And reasons to be cheerful
While not intending to produce such bleak images that’s what emerged in a series of ink studies on my cycling route to and from work along the Nottingham Canal/Attenborough Nature Reserve. I tried to capture objects and structures seen along the route, shapes within the landscape, but I’m a bit out of practice and they became quite loose and expressive rather than the observational studies I wanted. They certainly wouldn’t win Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year.
Months after they were completed I referred back to them with the intention of producing a blog post explaining my process (or lack of it), why I’d done them, why they work and more importantly why they had failed.
Instead of looking for solutions to make the images work and fixating on old techniques while over thinking the problem with the drawings, I decided to stop procrastinating. I needed a change in direction.
The landscapes have been included within some of the blog posts imagery to illustrate how this ‘flawed thinking’ can be used positively. They’ve been used to help describe several reasons I’ve had to be cheerful for so far in 2017. The images aren’t perfect but I’m interested in mistakes and where they can lead as well as the imperfect type which can be seen as reflecting the imperfect world.
1. Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence
I’ve always been fascinated by Francis Bacon’s eyes.
Not the most light-hearted of documentaries to start with, it tells us of the life of Francis Bacon and his tortured depictions of human life through grotesque figurative paintings. We learn about his childhood, about how he was beaten (as well as other traumatic experiences) and how he suffered quite badly from asthma. The early beatings, the fighting for breath, are all quite evident in his later paintings.
An intro to the BBC program:
Francis Bacon was the loudest, rudest, drunkest, most sought-after British artist of the 20th century. Twenty-five years after his death, his canvases regularly exceed £40million at auction. Bacon’s appeal is rooted in his notoriety – a candid image he presented of himself as Roaring Boy, Lord of Misrule and Conveyor of Artistic Violence. This was true enough, but only part of the truth. He carefully cultivated the facade, protecting the complex and haunted man behind the myth. In this unique, compelling film, those who knew him speak freely, some for the first time, to reveal the many mysteries of Francis Bacon.
Another documentary worth watching was BBC Fours – Art of France by Andrew Graham-Dixon. You might catch it on BBC 4 at some point.
2. Michael Kiwanuka: Love and Hate
I first came across Michael Kiwanuka on Gilles Petersen’s 6Music show. Cold Little Heart literally stopped me in my tracks and I haven’t stopped listening to the Mercury Music 2016 shortlisted album ‘Love and Hate’ since. He was also filling in for Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service show on 6Music throughout January and February which was a really good listen too – I’m still missing Jarvis though.
3. Abstract: The Art of Design
I subscribed to Netflix solely to watch this exclusive series about design. It interviews 8 figures from the Design world (Illustration, Footwear Design, Stage Design, Architecture, Automotive Design, Graphic Design, Photography, Interior Design) and how design affects their daily life. They are world leading designers such as Tinker Hatfield who designed the Nike air shoe for Michael Jordan and Platon who has photographed most of the leading figures of the past few decades – producing some of the most memorable imagery for magazines such as Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Wired and the Sunday Times Magazine.
Each episode taught me something new and regardless of what industry the documentary tackled the philosophy on design was pretty much the same throughout.
4. Design Events: Design Exchange Nottingham
DXN is a series of talks held monthly for web techs and designers I’ve been attending since September/October 2016 with the highlights being:
Mike Brondbjerg – a designer/developer/artist who creates Generative Art (Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system) and data visualisation. Mike produced the intro sequence/conference titles for the Reasons.to conference I attended in Brighton.
Helen Clark – a UX consultant and designer. Helen talked about ‘How understanding user goals helps design better websites‘.
Andy Clarke – Art director and website designer. Andy talked about ‘Pattern Libraries’ and why they should be beautiful and interesting, something that reflects the brand and not just a ‘boring’ list of colours, typography, code etc. Brilliant and engaging I first saw Andy back in 2011 at the New Adventures conference in Nottingham.
Harry Roberts – Consultant Frontend Architect. Harry talked about refractoring CSS (Code refactoring is the process of restructuring existing computer code—changing the factoring—without changing its external behavior. Refactoring improves nonfunctional attributes of the software). One for the web design geeks, I’ve been using Inuit.css for years.
5. Australian Open 2017: Roger Federer
I’ve always been into racquet sport (well any sport where I can chase a ball) especially tennis. Early heroes being John McEnroe and Andre Agassi but neither come close to Roger Federer. At 35 he has just beaten Rafael Nada in the Australian Open to win his 18th major championship.
6. Books, eBooks and Podcasts
Resiliant web design – by Jeremy Keith. It’s a history lesson not just in web design but how we can learn from our past to better prepare ourselves for the future. As Sir Isaac Newton put it, if we have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Simple and Useable (web, mobile and interaction design) – by Giles Colbourne.
The Design of Everyday Things (the power of designing for people) – by Donald A. Norman.
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space – by Ben Newman (who I also saw at the Reasons.to conference 2016).
I Am Pilgrim – a thriller by Terry Hayes