I had great plans for 2020, including shipping out more original work, mini books and so on.
This has been somewhat scuppered by armageddon the limitations of not being able to send out any post – meaning that I’ve had to put my Etsy store “on holiday” for the last few weeks.
However I’ve still been creating and posting drawings, with requests for people to get prints..
Therefore I’ve been looking at alternatives so I can keep getting artwork out to people in some format.
Alternative 1: Redbubble
I already had a Redbubble account, where people could choose from a limited number of designs, however I’m now going to make a concerted effort to add new stuff including actual cartoon/panel based drawings.
As it turns out, you can sell digital files on Etsy. So I’ve been investigating and am now planning to put hi res pdf files up there, for people to download and print at home. (note: the quality of the output is going to depend on your printer and the paper you use!)
The bonus of this is that I can sell little bundles, including things like video files, when I have made time lapse drawing files.
Here’s some info on the file types:
Hi res PDF – 300 dpi.
Two PDF files to download – 1x UK A4 size and 1x US Letter
The art work will be positioned centrally in the paper, in its original size – so one of my tiny originals (9.5×6.5cm) will remain the same size, in the middle of an A4 or US Letter page. This ensures that it remains the intended size when you print at home.
Naturally, I’m taking a risk letting people have 300dpi files, so I’m putting a polite copyright notice on the second page of each PDF to say that these are for personal use only – no copying, reproducing or distributing. Play nice etc.
I have no idea if this is going to work, and it’s a lot of work putting digital files together, but hopefully people will get a kick out of it!
Many years ago, having first been introduced to several artists who had their own studio, I realised that they are a special breed of person.
Most artist studios are not particularly luxurious. They are often in old warehouses or old buildings that have been repurposed on a shoestring budget, which helps keep rents down. This means that most artists find ways of maintaining their environment as best they can; leaky ceilings are patched with bubble wrap, gaps and draughts are stopped up with whatever they have lying around.
Years later, with my own art practice, I have learned the ways of adapting and making do within a budget. I have a nice studio that I have to travel to get to, and a place where I live in order to do the day job.
This means that my home has a small studio crammed into a corner of the bedroom, because I couldn’t work and not work.
I have a studio I can live in – just about – and a rented flat I can make art in – just about.
With the arrival of the coronavirus, I see a future where everyone has to adapt their living environment to be a live-work space. Often while sharing with other people who also work.
I believe that the things I have learned to do to enable an art practice at home will become the reality for many people in future.
Renting or housing
How can I find a flat that will have enough bedrooms and enough working space. Can I fit a studio in the corner of a bedroom? or can I turn the kitchen from living space to working space and back again? And what effect will this have on the rest of my household?
What furniture will I need to enable a live-work space? Does what I need even exist?
Even IKEA doesn’t always have ready-made options. I’ve spent plenty of time sawing and connecting different bits of IKEA “solutions” to make storage or studio space that I need.
Where am I spending most of my time?, how much bandwidth do I need for video chat? How can I have it wherever I end up going?
I’ve given up on broadband at home. It’s usually crap (unless you pay a lot), it breaks constantly and you can’t rely on engineers to turn up when they say they will (I’m looking at you, Talktalk) and with multiple studio spaces, an office, a commute and an unknown future around all of these, where do you need it to be?
I’ve finally gone with unlimited data on a cellphone. This means I can tether wherever I am in my space or in the country. I’m housebound for now, but who knows where I’ll end up having to be or if wifi will even be a thing?
From the ashes
It’s clear that the future is uncertain but definitely different to what I’ve known up until now. Once coronavirus is gone there will something else, or the threat of something else and the world will have to adapt to a new reality, with different versions of “daily life”.
I truly believe that from under the rubble and out of the ashes, those who have already adapted their lives to their own way of living will be the ones who cope first, and best with the changes to come.
Come the revolution, a drawing
This drawing is about everything I’ve written above. It’s about sharing a space but being apart; finding room to do what you want to do and planning your environment to enable that. It’s also about different types of needs and how they are fulfilled alone and together in mutual support. It’s also about chickens, of course.
In October 2019 I took part in the instagram drawing challenge of Inktober. I’ve done it a couple of times before, but generally found that I don’t have enough time to dedicate to coming up with really good responses to the prompts.
This year, I committed a lot of upfront time to researching the semantics of each word, and trying to come up with really creative solutions. As I was happy with the outcome, and received a lot of messages asking about my process, I decided to publish a book of the drawings, along with pages from my sketchbook and photos of my materials and the approach I took.
For the last two months I’ve been working on a commission for a community kitchen in Margate.
The brief was to create something along the lines of the Nando’s “check in chicken” (nope, I’ve never been to a Nando’s, so I had to google it), but to base them on my character “Señor Tortuga”.
Week 1 – Design
The first task was to design the overall solution. I decided to go with a wooden spoon and base, given the theme and remit of The Kitchen.
Having ordered materials from that source of all random and unwitting art materials, Amazon, I had to go about the task of drawing an initial paper prototype.
And check that it would fit inside the head of the spoon..
Then before I was able to draw any tortoise outline or add any colour, I had to turn the wood into a canvas – by using gesso to prime the surface.
Week 2,3….. – Priming
In total, priming took about 2 weeks as it required up to 4 layers, both sides, plus drying time across 12 “spoons”.
Week 4 – Outlines
The initial outline for each tortoise, on each side, was done in ink from the beginning – no stencil, no pencil – straight on in ink, copying visually from my initial sketch by hand.
At the same time as drawing 24 sides of outlines, I took one tortoise through to colour, to ensure that the outline would hold enough colour contrasts and combinations.
Week 5,6 – Colours
After establishing that the green colour combinations were successful, I then started the prototype for other colour combos, so I would end up with the following combos:
2. Red/Orange/Yellow (x3)
3. Blue/Blue/Yellow-green (x3)
4. Gold/Brown/Red (x3)
As you can see here, I also had to paint multiple layers of colour on each tortoise, (12×2 sides, 4 different designs). even with the layers of gesso as primer, colours quickly absorbed and needed to be covered over at least 3 times each.
After which, the original black line had been obscured, and so had to be inked over again. (12×2).
Week 7 – Finishing painting
At the end of week 7, several final layers of paint and final black outlines went on.
Week 8 – Drilling, sanding, gluing and lots and lots of varnish
It took a few goes to find a drill bit big enough for this. In the end, had to use 4 different drills sizes and work my way up. And yes, a router would have been easier if I’d had one 🙂
And they all needed to be sanded back afterwards, as the giant drill had basically torn the holes out..
Before gluing, I had to use this little fella to ensure that any remaining gesso was removed from the edges of the artwork.
And then gluing.. using titebond, non-toxic wood glue. Making sure that I left them for 24 hours to ensure no accidentally un-sticking occurred once I moved them for varnish.
Finally, I climbed out on to the roof (sorry neighbours) and applied multiple coats of Golden artists varnish. Initially, gloss varnish to seal the artwork, then a matt varnish to achieve the overall effect I was looking for.
Here you see my impromptu spray hood, with the aim partially of helping the varnish land, but more importantly, keep bits of Margate roof dirt (or seagull contributions) off the drying varnish.
Week 9 – Done & delivered.
Finally these chaps were delivered over to The Kitchen. Mission accomplished.
I have recently been experimenting with drawing on trainers, specifically; white Converse (or cheaper alternatives!). Although most of my work is ink on paper, I also enjoy branching out and seeing what materials allow me to draw on other surfaces such as walls, plastic, windows or even eggshells.
Initially, I tried both Sharpies and fine line permanent markers on old converse (grey) and cheap white canvas sneakers.
As you can see, although not dreadful, there is some bleeding into the material. The permanent markers gave me far more control than sharpies, so those were definitely the right pen – but how would I get the line to be crisper and cleaner and more like my work on paper? Especially as I wanted to move on from cheap canvas shoes to real Converse – and you don’t want to mess those up at £40+ per pair.
So, as with all things art supplies, I asked my friends at Jacksons Art what they’d suggest to help prime this kind of canvas so that I could create a cleaner line effect.
The recommendation from Jacksons was to experiment. Helpfully, they suggested 4 different types of primer that might work. And so the experiment began.
The following is an arts materials review. No doubt, I am not using the materials for their intended purpose and therefore apologise to the manufacturers if I am in any way criticising their products – I’m just trying to find a hack that works for this purpose.
Types of primer:
Golden Matte Medium
Golden Fluid Matte Medium
Liquitex clear gesso
Winsor & Newton clear gesso
Next, I took a Converse sneaker (this was actually my own pair of size 8s that I was testing..!) and marked out 4 squares for the test.
I then applied each medium/gesso to the patch of canvas directly above, let it dry, assessed the effect, then drew on top to see how the permanent marker interacted with the gesso.
Findings – impact of gesso on canvas
What I was looking for was a light gesso, that wouldn’t make the canvas too stiff, wouldn’t remove the texture of the material, and wouldn’t darken or dirty that brilliant white.
Golden Matte Medium
This one had the biggest impact on the material in that it darkened it considerably, even when dry. This picture is of the heel of the shoe which I thought might have contributed, but I did another test near the toe and it did the same thing.
2. Golden Fluid Matte Medium & 3. Liquitex clear gesso
These two were probably best in terms of impact/effect on the canvas – they neither left dark stains, nor were so thick that they obscured the texture of the canvas.
4. Winsor & Newton Clear Gesso
This one came out the thickest, obscuring the most of the canvas texture. Unlike the Golden Matte Medium, it didnt darken the material and kept it nice and white, but it almost looked like a thickly primed painting canvas.
Findings – drawing on gesso
For the next stage, once the gesso was dry I use the permanent marker to create some sample drawings.
Note: if you see someone with partially drawn on white converse, that will be me..
Golden Matte Medium
This didn’t work for me. It felt like I was drawing on hard lumpy plastic or hardened glue. You can probably see from the way the roof of the turret is bumpy where I lost control of my pen on the uneven surface. Control is absolutely paramount to me so this, combined with the darkening effect puts this gesso in last place for me in this test.
2. Golden Fluid Matte Medium
This one was much easier to draw on than the Golden Matte (non-Fluid), but still felt a little bit scratchy compared to the next.
3. Liquitex Clear Gesso
The thing I liked about this one, was the ease of drawing (i.e. smoothness), compared to the level of detail I could achieve.
4. Winsor & Newton Clear Gesso
Remember, this is the one that went on thickest and removed the texture of the canvas. It was relatively easy to draw on (because it had smoothed out the texture underneath) and the black seemed to look blacker as a result. However, for some reason it seemed that I couldn’t get the same level of detail as the Golden Fluid Matte Medium and the Liquitex Clear. Take a look at the hat in the drawing, and the way the lines are almost blurring together.
I’m keeping the Golden Fluid Matte Medium and the Liquitex Clear, and would definitely buy both in future for this purpose, depending on what I could get my hands on. However, I’m starting with the Liquitex on all my current projects and commissions.
Now check out the difference between primed and unprimed – the expensive blimmin failure that was this pair of baby/kids Converse!!
I’ve been asked a few times about my method and process for gilding, suggestions on materials etc so here we go.
First off, I have to say that all materials knowledge is nabbed wholesale from Julie Caves at Jacksons Art Supplies who gave me all the recommendations that got me started. So any art supply links in this website will go to Jacksons. I’m sure other art supply shops also exist.
Enough caveats. Let’s talk materials.
Art supplies and materials for working with gold leaf on paper
I use one for use with the adhesive above, and one for working with the gold leaf. Only the glue brush shown here, so keep an eye out for a black brush in other pictures. I use brushes that look significantly different so that I don’t mix them up.
Any kind of surfactant can be used, but I use Escoda or DaVinci specialist artist brush soap which is gentle enough not to mess with the glue. Escoda is with olive oil, dontcha know.
5. Gold leaf
I use 23ct gold leaf, 20g. It comes in transfer sheets which are really easy to work with and one pack lasts for ages.
6. Gloves (cloth)
You can buy these from tons of places – they’re light cotton gloves. Breathable enough that your hands don’t sweat, thick enough that the oil on your skin won’t tarnish the gold.
Right that’s enough on the shopping list, now what do we do with them.
Method for Gilding on paper
Here’s how I used the above supplies to create my recent work “Change” which is on display right now at Chiara Williams Contemporary Art exhibition “Afternoon Tea” in Margate.
Step one – planning
First I created a grid to plan out the original drawing. This helps ensure that the buildings form the kind of overall shape I’m aiming for.
Step two – drawing
At this stage I’m drawing the detail of each building, but as I know I’m turning into a digital plate, I don’t have to worry too much about lines going over or minor errors. That’s what Photoshop is for.
Step three – digital print edition (giclee)
The drawing is finished as a digital plate and the edition is printed using archival ink on cotton rag paper.
Step four – creating the tear
In order to recreate the idea of Kintsugi or Kintsukuoroi, the work on paper becomes more sculptural, as the physical form of the paper combines with the content of the drawing.
Each print in the edition of 10 is hand-torn. Although the tear starts and ends in approximately the same location, the path of the tear naturally differs, meaning that each print in the edition is unique, while the original image itself remains consistent.
Step five – adhesive
The print is then carefully reassembled, with the two pieces matched back together as closely as possible. The glue or adhesive is then applied using a small brush. It’s absolutely essential that you take real care at this stage as the gold will stick exactly where you place the glue on the paper.
Here are some hints.
Use a separate brush only for this stage.
Pour some of the glue into a palette (I find ceramic is best for this) so that you can close the full bottle up as soon as possible after use
Apply a small amount of soap to the brush before introducing the brush to the adhesive, otherwise you’ll end up with your brush hairs glued permanently together really quickly
Follow the instructions on the bottle closely. In the example of the Polyvine, there are stated times to allow the glue to air dry and become tacky BEFORE even applying the gold. And then there’s a drying period after, before you can touch it or apply lacquer.
Wash the brush with more soap as soon as you can after you’ve made the line you want.
TOP TIP: As I found when I made my first Kintsugi print, make sure that the original work is 100% dry before you use glue and gold, otherwise this happens..
Step six – gilding!
Once the glue line is tacky (because you’ve followed the instructions, right? Then you need to take a sheet on gold leaf and apply it gold side down on the glued area, pressing firmly from the back.
As it’s a transfer, the gold should lift away from the sheet and adhere to the paper, where the glue is place.
Then, you’re going to want to press the gold to the paper, and this is where you’re going to use those important gloves.
TOP TIP: I find that using just one glove on my right hand makes me focus on what I’m doing and prevents me getting gold or glue all over the place.
And the last stage of the gold bit, is to brush away the excess. This is where you’re going to use your second brush – not the one you used for glue!!
Assuming that you’ve allowed the adhesive to tackify properly (new word, you heard it here first) then you can use the brush to scrub gently at the edge of the line. This will remove all tiny crumbs of gold and give you a really crisp line.
Again, as you’re going to have flecks of gold flying around at this point, you will need to be completely sure that everything else on the page which is not the line you’re trying to create, is completely dry. No wet ink, no spots of glue. There’s nothing more depressing than adding a smear of glue where you don’t want one. Trust me..;)
Step 7 (Final step) – Varnish/Lacquer
Having left the work to dry completely (and following the instructions on the bottle of adhesive), you can then varnish the line of gold leaf that you’ve applied. If like me you’re applying fine lines, you’ll want to use a small brush to make sure you control the line. You want to be lacquering ONLY the gold and not the rest of the paper, because it will really show up if you’re hanging in an exhibition.
Here I used the same brush as I’ve used for the adhesive. I don’t use soap this time, but I do make sure I’ve cleaned it thoroughly before and straight after use.
Then, more drying because you need to let the lacquer dry.
Hey, I never said this wasn’t tedious.
And there you go. Gold line complete.
This hand-finished edition, “Change” is on display in margate until 16th July.
As an experiment, I recently turned one of my cartoon characters into a physical badge or pin. This was new for me, as most of my work stays resolutely 2D, with the exception of that series of eggshells back in 2014. So I guess it’s only appropriate that the character I chose to transmogrify was a chicken.
I’ve been drawing chicken characters for a while. They first showed up in a series of single panels cartoons which I was doing to entertain myself on Instagram.
I’ve been a bit obsessed of late with the concept of Kintsugi – the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold – also know as Kintsukuroi. The underlying idea – that an object is more beautiful for having been broken.
Cue an opportunity to get the gold leaf out again and practice my l33t gilding skills, when an exhibition opportunity arose at the Mill E17, to be part of the printmaking exhibition Ink, Press, Go.
For this piece, I took the concept of Kintsukuroi into the (always challenging) world of linocut.
I make no secret of the fact that linocut really stretches my skills and my patience. I like the control of pen and ink. I know what is going to happen and I have complete control. Whereas with linocut or lino printing, I have no idea if the thing is going to work until I take it out of the press and peel back the paper from the plate.
It’s probably good for me, and good for my practice, to relinquish control from time to time. But I still find it stressful, especially with a deadline looming.
So, back to Kintsukuroi.
For this piece, I drew and cut a lino plate of a generic vase, which in itself was neither particularly hard, or particularly interesting.. excluding my various attempts to get it to print evenly.
And then I kind of freaked out my lovely instagram followers by doing this..
I admit, I freaked myself out a little too.
Next, I attempted to glue it back together with gold leaf. This is where I learned the importance of LETTING THE INK DRY FIRST.
Yeah, that didn’t work. It’s meant to be a fine straight line. As you can see, the gold stuck all over the place including off the print. Fail. Well, this is how we learn.
So, back we go and fortunately I’d made a few attempts at the linocut print, so I could tear even more of them apart! This time, waiting until everything was dry…
Bit more careful with the glue this time..
And of course I remembered to wear gloves to avoid tarnishing the gold with my human hand oils 😉