Monday, 5 May 2014

Wonderfully unexpected things

The wacky world of community art!

Once again the time has flown by since I last updated the blog. I begin to see why some bloggers make it a full time job! However, I have been putting my time to good use, so as always there's so much to talk about!
Well, firstly I should mention the Community Art projects I have been meaning to write about for a while now, as that has become a big part of my "job" in recent months.  
I say "job" like that as it still feels weird to call myself an artist as my job title. It just sounds so self important when I said it to people, so I always say it with a hint of irony in my voice, and then go on the add qualifiers like "which is probably a stupid thing to try and do, but..." I am getting a bit better though! And it's stuff like this community work that make my goal of being an artist for a living seems more feasible.
So, way back before Christmas I mentioned that I went to a meeting of the "Salford Arts Development Network". From this I met the local arts officer, a lovely lady called Andrea. Well, through Facebook I then saw that she had posted an opportunity for local artists to get involved in developing workshops for the community. So, I applied for that and was successful, so after a few days of induction I teamed up with two other artists with similar interests. Our brief was to develop a six week programme of events for a community group that we had identified as not currently being served by art activities available in the area. So, long story short, our group decided to do junk modelling and related things for parents and toddlers. There were two other groups formed from the same workshops, and they did a course of art classes for adult beginners and an up cycling class for adults. So, now we are in the middle of delivering these classes. It's not been easy attracting people so far, as the participants have to pay for the classes which is hard when money is tight, but we are actually changing the venue for the second part of the schedule, to hopefully make it more appealing. Here's some details on the Salford Council website (although it mentions to old venue not the new one)
Here's an example of what we made in the first week; junk model structures and vehicles - the weirder the better!

 It's been a really invaluable experience for me, giving me the confidence to think that there is a future as a freelance artist who delivers classes to community groups, and perhaps schools, as I have a lot of prior experience working with young people from my "old" career in education. So, in my mind a hazy plan is forming of being a freelance artist who offers tailor made one off workshops or ongoing art club style classes to schools, or the local council or community venues. It's still early days, but I have high hopes that this could be one of the ways I can make this "being an artist" thing into a realistic career. 
Through this I've also got involved in another big project in Salford, all to do with Geocaching. However, let's talk about that another day, as there is much more directly art related stuff to tell you about as well!
So, as I mentioned in my last post, I have been absolutely LOVING having some studio space. It's really given me a whole new lease of creativity, which so far has mainly taken the form of painting! I always had a slightly tortured relationship with painting; I loved the idea of it but was often slightly disappointed with the work I managed to produce - it never quite lived up to the ideas I had in my head. Well, I've kind of had a breakthrough on that front. My solution seems to be; don't go in with any fixed ideas of what you're going to create, and it's just freed me up so much. 
Here's a good case in point. I prepped a canvas with a clear idea in my head of what I wanted to do. Paint a dark base colour, then layer on some newspaper, then paint over the top, then tear away some of the paper, in an attempt to replicate the kind of images I capture all the time with my camera, and specifically something like this:

However, when I got to the painting over the newspaper bit, I somehow got the idea to pick out some of the nice patterned elements of the pictures on the paper, and then embellish them a little with some different coloured paint, then to use my newly acquired chalk pens a little, and then, why not?, a little pencil..... a few hours passed by in a blur. I was "in the zone", and as a result created something I didn't expect at all, and which was unlike anything I had ever painted before;

I was really excited by this! I realised that if I just relax my expectation of where things will go, interesting things start to happen. This kind of ties in with what my interests are artistically as well - I like very much how unconscious and unintentional things play out in art works - that's why I particularly like my photos that have the scribble of a workman in them or something - an element that was never intended to have an aesthetic aspect, merely a functional one. Anyway, I digress. This new style of painting really energised me, and made me desperate to do more as soon as possible, so the next free day I had I returned to the studio and made another. I'm not sure I was in the zone so much this time - I wanted to keep it light and free, but of course it would never be like the first time, as I now knew roughly what I was trying to achieve. Anyway, here's the result of my second attempt in this style;

I'm not sure if it's quite finished yet, but I'm pretty pleased with it. Again, it didn't turn out as I expected, which I am now taking to be the sign of a successful piece of work! Here's a detail to show you how I blended the newspaper beneath and the painting above;

I think I ended up using the pictorial elements of the newspaper less in the first picture, which maybe made it more successful overall, but I think that was also because this second piece is on a much bigger canvas, so there simply needs to be more stuff to fill the picture. Also, you can see clearly here how rumpled the surface is. I experimented with a new type of glue, and I'm kind of 50/50 whether I like it or not. As a general rule I like adding a bit of texture, but on the other hand it actually makes the images harder to see in places.  Hmm, lots to think about before attempting my next piece... I can't wait!

Ok, so I guess that's enough for now. As always, so much more I could mention. May looks like the busiest month yet since I've moved to Manchester, so I apologise in advance if it's another few weeks before I get back here. I'll try not to leave it too long, but there really is SO much going on! I'll leave a few things here as teasers for you/reminders for me: The Geocaching project, the lovely folks at Islington Mill, my first time at the wonderful Levenshulme market and other people's photos albums! And remember, if you want a bit more regular updating of what I've been up to, check out my twitter feed @HannahGerg

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