Monday, 18 July 2022

Art Master Live!

The Art Master Live! show at the Elgiva Theatre in Chesham went exceptionally well! Alex Horne was hilarious, team captains Fiona (Smack the Pony, Eastenders) Allen and Ninia (Three Non Blondes, The Island) Benjamin were great sports and the audience had a terrific evening. The show was a sell-out - so much so that there was a waiting list for hopeful cancellations. I was the on-stage scorer and Alex's assistant and I also officiated during the filmed tasks.

But this is a blog about making stuff from junk so you won't be surprised to hear that I made quite a few props for the show, such as giant paint tubes (metallic card, craft foam, takeaway food pots). a giant eraser (flower blocks and card) and giant paint brushes (a broom, metallic card, cardboard tubes from inside carpets). Oh, and I made the trophy too (see here). I reckon they looked okay!
Tremendous fun all round and we raised a good amount for charity!

Friday, 8 July 2022

Modelling and .. er .. modelling

Another busy month!

Not much new to show you I'm afraid. It's all been pretty full on here at Colgan Towers.

Firstly, I got involved with an 'Alternative Fashion Show' to celebrate 50 years of punk. It was also to highlight the importance of recycling, re-using, repairing and upcycling. And the event was used to raise funds for the Wycombe Food Hub (as featured here).

The event was tremendous fun and designer Juliet Hamilton - who previously made stage costumes for the likes of Cyndi Lauper and Human League, amongst many others -  did some extraordinary things with thrown away or donated clothes. Local people volunteered as models and I made a few props and MC'd the evening. An extremely worthwhile event and an important message in difficult times.

The only other thing to report is that one of my daughters bought me a 3D pen for Fathers' Day, which is a fun thing. I can't say I've got the hang of it yet but I did make myself a Wicker Man (as in the film) using the pen, some twigs and a bit of spray paint.

More eccentric upcycling news soon!

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Art Master Live! is coming ...

Things have been a bit quiet on here recently as I've been busy working on an exciting live show project with film maker Emily Brown of Catnip Films.

ARTmaster LIVE! is taking place on July 14th at the Elgiva Theatre in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. It's a sort of spin-off from Channel 4's popular and multi award-winning Taskmaster. And it's being hosted by Alex Horne - with some assistance from me. 

However, it has a different format to the TV show and involves the audience taking part in various art challenges. Meanwhile, several celeb guests including Fiona Allen (Smack the Pony), Ben Rufus Green (The Cockfields), Ninia Graham (Three Non-Blondes) and drag artiste La Voix (Britain's Got Talent) have been filmed performing a series of very strange tasks. The filming has been great fun.

I can't reveal any more as everything is under wraps until July. But I can show you the ARTmaster trophy that I made for the event. 


Monday, 16 May 2022

Great Upcyclists #8: Michelle Reader

There are lots of brilliant sculptors out there using recycled waste materials to create art. One such is Nottinghamshire-based sculptor Michelle Reader. 'My sculptures draw attention to environmental issues in an aesthetic, humorous and non-confrontational way," she told the BBC. You can read the whole feature and see more of her wonderful work by clicking here. Or visit her website here.

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Art is a dish best served raw

'Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable' - Banksy. 

As I wrote in a blogpost earlier this month, I am a massive fan of what some might call 'primitive art' or Art Brut. This includes Outsider Art and Folk Art. There's something very fresh and exciting about art that comes direct from the imagination and isn't influenced by the tastes and mores and trends of the art world. 

So, for this last post of April I thought I'd share a few video links to artists I'm particularly fond of. We'll start with Shinichi Sawada, a self-taught Outsider Artist who produces extraordinary ceramic pieces. As a child, he attended a school for children with special educational needs where he was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. From the age of 18, he began to attend a local social welfare facility – an institution for people with learning disabilities called Nakayoshi Fukushikai, in Shiga Prefecture, western Japan. This is what he produces.

Sawada has a set routine. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays he works with others at a bakery, making bread and then selling and delivering the produce locally. Sometimes, he also helps out packing small electrical items. In the afternoons, he is driven over to a pottery studio in the mountains with Akio Kontani, another sculptor, and Iketani, the retired facilitator who has worked with Sawada since he first started going to the institution. Sawada works quickly and in silence and takes four or five days to complete one of his ceramic creatures. Each is built around a cylindrical base that is hollow in the centre. Most have faces on more than one side, and some have several faces stacked on top of one another giving the creations a totem pole look. All the pieces are covered in little spikes. These attachments have evolved over time, becoming denser and more rounded. Sawada often applies them in straight, orderly lines across the surface of the clay. 

His work - and the work of other outsider artists - is represented in the UK by the Jennifer Lauren Gallery in Manchester. Sawada also features in an episode of Alan Yentob's excellent Imagine series called 'Turning the Art World Inside Out', which you can watch on Vimeo here. It's a fascinating 60 minute look at the world of Outsider Art, worth watching and very uplifting.

Now we'll look at the work of the late Sulton Rogers (1922–2003).

'Folk Art' covers all forms of visual art made in the context of folk culture and using traditional skills. It's where you find intricately carved wooden bowls and love spoons, embroidered samplers, corn dollies, carved figurines, and much pottery and ceramics. Some items have a practical utility rather than being exclusively decorative. Folk arts are rooted in and reflective of the life, folklore and cultural heritage of a community. 

Sulton (often mispelled as 'Sultan') Rogers was a Mississippi folk artist who spent most of his life in Syracuse, New York working at a chemical plant. He took up woodcarving as a way of staying awake during long night shifts. Rogers claimed that his art was a reflection of his dreams, or what he called 'futures'. He moved back to Oxford, Mississippi in 1995 and lived there until he died. 
He is known for what he called his haints - curious carved and painted wooden figurines. Rogers' haints are primarily carved humans with oversized or multiple features. He would also carve animals but, more commonly, humans that have animal heads or body parts. He would also carve multiple related carvings known as haint houses. These pieces sometimes included dollhouses that would be filled with his figures. 

He also made a lot of figures in coffins, which friends found slightly disturbing. 'I got a couple of friends that come to the house, they don’t go to the cellar ‘cuz I usually have coffins sitting around there,' he told the Artists' Alliance in 1991. 'You know the fellow I rent from, he don’t go down there. He says if anything would break, you fix it because I ain’t going down there. Then if he does come, he says if you gonna make things then cover them up so I can’t see ‘em, put a sheet or something on ‘em. One night he come to the door and I was trying to put a wig on those dead people in the coffin. He told me I was an idiot for doing stuff like that.' 
His haints are now part of permanent collections at the University of Mississippi Museum of Art, the African American Museum, and the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum. His carvings have also appeared in the Dallas Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, and the American Visionary Art Museum.

It's wonderful stuff isn't it? And all made from recycled materials.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

All at Sea

With the recent news that a gallery in my native county of Cornwall wants to display and sell some of my junk sculptures, I've decided to create a few sea-themed beasties. 

I was particularly keen to make a seahorse or two as a way to highlight the fact that ALL species of seahorse are now considered as vulnerable. 

Over 150 million of these beautiful, harmless little fish are pointlessly killed every year for use in the traditional medicine trade despite the fact that there is no scientific proof that they can cure ailments. Additionally, millions are caught to sell to home aquarium owners or are dried for sale as curios and souvenirs. They are also threatened by climate change. Seahorses commonly live in seagrass beds, mangroves and coral reefs which are all highly sensitive to pollution, fluctuations in temperature and acidic levels, and other human impacts.

One big contributor to climate change is, of course, our hunger for electronic items such as smartphones (as I highlighted here). And so, as I still have a massive sackful of old mobile phone cases, they seemed to me the perfect materials with which to make some seahorses. 

So, I made a core shape out of polystyrene packaging, stuck some bits all over it, gave it a spray of black primer, then a light zenithal highlight in gold and voila - brass-effect seahorse.
Then I decided to do something bigger and bolder. How about ... a whale. 

People like whales, right?

So, again, I used polystyrene packaging to make a basic form and began attaching bits and pieces. Fully 16 phone cases and keypads,plus a multitude of beads and other greeblies went into the construction. In fact, I was so engrossed that I forgot to take many WIP photos. I did, however, make one small video before spraying with black primer.

I then used a white spray can to create a two-tone colour scheme, like you see on humpback whales and other species of cetaceans.

I'll show you the very final model later in this blogpost.

Meanwhile, I created a second seahorse. 

A different construction with no inner core this time ... but a fun challenge all the same.I started with plastic pieces from deodorant cans, shampoo bottles and kitchen bleach sprays Then I added a piece of plastic I found on a dog walk as the snout/mouth. I added some wooden toy cartwheels for eyes and a yoghurt drink pot for the lower body. Then I began decorating with lots of phone parts, beads and other greeblies. 

The seahorse was then sprayed with a black primer and an antique copper.

To finish them for display I mounted the two seahorses on some driftwood boards I collected during my frequent trips to Cornwall. 

For the whale I made a custom base from an old cheeseboard and a repurposed wooden finial I spotted in a skip (and asked permission to take). I then gave it a coat of nice blue chalk paint.

So, here are the finished pieces - a whale and two seahorses. I hope you like them.

On a final note I should point out that this urge to make sea-themed art is obviously in the Colgan family's Cornish blood. My late father was an enthusiastic amateur and often painted seascapes. Here's one from the mid-1970s.

And here's a collage made by one of my daughters for her GCSEs nearly two decades ago - all made from fabric scraps, buttons and unravelled old woollens. I love it. And it, like Dad's painting, hangs with pride in my house.

Footnote: The seahorses (and a few owls) are now on display/for sale at the Watermen's Gallery in Falmouth, Cornwall.