Tuesday, 31 December 2019


All Images: West Leicester, December 2019

Let's not mince words: 2019's been a right fucker - has it not?  Certainly, many must still feel pretty beaten up by recent political events in Britain (as elsewhere).  And that's before one notices that, beyond the self-reflexive borders of this absurdist, close-to-rogue state - the rest of the planet appears to be increasingly on fire.  Here, of course (just to be characteristically perverse), it seems to have hardly stopped raining since October.  It's difficult to know exactly where anyone with even a modicum of intelligence, integrity or survival instinct, might go from here, in 2020.

But go on - I guess we must (or at least - try to).  And perhaps it's still a little too early for complete despair.  Almost terminally deluded and self-sabotaging, though the British body politic may now seem, we must reluctantly admit that many others have a much worse time of it.  I still have a roof over my head, and (for now) more than enough to eat.  Democracy may be on its arse, but until that eventual knock on the door at 3.00 am, I might even still lay claim to some vestigial freedom of speech - I suppose.  Perhaps there's relatively little any of us can really do to reverse the climate change juggernaut, but here, the saturated, leaden clouds have now parted long enough to admit a little pale sunshine, for three days in a row.

As these images might just illustrate, occasional glimmers of hope may still be observable -  even in the least likely situations.

Happy New Year.

Monday, 30 December 2019

'Constructed City' 8: Designated Break

All Images: 'Constructed City' Screen Prints (Work in Progress), Leicester Print Workshop, December 2019

At the risk of over-saturating the internet with yet more images of my 'Constructed City' screen prints in progress - here is the last instalment of the year/decade.  Apologies if anyone is bored with these, but it still seems preferable to keep reporting on ongoing activity, than to go dark in the absence of definitively completed work.

Leicester Print Workshop is closed now, until mid January - so I was pleased to have grabbed a last chance to put in a few hours just before Christmas, if only to maintain the gentle, but steady momentum that's built around this project.  The studio lay-off also allows time for a little reflection on what's been achieved to date, and how things might progress in the new year.  There's a sizeable stack of these closely-related images now - some of them having reached a considerable level of intensity and multi-layered complexity.  But the reality is, these wallpapered girder motifs were originally only intended to supply a kind of background layer for more photographically detailed elements, as per my original sketchbook collages.

'Constructed City' Sketchbook Collage Study, October 2019

It's probably the case that some of these are already a little too concentrated to serve that purpose, but it's definitely still my intention to combine at least some with less abstracted elements.  The current plan is that many such new motifs will be arrived at as four-colour separations; which will both capitalise on the training course I completed at LPW, last year -  and give visitors here a different kind of work-in-progress shot (if nothing else) in 2020.  In fact, the ultimate aim is that these 'CC' pieces should eventually build into much larger composites, through a process of collage - spreading exponentially, in much the same way that new developments are currently filling-in significant sections of the Leicester street map, and skyline.

Consequently, whilst I suspect there'll be no shortage of 'Sit. Rep.'-type bulletins to come - I can also only hope that what you see here (and in various recent posts), will eventually be revealed as merely the early stages of something rather more impressive.  As ever - we'll see...

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

'Constructed City' 7: Off Plan

Untitled Experimental Collage (Work In Progress), Screen Print On Paper, December 2019

Following on from my last 'Constructed City' post, here are a few images of my first reconstructive collage fumblings, and also - of some more of the sketchbook studies that are fuelling all this printing activity.

Untitled Experimental Collages, (Work In Progress), Screen Print On Paper, December 2019

As I spelt out previously - the yellow lash-ups are little more than a crude device to get beyond a perceived mis-step.  However, they've already served that purpose, and proved something I've noticed before; namely - that an arbitrary, physical juncture in an image can often be far more eloquent than an overly-deliberate illusory one.  As usual, it's all about willingly surrendering to chance, rather than seeking to exert excess control - I suppose.

Collage Fragments, Screen Print On Paper, December 2019

As you can probably make out from these images, such collaged juxtapositions play a major role in the sketchbook studies, and it seems inevitable they will continue to dictate the way my print-based images develop, as the 'CC' project evolves.  What is evident, is that I need to continue compiling a much wider range of printed raw material, before that process can really take off.  Also, things should also get a lot more interesting, once some more overtly photographic elements start to intrude into the printed work.  In order to make that happen, I'll need to capitalise on the CMYK printing skills I picked up a few months back - something I intend to address in the New Year.

'Constructed City' Sketchbook Studies, December 2019

For now though, it's just a case of doing whatever I can with my existing screens and stencils, before Leicester Print Workshop closes down for the Christmas period.  I should be able to make at least one more visit this month (if not two), and will, no doubt, keep anyone who's interested, posted with yet more slightly repetitious work-in-prog. pics. 

'Constructed City' Sketchbook Studies, December 2019

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

'Constructed City' 6: Blueprints

All Images: Leicester Print Workshop, November 2019

My visits to Leicester Print Workshop have settled into a reasonably consistent routine, as my 'Constructed City' project progresses.  With any creative undertaking, a certain rhythm of working generally establishes itself, and it's no different in this case.  At present, and by necessity, my current periods of actual production, at LPW, follow a weekly (or possibly - fortnightly) cycle.  Any available time in between is devoted to the on-going collection of source imagery, work in the sketchbook, or attempts to plan my next move - once the meter's running back at the workshop.

This is an unaccustomed situation for me - not least because it's the first time I've relocated my activities off-site, as it were (in my case - simply out of the back bedroom).  As ever - there are identifiable pros and cons.  Undeniably, it can be a little frustrating to wait at least six days between each burst of real production.  However, in a year when the demands of my day job have, if anything, intensified; when other concerns and distractions have vied for my attention; and when physical energy reserves have noticeably failed to restore themselves to pre 2018 levels - a degree of structured routine has actually proved rather useful.

The need to get my rear end in gear, and to seize those available windows of opportunity, lends a degree of discipline to the enterprise - making weekend laziness or undue procrastination, unfeasible.  Similarly, paying for that valuable time by the hour, spurs me into having some kind of reasonably considered plan of action in mind (regarding how to start, at least), once I walk through the door.  Those midweek periods of preparation and reflection start to become far more important than might at first appear.

But, as it turns out - a kind of recognisable push and pull [1.] is starting to apply itself internally to those studio hours also.  In this case, the routine begins with my going in with 
that aforementioned plan of action, proceeding with it, in a possibly over-meticulous or tentative fashion, and (almost inevitably) feeling somewhat underwhelmed with the result.  However, with a determination to salvage something from the day, and following some frenetic washing down, or swapping-out of screens - I'll then work with greater degrees of improvisation and intuition, and usually make greater seeming progress in a hour, than I'd made in the previous three.  Often, this will involve imposing something over the top of a recent layer with far less care and attention than it was itself laid down, but with much greater resultant satisfaction.

In this respect, and for the time being, at least - it seems my printmaking M.O. is pretty similar to that which I exhibit as a painter (or whatever else I am, when producing other 2D work).  In musical terms - some form of score seems really important, exactly up until the point it gets discarded, and the improvised sax solo begins.  And to paraphrase someone far more accomplished than I - creation results from a series of destructions [2.].  If that means I'm unlikely to start producing seamless editions of technically immaculate and inherently marketable prints, anytime soon - well, I can live with that.

Certainly, the above certainly describes the experience of my two most recent studio sessions.  A week ago, I went in with the express intention of addressing the problems I described in my most recent printmaking-related post.  In this case, the plan was to augment a problematic white layer, with denser and more arbitrary passages of the same.  The hope was to 'make it look like I meant it', in essence.  Sadly, the results continued to feel stilted and generally disappointing.  Instead, I turned impulsively to another pile of images, grabbed alternative screens, and laid down a couple of layers of rapidly-mixed blues - which ultimately felt far more fluent and promising.

And the yellow and white ones?  As I secretly suspected would happen all along - they got hacked up, and temporarily reassembled, in the week.  As component parts of something with greater elements of chance or surprise involved once more - they already make far more sense again.  Am I a proper printmaker, painter (or even, sculptor)? - Nah, mate - I is a collagist, innit?

[1.]:  See what I've done there - screen print fans?

[2.]:  Is that Picasso? - it's usually Picasso. Cue also, all sorts of cliched truisms about abandoning comfort zones, killing one's darlings, it always seeming darkest just before the dawn, etc, etc.

Saturday, 30 November 2019


All Images: North Leicester, November 2019

The rain's been so relentless this Autumn, and my virus-depleted energy levels - so reduced, that I've failed to 'own the conditions' on two wheels very much at all.  Thus, when the precipitation abated for a weekend, and my personal snot-fest finally dried-up - it felt like a real novelty to get back in the saddle for an hour or two.

Whilst the raindrops were largely absent, the ground is still thoroughly saturated - making a degree of splash-back and mud-splatter inevitable, as I traversed the banks of the river Soar through Leicester.  It was an enjoyable enough diversion, nonetheless - and nothing my own cycle sustained could match the ravages wrought on these bikes dredged up from the river bed.

The seemingly freelance, magnetic salvage of such debris seems to be a popular activity, these days - with similar tangles of corroded and befouled metal punctuating the riverbank at increasingly regular intervals.  I chatted to a passing river-walker about that, just as I finished taking these shots.  She expressed concern at the perceived eyesore - but that mostly just served to remind me that, one person's eyesore is another's intriguing subject matter.  I'm long past such conventional distinctions between the 'ugly', and the picturesque, in any case.

Anyway, in the long-run, I think I should be grateful to the dredgers - whoever they are.  Given the ever-rising water levels - anything that aids the water flow - keeping the river between its banks, and out of people's houses (including my own), is to be applauded - I suspect.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

'Constructed City' 5: Hi Vis

All Images: 'Constructed City' Screen Prints (Work In Progress) With Associated Equipment,
Leicester Print Workshop, November 2019

My 'Constructed City' project continues to progress, albeit a bit slowly.  Fortunately, that's mostly for practical reasons - rather than any lack of motivation.  The decision to make this my first primarily print-based project, means practical work must mostly occur at Leicester Print Workshop, for now - which in turn means weekends and school holidays.  Slightly frustrating though that may be - the fact I'm wishing there were more hours when I could crack-on, is an encouraging sign that I'm fully engaged with this project, and not just dabbling.  Physical energy might desert me a bit faster these days, but it can still flow from mental motivation.  The fact is, I've happily toddled off to LPW for several Saturdays in a row now, with very little procrastination at all, often after a tiring week at work - which definitely feels like a good sign.  In fact, my most recent hiatus was the result of the Workshop's recent weekend takeover by Leicester Print Festival events, rather than any reluctance on my part - and I'm already itching to get back in.

Another reason for that, is the fact I'm writing this at one of those moments when I've just encountered my first proper bump in the road with some of these images.  The intention has always been to allow them  to build up through intuition, and out of the process itself - rather than according to some tightly prescribed plan of action.  Consequently, I'm feeling my way, both visually, and in terms of what I might actually achieve with  screen printing (and it's important to remember that I'm still a relative novice in that field).  My creative muscle memory, visual understanding and general printing chops, are far less developed here, than when it comes to, say - painting, collage (or even cardboard box wrangling) - which means I'm bound to take plenty of wrong turns as this project advances.

In this case, it's fair to say that the pleasure I took in the way a transparent layer of bright, cadmium yellow unified what was already becoming a rather tangled complex of preceding layers in some of these prints - was tempered by the fact it raised its own complications.  The reality is, these early statements were originally intended to lay down a kind of modulated ground, over which bolder statements might ultimately float - but have already become much stronger than intended.  The yellow tied things together encouragingly - and is a pleasing referent to the bold, hazard primaries so prevalent on construction sites, but it still felt too strident for the intended purpose.  It also departed from the more modulated qualities of the yellow-shrouded scaffolding imagery that actually inspired it.

Central Nottingham, May 2019

However, the real uncertainty arose when I attempted to knock things back with another layer of transparent white - itself pulled through a completely new stencil.  I instantly realised that white should probably have been mixed into the yellow ink, rather than as a separate layer, and that yet another layer of new imagery was possibly causing as many problems as it solved.  It's fair to say that the behaviour of cumulative layers of transparent colour (particularly where lights over darks are concerned), and of disparate layers of imagery - are things I've yet to get fully to grips with in screen printing.  They're only intrinsic to the whole blinkin' process, after all...  


And that's pretty much where things stand - at least until I can get back into LPW again.  But if that sounds like I'm a little discouraged - it really shouldn't.  As I said, the desire to learn experientially, and to allow things to progress organically, were built into this project from the get-go.  Making a best guess, getting it wrong, then finding a new left-turn out of the resulting impasse, is actually a fantastic way to learn, and to develop those creative muscles I hinted at above.  Comfort zones are to be avoided; the learning phases are always the most vivid of any activity; and anyway - the learning isn't ever supposed to stop, is it?  To be honest, it really just mirrors the way I've increasingly tended to operate, in my 2D work - at least, in any case.  The ability to relinquish over-clenched control, to willingly make mistakes - then find some form of, possibly unexpected, resolution in the solving of those mistakes, is something that has actively advanced my work, in recent years.  Once you're smugly convinced you completely know what you're doing - that's the time to really question your practice.

So, by the next time I report in, I should have already found some kind of improvised  solution to this little glitch - and will probably be blundering cheerfully into the next fine mess.  Of late, one of my recurrent mottos has been, "when all else fails - tear it up, and collage it" - so I guess there's always that solution, if all else fails.  All joking aside - the whole aspect of collage (or possibly something more akin to constructed assemblage of separate components), is something I suspect will become a pretty key feature of this project, as things develop (its certainly hinted at in my sketchbook).  However, it's too early to get into all that now, so I'll save it for future posts - once there's actually something meaningful to report.