Search results for 'Ray Bentley FreeSpace'

Drawing on the Past by Ray Bentley (FreeSpace #3)

3 Dec

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Ray - 1 of 3

Drawing on the Past

Ray’s talked about his recollections of Mark and Billy over the last three weeks, and now he wants to tell you about his own experiences from the same time.

When Ray moved to London in 1956 he could hardly believe his luck. He was 17, he’d secured a place at St Martin’s School of Art to study sculpture when the college was on the rise, and he felt liked he’d arrived from the provinces just in time to see things finally wake up after the war.

Even though he and his best mate had only applied for a laugh, Ray took to London life immediately, and flourished both socially and creatively. He made a lot of friends within and without the school, and he quickly found himself singled out because of his instinctive ability. Just a year after arriving his work was exhibited alongside one of the pre-eminent sculptors of the time, and he was feted by his lithography tutor for his exceptional talent. Word soon spread, and some very important teacher-artists used to come to the studio to see his work.

Elsewhere, he was enthralled by the American painters who were being exhibited in Europe for the first time, and he embraced the ground-breaking shifts that were taking under his sculpture tutor.

Moreover, at a time when British artists such as Francis Bacon, John Craxton and Keith Vaughan were exploring their emotions and desires in frank and challenging ways, and when many of his fellow students were becoming increasingly flamboyant, Ray believed he was at a place where he could live openly and honestly.

He couldn’t have been more mistaken. At the end of his third year an increasingly overconfident Ray told one sculpture teacher he was gay, an admission he naively considered innocuous given the apparent liberalism elsewhere in the school. Instead of keeping his counsel, however, the teacher immediately passed this confidence to his head of department, who in turn shared it with the principal. As Ray’s guardian he was justifiably fearful of the legal ramifications of this confession, but his handling, though initially well-intentioned, was to have a lasting effect on Ray.

Ray immediately questioned their response, but was told that “because it came from your own lips, we have to take action”. The principal sent Ray to see the most eminent psychiatrist in London in the hope that he would take – or at least feign – a cure, instructing him that when asked, he was to say that he initiated the consultation himself.

Ray - 2 of 3

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He did nothing of the kind, and he made it quite clear to both the doctor and the dozen-or-so medical students sitting in on the appointment that this pantomime was not his decision, that he was perfectly happy as he was, and that he wouldn’t be returning. While this decision may appear either brave or foolhardy, Ray was also driven by fear. In the absence of any sympathetic guidance and amid a mess of half-truths and rumours, he assumed that he would be admitted for electric shock treatment, aversion therapy or chemical castration. Worst of all, he was scared that he’d be forced to leave his partner, who you read about last week; this, more than anything else, was out of the question.

When he returned to the school “all hell broke loose”. He was greeted with a tirade from a frustrated principal who made it clear that Ray had no future there, and his stand led to the collapse of his relationship with the more pragmatic sculpture department. The invective he received from one staff member in particular was so persistently debilitating that his some of his fellow students complained about his behaviour.

Furthermore, Ray’s house-mate was summoned to the principal and grilled on every aspect of his domestic life in an attempt to uncover any indiscretion which would have been grist to his mill, given that Ray – though outspoken and intransigent – had been seen to have done nothing up until then that was either illegal or in contravention of college rules. The already-vulnerable Alan then attempted to take his own life. He left college shortly afterwards, and never painted again.

Despite – or even because – of this uncertainty, however, Ray’s printmaking continued to mature at a considerable rate, and his increasingly sympathetic but clearly hamstrung lithography tutor made it known that he had developed talents well beyond his years.

This was all academic, however, because Ray was failed, as he knew he would be. Many of his peers were nonplussed by this decision and they recommended that he appeal or resit, but he knew that either was untenable while the status quo remained. He did approach a solicitor, however, but after sharing his story and his tears he was curtly presented with a bill for five pounds and told that he should “accept his punishment”.

After completing a series of corporate commissions he’d secured in his final year Ray retired as a professional artist and tried to forget everything. He never told anyone else what happened, including his partner, with whom he remained until his death 29 years later. His surviving family will only find out when they read this. He avoided living one lie, perhaps, only to live out another.

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Ray - 3 of 3

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The good news, for Ray at least, is that this isn’t the end of the story, because he returned to art full-time over fifty years later at the age of 72. He’s very quickly had an unexpected, though modest success as a painter, and his work has been exhibited throughout the UK. He’s been away for too long to even know what the vanguard looks like any more, but his unashamedly conservative yet intuitive works have won a small, but enthusiastic set of admirers.

Does he regret all of this? For himself, no; if anything, he thinks it was the making of him professionally, because at the time he believed that nothing worse could happen. He’s sure that in the decade that followed this lent him a toughness that enriched the next stage of his life, even if he took a different turn to the colleagues who went on to make St Martin’s the centre of the art world for a while. He didn’t even think then about what he might have been missing.

It’s fair to say, therefore, that Ray isn’t speaking out now because he feels aggrieved, or because he wishes to point the fingers at the usually-capable professionals who were themselves the victims of history. He can even see why some people would think he didn’t do a great deal to help himself. He’s speaking out because he was one of the lucky ones, and because he wants to put it behind him. He found a way to survive and exploit his creative energies elsewhere, but some people lost more than just their careers and their dreams as a result of the peculiarities of the age; they lost their lives as well, and this article is for them.

POSTSCRIPT:

At the beginning of this year Ray returned to St Martin’s (now Central Saint Martins) to share this story with them. He wanted to find out if there was any record of what happened, and whether this happened to anyone else. If it did, he wants their testimony to be shared with today’s students so that they could see how recently discrimination of this kind was still commonplace, even at an institution many assumed would have been a beacon of tolerance; if this was systemic, this would be an important part of their history.

He returned with the testimonies of those surviving house-mates who were interrogated and a wealth of documentary evidence confirming his presence at the school, but sadly there is no trace of him ever having been there at all. He is still in discussion with Central Saint Martins.

 

Biography:

Ray Bentley is an award-winning painter from Stoke-on-Trent whose still lifes and figurative paintings have been exhibited throughout the UK. He now lives and works near Redcar with his partner and dog, where he spends his days eating biscuits, napping, not doing the housework, tweeting about his favourite things, reading thrillers and – occasionally – painting. You can learn more about him at www.raymondbentley.com or follow him via  https://twitter.com/bentleyteesside

 

If you missed Ray’s first FreeSpace (Drawing Mark from Memory) you can find it here.

And Ray’s second FreeSpace (Trumpets: Drawing Billy From Memory) can be found here.

 

nb. Ray, happily, is also one of our Viking artists taking part in ArtiPeeps’ 2014/2015 largescale collaboration The Nine Realms

 

FreeSpace is a creative opportunity that offers 3 posts on ArtiPeeps to an individual or group for showcasing or a project. The slots can be taken in a cluster or spread over a period of months. Do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On page or via comments if you’d like to take up this opportunity.

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Trumpets: Drawing Billy from Memory by Ray Bentley (FreeSpace #2)

19 Nov

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Falling Asleep Reading

Falling Asleep Reading

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Trumpets: Drawing Billy from Memory

 

Last year Nicky allowed me to share the story of the first, and, indeed, the last surviving of my London friends. Over the next two weeks I’m going to be writing more about that time, but I’m going to start by retelling the story his life, and about how I tried to draw him from memory nearly half a century after my first sketch of Mark.

 

I owe everything in my adult life to the suffering of Billy. If he hadn’t been severely beaten as a child, and if he hadn’t been bullied by religious zealots, things could have been much less interesting for both of us.

Billy made the first of many attempts to escape from his parents at just seven, when he was found at the local railway station trying to buy a ticket to London. He didn’t succeed then, but that taste of release was enough to make him clock-watch for the next eight years until he finally broke free.

He was raised in a Salvation Army family, and he hated everything about it. There was no dancing, no theatre, no pictures, no radio, no music worth listening to and definitely no drinking, just trumpet lessons and prayer meetings and endless, perfunctory traipsings in stupid, ill-fitting uniforms. There was nothing to do in fact, but save, plan and daydream for his big getaway, which turned everything, including school, into an unnecessary distraction. Although he was never a naughty child his indifference was generally taken as insubordination, and his frequent chastisements eventually culminated in a beating with a board ruler that was so severe that it fractured his wrist bones; he was just thirteen.

He lived with the pain for a few days afterwards, and it was only once he fainted on the way home from school that a botched attempt was made to reset the bones. This marked the beginning of a series of costly to-ings and fro-ings to hospital which eventually led to a sepsis in his arm. His doctor recommended amputation, but Billy insisted otherwise, and he found another physician that was able to save the arm – at a cost.

The resultant damage made it near impossible for him to comfortably hold his Salvation Army band trumpet while it was still healing, which seemed to make little difference to his insistent parents. Just shy of his fifteenth birthday and the end of his tenure at school, he decided he’d had enough. He gathered what he’d been able to save and made the journey from Teesside to Tilbury docks, where he attempted to board passage on a merchant vessel.

 

Bathtime Learning

Bathtime Learning

 

It was fortunate for Billy that the first man he met knew where his best interests lay. He fed him and persuaded him to return home, and to come back when he didn’t have to lie about his age. He gave him all the money he had, which was just enough to get him as far as Doncaster, leaving him shy of home by eighty miles. It took him three days of walking and hitching on mostly empty roads to reach his sister’s house in Thirsk, where they had to cut him out of his boots.

This adventure, the first of many, and probably the best, gave him the quiet invincibility he would need to make the rest of his life just as exciting. To be fair to his parents, it did shock them into cutting him enough slack to stopping him running again, and he held on until he was finally rescued by the outbreak of war.

He went to enlist with his local battalion, The Green Howards, but quickly changed his mind when he was told that it was, at that time, standard policy to remove the teeth of new recruits. He decided to cross The Pennines and join The East Lancashire Regiment instead, which allowed him to keep more than his teeth; all but eight of his fellow recruits from the Green Howards were killed shortly after they went into active service.

The battalion recognised his physical limitations and gave him an administrative role, and his life blossomed as he was sent first to South Africa and then Egypt. He was captivated by the colour, the levity and the sensuality of these countries, and he developed a taste for life at its fullest: food, culture, travel, diversity and of course, sex, all experienced anew at a time when his life could be taken at any moment. Having lost his virginity – as most of his comrades did – in the brothels of their nearest postings, Billy then had his first gay relationship with a British Officer in Cairo, a self-discovery which would only enrich his life further, and which lent him an attitude to sexuality and fidelity which was completely unfettered by the domestic mores of the time.

After what was for him a very enjoyable war he returned to London, where he secured a job as a warehouseman at Derry & Toms, a department store in Kensington. It was while working his way through the ranks that he met Leslie, who became his first long term partner. Leslie worked for Odham’s Press, a publishing house in London, and he did as much to broaden Billy’s perspectives as the conflicts of his formative years.

They took a flat together at the wrong end of Chelsea at a time when furniture was “on coupon”, so they had little choice but to appoint their flat with cheap antiquities. Their home became something of a meeting point for West London’s smart, gay demi-monde, and Billy was given a masterclass in polite bitchery and sharp-tonguedness that was as gruelling as anything his military training had thrown at him.

They separated amicably in 1955, when Leslie went to Venezuela with his new partner, leaving Billy to hold fort both in Chelsea and at Odhams, where he inherited Leslie’s professional duties. It was a year later that I first came into his life after we were match-made by Mark, who I told you about last week. I was still seventeen, and I’d been in London just a few weeks. Billy was thirty eight, and together we started a personal and business adventure that would last for another 30 years.

Despite the age difference we flourished because we were in the early stages of the same journey. Billy was learning more about fine art at the same time that I was doing my diploma at St Martin’s, and it was this shared appetite, combined with our own separate adversities which led us to open a shop together four years later. I’ll tell you more about my own journey next time.

He left from Odhams shortly after we’d met to join a new company that organised international trade fairs for publishers, but the plug was pulled in 1960 when it was discovered that the fairs were being used as cover for British spies who were operating in Eastern Europe. With the money he’d saved and the income I contributed, we opened a shop together on Pimlico Road selling early English watercolours, prints and old master drawings.

When we started there was nothing but a baker, a dry cleaner, a haberdashers, a few empty shops and a bomb site on our part of the street, and the time we spent building our customer base and travelling England’s B-roads in our rickety Morris in search of stock was probably the happiest time of our lives.

Despite his burgeoning tastes and passions Billy lived free of any middle class affection, and it was very much the case that his brusqueness, his fearlessness, his knowledge, and his complete lack of concern for the fripperies of bourgeois life endeared him to our upper class customers.

Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea

 

In less than six years – through no effort on our part – our patch of London had become the heart of a revitalised city that was, for a short while, the centre of the world, but it made us too busy to notice the finer details of this mini-renaissance, much to our regret.

We finally moved from London to Bedfordshire in the late 1960’s, but our decision to join the commuting classes and inveigle ourselves in the pettinesses of suburbia never sat well with Billy, whose main contribution to the cultural life of our new home was the ease with which he could sleep his way through the erring husbands and wives of the town.

 The business was so successful that it effectively ran itself, but Billy lost his appetite for it as the sixties came to a close. We kept going – even though I now feel we should have got out earlier – until he fell ill in 1984. The fire-haired, pale-skinned Billy had been burned by the sun during his military training in Egypt, which returned as the melanoma that took his life in 1986. As his end grew closer, he never lost his passion for life, he never became embittered, and he never allowed himself to fall into the trap of wanting more; the deaths of young colleagues had become commonplace when he was a soldier, and he knew he’d already had more than his fair share. Like the first Peter Pan before him, he considered death to be the next great adventure.

I arranged all of the civil details for Billy’s funeral, but at their insistence I allowed the service to be arranged by his sisters. They passed it to a Salvation Army Officer who had never met him, and who delivered a memorial which made no mention of his military service, nor any of his life after he left home. My own bouquet was removed from his coffin, and I was duly handed the bill for everything; he would have been disgusted that the religious jobsworths who had driven him from his home had returned to bring him back for good.

He left a legacy which is still celebrated by those of us who knew him. He was tough, disdainful of weakness, contemptous of self-pity, opportune, impulsive, and frequently errant, but he was also extraordinarily kind, thoroughly honest and in all other respects tireless reliable in all of his dealings.

The drawings included, I did of him at various times of his life. I tried to paint him afresh for this, as I had done with Mark, but unfortunately I no longer hold a strong enough picture of his face in my head for me to be able to do so. The watercolour, which I painted on holiday in Greece, gives a sense of how he relished every opportunity to immerse himself in the heat and colour of the world without any fear; this is how life should be.

 

Biography:

Ray Bentley is an award-winning painter from Stoke-on-Trent whose still lifes and figurative paintings have been exhibited throughout the UK. He now lives and works near Redcar with his partner and dog, where he spends his days eating biscuits, napping, not doing the housework, tweeting about his favourite things, reading thrillers and – occasionally – painting. You can learn more about him at www.raymondbentley.com or follow him via  https://twitter.com/bentleyteesside

 Watch out for the second instalment of Ray’s FreeSpace on Wednesday 3rd December

 If you missed Ray’s first FreeSpace (Drawing Mark from Memory) you can find it here.

 

 

FreeSpace is a creative opportunity that offers 3 posts on ArtiPeeps to an individual or group for showcasing or a project. The slots can be taken in a cluster or spread over a period of months. Do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On page or via comments if you’d like to take up this opportunity.

The Divine Mr M: Drawing Mark from Memory by Ray Bentley (FreeSpace #1)

12 Nov

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Mark 1 by Ray Bentley

Mark 1 by Ray Bentley

The Divine Mr M: Drawing Mark from Memory

 

Last year Nicky allowed me to share the story of the first, and, indeed, the last surviving of my London friends. Over the next three weeks I’m going to be writing more about that time, but I’m going to start by retelling the story his life, and about how I tried to draw him from memory nearly half a century after my first sketch of Mark.

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When I moved to London from Stoke-on-Trent, Mark was one of the first people I met, and within minutes he delivered the first – and perhaps the most useful – of the many stark bon mots he would offer me over the years:

“Raymond, darling” he said, with a swish of his dinner-plate hands, “if you are ill, simply disappear and don’t come back until you’re sparkling again, aaand if you ever have any problems, don’t even think for a moment of sharing them with anyone, because they won’t want to know, dear, and neither will I frankly: OK?”

I was seventeen, fresh from the provinces and thirsty for everything London had on show. Mark, on the other hand, was already past the pinnacle of his remarkable career, and he’d begun the slow elegant decline that was as compelling as anything I’d missed; He was just twenty five.

His advice was horribly well-founded. When he first came to London he had been abused, ignored, disregarded, criminalised, beaten, stepped over and tossed from any number of establishments simply for living out his own peculiar truth, meaning that when he was still a boy he’d reached a plateau of defiance, acceptance and resilience so liberating that the only thing he ever feared from then on was the loss of his precious hair. He presented himself with an almost pathological breeziness, and he refused to tolerate even a hint of self-pity from me or anyone else.

What I liked about Mark immediately was the way that this ineffable mask concealed not only his weaknesses, but his most remarkable achievements; he made every part of his life look effortless. I only found out from a friend years later, for example, that while peers, dignitaries and heads of state were forced to walk from the cordons to Westminster Abbey on the day of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, Mark had been one of a small team of stylists that were limousined from palace to palace to spray the hair and fix the coronets of the world’s aristocracy. Not-yet twenty-one, and under the soubriquet of Mr M (or “Lil” to his closest customers), he’d become the best-placed commoner at the last hurrah of the greatest empire without even breaking into a sweat.

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Mark 2 by Ray Bentley

Mark 2 by Ray Bentley

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As far as I know he’d left his native Cardiff as a teenage hairdresser to move to Manchester after catching the eye of Helena Rubenstein, but within weeks he was sent down to her London Salon; six months after that, he was in Paris.

So: in the absence of any palpable hunger or guile, what was it that led a working class boy from South Wales to these heights so quickly? I think it was the combination of his impeccable, unforced manners, his beguiling confidence and his looks that taxied him into polite society, blessed as he was with the pompadour, the quixotic flounce, the traffic-stopping nose, and the towering, ambiguous physique that would, by turns, disarm, mesmerise and reassure everyone who met him.

Predictably, however, this insouciance became as much a hindrance as it was a help. Had he been more career-minded I feel sure, for example, that he would have found it in himself not to throw a chair at one of his royal clients following her late arrival to an appointment. His inevitable dismissal curtailed his trajectory, but after retreating to Cardiff to let the dust settle he was quickly lured to London afresh by an up-and-coming salon which – with his efforts – quickly overshadowed even Rubenstein’s.

So: less than two years after his expulsion he was preening the elite again, just as his sins were slipping from polite memory. As soon as he was back in Town he was bored, though, and he wanted something new.

Wigs had slipped out of fashion in the 1920’s, but with the advent of new technology, greater prosperity, and some fledgling interest on the continent, Mark decided that he would bring the perruque back to London, and he successfully re-introduced the capital to a passion for hairpieces that would last well into the sixties; Dusty, he claimed, never went anywhere else.

This was another of his unique qualities: his adaptability was such that he could learn his way into a position of unparalleled expertise on whatever appealed to him at any given time: wigs, clocks, antiques, quadrophonic sound systems, chimpanzees, Borzoi breeding, handsome Guardsmen, and, more than anything else, Lord Byron, whose style and swagger he comprehensively appropriated. Such was his authority that he was called upon by Peter Hall – director of the West End production of “Camino Real” – to ensure that the hair of the young Robert Hardy was exactly the right shade of Byronic auburn.

His passions weren’t always so durable, however. He returned his chimp to Harrods just hours after he bought it when it became clear that the constant screeching and poo-throwing would play havoc with his hosting prowess.

He was also blessed with a selective practicality which, to all but Mark, appeared utterly extraordinary: for example, he thought it perfectly natural that everyone should have at least one overgrown fingernail for those times when there wasn’t a screwdriver to hand. He also thought it was the obvious career move, when, aged just twenty, he received a series of injections from a doctor boyfriend which successfully protected him from hereditary baldness, even if it meant that he’d be forced to live with a pair of perfectly formed but enormous boobs for the next thirty years.

I can’t say exactly what it was that made him finally leave hairdressing for good, but he made a well-timed exit just before the kid-next-door renaissance of the swinging sixties turned Mark’s brand of exoticism into a quaint impediment..

His first attempt at reinvention shrewdly mirrored the entrepreneurial hipness of that age, and he utilised his contacts within the music industry to try and repackage himself as The Mystery Singer. His plan was to release a beat version of “Come Into The Garden, Maude”, which would be sang from behind a screen upon which a back light would silhouette Mark’s unmistakable profile and trademark cigarette holder. Although he couldn’t sing a note he considered this wholly unimportant, as he was well aware that they could “do marvellous things in the studio” to rectify this. Unsurprisingly this project never came to fruition in the way he’d hoped, although the concept remains strangely compelling.

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Mark 3 by Ray Bentley

Mark 3 by Ray Bentley

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It’s from about here onwards that I start to lose my grip on the chronology of Mark’s life a bit, because when he disappeared (as her warned me he would) he limited contact to sporadic and increasingly glib telephone calls if things were going either extremely well or extremely poorly. Given that I hardly ever saw him, this will give you some idea of what lay ahead.

His father – who’d diligently tithed Mark’s earnings for over a decade to ensure he didn’t fritter everything away – felt compelled to move down from Cardiff in the sixties, and together they relied on Mark’s knowledge of clocks and his father’s engineering prowess to make a comfortable living – until he chased the old man back to Wales, that is.

It was then that he also embarked his longest, but most unsuccessful career, as an inventor. His confidence remained as formidable ever, but for the first time the world resisted Mark in ways he couldn’t negotiate. The financial pressure of retaining patents on his ideas, coupled with his unerring taste for the good life meant that his capital was eaten away, and he could do nothing as his better innovations were picked off one by one as the rights expired.

To an inventor, determination is as combustible as oxygen, and the drive that allows you to knock unflinchingly on a multitude of doors eventually blinds you to the limitations of the products you believe in – and invest in – the most.

In Mark’s case he came unstuck because of his unwavering belief that disposable, self-adhesive glove-pads for caterers and car mechanics were the future, and he spend everything on research and development in a vain attempt to make a satisfactory hand glue.

A substantial windfall and the generous return from the sub-letting of a sitting tenancy in the West End kept things ticking over financially for a decade or so, during which time he continued to make some very important friends despite a lack of any tangible success. Consequently, he was invited onto “Clive Anderson Talks Back” in the mid-80s to talk about his inventions, and he proved so popular that he was hurried back for a repeat performance on a later episode.

This flurry of interest in both his ebullient charm and his unlikely devices coincided with the removal of his breasts, which had become so large by then that he had to bind them to himself before leaving the house. Instead of freeing him to enjoy this eminence, however, it precipitated a deterioration which made it almost impossible for him to fully enjoy the rest of his life. He clung on to his demeanour as best as he could and remained as dashing, imposing and infectious as ever, even if he could no longer walk without a stick.

The last time I saw him was about twelve years ago. Even though the money was all but gone he was living in a grace and favour house in Herefordshire that was nothing less than palatial, and which was staffed with a housekeeper to tend the needs of Mark, his equally unreliable partner, his ever-decreasing circle of friends, and his two lanky Borzois. He talked about how he’d recently appeared on Esther Rantzen’s new daytime show, but was somewhat discomfited by the way in which he and his fellow inventors were presented as eccentrics worthy of nothing but ridicule.

For the next two years I spoke to Mark only sporadically. His telephone calls again became short, charming and infuriating, and, as before, were never long enough to betray the new realities of his life.

When I went to his sparsely attended funeral I found out that both the house and the housekeeper had been gone for some time, and that he, his partner and his super-sized dogs had been forced by penury into a one-bedroomed council flat. A handful of people – all of whom were local – paid their respects at his service, but there was only me there that knew the truths about Mark that were hidden even from his partner.

The fifty year sunset on his own private empire was finally over, and with it, another un-Google-able life had been lost to history. For all I’ve gone on, you still don’t even know the half of what he got up to.

Given the colour and unthinking vitality of Mark’s life I could only see tragedy in his quiet end at first, but As I’ve got older myself I now only see the triumph, given that almost every life, eventful or otherwise, ends with the same unseemly bathos.

Mark lived “to the max”, and I feel sure now that were he presented with the circumstances of his late penury, death and quiet exit exit fifty years earlier, he would gladly have taken it in return for the splendid chaos he made for himself.

I’ve attached the three drawings I completed for this tribute: the first was a pencil sketch I did as a refresher; the second was a profile based on that and further recollections, and the third was a much more impressionistic rendering I did after this article had been written; none of them, it has to be said, do him justice, particularly when compared to the first sketch I did of him when I was at art school.

That one is lost, sadly. If, on your travels, however, you chance upon a pen/ink sketch of a tall, reclining naked man with a foot-long cigarette holder, a cottage loaf pompadour, gigantic breasts and an equally gigantic member, then you’ll have completed the set, and you’ll have a much better visual analogue for what it was that made Mark so delightfully shocking.

 

Biography:

Ray Bentley is an award-winning painter from Stoke-on-Trent whose still lifes and figurative paintings have been exhibited throughout the UK. He now lives and works near Redcar with his partner and dog, where he spends his days eating biscuits, napping, not doing the housework, tweeting about his favourite things, reading thrillers and – occasionally – painting. You can learn more about him at www.raymondbentley.com or follow him via  https://twitter.com/bentleyteesside

 

 Watch out for the second instalment of Ray’s FreeSpace on Wednesday 19th November.

 

 

 

FreeSpace is a creative opportunity that offers 3 posts on ArtiPeeps to an individual or group for showcasing or a project. The slots can be taken in a cluster or spread over a period of months. Do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On page or via comments if you’d like to take up this opportunity.

The Nine Realms: Our Next Epic Collaboration

1 Oct

Vikings

Vikings Ahoy!

On Monday the 6th October 2014 our next epic large-scale project will be starting with the posting of an overview of the realm Asgard in Norse Mythology. The online part of our collaboration will run for 9 months and is inspired by the 9 realms of the Norse world. Like with Transformations,  The Nine Realms will culminate in a 5 day exhibition in Hanse House, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, UK across the Heritage Open Day weekend.  We’re not only excited to deepen our connection with King’s Lynn, but to also draw in more disciplines. There’s going to be music, a Viking boat is being carved my sculptor Mark Crowley and we’re having a comic corner and a more up-front promotions corner for the creatives involved.

This year we are bringing together near on 50 creatives from all disciplines, some have crossed over from Transformations and there are well over 20 new creatives being showcased. So there is a good mix.  Excitingly, by the end of the project not only will the creatives involved have created their own personal Nine Realms, but they will also have created a collective Nine Realms which can be used to introduce new audiences and young people to this material. It can be used as an innovative, educational tool.  We learned a lot from the great schools’ day we had with King Edward VII Academy, King’s Lynn in relation to this.

As with Transformations, I will be posting out an overview of each realm month by month along with deadlines for the submission of the writing (poetry, prose etc). I will also attach writing prompts and an audio of one of the stories as well. We will be drawing from both the Prose and Poetc Eddas as well as other source material. The order will be as follows:

October 2014: Asgard (Month 1, Realm of the Warrior Gods)

November 2014: Vanaheim (Month 2, Realm of the Vanir, the gods associated with wisdom, nature, magic and fertility)

December 2014: Jutenheim (Month 3, Realm of the Giants)

January 2015: Nidavellir (Month 4, Realm of the Dwarves)

February 2015: Nifelheim (Month 5, Realm of the Dead, where evil men die)

March 2015: Helheim (Month 6, The Realm of the Dead, which men pass through in order to die in Nifelheim)

April 2015: Muspelheim (Month 7, Realm of Fire)

May 2015: Midgard (Month 8, Realm of the People)

June 2015: Alfheim (Month 9, Realm of the Light Elves)

During April/May we will collectively run a Kickstarter campaign for one aspect of our project.

The Writing: 

In this collaboration writers can chose to write in whichever form they like- prose, poetry play-format etc.

In alignment with the Norse Sagas themselves there will be a focus on ORALITY and storytelling, and work will be centred around the themes of POWER, NATURE and RELIGION.  There will also be a focus on translation and rhythm, and we are hoping that a separate off-shoot project can grow from this when we translate what we do into different languages. The writers are free to be as modern and contemporary as they like, but still keeping a feeling of magic.

At the exhibition, in contrast to Transformations, the writing will be communicated to the audience orally/in person or by recording. The oral communication of the poetry in Transformations was such a success that we want to get even more people actively involved and engaged with the writing in The Nine Realms.

As we go through the realms month by month the writers will be submitting their work in both a written and oral format/mp3. The idea being that we will create and record an oral version of the writing within the project. The poems will also be placed into a Nine Realms playlist on Soundcloud. This alongside some specially commissioned pieces of music will be turned into a CD and performed across the 5 days at the exhibition.

We are also intending to take the writing into libraries: one in King’s Lynn and the other in Norwich and have a theme of storytelling.

The writers will be submitting one piece (or more if they wish), and there will be a selection process at the end in relation to which pieces go into the exhibition.

The 22 Poets and Writers are: 

Nat Hall
Eleanor Perry
Mina Polen
Stephannie Brennan
James Knight
Lydia Allison
Ross Beattie
Rebecca Audra Smith
Joanna Lee
Jim C Mackintosh
Robert de Born
Richard Biddle
Karin Heyer
Kate Garrett
Greg Mackie
Shirley Golden
Adam Wimbush
Carol Robson
John Mansell
Tom Murphy
Lenka Monk

 

The Music:

This year we have decided to bring music into our project and we have commissioned three musicians and composers to write 3, 8 minute pieces to represent the realms:

Ruth Angell, violinist, singer, amongst other instruments will be composing music for Asgard, Vanaheim and Nifelheim

Shaun Blezard, a creative technologist, will be composing music for Jotunheim, Helheim, and Nidavellir. Shaun composed the music for The Recovery Project we did the year before last.

Simon Beavis, a music maker, is composing music for Muspelheim, Alfheim and Midgard

We are hoping that there will be a live performance of the music along with the poetry at the exhibition, and the compositions will be used in-between poems and as a background to the poetry. The music will set the tone of the realms. ArtiPeeps and I are thrilled to be working with these composers and to bring in this new element.

We are in the process of consolidating a partnership with Future Radio in Norwich and all being well we will be recording the CD at their studio in Norwich.

The Art:

We have also attached 19 artists to the Realms. 2 per realm (with the exception of Muspelheim which has 3). As with Transformations, they cross a range of styles and mediums including photography and sculpture. Each artist, with the help of the ‘woolly viking hat of fate’, has been allocated a realm from the 9,  which they can create for themselves inspired by the poetry and prose written about their realm by the Realms writers, and by their own research and the project overviews. The artists, if they wish, can create pictures for the individual realms as they go along, but only their allocated realm will be exhibited. For those artists outside of the UK, the same pattern as Transformations will be followed and we will frame a high quality 300 dpi image of their work on their behalf. The original will be available for sale through the artist.

The artists involved are:

Deborah Sheehy (Month 1, Oct. Asgard)
Diana Probst (Month 1, Oct. Asgard)
To be confirmed (Month 2, Nov. Vanaheim)
Heather Burns (Month 2, Nov. Vanaheim)
Ieuan Edwards (Month 3, Dec. Jotunheim)
Jasmine Reynolds (Month 3, Dec. Jotunheim)
Jeremy Moseley (Month 4, Jan. Nidavellir)
Cliona Sheehan (Month 4, Jan. 2015, Nidavellir)
Charlie Redding (Month 5, Feb. 2015, Nifelheim)
Rob Fitzmaurice (Month 5, Feb, Nifelheim)
Ryan Atkins (Month 6, March, Helheim)
Lili Morgan (Month 6, March, Helheim)
Gill Offley (Month 7, April, Muspelheim)
Chad Swanson (Month 7, April, Muspelheim)
Mark Peverley (Month 7,April, Muspelheim)
James Mackenzie (Month 8, May Midgard)
Raymond Bentley (Month 8, May Midgard)
Elaine Offley (Month 9, June Alfheim)
Ann Supan (Month 9 June Alfheim)

 

Our Partners:

Elizabeth and Lisa

The lovely Elizabeth and Lisa from Florida USA will also be involved with us again. This time actually creating a hard-copy comic inspired by the characters and realms of Norse Mythology. This hard-copy version will be made available to attendees at the exhibition, and act, once again, as a entry point for younger people and adults. As mentioned above, this year we’re going to have a comic corner and hopefully get the comic animated….Watch this space….

We are also going to be continuing our collaboration with both Hanse House and Deborah Services Limited, King’s Lynn, who provided our exhibition scaffolding.

King Edward VII Academy, King’s Lynn:

I’m thrilled to say that as a direct result of the great schools’ day we had with Transformations KES Academy in King’s Lynn want to get involved with our Norse project this year. They want to involve the art and english departments and their pupils. We are fleshing out what this will look like at the moment and I’ll let you know as more details unfold.

Millfield School, Somerset,

Millfield and their pupils took up a FreeSpace with us last year, and one of their post’s on ArtiPeeps got Freshly Pressed. The quality of Millfield’s young poets is apparent. We’re thrilled that they want to work alongside us on this project. Pupils of all ages will be writing their own myths and stories which will more than likely be posted out on ArtiPeeps as we go along. This is all being firmed up now.

We will be incorporating the work of both KES and Millfield into our exhibition. The exact way this will be done will be confirmed shortly…Watch this space…

Future Radio

Future Radio is a community radio station in Norwich, Norfolk, which broadcasts a breadth of user-created programmes to Norwich on a daily basis. It also runs courses in radio production and has a recording studio in which we are hoping to record the music and poetry for The Nine Realms. We are also hoping that they will interview our creatives and perhaps get involved with the storytelling workshops we hope to put on in libraries. Watch this space on this one too.

As with Transformations, as The Nine Realms evolves, new partnerships will emerge, and I shall keep you up-to-date as we move along.

The Funding of our project:

From this point onwards I will be applying to a variety of funders and sponsors in order to finance what we are creating. Through October and November the Chair of ArtiPeeps and I will be preparing budgets and I will start writing applications in November/December. This is a big project and therefore we are approaching a breadth of potential funders. They will range from local authorities, to public money funders, to foundations, to individual sponsors. We will also, as mentioned above, be holding a Kickstarter Campaign for one aspect of our collaboration. I have no doubt in my heart and my head that we can fund this rich, magical, multi-discipline project which is filled with such a range of talented creatives.

I’m excited to kick the whole project off with the Asgard overview next week, and I’m 100% sure that The Nine Realms’ Vikings will create something of high quality once again that inspires, innovates and promotes creativity as well as showing how relevant the Norse myths still are!

Thank you for your interest!

Nicky

P.S. We should shortly have a project logo for the Nine Realms created by Gary Caldwell

ArtiPeeps Update: Into the Home Straight (Transformations et al)

26 Jun

Fireworks

 

A lot has happened since the last update and I probably ‘should’ have posted out an update earlier. My apologies. However brooding over ‘shoulds’ usually doesn’t get one anywhere,  and I can make amends now…..So here we go. 

Our Kickstarter Campaign

Something amazing happened at the end of our official Kickstarter campaign some of our lovely backers decided to come with us: 26 no less! (Big thanks to Kate Garrett for coming up with the idea) This is no mean feat! The fact that people wish to support Transformations  financially and see it’s value is significant and a testament to the talent of all the creatives involved.  We are presently fulfilling on the rewards with a delivery date of November. 

Backer Cards

With that in mind, the second card in our backer 3-pack has also been printed, so Gill Offley’s painting The Punishment of the Maenads and Rebecca Audra Smith’s poem How to Kill Orpheus have been immortalised in card and print. 

 

Second Card

 

The final card is now being produced featuring Ryan Atkin’s picture Achilles v Cycnus and Karin Heyer’s poem ‘Horror of War’.

Achillies v Cycnus by Ryan Atkins, Inspired by Book 12

Achillies v Cycnus by Ryan Atkins, Inspired by Book 12

Funding Applications

Yesterday, I put in ArtiPeeps’ first match funding bid to the arts council which goes alongside our application to Norfolk County Council. There is a six week turn around on these applications, so we will see what comes of that in early August. With these two bids under our belt and the backers’ support we will hopefully have funded Transformations. I’m happy with the application I put in, but do recognise it is quite close to our activity date. However, that is just the way it has fallen. I couldn’t have done any more, so whatever will be, will be.

Exhibition Preparation

The 6o poems for the exhibition foam boards have gone off, as has copy for the National Heritage Open Day brochure, the Hanse House website, and the exhibition leaflet.  The designer has done a fantastic job of the leaflet, and has created  a really structural 3D flyer. It’s most unusual. Mr Ovid would approve I think. As soon as we have finalised a proof I’ll be able to share it with you.

We also have resolved a little size issue with the temporary fencing we were going to use to at the exhibition, and  on which we were going to mount everything. We discovered they wouldn’t fit up the stairs at Hanse House!!! So off we went to a builders yard (DSL) and found a solution, which is even better.  We’ll probably be creating  17 scaffolding cubes 1.5 metres by 2 metres high  (one per book, plus 2 for the comic strip). The  branch manager  will be there on the 10th to help  start construction.

Over the next couple of months, I’m going to be producing text for all the scroll down banners that are going to be at the exhibition, copy for an advertisement going in a local Norfolk Magazine (Iceni) and also hurling myself headlong into the production of the interactive pdf, ebook and soft copy book.  Phew! 

ArtiPeeps Devevelopment

In terms of the opportunities that ArtiPeeps offers, I’m having a good old think about whether to swap from fixed seasons to rolling seasons of work. The advantage of making our opportunties rolling would be that I could offer showcases and collaborations on an ongoing, flexible basis. If a creative wanted a showcase then and there, or a FreeSpace next week I could give it to them. That appeals to me. Equally, I can also see how it may well be the case that all of ArtiPeeps’ opportunities could be ultimately driven through its large-scale collaborations. Running one large mental health venture and one epic literary venture per year would create a significant amount of opportunities, and two guaranteed  external outlets for those involved. I’m mulling all of this over at the moment. I’m really trying to get  down to the core of what ArtiPeeps is all about and what needs to drive it.

Collaborations and Partners 

Millfield School

photo

Our collaboration with Millfield School in Somerset has been a great success and the post we put together ( ‘ A Sense of Place’ ) was Freshly Pressed by a WordPress editor and has now had 130 likes, which is more than a bit crazy, and a testament to the quality of the school’s year 9 young poets. We are hoping Millfield will be taking part in some way in our next large-scale project Norse Sagas.  Some more poetry from Millfield’s recent poetry festival will be posted out this afternoon.

Many, many thanks to everyone who liked the Millfied post and who now follow the ArtiPeeps site. James, Millfield’s head teacher told all his pupils about your support and they were thrilled and said it was cool. 🙂 

The UK Recovery Federation

It’s also been confirmed that I will be presenting our mental health collaboration  ‘The Recovery Projectto the national UK Recovery Federation’sCreating narratives for the Recovery Movement: the Good, the True & the Beautiful’  conference in Leicester on  Friday 26th September 2014. I will also be giving a 10 minute talk around the theme of well-being in relation to the  afternow themes. I’m thrilled about this because I will be able to  to showcase, Ray’s , Hugo’s, Jeremy’s, Becca’s, Carol’s and John’s art and poetry to a wider audience. The knowledge I’ll  gain from the experience will also allow me to direct our well-being work better and with greater theoretical understanding. 

With the idea of swapping to a rolling programme of work, you may well see a smattering of Weekend Showcases across July.

Thank you once again for your interest, and look out for more Millfield poetry this afternoon.

All the very best.

Nicky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making the Virtual Real: ArtiPeeps Update

17 Apr

 

new-badge5

 

 I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that our Kickstarter Campaign for Transformations has been approved, which will mean we can launch our Kickstarter project this coming Monday the 21st. It’s been a real journey creating the campaign, and we’ve pulled together some really fantastic rewards, all generated from within the project- ranging from self portraits to poems written especially for you from three words that you choose.

I will post out full details including the live link when we launch on Monday.

A  successful campaign will mean that the Ovid inspired collaboration that we’ve been running virtually here for the last 15 months can be made real, showcasing 31 Twitter creatives in total and launching a large-scale exhibition template that ArtiPeps can use year-on-year to provide further opportunities.  You can find more details about Transformations in the menu above (extra to the highlighted link).  Do watch out for us on Monday. It would be fabulous to have your support!

More good news in relation to the ‘Supporting Mental Health’ side of what we do (Creatives Making A Difference). We have been approached by the UK Recovery Federation who want to use a project we put together last year in a National conference on Recovery in September. Again, I couldn’t be more happy about this as it will further showcase the creatives involved (John Mansell, Jeremy Moseley, Raymond Bentley, Carol Robson, Hugo Smith and Rebecca Audra Smith) and also make our virtual intention to explore mental health issues and well-being real. Some of us will hopefully be attending the conference and we will be presenting our video piece to the attendees.

Here is The Recovery Project:

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You can explore this season’s ‘Supporting Mental Health’ Collaborations below. They’ve been inspiring:

Loneliness (ft: Stephanie Brennan and Deborah Sheehy, Charlie Winters and Jeremy Moseley and John Mansell and Ieuan Edwards)

Anxiety and Release (ft. Mat JimDog and Mina Polen, Rod Kok and Heather Burns and *Lucy Quin and Jack Morris, and *Lauren Coulsen and Cliona Sheehan)

* Still to come.

Our season of work has been going brilliantly. There’s been a real range of collaborations, showcasing and residencies, as well as FreeSpaces where creatives like Mandy Gibson, have been revisiting past pieces and finishing them off just for this project, which is a real honour. The Found poetry collaboration has been a real find for me. I’ve enjoyed seeing what has been produced, so much so we actually did some of our own in the real-life ArtiPeeps group I run. The texts have  such an atmosphere attached to them. They’re curious. We’ve also had our first wood sculptor on ArtiPeeps’ Weekend Showcase, Mark Crowley which I’ve loved too.

Oh yes, and #ArtiPeepsChat has been going well on Twitter where I chat with creatives about their work. (8-pm-9pm every Wednesday, barring the last week in the month when it’s on a Thursday)

All in all there’s lots afoot for ArtiPeeps at the moment. This season of work continues until the end of May, and please do support us in anyway you can. Watch out for the Transformations Kickstarter launch on Monday.

 All good wishes, and thanks so much for your interest.

Nicky

 

If you would like to get involved in any of our opportunities please do get in touch either via the contact form on the What’s On page or via @ArtiPeeps

 

 

 

 

 

Two Strands: ArtiPeeps Mini-Relaunch

30 Sep

Two Strands

Well, as from tomorrow until the end of the year ArtiPeeps is back with gusto. We are now entirely driven by multi-form collaborations and Individual Showcasing (the two strands) It’s a real treat to say that over the next 3 months…

  • We’ve got 12 weekend showcases * lined up featuring a real gamut of emerging and established creatives and forms every Friday (see below).

        *Weekend Showcase Initiative (Every Friday, 1 Creative, 1 Piece of Work, letting their work speak for itself)

  • We’ve got 1  FreeSpace* creatives ( Michael Schmidt, Nat Hall & Lili Morgan, Shannon Pardoe, Eliot Winters, Holly Gibson and one of our lovely Transformers Karin Heyer) and 1 FreeSpace Group (Space2Create)

          *FreeSpace Initiative (3 consecutive slots for further showcasing or projects).

  • There are also two mid-sized collaborations under our new strand ‘Supporting Mental Health’ ( part of ‘Creatives Making A Difference’):  The first collaboration bringing together 4 artists and 4 poets  examining the dynamics of fear and trust and the other collaboration (involving 3 poets, 2 artists and 1 photographer) on light, comfort and re-assurance. In each case poets, artists and photographers will be  working alongside each other on the themes.

The two collaborations above highlight one of the major threads of ArtiPeeps’ intention which we’re letting sit under the banner of ‘Supporting Mental Health’. The artwork and texts created in these two collaborations, alongside   ‘The Recovery Project’ will form an ongoing artistic and therapeutic resource for people in need and also provide an innovative access point from which people can engage with difficult psychological themes and issues. This I’m hoping to call  ‘ Comfort Zone’.  (This, I hasten to add at this point,  is very much a work in progress). And I also have in mind that these collaborations could be grouped together as external exhibitions , to increase public awareness.

I’d be very grateful for any feedback on these two collaborations. What you liked about them? If they helped? How valuable you think this strand is?

And….importantly

we are introducing our  Writer in Residence for October (Visitor Peep)  emerging writer and poet Lydia Allison. We’re thrilled to have her with us over the next month. Indeed, we have built a whole multi-form Halloween-style collaboration around 4 great poems of Lydia’s which focus on  a particular interest of her’s- notions of deformity. You’ll hear more about that tomorrow!

And here’s where our third collaboration comes in….because October leads up to Halloween 4 great artists are not only providing illustrations for each of Lydia’s  poems but also collaboratively creating a monster together. At Halloween you’ll be able to see the ghastly, terrifying  collaborative Monster they’ve shaped together and a new piece of writing by Lydia too.  We’ve also got a spanking new piece of Flash fiction with a Halloween theme coming out from emerging writer Jessica Cooke which we’re also very excited about which will pave the way to the Monster. 

We’ve also got ArtiPeeps’ 2nd Artist in Residence returning (Lydia’s predecessor) lovely neon artist Lili Morgan and her neons . Her monthly journal is back until the end of the year.  It will be a delight to have her neons and spirit back on show. And there will be the steady heartbeat of Transformations poems passing through too on a weekly basis.  All is well.

So over the next 3 months well over 30 wonderful creatives will have been individually showcased and have connected and collaborated together – making a difference and  creating new artworks and literary pieces whilst showcasing their talent and artistry. That’s the idea anyway.

I did a bit of calculating last week and I’m proud to say that since last May over 100 creatives have taken up ArtiPeeps’ opportunities. I know that’s probably small fare compared to some organisations, but it is a lovely firm foundation from which to grow.  It is my every intention to continue and develop these opportunitives further and provide concrete oulets like ‘Transformations’ our 2014 large scale art/poetry exhibition on a regular basis. Now we have found a home in the form of Hanse House for our events this can happen.

You’re feedback and support is much valued,  particularly in relation to this new strand. – So do come back both physically and with your comments and ideas. There’s lots on,  and much quality and talent.

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The other Creatives and there work featured over the next 3 months will be  as follows:

Monster: 

Gary Caldwell (Illustrator & Artist)

Diana Proubst (Artist)

Amanda Santos (Artist)

Sara Mena (Artist)

Fear/ Trust

Ryan Atkins (Artist) Richard Biddle (Poet)

Rob Fitzmaurcice (Artist) Robin Sounder (Poet)

Mat JimDog (Artist) Tom Murphy (Poet)

Ray Bentley (Artist) Melissa Diem (Poet)

Comfort and Reassurance

Hugo Smith (Artist) Lenka Monk (Poet)

Ken Fasimpaur (Artist) Lauren Caulson (Poet)

Atalina Marie Homan (Artist) Candice Buchanon (Poet)

Weekend Showcase:

Heather Mary Burns (Artist)

Eliot Winters (Writer and poet)

Em (poet)

Estrella Azul (Writer)

John Austin Brooks (poet)

Jenny Bailey (Writer)

Tony Adams (Photographer)

Mina Polen (Poet)

Virginia Clarke (Artist)

James Gidding (Writer)

Anil Godigamuwe (Poet)

Jeremy Mosley (Photographer)

And maybe more….

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We hope you enjoy the diversity, talent, quality and creativity.

All the very best.

Nicky

P.S. Today, I’m going to be hopefully inaugurating an ArtiPeeps online calendar on the ‘What’s On’  Page so you can see ‘what’s occurring’ throughout the month more easily.

Bunny Hops: ArtiPeeps Update

1 Apr

Hurry

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It’s been a little while since I’ve given everybody an update of what’s afoot with ArtiPeeps, so I’m taking this Easter Monday as a cue to do so. I am trying to embody all the energy of the hare above at the moment but not the speed- slow and steady is what I’m aiming for; trying to build something solid and meaningful in the long term. All of what you’ll find below is part of that trajectory.

Today is the launch of the new ArtiPeeps logo that you’ll see to the right at the top of the sidebar. It has been designed by artist and illustrator Gary Caldwell and Gary and I have been working on it for a number of months. The logo’s aim is to embody all that ArtiPeeps stands for in a clear and precise way and to communicate the notion of collaboration visually. There is also an explicit nod to another one of ArtiPeeps’ concerns -well-being. We’re going to use the logo on all our official documentation and business cards etc. It will also be the logo I use for my various social media profiles. It’s one of the stages in our professionalisation, so it feels good, and Gary has been a great collaborator. Artipeeps likes Gary.

In terms of present and future collaborations our Transformations Poetry Project is going on a pace. It’s our 3rd month in and the quality of the poems has been extraordinary. Long may it continue!  You can find all the poems here, here, here & here. My aim is to also bring in artists into this project to contribute one painting, illustrating one book. We have two artists so far. If you are an artist and would like to get involved with this please do contact me. The poems and art will form an exhibition/collaboration next year and this will, in real terms, move the virtual collaboration into something concrete and tangible (which is an important intent); foregrounding all the creatives involved. The exhibition which hopefully will also include the poets involved will take place in Kings Lynn late next year; I will be crowdfunding for this exhibition starting in July (that’s the plan).

Our mental health ‘Recovery Project’ is also well under way- 3 artist (Ray Bentley, Jeremy Moseley, Hugo Smith); 3 poets: (Carol Robson, John Mansell and Rebecca Audra Smith) 1 audio visual artist, (Shaun Blezard) working on the theme of recovery *. You can find full details of the project here just last week the 3 poems were passed to the artists. Indeed, the first section of our piece ‘despair’ is already complete as is the soundscape for the whole piece written by Shaun . The artwork combined with the poetty will be ready by the end of April and then it will be a matter of combining all three sections into a whole of some sort in May and releasing it to the world. It’s an extremely affecting and powerful piece we’re creating, I can feel that already. We’re getting a mental health charity involved with us and I’m working towards placing the piece in some way within psychiatric hospitals and/or like-minded organisations.

In relation to the well-being aspect of ArtiPeeps, it is also my intention to create a sister site (ArtiPeeps Well-being) that is dedicated to supporting creative minds. The two sites will be interlinked, but there will be a very clear psychological imperative to the sister site using art, literature and poetry therapeutically and creating links with similar groups and organisations such as Space2Create (with whom we’ll be forging a firm link shortly).

We also have our first prose collaboration Hot Potato kicking off in the middle of April, where 8 prose writers (Ben Cooper, Gail Aldwin, aksania xenogrette ,  CJ Sullivan, AK AndersonLaura Besley, Gwendolyn S, Natalie Beech (over a period of 16 weeks, will be writing one short story sequentially). It’s going to be good. We’ve got great potatoes!! 

We have also found another visitor peep/artist in residence Kelly Occhiuzzo who will be with us for the month of May co-ordinating and taking part in a 4 artist project she has developed in which 4 separate new pieces of art will be created over the period of a month. We’re in the process of firming everything up at the moment. We’re so glad to have her with us!

My focus is still firmly fixed on building as many individual and group opportunities into ArtiPeeps as possible, and the well-being sister site will be developed steadily alongside everything as best I can. I have to admit that balancing the running of ArtiPeeps with actually doing what I need to do to develop it is difficult. Finding the time to do business plans, make connections etc. At present I am in the process of trying to find not only someone to help me with all the day-to-day computer work but also someone who can help me with the budgeting of my 5 year business plan which will act as the foundation of ArtiPeeps’ business equity and project crowdfunding plans. I am approaching CamCreative in relation to this….

In terms of individual opportunities, ‘Weekend Showcase’ is running smoothly every Friday with a new creative featured each week. Every creative showcased is then offered the option of taking up ‘FreeSpace’ (3 separate slots which can be taken up in a cluster or spread across months for mini-projects or for further platforming). James Knight has already done so and Koos Kleven (cartoonist) is also taking up this offer as has poet Oregon McClure. I am also starting up another mini-opportunity called ‘FullSpread’ which will offer creatives: a showcase, ‘FreeSpace’ and a guest blog. This could work particularly well for groups and organisations that want to not only communicate what they do but also want to foreground individuals and projects. We are in fact in the process of offering this to Space2Create.

In terms of features our usual ones,Frenzy’s Flash Feature’ (Greg Mackie), ‘Flash Fortnightly’ and ‘Classic Friday’ ( Nisha Moodley) are going strong, and we have now introduced a new monthly ‘writerly’ feature ‘The Tiniest of Things’ with poet Tiffany Coffman.

Last week ArtiPeeps was nominated by Ant DiMartino for the ‘Very Inspring Blogger Award’ which caused me a bit of concern because it’s not me that does all the writing and the contributing it’s you. As I said to Ant I’m thinking hard how best to handle this and I will only proceed if I can foreground creatives from within ArtiPeeps and its environs… and they might not want to participate…so we”ll see.

As you can see there’s a lot going on; things shaping and shifting in every direction. It’s all really exciting but there’s such a lot to do so it’s about being slow and steady whilst embodying boundng hare-like energy that moves us consistently forward. It’s a matter of stepping forward each day and leaning into every opportunity I can to develop ArtiPeeps and all those who sail in her.

I thank every single contributor and supporter of ArtiPeeps. You are growing ArtiPeeps by your sheer presence and that is an amazing gift, and if you want to get involved just contact me!

Nicky 

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* “Recovery is being able to live a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by each person, in the presence or absence of symptoms. It is about having control over and input into your own life. Each individual’s recovery, like his or her experience of the mental health problems or illness, is a unique and deeply personal process.” Scottish Recovery Network 2009

Recovery is not about ‘getting rid of problems’. It is about seeing people beyond their problems – their abilities, possibilities, interests, and dreams and recovering the social roles and relationships that give life value and meaning”Julie Repper and Rachel Perkins, 2002


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