Getting playful

I’ve always been an art lover. Art, painting, photography, making stuff – it’s second only to writing for me. Just like reading is my inspiration for words, looking at other people’s creative stuff is my inspiration for my own art. I only think I chose words because they’re easier to master. After all, I’ve only got 26 letters and a handful of punctuation to master.

Though I always knew I couldn’t make a living from being artistically creative (or an easy living, at any rate!) – I’m just not as comfortable with drawing and design as I am with words, but maybe that’s just a practical thing – it’s surprising how it’s threaded its way through my life. Ironically, I did better in Art at GCSE than I did in English. I went sensible for A level, though a large part of me wishes I’d not bothered with A level French (though it’s turned out to be fairly useful, I guess!) and only picked up A level Art when I started teaching. I did it at night school from 1996-7 and got myself a C grade. Not bad. My final piece was shit. I should have done watercolour and ink and I went for acrylic. Bah. Still, I got some nice pieces out of it and fell in love with chalks and inks – something I’d not had time for at GCSE. Considering I only did a couple of hours every week, I’m pretty pleased with that there C grade.

I picked up photography Level 3 at night school from 2003 – and this is where I found my love. It MIGHT seem quick, but if you’ve been in a dark room for 3 hours trying to get the perfect print, you’ll know how frustrating it can be too. I can work my way around Photoshop and Macromedia products, but I love the darkroom most. It’s funny. It’s part science, part art. You just can’t get a ‘perfect’ print, where you can in Photoshop. My camera was a creative tool and one I could master.

By 2004, I’d gone on to Level 4 qualifications – degree level – and it was a whole lot more complex: thermometers and push processing, part bleach, lith printing, toning, filters and apertures in the darkroom as well as on the street. I think, by the time I got to Japan, I was au fait with my apertures and filters and I pulled out some pretty nice shots. Same for Morocco.

I guess I was thinking I’d put creativity aside (aside from writing, that is!) for a couple of decades, but looking back, I haven’t at all. It’s funny that I seem to spend much more of my day creating than I used to, but only because I’m not creating in the classroom. And the last couple of weeks have been a hive of activity here. In all honesty, I can’t wait to get my darkroom set up (my Dad brought my enlarger over and so now I have ALL my kit… not only that, I have the space and the plumbing and electrics to have a permanent darkroom in the cave… it’s not wine in there, but with the wine I made last year, I think that’s for the best) and I’m going to have a ‘create space’ too. I’ve been coveting creative spaces for a while and I just can’t wait to create my own. Knitting boxes, sewing machine permanently set up, fabrics, art supplies, paints… instead of all those little boxes I have round the house, I’ll be able to put it all in one space.

I’ve hand-made all my cards this year, and I was pretty pleased with them. Some designs worked better than others.

Christmas card design
Christmas card design

I’d actually been sitting and drawing these at a street sale I was doing and a couple of people came and bought them off me, though that wasn’t what I was there to sell, so I was pretty pleased. Does it mean you’re a professional if you’ve made 4€ doing something?

I’ve also been doing pencil crayon stuff like this:

Pencil crayon Chrysanthemum

But I still think this looks more like a cabbage than a Japanese mum… oh well…

Still, photography remains my main medium, though I’m getting much more into others. I thought I’d put a few of my favourites up, because they’re a part of my life I’ve loved – mainly because I got to do several things, create, play and also meet people.

One of my favourite candid shots in Morocco. I loved these ladies!
Ancient car in Cuba

You can’t imagine how much I played around with this shot! I did once part-bleach it, post-production, then gold tint it then copper tone it. It turned out amazing. I wonder where that is now??!

Whether it’s B&W (some of my favourites) of the Sahara, of Tokyo, of Morocco, of Havana, of Manchester, of Paris, whether it’s colour of Brazil or Cuba or Kyoto, or whether it’s just sheer playfulness (like this next one…) I love playing and creating.

This is pure play. No photoshop. I printed the image from a colour neg of a grotesque in Notre Dame, then reverse printed it (you have no idea how much science there is involved in exposing all that right!) then sandwiched some acetate in there with some carefully chosen words from Baudelaire (over whose grave the Notre Dame looks – ish – ) from Flowers of Good and Evil to convey the terrors of the city. He’s pretty cool!

Today has been much more basic. This year, I’ve made Christmas gifts for my mum & stepdad, my dad & step-mum, my sister & brother-in-law, Jake & Steve… a few people have shop-bought presents, but I would have made more if I’d got my creative vein earlier in the year. Unfortunately, when you’re out toiling in the sun, there’s not so much time for sitting about getting playful, so I’m enjoying the darkness.

This morning, I lit a fire early – Steve tends to do them late in the day and the house is warm at night. I prefer them in the day and let them die out by eight. Might as well. I’m off to bed soon! I need a lot of sleep in these dark days. I got the glue out, the varnish, a few things to do. I’m not posting pictures until after all gifts have been received – don’t want to spoil them – but I’m definitely enjoying getting my fingers sticky again!

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4 thoughts on “Getting playful

    1. No, but I’d love to. I wish I could find a good creative class down here in the Charente. If not, I’m going to have to find a load of bodies and get them together! Have you done it? Any tips?

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