Thursday, 10 October 2013

"Visions in Blue" part 2

Finally managed to get that photo session done and once again, Chris's beautiful photography has captured the true spirit of  the piece :) Only when worn does a mask truly come to life!

Visions In Blue

"Face in the window in the night


Caught for a second by the light

Ashes of memories still aglow
only for you

Portraits and pictures you once saw

 Visions in blue"

Lyrics from "Visions in Blue" by Ultravox
Photographs: Chris Dean
Mask & Model: Tanith Hicks
Inspiration: Ultravox :)

Sunday, 11 August 2013

"Visions in Blue" part 1

So here she is at last! I wish I could post larger pictures so  the details and textures could be better seen. Also the subtleties and complexities of the colours are a little lost, but that's my camera I'm afraid. Me and Chris will be doing a photo shoot of her together as soon as we can make the time :)

  Visions in Blue

I still remember the first time I heard the Ultravox track "Visions in Blue", I was so struck by the wonderful imagery conjured up by the very beautiful and evocative lyrics, and the gorgeously lush and haunting music. I have wanted for many years now to create a mask capturing the thoughts and feelings that this track inspires, but have never been able to do it, she just always seemed to remain very elusive. I think I needed those years to come to understand that rich tapestry of sadness, fear, lost loves, disappointment and self-doubt.,that intertwine with the joys, love, beauty, wonder and delight  that make a life what it is. All combine to create the bitter-sweet pleasure of memories. Near the end of last year everything just seem to come together at last for this mask, ideas came thick and fast and I realised that I was actually finally going to be able to make her !!!

From the beginning I never intended for her to be a  literal interpretation of the lyrics of the song. She was more about how the song made me feel personally and she has in fact turned out to be  probably the most intensely personal mask I've ever far.  Everything within the design of the mask does have a meaning, nothing is just, well, purely for decoration as it were. Really the whole piece is about memories about fragility, loss and the passing of time. I wanted her to have an almost ethereal, dreamlike quality. As the nature of memory is itself.  The imagery I've used, spider's web, moths, dog roses, pearls etc is all symbolic. I had intended to delve into the symbolism a bit here but now I'm not so sure if it's useful to sort of dissect her. Perhaps it is just better to let the piece speak for herself .

Although she is a piece that perhaps is inherently sad I had such pleasure creating her. She's one of the most intense masks I've ever worked on and she is also a mask that I'm very proud of. That is a rarity for me, because usually once a piece is finished and the usual excitement is over I just tend to see only the faults of the piece and what I feel I should have done differently. But not so with her, she is as she should be and that makes me very happy that I could justice to such a profound and beautiful piece of music :)


Mask: Paper, wire, string, Kozo fibre, paper clay, glass beads, faux pearl trim,  acrylic paints, crackle-glaze.
Moths: Model Magic,  mulberry tissue, wire, acrylic paint.
If you are interested in discovering more about the actual making of this mask, then please just click on the links below and take a look at  my previous posts which give a little more insight:)
EDIT : A number of people have asked if I will be offering this mask for sale. I will be, but I'm really hoping to be able to do something rather special with her. Keeping everything crossed that I can put my plan into action! Watch this space, is all I can really say for the time being.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The thorny road to journey's end.

I've realised that when I'm very close to finishing a mask I will find every possible excuse to be doing something else! That's not something that happens when I'm working my way through a piece. Even when I come up against difficulties and problems during the creation of a mask, I will stick with it through thick and thin, no mater how crazy it's making me! I love that challenge and I wouldn't run away from it :)  Even when I'm having to do something for the piece that is rather repetitive and boring, again I'll keep going with it. But when it comes to that time, when there are only a couple of small things to do to complete the piece, well I find that so, so difficult!

I feel I understand some of the reasons though. I know the finished piece will never come up to my expectations, will never fit the image of it in my imagination. So there will always be a strong sense of disappointment mixed with the feelings I have for what I have managed to achieve. Then there is that strange feeling of loss I experience when I realise that there is really no more I can do for a piece. When you have to let a it go (and I'm not talking about selling or gifting), just that moment when you have to stop and say 'that's it, it's done'.

Take as an example 'Visions I Blue', as she is the mask I cannot break with at the moment. She and I have shared a long and eventful journey together, and it just feels so difficult to say any sort of goodbye. She has been one of the most intensely personal masks I've ever created and she has taught me so much during our time together, both on an emotional level and on a more practical creative level. She's really quite different from previous large masks I've worked on. I've used and devised so many new techniques in her creation. She's been a real turning point in how I will make future masks and that seems to be making even more difficult for me to part with her than it has been before. She and I have been such close companions for so many months, it's not easy to feel her moving away from me.

There is still a photo shoot to do, and that is always fascinating, as actually wearing the mask will I know give me a whole new insight into her and the stories she has to share. But right now I feel rather sad and a little lost. I know it will pass, it always does because there are always other masks that want to be made. "The Storyteller" has been waiting very patiently in the wings as it were, for me to take her up again and we will begin a new journey together very soon, with no idea of the adventures we may share together. But for now I know I must just get my head down, get on with it, prepare to say my farewells and finally finish my "Visions"!

Monday, 27 May 2013

'Caught for a second by the light'

I'm really pleased with how well the 'Visions in Blue' mask is evolving. She has proved to be very tricky and an extremely demanding piece, as I guessed she might be. I've spent more than one evening just sitting looking at her for ages trying to work my way through one problem or another and ending up with seemingly nothing done. But that is the way of these things when you are creating, a lot of time you can appear to be doing nothing but the imagination is ticking away exploring where the piece is going to take you next. It's an exciting, emotional, frustrating, challenging and ultimately very rewarding journey and I can't imagine not doing it! :))

So, some pictures of how she is coming along. Unfortunately my photographic skills and camera are rather limited and I'm rather disappointed that the subtleties of colour have not really come through. She is looking more Visions in grey but I do promise she most defiantly is blue!

 The 'webbing' that covers the side of her face is showing as a sort of grey/blue when it is actually made up of 4 or 5 different shades of blue. The headdress, this is painted with 2 distinct shades of blue highlighted with a delicate touch of gold. The petals of the roses are also built up with multiply shades but in the photos appear as one flat colour. So I do apologise for that, but  hope that the pictures at least give an idea of how she is looking :)

 Please note the roses are not yet actually attached, and there will be more of them. I just placed them to help give more of an idea of how the finished mask will look :)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Chasing 'Visions'

Been spending the past few evenings trying to work out the colours for the 'Visions in Blue' mask.  Now I know it seems pretty obvious and yes it will be blue, can't really get away from that ;) But it's more about the shades and textures needed to try capture the feel I want for the piece. At the moment she is remaining as enigmatic and inscrutable as the song that inspired her :)

It's proving to be a difficult one for me. Usually I work in rich, jewel-like vibrant colours. Even when they are antiqued they are always deep and intense but here I want a sense of faded decay, elusive hues, aged like long ago memories. This is Sleeping Beauty become an old woman as she lies dreaming awaiting her prince who never comes. Miss Haversham, lost and haunted in the maze of her mind, fading and slowly dying  like her wedding flowers.

At one point, stepping away from my work-table for a  bit of a breather I was struck by the urge to just pick up my camera and take a couple of snaps. The actual 'Visions' mask was tucked away safely so I could make as much mess as I wanted experimenting with paints, varnishes, glazes and that sort of thing.  I always like to see other artists work-places, the little insights and clues it gives you about them :) So this is my spot, I 'm not a very tidy artist,  and I like working with all that I might need within reaching distance. But I do have to try and keep a little order, as you can see the space is not so big and some of the masks I make certainly are! ;)

I enjoy a challenge and it'll be very satisfying when I finally get this nailed. I have found a wonderful new crackle-glaze which is proving to be much easier and more reliable to work with than previous ones I've used ,that'll be a great help. So things are going well if slowly.

For those who are not familier with the song that is behind this piece, then here it is. From the Ultravox 'Return To Eden' DVD recorded at the Roundhouse in London 2009. I first heard it in 1982 and fell in love with it then :)

Monday, 18 March 2013

Lets Begin at the Beginning :)

It felt like it was time to share some pictures of the masks I'm working on at the moment. I always find this a little awkward as when photographed at about this point in their creation there always feels like there is so little to show for  how much time and work has been spent on them. The trouble is that's so difficult to get across in these earlier stages. You can't show the slow building up layer by layer that it's taken to get to this,. You also can't show all the swearing, shouting and artistic wobblies, which is probably for the best ;)

 The work has gone into creating the bare bones of the piece and this framework/sculpture ultimately becomes the heart and foundation of all the other work that will go into it. If this is not right then nothing that is added to it will work properly. Also as well as being asthetically 'right' it must also strong, lightweight and balanced so that it works as a functioning wearable mask, and ultimately it must feel like it has 'soul'. A mask that doesn't have that certain feel, that just doesn't feel alive at this point, (before you actually start to add colour and  decoration and the like) will never really work as a finished piece, for me anyway. It will be just another decorative mask, it won't have that spark, that makes a mask potentially such a potent object!

Visions in Blue

Visions in Blue, inspired by the beautiful and poignant Ultravox track that I've always found so haunting. I'm weaving a web of memories and emotions, regrets and lost youth. There will be a tangle of wild roses, beauty and thorns, moths like fleeting thoughts, cobwebs, veils that hide secrets.....

The Storyteller

The Storyteller is at the centre of something I've wished to do for many years. I hope she and I will go on many journeys together :) She will be a spirit of greens, golds and russets, a celebration of Spring and Autumn, my favourite seasons. From her branches will hang leaves that see into the depths of the forest and leaves that whisper of what lies there. There will be keys and acorns and coiled all about the ever creeping ivy that knows what lies within the hearts of the trees.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

New year with memories of past times.

Finally managed to catch up with  Midge Ure's 'My Vintage' on Vintage TV where he chose a selection of his favourite videos over the years. Most enjoyable and I was delighted and surprised to see myself on it! It brought back a lot of memories.

 Way back in 1985 I went along to an audition and was lucky enough to end up in what is now considered to be a ground-breaking and iconic video.  'Cry' by Godley and Creme. One of the videos chosen by Midge :)

I fade in at approx 2.04. It was quite an experience to do.  All of us who had been selected at the audition were given a tape of the song, which we had a couple of days to learn. When it came to the actual filming we each had to sit in an adjustable chair with our heads held in a sort of clamp. This way we could all be put at the same height  and held still so that our faces were filmed in the same place ( then the faces could be morphed into each other). We then just had to mime along to the song as it was played back. It seems so simple and yet created a video which seems to have really stayed with people :)

From the video my face ended up on the 12" sleeve and on the promo posters, and it seems like the remixes as well from this picture I found. It was all very exciting  :)

Seeing this video again just got me thinking about the make-up that I used to do. I was experimenting with mask-making then, tentatively finding my way and exploring techniques. But most of what I made was purely for myself, I didn't yet have the confidence to share it with many people. My main  form of more public artistic expression was via my elaborate make-up designs. I rarely went out without being painted up, even just to go shopping locally! I even shaved off my eyebrows to give me a wider canvas to explore!  I always tried not to repeat a design, it was a challenge to myself to create something unique each time.

It was a most interesting period. People's reactions when they saw me was quite something to experience. Most simply stared, some wanted to chat and find out more about my creations, tourists took photos and then there were the thankfully rarer incidences of violence and abuse, both physical and verbal. The way I looked just seemed to make some people so angry!! Didn't stop me doing it though ;)

I learnt about exploring and expressing yourself. I learnt about masks and the power they have. I learnt about the use of colour and design. I learnt so much about myself, and I learnt not to worry about what other people think of me.And I even ended up on a London postcard  :))

'Fashion Change' postcard front & back

For a time I began to explore and work with full body-painting and also using make-up to create very short pieces of stop-motion animation. Then as I became more and more involved in creating masks I drifted from the make-up. Now I really don't wear it at all, not even basic foundation. The only time I do put any make-up on is if it's needed in connection with a mask I'm wearing or being photographed in. But I loved it when I did it and it's a time I look back to with a great deal of fondness :)

Photograph:Toby Arnold

Photograph:Toby Arnold
 Just a couple of examples of my creations back then. That's me in both piccies, and I went out and about in both those make-ups :) The photos date back to the early 1980's I can't remember exact dates. I apologise that the quality is not too good but I had to scan in the original photos.

More wonderful 80's madness here ;)