Saturday, July 31, 2010

Country Day

Final week or so to prepare for Russia trip and finish a month or so of work, its just not happening...mild panic setting in. Meanwhile Friday 30th was the Kirkton woodland & heritage group's country day- I'd got my months all muddled up & thought I would be away when it was on so hadn't prepared any crafty demonstrations to do, which I much prefer to being sat behind a table selling wares.

This day makes a change from the rain cancelled lochcarron games as there is a strong conservation, environment, rural skills element to it. Sadly of course it was still raining, heavily, the field was a bog. there were some great sights, many which I failed to catch on camera. Brain the ferret had come along with keeper Chris to play Ferret bingo.

  Jim of Asgard Crafts was doing metal casting with a brilliant bellows and small stone oven he'd made. Henry Fosbrook was over from the east coast with his woodland instruments, I knew Henry from the highlands alternative/ green scene 20 years ago, always good to catch up.

 Margaret Beaton spinning, always a hit with visitors. The usual range of homebaking from all the domestic goddesses in the area. Tom and Leslie Kilbride with their yurt doing natural dying. Les Bates as Gandaft looking like a community woodlands shaman and lots of worthy conservation organisations. The organisers did a great job, and the staff lunches were deeelicious as ever.
I sold very little, which is typical of this season, there simply isn't the number of visitors around, and those that are -aren't spending much, many local businesses are expressing that its a very poor season this year. All of which makes me panicy about what to do to earn enough to live off, but it boils down to not really having choices up here. The only paid employment is very part time seasonal cleaning/ waitressing, which would earn less than my freelance art or minimum wage manual labour with boys who talk about drink & cars. I am too old to tolerate either. So we'll see where Russia takes my art & I'll go on another hunt for decent PAID illustration work when I get back, I'm also doing some art teaching with the Skye college- details to follow. but with all the cuts & businesses going under its tough times ahead in the UK for many.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

comics workshop

Monday- did another comics workshop at Drumnadrochit, yes thats the village next to Loch Ness ( which I flew over the other week! ) surprisingly the children didn't all draw Nessie stories, they were full of stories about the silly things that tourists say or think regarding the monster, but at the same time the children seemed to have no doubts about the beasties existence. I wonder if its like Santa, and stops appearing when they're old enough to get cynical ?  The monster is a great tourist attraction, yet folks are too embarrassed about it to use it as some sort of highland branding. Luckily at Hi-Ex the highland Comic Expo, we have no such qualms.
Meanwhile, comic workshop ? normally participants coming to a comic workshop would be interested in drawing comics, or often they are teenage girls who want to draw manga style, not necessarily draw stories. the summer holidays are different of course, I can get an awkward mixture of local children who have been delivered by parents desperate for a break, and tourist children who can be of the type academic, competitive, not getting dirty type. It was a new challenge to me however to have to entertain for 5 hours a child who thinks comics are babyish, doesn't like stories, humans, characters, drawing or in fact anything -this at a 'How to draw comics' workshop- we survived, not sure if my pens did especially the ones he put up his nose. The others were lovely though & this flip chart drawing of the polar express was a masterpiece, the lad who did it was rightly very proud of himself.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

art buying scam

I do a lot of my business through e-mail and website, I will get requests from complete strangers for paintings and commissions, These paintings are often for wedding gifts, anniversary or birthdays, the client can often not know much about art or be sure how it works or what they want. There is of course a deal of trust on both sides, but common sense is also required to protect myself. Usually I build up some rapport with art buyers & will get to know then afterwards. Art is not just another commodity, people like the context, the story behind the painting & the creative process, it means something to them and to me the artist.

So when Matthew Joe e-mailed me asking about a painting for a wedding anniversary gift for his parents, there was nothing unusual in this, his grammar indicated that english was not the first language, while he had an english sounding name. Suspicion was aroused by him asking for my web address, so why would he want my art if he hadn't already seen it ? where has he got my e-mail from if not the website ? I gave him the details of artwork available & to hand, but he chose two water themed paintings off the website- a simple misunderstanding as these are only available as prints I explained. However this sentence, which he repeated twice was not right-

"Meanwhile, I don't want you to bother your self concerning the shipment i have a shipping company come for the pickup  in your gallery also they will be the one to make the packing, just get  back to me with the price of the art work so that we can make some progress."

which shipping company ?  only a select few shipping companies operate on the west here, why didn't he mention their name? if he was a big business man why not have company details on his e-mails ? why use a yahoo AND gmail e-mail address ?

He then chose another 6 paintings from the available list, 6 paintings? for a wedding anniversary gift ? what eclectic taste his parents have, waterfalls, technical firefighting image, fairy story whimsy and abstract landscape? I had by this time googled his e-mail address's;

and found 'him' on a list of scammers;

I couldn't work out what the catch was, If I waited for a cheque to clear? didn't give account details etc. So it turns out it works like this, they order something to buy, using a third party for shipping or such, send a cashier cheque, which the banks may well cash, but later you will be liable when it turns out to be a fake.. but its not the artwork they're after, they send 'extra' payment in the cheque to cover the shipping, you have to sent the balance via western union, which of course is you out of pocket, as there is no shipping company. It seems he is targeting all the members of the Highland Open Studios Directory.

more information about fraud etc here

I am furious! at no point did I believe I was going to sell hundreds of ££'s worth of art, I am not one to count chickens. But to try & rip off an artist ? according to the Scottish Artists Union the average wage of a Scottish artist is £5K per annum, I earn a lot less from mine. We are not exactly the decadent capitalists of the western world. Also artists, being poor, artistic natured & optimists might well be easy prey, also the internet is a wonderful useful tool, but criminals like this leave a whole generation afraid of computers, left out in the cold because they've seen on crime watch about ID theft, scammers, viruses all those urban myths and scare stories. It's almost designed to stop people using the potential of the internet, people who are afraid are easier to control, people who are afraid are more likely to turn on each other. Most humans are good, most humans are trustworthy and genuine, scams like this disgust me because they prey upon hope and trust.

I'm blogging as it seems about all I can do to vent my anger, although I intend stringing Matthew along a bit more to waste some of his time, I wish there was an e-mail version of a football whistle blown down the phone. I guess the internet is a bit like the wild west, a whole new frontier with carpet baggers, freak shows, houses of ill repute, gambling, snake oil peddlers, criminal gangs, cons, thugs, but mostly good people just trying to make a living.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ladies faces

finally got all the comic pages that I had to colour done yesterday ( although more arrived today ), so now onto the paintings I need to do, but first a wee warm up, dying to paint things which will feed into the Russian art symposium theme, 'Breath of the epic'- so heres some painted ladies sketches . Now I'm painting the first of the two big canvases....

Monday, July 19, 2010

Space Hop

Every Summer the libraries run a reading scheme to encourage youngsters to keep reading throughout the holidays, this year's was Space Hop. Yasmeen the librarian organised for me to do Space Hop junk art workshop today at the Gairloch library. We had the full compliment of children, both local and visitors who all  got stuck in and made some brilliant imaginative space ships, planets, flying saucers and aliens out of old containers and packaging. They came in shyly, but went out zapping each other with space zappers and debating the size of the universe, Saturn's rings and what happens to fire in the vacuum of space.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Free press, mosaic & more colours

More publicity for the Russia trip with this piece in the West Highland Free Press this week. Our Visas arrived today, big sighs of relief for Lynn & I !

The Smithy Mosaic progresses, using yacht varnish so each layer taking ages to dry. Next panel will have crofting history images & 3rd panel modern scenes.

also chugging along with the Slaughtermans creed colouring. The sample above features a flashback scene, Which we're going for in sepia tones over Stephen Downey's lovely pencils, Stephen has recently got work drawing for the Torchwood magazine,  and deservedly so! 

meanwhile the theme of the Russian Symposium is cooking away in the background, I'm reading lots of folklore, listening to folksie ballads and traditional music, things are desperate to come out- but I have to dig in & get all this other work done before I can play !

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

certificate & colouring

Heres the photo from the award ceremony last week.

meanwhile as well as plodding on varnishing the heritage Mosaic, prepping for the Russia trip with Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie and so on, I've mostly been glued to the digital drawing board getting seized to my chair working on comic colouring for Slaughtermans Creed sample page above. Its written by Cy Dethan who has done a lovely write up about my recent work on his blog here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Commitment to Excellence awards

In the Fire service it often feels like an uphill struggle, the retained service personnel give a huge commitment as does their families. We struggle to stay within the station area and find enough other work in remote villages, we struggle with old equipment, only 2.5 hours a week to maintain and test equipment, to train, to stay up to date, to stay fit and the computer work, the paperwork. the memo's, targets, quotas, contradicting rules, all rain from on high, It presents no career path, with the retainer fee at £2.5 K per annum, we're certainly not in it for the money. This is why I am a Union rep to try and make sure the issues at station level get heard higher up and to look after my crew. In this climate then, I was rather surprised to receive notification that I had been shortlisted for a commitment to excellence award in the community and Youth Engagement category. So myself and Rich headed to the awards ceremony last night, slightly cynically and awkwardly in my ill fitting uniform.

The Inverness Town house venue was also intimidating, with a host of Councillors, the Fire chief , lord lieutenant and lord provost to meet us. There were some amazing artifacts and paintings there including a lovely bronze Roman horse head. We were however immediately made welcome with the speakers and Chief mingling and chatting. Talking to them it became apparent that they understood the pressures that we are under and were well aware of the issues we face, the impact our job has on everyday life and our loved ones. The people there were not the upper managers whom I expected to see but many retained Firefighters, men and women, from the far corners of the Highlands and Islands. All the speeches reflected admiration and appreciation for our work.

During the evening the 20 year service medals of good conduct were given out, one was to my Watch manager. these guys definitely deserve a medal, the average term of retained service is 7 years. 20 is quite an achievement.

Then the awards, the nominations were read out for each person and why they'd been nominated, every single one was much deserved and we heard stories of great bravery, tenacity and efforts beyond the call of duty. I am very proud to have met these men & women and more so to have been nominated too. I had been nominated for the work I did over the last couple of years creating a partnership between the Fire service and a Young Carer support charity, It was of course a team effort with other people still working on it now. We raised awareness, taught the fire service how to help young carers and their families, taught the children Fire safety, produced resources, power-points, information cards, and eventually a children's Fire Safety book which I illustrated and has been distributed to all highland schools.

It was for me, simply a matter of putting my different jobs together and it worked brilliantly. It was wonderful to hear about the other projects that had been going on and see them justly awarded. I was quite happy not to 'win' the category but still didn't escape escape the embarrassment of having to take to the stage for presentation and photographs however.

Everyone I spoke to felt the same as me, while we were proud to have our achievements recognised we were all also rather embarrassed and wished that all the other Firefighters and support staff could have been there to have experienced the appreciation and gratitude for the work that EVERY firefighter does.

If I get any official photos I'll post them up. All in all a great night was had, It was lovely to get a chance to meet & talk to so many great people. Then of course there was the after party... but thats another story!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Russia trip approaches

The BBC have done an article today about Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie and my trip to the International Art symposium in Elabuga, Russia. excitement mounts.The story looks like its been picked up by some papers too, we'll keep you posted.

Going to the symposium and the inspiration of Lynn's work is giving me a confidence boost to follow my own artistic path and not get swayed by everyone else's expectations. Especially in the current economic climate, I've made very few sales locally this summer from tourism, there are no easy markets, so nothing to loose by ploughing on & doing what I want art wise. Its taken a while to get here.

meanwhile I am desperately trying to update my neglected website, bare with me, in the meantime the blog is the best place for the latest news and work.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

should work time directive apply to artists ?

working flat out at Colours for 'Slaughtermans Creed' a book by Cy Dethan, pencils ( and some inks & colours ) by Stephen Downey, inks by Andy  Brown, design & letters by Nic Wilkinson ( too tired to look up links for time ! ), book being published by Markosia..soon. Not for children or Veggies ( except me as I'm a tough childish Veggie ).

I haven't any fluffy kittens to offset Cy's dark imaginings, but instead and to unseize my desk bound bones I'm also working on this historical mosaic.The whole thing will be over 3.5 metres long eventually & will go on the outside wall of the Lochcarron Smithy Heritage Centre. panel 1 is ancient and natural history. It's made of scrap glass kindly provided by Muirne of Arrina's 'Shards' go visit her lovely stained glass workshop if you are ever up North Applecross.

I'll blog about the rest of Junes adventure, and Russia Soon !  oh and I've been short-listed for a Fire service 'commitment to excellence' award, community and youth engagement. I presume to do with the Fire Safety book I illustrated, ceremony on Friday more news later.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Dreamed I was flying high above the trees, over the hills

life balance ?
art is balancing input and output, feeding the subconsious then creating. recently life has speeded up, rushing past me in a break neck adventure, no time to rest or breathe, no time to be, to doodle & art-play. sky, sea and stories filling by brain, coming out in dreams if not pictures. 

the dials are all spinning, juggling plates.

work life balance, this summer isn't seeing much money coming in, the projects who's deadlines hang over me are all long term strategy's. But big adventures still have bills to pay. Jet-set hobo ( thanks to David Baillie for that expression ), rock and rolling, gathering no moss. all work and no play, well plenty of play just no rest, can feel exhaustion kicking in. art is my rest and play.

Rich bought me a flying lesson voucher for my birthday back in March. I'd been savoring it for calm, peaceful times, but we've realised there aren't any - so shoehorned it into the schedule today. It was incredible ! lovely it! Highland Aviation, highly recommended and well worth the money !

will re jog the website as soon as there is time, tweak the layout, add paypal buttons to sell prints.
will blog up the remaining section of Junes adventures.
am working flat out to colour Slaughtermans Creed as the inked pages come in.
am working flat out on interpretive panel historical glass mosaic.
am prepping for Russia trip ? have I not blogged about that YET ? later!
am working flat out on large canvases of figurative work for exhibition at the airport in September.
delivered 4 paintings to strathpeffers 'Around' gallery today, theme of 'Fire'.
HIE doing consultation about businesses in our community, about to let loose the rants, but its not just our community its the UK has a rotten attitude to art, comics, illustration, crafts...but thats another one for another day.

more soon..gotta dash

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Children paddling

Finally made a start on one of the big canvases today, I need a marathon push to get everything done on time this month, and of course real life human events conspire to slow my progress. However fingers crossed this will work. bulking the main areas in emulsion & paint oddments, frustrating waiting for layers to dry, will have to get in discipline of working on comic colouring between layers.  Oy! cat don't drink the paint water !
 meanwhile I'll be dropping some firefighting paintings off to the Around Gallery in Strathpeffer this week for their July exhibition on the theme Fire.

the giant of lochcarron

Heres another wee film.  There was an animation project in the village, a couple of animation graduates came to combine printmaking and film, I dragged my art class into the project. while they all worked on stop motion cut out projects, I didn't have time to join in, so worked this film up at home over a couple of nights.
The Giant is our local mountain, its name is Fuar Tholl ( cold hole ) , but its known locally as ' wellingtons nose' . I prefer to think of it as Fionn, the Irish giant, as there is a stone at its base in Corrie Fionn arach, where Fionn was reputed to tie up his hunting hounds. the chain marks are on the stone.

again, I wish there was more time and more computer power to do these things better.