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

Lockdown week 30

lockdown is back

but more importantly

Breaking news

US Election -water torture

Before the result today its been a tough wait as America Decides. With unexpected welcome diversions.

Waking up for the first day of UK lockdown after late night watching of Joe Biden making a short presidential calming speech followed an hour later by President Donald J Trump making a pained press conference as he hangs on to the last vestiges of his presidency. He complained for 30 minutes about the electoral system. If this count is water torture for us it is driving him mad.

The morning Radio 4 today programme provides an update. Counting is making slow progress and adding to the drama. A US Correspondent gives his update and as he reports that the Trump’s lead in Georgia is being reduced hour by hour and has dropped from 3500 to 1200. The UK anchor interrupts: “As you speak the figures on the screen in front of me has dropped again. Its now 660.” This is real drama after a night of slow reduction and gains. A result and a desperately needed change in US populism and social division, may come through later today.


Flyway MississippiRaptor – NESTFLIX

The report is followed by a feel good lockdown escape, a news item to counter Lockdown depression. A listener has found an uplifting lockdown diversion: the Mississippi Flyway website. She eulogised about the video site that had given her hope in these tough times. Flyway is a non profit volunteer managed service that tracks the birds and their family growth. It is a rich site with video of raptors looking after their eggs and young as they develop into nature and flight around the Mississippi river. Following links there are similar sites throughout the US. Instead of hearing the political divisions from Delaware, Michigan and Nevada each site celebrates groups of Americans looking after birds, rescuing them, saving them from extinction and bringing them back to the natural habitat from urban nests.

Flyway Kestrel eggs
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Meanwhile back on 24 hour rolling human news, masked and muffled reporters continue to drop the water on our locked down foreheads.

Family matters

Auntie Dylis is on the mend in West Wales. Slowly but surely the hip repair is taking shape and she is being helped by physiotherapists to get up and about. Many miles were travelled to arrive at a South Manchester autumnal park for brother and sister (and Mum and Dad) to meet safely before Lockdown.

academic activity

Writing continues and alongside practice research is taking new turns into the making of serigraphic film positives : sanded surfaces. This investigation is being undertaken between the studio in Moseley School of Art and the Print room in Birmingham School of Art.

Sanded, Scratched, Drawn and Printed

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

Covid App update

Third ONS Test Survey result: ‘Negative’ PHEW.

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 29

the clocks went back


Lockdown’s coming back

academic activity

Apologies the blog is suffering a tad with few original words as my literal efforts are focussed on academic work at the moment. In particular analysis of how digital aesthetics are changing in the pandemic. When I am confident of my position I will include here.

Hold Still portraits expand across the country

Good that Hold Still expands from digital to community: https://www.npg.org.uk/hold-still/hold-still-community-exhibition/

The UK-wide exhibition, supported by the Co-op, has been created to share the images with as many people as possible across the UK and sees the final 100 portraits go on display in local communities for up to four weeks from 20 October 2020.

Portraits are appearing on walls across the country. Check out: Melanie, March 2020 by Johannah Churchill recreated as a hand-painted mural in Manchester’s Northern Quarter  by mural painter Peter Barber.


The photographs feature on 400 outdoor posters at 112 locations in over 80 towns, cities and communities. The images can be seen in high streets, on buildings and bus stops, and on a special mural in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and a takeover of billboards outside Waterloo station in South London.

Curated groups of portraits are displayed in cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and London. Many of the portraits are also on display individually in the local communities where entrants are from ranging from Belfast, Liverpool and Southampton to Blaenau Ffestiniog in Gwynedd, Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire, Knypersley in Staffordshire Moorlands and Thorpe Audlin in West Yorkshire. You can also see a selection of works on special community screens in 1,600 Co-op food stores across the UK.

Family matters

Auntie Dylis is on the mend in West Wales. Slowly but surely the hip repair is taking shape. Young Finn is happy as Larry after last week’s hospitalisation. Parents are relieved and carving pumpkins.

Top Halloween

The Scottish relies are fed up that no ‘Guising’ will take place this Halloween. Guising definition: the Scottish practice or custom of disguising oneself in fancy dress, often with a mask, and visiting people’s houses, esp at Halloween.

Sad Farewell to the Dude


A portrait

A portrait made and shared this week, from a meeting with main man Dan Alexander from the time when getting the BackIn film programme for Black talented filmmakers underway 3 years ago, with Punch. Dan has spearheaded BackIn. Check it out, and the alumni that have come through in style

Daniel Alexander from when we met and shared hope and plans 3 years ago. Digital drawing. October 2020.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

Covid App update

Second ONS Test Survey result: ‘Negative’ PHEW.

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 28

the clocks go back

what’s the difference

20×20 prints in 2020

HotBed Press in Manchester request 20x20cm from a broad range of printmakers annually. The printers in Birmingham School of Art usually manage a group of 20 submissions, but in covid times we mustered 5. But they were five good ones!

Prints by Lucy Parris, Andrew Kulman, Justin Sanders, Taiba Akhtar and Jonnie Turpie.

The virus or the experience of the it feature in the prints that were all made in lockdown: woodblock, lino, etching, hand coloured and inkjet. Each artist looks forward to receiving the box similar to the one pictured with a random selection of prints from all submissions.

Family matters

While in isolation this weekend in Birmingham, the oldest member of our family who lives alone in West Wales fell and broke her hip. She pressed her ‘panic’ button and was promptly taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. The family whats app became the conduit for keeping up to date with her care, hip pinning operation and first steps of recovery. With Wales under severe lockdown, including any travel from outside her borders no visiting was possible. This morning she is thankfully recovering steadily surrounded by mail ordered flowers.

On Saturday morning the youngest member of the family, a 6 month old boy began coughing and struggling for breath. His parents, new to this role in life ,were frightened for him and rang the emergency NHS line. An ambulance was dispatched to take them to hospital where there was great concern for his health. He was fitted with a Cpap (strong oxygen machine) wrapped round his head and connected into his mouth, and wired up for tracking progress of his lung function. A frightening sight for his parents and whats app watchers. He has his own whats app group since his conception as his family is spread around the UK and Canada. The channel was active all night with reports of progress and avoidance of being taken into ICU. This was the Sunday when British Summertime pushed the clocks back by one hour. Throughout Sunday hourly blood reports tracked the up turn in his oxygen levels. Evening came and to the relief of all whats app group members he was taken off the oxygen machine and allowed to breathe unaided. In Covid times digital comms can keep families in touch, through thick and thin.

Hold Still -Thank You NHS


Hold Still is an ambitious community project to create a unique collective portrait of the UK during lockdown. We invited people of all ages to submit a photographic portrait, taken in a six-week period during May and June, focussed on three core themes – Helpers and Heroes, Your New Normal and Acts of Kindness.  Over 31,000 submissions were received from across the country, with entrants ranging from 4 to 75 years-old. From these, a panel of judges selected 100 portraits, assessing the images on the emotions and experiences they conveyed.

A selection panel, including The Duchess of Cambridge, National Portrait Gallery Director Nicholas Cullinan, the author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, the Chief Nursing Officer for England Ruth May, and award-winning photographer Maryam Wahid, met via a video call in July 2020 and undertook the challenging process of selecting 100 portraits for the exhibition.

Covid App update

First ONS Test Survey result: ‘Inconclusive’

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

Thats it

Lockdown week 27

Tier 1, 2 or 3


Exhibition (s)

A post of many visual arts. Two exhibitions in one Birmingham Street – Yes two! It is so rewarding to see artwork in the real and to discuss the shows with curators. My printed portrait of artist ‘Barbara Walker, ‘Bab’s , Drawing in the Round Room’ hangs in the middle of the 2nd floor gallery in the RBSA Prize Exhibition. It was drawn and printed over two years ago and retains a quality of focus and concentration on drawing. The atmospheric marks around the edges create an abstract frame in contrast to the figuration.

The RBSA stages an annual Prize exhibition as part of its charitable work to support artists, providing an opportunity for artists to show their artwork and be rewarded for their talents. 

The gallery is open from 10.30am – 5pm on Tuesday – Saturday. Admission is free. it is also on line @ https://www.rbsa.org.uk/rbsa-prize-2020

Selection by: Graham Chorlton, Artist and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, Coventry University and Julie Brown, Collections Curator, New Art Gallery Walsall.

Argentea Gallery

Exhibition No3 in the city centre

The Museum and Art Gallery opened its doors to The Wildlife Photographer of the Year from the Natural History Museum, new additions to the collection and a special portrait from the National Portrait Gallery.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

Covid App update

NHS Covid app

Alert: Now gone local to B13

Recorded venue visits.

Temperature taken in two venues. It seems I am ok.

Had a test through ONS Survey. No result yet.

Thats it

Lockdown week 26

Second Wave?

No happy waving going on.

I visited the library to return isolation books and withdraw new pages of knowledge. Even more dramatic was my venture into the School of Art Print room! Masked, sanitised and keeping left I walked the 1843 terrazzo patterned floor towards the wooden floors supporting the fine art printing presses. Master Printmaker Justin Sanders met me with protected by his standard issue BCU mask. The breeze through the large traditional swing windows keeps the space fresh.

One student arrived with exquisitely cut out paper stencils to be silkscreened as we kept our social distances. Screens were selected and coated, inks mixed paper selected and the art and craft of printmaking commenced. Although access is severely restricted over the next three months this was the first steps back to making.

A surprise awaited! Taiba and Lucy two of the original virtual ‘printgang’ members have been engaged by the university as studio assistants and monitors.


It is so good to have had a printed portrait of Birmingham Artist Barbara Walker accepted for the RBSA Prize Exhibition. I delivered it to the gallery on Sunday where the volunteers who keep the gallery going and open, met me to receive my framed print. I can’t wait to visit the gallery who are showing by example that visual arts can be shown in coronavirus. times. The IKON, Eastside, Stryx and Argentea opened recently and the Birmingham Hippodrome converted their theatre to a projected exhibition of Van Gogh. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery opened its door to the public with a special exhibition by Cold War Steve celebrating Birmingham people’s. Let us hope audiences will find it possible to come out into the city and enjoy the arts on show.


September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

Covid Apps

NHS Covid app

No contact from my NHS Covid App.

Temperature taken in two venues. It seems I am ok.

Thats it

Lockdown week 25

A Sad Beginning to Another Six Months

Black Live Matter!

This post will have few written words. The words in white in the three documentary photographs below are progressively erased with black paint to hide the positive message of the original painted words.

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

The BLM message in Digbeth, Birmingham was a vibrant action reminding residents of what has to be addressed. Sadly one week after the messaging appeared the ‘BLACK’ was blacked out which appeared to be an action taken by activists of some sort. The site is on Digbeth High Street between Clyde and Alcester street.

24th September. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

One week later, at the beginning of Black History Month, a more corporate action has been taken to ‘black out’ the whole original message.

1st October. Black Out.

What is going on? Who has blacked out this message? Anti BLM activists? A Property Developer? The City Council?

Covid Apps

NHS Covid app

No contact from my NHS Covid App.

Thats it

Lockdown week 24

Its Been Six months

Now its going to be Another Six Months

I need a ‘slump of deflation’ emoji


The culmination of the Magistrate’s 100 Years of Justice anniversary exhibition took place with the launch of the online exhibition on September 8th. A physical exhibition will be mounted in 2021. to the celebrate the opening of the exhibition the exhibitors met with curators . We met online and shared our experiences and ambitions for our participation. For more detail and the art by 20 contributing artists go to website: www.ma100yearsofjustice.com and follow on instagram: # ma100years

My contribution is two portraits on the theme of Race and future criminal justice. Two sitting Magistrates agreed to sit for a portrait just days before UK Lockdown. Both adopted a pose looking directly out with their hands before them, which I reflected in the drawings and subsequent prints.

Magistrates Portraits

Sue Marwa JP. “I joined the Bench in 1984, and was one of the first ‘ethnic faces’ at that time.” A2 Silk Screen.
Carlton Williams. JP. “At 26 I’m the youngest magistrate on the Family Panel.” A2 Silk Screen.


NHS Covid app

I have downloaded the NHS Covid App. It works. It tells me that I am in a ‘High Risk’ Area and that it is active and scanning. I’ll let you know when I use it to enter venue and it tells me anything of import.

Thats it

Lockdown week 23

Shocking Times

Lockdown Reading and drawing

I am writing this post as we enter week 24. Last week seemed difficult to concentrate in a focussed way.  Lots of issues to be addressed/resolved/put aside. I had thought last night might have been an opportunity to write but living in Birmingham we were informed that all households were not to meet with others inside houses or private gardens from today. 

Friends from another house were invited over for a socially distanced meet before the clamp down and before one of them flew out to their home country Spain. We talked and ate the night away as the Autumn sunshine dropped away and the night drew in. An urban fox appeared from the bushes and the birds in the cedar trees talked to each other.

The new term of research study is about to begin. Planning a term while in lockdown is my next task.  Focus! It’s not as bad as it is for many Arts and cultural workers who are facing the end of the government’s furlough programme and in many cases unemployment as their places of work cannot sustain wage bills.  Lockdown makes it impossible for arts venues that rely on audiences standing or, God forbid, sitting next to each other to operate their programmes of dance, drama, cinema, music, arts, learning and enjoying creative environments. It’s tough for arts and artists in Covid restricted times.

‘Furlough’ is word I had not come across before covid. Suddenly with the Chancellor of the Exchequer announcing sweeping support for workers prevented from working by social distancing impositions ‘Furlough’ was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and at the top of news agendas. I came across it again while reading the biography of Walker Evans. There is a chapter on his work for the Resettlement Administration, which was part of FD Roosevelt’s New Deal to address the ravages of the US Depression. I always understood Evans, and Dorothea Lange’s photography to be for the Farm Security Administration, but the FSA was preceded by the RA. Furlough was the term used then to describe the Government’s actions to apply leave of absence for civil servants or the military, but in the depression it was applied to many more employees. It seems Chancellor Sunak adopted the word and added to the action by paying 9 million UK workers direct from HMRC. An unprecedented programme for a conservative government. Some might say Britain became a socialist state overnight.

For arts organisations he issued in a cultural support and recovery scheme that offered work for arts organisations, venues and workers, but not so much for artists. In contrast Eleanor Roosevelt ensured artists were paid to produce art through the depression. One of those was Walker Evans who was hired to document the effects of the Depression on workers:

“People wanted to witness the real lives of their fellow Americans, to know better the common ground not only of their crisis but of their culture. Photography seemed the most natural medium for communicating this message, but it was not at all obvious how to use it, for a while the effects of the crisis were felt across the country, they were not easily seen. The Depression was, in the words of one historian, “an oddly invisible phenomenon.” It consisted of things not happening, of a subtle slowing of the pace on the street that was more easily described in words and statistics than in pictures. P89 

Evans wanted not only to capture and visualize the poverty wreaking havoc to Americans, but the developing ‘Poverty of Spirit’. The description of the perception of the Depression chimes with our Covid Crisis: invisible, things not happening, subtle slowing of the pace on the street.

DO NOT MIX WITH OTHER HOUSEHOLDS. Moseley High Street Birmingham UK 2020

But Then BANG. As I write, where I live is told in no uncertain terms NOT TO MIX WITH OTHER HOUSEHOLDS. I am all in favour of #Keepbrumsafe, but this street messaging is Shocking. This is not slow and subtle, but in your face directives by the authorities to the citizens of a major city.

When we could meet, share and dance together

mostly_jazz 2019. When we could meet, share and dance. Cancelled 2020. Hopefully back 2021. #BLM

Thats it

Lockdown week 22

Autumn has begun

Lockdown Reading and drawing

Walker Evans Biography by Belinda Rathbone is a wonderful in depth and detailed piece of writing about the American photographer that established his working process during the 1930’s depression. Alongwith a number of artists and writers he participated and benefited from the Roosevelt New Deal plan to get the economy growing. Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor particularly promoted the involvement of artists in the new deal. Evans was hired on the Resetlement Administration programme, later renamed the Farm Security Administration. The description of the needs of the 30’s that established the FDR programmes has echoes of what we are enduring in the 2020’s. However they were envisaged to be in place for the duration of the financial depression.

Waker Evans Biography Book cover. Left Back, and right front portraits.

In the UK the Covid government has invested in keeping arts organisations, businesses and individuals going through to 2021.  Unlike Roosevelt’s programmes there is not a mainstream UK programme to encourage the making of art during the pandemic. Artistic interpretation and documentation of the experience of Covid could be a valuable focus to bring some light to the darkness experienced by so many. It may also establish a legacy of Covid experiences as undergone by so many.

The Evans biography captures many detailed insights into Evan’s motivation to achieve unposed photographs of Americans. He had a number of collaborative relationships with writers.  In particular with his foil James Agee resulted in ‘In praise of famous Men’ that described and visualised three sharecropper families in the depression Southern American States. The photographs were ground breaking and effective in creating documentary human evidence of the effects of deprivation to working families during the depression. They have created a legacy. Following the FSA work he went on to use 90 degree cameras and hidden cameras to surreptitiously photograph unposed revolutionary portraits. He made many of these portraits in the NYC subway trains where he travelled with his companion photographer Helen Levitt.

As his character is revealed throughout the biography it becomes clear he was self-centred/motivated/driven to the detriment of long term relationships with women.  This is perceived through the eyes of the 21st Century where feminism has to some degree liberated women and men to escape misogynistic attitudes of past generations. We are not at total gender equality by any means. I will now read the biography of Dorothea Lange who was engaged on the FSA programme making many of the iconic images of the time.

As I am reading off site as it were, I have reverted to pencil underlining, which I do not approve of, but needs must. I will go through and transfer important references to ipad and cloud research folder, an erase the pencil marks. 

When we could meet, share and que together

Lemn Sissay instagramming. digital drawing. #BLM

Len Sissay making an instagram image at his book signing following his sold out reading from his memoir, My Name Is Why. The audience in 2019 sat next to each other in the MAC Theatre, Birmingham to be moved by his stories of adoption and being a young black kid. Following a Q&A it was announced that a book signing session would take place in the foyer. The queue was round the block! No restrictive social distancing back then. People held their books close and chatted while waiting their turn to have a few words with the man and thank him personally for sharing his experiences and signing their book.

Michael Donkor review: ‘The great triumph of this work comes from its author’s determination to rail against what he rightly diagnoses as this institutionally endorsed disremembering of black and marginalised experience. It is a searing and unforgettable re-creation of the most brutal of beginnings’.

For more about Sissay’s books, plays and poetry visit his website.

100 Years of Justice

100 years. of Justice is an collection of 20 artist’s work reflecting on 100 years of justice delivered by the UK magistrates system. Many themes have been responded to from the past present and future. I contributed two portraits of Magistrates from diverse backgrounds to the Future: Race and Criminal Justice theme.

Due to Covid the exhibition of work is online at the moment but with plans to go live in the coming months.https://www.ma100yearsofjustice.com More next time.

Thats it