Monday, July 27, 2015

Up to date Update date up. Purge.

I have been going through some old work, trying to have a bit of a purge because (fingers crossed) we should be moving soon. Imminent crash sale of old prints and originals on Etsy planned. Watch the media that is social. Anyway. I just found this collage in a sketchbook from 2008/9, which I had really wanted to include in my last post all about what may or may not be called "Art"


wouldn't it have been perfect? I remembered making it but I had no idea where it was. This is why one should scan everything before putting it in boxes in the loft. 


In other news, you can read all about the Big Draw Awards ceremony at Painters Hall that June and I attended to receive our runners up award here. It was good, we got lots of people looking and drawing, and we got to see Bob and Roberta Smith and Mike Leigh give inspirational speeches. 
I was too scared to talk to those illustrious gentlemen, but I did meet lots of other brilliant and interesting people. 

I've also been doing more live portrait events, the most fun of which was this children's fancy dress picnic where I got to draw dozens of small ones in bright colours, can't think of many better ways to spend an afternoon. 


Some of these kids were really good at sitting still. Others really not so much. But that's all good, I like a challenge. 



I also did a portrait session at Blackhorse Workshop, and one at The Big Chill House in King's Cross last week, and hopefully will be doing some more over the summer. 
If you have an event your organising that you think would benefit from me drawing people at it, why not pop me an email to see if I'm free? 

I have a two page found text poetry comic in the upcoming SideKick Books Poetry Comics Anthology, Over the Line. which I am not allowed to show you. But I can show you this other one page piece I submitted that didn't get in. Boom etc. It's a sort of sketchbook collage love letter type thing. To be said in a deep voice. 

The speech bubble outlines come from the Christmas card designs I made in 2012. So that should give you an idea of the levels of hoarding instinct I am battling with this purge. But also, using offcuts and serendipitous leftovers to make new work that would never have been inspired without them is sexy and cool. Although I really should throw away some of these dozens of damaged prints of work that is not very good. 

It's a BALANCE people. 

I love popcorn though. There's been a renaissance in supermarket popcorn. If you haven't been indulging, where have you been? The economy cannot sustain this level of diversity. Try all the weird flavours now before half the companies go bust. 


I've been on lots of summertime adventures recently, I went to Harry Potter World (which for some reason, pretends it's called something else, like Warner Brothers Studio something or other)



I very recommend it, the models and the displays of the design work are amazing.

I also went to the Isle of Arran in Scotland for my friend Andrew's 30th celebration. This was my first time north of the wall and it was awesome. We walked to a cave on the beach and burnt stuff in it. And ate and drank a lot. It is beautiful there too.


I was too busy socialising to do much drawing, but I did draw this boat and three pieces of popcorn.


Also I made this birthday card while I was on the train. There was an amusing and embarrassing adventure with the train. Ask me about it sometime. 


Andrew likes Meat. Two veg to follow. 

Also I dressed up as a cowboy for another friend's 30th (Paul's). This is the year of the 30th for me. For obvious reasons. The moustache suits me a bit too well.




Friday, June 19, 2015

The Institute of Cool Stuff, or it must be Art, right?

Sometimes I argue myself round in circles about the meaning of Art. I recently gave a talk at a Symposium on Artist Identity at Birkbeck University, about how loaded the words we use to identify ourselves as Artists, Designers and Craftspeople are, and how the foundation for that is laid or disrupted in the art classroom.  and I was going to post the transcript here, but I'm not allowed because they are probably putting it in a magazine.
So today I wrote this instead. 

Editorial illustration for review of Pop Life exhibition at Tate Modern 2009 - Jenny Robins


I recently learned about The Toaster Project by Thomas Thwaites, it is quite old, but I learnt about it on a TED Radio Hour podcast that they re-issued this week from some years ago, you can see Thwaites' TED Talk here

It made me think about a conversation I had in 2005 with my then boyfriend, now hugsband. I know it was in 2005, because I had just come from seeing the Turner Prize exhibition where Simon Starling's transforming shed had won the traditionally controversial accolade. It was one of those conversations that stays with you forever and shapes and changes you a little bit but more becomes an echo in your brain that pings off when your thoughts take certain well worn paths. One of those soundbites that circles your consciousness. I'm sure you have some of those yourself, I don't know if he remembers it. But more of that later.


Thomas Thwaites decided to try and build a toaster from scratch. Actually from scratch as in mining and smelting his own iron ore to make the steel, apparently it was not an entire success. He couldn't do everything that needs to be done to make a toaster without a scientific lab or high tech factory floor to help him. But he got pretty close, and it cost him £8000 and a year. But then he sold it to an art museum for £20,000. So a profit of £12000 for his work, which is not bad really. This was mentioned in passing on the podcast, and my googling skills have not manage to turn up details of which art museum this was. This contextual titbit seems hidden from online accounts of the project, although I haven't read the book, so of course I don't know whether the toaster from scratch as art object is shown as an endpoint there. I have a feeling the book is more about the journey and the technological economic onion layers Thwaites' researches peel back.

The project raises all sorts of questions about the intense complexity of the web of international manufacture and processing needed to produce even the most seemingly basic of everyday objects. And of science and how remarkably far we've come in industrial processes that the majority of the human race has no more than a rudimentary understanding of. And how even if there was no-one in the world who knew how to make a toaster from scratch it would not stop toasters from being made, as long as someone somewhere is making each little component from materials created somewhere else from resources mined somewhere else by someone who knows how to be really good at that, or at least how to be really good at exploiting their workers. And how efficient the global tides of commodity need to be to make it possible to buy all of this technology and industry in the form of a toaster from Argos for £3.95. It's easy to forget how big the world is and the economies of scale necessary to make it feel as small as it does, but come the zombie apocalypse, we will probably all wish we had learnt how to make industrial grade electronic components. 

Of course. It's a brilliant project, that holds a mirror up to the world we live in and investigates it while telling us a story. 

It must be Art, right? 

Thwaites was a student at the Royal College of Art at the time of this project, and of course the toaster itself has now been legitimated as a piece of Art by its sale, embodying in its ugly melty self all of the big ideas and the labour intensive project. 

On his website Thwaites describes himself as "a designer (of a more speculative sort)." The Ted Radio Hour editors curated the Toaster Project into a category of inspirational stories about the pursuit of curiosity. I think there is a tendency today, to avoid defining these kind of imaginative and ambitious projects that the Ted Talks roster is full of with the capital A word. 

Which brings me back to Simon Starling. 



In 2005 Starling won the Turner Prize with Shedboatshed, a project in which he found an old shed he found on the banks of the Rhine, took it apart, used the pieces to make and fill a small boat, then used the boat to travel down river to Basel, Switzerland where he dismantled it and turned it back into the original shed inside the Museum there, and later in the Turner exhibit at Tate Modern. 

So I was doing a unit in Art History as part of my degree in Illustration at the time, and I went to the show and I made a powerpoint presentation about Simon Starling's shed. Sadly this slideshow seems to have been lost to posterity, but needless to say it was excellent and insightful and contained rotating shed graphics. 

In terms of successful craftsmanship this project might be seen as the antithesis of Thwaites' toaster. Although both draw our attention to the individual maker within a mass produced society, and the temporal nature of design.

Starling's shed MUST be Art though, right? It won the Turner Prize! 

So I was telling Alex about Shedboatshed. I remember exactly where we were, walking down Bedford Place in Southampton towards the centre of town. And he liked the idea of a shed becoming a boat and then becoming a shed again, but he was having trouble with said project being considered capital A Art. Just like the majority of the population, and probably more art students than would admit it to their tutors, that category was reserved primarily for objects made to be looked at, paintings mostly, for things that give you something aesthetic without having to know their history. The majority of classical and modern art in fact, whether figurative or abstract. I asked him whether he thought the project shouldn't have happened, and he said no, and he didn't think it shouldn't be exhibited either. But not in a gallery. There should be a place to show things like Shedboatshed without calling them Art. An Institute of Cool Stuff. 

The Institute of Cool Stuff has existed in my head ever since.

Imagine that you could show your work, or apply for funding for a project, simply on the basis that it is pretty cool. 

And the great thing is that today, you kind of can. The democratic nature of the internet rewards the pretty cool project with clicks, views and funding if the initial bridge of communication can be achieved. 

People have always made things without a good excuse. Which is to say, because they want to, because they are driven to, because they have ideas that they think are cool and want to see them happen in reality. 

Sometimes this gets called Art. Sometimes the makers get to a place where they self identify as Artists and even persuade the Art World to pay them lots of money for these projects.

We have to be realistic about that £8000 and a year of his life Thwaites was able to dedicate to his toaster, and that profit he was able to make. Most people are not in that position. The kind of Art that engages with the real flow of power and money in the world on it's own terms is a gross parody wrapped in a greedy realism. Starling had another work in that 2005 exhibition called One Ton II in which 5 platinum plate prints showed photographs of the South African mine from which one ton of ore had to be mined in order to produce the platinum used to make the prints. These works are subtle and reflective and hold dark mirrors up etc. etc. but really I think they are not much separate from Damien Hursts' diamond covered skull. 

Ordinary people, and I assert there is no such thing as an ordinary person but for the purposes of the argument, make cool stuff all the time. Anyone could make an ugly and non functioning sort of toaster from scratch, or take apart a shed and make it into a boat - well they would need to take some courses and do some research obviously, and they might need some help, but what it a project without research? What's the point in making if you're not learning? And most of those plucky creators wouldn't expect or receive the return on investment that Thwaites and Starling did, or that in the case of the diamond skull, Hurst tragicomically failed to receive. Making in the corners of our lives is cool too. It still takes courage. If doing a project takes you ten years because you have a day job and a mortgage and mouths to feed, that makes it more impressive in some ways. Whether you have the luck and the privilege to be able to dedicate your life to making, or whether you have the luck to have been born with the courage to dedicate a chunk of your life to making even without the chance to go to art school or to do internships or know the right people or any of that. Either way sometimes it pays off, and the unnamed art museum buys your toaster, and sometimes it doesn't. 

But as my friend Rebecca of The Pigeon's Nest points out about the people who look at her lovely crocheted products at craft fairs and say 'I could make that' - yes, but you DIDN'T! In other words, it's only by putting in the time and the balls and getting our hands dirty that we have created the new. The worthwhile. The cool. 

The Toaster would have a place in my Institute of Cool Stuff, along with Starling's shed. And so would crocheted bunny slippers. And lego sculptures, and Szopki and Baining masks and teddy bears dressed as popes. All of the peaks of human creativity and courage. 



But would it have painting and drawing in it? 

Now there's the real question. 

I mean yes, obviously it would.  

In drawing and making news, I made these last week. 


They are the actual migration routes of the birds, cool right? 

Two sold at the Blackhorse Workshop market, but two are available in my Etsy shop now. 



Friday, April 24, 2015

What Birds are REALLY Thinking...... 2!

Although I am trying to buy a flat in London with my husband and am therefore filled with a constant gut tearing terror and dispair, there are good and exciting things happening which are good and exciting. 

Mostly I am happy and excited that I have finished the second edition of What Birds Are Really Thinking. Here exclusively and for the first time I will show you some pictures. 







This has been in the pipeline for a while, moving between back and front burners to make way for aforementioned housing angst and other exciting projects such as those detailed in my last post.

The first edition of What Birds Are Really Thinking, including spoonbills thinking about Britney Spears and starlings thinking about soft furnishings is my all time bestselling thing that I have made (apart from the Magpies print). In addition to being one of the very first things I made after moving to London to seek my fortune as an illustrator back in 2008.

 And this edition is soooooooo much better.

 I decided to revisit the topic in 2015 as an excuse to make some multimedia work and draw birds (my favourite things) and as a promotional follow up to the launch of my new website (jennyrobins.com). Much as I have a fondness for the original zine, this second issue really does show how far I've come in terms of skill and design. I will be sending these out as a mailer in the next month with a few postcards I also have in the pipeworks. 

 If you fancy owning your own copy, they are available here, or pop me an email if you can think of a good reason why I should send you one for free.  

In other good news, the event June and I organised for the Big Draw back in October/November 2014 has won a runners up award in the Drawing Inspiration Awards. That's good eh? We are going to the awards ceremony and will probably wear nice dresses, definitely do some live drawing and possibly make a speech (appropriatness of speech not yet confirmed.) I've announced the news officially on the Storyhands site here


This is me taking a short break from running the Sketchbook Scavenger Hunt in my F(Art)S T-shirt. This is what it looks like to be AWARD WINNING. 




Saturday, April 11, 2015

Goeiedag, Good News,

Hello hello hello, bonjour, guten tag and indeed goeiedag.


Reasons to be famous, completed projects and all sorts of illustrated high-jinks abound in this springtime season of newness and tidying.

A short while ago I made this first page of a comic about what Europe might be like in the future, and sent it along with a summary of the rest of the story to the nice people at Friedrich Naumann Stiftung for their Europe Fast Foward competition.

Along with six other comic artists I have been commissioned to complete the story and then go to Brussels for an awards ceremony and the launch of the book of our comics. Which is cool.


I'm not going to share the story with you, because I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise of what European culture will be like in the future. Because I am that prescient and clever that I have figured out what that will be. 
ALSO, I want to tell you that drawing lace is really enjoyable and I want more excuses to do so.  

In other comic news you can see a review of the second issue of Meanwhile... featuring my found text comic (Loved and Found, the serendipitous love story) on the Forbidden Planet blog here. Which is quite exciting. 



Also and as well, a somewhat longer time ago, the magnificent Christopher Kear of The New Tabloids commissioned me to produce some collagey artwork and designs for the album Good News including a full colour 12 page lyrics booklet in the found text style.



It is now a real thing in the real world and I went to the launch party although I think I missed my shout out which is a little bit embarrassing. 
The music sounded really good tho, you should check it out

Here are some of the lyric pages



I love the mix of serendipity and intention that is in all creativity but comes out especially much in abstract collage. The materials and colours that I used related to the theme and mood of each individual song, with a theme of using newsprint and jagged edges throughout, relating to the idea of the band's name and ethos of fractured journalism, commenting on modern life seen through the bottom of a broken bottle, dancing in the wreckage of the scene. You know, that sort of thing. Right? 



I've been doing lots of other fun drawings for fun and profit, much of which I am not sharing yet. But here are some sneaky, cheeky, peeky work in progress (or #wip to those in the know, or #itk) pictures from the new edition of What Birds are Really Thinking I am working on. 

It is going to be so so so good. Probably.





Monday, March 2, 2015

Winners, and celebrity dinners.

Winners of my website launch commission give-away are as follows:

Prize for most interesting sounding commission: 

Karen Kelleher requesting a Granny (who is an international spy) skateboarding with her pet Jack Russells,  Charlie and Benny down a London high street.

Randomly selected prize:

Andrew Smith

we will have to see what Andy comes up with for me to draw

watch the space of here

Bonus bumf and promo package winners:

Kirsty Usher
Meike B


I will be in touch with these lovely people individually for details.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the competition across all of the platforms of the media of social. It took a little detective work to get the list together but I am 99% sure I got you all on the list. 

A few people have asked me about the celebrity dinner party illustration I posted in the competition post, so I thought I'd expound on it here as a post-launch treat. 


I am actually really bad at those kinds of games with open ended questions, what films would you take to a dessert island? (to watch while you eat dessert) if you could use one pen for the rest of your life what would it be? (a clearly inhumane restriction) and the classic what people alive or dead would you have round for dinner? 

Give me a kiss, marry kill any day, something with some concrete options. 

But I decided to do this one anyway because I'd been looking for an excuse to add colour and a bit of collage to my Real TV Wisdom style of line drawing for a portfolio piece to show off that I can do celebrity likenesses actually. 

So this is who I thought I would like to have round for dinner (from left to right)

Lady Gaga

because I think she would get the party started, and wear something excellent.

Sir David Attenborough 

because his voice and demeanour would put everyone at ease and encourage them to relax and let out their animal natures. Or something.

Will.i.am

because he would make really good jokes with people's names and raise the profile of my dinner party on social media.

Grayson Perry

because he could give Gaga a run for her money with his outfit, and wouldn't pull any punches with his philosophical banter.

Monica Galetti 

because I love her face. Although I am now thinking that this could be bad because she would be eating my food and I don't think it would be good enough. 

And Tina Fey

to make fun of everyone else. And because in my head she is basically Liz Lemon I think she would not judge my food so that might counteract Monica's high standards.

They are all basically just celebrities that I would like to hang out with in real life. Also that I wanted to draw. 

I'm not going to ask you to tell me who you would have round for dinner, because I think that is cruel. 
But out of these six people that I chose, who would you most like to...

a) share a two bed flat in Crouch End with?
b) have to plan and execute a small scale invasion with?
c) have a miniature version of as a pet that could live in your room?
d) kiss, marry and kill?
e) go to a theme park with?
f) sit in a waiting room with for half a hour, but not be entirely sure it was them or have the courage to speak to them?

answers on a postcard or in the comments please. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

You don't get to choose who you love.

I made this comic for the amazing Ztoical's visual campaign ahead of the Irish vote on marriage equality in May. 


It was nice to have this impetus to make a comic about something I believe strongly. 

And a marriage is a marriage is a marriage, whoever you are and whoever you love, that promise is the same and should have the same name. 

And the other thing too, that monogamy is a choice. I've never believed in soul mates or love at first sight or any of that, and I think that's a big part of why I've managed to be one half of an excellent relationship that has lasted almost 14 years and one and a half of marriage so far. But the faith thing is true too. Monogamy is like dieting. You can only do it if you believe in the back of your head that you deserve the rewards and that they are worth it. Not faith in a fairytale ending, faith in a continuing adventure.  

I wrote the words before I had thought of the visuals, and it's a little bit cheesy. 

The hardest line to illustrate was the 'sometimes it should end' line, and I want to issue a disclaimer that I absolutely do not think that mothers are the only victims of domestic abuse, or that domestic abuse is the only valid reason for giving up on a marriage or relationship. There are lots of reasons relationships should end. It's ironic that in a piece where I'm actively aiming to show many sides to the story of love and subtly subvert clich├ęs that having only one panel to show an idea can put one in danger of the opposite.

But I absolutely do believe in marriage equality, and if you are in a position to vote for or support it, I wholeheartedly urge you to do so. 

And to follow the tumblr campaign this kicked off here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

OFFICIAL WEBSITE LAUNCH AND COMPETITION

YES I am officially launching my revamped and moved website. 



FANFARE AND PARADE



(Literally: Ooooh I should draw a quick sketch of a bird parade here that would be fun! But the physiology of birds marching and playing brass instruments is just fundamentally inaccurate. Which I cannot refrain from pointing out. That would be irresponsible.)

Not the most flashy upgrade in the world, but it does have a lot of my work on it, organised into nice posts and pages where you can see it nice and clearly.

Work like this:

It has, like, an about section, and a press section, and 6 separate portfolios of my work plus a bonus sketchbook section. AND different banner designs and a feed of this blog, so you can go back and forth between the two all day if you like. 

Coincidentally, I noticed that this very blog has almost reached the exciting milestone of 25,000 views! Sadly there doesn't seem to be a way for me to see who exactly my 25,000th viewer will be/has been or I could give them a prize. So instead I will have another competition to help you lovely people celebrate these two lovely milestones with me, and to give you the exciting opportunity to share them with your friends.

WHAT CAN I WIN?

To keep this simples, I'm offering 2 people a straight up commission of my drawing time up to 3 hours. I will draw something of your choice for you, and post you the original and the digital versions. This can be a portrait of you or of someone or something dear to you, or something a bit more inventive like a scene you'd like to see, a dream you had or a celebrity in a compromising position. The winners will also get a selection of my promotional bumf including stickers and zines.

I may send out some runners up envelopes of bumf if I get a large response to this.



(These celebrities are all talking about this epic competition.)

HOW CAN I WIN?

One winner will be the thing that I most want to draw.
The second will be chosen using a random number generator.

1. Make sure you like my facbook project page and/or follow me on twitter, and/or instagram or follow this blog.

2. Add a comment to this post, or send me an email at jennyrobins[at]gmail.com saying what you would like me to draw for you if you win.

3. Share this blog post on as many platforms as you like using the #jennyrobinsillustration - the more times you share the more likely you are to win, although if you have high privacy settings on facebook please note I may not see your shares so let me know you have sent them.

This competition will run until the 1st of March.

Good luck n'est pas?

And don't forget to visit my improved and new site of web.