Digital Inlay

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I’ve already spoken here about my rediscovery of inlay and how much I love it, but I haven’t stopped at just physically making it with paper and scalpel! I got an iPad a couple of months ago, and I’ve been using scanned in watercolour textures since I got it. (It’s true that I have always done this with digital work as a way of giving it traditional textures) Procreate has fulfilled my main reason for getting an iPad; I can make a finished piece of artwork with just one portable piece of kit! I’ve even recently done an entire commission from the iPad, which made the whole process a much more relaxing process, especially as the project had a short deadline.

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Working digitally also means exploring more abstract concepts for me; it frees me from worries about ‘good enough’ ideas, which is so wonderful! I don’t believe I would ever have produced the artworks in this blog post by had (or indeed with my Wacom).

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The Purple Portraits

 

I really truly can’t keep a really consistent style up for more than a few months. I just feel like there are so many things to try, why would I want to only do one thing forever??

I’d love to get an agent, but they want work which is more pinned down; I’m just not ready for that! I want to keep exploring my style and trying new things. But actually, then I look at the work of Deanna Staffo and John Hendrix and I think, perhaps it’s ok to keep playing.

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These portraits were made on a sudden whim to retry some techniques I learned during my A level textile art course. I absolutely adored textile art, as it was basically using different media to express the same things I was expressing in my Art A level, without feeling constrained by painting techniques and portraits (I guess I kind of played it more safe in art). My first big final piece in textile art was a series of embroidered photographs. They were not good!! But I so enjoyed doing them. I find hand embroidery puts me almost into a trance, I can just do it for hours, and having to work slowly forces you to consider every mark you make. And french knots are just so fun to make.

The other technique I’ve brought back is paper inlay. Honestly when we learned it it blew my mind, it’s so simple but I think it looks SO much nicer than simply collaging paper, and it’s less likely to get rough around the edges. It’s so different to just putting paint to paper, too; I can be a lot more experimental with the paint, which results in more interesting colours and textures, and the edges are so CRISP!! I really love having it back in my practise.

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Of course, the most unifying feature of these illustrations are the portraits. Portraits are my first and greatest love in art; I could never, never get tired of them. Every person’s face is different, and every face can express so many different emotions. They’re purple because I just really adore the softer colour compared to black/grey. I started using purple in my watercolours because graphite doesn’t scan very well, plus the colours I use are really vibrant so the grey stood out like a sore thumb. I think the purple makes the images look warmer, plus I like the softer texture of the leads.

Making these portraits were so meditative to me. I didn’t plan ahead, I just found a photo I liked, and as I drew I thought about what would compliment the portrait. I think pieces like this would work really well for magazine editorials, too!

Wake up!

 

Shoreditch Paintings

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The image above is of my good friend Emmy. We went on a trip to Shoreditch in London when it was FREEZING cold near the start of this year. I really love to work from photos I’ve taken, I think the memories associated with the photograph come through in the painting (or perhaps that’s just me!)

The illustration below is from the same trip, of the Gherkin taken on a misty morning.

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Figure 22: Laxmi Agarwal

Laxmi.pngLaxmi was fifteen when she was attacked with acid on the way to a music lesson. She had rejected a marriage proposal, and the 32 year old man stalked her and attacked her for this decision. This is a similar story to many other victims of acid attacks in India, where acid was readily available and cheaper than milk.

But Laxmi doesn’t want you to call her a victim. Laxmi is an individual, who knows that her worth is not just skin deep.

“Today I love my face because I realized your face is not the only important thing. I didn’t give importance to my face. I gave importance to my work.”
In 2013, Laxmi brought a petition with 27,000 signatures to the Supreme Court, protesting how readily available acid was. This led to legislation which restricted the sale of acid, as well as providing help and compensation to survivors. She received the International Woman of Courage Award from Michelle Obama, delivered a Ted Talk, and is now a TV host. This is all in addition to her campaigning for Stop Acid Attacks.
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Acid attacks are often rooted in sexism, with 80% of victims being female, often attacked, like Laxmi, by rejected suitors or abusive fathers or partners.
Today, Laxmi is raising a daughter with her partner and fellow activist Alok Dixit. They decided not to marry, which I think is pretty cool, when the fixation with marriage is what resulted in her attack in the first place!
There is so much that could be said about the rising number of acid attacks, not only in India but across the globe. I could comment on the sexist nature of it, the desire to make a woman undesirable, but it’s such a complicated subject and one I can’t pretend to be an expert in. The most amazing thing is the ways in which many women choose to fight against the stigma and push for improvement in legislation. I am inspired by Laxmi’s courage to campaign for change, legally and socially, and her determination to be happy no matter what judgement she faces.
I recommend this article from the BBC and this CNN article, which also has a short video.
Unfortunately I can’t find a translation or subtitles for her Ted Talk – if anyone does, please let me know, I would love to know what she says in it!

 

Getaway Back to the EU

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This was a big brief I worked on recently for the Suffolk EU Alliance. The piece is about encouraging people from all works of life and political alliances to work together to protest Brexit. It was done using Windsor and Newton watercolours on lovely thick, smooth watercolour paper.

There was quite a lot of tweaking in Photoshop afterwards, too, as the client had a lot of new requests for the painting.

Here are some close ups:

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And these are two of the preparation sketches. The first is an earlier one, and the second is the final before I began painting.

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The drawing was on A4 paper, but I wanted to paint it on A3 paper so I could get loads of detail in! So I printed it out at twice the size on two A4 sheets (I only have an A4 printer), and then used a light box to redraw it onto the nice watercolour paper!

(Try playing spot the difference between the final sketch and the final illustration!)

 

Figure 20: Margaret Ekpo

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Margaret Ekpo (1914-2006) was a Nigerian feminist and politician, Margaret fought against the economic and political inequalities faced by women.

Born in Creek Town, Calabar, Margaret’s first direct involvement in politics didn’t come until 1945, when she attended a meeting when her husband was unable to attend in Aba. She was the only woman there, but the fiery speeches she heard ignited her passion for politics, and by the 50’s she was well known across Nigeria and abroad as a force for change and a fierce advocate for women. She encouraged women to be politically aware; to participate in politics in order to protect their own interests, as well as the interests of their country.

A key example of this is when she established the Aba Township Women’s Association. In line with the views of many of the local men, the organisation wanted to educate the women to support their countries; but evidently the men didn’t like the idea of the women also being mobilised to take care of their own interests, as none of the men of Aba wanted to let their womenfolk join. Margaret thought outside the box; she managed to gain a monopoly on the salt supplies in Aba, which were in short supply due to the second World War, and told the shops that they may only sell to women who were members of her organisation. After that, the men quickly allowed their women to join up, and women voters outnumbered men by 1954.

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In 1949, when protesting the murders of miners leading a wage protest, she and three other important female leaders were arrested, harassed and threatened with deportation. They were eventually arrested after the women of Aba threatened to set fire to the town, which is a pretty impressive display of gratitude!

Hand in hand with her feminism was her desire to help Nigeria to gain independence from the British, a goal that they achieved in 1960. Margaret was one of the Members of Parliament that year, and throughout the 50’s and 60’s represented Nigerian interests, and usually specifically those of Nigerian women, in many official capacities.

Margaret was dignified but willing to take risks. Her political career seems to have quietened down a lot after the 60’s, but Ekpo is remembered fondly as a ‘Giant of 20th Century Nigerian Politics,’ who got involved at a pivotal moment of her country’s history; and her work encouraging 50% of the entire population to get involved in politics can’t have hurt the cause for Nigerian independence!

 

 

Figure 19: Grace Lee Boggs

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Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015) was a Civil Rights activist who advocated for social change, and was a philosopher, writer and feminist.

She grew up comfortably; her parents were very successful in the restaurant business, her father being described as “the king of the restaurant businessmen among the Chinese.” She studied Philosophy at College from the age of 16, earning a doctorate by 1940, and she became involved in Socialism, even translating some of Karl Marx’s early letters from German. Unfortunately, after graduating she was unable to get any work even in a department store, as they would not hire ‘orientals.’

She eventually found a job in the philosophy library of the University of Chicago, which paid $10 a week; she had to live for free in a rat-infested basement. The irony of this terrible situation is that those rats helped her get involved with the Civil Rights Movement! Walking through her neighbourhood one day, she saw a group protesting poor living conditions – including living with pests. Something must have clicked for Grace, and this was her first step to being involved with the black community and the struggles they faced.

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In 1953 Grace moved to Detroit, where she helped to edit the radical newspaper Correspondence.  a hub for the type of ideas Grace had been cultivating; especially about black worker’s rights and revolutionary thinking. The same year she married a fellow activist and inspiring speaker, James Boggs, who she met in Detroit.

They became the city’s most noted activists, hosting Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and the couple tackled issues including Civil Rights, feminism, the environment and Asian Americans. She believed in peaceful protests, and was a firm believer in the ability of the individual to change their own life. As the world changed and they moved into the 1970’s, and as Detroit declined, with rising rates of murder, issues with drug addiction, and theft, Grace got involved in finding peaceful ways to improve the city, with organisations which helped school children and planted community gardens.

Grace also wrote several books and went on to guest lecture at universities, even at 97 years old. She died at the age of 100, and never stopped trying to help others, changing the world in smaller ways than she and her friends dreamed of in her earlier years.

“I don’t know what the next American revolution is going to be like, but we might be able to imagine it if your imagination were rich enough.”

You can more about Grace’s life and her activism here and here!