September 30, 2007

Researching ‘digital arts’ on the net (where else?) has brought back some memories that confuse me. In 1986 when John Lasseter was making ‘Luxo Jnr.’ and Photoshop was invented/programmed I was sat in the computer room of my grammar school, drawing on an old BBC micro. We had a lunchtime drop in class which I usually did drop in to. I would do pretty good drawings. It was probably some basic programme like Paint, nothing sophisticated at all. I did one drawing of a person on a BBC micro, drawing, that ended up on the door of the computer room; I managed to impress the teacher Mr. Bostrum. I think this in part made up for my failure some years earlier when I had enquired how I might become a maths teacher. He was very generous in the discussion that followed, encouraging. Two weeks later I was messing about in his maths lesson which resulted in him getting quite annoyed with me and exclaiming to the whole class: ‘And you wanted to become a maths teacher?’ I am not a maths teacher, I never will be. All ambitions I had to teach died that day.

My mind then wandered to a time in the early Nineties when I happened upon a skip full of computer screens. Just the front bits, the frames if you like. I collected over fifty of these and had some idea that I would make drawings and frame them with the grey box. It never happened. I liked the idea of a wall of PC screens with drawings where the usual pixel stuff should be. That decade was one where I had no dealings with any computer. I did buy a word processor in 1997, which I still have, in order to write. Prior to that I used a typewriter. I have never been a longhand fan except for letters, which somehow seem inauthentic unless ink is directly involved.

I have a history with digital, albeit scattered and inconsequential. There is a history of digital art too. I never knew this and it stretches further back than I would have thought, back to the Fifties. I still maintain though that digital is nothing other than a method. Ideas count, ability counts. What label is attached to the work, by anyone, is immaterial. Actually making work, producing something counts.

I have finally added some research to the discussion board. I suppose the point of the exercise was to begin research and to get used to the way of presenting it. I still feel isolated and almost alone on the course. Everyone is friendly enough but the whole experience is so unreal. I don’t feel valid as an ‘artist’ most of the time. I read the big words and understand them and have a sense of where my artwork fits in to the wider picture but I do sometimes wonder if there isn’t a better use of life. Here I am, back again in the thick of academia, doing tasks to order. Thousands of artists around the world making work, chasing shows. It is a lonely, confusing life.

The book fair went well, better than last year. We sold stuff. People liked our stuff. I had a chance to spend time with artists in the same boat. We spoke to new people, potential new allies in the ongoing conflict. Many of the stalls were the same as last year, same stuff. I felt nauseous by the end of the day, too many cotton gloves and ponces. Artist book fetishists masturbating over every stall. Not my crowd. I don’t have a crowd.

I stood outside to smoke and noticed a plastic turtle on the path. I thought of a range of porcelain collectables; turdles. Replace the animal with a turd, a shit in a shell. For the garden or mantelpiece. As with all these limited edition items, each turdle can be offered in a range of alternatives; a new release every month. The tennis turdle. The french turdle. The Bard turdle. The mop topped Turdles from Liverpool. The texting turdle. The punk turdle. The dead turdle (touching cloth series). The sexually depraved turdle. The anaemic turdle (white stool series). I don’t know how this helps resolve what work I will do for my studies but it might fill a few pages. I can do shit drawings.


September 27, 2007

I have begun some tentative research. I have some links from previous net wanderings which would be useful but for the moment I am trying to find new sources, especially with this possible slant of a ‘graphic novel’. It could fulfil the criteria I set in the proposal in so much as I would be making work, offering solutions and the content could be based around a virtual ‘society for the perpetually frustrated’; the novel dealing with this vast and poorly defined topic. It can fit the digital demands of the course by being available as a ‘webcom’ or ‘graphic netvel’ or some other equally silly term.

It would be a lot of work, which I would relish, although I am already dragging myself down by assuming that the imagery and text would be thin. I don’t know until I start it but I suspect it. Faced with a ‘blank canvas’, I would have nothing useful to say or draw. I do better when there is no pressure. If I can persuade the course that this blog is actually my project, I will be all right. Structure would be a key thing to consider, I’m not sure that beginning without one will prove successful.

I have thought about technical issues. I think I would make each page A3, allowing a freedom to make images that are A3 or collaged smaller ones. It can then be reduced for a print run if this becomes a possibility or each page can be scanned for a website, used as a background to each page, overlaid with smaller details that lead to other sections; if my very basic knowledge of building websites has any substance to it. A3 is a good graphic poster size. Some pages might be purely text. Others might appear to be more like a painting. It would be a good place to play and experiment, spend time on drawings.

I sort of see it as a possible retrospective to begin with, pulling a lot of past work together into a coherent structure, finding the links and exploring something on an almost autobiographical level. I feel the need to tidy up a bit. I don’t have any commercial pressure, no need to work to a brief other than my own. I can play with form and existing templates, expected methods of graphical communication. An evolving portfolio. A history of me. It does start to sound a little self obsessed. Perhaps the autobiographical narrative should go. Or be treated in a different way; some character that appears from time to time.

The alternative is television. I don’t have the production company; I am the production company. That would be ideal. Write stuff, turn it into visual. I can break down the ‘novel’ in a similar way. It doesn’t have to be animated, on a screen. Some parts of the webcom might move. Webcom was intended as a compound of website comic, as in the printed matter. Now it strikes me that it sounds too much like ‘com’ as in comedy. A virtual situation comedy. A comedy of syntax errors, William. Some like it html, Marilyn. A rebel without a pause, key.

I should stop. I am putting the finishing touches to some products and a collection of ‘Milk, Two Sugars’ for the book fair ( http://www.artdes.mmu.ac.uk/rightonpress/bookfair/) on Saturday. Not a money making event and not much of a networking one either as I am not an art whore or much inclined to be pleasant to anyone, really. A fun afternoon in Manchester with my two friends from our ‘C2 Collective’, which is really nothing more than a title. We do support each other and have vaguely common ideas about art and life and some other trivial subjects. These book fairs are very much closed shops. This one, only being in its second year, is not so bad.

I think the Bible would be a good template. It pretty much covers most things.

I need to start something soon, really getting the urge to make something that is MADA, nothing else. And I am obsessing about size. A page a week would be only 104 pages, too slim. I want closer to 300. I could of course pinch some from MTS issues and using a large font size on any writing would be good. A single word on a page; art. And there is always repetition. And there is always repetition. The same image, altered and repeated. Take a character, have a basic version. Then the Elvis version (possibly five Elvis versions; young, army, movies, 68 comeback, fat jumpsuits). Then the Star Wars version (can run into dozens!). Then the A Team version. All telly. Never mind art; the Vincent version, the Cubist version etc and so on, ad nausea. Pop Stars I Would Fuck could run into at least twenty pages. Dead Pop Stars I Would Still Fuck, three at least.

Where does running gallery spaces come into this?


September 25, 2007

I like the underscore. I am having a real crisis of direction for this fucking proposal. The thing never leaves me, I can’t shake it off. I don’t brood constantly; I know that the best ideas come from the ether when you least expect them. Connections are made that produce the stuff of substance that you later work on and mostly ruin. If you could see the artwork in my head, digitally, you would be impressed. In a sense, the interior of my mind is the best art gallery that has never been seen which might explain why I am often bored shitless in real art galleries.

How about a graphic novel? The ideal application for someone who writes and doodles. I am not immersed in the field enough to let that inhibit me. I could spend two years writing, cutting, pasting, drawing. This behemoth of a book. It could be made available online simply enough. I grew up with comics. I grew up with shit telly; variety shows and really poor sit-coms. I am not an intellectual. I think a bit and make a few strands of reason sound unreasonable. I don’t think I fit into the modern world but I refuse to simply rant about how crap it all is, as if the past was a golden era. It wasn’t. People had less distractions and the few available were shared and understood by all.

If we choose to ignore the need for a definition of what a friend is, or where a casual acquaintance ends and a friendship begins; I have more friends that I have never met than people who I have been for a drink with. I don’t know what point I am trying to make. I don’t especially crave either. I suppose it is to do with the fact that things change and move on, that there is no golden age or time when everything was better. It is different, thats all.

I would need a strong narrative for a graphic novel. Always the weakness in my attempts to write. I can write a thousand words of nothing and if pushed, it can flow quite well. It is always written in the first person, read by the first person. I think I should sit down with a sheet of A4 and ‘plan’ a story or book. I prefer to just write. If I had a better upbringing, I might know of people wot wrote like this; endless paragraphs of connected prose. But parents, they fuck you up. Not really. I did like to watch telly with them.

I would draw occasionally at home but they always made a fuss and I didn’t like that. I thought it was vulgar somehow. So I never developed the habit of drawing all the time. I draw a lot now because I can. It was always easy and easy to take for granted. I honestly thought for a long time that everyone could draw well. Going to art college soon made me realise that I was sadly misinformed. People don’t draw, they think. They think they think. Of course ‘art’ can be more than drawing but I never fully trust an ‘artist’ unless I am certain they possess a basic skill, beyond which they reach and push and challenge.

By drawing I mean a very loose notion. I don’t expect to see tight, accurate stuff. I like lines, fluidity, joy. None of this is helping to focus on the proposal.

I did feel battered last week but reading back on the comments made about the proposal, they weren’t that bad. They pointed out my own doubts I suppose. What I had written was murky and vague. I plan to split the atom using a pencil. Methodology: sharpen pencil, apply pressure. My brain is currently addled by a soaking of cheap cider but I suspect that I would soon tire of a society dedicated to anything. Perhaps the proposal should be to write shite for two years with accompanying illustrations in order to test the patience of academia.

On a brighter note, the new gallery space is due to open next month as planned. It somehow did originally fit into the proposal as this is my space to show whatever ‘art’ I choose to show or had to show in order to keep it full. I have no committee to answer to, no funding body eager to ensure a balanced selection of work from a representative cross section of society. I will still go ahead with it. I like having a gallery; this being the third in two years. Gallery may be a dubious title for the spaces I use but all the same, fuck you. No one cares. That is my main conclusion from all this tinkering. The public don’t care, the artists don’t care.

People who should be avoided: anyone who says ‘at the end of the day’, ‘I have to say’ or ‘to be fair…’.


September 23, 2007

I suppose the MADA week begins on a Friday when the new weekly task is posted, so all discussion in this week, whether directly concerned with the task or not is week three. I suppose it does not really matter.

The festival was a disaster in itself; nobody visiting and those that did were only interested in the artists working in oils/acrylic who made paintings that looked like the things they were painting; flowers, landscape etc. We made some impact on the few younger people there but only in respect of being dressed as a clown/monkey who were giving things away and dancing to the music supplied by our ‘random records’. We took some photographs that will help it seem better than it was. It was tiring and pointless. Should we make ‘that kind of art’? Certainly the bearded, straw hatted artist in the hut next door was selling well; heavily layered landscapes. He seemed to think we had been sent to disrupt his sales patter, on more than one occasion we were on the receiving end of his exasperated cries.

Added to this, is my continuing attempt to understand the project proposal and the concern about my role on the course. It is probably my own feelings of inadequacy surfacing but I don’t seem to belong. For that reason I ceased to continue commenting on other proposals. I didn’t feel that I had anything useful to say. I realise that my own proposal has been commented on and I appreciate that but I won’t add something just for the sake of filling space. Not useful to anyone.

I don’t know whether my previous entries concerning the proposal are adequate as a ‘reflection’ on week two. Likewise, I am wondering which areas to research for the week three task when I have yet to rewrite or decide upon my proposal. I get a sense of what it might be but since it consists essentially of ‘notes to self’ I might be wandering off on a fruitless journey. I don’t think that a week is enough to tackle the proposal. I can start to tighten it and so look at something online.

This idea of a society could be based purely in the virtual realm, no actual club in the traditional sense. It might consist of virtual members, as in, not real people. The core group might all be works of fiction. The point of the original proposal was to create a body of connected work utilising any media appropriate, fixed around a simple message or manifesto. Really, as it was written near the end of my degree and prior to the beginning of MTS, it is being addressed by MTS. I am doing what I stated in the proposal, or working towards it. I think that might be why I am struggling to see how it all fits together and also why the idea of the ‘society’ came forward. MTS does not have that side to it. The original proposal was glib and all encompassing as a way of avoiding pinning myself down to a specific project; the whole point of MTS is that it can be all things to all people. A global force. A leading brand of nothing.

Why bother to make a ‘society’? What art does this gathering subscribe to? Who are these people? I don’t know what I am doing. I could end up making a hate-mag with nice pictures. A bitter collection of dribble. A platform for grumpy intolerance; this is supposed to be an MA, not therapy. Learning outcome; contentment due to enormous amount of spilled bile. I need to hold a print out of the proposal and really stare at it.


September 20, 2007

Further to the last post; there are Victorian clubs/organisations/gatherings to research and more than likely contemporary ones, aside from political/NGO’s. I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member. Mostly web/print based. It would make me work on a website, which is something I want to do and it ties in nicely with the fake/real interest. I would have to think about how this is linked to my current work with ‘Milk, Two Sugars’ as that operates under a similar but slightly different ethos. And I think I need to work on the name, tinker a little. I sort of like it but it would be nice if it worked as an acronym: S.P.F becoming S.P.O.O.F, maybe not.



September 20, 2007

As I make flags for the weekend festival (http://www.bathingbeautiesfestival.org/) and I notice spray mount residue has settled on the surface of my cup of tea, it suddenly becomes clear. My thinking, not the cup of tea. Possibly focus on the ‘society for the perpetually frustrated’ as a specific project within the greater framework of misanthropy and malignant sadness. In this way, all frustrations can be catered for, beneath this catch-all umbrella organisation. It avoids the ‘rant stance’ that troubles me so much; I don’t care about expressing my opinions forcefully but I can’t always deal with the mental turmoil it brings. And I think you make a rod for your own back…”oh , he’s the guy who hates art” etc. Which is not true, just the opposite. I love art, I hate artists.

This society could be the answer in so much as it would exist as a seperate but connected entity. Immediately the thought of making a website, a publication, leaflets, a campaign bus, badges, more flags, speeches and so on. It all fits in as well with attempting to reach a non-art audience. Exactly what role any ‘art’ could play is not obvious beyond the above list. It might be that the central protagonist in this project may be an artist of sorts. An invented character.

The difficulty has been cramming all my interests/themes/rants into one A4 document but this is a way forward that allows me to get them out gradually over two years. The proposal isn’t about a list of objections, it becomes a simple statement of intent for a project. The very kind of ‘art’ that the main player does can be a way of airing my dirty art laundry. This kind of project would allow me to explore areas that I am interested in and have touched on in previous work; performance, theatre etc. I even have a character established, currently being mildly offensive at www.creaturemag.com though I might let him remain in this realm and start afresh.

As for the tea, the first digestive dunked appeared to absorb most of the glue residue. And it tasted ever so nice, different.


September 19, 2007

This blog will probably end up being more of protracted moan than anything else. Reflection on the daily struggle to justify spending time, money and thought on the lofty business of art. Whatever that is. As mentioned in the last post I know that my project proposal is two parts vague to one part interesting thought. I wasn’t fully aware that the project had to be so clearly defined.

Yesterday was productive in that I made some work for the festival at the weekend, cleared up the remaining issues at the space where I am opening the gallery/project space and was then offered a very cheap and large sized room to work in. I am not so sure about the offer. The location is ideal; near to a large body of art students, above a pub that is trying to become an art venue and the landlord wants to work with us on realising projects that will generate an income and publicity. The space is ours to do with as we see fit. Studio and gallery; party venue. Expand the ideas behind ‘Milk, Two Sugars’ from theory to fact.

Something does not feel right though, there is a nagging doubt. The bonus of working in a partnership is that we work well together, bouncing ideas and getting very excited. We compliment each other well. I get to run the show a lot of the time which suits me but Tom is always there when needed, especially as the public face of MTS. I know he has reservations about paying for a studio and I suppose I don’t feel confident that he will turn up as much as I think he should to make work.

I started my “building a website” class last night too. It went well. None of this makes my proposal any clearer and all I see is a great struggle ahead. The very virtual nature of the class is a little too unreal. Like any remote situation you don’t really get to know people properly and I didn’t embark on the course for conflict. If I can work out in a rational and clear way what the hell I am talking about when it comes to art etc. then it would help.

The festival at the seaside is a ball ache of epic proportions. It makes me wonder why we bother to show work. I am more interested in faking it all. I had the idea last year to fabricate a series of catalogues, promotional material, press cuttings and so on, even the work, at a series of high profile galleries. They all have ‘downtime’ in their calendars. Create an imaginary art CV. Write bogus art guff about the work.

Fuck it.


September 16, 2007

I jumped the gun and added my proposal before I needed to. I don’t plan to rework it yet though, as I want to get some comments. Reading it through I wonder what it is I am saying; it all seems like stretching what should be two or three simple sentences into a page of text.

I was chewing over my apparent lack of progress in the art business last night and decided that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, which is always a temptation. For one thing, comparison is deadly, unnecessary and futile. We all have different paths, in art and in life. The degree was a beginning, not a fully realised and finished project. The year since the degree ended I have continued to work on my practise, it is all a continuous thread and so it should be and especially on the MA. The two degrees combined are like an apprenticeship almost, but one that goes on beyond any final mark. So long as you are always working and always questioning I think that you must be on a good path. Starting to make art sound like a religious experience, that somehow through years of dedicated service to drawing, enlightenment can be attained. I know it (‘art’) is as much of a calling as devotees of any religion must feel; it is a tremendous act of faith.

I have a friend who is doing a two year MA, we both studied on the same degree. His is real and not virtual. He will be doing a presentation this week to his group; five minutes, three images. Right now, knowing that I have to ‘present’ to our group this week, I feel that I have nothing of use or interest to say. What am I proposing to do? Work, in essence. Find a way of getting my ideas (no matter how thin they are) out there, to make some impact on someone.

Who and why? I recall from my interview that it was pointed out that making a zine or artists book may seem a ‘democratic’ way of communicating but it is still a closed audience. Closed is my word and by closed I mean almost preaching to the converted. Arty people. Literary people.

This morning I took down an exhibition that has been in a pub for the last six weeks, prior to that it was in a local public gallery for two months. This pub is in a town centre and every time I have been there it seems to have a very young, very ‘uncultured’ crowd. Very loud people were barking hard when we put the show up; mocking and so on. In a friendly way I suppose. On paper it would seem that the public gallery might have had a different crowd associated with it but we suffered more damage to the work and theft at the gallery, despite the attendants. In the pub, someone had chalked on a painting and although I am not precious at all, it did briefly bother me; made me wonder why my work was ‘attacked’, why people felt that it was all right to do so. I need to think about this more, I feel like I am rambling and incoherent. Is it a sign of success that people don’t think the work ‘Art’ and so feel able to join in? One exhibit, a drawer of plasticine ‘curious animals’ was totally emptied and someone had made a new piece with all the little ones. In a way, I did not mind at all, at least what they had done was a creative act. It can’t simply be the venue, an easy conclusion to make, as we had work vandalised at the gallery. Perhaps it is England. Art is bottom of the pile. A subject to take at school if you are academically challenged or want a few periods when you can mess about.

Goes back to my proposal; who am I making art for, accepting that firstly it is for me; where is my audience? Art is a minority event. If I have ‘stuff to say’ is art the best or most appropriate application. Do I have stuff to say or am I deluded? What is the point of what I think I have to say?


September 16, 2007

This was the proposal, or is the proposal. It was an attempt to describe what it is I do.

Research Question, What are you proposing to discover or explore? The practise continues to develop ideas concerning the use of space by artists and the issues raised such as the purpose of exhibiting, the role of the artist and the value society places upon art. Drawing is the fundamental basis of the practice with the ideas developed through exploratory work applied to different contexts such as published zines, temporary gallery spaces and multiples/merchandise. A particular interest is the proliferation of artists and internet based spaces.  To explore the development of an interdisciplinary media empire; dedicated to the rejection of all that is dishonest, worthless and superficial. The founding of an alternative society for the perpetually frustrated who disseminate the way forward through a variety of methods of communication.   

Context, What work, both theoretical and practical, relates to your project? All forms of art both contemporary and historical and written work that explores philosophy, social theory and anthropology offer the raw material that feeds the development of ideas and theories. Diverse influences such as the structure of comedy and an interest in history make a valuable input to the practise.  Writing and engaging in a critical dialogue through the use of a journal provides much of the basis for my work.   

Methodology, What methods will you employ to research your project? Reading and writing; offering solutions. I will make stuff. Big things that don’t move and little things that do. Books that are galleries and galleries that are fully booked. The use and reuse of the same image. Utilising existing platforms designed for communication and building new ones. A narrowcasting cumglomerate that will pour scorn and score porn throughout the land and redefine the way in which imagery and message are managed and imagined for the masses; providing fleeting glimpses of a more fruitful society.  


September 13, 2007

I really don’t have a clue what to write. I can’t get my head around whether this is purely for ‘college’ and as such should stick to issues surrounding that or because this is accessible by anyone across the globe, whether I should expand into other areas. It will be a useful tool for ‘college’ and I can see the point for the tutors.

I have nothing useful to say about the course yet. Nothing has really begun due to technical issues. The first meeting was odd but fun. We are all men with glasses. I suppose it is stating the obvious that an MA is largely self programmed, with additional tasks supplied by the course. Written work, reflection, tutorials. On that score, it has been a very normal week. Getting on with work; these days a broad definition needed that stretches beyond simply drawing. Work is email, admin, reading.

I am not sure that I have what it takes to do this. Mentally, intellectually. I can organise and draw. Is that enough? I was thinking this week why I have failed to even try to get a paid job doing what I love and have some ability at. This was prompted by noticing that most of the people on the course do or have worked in the ‘industry’. I make my own galleries rather than apply to one for a job. I publish my own ‘zines’ rather than draw for a real publication. Why? I’m not sure this is even relevant to the course.

I thought I would be angry or disappointed by the faltering start. I am quite calm. There is a sense of the unreal anyway.