Tuesday, August 08, 2017

drawing group exhibitions

If you live in or around Bristol, then I strongly recommend that you check out these two exhibitions at the historic city churches of St John on the Wall (in the crypt) in Broad Street and Saint Stephen’s in St Stephen’s Street:

St John on the Wall:
Wednesday 30 August-Monday 11 September (11.30am-2pm, Monday- Sunday). Preview/Open evening: Thursday 31 August 5.30-7.30pm.

Saint Stephen’s:
Thursday 7 September-Wednesday 20 September (9.30am-3.30pm Monday-Friday). Preview/Open evening: Thursday 7 September 5.30-7.30pm.

They will be exhibitions with a difference…
For the past 16 months or so, I’ve belonged to an amazing Drawing Group, which meets from 10.30am-12.30pm every Tuesday in either Saint Stephen’s Church (first Tuesdays in the month) or St John-on-the-Wall Church in Broad St (all other Tuesdays) to draw or write poetry or take photographs.
It’s a very lovely, welcoming and diverse collection of individuals with a wide range of artistic abilities, experience and backgrounds… led by the brilliant Charlotte and Alice Pain, wonderful artists in their own right. The exhibitions consist of sketches that group members have undertaken over the past year (we had a similar exhibition in St John’s Crypt last July/August). Some people have some drawing or photographic experience behind them (but, perhaps, have let the habit lapse?). Others have hardly previously drawn at all. For some, it’s an opportunity to experiment. For some, the group’s principal benefit is the group’s sociability.
Anyone/everyone is welcome to join and I’ve been incredibly impressed by the warmth of the welcome and its non-judgemental approach to art and creativity.
This is what Charlotte has previously written about the project and the group:
“This project is about helping the public connect to buildings and locations. It is about breathing a new breath of life into churches, bringing community back within them and exploring their uses. It’s about getting people drawing and making. It’s about a belief that creativity can help us to strengthen our voices, nurture our mental health and help us connect to each other.

From a core group of people who rarely miss a session to random visitors to the city who have long left Bristol behind them, each drawing is a moment in the life of St John’s/Saint and of the people who have walked through the doors. With the support and open-mindedness of The Churches Conservation Trust the project has flourished.
We are a diverse group of people who have developed a passion for St John’s/ Stephen’s and have spent many hours drawing, photographing and admiring these special buildings. This is not only a celebration, but an invitation to the rest of Bristol to join us”.
As you might realise, Charlotte and Alice are a bit special!

I don’t want to embarrass people by highlighting their individual talents or what they bring to the group but, hopefully, this will provide a flavour: Mike has produced more than 100 sketches over the past couple of years and his friendliness encapsulates all that the group stands for; Brian is another of those gentle, generous, welcoming people and his photographs of the churches are an inspiration; David is a simply brilliant artist (especially his watercolours!) who can draw beautifully and chat amusingly at the same time(!); Betty has been something of a revelation for me – every week, she produces her simple, intricate, beautiful sketches; Jonathan loves coming to the group – he’s industrious, friendly and with a passion for art; Jaki simply draws beautifully… and then there’s also Christine, Chris, Frances, Anne-Marie, DaveP, CharlotteM, DaveW, Justin, Jeff, Jean, Alex, Helen, Marc, Aran, Ed etc etc.     
Membership of the group is completely free so, if you fancy having an excuse to do some drawing, then why not give it a try?
Please take an opportunity to pop into the exhibitions to see examples of the work the group has produced over the past twelve months (and also to see these two beautiful Grade I Listed churches).

Photo: Artwork set out on the floor of the Crypt at St John's... selecting from the huge wealth of work produced over the past year wasn't easy!! 

Monday, August 07, 2017

dunkirk…

I have, at last, seen Christopher Nolan’s film “Dunkirk”!
It’s everything that I’d anticipated – in terms of being made to feel as if ‘you were there’ in the stark, brutal, frightening reality of war. Nolan cleverly (and very effectively) does this through three separate narratives (the evacuation from the beach; the pleasure craft coming to the rescue; and the battles in the air), which play out over three different time periods (one week, one day and one hour respectively)... with everything converging at Dunkirk and with time itself being variously compressed and elongated.
It’s all brilliantly done… and really does give you a sense of being part of the action.
My one slight reservation is the ‘fictionalisation’ of it all. True, stories-within-stories probably do help to convey a sense of reality (ie. how something affects a person or a family member or a colleague), but there were certainly times during the film when I found myself wanting to see the ‘bigger picture’ and not to be caught up in a bit of made-up story! I’m a great admirer of Kenneth Branagh as an actor, but even I found his portrayal of ‘Commander Bolton’ like something out of a 1950’s war film (or even like his characterisation of Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the London Olympics opening ceremony!). But, hey, that’s probably just me…
Anyway, this is a film definitely worth seeing.
PS: I’m clearly not used to attending cinemas such as ‘Cinema De Lux’ (frankly, give me the Watershed every time!). Somewhat ridiculously (I think it’s the first time I’ve been to a cinema before noon), I attended the 11.50am showing – but COULD have attended any one of today’s FIFTEEN scheduled screenings(!). In the event, I was one of just FIVE people in the audience… in an auditorium that seated some 300!!
PPS: The adverts and trailers ran for a full THIRTY minutes (I looked at my watch)!  Not only that, but they were INCREDIBLY loud (and I mean incredibly)… it felt a bit like being in a 1970s disco where the DJ wanted to show off the volume of his machinery. Anyway, I found it utterly unbearable and, acknowledging that there just might be one or two loud explosions in the main feature film (something of an understatement!), I ended up stuffing tissue paper in both ears (yes, REALLY!) in anticipation… and I’m very glad that I did!

Friday, August 04, 2017

typefaces, fonts, lettering… and stuff

After watching a recent television programme about typefaces (Gill Sans and Johnston), I’ve been reflecting on my own fascination with the subject.
Clearly, with my father being a compositor and printer (I still have very clear memories of visiting his place of work - Dams+Lock in Birmingham - and seeing and handling the metal typesetting ‘sorts’) and every page set by hand, it isn’t that surprising.

This has triggered all sorts of memories from my childhood… two of these involved watching BBC sport on the television.
I used to love watching test match cricket on the television (in black+white, of course, and featuring the likes of Peter West) and was intrigued by the handwritten, updated scorecards they used to put up on the screen at the fall of every wicket… beautifully and laboriously written out with traditional dip pens, metal nibs and bottles of ink! I used to try to emulate the behind-the-scenes mystery calligraphers – and wonder at how (comparatively) quickly they were at updating their scorecards compared with me doing the same on the dining table.
Actually, although I got to be pretty proficient at using lettering pens, I never really liked the style of lettering produced with a pen nib (I felt they were a “bit old-fashioned”).
My other television lettering fascination involved the production of the horse racing results! During the course of the Saturday afternoon “Grandstand” programme, they would show the racing results. Every result was shown on screen in the form of hand-written lettering (using italic, capital letters, I recall): first, second and third horses; their numbers, names and betting odds. These were produced at an amazing rate and all beautifully-crafted (with an impression that they were done using a brush… or am I imagining this?). Sadly, I haven’t been able to find an example of either the cricket scorecards or the racing results on the internet (maybe I’m searching in the wrong places? If anyone can come up with either of these, please do let me know!). I was so captivated by the racing result stuff that I can actually remember thinking it could be something I might do for a living!

Actually, it was the traditional typefaces that I was really interesting in.
I was part of the “Remove” stream at school (taking O Levels in four years instead of five). Sadly, in order to do this the powers-that-be insisted that anyone in this stream had to give up Art (how scandalous is that!). Eventually (but not until the very start of my O Level year), I mustered up the courage to ask ‘special permission’ to do Art… and, after MUCH head-shaking and irritation, the Headmaster finally agreed to my request (I must have been much braver than I actually recall!). I decided to opt for lettering as the most practical way of making up for lost time… which involved setting out, drawing up and painting lots of different forms of lettering. I found it all quite satisfying and passed my Art O Level without difficulty (but abandoned lettering for painting, drawing etc for A Level… but that’s another story!).
When I first arrived at School of Architecture in Oxford, I can recall drawing up and inking in lettering for my initial projects… but then we discovered the wonder of Letraset (dry rub-down Instant Lettering)! It totally transformed our lives as architectural students… graphic design and presentation was an important part of our architectural education and I think we went just a little over-the-top with our Letraset (and, for penniless students, it didn’t come cheap!)!

I’ve continued to be fascinated by typefaces and calligraphy. In particular, Japanese calligraphy has always rather captivated me. There was a recent television series (sadly no longer available on iPlayer, it seems?) on the BBC entitled “Handmade in Japan” which included a section on calligraphy – including work/performance by (I think) Miyu Tamamura (see this YouTubeclip)… one day, perhaps, I’ll roll back the living room carpet and have a go!
Computers, the internet and the digital world have long since taken over our lives when it comes to words, graphics, images et al… and it’s brilliant. But there’s just part of me that still yearns for some of the ‘old technology’, hand-produced stuff!
Photo: The cover from my 1984 Letraset catalogue (believe me, I had several others from the late 1960s onwards… all sadly binned!).