Art on the street

You can't hide homelessness by John D'ohIf you live in the Bristol area, you may well have already glimpsed work by urban artist John D’oh. Now the author of the freshly published Street Art And Graffiti: A Dissertation, he explains how he reached this new chapter in a life of creativity.

“I used to do street art as a kid but got into a long-term relationship so gave it up for a long time,” he says. “Back then I got into street art and graffiti because of hip hop and I considered them to be part of that culture. These days my style and art has changed and now it’s more about getting a message in with the art.”

From Dreams to Nightmares by John D'oh

These messages can be prompted by a wide range of environmental, societal and political issues. “I follow the news and politics but sometimes I cover other issues like homelessness or environmental issues, which are close to my heart. If I see something that I feel would benefit from my street art then I start thinking about the logistics.”

These include social issues “like civil rights, poverty, racism, bullying, inequality, immigration, and homelessness. There are a lot of politics in my art and some that are just done for humour.”

His aim, he explains, is to encourage views to question what they read in newspapers and online. “People noticed during the last election that there was a lot of bias one-sided right-wing journalism,” he comments. “It’s nice just readdress issues and get people talking and thinking and not just believing the fake news that’s out there in abundance.”

Vote Corbyn Momentum

He adds wryly: “How many people voted for Brexit just based on the extra 350million a week promised to the NHS, which was all lies and deceit which has helped put us all in the mess we are in today?”

killer clown craze cr John D'oh

John describes his creations as “pretty much similar to advertising, as I only have a few seconds to catch the public attention with my art. Hopefully my artwork will make people smile as they go about their daily lives, but also maybe start debate or discussions as they talk to friends, work colleagues or other members of the public, if shared through social media.”

The humour inherent in his work is an essential element, he explains. “I feel we all need a little humour in our lives and it’s often better than the forced advertising that we are forced to endure on a daily basis.”

John D'oh artwork

Often the idea for a new work takes shape thanks to a news story. “I think about how I am going to adapt that to fit into an image, with maybe a short quote that can instantly grab attention of the passing public,” John says. “I then cobble the artwork together with a mixture of photoshop and paint software, which I use badly, and freehand and draw the rest.”

What offshore accountsThe biggest challenge is the speed at which a new idea needs to become an existing work of art in order to be relevant.

“I find the news changes quickly, so the timing has to be right – if you miss the headline or the story then it’s too late; there’s no point in putting it out a week later.”

The design stages are the most crucial. “You ask yourself where you’re going to paint it; whether there are any CCTV cameras; how big you can make it; how many layers it needs; whether it should be pre-made or maybe be an art installation…”

Once it’s completed, John has one goal in mind. “All I hope to do is get that one descent photograph before my artwork is removed, painted over, jet washed or tagged. I consider what I do as a temporary art form and am not too precious about my work once it’s done.”

Street Art And Graffiti A Dissertation book coverThe idea to produce his debut book, Street Art And Graffiti: A Dissertation, was prompted by students and academics asking for insight.

“The book took me six months to put together so a lot of thought has gone into it,” John says. “I’ve read many books on the subject and I feel mine is like nothing on the market. It’s an insider’s view and where most artists produce what I call generic coffee table books with just page after page of glossy photos of their art, mine is different and balanced with about 50% text.”

The book covers and raises a lot of questions about the nature of street art, he says, “like should street art be protected and if so how do you choose what to protect? And the re-appropriation of street art, should art be removed from the streets? If you take this art then and stick it in a gallery or a museum, does it then loose its integrity? And lots more.”

Peope Think I'm Banksy. By John D'oh
John’s trademark wit shines through too.

“I’ve included some funny stories, some background information about myself that’s not common knowledge and many unseen photos,” he says.

John is hoping that the book will be used as an educational tool for teachers and students, “as the subject is becoming more common place in the school curriculum. I hope it will be something teachers can use in the class room to generate discussions between teachers and pupils and for students to maybe read.”

Tony Blair Bear Pit Bristol

Plus, as the title suggests, he’d like to see his book provide support for anyone writing a dissertation on the subject of street art. “My book may make it easier and highlight some interesting topics from which to base their work.”

The book is also bound to appeal to anyone who appreciates art in its myriad forms.

You can see original street art by John D’oh all over the UK. “In some areas it stays up longer than others,” he says, listing: “Bristol, Burnham on Sea, Manchester, Liverpool, Cheltenham, Worcester, Upton upon seven and Gloucester, to name but a few. And I’m always on the lookout for new locations, opportunities and walls.”

Street Art And Graffiti: A Dissertation By Street Artist John D’oh is published by Tangent Books and available to buy here.

Writing prompt – future

Wind turbines, Colorado. Photo by Judy DarleyI recently attended a workshop run by Bristol Climate Writers as part of Bristol Festival of Literature. Deborah Tomkins, the workshop coordinator, invited us to think about the things that scare us about the future and then write a utopian story or poem in response.

I invite you to do that too. Think about anything that scares you about the future, whether that’s rising sea levels, drought, famine, or simply your own old age. Then write a piece that contains an antidote or solution to that dread, or a suggestion of better times ahead, however fantastical.

For example, in the story of Noah’s ark, a dove carrying an olive leaf offered the hope that land was nearby.

What image of hope can you dream up or devise?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Submit a bookshop ghost story

The Petersfield Bookshop interior_sketchThe Petersfield Bookshop in Petersfield, Hampshire, is celebrating its 100th birthday with an eerily themed short story competition. ‘Ghosts in the Bookshop’ invites you to summon up your creepiest imaginings to write a ghost story set in a bookshop.

“We want it to thrill us, and chill us, and move us.Your story can be traditional or modern, in any style and with any kinds of characters, just make sure that most of the action takes place in, or centres around, a bookshop,” says John Westwood, managing partner.

There is no specific word limit, as such, but the story should be written with an energy and at a length which makes it suitable to read aloud in less than 20 minutes.

All entries must be received by midnight on 30th November 2018.

The Petersfield Bookshop will announce the winner in mid-December and hopes to host a pre-Christmas event “when the winner and runner up stories will be read aloud in the atmospheric aisles and rooms of our after hours bookshop.”

Michelle Magorian, friend of the shop and award-winning author of Goodnight Mister TomJust Henry, A Spoonful of Jam, and others, will guest-judge entries. The author of the winning story will receive £100, and three runners-up will each be invited to choose bundles of books from the enticing bookshop shelves.

Find full submission guidelines here and take a roam around the site for inspiration.

Image supplied by the Petersfield Bookshop.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Daily creativity with Ulla Maria Johanson

180329 by Ulla Maria JohansonIn 2014, artist Ulla Maria Johanson set herself the challenge of creating and completing a new painting every day. It marked the start of a period of intense productivity that has resulted in a series of exquisite work by the Swedish artist.

There’s a sense of spontaneous energy to Ulla’s paintings that I find utterly enticing, yet her habit of producing daily paintings began as a reaction to something of a painterly drought. “I was in a period when I experienced that I lacked inspiration, time and ability to paint,” she explains. “My dream was to paint big and have a lot of time for creation, which was difficult to combine with full time work. When I did find time, the white canvasses felt scary and I rarely managed to make a whole painting I was pleased with.”

Ulla’s frustration grew, until during a break at work she went to an online bookshop and sought out their art catalogue. “I found Carol Marine’s book Daily Painting,” she recalls. “Interested, I read about the simple concept of painting small and often. I immediately felt that it was something for me, and I made my first daily painting the next morning.”

180509 by Ulla Maria Johanson

Luscious brushstrokes build up abstract scenes that summon up an impression of setting, season and mood.

The biggest challenge, she says, is to find sufficient time each day. “I learned quite soon to make it easier for myself by making a little pop-up studio,” Ulla says. “At first, it was also difficult to find motives and ideas. Some days it seemed hopeless and I thought about giving it up.”

To maintain her determination, Ulla gave herself a feasible end date. “First, I decided that I should give it 30 days in a row before stopping,” she says, “and then I extended it to 100 days.”

180416 by Ulla Maria Johanson

Four years on, the habit is now a deeply ingrained pleasure.

“The joy is to take the time to do what I really want,” she says. “It’s also a great liberation to have this daily habit established. At the beginning, I was often dissatisfied with what I achieved – my internal critic shouted in despair and encouraged me to quit! However, I soon found it became easy to silence the critic – the most important thing was not that the day’s work should become a masterpiece but it should become something. Who can expect to produce perfection when time is tight?”

She adds: “The next day there is another chance to do something, and then it could only get better. Painting small and often also makes it easy to try new, experimental techniques and take chances.”

180205 by Ulla Maria Johanson

Ulla usually uses acrylic paint “because it dries quickly and you can paint over with several layers. I do small paintings (15x15cm or 20x20cm) on canvas or on a board, while larger works are always on canvas.”

Ulla prepares her surface an uneven layer of white primer “so that it becomes a structure. Once the foundation is properly dry I paint with a wide brush with short, stiff synthetic bristles, rarely cleaning the brush while I work.” This allows the colours to mix with one another as she transfers them from palette to canvas or board.

“As I work,  I turn and turn the canvas to look at it from different angles and notice what appears. In addition to the broad brushes, I sometimes also use finer round natural brushes and a thin synthetic brush.”

180414 by Ulla Maria Johanson

The early stages are the most intuitive for Ulla. “When I start to work, I do not know at all where it will go. Often, it becomes layer upon layer, before the motif emerge,” she admits.

Her own frame of mind is part of the adventure. “At first, I’m curious about what’s going to happen,” she says. “Sometimes I quickly find something that feels interesting and worth exploring and reinforcing, and at others I find that the work feels it reaches a sticky dead end where the colours do not work together and I wonder how to go on. Then something happens and I introduce a shade or shape that makes the whole thing feel harmonious.”

180820 by Ulla Maria Johanson

The biggest challenge is to know when to stop. “Sometimes I’m sure the painting is done when I finally clean the brush off, and on other occasions I need to let the painting be for a while so I can study the work when it’s dried and make a choice. Maybe it will stay as it is or maybe I will change all or part of the painting.”

180607 by Ulla Maria Johanson

Ulla lives on the Swedish west coast, which influences her artwork. “I often walk and enjoy nature and sea,” she comments. “It is reflected in my art and I also find inspiration in the environments and pictures I come into contact with online and in books.”

For Ulla the finished artwork is only the first stage. “What I want to communicate with my paintings is the beginning of a story that can grow and blossom in the viewer’s mind,” she says. “It’s wonderful to hear people tell me about the different things they see in one of my abstract paintings. I’m also happy every time I hear that my work has prompted someone to feel inspired to create something of their own.”

Find more of Ulla’s work at the following: umjartoneartworkeveryday; instagram.com/umj.art; facebook.com/umj.art

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – gourd

Autumn gourd by Judy DarleyWith this being the season of mellow fruitfulness and all, I couldn’t resist sharing this photo of a rather impressive gourd.

Imagine the person who managed to grow such a beast. Might they have an unsavoury secret to their success that no one on their allotment could guess at?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

The Emma Press craves your gothic poetry

Taf Estuary and mist cr Judy DarleyThe Emma Press are seeking poems inspired by the theme of gothic, for an anthology edited by Nisha Bhakoo and Charlotte Geater. Consider the things that make your skin creep – the uncanny, eerie and deeply dubious – and consider how you can give it a fresh and unexpected twist. Write it modern and unsettling, lace it with light, lust and loathing, or simply make your readers thrill to their core.

They say: “We are looking for uncanny poems that make us think about the gothic in a new way. We want to see dark poems that spook us to our core, as well as lighter poems that engage with gothic themes or motifs.”

Gothic stories are full of hidden urges and unutterable acts, but equally, it can be about the way light and shade fall on a scene and evoke a mood. They say: “It’s a big genre and it encompasses so much – think of Jane Eyre and Dracula, but also think of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Nick Joaquin’s Tropical Gothic.”

I’d also recommend a look at Poppy Z. Brite’s splendidly sultry gothic fiction.

You’re invited to send a maximum of three poems by 9th November 2018, but make sure you follow these guidelines:

  1. You must be a member of the Emma Press Club, which means you must have bought a book or ebook from the Emma Press website in this calendar year (i.e. since 1st January 2018), or already have been accepted into an Emma Press book. Read more about the Emma Press Club.
  2. Place a maximum of three poems, each no longer than 65 lines, into a single Word/PDF/ODF document. Please only include text in the document, and no images.
  3. Make sure your submission is anonymous. Make sure you haven’t put your name or any biographical notes in the document, and be aware that you will be asked to rename your document at a certain stage within the Google form.
  4. Fill in the Google form, which is accessible from here. It will tell you everything else you need to know.

Find full details and lots of tips here.

The deadline for submissions is midnight  on at the end of 9th November 2018. Good luck!

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.