in october 2021 i went to the beautiful death art exhibition at leicester guildhall, which i found out about through another student in my year, and aa few of us went as a group.
we were not entirely sure what to expect, the event was more like a market rather than an exhibition, with stalls of traders selling various artworks, taxedermy, specimins etc.
dispite the work there being primarily comercial, the content and themes were very relavent to my work and gave me a lot to think about in terms of where to take my practice, such as begining to include insects and other specimins into my workss along side the bones i was already using.
i also likes that this event was all cruelty free, meaning all specemins die naturally or accidentally
after going to this event it made me begin thinking about doing these kind of events myself, i would like to apply to have a table here next year to sell prints and paintngs, although i am somewhat hesitant as this would mean having to get public liability insurance, invest in buying prints, business cards, display items to show work as well as potentially registering as a sole trader and, if it goes well, i might have to keep track of income and expenses to do tax returns.
In november i went to a postgraduate open day at the University of Derby to look at their MA Design course. The campu which this course is based at is in walking distance from wher i currently live, they also offer the opportunity to speciallise into specific creative areas, such as illustration, graphic design, or fine art.
I previously visited Derby’s campus a few years ago, as i had a place there for BA Fine Art, so I’m somewhat familiar with the facilities available there.
The subject talk was very informal, there was only me and one other potential student who was coming from an engineering course talking with one of the members of staff from the course. we were shown work from current and past students as examples of the projects studentd pursinging different pathways did whilst on the course. one example was someone who was making a tea brand for a kind that was comonly drank in their home country but has no current market here, others were drsigning childrens books etc.
The degree would last a year, giving students opportunity to pursue a project whilst getting feedback from staff and other collagues on the course.
I would like to potentially pursue a career in illustration or comercial art, perhals working freelance or in a specific roll, and I would like to learn about this without going back and doing another undergraduate degree. This course is more aimed at people who already have a background knowlage in the project they are pursing, and they just want the time to do so, with feedback from tutors and I dont think this would be the right course for me.
I initially found creating my website quite frustrating and restarted it multiple times. I found understanding the editor for WIX quite easy to figure out, but making it look good and making the website look well put together was more difficult for me. I think this was partially attributed to me not wanting the backgrounds to be white, as I personally find this quite difficult to read from, in doing so I had to make colour choices along with figuring out where to put things. In the end I think I restarted my website 3 times to get it to a point I was somewhat happy with it.
I also found photographing my work for my website to be quite difficult, as I found that the photos looked fine when taking them, find when retouching in photoshop and then once uploaded to my website the backgrounds looked very yellow and uneven, due to the backgrounds on most of my paintings being white, compared to the pure white background they were on on my website they looked very yellow. This happened even when I took photos with a DSLR in a well-lit room.
To combat this, I used a combination of making the backgrounds of my galleries grey (I didn’t use black due to some of my photographs having a black background) and using photoshop to make the paper on my works white. However, in many cases this was not possible to do well, the paper I use is quite textured which shows in images, and due to the nature of my paintings I could not make the paper white using photoshop without removing some of the loser, light colour washes in the backgrounds
Website check list:
Your website must include
Good quality images of your work.
Work must be captioned with – title, medium, size.
A brief statement about your work – this is not about you, but gives the viewer an insight into your motivation/methods etc.
An artist CV.
A contact page.
I found a lot of the website building to be quite tedious, making each page match and labelling each image, for example was very time consuming and I’m sure I will continue to find mistakes and things I missed despite my best efforts.
ive also found that quite a few artists seem to share my name, although they do very different work to mine
In term one i did some collaborative work with a nother student with simmilar interests, Lauren Ryan. we both have been using bones in our work, and i had taught her how to do the image transfer techniwue which i had been isung in my work. Ryan’s work at the time has used other artists work as source material, combining it with her own, so it made sense for us to work together to add my work into the mix.
we used a combination of photocopies of my work, hers and famous works which she has been previously using in her work.
an examply of a colaborative art piece is JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT AND ANDY WARHOL, Olympic Rings from 1985.
“Warhol’s contribution to the collaborations can be seen in his distinctive technique of hand-painting ready-made iconography, an early practice that he revived with Basquiat. In the case of Olympic Rings, he made several variations of the Olympic five-ring symbol, rendered in the original primary colors. Basquiat responded to the abstract, stylized logos with his oppositional graffiti style. Between clusters of Warhol’s Olympic rings, he imposed a bold, dark, mask-like head, like a medallion in a link chain, undoubtedly an allusion to African-American star athletes of past Olympic Games, such as Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos.”
in this case there is also similarities between this pice and the one we did as Worhol uses ready-made iconography, similarly to how Ryan used well known works by other artists in her parts of out work and made it her owm.
in our piece we both sat together and arranges the various pieces together, and both worked to transfer the images. as there was so many this was a lengthy process but i think it was ultimately worth the time it took.
what i find intersting about colaborative works like this is that they could mean very different things to both artists who made it, the same way that we all look at work and interpret it in a way that may never be identical to someone else. even when we explain what we see and talk them through we will never know if we understand it in exactly the same way. such as how you may see the colour red differently to someone else your whole life and never know thatits not the same way that another preson sees it.
As part of my current work i have been using photocopies of my drawings and photos and transferring them onto paper blocks to make them easier to paint on, since I am using a lot of water which will warp the paper.
This technique is something I was taught in high school.
To do this I print out images or photocopy my work using a laser printer, and then using masking tape to hold it in place (image side down) on the paper block. To transfer the image, I use cellulose thinners. This is painted in small areas on the back of the image, and then using the back of the paint brush I scratch as the area to transfer it onto the image.
Cellulose thinners can cause headaches if you spend too long inhaling the fumes, so this should be done somewhere well ventilated, I also place the lid back on top when I’m not dipping my paintbrush.
All images will be backwards when transferred so if the orientation is important it may need to be flipped before printing.
This technique can be used to collage images together, by transferring them together or even on top of each other.
Although detail is lost when doing this, especially if its not a particularly clear or highly contrasting image, it creates a somewhat aged looking effect, which I like. It can also be worked back into, with paint pen, pencil etc to bring back some definition.
An artist who had used image transfers in their work is Rauschenberg.
Initially I was doing this to preserve biro drawing which took hours to make, as I didn’t want to destroy them by adding paint and potentially wating hours of work if they went wrong, however I found that I really like the effect given by transferring the images. It makes the drawing look soft and somewhat ages and creates a good base for adding back detail and colour with paint
“Cooke’s art often deals with issues of nature and culture, particularly with the formation and transformation of the environment over time. The skeleton of Megaceros Hibernicus, the largest deer of the species which flourished at the end of the last ice age, was recovered from the bog-lands of Ireland. For Cooke the elk represented a powerful symbol of pre-civilised consciousness. In Cooke’s painting the elk emerges from the gloomy bog-land with its enormous antlers treated like massive antennae transmitting, as it were, a message from the past. Yielded up by the bog, the elk demonstrates the process of perpetual interchange that occurs in the cycles of nature.”
This work by Cooke, while it deals with similar themes of nature and changes in enviroment, as well as contains similar animal and decay imagey, is much darker than my own current work. This work comes across quite grusome, the backgroud is very dark, there appears to be blood on the animal and its standing up like it has somehow come back to life and continued to move.
on the other hand, my work is much lighter, with smaller areas of darkness for contrast. It feelsquiet but not sad, the death balances or even overshaddowed by the colours used and plant growth.
we both deal in animals and decay, these elk are extinct, the animals in my work are usually dead. combining the live plants and snimal bones in my work also hints towards the exchange of life in nature and the cyles of life and decat which occurs.
The main subject of my work this year is bones and skeletons, I already had a few, but to get more material to work from I bought 2 more on eBay. However, one of these arrived mostly clean but had obviously not been degreased or sanitized (this was obvious due to the little friends it arrived with). Because of this we left it in a bucket of water and washing up liquid for a few days and then we got some 12% hydrogen peroxide and left the skull in a mix of this and water for a further few days to ensure it was properly cleaned, the hydrogen peroxide would also bleach the bones. A stronger solution would have worked faster, and for any stubborn areas we could have scrubbed it with a paste made up of the hydrogen peroxide and baking powder.
Some bones can be expensive to buy, so the least expensive way to get bones would be to find and clean them myself. The hydrogen peroxide is relatively expensive, but can be reused somewhat if stored correctly, getting animals from roadkill would not cost anything (although it is worth noting that I is not legal to own any part of some animals, whether you just found it already dead or otherwise)
One method to cleaning bones is maceration, where the bones are put into a bucket of water after being mostly cleaned of flesh and sealed. Heat will make the process quicker, however the process will also smell very bad so its best to do it away from any houses. The water may need to be changed every few weeks, and when doing so it’s a good idea to use a strainer as the process will separate bones from one another, teeth may fall out. Because of this its not a good method for very small animals because it will be difficult to find a piece back together all the small bones.
After maceration the bones need to be degreased then bathed in hydrogen peroxide, as said I did with the skull I bought.
Although this would be an ideal way for me to get bones, I’m not overly comfortable with going out and finding roadkill, I also do not have a garden to do this in and had to use someone else’s for the skull I cleaned.
these processes would be used by any artist who find their own bones to use in their work, or by the people the source them from. for example, Jodie Yeung is an artist i discovered at Beautiful Death Art Exhibition (link to post on that). Yeung is an artist who makes mandalas from bones which she collects from wild barn own pellets, then processes them over 3-4 days so that they are clean and white.
Melissa Davis is primarily a watercolour painter, depicting animal skulls, weeds, insects, and objects in various states of decay. Washes of colour are used to illustrate the parts of nature that people generally dislike, which is also a big point of interest for her, animals which people are afraid of, considered pests, weeds or ugly. Her paintings are quiet and the mood quite calm, the decay and death may seem mournful but overall, the growth of the plants and colours used creates a balance in mood, a calmness, and for some may completely overshadow the sadness.
Her most recent practice has been exploring dark imagery with peaceful atmospheres using various techniques, including drawing, print, photography and painting. these works primarily show skeletal remains and plants.
From Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, currently based in Derby and Leicester