Thursday 31 January 2019

Rocking Horse Fly Sculpture

Something a bit different tonight on the blog; with an open call on the horizon, I (Ben) decided I wanted to try doing a sculpture piece as a change.  I had a large number of the mini Rocking Horse Fly models (which I'd designed way back, for the Wonderland call at Rydal Hall, and subsequently laser cut for sales; with a new design about to go into production, these are surplus).

I wasn't sure how to display them though, until I saw this display jar for sale, and the idea of something like a Victorian display piece came to mind.  I decided to make a base of a stylised tree, and (keeping with the Victorian theme) base it on a model I'd seen in a museum in Northumberland, where the whole thing was done in gloss black.

The tree was cut in MDF on a hegna saw.

The base was built up from polystyrene blocks, cut to shape...

...then covered in filler.

For a bit of added interest, I also added some of these laser-cut long grass pieces, which were glued down then covered in filler.

After spraying in several coats of gloss black, I super glued the rocking horse fly pieces into place (using three frosted acrylic examples).

I borrowed a suitable mantelpiece to photograph the final piece on...

I was very happy with how the final piece came out, and reckon I might knock up another couple of these at some point.  A nice break from the usual work anyway.

Friday 25 January 2019

Opening night at the Bowery, Leeds

"The State of Urban Loneliness" show opened tonight at the Bowery in Headingly, Leeds.  Frankly this must be one of the most rapid-reaction blog posts we have ever done, being as it's going online within a couple of hours of us returning.

The Bowery is a new venue for us; a nice cafĂ© downstairs, then it's up to the gallery.  Two rooms for displaying work, and a classroom space.

The blurbs for the show were out for visitors; kept the walls around the artwork from being too cluttered.

My three pics, from the Intercity project.  No frames, just wall-mounted, every artist having their work displayed the same way, creating a nice consistency.

The quality of the work was very high, with some interesting interpretations of the theme for the show, and a nice mix of landscape, architectural, portraiture, and creative photography.

The opening night for the show was pleasantly busy, with a good atmosphere.  An enjoyable evening out, and a nice start to 2019 for showing our photography/art.

A big thanks to the team there, especially Bella Quinn (the curator) for selecting my pics for the show.  It's on display for a while, so if you're in the area, pop in to see a nice and varied selection of photography responding to the theme.

Sunday 20 January 2019

Upcoming Show- "The State of Urban Loneliness"

Just a very quick update tonight- Ben's "Intercity" miniatures project will be featuring in an upcoming show with the Bowery Gallery in Headingly, Leeds (along with possibly appearing at a few other venues around the city).  Three pics from the project were entered for the call...

The Bowery is a new one for us; we saw the open call advertised through the excellent Curatorspace site.  The show opens on Friday the 25th, and runs for a couple of months.  For those interested in the gallery, their website is:

Having had a bit of a self-imposed break from exhibitions last year to catch our breath, catch-up on other projects, focus on getting work in print, and generally deal with life, it's nice to get back to showing work.  We dropped off some photography and sculpture work for another open call show this afternoon, so more details on that to follow.

Equally, should be some info on the opening night for The State of Urban Loneliness too next weekend...

Thursday 17 January 2019

Observe to Preserve... back in Wales (part 2)

I hadn't been terribly happy with the shots done with the Rail Studio model last year; to hit a deadline, and with a run of poor weather, I ended up rushing a shoot up in the dales and then in a derelict quarry (OK so Doctor Who would have me believe all the best post-apocalyptic sci-fi is shot in old quarries, but it didn't quite fit what I wanted to do with the shot).

After having taken some photos with the artist figure miniature on the beach in Northumberland though, I reckoned a shoot done on a beach for the Rail Studio would work, the scenics would scale out better with sand than grass, and working in late October ought to mean the beaches would be quiet, and I'd be less likely to have random dog walkers trampling the set, or get hit by frisbees and beach balls whilst trying to do the shoot... to which end I also wouldn't be trying to do a beach shoot with The Childs present this time either.

Last year, I shot a pic with the Airfix clip-together camper van for a competition.  I built a quick set on an old bit of board and quickly fabricated some set dressing, then shot at sunset at Black Rock Sands, though I reckoned in this case Black Rock might be a bit busy even in a wet half term as it's a beach you can drive onto, perfect for lazy dog walkers.  I decided to look elsewhere for a location.

As regards the plan for the pic itself and the atmosphere I was aiming for... Going back to 2017, this is something of the set dressing I wanted to replicate, and the sand blowing over the abandoned holiday detritus at a former seaside resort.  OK so in the above pic, this was just our little family encampment after a sudden sandstorm, but nevertheless, it was the look I was after...

After repairing the heat-and-storage-damaged models, I gathered as much set dressing as I could from the odds and ends surviving from the Britannia Model Village project.  I didn't want to go mad with the extra props, but needed a few odds and ends.

As the other blog entry mentioned, the first shoots in Wales this half term were done with the Road Studio model, as the Rail Studio needed a lot more time and props.  The planned day of the shoot, towards the end of the week dawned... with weather that was, well, bizarre.  After a few days of bright winter sunshine where we were too busy with family matters to get out taking the pics, and with only three days available before bailing out for home, this looked the best day.  And managed to be sunny, windy, and stormy (where horizontal freezing rain and sleet would sweep in seemingly out of nowhere) all at the same time.

Because I reckoned it would be quiet, I planned on re-using the beach from the "Inflate-Deflate" shoot, but on arrival we (self and Elder Child who was assisting; Amy took one look at the weather and wisely decided to stay indoors) got drenched getting out of the car, and found that -because of a delayed departure, and a very unexpectedly slow journey in the bad weather following nervous drivers- the tide was further-in than I've seen it in five years of shooting here.  Thoroughly wet and dejected, we turned for home...

...before spotting signs to a beach near Afonwen that we'd never been to before.  We thought it was worth a punt, and found a car park for a tiny deserted railway station, about 200 yards from the dunes, at an empty camp site; 

A perfect, beautiful sandy beach.

The models were set up; not so easy in the gales.  The rest of the weather was playing nice though, the storms blowing either side of our little patch of coast.  We rushed anyway, reckoning we had at most an hour.

Being as this was planned to be a main shot for the project, I wanted to feature all of the various studio miniatures at this location for individual shots, as well as a group shot.

The road studio was placed on the set from the camper van shoot, as I wanted the imagery of an abandoned holiday site with the ruins of it all surrounding it.

The Playmobil track was laid on a plank (to keep it as level as possible) then covered in sand, using Barmouth down the coast as a bit of a visual reference for a railway buried in drifting sand:

Oddly enough, with such a crowded set, the best camera again proved to be the phone compared to the SLR; the Samsung seems to cope better with miniatures out on location.

So was I happy with the shoots?  Yes; it allowed me to finally polish-off some pics I was never properly happy with in the first rushed shoot earlier in 2018.  

And what of the wider project?  Well, images from the set have been entered for two open calls which I'm waiting to hear back from, and an article on the Rail Studio model should be appearing in the model railway press later this year.

It's been a fun project, and an extension of the Britannia Model Village concept some 12-13 years after that project (technically some 15-16 years since the first iteration of the Artist: Health and Safety project too), but I reckon it's done with now.  Time to box the models back up so they can either fall apart again in storage, or get cannibalised for another shoot.

More projects with miniatures to crack on with though; the Steampunk Jabberwock rises again, this time as a G Scale model railway build for another magazine article.  The original model is a bit broken, so this time I'm starting again from scratch...

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Observe to Preserve... back in Wales (part 1)

Back in time for the blog tonight to last October (we're a bit busy at the moment preparing some bits for a couple of exhibitions, after the traditional Tax Self Assessment break from being arty to briefly become accountants).

Anyway, October 2018 saw the last visit to Wales; we needed to produce some work for an upcoming open call in Jan '19, so we both planned a ton of ideas we could shoot whilst we were there... and then for me (Ben) it all fell apart in the weeks before the hol, as various health and work concerns got in the way, and none of the planned models got built.

Needing to shoot something, anything, I took the opportunity to try and nail the least-successful shoot from Observe to Preserve, and the Rail Studio shots (which had to be rushed on a single, very wet day up in the Dales back in July in order to hit a tight deadline).

On top of that, I thought I'd shoot some more pics/redo a couple of shots with the road studio too.

Digging the models out of the loft however revealed some problems; being kept wrapped up in a sealed box up in the roof during the heatwave hadn't done the models any favours.  Plastic had warped, adhesives had melted or come unstuck, damage had occurred, and so a whole evening was spent in Wales re-gluing and re-painting a lot of the models.

With a fair bit of work though, the Rail Studio was restored ready to shoot.

The main shoot was planned to be done on the beach, but I'll put that in a separate post.  

The first shoot of all though was on the sea wall at Criccieth using the Road Studio model, which had fared better (being stored in a cupboard), where a drainage channel created as close to a scale concrete-lined canal as I was likely to find.  I'd stumbled on it last time and improvised a shoot, but felt with a few more models, it could make a more satisfying pic with the Road Studio miniature. 

On our first night in Wales we popped down there for a recce, but the light wasn't terrific, and I wanted a sunset to backlight the pics... so we abandoned the shoot and headed to pick up a curry.

Of course within minutes of ordering the curry, the sun popped out most dramatically, but there was therefore no time to do the shoot before the food.  Never mind, we thought, we have another 6 evenings, there's bound to be another dramatic sunset.

Sooner or later, we're going to stop saying things like that...

Returning to the location on the last day of the holiday we found a dull sky, but there wouldn't be time for a reshoot, and so we pressed on.

The props were quickly set up; last time (practise shoot in the spring) I'd thought a few bits of set dressing including some bridges would be good, and so the ruined girder bridge from the original Rail Studio shoot, and the ancient Britannia Model Village bridge sides, were used this time.

The first shoot had the figure on the right-hand side, but I didn't like the composition (nor the logic that the artist got out of the road studio, walked all the way down to the far bridge, and walked back up to that location)… something I only realised after a couple of minutes.

Moving the figure improved matters a bit.

All in all I was pretty satisfied with the way the shots came out.

Needing another shot with the Road Studio, I chucked the models in one evening towards the end of the holiday for a shoot; we ended up going out a little later than planned though and the light was a bit poor.  

A further problem was the intended original location at Tanybwlch, which we'd done a recce on a month before, but the Forestry Commission had in the meantime cut down a ton of trees rendering it unsuitable... so we ended up in the hills above Beddgelert.  The background was near enough what I wanted -a woodland setting, but in such a way that the models could be distanced a bit from the trees to help scale them a bit- though the lighting wasn't great.  We cracked on anyway.

I had planned to create a weathered road surface on the railway trackbed with fine wet and dry paper, but ended up needing to shoot with the Rail Studio later, and couldn't afford to damage the set gluing the wet and dry down, somewhat ruining the desired effect.

This is more obviously post-apocalypse than most of the other shots, and in hindsight rather over does it with so much set dressing.  Too many wrecked vehicles and things... less is more.  I think having the hints of catastrophe more subtly sprinkled into the pics works better, though it does link it a bit more strongly into the earlier Britannia Model Village series.

Nothing says sci-fi like Dutch Angles... though there wasn't too much room to tilt the camera on the large rock it was all set up on.  I could have done with a lamp or reflector too I reckon.

Meh, lesson learnt.

With light fading, we drove west (in the general direction of the takeaway in Criccieth, always nice to have a destination to look forward to) and tried to find a spot for a shoot with the Rail Studio.  We revisited the mountain lake we'd shot at for "The Home Is..." (chair project) but were put off by the gloomy lighting and mass of "HIDDEN CAMERA" signs.

Snow on the mountains.

Down the road into the Nantle Valley, which looked glorious.

Trying to find a location was problematic; the best spot for a shoot down the valley towards the light was behind a tall fence, and we didn't feel like trespassing (especially with several boxes of models).  Down at the bottom of the valley though there was a handy layby with a flat wall, perfect for setting up the track and embankment models...

Pity about the telegraph wires, and a quick shot proved it would need to be low angle to keep the road out of shot...

… tough I was very happy with how it came out in the end, and indeed a modified version of the above shot is being entered for at least one open call in the first half of 2019, perhaps two...

In the next post, the main shoot on the beach, done earlier in the week than most of the above...