Lockdown week 40

Web/seminars. Murals, Whooping Cranes, Buoys, Lighthouses and Lightships.

Online web/seminars are getting underway after the not-so-festive break. Although not the real experience online video events are becoming more efficient with less tech teething issues allowing access with ease to content and interaction. The global internet allows participants and presenters to contribute from their base, no matter where they may be. The old democratising dictum of digital to be accessible to anyone “anytime anywhere” is coming to pass.  The first alert to pop up was from the Yale Alumni Non profit Alliance : “Public Art: Supporting Art as a Way to Build Up & Bind Local Communities” 

The session’s first speaker was my newly appointed second Phd supervisior Dr Jonathan Harris, Emeritus Professor in Global Art & Design Studies. He talked about the value of the Roosevelt New Deal art and cultural programmes to help counter the affects of the great depression in 1930’s USA. He drew parallels with the current pandemic and how there might be similar effective measures taken by global government’s. The panel provided a diverse range of responses to the public art question. The role of major mural projects were highlighted including the Philadelphia Mural arts Programme : ‘Personal Renaissance.’ The programme was extensive and drew upon mutual health and cultural needs and benefits, which was evaluated over time and in detail.


Next up: The Tamarind Institute: Independent curator Candice Hopkins talks to American born, Columbian Mexican artist Harold Mendez about his artistic motivations. The conversation was wide ranging as is his work, however, he did talk about his motivations to make prints at the institute.  The two lithographs created at Tamarind incorporate a screen as the final printed layer of each image, which visually changes the viewer’s engagement with the work either up close or at a distance. There is a veil to peer through to the image, but it is not separate, but a part of the image. He had travelled to Havana, to find traces of the life and memory of Cuban artist Belkis Ayón, who tragically took her own life at the age of 32. He set out to find her grave and encountered sites of commemoration, offering, and sacrifice. He made a litho print from a metal plate titled Counterweight which depicts industrial steel weights and pays homage to the lost burial site of Ayón.

The Institute was founded in 1960 on Tamarind Avenue (hence the name). Tamarind’s founder, the artist June Wayne, with whom I worked closely, later likened lithography’s plight to that of the whooping crane: “In all the world there were only thirty-six cranes left, and in the United States there were no master printers able to work with the creative spectrum of our artists. Tamarind’s challenge, as she saw it, was no less than to create a new ecological system, in the absence of which “this remarkable medium of expression [might] die in its youth without having been asked to reveal its untapped powers for new aesthetic expression.” An informed energy: lithography and Tamarind by Clinton Adams.

More about the dedicated Lithography workshop, press and gallery that was launched in Los Angeles: https://tamarind.unm.edu/about/history/

Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize

The annual TBW drawing exhibition was unable to be held this year. The photograph advertising past events was a reminder of what we are not experiencing as the gallery was rammed with enthusiastic participants enjoying meeting and sharing the event. Much effort had clearly been made to make the 2020 winning announcement one to remember. The exhibition includes 71 drawings by 56 practitioners selected from 4,274 submissions received from across the UK and internationally.  Founder artist Anita Taylor introduced the event from the Cooper Gallery in Dundee with a series of short films and a tour of the exhibition of the 2020 drawings. The event culminated with the commended and winning artist’s drawings.

As well as the winning drawings there is an interactive virtual gallery on the  site. Each drawing can be zoomed into and has an information label. Online gallery produced by V21 Artspace  

The TBW Trust has a long and intriguing history: 

The Corporation of Trinity House was originally a voluntary association of shipmen and mariners and was granted a charter by Henry VIII in 1514 as “The Guild or Fraternity of the most glorious and undividable Trinity of St Clement”. It received its coat of arms in 1573 and with it the authority to erect and maintain beacons, marks and signs of the sea, “for the better navigation of the coasts of England”. Since then, it has been the famous company responsible for buoys, lighthouses and lightships and pioneering the techniques involved. 

This history was not particularly alluded to by the TWB representative in his introduction to the ‘Hugely expansive exhibition’, but the value of drawing as ‘the basis of everything’ was. The drawings are rewarding of a visit if not by peering through the windows of the TBW gallery on the River Thames, through the online portral.

Material Encounters and printgang

Photo: Boyana Aleksova.

Coming up next is Material Encounters Research Cluster with Erin Manning from Sense Lab in Montreal for which preparatory reading has been undertaken. Tuesday 19th.

Printgang took to the internet again with an all-round catch up. On of our number had experienced covid isolation and talked of a soundtrack of omni present ticking clocks and door knockings. Good to report the virus has been banished from the household.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

covid update

The death-toll continues rise even though the hospital cases are slowing and the vaccinations are being given in increasing numbers.

UK Government

Thats it

Lockdown week 39

Weak two of 2021.

For 24 hours I have been phone less. In isolation this provides challenges. No camera, whatsapp, instagram, twitter.  At least I made the decision to be off grid, unlike the soon not to be President of the United States.

The phone has expired, defunct, “is no more”, “has ceased to be”, “bereft of life, it rests in peace”.  (Monty Python: Dead Parrot Sketch). This is an ex-phone. It no longer springs to life at the tap of a finger. The screen now displays a laptop and usb cable icon. For 24 hours it has not woken. For eight hours it has also displayed the apple support url while I discuss with helpful support agents in many locations, how to bring the phone back to life. Agents begin with confident directions to get it back into operation as I provide the error notification numbers. As the day goes by, they become increasingly frustrated leading to escalations up the support chain.  Finally, the landline phone I hold in hope goes dead. The time has come to accept that the 18 month-old, iphone xmax “is no more.” A first world problem I know. In discussion with my savvy son an order is made for an android device.  The first time in my mobile owing life that my phone will not be an apple. How will I fair? 

Positively, reading has been uninterrupted by the call of the phone. The day has been relaxed. Perhaps the next phone should be turned on and off to a schedule to reduce unnecessary anxiety and enhance focus.

36 hours on and it has arrived. This is the reality of Lockdown ‘accelerated order to door consumerism’. Should it be opened? It sits in its oversize polythene package enticing opening. I will finish reading first. Joanna Love. ‘Drawing Dust.’ from Drawing and Science a recent journal from Intellect Publications: Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice. Vol 5 Number 2.  Edited by Catherine Baker featuring a series of position pieces and project reports Including from Garry Barker,  Harriet Carter and ‘Drawing Ed Ruscha’ by one Edward Turpie.

1950-17 US Photography influences

I will continue to read ‘LEAVE ANY INFORMATION AT THE SIGNAL’, a collection of writings and interviews with Ed Ruscha that illuminate the artist’s artistic thought processes and add to my understanding of the 1950 – 70 period of American visual arts. There are regular references to Rew–shay’s adoption of photography for various purposes from his early seminal books of sunset strip and gasoline stations that are bereft of cluttering human presences. He makes a telling reference to his rethinking of the value of photography on seeing Robert Frank’s Americans and cite’s his admiration of Walker Evan’s documentary photography. One can imagine Rewshay seeing Evan’s photographs from Farm Security Administration projects of store fronts and being affected by them aesthetically with their ‘straight on’ representation of location and prominent typographic signage. He might have seen Evan’s series of photographs of a roadside stand near Birmingham Alabama: F.M.POINTER’s ‘The Old Reliable’, ‘HOUSE REMOVER’ with its ‘FISH, LAKE FISH’ and ‘SPECIALS’ large and regular size  painted/printed signs all in one storefront. Or the Filling station 1929, with massive lettering: CARS GREASED – MOTOR SPRINGS OILED – AUTO BODY SQUEAKS RE[PAIRED].  And the 1930 Truck and Sign photograph of the Globe Electric Sign truck picking up the massive typographical sign : “DAMAGED”.  Walker Evans Anthology. 

Evans was a champion of Frank’s work as he was of Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus.

Photographs at midday Brum@12

Lockdown Lookout. Computational photograph. January 2021.

There is a fisheye mode on the Pixel phone. It require 36 shots to create 360 sphere.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK
Good Funding news.

covid update

It is tough to be back in Lockdown. Acting collectively as a society might stop the spread. The vaccine(s) may generate a degree of protection, but if we all did not mix we might stop it sooner. Looking at the countries that adopted strict all holds barred lockdown it is clear from the data, that this is the way forward even if it is anathema to libertarian values. There is a downside to to the libertarian argument: there were no masks in the storming of Capitol Hill. And there were few national guardsmen stopping the far-right rioting, unlike last summer when BLM protesters peacefully made their views known.

The ‘Numbers’ unfortunately speak for themselves.

John Hopkins University Global Covid tracking.

Thats it

Lockdown week 38

New Year has passed. A quiet affair. But each day brings further turmoil.

The variant gives more cause for concern and the figures reach relentlessly upwards. It is so depressing, debilitating and Soul destroying, leading to emotions of helplessness as the problem is too large to be resolved by individual actions, no matter how socially responsible. Helplessness is taken to the ultimate conclusion with the government directive to ‘Stay at Home.’  Lockdown is back.

Structure to lockdown life

I have been invited to participate in the BRUM@12, 12days at 12pm photographicproject. As well as contributing to a local online artistic community it also provides another point in the daily structure. A midday alert has been added to the diary to remember to take a photograph of some relevance. I had intended to make pictures featuring the midday sun as it streamed on to interior surfaces. That was on the 31st of December 2020 ahead of January 2021 when the midday sun shone brightly. Sadly the 1st of January 2021 saw little sunshine. It has returned as the week progresses and on the 5th the sun shone brightly. posted on instagram, Facebook and on a page on my new server website.

With practical structures taking some form post the festive break, it is time to instil a research structure even though the University art school has not reopened. James Mensch’s book ‘Embodiment: from the body to the body politic’ provides a focus for phenomenological assessment of body, natural and artificial intelligence. He introduces philosopher Merleau Ponty’s concepts of intertwining and perceptual faith and while his focus is on human perception, a number of the propositions can be applied to physical acts of drawing by hand with an implement, as a means to grasp the world. 

This new year’s first Patter post discusses the values of blogging to researchers: ‘I’ve been thinking about academic writing and blogging again. I’ve been wondering what we might learn from thinking about the writing that bloggers do.’   She applies the lens of ‘action’ and for the doctoral researcher her outlining of the value of varying forms of writing is helpful in defining academic writing. 

This prompted a first 2021 visit to Garry Barker’s always rich and extensive blog. Having missed some posts from late 2020, the November 18th offer titled ‘Drawing: Vija Celmins, Frances Richardson and Peter Dreher: Nature Morte’ attracted attention. In it he points to the relationship between photography and drawing of Vija Celmins which allows reflection on the materiality and function of each image making process in the artist’s early decisions to spend her representational and creative time. As Garry’s blog is for students of art, he offers a practical, valuable drawing exercise based on staring at an uninteresting object, drawing it and staring at the result which: ‘ hopefully there will be a moment of revelation, a realisation that you and this object are in fact entwined together in existence and that just for a little while you were joined in a harmonic relationship, one that is recorded in the materials of your extended mind.’ 

His post observing a number of artist’s material engagement with drawing helps us pursue what Frances Richardson, in describing her present drawings suggests is: ‘An exercise borne from the solitude of our current moment’. Garry’s most recent blog brings him back to the 2021 digital, virtual world we are contending with that ‘consists of both an external ‘surface’ reality and an inner underlying, often unconscious world of feeling and intuition.’  Recommended.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

The Black Studies team at Birmingham City Uni headed up by Prof Kehinde Andrews ran a webinar this new year’s week to discuss the value of Black studies. They invited Patrick Hutchinson as a guest interviewee. Patrick leads a life as a ‘peacemaker’ after capturing the hearts of the nation when he carried an injured rival protester from danger. He is a founder of UTCAI and has just published a book documenting his early experience growing up as a black lad in Britain: Everyone Versus Racism: A Letter to My Children

United To Change And Inspire (UTCAI) works to bring people together and are united in strength to overcome injustice and prejudice and champion equality for all. They aim to change past narratives and bring forth fairness and equal opportunities in the education, business and justice system, as well as the corporate, creative and sports industries. 

Poetry by chance

Listening to poet Carol Ann Duffy on Women’s hour she answered the question do you pray? She replied: ‘. I’ve been on my knees for nearly a year, that’s all I can say . . . . I’m not a religious person, but I do feel myself to be spiritual’. 24 minutes in.

Digital Traumas cont…..

Traumas reduced!  I have come to understand the rules that govern local disks and virtual servers. But beware there is another trauma on the horizon – The malfunctioning phone !

covid update

The daily Coronavirus figures are now being referred to as the ‘Numbers’.

As they grow yet higher, they become more frightening. Decision-makers must daily face these and know they are underestimates but have to try and act appropriately even if too late, while sufferers, suffer.

UK Govt. We are over 75,000 deaths, please let it not get worse.

Thats it

Lockdown week 37

Christmas has passed.

Christmas 2020 was a quiet affair with a very small bubble as London went into tier 4 just as that team was about to leave to join us.  The variant we are being informed about gives more cause for concern and the figures go relentlessly upwards. It is so depressing, debilitating and Soul destroying, leading to emotions of helplessness as the problem is too large to be resolved by individual actions, no matter how socially responsible.

Snow and presents

It has snowed. Mesmerising as ever and a welcome reminder that the season’s continue.

I’ve had two surprise presents. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thundberg points to the issues to be addressed if the seasons are to continue to be predictable and Birmingham Lockdown Stories by Jaskirt Boora. I ordered Jaskirt’s book as I was photographed by her in the sun-kissed first Lockdown, for inclusion in the series of portraits people of diverse backgrounds from Birmingham, contending with Covid. Jaskirt included an extract from our conversation about how I have drawn my way through Lockdown.

ejt by Jaskirt Boomra. May 2020

As I have never grown a beard the portrait is  the one and only image of myself with one. Jaskirt also included my drawing of Vanley Burke being listened to at his HOME Exhibition celebrating elder Black Women at the Birmingham Hippodrome. 

Vanley Burke speaks from the HOME Platform.

You can buy a copy from https://www.jaskirtboora.com/store

Digital Traumas cont…..

I am still spending Lockdown-time with my laptop and our relationship with the new virtual server. There is a job to be done: all the significant image files that have been collated on a personal internet space over the last 15 years have to be re-collated to take their place on the new accessible 2021 server presence.

What began as an updating of the internet hosting webspace has become a reconfiguration of the visual life experience documentation, that is hosted.  In the process the relationship with images becomes the arranging of inanimate files.  I am not making warm creative new images or relationships between images as they are gathered and presented but am organising digital files of information into digital matrixes, included or deleted at the stoke of a keyboard key. The experiential meanings behind the taking and retaining of an image over time is diminished, as the technical requirements of arranging each in a templated structure, that has been selected earlier, is the overriding focus.  Perhaps I do not have the computing skills to see creative possibilities as the technical, functional use of the technology determines the job in hand.

The parameters of virtual server organisation via the file manager are being internalised as the compilation process grows the accumulating saved image files. Getting to grips with a new virtual organising platform as an ‘administrator’ has more responsibility than previous use of a web hosting platform as a ‘customer /user.’

A folder cannot be deleted.  It can be removed, but not deleted. A trace remains. A database entry that cannot be erased? Although empty a folder is a visual reminder of previous significance, which has redefined, when attention is needed to be paid to active folders of significant value. Another Helpdesk call suggested that folders can be deleted via file transfer protocol.

Eventually it will all have to be backed up!!! Double the virtual space.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

covid update

Seemingly vaccines are on the way, but the figures just keep rising with the UK a terrible third in the world rankings.

UK Govt. We are over 70,000 deaths, please let it not get worse.

Thats it

lockdown 36

Digital Traumas.

Apologies for this late publication of last week’s post. You may notice an enhancement of quality and speed of the site which is due to an upgrade of site hosting from a basic service to a dedicated server. This has taken many hours and days longer than anticipated, which is not to denigrate any of the customer service, technical or support agents individually, but like many tech services they operate as and when requests come in rather than dedicated client managers. This may be because services are outsourced globally. It may be exacerbated through Covid home working, but until ONE agent engaged with my requirements of basic service I was taken from pillar to post with well meaning technically knowledgeable individuals. I know my contract number and pin verification off by heart as I have had to quote them on every call in order agents, no matter their location, request details to progress any query.

Digital reliance

I am not a technical expert by any means and therefore need assistance to implement online hosting settings to accommodate the amount of files I have accumulated over 15 years since I began uploading text and images to the internet, with the same company. Publishing on the internet has a number of benefits. The sharing of content, views, information and research to online viewers is the most obvious, but by uploading everything onto digital platforms and repositories it becomes distant and untouchable. Once on digital, online sites and their hosted environments, the material images and texts on my personal computer hard disk files are transported into a distant coded cyber space . When published they, like this blog, are stored and accessible for time immemorial. Except . . . . if the hosting site goes down and contents are not backed up.

I was informed that my sites were in danger of stopping functioning as they were overloaded and hosting needed to be extended and enhanced. I agreed to purchase space and email upgrades as new services, applications and server space is required to keep up to digital speed. As well as the frustration of the complexity of achieving this seemingly straight forward change for the better I became aware how dependent I have become on the daily digital fix. Emails and blogs and in Lockdown isolation, video conferencing have populated daily life to the point that life cannot progress without digital access. My email was down for 4 days, not the 24 hours I was led to expect by the last email I received before the service was stopped in the ‘Package To Package Transfer’:

‘The domain below is currently being transferred from its current package to the specified package. Please allow up to 24 hours for the domain transfer. Please wait until the transfer is complete to alter any domain settings. . . . . ‘

Digital dissappearance

In parallel the hosting was transferred to a new virtual server with dedicated back up service. It sounded a good forward strategy to maintain, enhance and protect my digital presence, connectivity and sustainability. But, where has my research website repository and blogging site gone? It no longer accessible on the internet URL, nor on my Word Press application. My personal photography collection site of 15 years is no longer accessible and attempts to publish a new image is met with the dreaded error message: ‘published withe errors’ ie site not functioning.

I could document the extreme anxieties this withdrawal of digital sustenance caused me over 14 days, including interrupted sleep and an early rising to check (lack) of progress. It could have all been prevented with regular explanation of the process being undertaken on my behalf by technical computer experts in faraway locations. Communication of what was planned, being implemented, scheduled and the timescale would have kept me in the loop and relaxed. After a weekend waiting for a call to inform me of the new services being up and running I rang the freefone number, listened to the recorded message, selected the No1 ‘hosting’ button, suffered the poorly recorded holding musak only abruptly stopped when an agent, on an equally technically poor line, picked me up, listened to my precarious position, requested my contract number and pin. Once confirmed the line seemingly went dead. I awaited news. He came back on and said the agent dealing with my update had sent me an email. Holding down my increasing disbelief I informed him my emails had been turned off since Friday morning so what was the point of sending me one? Rather dismissively the suggestion was: ‘Why don’t you change your password’. The dreaded PASSWORD. ‘I’m sure I can do that, but had no-one from the company considered informing me that I needed to change my password?’ No answer as it was now down to me to action the suggestion. Of course all my emails appeared before me. I read the email about my email and new server orders:

‘I hope your doing well in this awful time. I would like to inform that your website and emails are successfully migrated over to the server contract.Both emails and website works fine now, and your requested printsandresearch file is already migrated as well.
My colleagues and I will be happy to help you with any questions you may have about your products. You can reach me by phone, e-mail or chat. You will find my contact details under …….. Should I not be directly available, a well-informed colleague from my team will answer your call.’

Agent: ‘It looks like it is all fine’. User: ‘It is not, I am relieved I have been informed about how to access my emails, however my professional and personal websites are not accessible’. I could go on, but I can’t bear to describe the impossibility of getting a deeply technical service operational to get my sites up and, nearly, running 14 days since they functioned fine and I last posted on the blog.

The point being that the frustrations and anxieties created in a paying customer could have been avoided if ONE agent had been the point of contact for upgrade implementation, rather than the automated baton (buck) passing, service side driven, telephonic customer service system. After 3 days of inefficiency, and unusually for me, a harsh letter of customer frustration was sent to my ‘personal consultant’ requesting ONE point of contact. Since then, one technical agent has kept me informed and assisted me through the process to an efficient web presence that I am now using to write this sorry tale. Once sites and server was seemingly operational I was handed on to another personal consultant.

Although the intention at the onset of this post was not to document this experience it has been cathartic to write it down. I acknowledge to myself and readers that my responses are on top of the cumulative physical and psychological effects of living under Lockdown isolation. With reduced opportunities to leave the house to satisfy material pursuits in face to face situations, in house and home screen activity has become prominent and reliance on digital technologies has become essential for active engagement in what life we have. Digital reliance has crept into mainstream UK life. It is not only the zoom culture that has come to dominate personal and professional activities, but the delivery of information on our Lockdown social condition. An immunity to the Lockdown health and social management information we crave (need) may be developed. But until until that occurs, efficient human centred, digital design technologies will be increasingly required to be at our fingertips as we tap screens, keyboards, games or tv controllers.

Digital Consultation

This digital experience coincided with cardiology consultation that culminated in the final decision to operate. But owing to hospital management pressures it will have to wait until the spring. Thereby the knowledge of impending serious surgery will be internalised, carried and add to the anxieties of any day to day negative experience that has to be to be dealt with. The Registrar and his apprentice Louise kindly offered to show me the angiogram images of my heart, the offending veins and arteries that were not pumping enough blood to ensure an efficient cardiovascular system. Digital access to the recordings took a little while to percolate through to the PC from the main servers, but they eventually flickered into life. The pumping action of the heart was clear to see as the blood vessels struggled to push enough blood to the tributaries around the heart. I was grateful to have a visualisation of my condition made available through digital storage and retrieval.

The nurse looking after my case, ECG and documentation in preparation for the consultation handed me a photocopied piece of paper informing me that poor dental health has a negative effect on cardiac surgery and patients should ensure their teeth are in good condition. Not having attended the dentist during Lockdown an appointment is required. The dentist customer management system works well – inform, hold, inform, discuss, deliver service with an aural smile. January 2021 Jan 6th 7.15pm.

Digital Reflection

The benefit of not posting in two weeks owing to the technical difficulties, is that a more reflective position can be taken. But the downside is that day to day disasters can overtake one’s sensibilities. Christmas is threatened because of a variant of the virus has been detected. Here we are again, knowledgeable science and technology experts tell less qualified, but anxious audiences that their knowledge is to be observed without clear explanation and accompanying rationalisation that can be understood, accepted and acted upon.

The answer: Carys Mathews – 3hours of internationalist music: “Its a strange morning. Lets have a distraction – ‘Joyeux Noel, A Parsian Christmas.” delivered through digital radio.

Digital Image Not

I would normally conclude the weekly blog with a screenshoted digital image from John Hopkins University or Guardian UK Covid statistics:

27,052 Daily Cases ; 534 Deaths 67075 cumulative deaths.

Whether image or text these statistics continue to shock and should do so.

Sunday 20th December.  On attempting to the add screenshot an error message appears at the top of the page on a red background:

WPThumb has detected a problem. The directory /var/www/vhosts/jonnieturpie.com/printsanew.jonnieturpie.com/ printsandresearch/wp-content/uploads/2020/12 is not writable.

I can’t add any images to this post because the server settings are not set to write. I am prevented by a setting, of applying the visual objects that illustrate the observations, thoughts and experiences presented week, by week. Although the documentation is studied, followed and applied it does not enable writability of digital imagery from my hard disk to the new server! I await an answer from Helpdesk. Many suggestions and attempts to resolve the issue were undertaken by the service help-agents throughout the day, sadly to no avail, and I closed the computer, ate a modest last Sunday of 2020 evening meal and switched on another screen to see images from the Himalaya as experienced by Michael Palin. His travel diary became the structure of the film with personal readings of the memories from the journey. They were visceral and had an authenticity of emotional experience of arduous walking in high altitude mountains and the range of religious ways of life he encountered.

Monday 21st December, Christmas week. A variant of the Covid-19 virus has developed in London and South East UK. Christmas is cancelled and the nation experiences fear, anger, disbelief and sadness. This happened to those planning to celebrate Eid, Diwali and Hanukkah earlier in 2020. On top of this news the sea and airports are closed and the negotiations to make Britain a sovereign state continue, while Europe and the rest of the world isolate the UK into ‘Plague Island’. What a state!

In my isolated digital world there’s good news though! A call to the Helpdesk explaining the inability to upload an image to this blog was met by the friendly tones of Mark, who offered to review my issue. Within 2 minutes he observed that the ‘user’ on the folder to be published to, (uploads/2020/12) was not ‘jonnieturpie’, who is clearly the user, but another user named ‘root’. Mark: ‘Thats your problem. I’ll correct that for you.’ Audible Keyboard tapping reverberated down the line to my phone speaker, followed by the suggestion: ‘try it now.’ I did and Eureka the image was uploaded. Now thats what I call great service and began my digital Christmas week with a sense of relief and a smile. Shall I upload an image, or will this be the first literal Lockdown post?

Lockdown week 34

Busy! December week

Busy Busy Busy. Monday the IMPACT Journal Volume 2 went public including my report on portraying through drawing and printing fellow researcher Ian Sergeant. The article was begun 12 months ago after completing the portrait, but as journal writing generally takes 12 months it has been through many refining iterations to get to a satisfactory conclusion. In that period, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Black Lives Matter came to prominence and a postscript was added. Read here.

Ian Sergeant. Phd Passion. Two colour serigraph print. 84x118cm 2019

Surface tests

pressed and pitted perspex drawing surface (detail)

Visited the Printroom to test the pressed perspex surface drawing for silkscreen. Positive results with a wide range of tones achieved on the pitted surface. This was much more successful than the mullered approach last week. Collation of the results underway.


Whether on Teams, Zoom or socially distanced meetings its been an important week with the new job sharing CEOs of the Birmingham Museum Trust getting into gear and looking to a progressive future for the City museum and its 9 city wide venues. A Principal of the new BOA Stage and Screen has been appointed – more news soon on this production skills focused school in the Ladywood area of inner city Birmingham.

click to watch recording of the participative drawing

No meeting but congratulations to Mac Birmingham who won a national Big Draw Best museum and gallery Award for the work inspired by the gorgeous drawing exhibition by Matt Shane and Jim Holyoak. Canadian artists who covered the walls in the main gallery with huge, intricate and mysterious landscapes and inspired many diverse families to make a massive participative floor drawing that was hung in the Arts Centre

Web Presence

Much screen time focussed of creating a much needed new home page for photographs taken over the last 20 years. It required great assistance from Rei at Ionos to get all the folders in the right hosting space. Ionos recently took over 1and1 that I have used for fifteen years for personal email and web hosting. So many files!

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK
SEVEN times world champion, soon to be Sir Lewis Hamilton.

The world Champion has had to withdraw from the weekend’s Grand Prix as he has contracted Covid. George Russel, a 22 year old driver is taking his place.

covid update

Seemingly vaccines are on the way, but the figures just keep rising with the UK a terrible third in the world rankings.

Personal health

Wrist band!

I recovered from the angiogram performed on my heart last week at the wonderful Queen Elizabeth Cardiology Department. The Consultant that has overseen my heart condition including inserting two stents in 2002, and replacing them with five in 2016, gave me a ring to confirm more work will have to be done to prevent a worsening of the condition. More on this nearer the day.

Thats it

Lockdown week 33

A winter week

Congregate for Culture

There were no opportunities to view art indoors this lockdown winter week. However an unexpected exterior opportunity appeared. We went outside to a big old house with an even bigger garden and saw photographs. International garden photographer of the year was on show at the Walled garden of Shugborough House in Staffordshire. A damp, foggy and chilly day was not an obvious welcome for lockdown escapees, but it was worth the effort to venture out. Seeing a real world, as opposed to our saturated online world, photographic exhibition, in lockdown was a treat. As were the misty scenes including the Garden Pond, which could be seen in varied ways.

Garden Pond spun around. Vignette starry sky.

More photographs from our afternoon out of the house at another house.


Many weeks ago in early lockdown, television audiences were invited to participate in live life drawing sessions by BBC four to which thousands of drawers tuned in. Sky Arts, which has recently come free to air, has run StoryVault‘s Portrait Artist of the Year for 7 years. It is a prerecorded competitive show which invites amateur and professional portraits painters to paint a selected sitter. It is a popular format attracting artists and interested viewers alike. In the later months of lockdown the producers have developed a lockdown live version which brings portrait artist together with a recognised sitter in two locations brought together by the magic of television. But it takes many hours to paint a considered portrait and the event is transmitted not on TV but on FacebookLive.

As well as allowing a 4 hour transmission, introductions and interjections from the show presenters and judges, it has a constant instagram and comments feed from viewers. The show is fully interactive and engaged with by participants. globally. One comment as the show begins says the show is their: ‘lockdown treat of the week.’ This week’s sitter was the Newscaster Jon Snow in front of his bookcase, introduced by the veteran presenter Baroness Joan Bakewell in front of her bookcase, and painter Cathrine MacDirmid is beamed in from her Cumbria garage studio in front of her paintings and daubs. As the portrait and conversation develops comments come in from the Philippines, Houston and California who wake early to paint. From time to time the sitting newsman reads from the comments board with glee. Intermittently the painter’s friends and colleagues let her know how well she is doing. Personalised broadcasting through the internet.

Joan Bakewell introduces Portrait Artist of the Week sitter, Newscaster Jon Snow

One commentator observes: “The Pandemic is a million miles away when the brushes are flowing.” During the show the producers throw up a screenshot of the sitter and invite the audience to screenshot it, as you can from FacebookLive, and paint your own portrait.

Reflecting on the live, online portrait experience.
The portrait is done after 4 hours have ‘whizzed by.’

The Portrait will be finished to Catherine MacDirmid’s satisfaction tomorow and be posted on #PAOTW. 100’s of participating artists will be posting their works on #myPAOTW.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK
SEVEN times world champion, soon to be Sir Lewis Hamilton.

covid update

I was going to write about the Covid vaccine news and the various responses to it, but time has run out. I will return next week, when we can only hope our paying attention to Lockdown restrictions show in the reduction of the frighteningly high numbers of deaths.

In conversation Jon Snow reflected that he had never experienced anything like this pandemic and drew an analogy with it being our Third World War. He noted that we are nearing 60,000 deaths in 10 pandemic months, in comparison with the Second World War where 70,000 people lost their lives on the British mainland over 5 years.

Thats it

Lockdown week 32

Nearly the end of November

Congregate for Culture

No real cultural congregation this week. It looks like there will be no open galleries until xmas, when they are traditionally closed. However this week has offered three online visual art interactions: View, Participate and Contribute.

VIEW: Royal Drawing school webinar with Bharti Kher and Subodh Gupta showing, sharing and describing their sculptural works from their New Delhi bases. Introduced by Catherine Goodman. The artwork shown is by Bharti: The skin speaks a language not its own. 2006.

PARTICIPATE: DRAW NORTH – Drawing with zoom participants in the room each is occupying. Begin facing North, then swivel 90 degrees to East, and South then West and draw each view superimposed on the last. Hosted by Drawing is Free, Trinity Buoy Wharf at Duncan of Jordanstone , University of Dundee.

CONTRIBUTE: A ten minute presentation on experiences of peer review of a recent journal article submission. A webinar of the ME University Cluster Research group based at Birmingham School of Art, but open to all researchers.

academic activity

Moseley School of Art at Moseley Community Hub

As the days draw to a close more and more quickly, research continues in the Moseley School of Art studio into the making of serigraphic film positives. Having ‘mullered’ a sheet of perspex with carborundum grit the process of drawing on a new and untested surface has begun.

There are unexpected bright circles from the mullering. They could be stars. They could be an overall pattern for the portrait. Drawing on this rigid surface is noiser! The pencil stick resonates with sounds against the hard textured perspex. There is a physical substantiality and robustness, even ‘scratchyness’ to it that is more than on the flexible drafting film. Drawing was very tentative as erasing graphite looked to be difficult, and might be impossible as a test had resulted in the graphite being spread into a dense mark rather than being erased. Cross hatching is too harsh, leaving lines rather than shades on the surface.  A new methodology was employed: letting the pencil lie on the surface then moving it without any downward pressure, to allow graded build ups of impressions on the surface. Using 9 and 2b sticks more circular motions rather than horizontal, vertical or angled were applied.  I am not as confident in laying down delicate marks.  Heavy gestural marks (hair, clothes, shadows) are made with much more confidence on the surface. Skin, face, hands demand a slow build-up of graphite with regular returns to the emerging drawing to add with confidence across the highlights. Having to watch where leaning as graphite will be removed with the slightest unplanned engagement of heel of hand or cardboard leaning support on the surface. A delicate ‘swish away’ of excess bits of graphite with cloth takes away top layers of lead leaving dense backgrounds to contrast with hair and circles.

I decided to try rubbing lead shavings into the left surround. On exposure and printing this will provide contrasting markings. Rubbing the shaving is reminiscent of the mullering with grit. 

Transport to the print room will have to done delicately.


2h to 10b

Graphite pencils are running low, especially the softer leads that are sharpened more frequently. Researching suppliers a new brand was ordered from Czech manufacturers who have an esteemed history: ‘A number of significant innovations in the field of writing instruments comes from the KOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH factory. For example, the production of graphite and clay pencil lead, patented as early as 1802, the principle of machine-made pencils or division of graphite pencils into individual grades 8B-10H, according to the hardness of the lead.’

10 x 8b. Real treat.


Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK
SEVEN times world champion, soon to be Sir Lewis Hamilton.

Covid App update

Fourth ONS Test Survey result: ‘Negative’.

There is a constant anxiety around Coronavirus and whether the sniffle, cough or tiredness is a sign of contracting it, so the Negative result is a relief. It is also positive to contribute to the data gathering to inform policies – we hope.

Thats it

Lockdown week 31

2nd week of 2nd lockdown

Congregate for Culture

October saw a positive series of openings of Art galleries , Museums and even Theatres like the Birmingham Hippodrome creating reuse possibilities of their stages.( Van Gogh) Audiences ventured out of their lockdown safe cells to take in cultural offerings across the country. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery opened the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition as well as upper galleries, shop and Edwardian Tea Room to socially distanced safe viewing. Visitors came in numbers to enjoy culture.

Generations, before Lockdown 2. BMAG. October 2020. Digital Drawing November 2020

Sadly we are back in lockdown and cannot enjoy what is on offer. Perhaps the lockdown will be relaxed before Christmas and we can all congregate for culture.

academic activity

Writing continues with Pandemic aesthetics analysis and final corrections on a paper entitled DRAWING ED RUSCHA. Practice research continues between the studio in Moseley School of Art and the Print room in Birmingham School of Art and taking exciting new turns into the making of serigraphic film positives. With support from academic and technical staff investigations are broadening surface horizons for serigraphic drawing. The first portrait using a sanded surface has been taken another step forward into a unique ink image. A sweep with a small squeegee charged with gold ink on to a sheet of white cartridge paper is left to dry for two weeks. The ink hardened into surfaces that may be printed upon, even though the sweep’s edges stood proud from the paper. By positioning the gold arc under the silk screen the resultant print reflects the trajectory of the thumb of the subject. The illumination is intriguing. Under the dark ink the gold glows through, while on the white paper it moves between flat, bright, reflective gold to congealed reverse embossed ink, indicating the three dimensional quality of the action that has created it. The reverse emboss created a sweeping ridge that has taken the ink at a height giving a dark curve, with a secondary shadow glow.

Sanded, Scratched, Drawn and Printed on a Gold Sweep of ink.

The portrait has been shared with the unwitting subject Rashid Campbell. In lockdown he is in quarantine returning from supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The portrait was shared over WhatsApp and initial feedback is very positive and we look forward to meeting n December 3rd to share the physical portrait.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

Covid App update

Fourth ONS Test Survey result: ‘Negative’.

There is a constant anxiety around Coronavirus and whether the sniffle, cough or tiredness is a sign of contracting it, so the Negative result is a relief. It is also positive to contribute to the data gathering to inform policies – we hope.

Thats it