First casts cleaned up

Some more crafty stuff from our living history blog

First casts cleaned up.


Art College

When I started art college I expected something akin to that which my granddad had described when he had attended before the war; maybe a bit out there but basically a honing and extension of the skills I had learned at A-level. My mum and granddad who were both artistic to differing degrees (my granddad particularly so), and did like some impressionism or more impressionistic paintings and art, but its fair to say the general environment at home and school was pretty average, which is to say ‘better art’ was that which looked most like the thing you were drawing. Impressionism and unusual styles were interesting, but true abstraction was a bit of an enigma. By and large the opinion of those around was that ‘it looks like a kid did it’, like that was a bad thing.


We started in CDT (like arty product design and workshop), moved to print, graphics, and finally fine art. In CDT we had to look at architecture, design, structure, and make worksheets in a fine arty style… I didn’t get it. I quite liked experimenting with the photocopies and the colour and ink over it, but the whole things were just a mess as I had no idea what it was ‘for’, what the purpose was. This wasn’t the first time I got that feeling, or that those themes arose.

Stuff from Graphics and design

Stuff from Graphics and design


Next was print, and I bloody loved print. It was, what it said it was;e making patterns and prints, which whilst fun and artistic, had implications for the real world to which eased that perplexed tone of my dads in my head ‘what sort of job are you going to get with it?’ I really wish I had pursued print a bit further, I have no idea why I didn’t at the time, though I suspect print and textiles was something I thought was a bit too much of a lasses thing at the time. There is a map of Silverstone GP circuit and a manic street preachers song title hidden in that top print if you can find it; ha, I never could escape that representational element, though I think I was trying to use things I loved all mashed up into one ultimate ‘things I like’ work.




The top drawing should be entitled; what I think the teacher wants me to do. Back to not getting it here really. It’s a shame really, the me 15+ years on, can’t help but see all this as a wasted opportunity, and something I now would have enjoyed. Of course, The teache… sorry ‘tutors’ (they didn’t like being called teachers), really had no time for my misunderstanding, you either understood and got on with it, or you just got a few half frustrated suggestions.



Fine Art

Finally, we ended up in my chosen final class, the one I wanted to work full-time on, and then do my final project in. I did all sorts fo nonsense here, didn’t get half of it at all. I ended up painting a medieval background, and taking photos of friends stood in front of it, and then painting them in a manuscript style… I don’t know why. They were awful, really awful. I did however, like the time we spent in the photo studio, so thought I would concentrate on that. They like some of the weirder installation art that was going on at the time, so I thought I would get some nails and stick ’em in stuff, because you know, its kinda arty and cool. Apples got most the grief as you can see. We then got to develop the film and pictures, which was good fun.


20130816131848_00002I did some more stuff like this, also did a short photography side course which was also fun, but frankly as the course wore on, I was disinterested, my friends were not much better, and my teachers just wanted rid I think. I spent a lot of time bringing guitars in to play, until I came up with my greatest project ever: A series of photographs I sold as playing with colour, texture and ambience, and of course what better representation of colour, texture, and ambience that at Lancaster’s very own Squires snooker hall.


Thats right, my friends and I suffered through game after game, pint after pint, at Squires to get just the right shots, wish I’d though of it sooner!

That was pretty much it for art college, I did my final project on a short video, trying to capture… I don’t know, I think it was some sort of wistful look at childhood with some music I recorded…  I really just wanted to record music and video and edit it, as I enjoyed it. I did enough to pass with an average mark, the sort of thing that says did alright, but frankly doesn’t give enough of a shit.

The music and video made me think I wanted to go on and do media at university, because honestly, I had no intention of getting a job as I had no idea what I like or wanted to do. Everyone was going to higher education. To cut a long story short, I spent a week at Sunderland university doing media, the only saving grace of which was, in my grotty bedsit above Rosey Malones pub, where you could watch folks fight in the street until 1am, I discovered ‘Father Ted’ for the first time.

So I left, went to work in my local pub for a year, spending some spare time visiting historical attractions, and went to a reenactment with a friend. This was a bit of a lightbulb moment, not the reenactment per se, but the whole year off. I spotted the recurrence of history in my interests and went from there. At the end of that year I was enrolled in some two-bit college doing a double major in History and Archaeology. I would emerge 3 years later, having thoroughly enjoyed my course, engaged fully with something for the first time ever, and with a first class honours, with distinction for my dissertation, and a job offer at the place I now work. The rest, as they say, is history, or in this instance; History and Archaeology. The final irony of course is, that the job offer was with an archaeological company, but as an illustrator. Maybe I should try to sell abstraction to my boss?

A few recent little projects

A post from our Living History Groups page on some things we have been up to.

Jorvikingi's Blog

We are all off back to Murton this coming weekend and I have, over the last few months, been working on and off on a number of projects. Firstly, a copy of a 10th century wooden knife handle found during excavations in York. As you can see from the published drawing the back portion of the knife was reasonably well-preserved, but the front was missing and I had to get creative and try to reconstruct it as best I could.

The first attempt I felt was a little short, so I had another go with a slightly longer handle, and mounted it on to straight-backed style blade, which I have noticed seems to be more popular in Scandinavia during the period.

Then I had a go at scabbard tooling for the first time, again based on some examples contemporary to the knife from York.

… And also a seax scabbard…

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Art at School

I took an old art folder into work the other day to scan some of the contents. Just some artefact drawings for use in a book I am working on. As well as those, there was some of my old drawings from School and Art college, though oddly, nothing from the life drawing class I did at University. (clearly charcoal daubings of an obese ginger woman left some sort of mental scar). I decided to scan them in, and put some up in stages on here.

It got me thinking about how my attitude to drawing has changed so much over the years. I used to like it when I was a kid. Not all the time, and mostly on my own terms; designing aeroplanes, formula one tracks, my own F1 cars, comic books, etc, nothing startling, just drawing stuff I liked it. I think all kids do, its part of the process of taking ownership and understanding things.

Secondary school art became one of my favourite lessons, probably because it was a complete doss. Our main teacher was Miss Blakeman, who was as mad as a box of frogs. She looked like a Quentin Blake drawing brought to life, she was fat, mostly wore black with bright tie dyed scarves, and chaotic white hair scratched back into a bun. I reckon only 50% of her hair ever stayed in the bun at any one time, the rest frizzing out in spidery lines like she had just been shocked. She had really thick glasses (which spent a good deal of time propped up on her head) with MASSIVE black eyes behind, and wide flat frog mouth. She was also scatty, we’d often spend 10-15 minutes of class time looking for her glasses, which we could all see on her head. She could be quite sharp sometimes, and dopey the next, and some days she could not be doing with us, and others she had a real sense of humour. In this instance, I think excentric is actually justified.

We used to have to do weird stuff for homework like drawing onions, and toothpaste tubes, and glasses, or tools from the garage. These are just a few of the ones I kept.

I nearly always used colour pencils, I loved my big tin set of German pencils from the Milnthorpe art shop. I still love going into art shops and looking at the raw materials. They were quite expensive, but I was pretty good at art at school, so my folks bought me them. They were so much better than the scratchy Derwents everyone else had, with thick and deep colours, and really waxy. I loved them.

The perspective and pencil marks on that lying down wine glass still makes me cringe now.

I like raw pencil too, one of the few instances, where I started to appreciate seeing the pencil marks. I later went to see a Lucien Freud exhibition in Kendal (yeah, I know?) and I totally loved the brush work and the colours in his drawings.

I suppose the stand out thing about these is that I appear to have actually done my homework, which to be honest, was rarely the case elsewhere.

I sometimes drew in my own time. I spent a good deal of time in 6th form free periods drawing the below picture of Damon Hill’s Williams over taking Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. I would sit in the common room with my pencils and draw. I can’t imagine doing that anymore, either the free time or the activity! I was just drawing something I liked, because I liked it, and I liked drawing and was bored, there was perhaps also an element of attempting to impress a lady or two, and make myself look occupied, when most my mates were on different schedules to me.

I never did any really experimental stuff, I just don’t think it occurred to me, I guess I was a bit dull like that. Art was just making or drwaing something, I don’t think I had any idea about abstraction. The classes were fairly traditional, but then again, they can’t have all been like that, as some of the pupils did some awesome abstract sculptures and paintings. Perhaps, they were just good at encouraging people in the right way and their own interests, rather than the one size fits all approach. I remember doing a great World War One picture which was a bit abstract, pretty dark and weird, which I no longer have.

Our school was always one for showing work on the wall. I think every one of these pictures spent some time on the school walls, and they changed most of them every few weeks. Some I never got back, they are possible still up there for all I know. We also did a lot of murals on the walls themselves.

I remember we spent a whole week at one point doing some abstract sculptures of large slate and cement ovals and spheres, kinda like big pine cones. I loved doing those, though I didn’t really think much about the art or any aesthetic value of what we were doing, I just liked the process of making it, and being outside with cement and slate, and the radio, and tea and biscuits.

When it came to exams, they were an exercise of putting some objects of varying textures on a table, and making us sit and draw them for 6-7 hours. I quite liked it, we could really chat, but we could have our Walkman, so I listened to music and just drew. Here are a couple of exam pieces, I’m not sure which exams, but I think they were 6th form, and the trumpet may well be one of my A-level submissions. The duck was oil pastels, which I only discovered quite late, and freaking loved.

The thing that stands out to me, is how much I loved (still do) creating deep saturated colours. Some pupils would do amazing drawings, with much lighter pencil work, but I didn’t want to, I wanted a thick deep layer of colour. Even on the above drawings, the pencil marks from lightly shaded colour pencil used to annoy me, I wanted to eradicate that. I think it’s why I liked oil pastels, they were so deep, and so easy to blend and lay down this vibrant waxy smooth layer of colour.

I think that’s all I was interested in when I drew this flag, just getting it distilled to almost cartoon shaded brightness. This bold and exaggerated version of what it really was. Although, when I had actually done it, I was annoyed with it as it looked plastic.

I wonder if this might have been a direction I could have taken my drawing and art, perhaps more abstraction in this fashion, vibrant colour, and caricature and detail have always been something I have been drawn to. It is difficult to know how much is ingrained in us, and how much is taught. Either way, after my A-levels, with no damn clue what I wanted to do, as an act of desperation I headed to art college in Lancaster in the hopes that it would perhaps be something I was enthused to do, though it was to prove quite a bit different.