For this birthday party, our theme was inspired by trips to the California Science Center to see the Endeavour shuttle and NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida with our space-obsessed little one. I had fun painting some letter-shaped canvases and large canvas with galaxy-related imagery, and made garlands with fun sparkly foam stickers.
For treats, I made trays of multicoloured fudge, and rice krispie squares with swirly coloured chocolate sprinkled with edible stars.
As it was a barbecue at the park, we played space-related games outdoors such as an obstacle course with planets to orbit, black holes to avoid, astronaut helmets to fit, and robot dancing!
We played ‘pass the asteroid’ (a lumpy parcel with a Star Wars toy within each layer of wrapping) and I made a large board with a ‘solar system challenge’, velcro planets to rearrange into the right order radiating out from the sun.
It was a lot of fun spookifying the house for our Halloween party. I painted an antique effect on some plain frames and taped in some dollar store-bought lenticular pictures, which turned from innocuous portraits to gruesome visages!
The Edwardian haunted house theme expanded from there, adding ghostly projections and a sumptuous tablecloth layered with skull candle holders, tiered serving platters and sparkling glassware…
We made coloured chocolate bones with purple candy melts in a silicone mould to decorate a cake, and baked calzones in the shape of skulls, with deliciously gory gooey centres with meatball brains!
Further packaging design for Eureka! – a cult film series boxed set for Blu-ray and DVD. I devised a graphic scheme to brand the series, extracting elements from Japanese poster, drawing together disparate photography and differentiating each title whilst presenting a unified set.
I made these little place setting ornaments for a Christmas Eve dinner with friends. I made one for each at the children’s table and even for the adult guests customised with their name, to complete the Nutcracker-themed winter décor.
These were made with mini nutcrackers, some from the German market, some from the dollar store, plain wooden stacking blocks and sparkly wooden lettering, with thread for hanging on the tree as a souvenir.
Ive been indulging in some crafting, with felt and embroidery!
I constructed the booties from felt using a vintage Simplicity 1948 pattern as a guide, choosing two styles, one resembling a sort of moccasin and the other more of a sand boot.
When it came to decorating them I decided to embroider them with a variety of stitches, using my own designs doodled freehand rather than using those on the pattern. On one set I added some vintage mother-of-pearl buttons that I bought at the Rose Bowl flea market.
I have always been fascinated by medieval illuminated manuscripts not just for the amazing painted miniatures and flourishes but also for the typographic inspiration. The Getty has such a wonderful collection, a rotating selection of which are always on display, and I find myself drawn to them quite often during my research for docent tours. This time however, the inspiration fed into my day job as a designer, a book layout for a client on the subject of Saint Patrick, and as its nearly St Paddy’s day, I thought I’d write a little about the process.
My client, a theology professor, had written a book about the saint’s teenage years as an inspirational story for young adults – the most unlikely character turns his life around to become a role model for later generations. It was certainly news to me that St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, started his early life in my home town of Liverpool and was captured, bound for Ireland as a slave.
Studying some of the visual cues used in medieval manuscripts from the 13th century onwards, and early printed editions of medieval inspired works such as those by the Arts and Crafts movement, I was inspired by the notion of ‘rubric’. Rubric is a device used in medieval typography for a variety of reasons such as a chapter heading, title or instruction, the word originating from the latin ‘rubrica’ the red ochre pigment used to create it.
When text is ‘rubricated’ it is highlighted in red and in a liturgical context may signify something akin to stage directions for the priest – the text left in black being the actual words to be read aloud. Other uses include red being used for the congregation’s responses, a little like subtitles on a film employing different colours to distinguish various characters’ voices. Red, and occasionally other colours such as blue or gold were used to highlight important names, first lines of psalms or section headings and for large ornamental or historiated (illustrated) drop capitals.
I decided to use medieval typography cues to draw on tradition and reference the origin of the story but also to break up the text into bite-sized pieces in an attractive and useful way, encouraging reluctant readers to not be daunted by the sight of a great deal of text. For the purposes of a book aimed at children and young adults, variation in typography adds interest but I was concerned that the text remain accessible and legible so I avoided an overly fancy script style and chose clean, sans-serif body typefaces. Also in this spirit I split the text up into sections and gave these headings to hint at what that section contained, in order to encourage further reading. The first paragraphs of the following text were set in red rubric style to further lead the reader into the chapter.
Another way I was influenced by the styling of manuscripts was to use the rubric idea to distinguish between different voices within the text. In the Patrick of Liverpool story the author has included passages of rhyme or ‘rapping’ to connect with the young audience, and I set this type as centred, in a different colour and typeface. Maewyn, the main character has his own typography style as do some other characters he encounters, this is a lively break in the narrative and attention is drawn to it visually.
The book’s illustrator is an inspirational story himself – a former prison inmate who was commissioned to create the drawings. I requested a hand rendered celtic style border from him to add to the illuminated feel, and varied the illustration layout as full page bleed or with a miniature style border to accompany the text.
As the book’s story is based on theological research it was important to include notes on this, however, I ensured information not aimed at the book’s main target audience ( such as difficult wording in the preface and reference notes section) was positioned outside of the main flow of text and set in smaller type so it is visually glossed over as ‘small print’ by the target audience in favour of the main story, yet is available for teachers or other interested parties to access.
Patrick of Ireland is available to buy on Blurb or though the publisher Liverpool Community Spirit and all proceeds go to charity.
Last night was the opening of a pop-up art show in Downtown LA at Hatakayama Gallery, curated by Arturo Aguilar. The exhibition features work by myself and nine other LA based artists, in photography, painting and time-based media.
I included an Americana-inspired photography triptych and Chris exhibited his beautiful large scale series of the misty Golden Gate Bridge. The images garnered a lot of interest despite not currently being for sale – archival quality pigment prints will be featured as special short-run editions at our upcoming online store, I will update this site when they become available.
Thanks to everyone who came down to the opening, it was such a fun night!
Here’s some info on the artists:
Arturo Aguilar: Los Angeles lifer, photographer and computer artist. He has spent the last decade in the film industry creating simulation art for DreamWorks and Sony Pictures. Art-speaks.blogspot.com
Asylm: Asylm is an L.A.-based graffiti artist, fine artist and muralist. Asylm.com
Chris Cunningham: Photographs, lights, composites, musics, and 3D enthusiasts. Chasethelight.com
Liza Lemsatef Cunningham: Artist, photographer, designer of fine web and print offerings, art history nerd. Not necessarily in that order. Ellelens.com | Jaunty Angles blog
Eyeone is an artist and graphic designer based in Los Angeles. His work is rooted in graffiti, printmaking, photography, and punk rock. Eyelost.com
Sofia Gonzalez has been professionally designing and screen printing in LA since the 90s, yo! Sofialeegonzalez.com
Michael Hackett: Michael Hackett explores the space where an information system becomes so complex, that it’s orderliness diminishes and begins to take on organic characteristics.
Mad Guru: Adnan was raised in both the U.S. and Pakistan on a childhood of writing stories. Besides visual effects and animation on feature films for the likes of Disney and Sony, he works under his company Mad Guru, to create animated films and projects designed to provoke thought and bring diverse people together. Madguru.com
As a transplant to Los Angeles, it was exciting to be selected for training as a Getty docent. Over many years at Tate Gallery one was encouraged to lead tours using dialogue-based, object-focused methodology, with the understanding that the passive receipt of information does not supply the tools or confidence to approach artworks, nor motivate individual engagement with them. It was refreshing to find that the teaching strategy at the Getty is just as forward-thinking and interactive, carefully avoiding a disappointing and didactic lecture-on-wheels experience.
With the belief that works of art reveal themselves over time, the focus is firmly on ‘close looking’ at a limited number of objects and sharing within a supportive environment, the resultant lively dialogue benefiting from a multiplicity of perspectives. Appropriate contextual information is introduced to extend the dialogue, not suppress other possible meanings nor suggest a ‘definitive’ reading.
Summer training incorporated a fun and well-organized balance of theoretical underpinning and practical exercises. A fascinating dossier of reading material led to animated weekly group discussions. As we were tasked with developing individual themed tours, any fears were allayed as we were supported by research materials and helpful, patient staff. We were also treated to curator time – the decorative arts lecture led to a widespread re-evaluation of tour plans to shoehorn in a fancy bed, marquetry tour-de-force or gilded sconce or two.
Selecting only four objects from the embarrassment of riches on display was a headache until the realization that one could develop several tours and rotate them as appropriate. Flexibility with object choices avoids dismay when the morning gallery mapping stars are not aligned. How liberating the ability to sneak off behind Titian’s back and leave Friedrich to his pondering whilst one runs away with Puryear and Hepworth or spends time striking poses with Batoni!
It has been such fun working with the mutually supportive, dynamic people in our group as colleagues and new friends. It is a pleasure to fulfil our collective duty to keep artworks alive by creatively engaging the next generation of visitors.
(Originally published in The Gazetty, the Getty staff newsletter)
With a focus on ‘extreme expression’ in this two-day studio workshop we took our inspiration from the excellent Messerschmidt and Modernity exhibition currently on show at the Getty Center. Franz Xaver Messerschmidt was a German artist who was obsessed with human expression and his striking kopfstücke (head pieces) created in the 18th century have amazed and inspired those interested in the complexities of human emotion.
During the sessions we had the benefit of studying two live models who both had an amazing ability to pull and hold acute expressions. We worked with oil clay, (one of my favourite mediums) to create high reliefs on board supports, and had fun studying proportion and distortion as faces contort in various expressions. Our instructor Jonathan Bickhart was a pleasure to work with and his enthusiasm and admiration for Messerschmidt was infectious.
The workshop tied in very well with the exhibition, on both days we studied the busts on display in the gallery, noting the fine detail, surface textures, design elements, and artistic licence which made the artist’s work so compelling. We discussed the notion of the fine line between artistic obsession and mental illness – Messerschmidt many believed was a genius plagued with schizophrenia. The compulsion to study and create scores of intense expressions frozen in time may have stemmed from the impulse to ward off malevolent spirits which disturbed the artist.
This unmissable exhibition continues until October 14th and features a number of Messerschmidt’s intriguing character heads from all over the world, including one from the Getty’s permanent collection. Interesting contemporary responses in a range of media are also on display from artists such as Tony Cragg and Tony Bevan. An ‘Expression Lab’ next door cleverly brings the sculptures to life through mirror responses from the public – a photo booth set-up allows us to indulge ourselves in gurning Messerschmidt style and share the extremely unflattering results!
This summer I was selected as a Gallery docent at the Getty Center in Los Angeles! It has been such a great experience going through training, meeting such wonderful people and getting to know the art work in more depth. ‘Docent’ is not a word we really use in the UK, but the role is similar to the one I held at Tate Gallery Liverpool whilst at university, as a ‘freelance artist’, facilitating workshops with visitors using close study, discussion and practical activities such as drawing.
It really is a great privilege to spend time each week up at the centre, The Meier-designed complex sometimes feels like some sort of utopian spaceship filled with treasures. I spend hours in the galleries with the works and exploring the campus discovering my favourite areas to sip coffee and study or gaze outwards at the cityscape below.
Next month we will start teaching school groups, encouraging them to look closely and engage with art, and have a positive experience of one of my favourite places in LA. I can’t wait!