The Garden of Dreams

This project is the most difficult for many years, and I am lucky to have a Peter working with me on it, mutual support is essential. The deputy head today mentioned that he had half expected a blog thing, I think he was talking about a video diary really but we spoke about the possibilities of a blog on the school website? I asked him how many degrees of a ‘warts an all’ depiction of our progress was acceptable. He smiled and said that A level students now submitted what they rejected as part of their course.

This raises the question of how your commissioner/patron/stakeholders are depicted in ones blog. A proffesional dilema as there are things that I could say which are really detromental to that relationship. On the other hand real valuable information to people wishing to avoid simimilar situations or struggling with something like it.

I am not going to blog on the school website for two reasons!

A) Its too far in and a change of style would be required as the point of the blog is to get parents reading and the wider family members interested in whats happening at school. Great I should be jumping at that and helping the school by using art and creativity as a view finder through which to see what is going on. But I have decided to wait for another opportunity.

B) I have already gone to conciderable lengths to highlight this project within the school and my efforts are lost, forgotten and promises broken. I am weary from misplaced efforts. I am not convinced it would get on the school website no matter how positive it was, after going to all the trouble of creating it. I wont get extra money for it and valuable time is running out and progress painfully slow.

Let me show you two examples from this project which illustrate how extreme it is.

Even though me and Pete are running out of time to complete what we had hoped, a teacher has requested that the project returns the the class room for part of the morning session as they are unable to change their footware and this means walking on the field in smart well dressed shoes, something they are not prepared to do. We spent over one hour this morning trying to write an answer to the question: What have I learnt from this project. One answer was I learned how to measure a desk? Most were unable to answer this question and unable to write anything at all. The students are unable to separate what they did from what they had learnt. ‘But we are staying here untill you’ve answered the question’.

I believe inadvertantly we as artists have undermined the teachers authority. We treat the students as equals let them use power tools, trust them to work as independantly as possible and dont constantly tell them off, We break school rules slightly. They like us were are rebelious and dont get told off for driving a car on the school field, when they are not even allowed on it. We are friends the adult child thing is broken down. Teachers are in danger of loosing the control they have taken so long to establish and we have punctured their authority not on purpose or through design.

One student when we began this project was unable to understand the difference between nails and screws and would attempt to screw in a clout nail with a cordless screw driver. Now with patience and letting them learn through trial and error because hammering in 2 and a half inch screws was also tried out. This particular student is now able to measure wood to length cut it with a powered mitre saw and screw it in place. Though unable to explain that is something learnt.

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The After School Club want a phase two to their building make over. I think it will have to become slightly environmental!

They have already got the money!

I watched Avitar the other day for the first time. Its marvelous, and uses the plight of the ‘red indian’ as a plot line. What I thought very interesting is that this is the second childrens film I can think of (Robots was the first) where technology and progress are the bad guys and get smashed up. The old ways are triumphant. Will the writers of Avitar 2 invent a new outcome for the indigenous race who won the battle of the Little Big Horn but lost the overall war.

Back to community arts then: and different people are asking me to be involved on a number of things, early days and nothing concrete. It is encouraging that people take an interest in what I have done and want to colaborate.

I have worked with Animate Arts http://www.animatecommunityarts.com/index.html on several projects over the years and I displayed snippets of my ‘Walking with Cosmo’ Blog as part of a group show with other members of this group in Whitstable. I got an email from a labradoodle called Tatty. As it turns out Tattys Mum is part of an organisation I would like to become part of www.workers-of-art.co.uk they wanted to include me in a stable of artists working on comminity projects. I also have a meeting next week with the Kent Wildlife Trust?….this is make it your own type of opportunity and Carol Ramseys Butterfly Park must serve as a model for this kind of thing.

I also entered for Art Cars? the type of opportunity I would not normally go for, but I shelled out less than £10 for a model car painted and assembled it and submitted it? I dont know who to or what exactly for but I had great fun making it and thought models (not kits) of any kind an interesting development for me. Something I need to find time to explore.

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Re-inventing the wheel.

I have been using burnt umber to create shadows, I’ve been mixing it with blues it just works for me. Personel colour choices, that I know I can control and get the right result.

Its almost orange if you use it thin on its own, but it makes great shaded tones. It makes a warm in the distance on a sunny day look if you mix it with blues. It is my most usefull colour. Raw umber has a green-ness to it, but burnt it turns almost orange and very transparent, even when you use it thick it is see through.

Then I read it was a key colour for Italian renaisance painters in creating a sense of depth, and gental transition from light to dark.

I felt like I had been the only one to work this out, but it turns out I’ve reinvented the wheel!

Perhaps all art is like this. Rembrant uses Raphaels figures in a composition, who in turn had used a classical statue. I am sure you can think of many examples.

This wont stop me using burnt umber though. Love it.


There is always something happening at this school even though it is shut for the holiday. There is a Sure Start building, football training, athletics, the school club itself open for a few days. Even on Sunday someone can to clear away the debris from the 60th birthday party on the Sat.night. They had hired the school hall. It has become a community centre with social services staff based there. These take photos of me, saying that will email them onto the woman who moved to Australia. She used to run the club and my children new her very well.

As for paintings murals though?

I made a pigs ear drawing up the short rainbow wall. I had rushed the preparation on the design and my scale drawing covered a wall 4.1m long, when it is actually only 3.1m long! This resulted in having to grid up the wall with oblongs not squares. I did 40x50cm not 50×50. This works fine as I have done it before. Then I drew seven rainbow colours on the front wall but managed to draw eight colours on the side wall? A trap that somehow I knew I would fall into how ever hard I tried to avoid it. Then I had to totally move the lettering as I realised no one would be able to read the word ‘Club’ down near the floor behind the fence, which is where it would have been if I followed my design. This meant that all the faffing about with the oblong grid was a total waste of time and I had to just do the letters with no reference in a totally different place. The other thing I did was abruptly end the A2990 on the corner, my design as I said was rushed and it did not go onto the adjoining wall at all! It turns out this is a major compositional omission and I spent some time tyring to get it running behind the rainbow and out the other side. It was also led to the eight coloured rainbow mishap.

Its all about colour balance and relationships. In the old days I would start with very thin washy paint and build up the strength of colours in layers. But I had a partner then and two experienced mural painters working fast this was not an issue. This is a job done for mates rates using a step ladder, and to save time I have unwizely gone for thicker paint in one go, to save repainting large areas twice or three times or more. This has proved really difficult as its all about balance and relationships. Those should be arrived at holistically. I am trying to predict them.

So today is a critical day as I will have to readjust some of those colour balance/relationships.

Lastly I want to say what a fantastic colour burnt umber is. It may unlock my issues today.


I thought I ought to tidy this blog up and explain what’s happened and what will be happening.

I have completed the Malawi project apart from an evaluation day in the summer.

The other school garden project (BSF)will continue till the summer and is still ongoing.

The mosaic for Arts for Health remains stored for installation. The costruction of the groundworks / sub-base still not made and I am told there will be news next week. My contract says installation Feb 2010 which was extended by me from Dec09. Makes that decision look abit silly now.

I have spent today priming a school out building white today. This is because I have agreed to do a building make over for the After Schol Club. This is the same After School Club that all my three children have attended during their primary school years. Very happily I must add. This after school club / before school club and during the school holidays club is an asset to the community here.

Their tired drab building is visably ageing whilst impressive new pre school and other brand new community service buildings have recently sourounded it. Their plee to me was can you knock spots off these new surrounding buildings and make ours the lariest on the manor, so you can see it from the road and put us back on the map. And can you do it using the club members ideas and drawings.

This was a request I could not refuse as the staff here are commited and I am sure it’s not only my children which have really enjoyed and benefited from this service.

I did two designs and one has been chosen, a fee agreed and I will try and do this over the remainder of the Easter Holidays. So help me God.