Deer skull illustration

 

I had a few hours spare this afternoon so thought I’d play around with mixing brush pen and oil pastels to create this deer skull illustration, and I’m really pleased with the result.

I embarked on my Master’s in Illustration in order to improve my illustration style – I wanted to learn how I could impart more depth and feeling into my drawings.

I’ve been playing around with very quick drawings using oil pastels and other fairly crude media (by crude, I mean that which is difficult to work fine detail – the shadows and colours you can get with pastels are sublime). I’ve never really bothered with oil pastels before, but I’m using this part-time degree to experiment as much as I can and I’m loving it.

I’m particularly excited about this deer skull illustration because it uses the brush pen – a medium I use for commercial illustration all the time – for detail, and then over this I work in the pastel and it gives a kind of subtle viscerality (if that is a word). There’s a body to it, a meaty-ness, and the background has as much life as the subject.

I’m going to work this style with other pieces and see where it gets me.

Here’s another painting I did of the same skull about a year ago:

Illustrated interpretation trail for prestigious heritage visitor attraction in the Midlands

I recently completed this illustrated interpretation trail for a top heritage visitor attraction. I’ve done a lot of illustrated interpretation trails, like this, this and this. I’ve created them as single pages to bigger bilingual activity booklets, many for National Museums Wales. It was wonderful to be contacted by such a big name on the strength of my previous work.

Contractors aren’t allowed to mention the name of this client in their publicity material so I have to keep quiet about who it was created for, which I’m sad about because I am so chuffed to have worked with them!

I was asked to tender along with 6 other graphic designers and was delighted to have been selected. A wonderful thing the client did was to offer to pay people for submitting tender work – other buyers take note – you’ll get a much better quality of submissions.

The trail is 12 pages at A5 on uncoated paper. I used a different illustration technique from usual – dip pen and ink. I really like the effect – elegant and light – and am going to be using a lot more in future.

The exhibition the illustrated interpretation trail has been created for is one of fashion through the ages and so I drew some wonderful clothes – ball gowns, fancy dress, children’s clothes, along with accessories like jewellery and hats.

Because the client is a heritage site, ink can’t be used in the building, so where families complete the activities as they work their way around the exhibition they will be given an embossing stamp to mark their achievements. There’s a space on most pages for the stamp and each activity has a different stamp.

I really enjoy the creation of interpretation trails. They involve me blending my love of learning and encouraging learning, of explaining pictorially, and I get to draw some incredible things. But the best bit is watching families using and enjoying the trails – and seeing the way children often draw over the top of my work and make it their own.

This was a fabulous opportunity and I enjoyed every moment!

Not-so-humble-brag

Some of you will know that I’m studying for a part-time Master’s degree in Illustration: Authorial Practice at Falmouth University. I can say, hand on heart, that the decision to do this is one of the best choices I’ve made. It’s pushed and shaped the ways I’ve thought about illustration and my own approach to it much further than I ever anticipated – and I’m only a quarter of the way in.

I handed in my first essay recently – the first I’ve written in 17 years. I was really proud of it – it is definitely the best thing I’ve ever written, but most importantly it was the first time in the whole of my academic career – from GCSEs, A-level, Art Foundation and BA Hons, that I’ve written an essay and learnt and developed from it, rather than it just being an exercise where I jump through a hoop and get a grade reward.

I wrote it about uncertainty in art, and took Twin Peaks director David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and illustrator Stefano Ricci’s Depositonero as case studies. I looked at the use of uncertainty – something I’m fascinated with – through the lenses of queer theory, Jungian psychoanalysis and deconstructionism and showed how I was using it in my own practice. A percentage of the marks given were for the design and presentation of the essay – it was supposed to reflect the content. I printed it on tracing paper, cut it to loose-leaf squares and handed it in in a black hand-made cardboard box. I wish I’d taken some photos now!

I just got my marks back. 50% is a pass, 60% is a merit and 70% is a distinction. I got 80% which is the best mark I’ve got for anything since my GCSEs. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re passionate about something! We were encouraged to be creative with the essay-writing process, so while the first two chapters were fairly standard in their academic writing style, the third was fully-referenced stream-of-consciousness, and the layout reflected this, the main body text flowing through the page and the footnotes bashing up against it:

The word count was 3,000 which was torturous – I could have easily written 10,000 words. But it was a truly satisfying process and the discipline of editing is a vital one to develop.

If you’re interested in studying for an MA you can now get student loans to pay your tuition fees. I’m enjoying every moment of mine and I have noticed tangible improvements in the quality of my client work because of it. 

New testimonial for logo design!

Nobody’s perfect and one of the things I am rubbish at is asking clients for feedback on the work I’ve done for them. I’ve only just got around to asking the amazing Sam Grady of The Cornish Vegan Pasty Company if she’d write me a testimonial for the logo design I did for her. Her response blew my mind so naturally I’m sharing it everywhere. So chuffed to have been asked to help out a fellow vegan business with their graphic design and even more chuffed that she should be so lovely about the process! She said:

“I feel extremely blessed to have found Frank! Frank took my rough idea, developed a handful of concepts (all of which would have actually been great) and worked with us to refine the logo, develop our product labels, and think about our brand. Ironically, when Frank first described one of the logo concepts I thought it would be my least favourite, but it’s now our logo! I love it and get so much positive feedback about it. Frank is extremely talented, the combination of graphic design & illustration means that Frank’s work can be corporate or creative or a combination.

“Choose Frank, trust Frank, and like me you’ll never need anyone else!”

Sam’s also bought one of my fox prints in support of the hunt ban and it’ll be on display at their new premises in St Agnes, which I’m over-the-moon about.

The Reject Shop

A little post about the project I’m currently working on for my illustration MA at Falmouth University

At the moment I’m putting regular callouts for people who produce works on paper – writers, poets, painters, drawers(?) to send me their rejected works.

This is what I’m doing with them: I’m sticking them, fairly randomly, into this little 14cm x 14cm sketchbook, and then I’m working over them in black and white (and blends of both), using oil pastel, brush pen, cheap student acrylic paint, and biro.

The works aren’t credited, but everyone who sends me work will get a big thanks if I ever put it on display.

There are strange beasts and skulls…

…and the occasional portrait

…and sometimes I choose to incorporate or work with the rejected work, and sometimes I decide to ignore it

Today I worked out what the rules of the project are

For the moment I am not explaining why I’m doing what I’m doing – I haven’t worked out quite how I want to talk about it, or whether I’ll do that at all. I’ll leave that to Our Lord And Saviour David Lynch:

If you want to follow the project and see more of the images I create for it, you can follow me on instagram. If you’d like to send me some of your rejected work to incorporate into the project, post it to Frank Duffy, Beech Hill House, Morchard Bishop, Crediton Devon EX17 6RF. You can remain anonymous if you like! Here’s hoping you can help 🙂

I’m selling prints in support of the hunting ban

Hunting ban: all profits from the sale of my fox and hare prints will be donated to the League Against Cruel Sports

11/05/17 edit: £90 raised so far!

Those of you who know me will know that I cannot bear animal cruelty. Vegetarian from the age of eleven and vegan for five years now, and from a long line of animal lovers (my farmer great-grandfather wouldn’t allow the hunt on his land), hunting with dogs represents for me every pointlessly abhorrent exploitation we visit upon our fellow animals and our environment. Though it is so frequently flouted, the hunting ban was a great moral victory: a watershed moment where Britain decided that this kind of cruelty was unacceptable.

Fox print available here

Hare print available here

I loathe a lot of things about this tory government – its incompetent boneheadedness over Brexit, its treatment of people in poverty, disabled people, refugees, its stance on renewable energy and on, and on, and on.

But when Theresa May announced yesterday that, should she win the election, she will hold a free vote to reinstate the anachronism (one that continues to be inflicted on foxes and stags across the country illegally),  I thought, well, this is something I have the capacity to do something about.

I had these prints made a few years ago for a side project I was running that I needed to mothball, and I figured I would put them to good use. They’re printed in using the modern lithographic method (standard professional printing to the layperson) using a special gold ink. They’re from a couple of paintings that I created. They’re printed on 100% post-consumer-waste recycled paper with a silk finish and are richly detailed.

Every penny after cost of printing, packaging and posting will go to The League Against Cruel Sports whom I feel are best placed to win this battle of hearts and minds.

I would love to get this message spread far and wide so please do feel free to share.

Frank x

Lame

The latest in a series of posts about living in a housing co-op

Here’s a quick post which should present a snapshot of what it is to live here.

Yesterday afternoon I was working in the paddock drawing a beech tree for an illustration. I heard the chickens making a lot of noise and so I leapt up and sprinted to their large pen to check for a fox. Our most elderly chicken was in the hen house, having just laid a rare egg, and was clucking loudly and indignantly at a rat she’d seen. I chased off the rat, let myself out of the pen and ambled slowly back to where I’d been sketching.

I wasn’t paying attention, I hit some uneven ground, my foot went over and there was a shock of pain and a crunching sound, a bit like the sound you make when you step into fresh snow. I did some loud and varied swearing. I could still walk on it – just – but I could tell it was going to get a lot worse really quickly,

I hobbled back to the house and immediately found some ice, some ruta ointment and a bandage. I sat on the bed and propped my foot up high.

My partner was staying at the time and brought me my share of the amazing communal dinner. He needed to get back to Bristol today and while he was loading our plates last night was offered a lift to the station by two different people (me not being able to drive him now).

This morning I had three people knock my door, one bringing more ruta ointment, another asking if I needed any shopping (why on earth I didn’t ask for a big bag of vegetable crisps and a pot of humous is beyond my ken), offering to water my plants in the greenhouse and polytunnels and another just now offering to make me tea and lunch.

This evening someone will bring me my dinner and I’m sure there’ll be other people just checking to make sure I don’t need anything.

When I first moved in I got a very painful thing called trigger thumb & could hardly do anything at all. I felt awful – I’d just joined and I wasn’t able to contribute & everyone was looking after me. I got told I was being ridiculous (such is my wont) in a very loving way and was made to rest, and indeed was told off for trying to do stuff.

When another co-op member was ill with flu I was driving to the nearest town and asked her if she needed anything. She gave me £10 and told me to spend it on fruit in the green grocer and I took great delight in selecting pineapples and mangoes and lychees and all other of exotic loveliness for her. It felt really good.

So yep, that’s living in community.

Queer Iconography

Master’s in Illustration: Authorial Practice

Queer Iconography

I thought I’d share the first project I worked on for my master’s. It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever done before.

What I’ve done is create three 60-ish second looped animated gifs of icon-like works of art becoming and undoing. The subject of each work is a queer person. This is what I wrote about the first one, of Divine, in my research journal:

Every frame of each GIF is a stage in the process of making and unmaking an image of Divine from the publicity still of his breakthrough film Pink Flamingos. The image is never complete – I use different media, stick paper and images to it, paint over, pull the paper off, scrape paint off – and all the while the image jerks and warps because I took each photo from slightly different angles. I wasn’t attached to perfection and decided to be playful. There are some frames that show a quick flash of a religious icon of the Madonna and Child – a smiling reference to subliminal imagery, and to reinforce the fact that this work in continual progress is a religious icon itself.

Divine

Why?

Reading J Halberstam and Judith Butler, I have shown how queer lives can be seen as continually constructed and reconstructed, asserted and reasserted, in response to the monolithic societal norms. So I showed Divine in process, never whole, never finished.

Why Divine?

In Pink Flamingos Divine is “the filthiest person alive” and the whole film, billed as “an exercise in bad taste” attempts to be as abhorrent and offensive as possible. Divine is in competition to be the filthiest person with another couple, and naturally wins. The movie still is iconic – Divine is powerful, monstrous, beautiful in some weird way. My proposal aimed to focus on bringing the deviant into sacred space and Divine here is the epitome of deviance. Divine himself was someone who endured a huge amount of stigma because of his sexuality and I felt this powerful and tragic figure was irresistible for this project.

Why religious icons?

Because I love them. I love the low gold glowing from them as they flicker in the candlelight of Russian Orthodox churches. I am not Christian and was not raised that way but there is something numinous about them. More importantly, for this project, they represent something to aspire to – the lives of the saints are there to give moral instruction and support. Using Divine in this context is not ironic (although yes, I’ll grant you, it appears this way!) which leads me to…

Billy Tipton

What is this illustrating?

This project is my response to Mark Aguhar’s poem “Litanies to my Heavenly Brown Body”. The litanies express what is sacred – those things that are regarded often as profane – the queer, the fat, the people of colour, the unknowns. The litanies are assertions and reassertions of the inherent value, the inherent humanness (cf. Judith Butler) of the liminal people. I wanted to create a sacred space for queer liminal types, a space where they would be honoured and valued and yet still representative of the notion that queer lives must be continually made and remade in the face of heteronormativity.

Marsha P Johnson

How would this be displayed?

Ideally I would have four minute-long animations, that is, four animations that are 60 seconds long each, one queer saint for each. I submitted three in total – Divine, Billy Tipton (a jazz band leader who achieved some fame, married several women and only after death was discovered to have been assigned female at birth), and Marsha P Johnson (a black queer femme who is alleged to have started the Stonewall Riot). I imagine they would be back-projected through something like Polydraw, about a metre high, on the four walls of a small dark square room. There would be candles and incense. I imagine the space being a cube of two metres at every edge (though, it occurs to me, it would need a door).

I’ll finish this post with a quote from Judith Butler, from Undoing Gender:

“[Queer persons] make us not only question what is real, and what “must” be, but they also show us how the norms that govern contemporary notions of reality can be questioned and how new modes of reality can become instituted. These practices of instituting new modes of reality take place in part through the scene of embodiment, where the body is not understood as a static and accomplished fact, but as an ageing process, a mode of becoming that, in becoming otherwise, exceeds the norm, reworks the norm, and makes us see how realities to which we thought we were confined are not written in stone. Some people have asked me what is the use of increasing possibilities for gender. I tend to answer: Possibility is not a luxury, it is as crucial as bread. I think we should not underestimate what the thought of the possible does for those for whom the very issue of survival is more urgent. If the answer to the question, is life possible, is yes, that is surely something significant.”

Consensus

Consensus, or, how we get things done

Another of my posts about living in Beech Hill Community Co-operative

No-one knows how many badly-photoshopped roadsigns there are on the internet

Consensus means that we all agree on what we do. There are many different ways of achieving it, and the way at Beech Hill is this:

  1. there is a weekly meeting on Thursday nights
  2. you write the thing you want to do on the agenda for the meeting. If it is a quick subject – likely not to take up too much time to talk about, or it is urgent, you write the letters Q and/or U next to the subject. You don’t need to write an explanation. Agenda items have been one word: “Rats!” and sarcastic “Let’s set all of our chopping boards on fire!” (yes that was an actual agenda item)
  3. You talk about your thing at the meeting. If what you want to do is Big or Different or Possibly Controversial, it’s a good idea to run it past a few people a few days before the meeting to give them time to think about it.
  4. People discuss your thing. Ask questions. Put forward alternative proposals. It might be carried forward to the next meeting if members need time to digest it.
  5. People will agree to your thing or not agree. Everyone has to agree (that is consensus) or at least, not disagree. Once or twice I have noticed that a member has said, “go ahead with x, but I don’t agree with it and I want that noted in the minutes of the meeting.” Even though they are not agreeing they are consenting to it happening anyway.

Why consensus?

Why not voting? Well, I think we can look at exhibit A, labelled “Brexit”, and exhibit B, labelled “Trump”. What consensus does, or should do, is get past binaries of yes or no, with us or against us. We are open and honest about any given subject and listen to all sides of an argument carefully (cf: Brexit; Trump) and try to work together to find a solution that works for everyone. It’s not about what – or whose – side you’re on, but how we can find a way forward together.

I decided to write this post, partly because when I asked people what they wanted to hear about on my facebook page that was one of the requests, and partly because I was thinking about something that came to the meeting recently. One of our members had suggested a change which she was really excited about but which, if left unchecked, could seriously affect the quality of my life at Beech Hill. Here was the difficulty: I totally understood her position and what she was excited about and I felt that I would be a miserable nazgûl bastard telling her DO NOT WANT.

A miserable nazgûl bastard

She had done the thing of telling me in advance of the meeting so I could think about it, and thus, having lain awake thinking about it, I tentatively approached one of the longest-serving co-op members and asked her opinion on the matter. She showed me hers and I showed her mine and we talked about it. She thanked me for my honesty and I thanked her for her advice and she then told me I should share my feelings about the plan in the meeting. Before the meeting I talked to two more community members about the plan – one had come up with a “solution” that would have been even worse for me (argh) and the other shared my concerns and had more of her own.

At the meeting we were all open and honest about how we felt about the proposition and we agreed that it could go ahead but with certain caveats – that my concerns and the concerns of others were prioritised.

Numbers

What is important about this system is the numbers required to make it work. In my tenancy we’ve had between 9 and 13 members (I think) and 13 is about capacity given our current accommodation. If we had 20 members the current system might become unwieldy, and we might look at other ways of achieving consensus.

Who’s in charge?

People always ask this and come closer, dear reader, and I will speak truth to thee: the One In Charge is… everyone. Really. There’s no boss, no leader, no one person (or group or clique) that Decides. I was actually astounded by this when I joined. My ideas, even before I became a co-op member (there is a trial six months of living and working with Beech Hill full time before you can join) were taken as seriously as anyone else’s, as were my opinions and objections. Everyone’s thoughts are valued. If there is someone who has some expertise in a subject then their opinion is given a bit more weight on that particular subject – if we need to fix the roof we pay attention to what the co-op member who is a builder says. That’s just common sense.

No decrees are issued – everything is debated. It takes more time and can be frustrating but it means that everyone knows the reasons for any particular decision and everyone consents to it.

It doesn’t always work

Probably the thing that goes wrong the most is when we all come to a decision about something and then a few months down the line the decision is forgotten and needs to be remade. And that’s a waste of time. You might get bored with emptying mouldy half-cans of baked beans from the fridge and get agreement from everyone that things in the fridge are put in tupperwares and labeled with the date, because, you know, food hygiene is a lovely thing. And yet, six months down the line, what is this festering at the back of the fridge? Why! It is half a can of baked beans.

The other thing that goes wrong is that sometimes people take it upon themselves to do something that they really should ask the meeting about, and they don’t. You don’t have to achieve consensus for every little thing – I got given a bird box and put it up on the grounds without asking a single other soul. But that’s a little thing. After living here for nearly a year and a half I have a good idea of what requires agreement and what doesn’t…

Graffiti stencil of a tabby cat in a communist uniform - Chairman Meow

Chairman Meow (courtesy of Newtown Graffiti on Flickr)

Benevolent dictatorship,
or, how not to do it

This is how I will run the world once I am swept to power but it is not appreciated at a community co-operative.

One time I made the mistake of accidentally redecorating a corridor without running the colours etc past the main meeting. Oops!

What had happened was that I had booked some time off paid work before Christmas, months in advance, to do this work. And then one of our co-op members suddenly died at the end of October so we spent the time after that organising the funeral, grieving, working out who was going to take over the really important jobs he did, and generally only dealing with the really urgent important stuff. And so the week of decoration loomed up on me and, though I’d shown the colour palette past a few people, and was naturally confident that it would look amazing because colour is my hecking job, I didn’t actually announce to everyone when & how I was going to do it. So I’m there, up a step ladder, brush in hand, cutting in a lovely dusky pink over the old acid green, and other co-op members are, oh, you’re painting the corridor? I didn’t know that was happening!

I was clearly headed for trouble. At the next co-op meeting my guerrilla decorating was raised and I threw my hands up in surrender and admitted I was in the wrong and pleaded extenuating circumstances and promised never to do it again.

It’s all okay, though – everyone agrees that the corridor looks lush.