To Lismore Castle by Dirigible. Tally-ho!

Next weekend sees another annual ‘Towers and Tales’ literary festival in Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford. There is lots to do and loads of fun activities for children.

I’m very proud to have been invited to show in a group exhibition of Illustrators Guild of Ireland and some other artists, called, ‘Meet the Family’. Here’s my artwork in it’s new (read ‘Old’) frame. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the paintings in place.

Learn more about the festival and keep up with what’s on offer on their Facebook page.

Internalising

Well, here I am, just after my first experience in collaboration with an intern. I’ve always had reservations about the whole intern concept and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be a a position to be able to employ anyone.  However, it turned out to be very successful, despite my misgivings. I usually work alone and usually in a kind of ‘just muddling-through’, disorganised fashion. I got tired just thinking about what I had to prepare for this student. Luckily, Sophie turned out to be much better prepared than I was and she showed such initiative and worked with such energy that the whole thing was a pleasure. She really has set the bar high. What convinced me to take her on in the first place was her initial email. She had obviously researched her subject; this was no generic, catch-all proposal message, like many others I have received. She knew my work, (all the way over in Holland!) and the tone of her letter was pitched perfectly. This is why I wrote the following text:

I see internships in my studio as a collaboration. I would hope to learn as much from you as you do from me. I work as an independent illustrator/artist and art teacher which requires that I do many of the jobs for which other, bigger businesses have staff: On top of my artistic work, there is: Administration; invoicing; prospecting; teaching; pricing; debt-collection; web site building, creating shows, etc.. The work is constant and very varied -and often fun.


My expectations (and probably the expectations of any business, creative or otherwise) are:

  • Respect and courtesy: Please don’t approach me by impersonal email without having researched me and my work, your email will be binned without being read. A respectful approach will be heard: I will reply, even if I can’t take you on.
  • You’ll be representing me to people who I hope to work with or already work with: please don’t turn up looking like Edward Scissorhands! I might be impressed by your creatively stunning and committed individuality but I know clients who would not.
  • Show me that you can think for yourself and that you possess initiative. There’s no point in me taking on interns who I think I will perform tasks that I can’t do, only to find I’ve got to closely guide them along.
  • Know how to address people in formal circumstances like writing a letter or an email or when phoning. Your English doesn’t have to be perfect but the rules are the same in any language and besides, I’ll be there to correct the English where I can.
  • Never make promises you can’t or won’t keep. This is a cardinal rule for life. For example, try your best to keep to your deadlines, whatever they are. Like turning up at meetings. I once arranged a formal meeting with seven students. Only two turned up. It was a sunny day; we don’t get many sunny days in Ireland but, you see; that’s just bad luck, isn’t it? I turned up only to have my time wasted. That’s the world of work; turning up. Also, if you can’t make your deadline or if you’re going to be late, have the courtesy to phone in.
My least successful activity is marketing; generating interest and following up; something that a student of marketing and/or design could do much better than me.
In return, you’ll be treated very well; you’ll be praised highly for the good work that you do (unfortunately, this doesn’t often happen in the work environment as many bosses are complete tossers); I’ll make sure that you get the benefit of my experience in terms of mentoring; I’ll do whatever I can do to help you along in your career and introduce you to others who might help you along too.

Voice Overs

I suppose this is what it means to have a ‘portfolio career’. Arising out of an animation project for the 6 Pack Community Arts Project that I co-produced with designer, Sophie Spendel, I was approached to narrate an English language version of a Dutch science animation by Bruno van Weyenburg, a technology and science writer living in The Hague.

It’s another string to my bow. That’s quite a few strings now. And no; I can’t do voice overs and text at the same time…but if you do need to add a voice to your project, do give me a call on 086 247 0737.

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Open letter to the owners of vacant commercial properties in Terenure.

An open .    Monday November 30. 2015


Reproduced from the ‘Our Community‘ page in the top menu.

I’m writing an open letter because you’re almost impossible to find.  I think it’s vital that the environment in which we live contains art. We have plenty of places to eat. We can drink buckets of coffee. There are lots of shops where we can buy provisions. We have great pubs, enough accountants and enough solicitors and many estate agents. We all live together and share this locality.


What we have very little of is Beauty in our environment. Why not do what you can to make this place look better.  Little things matter a great deal: just take a look at what Terenure Office Supplies do with their fabulous window displays for the children around Christmas and other significant occasions during the year. Magnificent. They deserve our full support.


This does matter. This activity brings joy -and that’s what will motivate people to turn up to our village centre and maybe even buy stuff -or rent our vacant properties!


Here in Terenure, (and indeed all over Ireland) we have lots of empty commercial buildings. Some have been vacant for many years. Why not use Art to show how a village could look? Just a thought. Use Art to create a buzz around the place. Show how the buildings look when in use and lit brightly. Give something back to the people who we rely on to support the businesses in our locality.


Take a moment to think about how it could be if we all pull together. Of course, I’m asking that this be done as a community service. I don’t have any money to pay for premises. I hardly have the money to pay my own mortgage; I just have my art, my enthusiasm and great connections to many wonderful, joyful artists with global reputations. I’m willing to muck in and organize a fantastic show for nothing; including sourcing print, putting together an opening party, publicising the event and manning the show for the duration of maybe a month. Will you muck in?


Have a look at the splendid video below, produced by the wonderful Sophie Spendel who’s over from Holland, a country where they celebrate creativity and beauty and community activism. It’s hard enough when the economy bursts -and then the clouds burst above us as they’re doing as I write. Why don’t we just celebrate life? Create something to see that takes us outside of mundanity? That’s why we work, isn’t it? To fund our lives outside of work.


I didn’t set out to write a letter like this; I was only going to have this page for the video but I became moved to do so after so many rejections and expressions of indifference. We owe this to ourselves, because we all have to live here. It can’t be that difficult.


Kevin
086 247 0737


6 Pack Dublin City from Sophie Spendel on Vimeo.

Update on Musical Youth Foundation Guitar Project

After a couple of weeks away doing other work, I’ve started back on this charity project. As you can see, I’m taking my sweet time. It’s because I’m selfishly enjoying it so much -and nobody has given me a deadline!

But that’s the joy of this. I’m almost done with the front of the guitar; I’ve the back still to do. Then there’s all the lacquering…

Please visit the Musical Youth Foundation’s web site and support them. I think it’s a worthy cause because music, however badly I play it, is important in my life and I know how it gives children a sense of achievement once they own it.

When this guitar is finished, it will be sold to raise money for them. And it will be a playable instrument into the bargain!

Guitar Project #2: Working out the Chords

The best place to start with a project like this is the café. Rathmines, inevitably; in the calming surrounds of Café Moda. Of course I forgot my sketchbook, so I had to run in to the Swan Centre to find a cheap one -and a pen.

This is more or less how I approach any applied art project. I used to just write lists of words which may or may not lead me to an idea. In recent years, I find this a better way of generating at least something. In the end, I went for a bird theme with a peacock, as you can hopefully see in the third picture. I’m in an avian groove! I should start tweeting a bit more…

I used a posca marker for that white line. I felt I needed to see how it will work at full size on the instrument itself. As you can see, it’s now completely covered with a spay-coat. This will just serve as a toned ground on which to work.


Oh and by the way, I’ve just invested in a new airbrush! Yup. I had one many years ago when I used to paint murals on scooters. I just can’t remember what happened to it. I most likely left it behind when I upped sticks and left London in 1988. Strangely enough, I brought the compressor with me, which I still have. Bananas. I’m going to use the airbrush for the general shapes in order to keep the job as flat as possible. The detailing will have to be done with a brush -but I’ll be using Golden liquid acrylics which will stay pretty flush.

When that arrives sometime next week, I can get down to the real work.

Do comment, if this project interests you; I’d love to hear your thoughts.

No Strings Attached; a Guitar Project #1

I’ve just received this guitar from Chris at the Musical Youth Foundation. It’s an all-working instrument: Not expensive but plays just fine and it’s in tune with itself, which is not always the case. I’ve added myself to the list of artists who will take on these projects to raise money for this cause. Here’s a bit about them from their web site:

The Musical Youth Foundation charity was established in 2009 as part of the Dublin City Soul Festival project and is the brainchild of festival founder and CEO Chris Maher. At the heart of the project is a deep desire to have a long-term positive impact on the local and wider community by providing children on the Island of Ireland with access to a musical education.

Chris Maher (Ambassador of Soul Music and an Honorary Tennessean!) is enthusiastic and passionate about using music as a way to empower all children on this island (that so often have precious little encouragement or opportunity in their lives). Music, like any other art, is a place where you can have some control and sense of ownership in life. Once you own the ability to create with your mind and your hands, you own everything.
Suddenly, I feel like a kid again because of this project -I know it’s going to take a great deal of work: Weeks – possibly months of activity, including learning how to approach the project in the first place (ie., which paints to use and how to varnish at the end, preparing the instrument itself for painting, sketching and developing the artistic direction. But I’m all enthused -some of Chris’s energy has rubbed off on me!
I want the instrument to remain as playable as possible, although I realise that there will be a dampening effect on the sound by the paint. I don’t want this to end up purely as a piece of art that hangs on a wall; I want it such that a player can take it down and use it in anger, so to speak. That’s a real challenge.

I already sounded it out and I’m going to take down the action to improve the playability. I’m so looking forward to this…and I’ll keep you posted on it as it develops. The strings are off right now, as are the machine heads, pegs and strap fixing. I’ve started a bit of light sanding to see what kind of paint I’m dealing with. I’ve already had a good chat with Peter Donnelly, who already has completed his Batik Guitar), about how he managed his one. You can see the results of his work, along with those of another couple of other Illustrators Guild of Ireland members Brian Gallagher and Rachel Corcoran here on MYF’s Etsy shop. Obviously, you can buy these artworks/instruments directly from there -and support this noble charity.

Right -where’s my sander.

The Perfect Paint

I must confess that I’ve never worked through the night; never worked late shifts.  I’ve always managed to avoid them,  even when it looked like shift work would come in in one of the printing jobs I had when I worked in that trade.  So it was with hesitation that I accepted the task of a painting project in the Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar which had only very limited times when the work could be done – from 7pm to the following 9am.

I love my bed,  you see.  I don’t like missing any opportunities to sleep.  Even after  a moderately late night,  I feel exhausted and cheated of my rest.  To stay up over night is my idea of hell; to stay up all night working is worse.

The Guinness Storehouse has been shortlisted for  kind of Oscars of the travel industry.  It’s  up there,  competing with the likes of the Parthenon,  the Colosseum,  Buckingham  Palace and the Eiffel Tower.  Not bad,  eh? So Guinness wanted to celebrate this success with a window painting of the other six candidates as if they were all on view from the Gravity Bar.  Very good idea.

And this project did have its excitements. It would be an opportunity to experience  the beauty of seeing the sun set and rise again from the best viewpoint in Dublin city,  with its panoramic,  almost 360° arc of windows. And so I did see it.  The attached video is wonderful but it could not possibly capture the full glory of that scene – and  it was on one of the clearest and warmest of midsummer evenings.

The video also makes everything look speedy! Creatives in Ad agencies spend a lot of time and energy in trying to get across the story that a pint of draft Guinness takes a long time to pour compared to all other beers.  Well, just like an expert Guinness barman pulling a pint of the black stuff,  this painting took quite some time to prepare. I drafted in my daughter Mathilde to help. To the creative director and cameraman’s dismay (they were there to oversee and record the proceedings) nothing much seemed to be happening for the first couple of hours – just layers of undercoat building up an opaque ground.  The creative director, Gillian Herlihy did admit afterwards that she had begun to lose heart at that early stage!

But of course,  it all came together wonderfully.  With unusual foresight, I had brought a sleeping bag with me and managed to get an hour or of sleep inside the circular bar. Then up at 2.30am to start work again. The funny thing was,  I didn’t really feel the night passing at all, so absorbed was I in building up the details.

I finished slightly ahead of scheme too and was dabbing on the final touches as the creative director and cameraman padded in after their own short night of sleep.  So that’s the long of it.  I practically lapsed into a catatonic stupor for much of the following week but,  like the perfect pint,  it’s all in the preparation and it was well worth the wait.

What Am I Looking At?

This is a good article from Rick Poynor in the Design Observer (from some time in 2010):

Excerpt: “…It’s an enduring conceit peculiar to the conceptual art of the last 40 years that the most important thing about an art work is its “idea” and that the visual dimension really isn’t the issue. This is like poets holding the view that crafting well-turned lines is of marginal interest for literature, or jazz musicians claiming that being able to play their instruments is a red herring and then informing audiences that they are simple-minded to see it any other way.
So we need to put more emphasis again on the visual in art, and it’s clear that many young artists with visual talent have decided to ignore the art world’s weary, self-serving conceptualist strictures and just go ahead and make the art they feel like making. They want to create optical art experiences of their own. By paying too much attention to the extremes of high or low we run the risk of undervaluing what’s happening in the densely populated middle — graphic novels, graphic design, illustration, low-cost film-making — where the expressive possibilities of the visual are still embraced with conviction. This, rather than art scene-mediated art, is the real center of visual culture in our time. Are we overlooking great work only because we have been instructed for so long to assume that anything presented outside the art world’s walls must be inferior?…”

Link to the full article here. 

Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. His latest book is Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design. He is Visiting Professor in Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art, London.