Thursday, 3 December 2015

BFI Film Futures Festival

When cinema wizard Amy Smart sent me this exciting BFI poster brief up on Talenthouse, I hastily signed up for an account and added it to my projects to-do list. In the early am on the day of the deadline, I set about turning one of my Future C U R I O U S kano illustrations into a functioning poster to fit the spec, finding the illustration pretty spot on to reflect my idea of the future of film-making as immersive, imaginative and DIY.

Friday, 27 November 2015

More Than Money: Investing In Your Creative Future

As we prepare to enter the last month of the year I find myself taking stock; looking back on what I've done so far and how I got to this point. I think by often maintaining firm focus on the future - pushing ahead to the next step necessary to further the next idea - how exactly we achieved what we've already achieved can easily pass us by.

After a turbulent few months with plenty of R&R (restructuring & redundancies) at the arts centre in which I work, I've been forced to really look at everything I've done as an independent practitioner and re-assert what I have to offer to whom. This process has been very rewarding, and has led me to a new realisation with regards to my current trajectory. Previously considering the last few years as an organic journey made up of a series of things that happened to me, upon reflection I understand that I also helped get myself here, through investment.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Art of Social Media

This piece is for the lovely Forge mag team to accompany a written piece about the internet (specifically social media) empowering young creatives to get their work out into the wider world. After a few days half-heartedly trying to make an overly complex illustration, I took some time away from it and a simpler concept started to emerge.

Monday, 21 September 2015

(B:) Future FORUM

Yesterday I shared the spoils of my Kano challenge at mac birmingham as part of their Future FORUM, the final component of this year's Future C U R I O U S festival. As detailed in my earlier post about my approach to the TINKER process, the result was a series of images inspired by colour mode RGB made using pencil, a scanner and various techniques of image manipulation on the raspberry pi using free software / Kano OS.

Friday, 18 September 2015

(G:) Byng@Kano ~ $

As one of the artists tasked with creatively utilising a Kano kit as part of the Future C U R I O U S TINKER commission, I have been working my way around the functioning of the raspberry pi and considering its potential in relation to my drawing practice. My initial response was that I would need to find out how to make work by drawing with code and that the raspberry pi was a potential competitor with regards to creating illustrations in the future instead of a tool I could utilise, but that thought process has changed a lot in the last few weeks.

Thursday, 17 September 2015


When I saw Rope Press were running summer school workshops as an introduction to risograph printing, I leapt at the chance to get down there in order to try the process and find out how to get the most out of it. Arriving at the studio building I was met by the friendly Reece and shown up to the unit, which was every contemporary image makers dream. Rope Press are both an artist-led printing press and publishing house, so there was some srsly tasty books lining the walls, along with lots of example prints they have produced, through both orders and workshops.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

(R:) Kano Unboxing

As part of Future C U R I O U S festival I was given a new toy, and challenged to use it within my creative practice. Yahtzee! This new toy was a KANO kit, a computer that you build and code yourself. Inside the box lay a Raspberry Pi 2, some charming illustrated manuals, a DIY speaker, fabulously orange keyboard, SD card, various colourful cables, a WiFi dongle, case and stickers (because what self-respecting future explorer wants their computer to look like everyone else's?) *NB: bananas not included.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Contemporary Other

When asked to contribute something to Contemporary Other's second issue 'FEMINISM IS', my first thought was YES! *punches air* and the second thought was Harnaam Kaur. I'd been wanting to draw her for a while, blown away by her power, grace and femininity in the face of shallow questions from TV hosts about how she would find love as a heterosexual female with a beard. She wasn’t constructing her identity to be attractive to others and that must have scared the shit out of them. To see more from this superstar role model visit @harnaamkaur, and check out the forthcoming volume of CO for feminist dialogue that dismisses the majority and favours the other.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Jamie & Eliza

I can now reveal the surprise wedding commission I completed earlier this month. It was a big challenge for me to do an original drawing at A2 size - after so long riding the crest of A4 & A3 works it suddenly felt a long way to the centre of the page - but this also made it a hugely satisfying project to complete. Congratulations Jamie and Eliza!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Best Of The Biennale

Picture the biggest exhibition you've ever seen and times it by 3. Then imagine there's two of them. Now throw in 89 pavilions representing an entire country each, and 44 collateral events across different locations, and there you have La Biennale di Venezia; a wonderful and colossal serpent of art let loose for the summer in the floating city of Venice. This summer saw my first visit to the International Art Exhibition, now at its 56th imagining, and I was totally bowled over by how much there was to see, as well as the effect that engaging with that much artwork had on my 'digestion' of it - a fascinating insight into what I look for in art and how my experience of it can be altered.

Of course it would have been wholly inconceivable to get around it all during a 5 day stay, but here is a run down of the top ten tasty artefacts and experiences I consumed during my visit:

#10 Dutch Pavilion. to be all ways to be, Herman de Vries.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Snapshots of Venezia

Last month me and Laurie flew to Venice to explore the La Biennale di Venezia - 56th International Art Exhibition. We stayed in a beautiful apartment in Sant' Elena - dubbed 'the greenest district in Venice' - surrounded by local folks, tiny businesses and a shady park. Our adventures led us from this charming neighbourhood right up to the tourist throng of San Marco and back again through tiny walkways, piazzas and waterways; via cafes, gelateries, markets, marbled paper shops and even a Hard Rock Cafe. Here are some snapshots of our visit.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Murray In A Hurry

My projects have a tendency to develop over a long period of time in different, perhaps unnecessarily complex, ways - but every now and then a simple idea comes along fully formed. Loudly and over-excitedly suggesting to mac birmingham's Cinema Producer Amy Smart that we hold a 'Murry In A Hurry' temporary tattoo parlour to compliment their outdoor screening of Ghostbusters was a prime example of the latter, and due to Amy's matched enthusiasm a truly great little project was born right there on the bus.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Growing Out: Thoughts On Turning 25

I turned 25 last month; as a June baby one of the last to do so amongst my friends. Across my 24th year I'd started hearing a new phrase: I'm getting too old for this. Chums began to disappear abruptly from nights of drinking early, and conversations always seemed to move towards some kind of mutual paranoia that their lives were being wasted. Bummer. Along with that cheery thought, Buzzfeed links were flying everywhere called things like 25 Signs You're About To Turn 25, 25 Things That Get Harder After Age 25 & 25 Signs That You're Having A Quarter Life Crisis. I feared the worst. 25 had started to look boring as f*ck, and I began to wonder if I would just wake up to find all the youthful energy sucked from my soul by 25 fun vampires with party straws.

Something I've realised in the weeks since is that growth and change don't have anything to do with age, it's about how you let yourself feel in respect of it. I firmly believe we choose what we carry around with us; what labels we adopt when forming our self identity and how we regard them. If we let a society that prizes unaged faces make us feel old, even at the midpoint of our twenties, we will live up to associations we have attached to that. Equally if we reject the idea of growing older altogether we may hold on to an 'escape route' of traits linked to younger selves - such as the more carefree days when we were a student - rather than moving upwards and outwards in order to find new elements to add to and enrich our sense of self.

With that in mind, here are my personal reflections on what standing inside 25 means to me.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Bees In A Tin

In its own words, "Bees In A Tin is a celebration of interesting people who make interesting interfaces for the world around them", drawing me in with its promise of custard to punch and with the aim of learning about new projects using technology creatively. Taking place on a Friday afternoon at Millennium Point, 'twas a gathering of creatives, makers, scientists and researchers who for whatever reason weren't stuck in an office somewhere; myself slotted neatly into the lecture theatre - very prepared to take lots of notes and refuel with the free lunch.

Here are some of the ideas that inspired me:

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Royal Pear

There comes a point in any design project when the client says: "We really like the pear." Wait... what?
I was asked to design a logo for the My Worcester project by Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery, with a brief to take inspiration from icons of Worcestershire and illuminated manuscripts. Keen to freshen things up a bit, I kept the traditional text clean and bold, and drew such Worcester-centric items as Elgar, Worcester Cathedral, Royal Worcester porcelain and the Worcester Black Pear as a basis from which to work. My initial design sheet full of bits and pieces is shown above, with a couple of developments using these elements below.

Monday, 29 June 2015

BOM Summer Camp

Last week I did some illustration work for a forthcoming children's summer school at Birmingham Open Media, drawing characters made up of electronic equipment such as wires, transistors, speakers, batteries and bulbs all having fun together at some kind of groovy circuit party.

Taken from the event brief: Perfect for budding inventors and restless minds, this week-long summer camp teaches kids how to solder, build and program objects that respond to commands! Create your own robot or mystical creature. Take part in a cretinous creature jamboree. Race in a robot rally. Take away your very own invention that will amaze your friends!

Aimed at 7-11 year olds, I was conscious of not making the designs gendered and opted for using bright 'electric' colours on a dark background. Focusing on creativity through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) I also felt it important to convey something of the playful tinkering the event will involve without it becoming too childish or conventionally educational in style - because, let's face it, these kids are the badasses of the future.

Hay Fever

How The Light Gets In could be considered the Hay Fringe; the cooler cousin to the famous Hay Festival just down the road. It was my second visit to this yearly celebration of writing, and this time I just strolled across for some mango lassi ice cream and a few talks, detailed below.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Yurt Life: How The Light Gets In Festival

Wired and wellied, I stepped off the bus into a beautiful sunny Hay day. Walking through the winding book-laden streets, across a bridge over the River Wye - waving to the canoeists below - I arrived at the Riverside site of How The Light Gets In festival. Here I was wrapped in wristbands and pointed in the direction of a field. This was yurt country. My festival dwellings came in the form of the most well-furnished tent I'd ever seen. Not only could I stand up inside, but there was a real bed frame, hand-embroidered textiles, electricity and enough room to bust some yoga moves should the wellbeing levels need to be raised even higher.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Paying Artists Is Good For You

I attended a discussion at Eastside Projects entitled Not Paying Artists Is Bad For You, a public sounding board for the Paying Artists campaign. Led by current advocates for the campaign in Birmingham, Ruth Claxton, Associate Director of Eastside Projects, and Cheryl Jones, Director of Grand Union, the event focused on discussing the issue of securing payment for artists who work in publicly-funded galleries. This may seem to be a straight-forward good idea (after all, artists need to eat too) but forms part of a very worrying state of affairs as we descend into an economy in which fewer and fewer visual artists will be able to sustain their practice unless something changes.

The panel: Elizabeth Rowe / Toby Watley / One Five West / Gavin Wade / Dorothy Wilson / Stuart Whipps

Each speaker presented a short provocation relating to the topic, including GW talking of claiming back the immense value that art generates through public good, and recent graduates OFW (Anna Horton & Sophie Bullock) asking why education doesn't set art out as a viable form of employment. Questions were then pinged around the room from audience to host to speakers and back, addressing wider concerns around the perceived undervaluation of the arts, a lack of guidance or structure surrounding payment, and the risk of finance as a barrier to making.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

All-Nighters: The Dos & Don'ts

It makes some kind of twisted sense that my first wellbeing topic would be about staying up all night. Known for my nocturnal nature - made obvious by being the only person still tweeting at 4am - I find that creativity can really come alive when the lights go out; something I wrote about in more detail in What Hath Night To Do With Sleep? - an article featured in Another Escape #4. However, whether you like staying up or not, sometimes you are presented with a task that may need an overnight push, such as a university deadline, a quick turn-around commission, or a personal goal that you're just desperate to get done whilst your earthly hours are taken up.

Whatever your reason for going all night, here are some things to think about before you sail boldly into early morning oblivion.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

BUST Craftacular

This morning I am going to London to buy a Heat magazine for my first market in the capital; BUST Craftacular at York Hall, Bethnal Green. To celebrate I've been busy making some little rosettes this week especially for customers to wear on their lapel, bag, hat, horse... wherever they fancy, frankly. These little creations turned out to be simple in their construction, made from paper, glue, stickers and brooch bars. It has been really refreshing to make something more physically by folding, holding, cutting and sticking rather than staring at a 2D page and trying to make something happen, with the repetition of doing the same processes becoming quite a mind calmer.

Looking forward to meeting the other crafters and comparing paper cuts, as well as accessorising the inevitably lovely Craftacular crowds with some country fair / political party chic. Now y'all just have to pick your favourite.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Pencils And Pixels

I took it upon myself to design some new branding for the things that I make and sell - such as prints, zines and cards - desiring to trade these under the name Byng Inc. through an online shop and at craft markets. Finding it difficult to take this area of my fledgling business seriously, I thought it would help to establish a visual identity for the 'shop' element separately to me as an individual creative. This meant that it needed to be distinctive to customers in a way that my project-based arc doesn't, and also shout a little louder about its bad self.

Here are some of the things I thought about when creating it:

+ Hand-finished        + Bold                  - Messy                - Busy
+ Professional           + Structure          - Corporate          - Forgettable
+ Colossal                 + Line                  - Shy                   - Pre-existing
+ Contrasting            + Scalable            - Illegible            - Jumbled

Friday, 8 May 2015

Scenes Of A Political Nature

In the run up to tonight's general election I have spent many an evening watching the leader's debates and scribbling away at my desk, enchanted by the array of weird and not-so-wonderful candidates presented before me. Exploring their malleable faces has been very fun (seen here looking like the beginning of a political Guess Who? game) but also turned out to be a good way of prompting discussion with my followers and friends about what we want the future of this country to look like.

Now, as the votes come in, slowly, two things are for sure: 1) The landscape of British politics is shifting, with the rise of interest in smaller parties showing that people are looking for something different. 2) The new prime minster is in this post somewhere. Let's pray it's not the guy who looks like a thumb.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Exploring Form: Pick Me Up 2015

Yesterday I travelled to The Big Smoke to visit theme park of the illustration world Pick Me Up at Somerset House. Attending the festival each year since graduating in 2012, I find it a good excuse to get creative chums together to talk about the discipline over coffee from the comfort of a cardboard tee-pee. I remember turning up in 2013 armed with my job seekers letter to get a concession ticket and, whilst a lot has changed sine then, it still feels relevant to my own practice to pay attention to PMU's selections and showcases, as well as indulging my appetite for eye candy.

Here are 5 words that go some way to summarising my experience of this year's festival:

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Craft Fair Weather Friends

On Saturday 11th April the accolade of my first market of the year went to Three Thinking Collective, a group of small-business-owning ladies from Birmingham who have come together to put on their own craft events. Their debut market took place on a sunny day in The Prince of Wales' beer garden in Moseley; soon bustling with punters looking to enjoy some independent shopping & hot dogs in the sunshine, all washed down with a cheeky pint.

My offerings included zines, limited edition prints, and my new line of silly boyband cards. Not an expert stall holder by any means, my arrangement was a far cry from some vendours who had stands, shelves, vintage suitcases; all manner of professional-looking props to make their products look the biz, also maximising the use of the table space by showcasing upwards and outwards. For me, this was the first time I'd even brought my own table covering and, whilst it was an old duvet cover, I took pride in that. I also managed to prop Bill Murray up steadfast & certain, meaning that, despite the bursts of wind rippling though the patio, he wasn't going anywhere.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Easter Inspiration

I decided to take some of my own advice and forged out some space to go on a little Easter adventure. A couple of days running amok in the capital has reset my mounting stress levels back to a cool 0 and I feel strangely refreshed for someone who spent the majority of the weekend underground. Here are some of the things I got up to.

Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea
Fighting past all the little knee-high monsters queuing to the see the dinosaurs, I visited the temporary Coral Reefs exhibition at the National History Museum. Not usually inspired by natural forms, the different shapes and textures were enchanting, lending themselves to different types of mark-making. Some of the names were also amazing, such as Slipper Coral and Potato Chip Coral. Sounds like a good combination for a night in if you ask me.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

#1.1 HOW TO: Begin Again

It's funny how things work out.

In January 2014 I wrote a post called How To Begin. Some of you may even have read it. The first instalment of a new project; a monthly creative HOW TO driven by things I've learned about the things I'm trying to get better at, I said. Well monthly it was not, despite my greatest intentions, leading to a wonderfully ironic first step; a beginning with nothing to follow it. I should be a little embarrassed about not meeting this public claim, but I have been guilty of setting myself unachievable goals, infinite to-do lists and exhibiting symptoms of too-many-ideas-at-once syndrome throughout my life; half-finished ambitious personal projects being one of them.

Trying hard always has the potential to lead to falling harder. We are particularly susceptible to suffering damage when we truly put ourselves into something as it's all too easy to take the results personally. Creating and dwelling on problems with our very self rather than the specific task or particular instance can really affect our confidence towards moving forward. It's like an elastic band: the more energy put in, the more that can come back and smack us in the face. The thing is, these efforts are also where the sweetest successes could be waiting for us; the deepest loves, the truest passions, the greatest achievements. The rewards, it would seem, are worth the risk. But how do we convince ourselves of that when we are feeling the effects of a personal failure?

Monday, 6 April 2015

Cowboys & Robots & Sharks, Oh My!

Another weekend, another fun-filled workshop with Flatpack. This one was centred around youngsters designing their own film posters, using my illustrated kit sheet, coloured paper and letter stencils. Held in mac birmingham's public space alongside illustration heroes Anorak, it was really busy with crowds seeming to come in waves, filling the space to burst between screenings and crucial family food breaks. It was wonderful to be sat at the table myself, listening to the participants' ideas for their films, what art class was like at their schools and of course, helping with the cutting out, with some kids staying happily and crafting their masterpieces for hours.

Monday, 30 March 2015

How To Get Big On The Internet

I recently attended the last in a series of Creative How To talks by Amy Martin, entitled How to Get Big on the Internet. No stranger to this manner of creative career navigation session (having followed the previous Cannon Hill Lectures series at mac birmingham and generally spending time gathering as many nuggets of wisdom about how to move forward in the arts as possible), I was surprised by how much the talk gripped me by the shoulders and gave me a renewed sense of optimism towards my own online presence.

The exciting part was that the internet had aided the careers of each speaker in lots of different ways, including being asked to speak at events, run workshops and write articles directly as a result of the content they create and distribute online. It was these potential benefits to social media engagement that I had begun to lose faith in, always enjoying it on a personal level but beginning to doubt if it could help me professionally; something that this session injected with a fresh sense of possibility.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Character Factory

This weekend I led my first ever workshop. a little drop-in number for kids following Flatpack Film Festival's Cartoon Rock screening. I was crazy nervous in the run up, partly because I haven't conducted workshops of my own design before and didn't know what to expect, but also due to imagining kids swallowing small parts or getting paper cuts - I mean, nobody likes a boo-boo. Armed with safety scissors, pritt sticks & a variety of coloured paper shapes (lovingly hand cut, like posh chips) I descended on the Birmingham & Midland Institute and got set up.

Fresh out of a morning film session and armed with bowls of cereal, lots of children filled the tables and began working with the shapes in front of them. Circulating and chatting to the families taking part, it was nice to see both parties regarding the creations as characters with personalities and traits, with one little girl making a rather abstract fellow called "plap-plap" who enjoyed drinking wine, with another youngster declaring their creature's favourite food was "vegetarian fruit". The shapes began to come alive with the imagination of their maker.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

It Only Takes A Minute, Girl

What started off as a whimsical idea at the gym (upon hearing a Blue song for the first time in years) turned quickly into a moderate-sized mission. Deciding to design some 90s / 00s boyband cards ready for Valentine's Day seemed like a laugh, and I spent lots of time researching cheesy lyrics and discussing the final selection with friends, but I had not anticipated the hours spent perfecting facial hair and pouts that this series would involve. Finding the band members incredibly difficult to draw on first attempts, I identified that this was not only because I was rushing them, but also due to the fact that I was trying to achieve the portraits as part of group shots at a smaller scale, with the designs only really coming together once I super-sized each character's face separately before reassembling them (with some poor buggers like Duncan, Spike and Nick Carter still looking pretty fruity).

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Bread Cat

Dogs were so last year. (Sorry, Magic).

Easing myself into 2015 gently, this little commission for The World of Internet Cats event as part of Flatpack Film Festival couldn't have come at a better time.

After declaring it a dream brief and diving straight into hours of rigorous research (watching countless cat videos on youtube) I chose to focus on the phenomena of cat breading. Keeping the image square was a conscious decision to make it an ideal instagram-sharing shape, whilst also neatly framing the slice of bread (which is neatly framing the cat). The kitty in question is Snoopybabe, an instagram star, and the heartbreaking filling to this fluffy illustration sandwich. Just look at that face.

The event is in conjunction with F A M A L A M, exploring parenting and play in the 21st Centry, and after being carefully curated by nippers under 5 years the screening will take place on Saturday 21st March. To find out more click here, where you can also recommend cat videos for inclusion.