Getting clay under the fingernails* (drawing and creating again)

In recent years I have re-discovered my love of drawing, collaging and generally loosening up and developing ideas in sketchbooks. It started with a New Years Resolution a few years back: to fill up all the unfinished sketchbooks from all the years since art college (I have a habit of acquiring beautiful sketchbooks with the ambition to fill them up straight away). I am still filling working on this (and starting new ones). Here are some random pages from them.

Letterpress sketchbook studies for Climate posters.
Pages from my Berlin inspired sketchbook using billboards and letterpress.
Black ink carbon sketch (working with carbon black pigment (black bear carbon) extracted from discarded tyres.
Fishing rope tangle study, love these greens.
Fishing buoys painting study. These turned into glass buoys in a chandelier.
Painting bits of old rope.
Where I was painting bits of old rope (and where I found them).

I now always take a sketchbook with me when I travel. It’s better than a camera for memories for me.

Canadian view from a mountain top.
The rock formation on this beach in the Basque area of Spain was very satisfying to draw.
Beach sketch, Lekeitio.
Surfers and buildings at Biarritz.

When I was pitching for work I did a lot of live sketching at Philadelphia Zoo, drawing the animals quickly, then going back later to finish.

Three monkeys swinging on a rope, backs to the audience.
The Giraffe at Philadelphia zoo
The Hornbill playing with a nut at Philadelphia zoo

I am still working on my life drawing of people and drawing glassblowers is particularly challenging. It is like choreographed movement as they constantly move with the molten hot glass.

Life drawing glass blowing
Painting from still life on black poster paper – interesting rocks
Pages from sketchbooks (studies of beach plastic and collage).
Pages from sketchbooks (beach pollution and fishing hooks and rope).
Collage studies for glass Plastiglomerate pebbles.

I will be posting my drawings and books done for the glassblowing and collaboration work with Louis Thompson on a separate blog as they make more sense together and there are loads!

* thanks to Grayson Perry for this quote.

Never Turn Your back on the Ocean

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I am having an exhibition and talk on the 18th November at Pentagram, Westbourne Grove. Places are limited so please do book: events@pentagram.com 

How do you communicate positively about our depressing environmental situation? Sophie Thomas, founder of Thomas.Matthews and Director of Circular Economy at the RSA is on a mission to do just that. 

In 2014, I travelled to Kamilo Point in Hawaii – also known as ‘Plastic Beach’ – to see first-hand the plastic plight of our oceans. Never Turn your Back on the Ocean is an exhibition inspired by this experience, featuring plastic sourced from Kamilo’s foot deep piles of junk.

Join of us on 18 November at 6.30pm and be the first to see the exhibition and hear me talk about my journey to Hawaii and its enduring affect on her work. 

Spaces are limit so please RSVP to events@pentagram.com to save a spot. 

With thanks to Pentagram, Do The Green Thing and Thomas.Matthews

Letterpress Archive: Creative type setting – Before and After

Having a simple proofing press is not great at precision printing, particularly if you want to typeset 13pt Dorchester script or do a large print run. It is very good however at allowing you creative license to do things differently. Here are a few pieces I have done over the last couple of years with the help of a lot of furniture and a few magnets. I have put in some images of before and after. I started to document this after a friend asked me if I had actually photoshopped the exclamation marks in place. Here’s the proof!

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I don’t have a picture of this before the ink went on but believe me it was not easy setting type in an arc.

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This was a piece done with the Thomas.Matthews team creating phrases that began with T and M to launch our new website http://www.thomasmatthews.com. It used every single bit of furniture I had and because of the mix of type sizes it was impossible to straighten. It took 5 hours to lock in! Results were nice though and if you are on the TM mailing list you may be lucky to get a piece in the post…

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Waste It Ain’t

Like last year I have had the great pleasure in producing a poster for WWF’s Earth Hour campaign with Do the Green Thing. I say great pleasure because I absolutely mean it. If you have had a design studio for as long as I have you will know that generally my days are filled with emails, meetings and document writing and that all the exciting stuff like designing is given to our (brilliant) design team. All this paperwork is important but ultimately not very creative and is not really why I went into design in the first place. So I jump at the chance to actually do something myself instead.

Last year I used my collection of plastic flotsam. This year I went messy. Having spent the last 18 months behind the doors of recycling and recovery facilities for my other job (Co-director of Design at the RSA and project director of The Great Recovery) I now find it very hard to throw things away. It’s kind of a magpie complex what others see as waste, I seem to see beauty, colour, opportunity.

The journey for this piece started with a conversation with Sion Whellens from Calverts, our friendly litho printers. It went: ‘do you throw ink away?’ ‘No.’ ‘What happens to it then?’ ‘When someone specifies a pantone colour on their piece of print we buy in enough ink to print with. Ink comes in 1kg tins and generally we don’t use it all up. A tin which is more than half full is marked up and put in (and on) our (overflowing) cupboard.

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After a few years, if no-one has specified that colour again it has probably passed its sell by date so we empty the ink into a big vat and it gets taken away and recycled into oil products but not into new ink.’

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This vat of ink is sticky smelly and gloopy but full of colours of the rainbow from past jobs – annual reports, comics, art books, posters, promotional leaflets…lovely. I pull some out and mark up the tin; ‘magic ink’ and take it back to the studio.

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Printing it was a challenge. The subject deemed it to be messy and gloopy so basic printing etiquette was out the window.Image

The effect I wanted was drippy

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but as soon as I pulled the ink down with a squeegee suddenly all the colours appeared, like a rainbow in the dark black clouds!Image

It took two weeks to get close to drying but the result is out now here. You can even buy one! The money goes to Do The Green Thing, a great cause and the poster was part of the WWF Earth Hour campaign.

I also helped judge and mentor the young creatives entries which was great fun. You can see all of these here as well as last years collection. I met someone last month who said they had mine on top of their 3D printer as it helped him stop printing when they didn’t need to – an interesting progression from ‘do you real need to print this out?’ footer on the bottom of emails!