Yesterday I visited Studio 102 to view its new exhibition, Uptown Junk. Studio 102 is an art gallery and shop with studios above supporting emerging artists in Plymouth and it is based on Vauxhall Street.
Uptown Junk is the current exhibition at Studio 102. The exhibition showcases “upcycled and innovative artwork from the local community” and the pieces are being auctioned to raise money for the marine conservation society. This piece by Adrian Bishop draws attention to the danger to living creatures caused by dumping plastics in the ocean.
This piece by Marcus Crandon is a slimy looking skull tangled with what seems to be real hair. It looks like the rotted remains of a pirate sentenced to death for his crimes…
I think these mutated characters by Ryan Arthurs are intended to make us consider the impact pollution has on the environment and living creatures, including ourselves.
I really like the colours and scratched away effect on these pieces, also by Ryan Arthurs.
This hat and bowtie by Mariana Lopez are upcycled from marine debris washed up in Cornwall. In 1997 a ship containing tonnes of lego pieces sank off the coast of Cornwall, pieces are still being washed up today. I visited Liskeard & District Museum earlier this year and enjoyed their Plastic Age exhibition about plastics dumped in the ocean where they have collected lots of these lego pieces and other toys.
Uptown Junk is on throughout this week (until the 26th) Monday to Friday, 12-6pm at Studio 102. If any of the artists above would like me to add more information or links please get in touch with me @midnakit on instagram.
We have been given a project at our NatSatClub to choose a word from the Devon Dialect and then illustrate it. I made a long list of words, some of my favourites are:
Snishums : Sneezing
Flink : To sprinkle
Zummit : Something
Drumbledrone : Bumblebee (apparently this one was inspiration for Dumbledore’s name!)
I chose to illustrate the word ZART which means “daft”. I looked up the meaning of daft and its synonyms. They fell into two main groups, one with words like “stupid”, “idiotic”, and other not very nice words. The other group contained “eccentric”, “absurd”, “peculiar” and “crackers”, and I thought that this group had a more fun and friendly character, and would be good to illustrate.
I thought about this group of synonyms and tried to make a list of my visual ideas. I came up with lots including Wonka, circuses, spirals, dizziness, wonky, uneven, twist, and drunkenness.
Next I made sketches with the letters in “zart”, trying different forms of the letters and playing with the sizes and the way they came together.
At this stage I had chosen a basic shape I liked. I drew it out bigger and tried it out as an outline and a sort of silhouette version. I started adding extra parts, like a Mad Hatter top hat and drunken bubbles popping. I felt that these would give an eccentric dizzy feel to the illustration.
After I had a good idea of what I wanted I tried a sketch using a thick graphite stick to help me make the letters flow better and to be more expressive. I played with this a bit erasing and adding to it, thickening the letters, changing the way they sloped and trying out stripes. When I was happy I copied my design out in ink using my Pentel brush pen.
I really liked my design as it was but I wanted to fill in some of the stripes with the black ink to finish it off. I haven’t coloured it yet but I think that this piece would work really well in a purple shade with either a green or an orange as a secondary colour. The final black and white version is at the top of this post.
It is fun learning about different words and doing this project reminded me of the Devon Words art project by Caitlin Hennessy which I saw at last year’s Weekender exhibitions and which I wrote about here. I really enjoyed this project and will definitely be doing more lettering and illustrating with words in the future.
Yesterday I went to the House of Marbles in Bovey Tracey with my local home-ed group. The House of Marbles has galleries of marbles and old pottery, a glass shop filled with artwork made in the building’s own glass-making workshop, and giant marble runs.
The marble runs by Alex Schmid are hypnotic to watch. My favourite is Curriculum Vitae. The marbles are lifted to the top of the run by a chain then let go on to the track. I counted at least five different routes the balls could follow, including loop-the-loops, staircases, and counterweight trebuchets. The marble runs are all made of thick wire welded together and the name of the piece, the year it was built and Alex Schmid’s initials are spelled out in the metal body of the marble runs.
Upstairs there is an enormous marble run, the biggest in the UK, called Snooki. This one uses snooker balls and includes staircases, trebuchets, and a Newton’s Cradle. There are also sections where you can’t see the ball but can hear it whirring round a funnel or rolling down inside a pipe, it is exciting waiting for the balls to reappear from these parts
The marbles gallery contains hundreds and hundreds of marbles and there is a lot of information about the different types, materials, and the methods of making them. I learned that people have been collecting and playing with marbles for centuries and that they have been made from clay, steel, stone, glass, and precious rocks. There are several different types of marbles, including Clambroth (striped swirls on creamy background), End of Day (made with “grits” which are leftover bits of glass), Sulphides (a clear marble with a clay figure in the centre), and Clears and Opaques (single colours). Some of the materials used to colour glass marbles include Gold, Copper, Cobalt, Silver, and Uranium and the swirls and spirals inside some marbles are made using coloured glass canes.
The shop selling Teign Valley Glass has tons and tons of beautiful pieces of art made out of glass. There are glass apples, birds, vases, and glass bowls that look like sea foam and waves. Each piece is made right there in the workshop and is a unique object, and the whole room is full of colour.
There were glassmakers making small glass birds while we were there, and we watched them work for ages. First, one glassmaker would put a glob of glass onto the end of a large metal rod and heat the glass up in the pot furnace until it was glowing orange. He then rolled it in coloured powdered glass, then fused it all together in the pot furnace again. He did this several times with two different colours. Next, he used a pad of wet newspaper to shape the glass into the bird’s body. He then took a pair of tweezers to stretch out a bit of the glass to make the bird’s tail. Finally, he spun it around a few more times in the pot furnace and used the tweezers again to pull a smaller part of the glass out to make the bird’s beak. The process was mesmerising to watch and it made me think about how much effort and time is put into making glass art by hand.
In another room at the House of Marbles is an exhibition showing the history of the Bovey Potteries. The first thing I saw was a scale model of the potteries as they used to be. All around it are cases full of pottery that was made there or found nearby. There are a lot of different types of pots and cups with inspirational messages written on them, and little clay figurines. Much of the crockery is decorated with detailed and pretty patterns, and I’ve taken pictures of these so I can experiment with the patterns at another time. There is a lot of information on cards throughout the room, and a short video about the potteries’ history.
The House of Marbles was fascinating and seeing all the different kinds of artwork has definitely given me some inspiration, and I haven’t even seen everything that’s in there yet! There is a whole section on board games that I didn’t have time to explore. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit again sometime soon, and I recommend a visit to anyone interested in marble runs or local history.
At the beginning of Summer I attended an inspiring workshop in Dartmoor National Park which was led by photographer Jo Bradford (Twitter). Jo’s exhibition ‘A Love Letter To Dartmoor‘ was on display at the Princetown Visitor Centre and is a collection of photos taken of Dartmoor, one a day for a year with a mobile phone camera. Jo is a mum as well as a photographer and she found it difficult to carry all her usual camera equipment when out walking with her children. However she kept finding interesting and beautiful scenes when out exploring and so she began using her mobile phone camera to capture those moments. Every day she would post her photos on Instagram and people all around the world followed her account and loved her pictures.
I prepared for the day by making sure I had lots of space on my memory card and had downloaded the Snapseed app. I also made sure I was wearing Dartmoor appropriate clothing and so I wore a waterproof jacket and walking boots. I had to leave early to drive out to the workshop and when I arrived I was led to a room where I met some other young people, Jo, and Lucy Piper (Instagram, Twitter) who was helping Jo to lead the workshop. While we were waiting for a few others to get there we chatted about ideal places to hide out during a zombie apocalypse and Jo said that she lives far away from town so will be safe from the hoards, but kindly said we could all join her..
When the rest of the group arrived we all introduced ourselves and I gave my name and age and said that I’m an artist living in Plymouth and that I haven’t done a lot of photography before. There were a few people my age and a couple who were older, and one person was home educated (like me). Jo introduced herself and her work, and Lucy introduced herself and said that she is a drummer as well as a photographer.
Jo then explained that we would be walking to different locations nearby on Dartmoor and taking photos along the way, and that a minibus would also take us somewhere a bit further away later. Afterwards we would come back to Princetown, look through our pictures, choose two of our favourites each, then edit them using the Snapseed app on our phones and print them. She also explained that the images we take with our phones are a widescreen format and that as we would be printing at 6×4 and 10×8 she asked us to change the image size settings on our phones. She also said not to use the zoom as it reduces picture quality and instead to try and get close to our subjects. It was raining outside so before we began we had a look around her exhibition which was set out so that the photos were displayed by month. There was a piece of text for each month which talked about obstacles that Jo had experienced and the progress of her Instagram account.
We set off to the first destination which was to a large rock formation. We found clusters of mushrooms and some of them were growing out of cowpats. Jo said she calls these ‘poo shrooms’ and we took pictures of them. Jo showed us how to activate a grid on our mobile screens and identified four ‘golden points’ and she said to try to always place an interesting subject in one of them. She explained that it was more attractive to position your subject there than directly in the middle of the frame. I tested this out and found that she was right. She also said that when taking a picture of a pathway or a road, “like cats like catnip, humans like swirly things and spirals”, so to try and frame the path as going from one lower corner to the centre of the screen instead of directly up from the bottom middle. She also asked us to add our favourite pictures to a Favourites Folder throughout the day to make it easier to pick some out later.
We walked through long grass and I almost tripped multiple times because I couldn’t see the ground underneath me. It was really foggy and although we couldn’t take landscape pictures we did get some misty atmospheric close-ups of flowers and trees overhanging a road next to a little wooden gate. By the time we got to our final location in the minibus, the weather was clearing up and we took some mysterious photos of low clouds over an old house, and of landscapes with touches of sun slipping through. I took some pictures of a group of cows which remained still like they were happy posing for my camera.
We returned to Princetown Visitor Centre and we all sat round a table and looked through our pictures. I whittled down my Favourites Folder until I was happy with the best two. It was quite easy to find the ones I liked the most because they inspired good feelings in me. I chose one close-up of a flower growing by a barbed wire fence, and one photo of a landscape with a muddy road running through it. Jo guided us step-by-step through Snapseed teaching us how to brighten certain areas and how to make areas more detailed. She told us to keep the brightness setting between -40 and 40 or it would start to look unrealistic. She said that we should try not to change our images too much and to keep it to less than seven alterations each so they would still be true to the subject. I highlighted the colour on the petals of the flower and darkened the opposite side of the frame. In the landscape shot I lightened a road and made the clouds darker which acted to make the land seem brighter.
Finally it was time to print, but my Samsung phone had trouble communicating with the Apple computer which was controlling the printer. In the end I had to transfer my pictures to a Windows computer in another room, then use that to send them to someone else’s iPhone, then use that to send them to the Macbook.. It took a while to get it all sorted out, and then the printer started cropping parts of my 6×4 pictures! Jo suggested trying to make bigger prints and it worked fine, but we didn’t figure out what the problem was. Fotospeed gave us two free art prints of our photos each but I also got to keep my ‘broken’ prints.
The day was an amazing experience and I’m really grateful to Princetown Visitor Centre, Jo Bradford, Lucy Piper, and Fotospeed for the opportunity. On the way home I was still taking pictures, and even got my dad to pull over so I could take some pictures of bales of hay wrapped in pink coverings which looked like giant marshmallows in a field. I have passed on the tips that Jo taught me to my family and now whenever I take a photo I think about those tips and take better pictures.
All that on top of my usual weekly activities.. so I haven’t had time to update my blog with daily sketches or anything else! This post is a giant catch up of all my favourite sketches that I’ve done in the past fortnight.