watching the video people may want to look at different things along the journey, what grabs my attention that may not interest others. So the viewer is forced to look at what I’m looking at. I’ve used a fisheye lens to try to give the viewer the same feeling of focus that the human eye does.
The rhythmic layered audio piece represents the sounds that I might hear and the routine of the journey.
3. Pin Hole Camera Photos
In response to my attempts to capture the world around me with my camera (Phone Camera) I was finding it difficult to capture the reality of what I was seeing. Experimenting with a rounded pinhole camera I was trying to capture more accurately the curve and central focus in human vision. I believe this is one reason why photographs don’t have the same impact as seeing the real thing.
In this workshop we were placed in groups with other first year groups from different disciplines. We were asked to create a 2 min video using the City as the theme.
As a group we talked about how we engage with the city on a daily basis, however we felt that sometimes we become so used to seeing things that we no longer take notice of them any more. We leave our homes wrapped in thought, eyes looking at the pavement or a mobile device and before we know it we’ve reached our destination with little memory of the journey. I am going to consciously try to see something new on my route to University.
After much discussion and consideration we decided to create a satirical movie that demonstrated this. We individually crafted feet to demonstrate footsteps. The feet were created using a medium from our own disciplines. I photographed the steps, and helped with the direction. I also created a digital animated image of the protagonist being exploded by a Darlic at the Doctor Who Exhibition at the end.
I can’t post the video, as I would need approval from all in the group. However you can see some of the work in the gallery relating to the Field Group 5. I have also some images in there relating to some experiments of my own.
The most frustrating aspect of working in Field is when some group members don’t show any interest; don’t offer suggestions or even turn up. I did enjoy working with the group and it was great to hear the different insights into the project.
In a group of my peers we were asked to explore artists manifestos and create one for our group. I really enjoyed collaborating in this group for the most part. We looked at different manifestos from a book called 100 Artist Manifestos. After much debate we decided to create a satirical manifesto selling the beliefs that were in direct conflict of what we really believed. Such as women should not be directly involved in art or can’t paint, or art is only for decoration not a message conveyer. We invented a fake governmental organization whose role it was to control art, artists and who viewed art. Our final piece would be delivered in the form of a performance piece alongside paraphilia relating to the message we were supposedly trying to convey.
We did consider that some might find the piece offensive or insulting, whilst others may agree with the messages even if it’s intention is satirical. We also discussed the Emmy award winning 1981 movie by Alexander Grasshoff called “The Wave”. This story is based on real life events from 1969. In this movie the teacher tried to teach his students about how easily Nazis in 1930s Germany were able to seduce loyalty. He did this by creating a fake group called “The Wave” in which he was the leader. The line of experiment becomes blurred and into a more sinister reality.
As a group we decided what we were going to put into the actual manifesto and how we were going to present it. We called our agency B.R.A. British Reviewing Agency, we felt the name in itself was comical yet used in a serious manner. I created the logo based on the human heart being crushed or supported by two hands. I also designed the presentation, business cards, name-tags and posters. We talked about the type of font that we should use, going for a serious governmental style rather than a whimsical style script. One member or the group cleverly suggested the use of submerged messages in our posters and business cards. We each picked an organisation that we felt represented what we supported such as Rape Crises centers and Amnesty International and used their phone numbers on the business cards and links to their websites on a tumblr mentioned on the agency poster. Another member of the group who uses a lot of photography in his practice created professional corporate style photos of each of the members of the group.
The presentation went well on the day. We would have liked to have had a couple of more rehearsals but perhaps if we did it would not have had the same effect. I would like to get involved in more performance type art.
For this part of our field module we were sent out in our original groups to research “The City”. We were given a choice of places to research. We choose, Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff Market, Cardiff Antiques Market and the Arcades.
We explored each area and took lots of photos. We also shared what caught our interest and why in each place. Cardiff is such an interesting city full of diversity. One story that interested me tells of how the ships used to travel out of the harbor laden with coal to sell to different parts of the world, would have to be filled with stone on the return journey to balance the ships. Most of that stone from around the world was used to build the buildings and houses of Cardiff. Diversity in the seams of the city.
The following is some of my thoughts as I experienced each place:
Smell: Fusty – of old things – smelled of the colour brown – a comforting smell – like a loved relative with stories and tea.
Visual: Bright and busy with flashes of colour from the multitude of items – somehow to me the colours seem to melt into a uniform brown.
Emotion: – I felt a respectful awe in the presences of the past laid out before me. Making me feel somehow small in the grand scheme of things (Not in a bad way) … I felt as though this is how life should be.
Curiosity: my eyes were constantly drawn from one item to another – I found it difficult to leave.
Touch: Touching the items made me feel or sense a weight about them…a weight of existence greater than their substance. As if history somehow gave them more substance with time. I also somehow felt like I was somehow connected to their previous owners in a physical way. I wanted to know more about the owners, who they were and what had happened to them. I found myself fantasizing and narrating each item I picked up.
A small round faux diamante broach caught my attention; I wondered at the lady who might have owned it. Did she love it and wear it often or was it just another trinket that lay at the bottom of her jewelry box. I imagined she wore it on her favourite scarf and that it was indeed very precious to her. I somehow felt a little emotional towards it…(sentimental). How had it come to arrive here in this time in my hand?
A box of postcards really caught my attention. Handwritten in careful script…….conversations caught in time. One from a young boy called Arthur really delighted me. His precious handwriting showed how had he had tried to make it neat and tidy. His crossed out errors and misspelling were endearing. A voice from a boy from 1928 depicting his love for his mother, telling her not to worry that he had arrived safe and sound. I could imagine a boy of our time doing the same, albeit via text message or email. I loved the language used…describing his state on arrival to Germany as being “Jolly Sleepy” and that they had arrived at the “Hostelry”, and signed “your loving son”.
I wanted to know what happened to Arthur and his mother who appeared to be staying with someone else as it was addressed c/o. I wanted to be able to finish the story of Arthur and his Mother. I did an online search and used Google Maps to find the house it was addressed to. I didn’t find any information but I did find the house.
Sounds: – Quiet, even with all of us there. There was a caged bird chirping, gentle clinking of ceramic and odds and ends being lifted and replaced. There were three men in the war memorabilia area enjoying banter while admiring the weight and feel of an old shotgun.
Old things were piled together – dolls beside old mechanical things etc. One particular item we found was completely alien to us. I had to google it there and then to find out what it was. It was an Oscilloscope and which is used for measuring voltage.
There was something there for everyone – ever changing yet always the same.
Llandaff – meaning ‘church’ or ‘sacred enclosure’ by the Taff
My Visit: The graveyard was quiet with very few footprints in the snow. There was a very distant sound of traffic, the trees seemed to mute it. Peaceful and restful and there were smells of clean air, moss, soft damp earth and yew trees. I was saddened by the half buried headstones and the ones whose words were lost from the years of exposure to the elements. Time eventually erases everything.
I wandered around reading the headstones, brushing away snow and foliage. I felt connected as I touched each one, wanting to know who that person was. Who loved them, who had forgotten them, were they the last in their lineage. Some of the headstones were brown with beautiful orange brushed over them, this was from the oxidisation of the exposed iron in the stone. The older headstones wore coloured lichens like badges of distinction; these living organisms in frosted greens and vivid oranges lived undisturbed on the manmade marble and stone structures. Birds chirped playfully in the undergrowth and the snow melted around me making the leaves tremble, sometimes catching me a bit off guard…..I sometimes felt like I was being watched. The mind playing tricks in isolated stillness. I wandered around touching the cold surfaces of huge monoliths, trailing my fingers along the carved text of the mostly forgotten dead. I do not want to be buried…..left in the coldness and forgotten.
I moved on to the Cathedral, its shadow cast over the graveyard like the arms of a parent protecting his sleeping family.
As you step through a small hatchway cut into a huge oak doors your eyes take a few moments to adjust to the dimness. Inside the Cathedral smelled of aged polished wood, incense and candles. I was mostly alone as I wandered around and I felt the awesomeness of its size. It was comforting but I don’t know if that was because of my religious upbringing. I always feel comfortable or restful in churches. I embrace their silence and use it for contemplation rather than prayer.
I did purchase a book about the cathedral on my last visit so I was aware of its history and the changing architecture. The oldest part of the church is a worn Celtic cross. I was particularly interested in the tombs that were covered in graffiti. Generations of voices carved into the beautifully crafted marble statues. Some areas of the marble were worn smooth from the innumerable caresses of human hands. I was surprised by the cadaver and had never seen one before.
There is so much to see in this beautiful building from the Green Men carved high on the tops of marble columns to the strikingly colourful stained glass windows. This is a place of the modern and the traditional. A huge aluminum cast of Jesus by Sir Jacob Epsstein is suspended from a very modern concrete arch by George Pace above the centre of the church, this was commissioned after the church was almost destroyed during WWII. This modern structure within the old seems somehow out of place juxtapose the highly decorative and traditional polished pews. This is a beautiful and interesting place, a mix and match of architecture and styles that is steeped in history. I will visit this place again and again.
The smell of Fish bombarded my senses…causing me to retch and move swiftly inwards. Its doorway like a large mouth wanting to swallow me. Once inside the cavernous space my initial tension eased. Bright colours jarred my eyes from every direction as the sellers displayed wares of many description. Cheese and books beside meat and hot food, a kaleidoscope of fabric and pattern, smells, animals and umbrellas. Sellers bargained as customers hustled through. This place was alive….in my mind I could almost feel a steady pulse. Upstairs the vinyl market displayed the sleeves of many different musical artists and genre. My fingers itched to flitter through them with the anticipation of finding a true gem….however, as I was with the group I was limited by time. I will be back.
I wished my camera battery had not died!
Smells: Fresh and clean but with a hint of age and maturity.
Sounds: Clicking of heels, shuffling of soft souled shoes, swishing of coats. Voices carry slightly, so most people observe an unspoken etiquette of softly spoken utterances with the odd elevated laugh.
The winding glass ceiling gives the space an air of grandeur and elegance. The Arcade is one of my favorite places to sit and observe. There is a coffee shop in the centre where I like to sit outside quietly watching. I love the idea that the shops and people change but the arcade remains mostly the same. Clicking shoes and idle banter. It feels like I’ve been transported into an earlier period in time.
I find it hard to contemplate on the many smallpox victims that are buried in mass graves beneath the flagstones.
Field – The City – Telling my story of Cardiff in my own language.
1. Woodcut Print Books (Monochrome and Colour)
I was inspired by artist Franz Masereel’s block print book “The City”. I tried to capture my visits to Llandaff Cathedral. My books contain a small collection of some of the things I enjoyed looking at. The words represent some of the thoughts I had while I was wandering through. I hand bound my prints into books because I felt it represented the traditional hand crafted adornments within the Cathedral. I created the colour version just to contradict the more serious style of the monochrome print book.
Before I conceived this piece I was exploring some of the hidden areas of Cardiff. I was particularly drawn to the multitude of nameless alleyways that connect the streets. Quite a few are blocked off from the public. I find when I pass one, I’m always compelled to stop and look. I want to follow them but have not yet done so because I enjoy the little bit of trepidation I associate with isolated lonely roads. I feel I’d loose that heady little fear if I were to travel down one. Lonely, unmanaged and unloved. I was reminded of the nameless headstones in Llandaff Cathedral grounds, there is a profound sadness about these dejected places, as if it is not important to name or remember their names if they once had one. I’d love to make plaques for these alleyways, names inspired by the names of the long forgotten residence of Llandalff graveyard. They also reminded me of how some in society try to hide or mask the dejected. A sparkling city of painted facades, were they masking a deeper truth? I was reminded of a story I read in a local newspaper about the amount of homeless people who slept in the city at night. It spoke of the plan to clean the streets of these “vagrants” during the time of the Olympics. These lost souls were spoken of in a clinical manner that seemed to strip them of their humanity.
I thought of people looking out from behind the curtains of their homes, looking through the masks we wear on a daily basis. Society suspending veils to mask reality or hide truth. But also how maybe as part of society maybe it is fundamental to look harder past the veils to see the full picture. Try to fix societal problems instead of masking them in denial.
Other Works Relating to “The City”
I did create other works while thinking about the city. I gathered a lot of sound recordings from my journeys through Cardiff. I layered them over a slightly muted human heartbeat; this sound piece has a rhythm that I associated with the pulse of life, matching my strides. I sometimes think of the city as a living and breathing organism. Then to juxtapose this living audio piece I presented it with a presentation of photos of the nameless places in Cardiff, the alleyways and an image of an abandoned quilt left under a bridge. I am aware of the busy hustle and bustle of City life, yet there are forgotten places and forgotten people of Cardiff that are sometimes hidden, ignored or pushed aside like refuge.
I was interested in how we discover where we are, where we are going and the remembering where we have been. When I moved here from Ireland it took me quite a while to decipher the streets of Cardiff. I regularly had to use Google Maps on my phone. I found it both exhilarating and infuriating depending on time. I’m terrible with direction; I don’t seem to have the inbuilt guidance systems that others seem to have. It also got me thinking about how people talk of their journeys in life. Telling tales of childhood, the streets they played on, where they met they’re partners and all the little events through their lives. Many people who I have spoken to say that a lot of the streets are now gone or have changed so much to be as good as gone, but that the memory of the streets are still very much alive in their minds. This inspired me to create the painting of the old man retelling his experiences of growing up in Cardiff. The other paintings, the eye map and the person screaming surrounded by maps of Cardiff represents the process of learning your environment and the frustrations that can sometimes happen.
I also looked at creating a fictional musical instrument to play my Cardiff audio pieces through. I created a simple clay mock up of this instrument. I also made a painting of how I imagined a fictional musical instrument might be played. Something to explore in the future perhaps, I have a few ideas.
While thinking of maps and how we remember maps and directions I was reminded of my earlier research with the Gingko leaves and the neurons in the brain. I thought of those neurons as almost being like a map in the brain. I created a ceramic brain and glued fiber optics to it to represent the mapping of the neurons. I photographed it and recorded the effect of the flashing neurons. This is something I would like to explore more. I remember seeing some of artist Andre Stitt’s work while attending his open studio day. He was painting large canvases with these neurons. I was inspired to investigate into these biological micro-worlds. I also painted a brain with a frottage map of Cardiff overlain to represent the process of memory and recall.
I also created a 3D embroidered head and torso in black tread. This took hours and hours to create. I had intended to suspend it behind a piece of netting to represent how I perceived the homeless forgotten people hidden behind a veneer. I wanted to put fiber optics into its head to represent the like and humanity of the person/ghost. However, I made a mistake while trying to mold it and it did not turn out the way I had intended. I will work on it again at some stage.
I’m truly amazed and overwhelmed by how much I’ve learned over such a short period of time. I’m experimental by nature and get frustrated when things don’t turn out the way they were imagined. I’ve relished all of these new skills as they provide me the language to translate my thoughts to the world.
Here’s a list of the Workshops and of how I’ve utilised them
– Silk Screen Printing, Woodcut Printing – Print for Colour and Line Module, Woodcuts for Field Module “The City”
– Welding, Plasma Cutting general, metal work
– Pinhole Camera, Box Browney Camera, Film Development – Pinhole Camera photos and Joiner for – Depicting Vision Module
– Video Editing and Green Screen – Video “Through My Eyes” for Depicting Vision Module
– Freeform Stich and 3D Embroidery – 3D Embroidery Ghost for Field Module “The City”
– Canvas Building and Working with Grounds – Some experimentation of grounds in the Colour and Line Module.
– Comic Books – Created a two page spread called “Of Man and Mice” for a comic book sold in the University.
– Life Drawing with life models and built sculptural objects.
– Open debating sessions on Wednesdays – Learning to develop critical thinking and appropriate language to debate on given topic.
– Field – working with other students studying from different disciplines. – I became more experimental with different disciplines – Textiles (3D Embroidery), Ceramics (Clay modelling), Graphic Design (City Image and an interest in text) and Illustration (Illustrating the postcards that I found).
– Working with Wax
– Working in the Sound Studio – I made two sound pieces “Layered sounds of Cardiff” for Field Module and “Audio to go with my “Through My Eyes” video for my Depicting Vision Module.
– Book Binding – I’ve created two block print books for my final assessment for the Field Module.
– A range of academic skills like how to decipher academic texts.
– Lectures from different artists on their field of study.
– Field Trips – London, Cardiff Museum, Exhibitions and Southerndownaa