Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blogger space limit hit so moving to wordpress.

I've hit the limit for images in Blogger, everything changes - time for an upgrade so I am in the middle of switching over to wordpress, i'll have my blog, news, updates and photos in one place. Bare with me while I tidy up & organise it .

So long Blogger it has been fun.

meanwhile here is my latest blog report.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pottery Class for Ceangal

What is Ceangal ?

As part of this there has been a series of event classes run in Gairloch by volunteer tutors. Here are some better pictures and more information on the Ceangal blog

History > skip if you know the story>
For those of you who don't know Pottery is my what I was trained in. I went to Art college in the 80's full of Pre-Raphaelite idealism, the painting tutor clique at the time liked sort of flat primitive looking fish, outlining and frying pan ego-centric muddy coloured rubbish. I didn't, so threatened with failing grades if i didn't chose a design subject to specialise in I huffily opted for the pragmatic, earthy, skill set of pottery to learn, figuring I already knew how to paint the way I wanted to anyway. So after college with babies underfoot, i realised I couldn't afford picture frames, so painting was still sort of out of reach. With the infallible logic of youth I set up a pottery business instead, my first wheel costing only £10 !
Fast forward to my second shop & studio by 2005 business was getting tough, i needed to rent out my space and take on some emergency waged employment. And that was that. I haven't really played with clay since then and have gone off on my visual art adventures instead. ( wow 15 years reduced to a paragraph? impressive ).

So I was a little concerned with this pottery class, would I remember how to do it ? or would I be beset with woe that I can no longer do pottery ? ( no room at house & I had to sell my big kiln ).
Of course it was all fine, very relaxed and enjoyable, clay is so therapeutic it uses a completely different bit of the brain for most people and it circumnavigates all the usual creative performance angst people have ( ' I can't draw ' etc). Everyone started off with thumb pots and sure enough they soon diversified into some lovely designs, with laughter and some very strange sound effects !

Much fun, I'm looking forward to seeing the work fired ( Thanks to Pat at the school ) and getting up again for a get together on the 8th May to see all the other work that has been getting produced.

Spring round up, catch up

I must apologise to blog followers for my absence, its been that crazy time of year!
I was busy running Hi-Ex - The Highlands International Comic Expo
then I was running a country day.
This was for Kirkton Woodlands and Heritage group.
Which I was doing a lot of voluntary work for, some of which is chronicling the building of two new crafts workshops.
I've now got a part time post with the woodlands group which will allow me more time to organise events and training as well as do the marketing type things like twitter for the woodlands group.
and the facebook group for the treehouse, the woodlands group and....

Are you all linked out yet ? I haven't started on the Boot Sale coming up or the South West Ross Arts & Eats trail which I'm building a new website for and designing this years leaflet (more tweeks next on job list).

They are of course right when they say all work and no play makes Vik a dull girl, It has been a slog of late, with too much work going on to think, consolidate, plan or review. During that time there has been none of my own art going on, all my energies have been focused outside on projects and others. That is the end of that chapter though and the primed empty canvases are now calling out to me. Work Life balance is realigning. Maybe its been something like this ?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mini-Country day & Treehouse opening poster

we have a facebook group for the Kirkton Woodlands and heritage group now.
and a blog website that I am running
its all go !

Sketchbook development and painting courses

I will be tutoring this course in Fridays in Lochcarron and also Wednesdays in Auchtertyre.
 To sign up see above.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

'Women Talk Money' conference part 2

Friday 9th March 2012 I attended a conference organised by women@work    twitter = @WEAWomenatWork
facebook =
The theme was 'Women Talk Money' -The twitter # was #womentalkmoney

yesterday in 'part 1 blog' I wrote about the event generally, now I'll pick up on a couple of the specific topics. 

The Spirit Level - Why Equality is better for everyone. speaker was Kathryn Busby of the Equality trust.

The spirit level delusion, is a book which i need to now rush out and buy. It covers lots of hard facts and statistical research which provides a mass of evidence as to why inequality is actually bad for everyone across our societies whether Rich or poor. The countries which have the greatest inequality are across the board the same countries where children are worst off, where homicide rates, depression, domestic violence, happiness, community, trust, you name it everyone is worse off under inequality. Many of us from my end of the political spectrum have of course known this intuitively, but this research provides hard scientific evidence as to why we would all be better off with less of a gap between rich and poor. Why social mobility matters. If you search the Spirit level on the internet you will find for yourself all the charts and most of them UK is the 2nd , 3rd or 1st worse in the world. Why are we the worst country for Children's welfare? why with all these rich people, why don't the statistics average out, why aren't the rich people ok even if the poor ones aren't ? In UK the top wage earners are earning 232 x more than the bottom ones. when asked most people assume it is 6 x .at minimum wage level 6 x would yield an annual salary of around £91 000 why would anyone need more than this ?  the inequality drives 'status anxiety' the poorest have no social mobility, no means of improving their situation. the richest are desperately afraid of loosing what they have got, and folks in the middle are desperately trying to improve things for their families. We are currently more unequal than ever. 

Parents are so busy working to provide status objects and material things for their children that they spend no time with the children. 1 in 10 children in the UK is on anti depressants. £400 million is made in the UK on anti depressants a year. Social stereotyping limits us. An experiment took boys in India from all different caste systems and set them an educational test without any of them knowing who was from which cast. the tests results had no relation at all with their caste status. they then discussed who was from where, families and castes. were set another test, this time the high cast children performed the highest and the lower cast children got the worst results. We behave in accordance to how we think we should according to social stereotype. If you don't believe me and seriously think haveing very rich and very poor people in one society is good for anything please go and read this book. We need to close this gap as a matter of priority!  
Later at the conference I attended a workshop event with Katheryn Busby, we discussed the equality trusts campaign to influence local government and close the gap by:
1) introducing a living wage of £7.20 for everyone rather than the minimum wage of £6.08
2) publish the bottom and top wage earner rates in the council to ensure more transparency and make peopel aware of the gap.
3) work towards shrinking that gap to only 6x which is plenty!

4) make sure private sector contractors also comply to this to start to put pressure on the private sector which is where wage inequality is driven from.

why the campaign to local government? because the private sector are not accountable to public pressure.

I was very pleased having discussed this on Friday to hear the announcement on Saturday at the SNP conference ( #SNPconf on twitter ) that all SNP councils in Scotland will introduce this living wage. 

Gender Equality and Economic Performance- a Question of values , speaker Ailsa McKay, a feminist economist from Glasgow University.

" determined and resourceful women get what they want with perseverance "
Alisa recommended this film to us which is now publicly available; 

Sex, Lies and Global Economics

 She talked about the 3rd sector ( , about the value of women's work, about all the hidden aspects of society that are crucial but not currently counted or measurable, women's work being undervalued. All current economic models focus on GDP ( , and governments are obsessed with 'growth' as a measure of how well a country is doing. Her wonderful analogy was the Exxon Valdez. If that tanker delivered its load successfully it had a small effect on GDP, on the economic on growth. When it in fact spilled its load (, it had a massive affect on GDP, loads of economic impact, the litigation, the clean up, employment , in fact in terms of our current economic models that disaster  appears to be a massively positive thing. clearly our current economic models need a fundamental rethink. economics currently advising all political parties and Scottish & Westminter governments use these flawed traditional models. These models create our boom and bust cycles. Alisa also talked about 'deficit fetishism' the obbsession with deficit reduction rather than investment to get us out of recession. Her analogy here was, " when the recession hit do you all rush out and pay off your mortgages and credit cards in one go ?" She explained how the deficit is a normal safe aspect of the economy, it is manageable. The current public sector cut backs are increasing the recession and economic instability.

Women in the workplace are being forced into the 5 C's by family unfriendly working hours and conditions. the 5 C's are catering, cleaning, caring, clerical and cashiering. These are generally low paid, low status, low value jobs. Women are also the primary household managers, and primary care givers within family roles. those jobs are not valued in economic terms at all.
Women make up 41% of the public sector UK workforce ( affected most by current coalition cuts ), men are 22% . In Scotland women are 67% of public sector. 60% of unpaid caring work is done by women. Women in Scotland are 52% of population, why are we still referred to as a minority ? we are not a minority, but the majority. We are 48% of the Scottish labour market.

I have 6 more pages of notes but I guess that is enough for one blog again!

I'll leave this with the general observation that I was struck how the speakers themes, workshop discussions and chairs summaries all echoed the same themes that I have encountered at trade union events, community events and within the comics industry. Women lack confidence in speaking out, when we speak out we get some very nasty and patronising flack " calm down dear ". We must have courage, 'we must allow ourselves to become unpopular' for speaking up about what is right, We need to talk about these things outside of our own circles. We must get involved and be part of the mechanisms for change, whether in government, the board room, communities or families. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Women Talk Money - conference 1

Friday 9th March 2012 I attended a conference organised by women@work    twitter = @WEAWomenatWork
facebook =
The theme was 'Women Talk Money' -The twitter # was #womentalkmoney
It was in the Council Chamber in Council HQ building which was a nice wee toe into another world for many of us.
It is difficult to capture events like this, as By the time i get home I have to hit the ground running to catch up with work and there is so much to take in during these event. I have gotten into the habit of taking copious notes at conferences to try and get the most of out things. So i'll go through them & try to make some sense of all the scribbled statistics for you.

I do not like economics, not because I am a girl, but because I am an artist and numbers just sort of swim vaguely around my head, I also don't like the current economic models with the obbsession with GDP, that our weighted to the top version of capitalism is based upon. I do not like words like 'enterprise', as they seem to be used by people who value money making over social benefits, the can often be focused all about the individuals 'success' ( social enterprises being the exception of course ). The whole notion of 'business' is often about making money for moneys sake and for career kudos, dog eat dog, rather than trying to achieve something worthwhile. As Citizen Kane said, ' making money is easy if all you want to do is make money' . However, I saw that Lesley Riddoch was chairing this event and could not resist signing up as she is brilliant! I am very glad I attended as much to my surprise, the conference was not full of power dressing right wing business women but had a wide range of women from all walks, incomes and interests. A few familiar faces, community activists and creatives I know. The atmosphere was inspirational and empowering, of equality, mutual support and respect was just the same as I have come to expect at trade union women's events.

I have been working on a community development project with a committee, we have been getting mentored and supported by a financial and business expert. He has pressed upon us the need for the whole committee to take responsibility for all the tasks, especially the financial aspects, which normally get burdened on the treasurer alone. We need to all support the treasurer by understanding what is going on, this shares the burden, empowered us, and fosters inclusion and transparency. We are usually taught that money is too technical, not to be understood by the likes of us, and we shy away from it. This seems to be what happens with economics as well ( and politics ! ) on a wider scale, Money matters are seen as the root of the problem, a complex and toxic thing to avoid. Well someone has to deal with it, so surely it is better that this is done by people who are not driven by greed, like for example, progressive community minded women ( and men of course ) ?
Instead of dry discussions about making money which i had feared- we had wonderful inspirational speakers on the gender pay gap, the inequality pay gap, credit unions, alternative economic models, social issues and values. Everything we discussed came back around to the need for holistic solutions, transport, working flexibility, childcare, progressive tax systems, fairer banking etc

I'll write the different facts and figures separately to prevent blog reader fatigue. There is some really important information that we need to be discussing on a regular basis. We need to talk about these things outwith women only circles, the numbers matter, as everyone is now a victim of our current economic systems, even it seems the very rich ( I'll explain this later ).
Here is a nice coloured Graph to lure you into the next blog where I will write about the overall economic and social impact of inequality and other issues that were discussed.

The Richest 1/5th of people are 7.2 x richer in the UK than the poorest 1/5th . As you can see here this puts us shamefully as one of the most unequal countries in the world.
Is this good or bad, it sounds kind of wrong from a gut feeling point of view, but is it?  Tune in next blog & i'll explain how very bad it is in very real measurable terms !

If you read my blog to see nice artwork, I apologise but starving artists need to be part of the solution like everyone else, pretty pictures are just part of the whole picture.

But here is an oldie to keep us all going. The blog seems to be mightier than the sword these days.
 part 2 to follow.

Friday, March 09, 2012

design by committee

In life there are many things to strike a balance with. One of mine is lone working and team working. One often meets artists and writers who get very defensive and angry about the idea of a gallery / agent/ editor telling them what to do. But without external input it can be easy to stay in a comfort zone or in some begrudging bitter denial - "oh its not fair , my work isn't accepted because..." . I am always afraid of doing that & constantly check, maybe my work isn't accepted because it isn't good enough ? Which is a good thing of team working and being published etc, it is a good indicator. Of course notions of 'success' is another construct i'd like to challenge, I intensely dislike the hierarchical nature of our society, in particular when applied to something creative like the arts, which simply should be about creating... But that's another subject. The problem about team working creatively is the 'camel is an animal designed by a committee' thing.  That will also kind of kill the fire than comes from within and is allowed out on an artists own terms. I haven't had any time to do my own personal art in what feels like ages. But it is okay, community work, project work, educational work, political work its all creative in a way, it is fulfilling and important. I am also starting to feel like I /me /My art , even the stuff that is all my own from my own inner art source, it is really a sum of the interconnected whole human experience. What do I mean? just that I am here and now being influenced by everything and everyone around me, I simply reflect those things which come from the world without, some sort of zeitgeist, collective unconscious, channeling of  everything through my particular filters. My art isn't really me/ My / Mine it is all of ours, we are all connected, are we all in fact designed by committee ?

However meta-pontificating aside... what I meant to write about was the design process behind a particular logo by committee!
At a meeting a couple of years ago, lots of local artists talking about establishing a local arts trail, incorporating eating establishments too. We brain stormed an image for the front cover, I'm the one with the technical know how ( laughably! ) So we came up with a pretty sort of map idea with words to convey the message and sense of movement. Here is what I did...

So two years later with a very successful trail and growing membership the notion of a logo raised its head, the above image is not suitable , too much going on. But I wanted to keep continuity by using elements from it. I presented some doodles to the committee, working on ideas of mountains, lochs, the map, the spiral and the journey ( with a nod to our celtic cultural roots of course ) :
Upon discussion with the committee at a meeting I doodled up ( with my fingers on net book touch pad ) a collective preferred idea;
then tidied up at home and presented colour versions..

and finally. Tho that version is all rough and fuzzy looking, the finished one is smooth and lovely. Actual proper designers may be crying because I don't use vector ( sorry non tech people).
Anyway Its all good fun doing so many different things.
My Next logo is one for the Community Woodlands project I'm working with , the committee has agreed an idea, once we have a final version I'll blog it up.

Now back to work !

Friday, March 02, 2012

crazy workload

Very little blogging or Art art of late, those who follow the flurry of manic chaos on facebook will have a fair idea why, I haven't even had time to list blurt the madness on twitter, but the last couple of months have been flat out. I am literally sat at computer working on multiple projects for 16+ hours a day. For a while there I was regularily doing until 3am.

I had to get artwork in on time for Bayou Arcana, It is frustrating having to work so intensely, when i am in the digital artjob  zone everything else has to get dropped, rest, walks, eating, other projects, housework, family, it becomes tunnel vision, and i can feel it draining me , but there is no way out, to stop and rest is to loose that momentum, to lose the working flow, its like a rapid river that simply has to be navigated. With lots of leisurely time to to it in small chunks the process simply would not be the same. I was hoping that this project would push through some new direction in style or technique, i had left off comic drawing for a while in favor of colouring work because i felt i needed time for technical things to be digested. I didn't know until i sat down and started on Bayou Arcana what style i would do, the story had flash back scenes and jumps, so i did these in different styles and had a good play. I also tried to echo the emotional change/ mood changes throughout with layout styles and colour themes. I wonder if these have worked?  I'm sure there are bits i'd like to change & generally I am unhappy with my work afterwards ( this is normal ) , but there are a couple of pages i'm quite pleased with. I'm looking forward to seeing how this intense few weeks work will influence other comic projects in the months to come.
Bayou Arcana is an anthology set in the Bayou, with a range of characters woven in across different stories. The world has been conceived by editor James Pearson, and the writers and artists have been given lots of creative freedom to take this concept and run with it, some fantastic looking results. The book is unusual in that it has all male writers and all female artists. This has become a bit of a feature in light of the current debate about sexism in comics. The Guardian picked up on this & we got some great coverage. I'm looking forward to the reaction when the book is published and launched at Bristol Comic Expo in May. We'll be doing a panel talk there, some of the creators will also be at the Kapow con in London to talk about it.

I won't post any more pictures due to spoilers except prehaps...
This is me pretending to be the cowboy dude above, look I know i'm not a 30's something tall rangey half Hopi man, but this is the kind of thing comic artists do to get the angles and poses right. This broken air rifle is one of the many bizarre props that turns up in my comics. This is definitely not a job for grown ups or sensible people.

  •  I am also desperately organising Hi-Ex  !!
  • helping organise classes and courses at the Smithy on behalf of the Kirkton Woodlands and Heritage Group, of which i have now been co-opted on as a director. This is going to be MASSIVE in coming months.
  • working with others to get the Lochcarron Treehouse past the ever more detailed building warrant demands in time for easter opening.
  • running a range of Pictish Art workshops across Easter Ross with Arts play Highland
  • Organising a mini-Country day for Easter at the Smithy.
  • co-designing & organising this years 'Arts and eats trail ' 
  • Very busy with Fire Brigades Union Activity as anyone following the local press would have seen, we had a crisis recently with over 40+ fire stations in area threatened with closure, a vote of no confidence in the Fire Chief and some stormy meetings. We seem to be over the worst with everyone now on board to move forwards and address critical issues of fire fighter and community safety with the threat of closures temporarily lifted.
  • Very busy with the actual Fire Station Job, as crew changes have left me with lots more responsibility and work to do, co-running the station, especially in light of the above.
Crazy days!

However it all feels like a positive move forwards even if my art and myself have got somewhat lost in recent weeks, changes are a happening and new things will come out of all this work!

Today however is my birthday, so blogging is just a little window of ME time. ONWARDS!