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By: Judith Alder
Blue Monkey Network is an artists' organisation run by artists for artists. Organiser Judith Alder, runs the Network in partnership with Eastbourne's Towner gallery, who invited Blue Monkey to establish the Network in 2011. Since then the group has held monthly talks and networking events at Towner. For 2013, the Network is supported by a Grant for the Arts from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
# 33 [11 June 2013]
Another extract from Buddy Leader Anne Barrell's weekly update to buddies:
" Week Four Already... Here's a report from Clare Whistler, buddy with Christine Binnie, on their busy schedule: "We met again at the David Kefford talk, after a flurry of emails. It seems to have turned into a busy time right now, but I think we have already accepted that our 'buddying' will go on after the 6 weeks. There is progress though, Christine's kiln is working and in general she feels that thinking about art has been more focused and present.
Before and after the first buddying meeting we sat on the beach and looked down the list made from our first 'jumping over the fire' May 1st meeting. We are finding many overlaps and many possible 'makings'.
The definition and use of the word 'artist' and how we use it has had much discussion, as well some time spent thinking about Clare's website, which has got a possible way forward planned, which would be a big step.
Christine is busy with the Art Car Boot Fair followed by Jevington Fete and Clare has a performance at Battersea Arts Centre next week. We hope that Christine will be able to visit Clare, with her mother at Bunces Barn in the next week or so."
Steph Grainger and Felicity Truscott have set up a studio visit to follow on from a day of drawing they had at Pevensey Castle. Felicity has been working hard preparing for a show at The Black Shed Gallery. Steph is going to visit and see the work she is considering selecting for the show.
Jennie Walker and Victoria Bathurst have been continuing to support each other with email. Jennie found the David Kefford talk inspirational and her 1-2-1 on Thursday reinforced her process of making/drawing and painting. She has also completed her work ready for her Jerwood application.
Victoria Bathurst has spent a day at the V&A doing academic research for her Samuel Palmer walks. Her painting is on the back burner at the moment. Sometimes just thinking and planning, a period of refelection, can move your work forward."
Last week the buddies had an informal and sociable evening in the pub. Anne writes, "Here are some pictures taken with my camera in the pub of Judy Martin's work in progress on "We are already forgetting you", and also some images from Judy's buddy Steven Croft on this shared theme. Judy has started looking at the serial murders of women working as prostitutes in Ipswich and Steven's work has been influenced by leaving his job."
# 32 [8 June 2013]
A NEW PHASE
I'm just about to enter a new and slightly unknown phase of activity with Blue Monkey Network. Part of our Grant For The Arts for 2013 included a sum of money to enable me to work with consultants to explore ideas about planning for a sustainable future and developing the Network. So far I've had some help with writing a brief for consultants and putting out a call for expressions of interest and proposals.
I was thrilled to come across Sarah who runs the artist-run space Meantime in Cheltenham - http://meantime.org.uk/. Sarah was kind enough to give me a valuable half hour of her time for a very interesting and enjoyable phone conversation in which we were able to compare notes about our organisations and about our very similar consultancy projects. She's a little bit ahead of me having already advertised and selected a consultant and so she was able to give me some very useful advice about e.g. the value of having a selection panel to help with the selection process.
So I'm beginning to get the ads out there and have had my first enquiry. Now it's a question of waiting to see what happens and who expresses an interest. I'm excited to see who might apply and what might come of it.
# 31 [4 June 2013]
BLUE MONKEY LOVES DAVID KEFFORD!
Blue Monkey artist Anne Barrell writes, "I very much enjoyed the David Kefford talk at Towner on Wednesday. Part of what he talked about was the importance of artists support networks and about how through this you become connected to the wider art world. There was also discussion around making your own luck, talking to other artists and curators, networking and taking opportunities as they present themselves. The flipside to this was focusing on yourself as an artist - Quotes for this week: "It's good to be embarrassed by your work", "It's good to touch the edges of the human condition" and "Drawing is a wonderful way for me to have a stream of consciousness- to get stuff out of my head"
Anne wasn't the only artist who enjoyed meeting David. A total of 6 artists had 1-2-1 consultations with David about their practices. Without exception they all came away with very positive feelings - "encouraging supportive and valuable conversation", "really enjoyed the 1 to 1 chat today - very thought provoking" and "he was very helpful and has enabled me to understand my work a lot better". Thanks David!
# 30 [4 June 2013]
Week Three News
Extracts from Buddy Leader, Anne Barrell's weekly mail-out to the group.
It's been great hearing what the buddies have been up to and some lovely ideas are coming forward.
Sarah Mulholland and Catherine Walsh have been sketching together down at the pier, creating lots of interest from the passing public and even being photographed. They have also been visiting several exhibitions and most importantly drinking coffee. This is a great way to exchange ideas.
Mike Tann and Victoria Albuquerque started off by visiting the Fiona Rae exhibition and then visiting each other's studios. Mike says: "Victoria has suggested that we each spend a day or half a day at each other’s studios producing something following the work structure used by that person. This may not produce an end product but will give both of us more of an insight into how we both work and hopefully we will be able to take something away that will enrich our own practices. What that will then lead to we will have to wait and see. We are also in the back ground throwing around business ideas to promote our practices and art work but this will mainly be by email."
Victoria says: "This week, Mike and I have been busy looking in greater depth at my work as an artist. Mike came over to my studio for a whole day. I had laid out a number of different mediums that I use to explore a new subject, and together we worked with these mediums exploring the same subject. The results were rewarding for both of us. I have attached a few photographs from the day. In return I will go to Mike's studio next Friday and work with him on a number of different mediums including collage which is something I have never done and am keen to explore."
This sounds a great way of really getting under the skin of the way the other person works and the key is keeping an open mind and seeing where it leads.
Victoria Bathurst and Jennie Walker have been keeping in contact by email. Victoria has been very busy with life....but she says "However I have been furthering my project to take people on Samuel Palmer walks in his "valley of vision" at Shoreham in Kent. He did his best and most original work during an 8 year stint there in his twenties and I hope to get the guided walks up and running by Mid June." That's nearly upon us Victoria, good luck with what sounds like a really lovely project.
# 29 [27 May 2013]
BUDDY NEWS WEEK 2: "We are already forgetting you" and other things
Extracts from Buddy Leader, Anne Barrell's weekly mail-out to the group.
It's been an interesting week hearing what some of the buddies have been up to. Please make sure you send me your news, even just a quick line to say that you are connecting with your Buddy.
Judy Martin and Steven Croft have decided that they will be working in parallel on interpretations of the phrase "we are already forgetting you". If any other Buddy pairs want to join in with this you are very welcome and it could be a great starting point.
If you are in Brighton you've still got a chance to catch Judy's Open House as part of Brighton Festival. Work that is in the exhibition is on www.judymartinpainter.wordpress.com Looking at Judy's blog I can see how the phrase she will be working on alongside Steven could generate some exciting developments.
Jennie Walker paired with Victoria Bathurst is concentrating on preparing work to enter the Jerwood competition and has booked a 1-2-1 with David Kefford. She is also on the look out for studio space if any of you hear of anything suitable- Eastbourne area.
Sharon Haward and Angela Rogers have made a great start. Sharon has been blogging about their first meeting at http://rags24.wordpress.com/ with some interesting comments on how they realised they were well matched when they both forgot to check the Jerwood Gallery was open on the day of their visit.
Is it any good?
Building confidence and giving moral support is one of the categories most ticked in Buddies' application forms. It's difficult when you are working away in your draughty garret not to let self doubt creep in, so I started thinking about strategies to tackle it and here are some ideas.
Build on what you are good at.
Try to separate yourself from your work when being critical.
It's OK to feel it's not going well - you can build on this and move forward.
When working alone - banish negative thoughts.
Try peer tutoring - share your skills and reinforce what you can do well.
Buddying is all about gaining a new perspective.
"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art" Andy Warhol.
It would be great to hear your comments on this too.
# 28 [20 May 2013]
WEEK ONE BUDDY GROUP NEWS - a message from Anne Barrell, Buddy Group leader to the Buddies.
The first meeting was very productive. As we have seen, Buddies have a diverse range of artistic practice and requirements from the programme. It was great to see that people have been meeting up, going drawing, visiting exhibitions, studios, cafes, and pubs and fire jumping.
THE PLAN - You should have at least weekly contact with your Buddy, which can be by phone, email or face to face, whatever works best for you. I will be in contact each week with a general email asking how you are getting on and what you have been up to:- this is the first one.
There will be an opportunity to all meet again to discuss how things have been going with the group and to share your practice. If some of you are getting on really well and have some great ideas you can suggest these to the group. Anyone struggling can get hints, tips and support from others. I'm proposing 4th or 5th June for an informal get together. Let me know your thoughts and if you would like to come.
Our final meeting is on Wednesday 26th June (7th week). This is an opportunity for you to feed back to all Blue Monkey members what you have gained from buddying, good, bad, highs and lows. Where has your artistic practice moved as a result? You can introduce your buddy and talk about them or talk about your own practice or jointly present. However, if you do not want to talk to the group there is no requirement to do so, and in fact if everyone does it might take too long anyway!
# 27 [17 May 2013]
We had our first Buddy Group meeting last night at Towner. Our Buddying scheme is running for 6 weeks and we've managed to pair up 14 artists into 7 Buddy pairs. It was great to meet almost all of them last night and hear about their plans and ideas for their buddying partnerships.
Everyone has different ideas about what they want to get out of buddying, from moral support and feedback on work, to exchanging skills and knowledge, learning more about marketing or galleries or simply having another artist to talk to and exchange ideas with. What is very exciting is the willingness and desire to actually make some new collaborative work - this is something which I had not necessarily expected.
It was exciting to see that everyone seems to have got off to a good start by introducing themselves to their buddies and starting to form a plan. Some have already visited each other's studios, been to see an exhibition together or been out on a drawing expedition. Look out for photos and reports of buddy activity coming soon - watch this space.
# 26 [11 May 2013]
Just about keeping on top of Network work while our Queen of Admin (i.e. Cat Ingrams) is away.
No volunteer bloggers yet, but very grateful to photographer Mike Goss who has volunteered to photograph our next event which is rapidly coming up.
Very much looking forward to meeting David Kefford who is our May visiting artist and guest speaker on the 29th. As well as talking about his work and many artist-led ventures which he's involved in, David's also going to be doing 1-2-1 sessions with artists - book now if you want one! All welcome but a small charge if you're not a Network member.
# 25 [3 May 2013]
Thanks a-n for the Crowdfunding Seminar yesterday at Toynbee Studios. It was a good day - loads of interesting people with exciting projects and fresh ideas. It was great to meet up again with Tooting's Pippa Koszerek and also to meet Amanda Westbury from Harlow's Gatehouse Arts and work together to share ideas and learn from each other. Thanks Pippa and Amanda.
It was really useful to think about how we might be able to use Crowdfunding for our Network and what we might be able to offer to potential funders. We have an amazing resource with 90 artist members so we should be able to really make the most of a scheme like this which relies on being able to get your project out to a lot of interested people - 90 artists, all with followers and mailing lists - should be packed with potential shouldn't it? Watch this space...
# 24 [1 May 2013]
BLUE MONKEY BREAKFAST TALK
Well here's a first! On Tuesday I gave a breakfast talk to the Eastbourne and District Chamber of Commerce. This was quite challenging in some ways. For one thing it was day 4 of a very sore throat for me and for another, the event started at 7am. Now this is not a time at which I normally expect to be on top form, however a quick dose of Paracetamol temporarily sorted the throat, and an appropriate sense of professionalism kicked in and, I think, managed to make me rise to the occasion.
Actually, it was a really interesting morning. The 20 or so members of the local business community who arrived looking extremely sprightly and threw themselves into vigorous networking at 7am, settled down to tuck into a splendid breakfast at one of Eastbourne's most comfortable hotels. By 8 oclock everyone had given a really punchy little one minute presentation or update on their business and it was my turn to introduce myself and Blue Monkey Studio and Network in a 10 minute talk. It was great to be able to give a quick potted history of some of the things we've done at Blue Monkey Studio over the past 10 years with an emphasis on the events and exhibitions we've organised. The final part of my talk focused on the breadth and diversity of the Network's membership and I showed a selection of images from some of our artists with work ranging across traditional arts media and stretching to other disciplines including music, performance and poetry. I also talked about our aims for the future including finding ways of making new opportunities for members to show their work and trying to provide more support for our artists to develop and try out new ideas in a supported environment.
I really enjoyed meeting these people who were friendly, interested and welcoming. There seemed a genuine interest in building links between the arts and business communities in the area and this is something I am most certainly keen to encourage and support. Not only that, but I had a jolly good breakfast and was home, changed and ready to go to the studio by 9.30am for a full day's work.
Thanks EDCC. It was nice to meet you.