Well a 6am start and a convoluted journey (which way is it now??) were worth the bother to get to the YVAM conference, aimed at early career artists: “the artist’s journey – which way is it now?”. Lots of advice and information from art professionals and some inspiring speakers. Socially engaged art was high on the agenda, with artist talks from Smizz and Emilie Taylor.

Smizz “draws peoples ideas (and her own obvs!)” and has a passion for drawing as a means of communication. Her practice explores issues of power (whether that is social housing, injustice, elitism in art establishments, or enabling better information sharing, listening and communication within NHS structures). Her current work uses drawing as a critical-reflective tool to address communication barriers and conflict issues in healthcare settings. As she says, issues can be raised through drawing that are sometimes too difficult to say or write.

Smizz is an excellent communicator, inspirational speaker and passionate artist (also a healthcare professional & patient!) with a vision to make a difference in the world…

Advice (from Smizz):

  1. We don’t get forever
  2. You already know! (but how are you going to do what you know?)

Check out her website www.sarahsmizz.com

Emilie Taylor is a ceramic artist with a gallery-based and socially engaged practice and lots of tips for planning, planning, planning – what are your aims? What scale will you work on? what steps do you need to put into action now to make the aims a reality? On leaving art-school she struggled to find a way to connect ‘thinking’ with ‘making’. She now works as an art psychotherapist, has exhibited ceramics nationally and had some interesting ideas for funding self-initiated projects in the socially engaged art sector.

Grayson Perry, The Existential Void – 2012

Taylor’s ceramic  work reminds me a bit of Grayson Perry’s pots – primarily because she paints images onto her pots from stories in the news or people that she encounters in her drug and alcohol support work, creating a cultural mis-match between the images depicted and the highly worked surface of the ceramic.

YVAM have a number of different course, mentorships and opportunities advertised on their website– well worth checking out…

They are also inviting suggestions to feed into the strategic arts mentoring planning – contact them at http://www.yvan.org.uk

Many thanks to Jo and Anna for organising the hull contingent! (which way is it now??)


The next two workshops facilitated by the underlined project team will look at process-based mark-making through a series of ‘drawing conversations’. Aimed at those who feel they can’t or don’t normally draw, or those who have an interest in process-based drawing, these will be held at ArtLink community Arts Centre, Princes Avenue, Hull, HU5 3QP. The workshops, led by Adam Wilson, are open-access and free – so spread the word!

Click here to book a place


In a world saturated with photography I was intrigued by the reaction of underlined project participants to seeing themselves in beautifully crafted documentation drawings made by Adam Wilson at our previous workshops. There was something that connected people to each other as they saw distinctive parts of themselves and their group depicted in a non-photorealistic way. The drawings were evidence of a  human interaction. Someone, through a simple line drawing, had valued them enough to take the time to draw them and their group.

This experience has set me thinking about how much image – how we see ourselves and how we are seen by others – impacts on ‘othering’ and social exclusion. Images (positive or negative) influence our perceptions, judgements and pre-conceived ‘ideals’, they impact on our prejudices, expectations and openness to each other; They influence how we see ourselves and how we treat others.

So, here’s some thoughts about the ‘power of portraiture’..

Jason Wilsher-Mills works with marginalised groups to create characters and portraits that communicate their world in a wider socio-political context

Lionel Smit, Anatomical Fragment Series #1, 2011

Lionel Smit creates large-scale portraits and sculptures that incorporate both classical ideals of beauty and painterly marks that disrupt the classical image. His work references the ethnic mix of Cape town, South Africa, where he lives and works.

Tanya Raabe-Webber uses the power of portraiture to open debate and provoke conversation about disability, art and culture.  In her work, she invites a high-profile disabled person to sit for a portrait in a public venue like the National Portrait Gallery with an invited audience. Alongside Tanya creating her portrait (from a mixture of observation and projected public domain images) a discussion takes place with the sitter and the audience, who are encouraged to draw the person themselves. Tanya’s final piece incorporates some of the group’s drawings. Here, the process of engagement raises issues of inclusion and exclusion, social value and perceptions. Tanya was one of the first artists to participate in ArtLink’s Square Peg project

The power of personal depiction and the potential to use group participation to contribute to documenting a shared experience could form an intriguing basis for future underlined project workshops.

for more information about the artists mentioned here click the links below:

Lionel Smit

Jason Wilsher Mills

Tanya Rabe-Webber