Contextual LEVEL6

Barrie Cooke

Megaceros Hibernicus1983

“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.

Contextual LEVEL6

Cleaning Bones – New Technique Research

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. – Jodie Yeungs website

from Jodie Yeungs website
LEVEL6 Professional

Artistst CV

Melissa Davis

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


 Fine Art, De Montfort University   2019 – current

Photography at Thomas Alleyne’s 6th Form, 2016 – 2018

Art and Design at Thomas Alleyne’s 6th Form, 2016 – 2018

Psychology at Thomas Alleyne’s 6th Form, 2016 – 2018

various comissions and work sold into private UK collections

LEVEL6 Professional

MA – Illustration

Illustration MA

Moving forward from this course I would like to go on to potentially do a postgraduate in illustration, as this is a career I am interested in pursuing along side making my own art. I think that doing a course on it would help me to make connections in and learn about the industry.

Im currently considering going to Derby university for this, as I am currently living there and do not feel I am in a position to move cities to somewhere like Leeds. Although it is not ideal to chose a course based on this, I feel that in my own individual circumstances it is the most realistic.

The course at derby is a design course where you can choose to specialise in graphic design, illustration, fashion, textile design, interior and spatial design or product design. You can also do it as a broad Design MA. It’s £6,750 for the full course or £755 per 20 credits, 1 year full time and 2 part time. Ideally, I would like to do the course part time as this will give me more time to also work.

The entry requirements include an undergraduate degree of at least second class in a related subject, as well as a portfolio of my work.

Selection on to the Programme is based on a portfolio interview. The interview experience is an exciting opportunity for applicants to demonstrate their passion for Design. Applicants will have the opportunity to show teaching staff their interests and experimentation in the subject and they will have time to ask the questions that are important to their study. During the interview applicants will be expected to discuss the potential focus of study that they would like to undertake, including specific pathways, and to show and discuss their previous work.”

My current next steps are going to a postgraduate open event on November 27th, this will help me find out more about the course itself, the tutors and facilities. I have been to derbys Markeaton street campus looking at there fine art ba, but it would be very banaficuial to see what they offer for this course.

Contextual LEVEL6

Christophe Van De Walle and Isabelle Van Assche – Art Decay

“ArtDecay represents two passionate photographers Isabelle &
The passion of decay brought us together as couples, two years
later we are husband and wife With ArtDecay we want to show
you where the decay brought us
Exploring around the world that’s what we try to do every free
moment. Go to places other people neglected, wander around and
take pictures of the abandoned world”

i began my current line of investigation with my facination with abandoned places left to nature, the way that nature takes things back. Art Decay are two fine art photographers exploring abandoned places, which is something i would love to do if not for the risk of being arrested for tresspassing, so i have settled for photographing them from the ourside.

for me photographs of abandoned places create very unique feelings when you look at them, especially when nature has begun reocupying the space. although i found through seccond year that i dont particulary enjoy painting buildings, my cruurent work work with bones and plants aims to convey similar feelings.


Duke Mitchel – artist talk

Exploring the links between photography and painting 

This work by Mitchel was made from a record he found one day and repurposed into a painting. He likes the idea of recycling found objects, we see a lot of rubbish around the streets, and e would have the compulsion to go and pick that stuff up. Around the edge are clumps of paint which had fallen off of other paintings and are repurposed into a frame around the record. He would go out to find street litter to use as raw materials for more sculptural works.

Here I see links with my own works, these objects have been lost or abandoned in the same way as the spaces which I have been photographing and painting.

I would also like to explore the concept of bringing found materials into my work, in paintings where there re abandoned structures for example, I would paste actual found posters or images onto them like what may be on the walls themselves, or actual signs that may be in place there.

The textures of the paint around the edge are also similar to some of the experimenting I did with pint and other substances to create texture, through my work I also tend to keep scrapings of left over paint from my palette to perhaps use later, which I would incorporate into my paintings to create textures.

Mitchel also has a series of works which are somewhat the opposite of how I have been working. The photograph on the left was taken to mimic the painting on the right. He has a series of photograph taken in this way. In my work I have been going out and taking photos, with the intention to make them into paintings later on. These paintings can be constructed with parts from different images and edited how I want the same way that a photograph can be adjusted and staged in the moment and in post.


Catriona Leahy – Artist Talk

Catriona Leahy / Aesthetics of Disappearance

Drawing attention to a sense of loss and disappearance

“I examine time, duration & memory both in a personal and wider social context, giving these inherently ambiguous, intangible and subjective phenomena a material and spatial context. I am intrigued by the apparently enduring presence and stability of structures and form – social, physical, geographical and cultural – and the transitory and malleable nature of memory, a moment in time, where time as well as these constructs are perpetually moving and in flux. Redundant or vacant spaces often pose as protagonists in my work; their structure and form have a virtue of clarity, coherency and vividness but by their curious appearance and ambiguous setting, they remain notoriously evasive and ambivalent with the ever-present possibility of dissolution. As conduit spaces for my exploration into time and duration, they call to mind the brevity of our occupancy of space, and the dependency on our presence to ensure their abiding memory.”

Found photos of purpose built game areas, 3 sided structures to play hand ball in. she was interested in these photographs because they seem out of place, out of time, no longer used how they were made to be, rather they may now be used as places for storage or dumping grounds. These structures are gradually falling into disrepair. Mirrors the gradual decline in local populations and micro communities in small towns. These structures are left behind as emblems of a community that no longer had that community to activate it. Bult by funds, community spaces, people would come to play and as spectators.

Her work developed from this is shown as a projection, the video of the game area is show along with sound which she recreated. the camera is positioned where the spectator would be.

Spit bite etching miniatures, documenting different ball alleys.

These photo etchings are the same ball alleys, but these show the podium where the spectators would watch the game, where the camera was placed in the video work. These were built at a later date than the ball court, perhaps to encourage spectators and renew interest in the sport.

Photo etching of a factory on rusted steel (abobe).  Closed in the 1980, causing the loss of hundreds of jobs. It remained empty until very recently when it was dismantled due to the amount of asbestos used in it so people were reluctant to get involved in dismantling it

This print (below) of the same factory was printed using a laser printer, and then transferred using chemicals onto   Japanese paper, each small piece that make it up is about a5 in size. These pieces mirror the fragmented appearance of the structure itself. They are assembled onto the wall only by the tops of the paper, which causes the fragile paper to move with the audience, which results in a floaty, dynamic appearance.

These works of hers in particular are of interest to me due to their similar subject to some of the work I have been doing. These abandoned empty spaces which have lost their purpose. Although for Leahy she is more interested In the shift of society and cultures, where mine are more fantasy like,  looking at the  stillness of empty spaces as if society as a whole has vanished.



one professional are that i am interested in is illustration, this could come in the form of comissioned drawings/ working from a breif, making my own to sell or even working with a company.

a large part of considering this avanue for making money is being self amployed, and everything that comes along with that. Anyone making more than £1000 of income as a sole trader must set up as a sole trader, register for self assessment, and fill thus out yearly at the end of every tax year. To do this, records of sales and expenses must be kept, such as keeping track of sales, invoices, bank statements, and reciepts.

usually, an employer would take income tax from wages before they come to you, but this is not the case if you are self employed. someone who is classed as a sole trader has to declair their proffits to the government so that they know how much income tax they owe for that year.

Income Tax rates and bands

The table shows the tax rates you pay in each band if you have a standard Personal Allowance of £12,570.

Income tax bands are different if you live in Scotland.

BandTaxable incomeTax rate
Personal AllowanceUp to £12,5700%
Basic rate£12,571 to £50,27020%
Higher rate£50,271 to £150,00040%
Additional rateover £150,00045%

You can also see the rates and bands without the Personal Allowance. You do not get a Personal Allowance on taxable income over £125,140.

Although this was not paid work, it was helpful to gain experience designing something for someone with real world application. This design was made with the intention of it being a tattoo, as a memory for a deceased family member, showing their favourite type of flower and dog breed. I started by spending time sketching out each individual part and learning what they looked like (the specific breed of dog and its features, the way the flower is constructed)

Another project which I worked on was a commission for a Dungeons and Dragons character, or rather a character’s pet. This was paid work which I did in 2020. This was also done digitally on a tablet. This piece especially was a very helpful experience for me, as the client was someone I had never met or spoken to before. This was very out of my comfort zone nut was a good experience to have.


photographs – primary research

As part of developing my work I have gone out to take my own photos, as part of my research and development I have taken a variety of my own photos from around the area where I live. when I went out on this walk, I was specifically aiming for one building that I had seen before and knew I wanted to photograph, bit I found that as I was walking, I saw lots of other opportunities to take photos which inspired me. I later used many of these photos as reference for paintings.

George Shaw is also known for painting urban spaces, specifically the council estate which he grew up on. These paintings show no people, but usually show signs that there was someone there, graffiti, doors left open etc. Along with this there always seems to be nature creeping into these paintings, there are trees and other plants around the buildings, which is something that I found around me also, in the places I photographed and is something I used heavily in my paintings like these.

I have always found this kind of imagery interesting, abandoned buildings, objects decaying, nature taking over structures. These kinds of images create a quiet, eery atmosphere and makes you question what could have happened. For me, I also enjoy when the paint itself reflects the atmosphere, with the colours and textures. For example, this print by Catriona Leahy is done onto rusted metal, bringing the surface es in the image into the art itself. It is also quite dark, in a similar way to the paintings I have been doing of buildings.

When it is easier to travel more, I would like to be able to travel to more places specifically to photograph building and areas of abandonment, perhaps even areas of nature which have no people around so that I can try to capture the stillness of being alone in those spaces. I would also like to try looking for found objects outside, or in second hand sops to incorporate into my works.


other photos along the river