Saturday, 23 April 2011

(TSATTF) Part 3 / Traces...

Bird footprints are always a joy to me as they are often created by light creatures whose prints will only stay a short while. This proof of their landing & walking this way & that conjures up pictures in my head of them hopping about on the soil, sand or snow, trying to guess what species made them. Living in the UK the species may not be particularly exotic but this does not alter my excitement at all. Having lived at my current address in London for 5 years I was surprised to find some recently near the back door in what must have been wet concrete many years before we moved here.

Whenever I spot prints I photograph them. Pictured are seagull prints in the sand in Australia, the back door ones & back garden prints last winter in the snow mixed with that of my cat Nova & my own winter boots. Needless to say the concrete one is taken with my Blackberry phone, which never ceases to amaze me.

It seems I am not the only one with this fascination, there is a forum that has a nice collection of bird prints linked through the pbase site. If you click on each one, the full details of the camera, exposure etc of the photograph are included. It is also helpful for identifying the tracks too. I am no ornithologist but simply admire & relish the unfathomable nature of birds.

Looking through the RSPB site for more bird feeding, came across a great offer for bird cakes. What more could you ask for bird + cake = happy days. Support them so we see more of these amazing birds in our gardens soon.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

(TSATTF) Part 2 / While Flocks Last...

The king of bird illustration has to be the legendary Charley Harper whose love of birds can be seen in every one of his works including them. "I don't count the feathers, I just count the wings" is an apt quote by the late great man. I had 2 books illustrated by his amazing artist when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, who is famous for his wonderfully stylised images of birds as well as all sorts of other things. His magical way of rendering animals in a graphic yet accurate way still amazes me today. He manages to reduce a form into it's key parts, with such clarity, using minimal fuss and frills to do so, I am in awe. I mentioned him in a previous post, but thought it was only fair to tell you how I came across him. He is huge in the USA & popularity for his works grows year on year. I knew there must be some more magical children's book illustrators out there that would inspire me as I do have a little collection of books bought just for that reason as an adult. Whilst in Melbourne I caught a show at the State Library of Victoria, called Look! The Art of Australian Picture Books Today. I have to say it was the most enjoyable exhibition, & I encourage anyone to go see it if they get the chance. Don't worry if you are a grown up, if you feel silly borrow a friends kid for the day, but go see it! As I grew up in the UK with very different reference points regarding children's literature, it was joyous to see what kids the other side of the world were reading. As this post is about flying I have to include my favorite findings from this magical exhibition.

The first I'm not entirely sure if he qualifies as a bird as Mr Chicken is only his name, not neccesarilly his species. Needless to say, 'Mr Chicken goes to Paris' is an absolute classic! The wit in both the drawings & the story are fantastic. Pictured here is the instalation in the exhibition, marvelous. The most comical ominous scene like King Kong climbing the Empire State Building, Mr Chicken leers at the world atop Notre Dame as storm clouds gather above. To render such emotion & comic style into is surely to benefit of all whom come across Leigh Hobbs work. The illustrator, or artist as I'd prefer to call him (illustrator somehow seems less than fair) Leigh Hobbs is interviewed on a program including all the artists in the show. The film is great, showing each artist's methods for drawing, painting or even constructing their characters. The differences are what makes it fascinating. There are small delicate works, loud works, precise works, homely, funny, scary, fantastical pieces on display. I cannot praise this show or the curation of it enough. It is true, that Mr. Chicken may be no such thing, but its my blog & I'll use artistic license if I want to. Plus he carries a camera, what's not to like? Perhaps I'm getting clucky (excuse the shameless pun) but I feel as if I should be buying these children's books just in case they go out of print before I have a sprog of my own. (This may be far in the future, mother don't get excited yet.) It would be a tragedy not to share these amazing tales & pictures.

Bird photography is often a little obvious. However, Roni Horn's series Bird captures taxidermied Icelandic wildfowl, shot in a studio-style but from the back. The anthropomorphic association with the back of peoples heads is unnerving. The detailed images allow you to immerse yourself in the sheer beauty of their feathers.

Also, Jim Dine's Birds have a far more haunting approach, paying homage to Fukase's Solitude of Ravens. How we view another species can vary so dramatically from one interpretation to another. I am always looking for new ways to be intrigued, enamoured & inspired by bird imagery (all imagery for that matter, maybe this is another post...) so all suggestions are gladly welcomed.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The 'Conversation' and post-pondering...

Many thanks to all of you who attended the 'In Conversation with Emily Allchurch' last night. It was a packed house with standing room only, so we were thrilled. As ever, Emily was her usual charming self, sharing her working methods freely with the audience and answering questions. One of the subjects that came up was her archive (image library) which is the first step to making each of her images. She took 6,000 photographs on her trip to Tokyo then created the image library from these, separating the photographs into multiple categories. Each category is then on hand to dip into when needed.

One of the questions at the end of our 'conversation' was about the innate value of this archive. This question was fascinating as archives are often found long after the fact, having a practical function at the time of creation, then forgotten about. Emily's images of objects, trees, walls, graffiti, people, temples, bridges...the list is endless - all in little folders will be clues of the future to her work. I gave the example of Picasso's preparatory drawings for Guernica that give so much information about the editing and creative process he went through to create his masterpiece. Emily's examples of her photo's before they were placed into her complicated assemblages put into perspective just how intricate her working methods are.

Finding photographs personal or otherwise, when curated into an archive can become a wonderful source of inspiration and observation about the world. Being nosey is the key ingredient to a great photographic life, however that life may manifest itself. The internet of course lets us be nosier than ever before. As a result my little forage online looking for archives and vernacular photography brought Thriftaholic blog to my attention. I have many books on found photography and love the low-fi nature of them, with a subject linking many photographs together. Just as Emily's source images individually are records waiting to be assembled, archives have this potential too. Don't discount the random image, you never know when it may come in handy as a part of something whole.

Photo credit for 'In Conversation': Paul Blakemore

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Stuck on you...

No I am not quoting Lionel Richie lyrics (OK maybe I am) but describing how I feel about the most recent addition and gesture of admiration for Emily Allchurch's 'Tokyo Story' series. The artist Ben Wilson has created one of his wonderful miniature paintings dedicated to the series on some chewing gum on the pavement outside the gallery. I was not there when the creation took place (sadly as I would love to see him in action) but understand that it took hours. He has found a fabulous legal loophole, whereby the criminal damage is done by the person who chewed the gum, not the artist painting upon it! If he painted directly onto the pavement then this would be a crime, but of course he doesn't! This is not to say he hasn't come into contact with the law, but good luck to him. I really hope he comes to the 'In Conversation' with Emily Allchurch tomorrow evening ( Wed 13th April) at 6.30pm as I would love to meet him and introduce him to her personally. If you are out there Ben feel free to drop by. The picture here was taken with my phone, I promise to update with a better one soon.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

(TSATTF) There's something about things that fly... Part 1

So as many of you already know I collect (amongst other things) things that fly, birds, planes, helicopters.... These come in many forms, mostly photographic prints but also other things.

It has come to my attention recently that I was in fashion (OH NO) as it seems birds are all the rage at the moment. I'm sure this will pass as with all trends, but it is great to see birds everywhere so I have decided to start a flying series of blogs as I have taken so many pictures and come across so many related flying things it seems a shame not to share them.

The first is from Melbourne at Port Melbourne to be precise. I spent the day on the beach with my better half Mat, & observed the seagulls. Seagulls are always taken for granted, but if you really look at them closely they are so beautiful. It always amazes me how white their white feathers are, the way they hover & circle, what fun it must be to see the world from those angles.

They came very close and also settled down in the sand & seaweed on the beach. I made a few quick drawings of them as you can see here. Note the colour of the paper I draw on. As with many arty endeavours it can be intimidating facing the blank white page. I avoid this by drawing on paper of varying colours when travelling & I can clip several colours together to sift through on location. Using the traditional sketch book (hate the word 'sketch' it implies something trivial) is a nice way to keep it all together but if you want to separate one drawing or more from the rest it ruins the book. A nice archival box labelled by date, subject etc is much easier to keep track of.

Like people they move in their own way, it is hard not to anthropomorphise them. When I was much younger (16) my GCSE thesis was on Leonardo Da Vinci's studies of bird flight. His drawings are still in my humble opinion the best studies ever made, as the number & detail alone is hard to argue with.

Beginning this blog series with the simple birds we are familiar with & venturing into graphic design, art, painting, objects, jewellery, illustration & more it is a haze of feathers as far as the eye can see....

Each post will have a different title but numbered for my reference should I loose track. I will expand to include great photographic examples also, so for the photographer's amongst you dear readers do not despair...