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

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
Flyway Kestrel eggs
next arrow
previous arrow

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

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