Van Mural Fest 2017 – how we made our mark

This year marks the second ever Mural Festival in Vancouver, taking place from the 7th – 12th August around the Mount Pleasant and Strathcona areas of the city. There are tons of new murals going up, and it’s a really exciting time for street art in the city – which has completely transformed the area from how we remember it when we visited last June.

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So yesterday after work (that’s right I got myself a job already!!) – Aidan and I headed over to Mount Pleasant to find the festival in full swing! Murals going up left right and centre, some in their infancy and others fully formed. We headed to 4th to help finish up a community-painted mural designed by Jenny Ritter and facilitated by Tin Can Studios.

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The mural was open for the public to fill in, paint-by-numbers style, on the 9th &10th of August. We arrived around 6 on the 10th to find most of the mural done, but they were still in need of people to go over patchy areas and neaten up lines. Aidan had the important task of bridging the gap between two indigo roads, and I set to tightening up a bunch of electric blue areas around a large bird.

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This is the part of the mural I helped tidy up. Pretty proud of my work in electric blue around the trees! The lady doing the hand lettering is Jenny Ritter, who designed the mural.

The ladies from Tin Can Studio running the event were super friendly and chatty, as was artist Jenny Ritter – who runs a rock choir in Vancouver! We both really enjoyed ourselves, and it felt great to be taking part in an arts event so soon after coming to Vancouver – as well as knowing that we were making our mark in our newly adopted city.

No free pastries were involved….apparently….

We may have missed out on free pastries….

The difficult days

So in the flurry of excitement and organisational chaos of the last few months, there have only been a few days where emotions have peaked and things have become a little overwhelming. I think it’s an important thing to recognise, and something which is pretty inevitable when you move to a new country.

Before our move, I found it particularly difficult saying good bye to Paul, Mus and Becky – and the CSM print studio in Archway. My final goodbye with Becky being a particularly tearful one outside the toilets, flanked by a ridiculous amount of botched together carrying devices to cart all of my prints and frames home with me. I still don’t know how I managed to carry all of that stuff home, the weight of it was just stupid. Then there was the final trip to Essex to visit my grandma – brave face the whole time, but then tears in the car on the way home. The embraces on tubes on the way home after drinks celebrating both friendship and choosing adventure. The goodbyes with my family the day before we left and moments of closeness I’m not sure we’ve experienced since my dad’s kidney failure. Saying goodbye to Gizmo and Luna and moving them to my parents’ house.

We arrived in Canada a little under 6 weeks ago, and I can honestly say that there have only been 2 days in that time where I have become emotional – only 2 days where I have felt the distance. One of which was a tragedy in the public realm that resonated closely with the tragedy that was the beginning of 2017, made ever more acute because of the red walls of our air bnb’s’s bedroom – and I’ve only ever known that one person to have a red walled bedroom….

The other was yesterday, my brother’s birthday. I spent the whole day in a bit of a funk. By the end of work, it was pretty much midnight in the UK. I had left a voice message on whatsapp for him to wake up to, but despite that I couldn’t help but feel like I had failed a little as a sister having not spoken to him on his actual birthday. In the end I managed to skype him, he was luckily still awake when I got home at the equivalent of 1am back in London. He’d had a good day, and I enjoyed every minute of the hour we talked. But like I said – yesterday I couldn’t help but feel the distance.

Squashed bananas and all that

And all of a sudden June is upon us

So as you may well know, we’re leaving the UK on June 25th with a one way ticket to Canada, where we will be giving a new life a go on the IEC visa for the next 2 years. Months have melted into weeks and then soared into days, with that odd combination of time feeling simultaneously fast and slow.

It’s weird how May seemed so chilled. The end of June still seemed far enough away that we felt like we had forever to get everything sorted. I will admit though, towards the end of May I started having printmaking anxiety dreams. Dreams in which I arrived at the studio and all of the screens were strapped up ready to ship off, completely un-usable. And another one in which my rooster litho stone had, for some reason, been carved into as if it were a lino block – only leaving the lines raised, with the rest of the dream involving me struggling to make an edition. Niche anxiety dreams right? What happened to the teeth falling out or just endlessly falling?

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I’m really going to miss this place

Over the last week or so, that anxiety has gradually shifted into an interesting mix of acceptance and focus. I have managed to get my head around the fact that there just isn’t time to complete the multitude of projects that I have lined up in my head. This has allowed me to concentrate on a select few things – making a frame for the print I’m giving my cousin as a wedding gift; printing and framing a gift for my grandma; finally editioning the roster litho; and trying to use up any excess book cover screen prints and recycled paper folios that are still in my 2 plan chest drawers.

The result of this has been a very satisfying and productive last few days in the studio – having made over 40 sketchbooks, editioned the rooster, and made 4 frames for various people including my cousin and grandma.

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Despite the stress of leaving such an amazing space and opportunity behind (albeit to pursue a lifelong dream) – I feel that being forced to let go a little bit over the last week or so has been a really valuable experience. Yes I will always strive to do more, and to do better – but sometimes you just have to go with what life gives you and mould yourself to it. Things don’t always have to come to fruition right now, because you can always find a way in the future if that’s what you need and want to do.

things to eat: House of Small Wonder // Berlin

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We went to House of Small Wonder for breakfast during our trip to Berlin back in early April. The setting was something else, as you enter the place you’re met with a spiral staircase surrounded by plants and trinkets. There are menu highlights on chalkboards framed by old windows, and the wallpaper is green and covered in little birds.

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Good music, good coffee, good food – but service needed a bit of work. Always frustrating when one person gets their food way earlier that the other – and on this occasion there was at least a ten minute wait, which ended up with Aidan having to ask where the missing meal was…

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Solid 7/10 for me, despite the wait. Portions were pretty good. My french toast was a bit on the small side, but did come with a good sized portion of fruit salad (cantaloupe melon, apple, kiwi, strawberry) – Aidan’s croque madame was a decent size and the accompanying eggs were super tasty and nicely seasoned. We both liked the fact it was served in a croissant, which is slightly unusual but definitely worked! (Sorry for the lack of pictures, after the wait hunger took over and eating was a bigger priority than taking photos!)

Arts Facilitator training at London’s October Gallery

So on the 9th May I went along to one of the free CPD sessions run by the October Gallery. The session lasted just over 90mins, but was probably the most informative and productive 90mins I have ever had during a training session!

Expertly delivered by Becky and Georgia, the gallery’s education co-ordinators, the session took us through a practical example of how to run a gallery-based art workshop. We went through about half an hours worth of activities, each of which had a common thread running through them which gradually opened up the participants to get involved and to interact with the exhibition on a meaningful level.

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For the first activity we were each given a couple of photos, which were images of sections of the artworks on display. We then had to find the work and leave the image on the floor infront of it. Such a good idea! It quickly gets you engaged in looking at the work on show in a more active way.

The second activity involved a red and a green card. The idea being that now you had to chose a piece you liked – placing the green card on the floor infront of it; and a piece that you didn’t like – placing the red card on the floor infront of it. There was then a short period of time where cards were pointed out by the facilitator and the corresponding ‘chooser’ was given a chance to give constructive reasons for their like/dislike – thinking about colour, form, materials, composition etc. At this point the facilitator was able to pick up on key points made by the participants and give relevant background info on the artist and their processes.

Then came the circle game. Each participant is given a small card circle and a piece of chalk. There is a large piece of kraft paper taped to the floor, which the participants have to throw the circle at it, and then draw around the circle. Then you have to keep throwing your circle, trying to get it back into the last circle – each time drawing around it where it lands. After a few throws you can then continue to throw and draw, or you can begin colouring in your circles. This activity is a ‘game-i-fied’ piece of collaborative artwork, and in this particular context was used as a way to explore the idea of creating a composition in a similar way to the artist whose work we were looking at – using chance.

We then sat and talked about how to then encourage participants to evaluate a session, before splitting off into small groups to make our own workshop plans which we later talked through infront of everyone. This last part was incredibly useful, and each group came up with some really nice ideas for alternative games and activities that could be used to accompany the exhibition that was on there.


At the time, they had an exhibition on called ‘Benchmarks’ – which included a selection of printed works by El Anatsui – it was a great show! He’s someone I’ve been aware of – but not someone whose work I’ve been massively in to, even though visually it is really interesting (he crosses that odd boundary of Artist / Conceptualist, getting others to make his work for him, which I sometimes struggle with.) I first came across his work through Art 21, in this video showing his studio practice:

Anyway, I’m getting off topic….the training was awesome, and if you’re in London and are looking for some gallery/exhibition space based training then you should definitely check the October Gallery’s CPD page out!

 

exhibition: David Hepher // London

So a couple of weeks ago I went to see David Hepher’s latest exhibition at London’s Flowers Gallery.

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I was first introduced to Hepher’s work when I was doing my A-levels (and coincidentally visited this show with the A-level Art and Graphics students’ on a trip with work.) He seems to be a solid choice for art teachers!

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Despite having ‘studied’ him all those years ago, this is the first time I’ve actually seen his work in person. I hadn’t realised quite how big a part texture plays in his paintings, so that was a bit of a revelation for me. It was also quite interesting to see how he works in different scales, and how he uses separate panels to form larger works.

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The exhibition is on until the 13th of May 2017, well worth a look if you’re in the area (and a good excuse to pop into one of the awesome Vietnamese restaurants when you’re done!!)

 

 

Happy Easter!

So this was my last Easter in the UK for the conceivable future. Aidan did his thing with friends and family in Wales, and I spent the day with my family at my nan’s house in Coggeshall (a small town in Essex.) Now easter in our family has always involved an egg hunt in Mémé’s garden – and although most of us grandkids are pushing thirty, we stubbornly keep the tradition alive. Usually my dad’s older brother does the hiding, but this year my cousin Aleric did the honours with help from her boyfriend.

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Mimi!

Of course Mémé had cooked up a storm. It’s inevitable that a visit to my nan’s ends in a very full stomach full of very tasty food!

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One of the pro’s of having a french grandma!

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On the way back we spent a good hour driving through the back streets of London, around Bermondsey, Southwark and Waterloo – which weirdly is one of my favourite things to do in this city. There’s something really magical about London at night, it transforms into something wonderful, and sitting in the back of my mum’s car on Sunday night I realised that it is something I will really miss about this city of mine.