Monday 11 April 2016

Baaba Maal 'Gilli Men' music video

Back in February I was given the fantastic opportunity of being in a music video for Senegalese musician Baaba Maal's track 'Gilli Men'.  I'm only writing about it now as I was asked to hold off sharing anything until the video was finished and put out there, which happened a week ago.
  I heard about the opportunity through my friend Andy, also a musician and sound technician who forwarded me an email from Chief productions looking for artists to be in a video.  I responded to the email straight away and they got back to me asking to see some of my work, which I did and they liked it a lot and put me on the short list to be in it.
  My initial contact was Daisy Brown, production assistant for the company. Very easy to talk to on the phone and told me they were all looking forward to shooting the video and seeing what kind of art I would produce live on the day.  I also spoke to Nate Camponi, the director, about his ideas for the shoot and asked me about how I create my art. I explained that with most of my artwork, I just allow it to come out and don't really know what it will be until it arrives! He said that was perfect and he was looking forward to it also.
  A few days later I was in Manchester for the shoot.  Daisy picked me up from the station and drove us to Brunswick Mill, literally round the corner from where some of my friends have studios in Wellington Mill, so it was good to recognise the area.
We were up on the third floor I think it was, using one of those old fashioned lifts with the cage to get there! Interesting looking space, even if it was very dirty!

There was dark artwork painted on some of the walls which reminded me of something from a horror movie! I met the crew who were all busy setting up.  There had been some delay because of the lift and getting some of the larger equipment in it.  They were also still making the board I was going to be painting on, so I occupied myself with looking around the place, taking photos and trying to form some kind of loose plan in my head.  As I said, I'd normally just let it come out naturally but I was thinking about how I'd never done anything like this before, so it might be better to have a loose idea.

 I chatted to Nate for a bit about work he'd done in the past.  He had some very interesting experiences to talk about and it was great to hear about them.  He informed me it would be after lunch before we were ready to roll and I didn't need to hang around if I didn't want to, so I went round the corner to meet up with my artist friend Mike at his studio.  We have a good laugh when we get together and he always has some creative things to show me that he's been up to, either drawing or with his new business with the laser cutter. I chilled there for an hour or so, then spoke to Daisy on the phone who said she was going to pick up lunch for everyone so I went to meet her and help get the fish and chips in!

With the crew almost ready to roll, everyone tucked into the food and Nate ran me through a few things.  I'd arrived in my normal painting clothes and brought a couple of extra items as I was asked to.  Nate asked me to change my jacket from the blue one I had on to a black one with paint splatter design on the back. (courtesy of my fellow artist pal Jay Sharples) This was all new to me. Being directed before  I start painting! haha!
So the idea was, they'd play the music track through speakers behind me as I painted and just film and let me do my thing.  Pretty simple!  The track Gilli Men is brilliant.  I'd been listening to it for a few days anyway to get used to it and now I was there in the space looking at the 8 x 8 foot board they'd prepared for me, I thought 'ok, I'm just going to let the music dictate how I paint now.'

The board was nice and smooth, but it was still a slightly bit tacky from the white paint, so they got one of the crew to get the hair dryer on it!  Nate explained that mostly they were just going to let me do my thing, but at points he'd ask me to stop so they could change angle or lense.  All good with me!
I was raring to go by now, but it was a good half hour after I had my mask on and spray can in hand before I actually started.  they wanted to get everything just right.  Henry Paisley, one of the crew,  was taking photos on his camera as we went along.  I have him to thank for sending me the images and I've used a few of them in this blog. 

The track was playing on loop in the background and the more I listened to it, the easier it was to get a sense of direction for the artwork I was creating.  I let the rhythm and the sounds of the instruments dictate my movement with the spray paint.  I'd brought specific colours with me, which I'd discussed with Nate before hand.  They were similar to the colours the dancers in the final video have painted on their bodies.  Oh, I'll mention at this point as well, that there was a few separate shoots over a few days for the different artists and dancers that are in the video.  We all never met together.  We were given our days to shoot and it was all edited together later. 

I got the first marks onto the board, giving Nate and the crew a basic idea of starting points and in which direction I would move next.  It was a slow-ish process but I was loving it! All new to me, if a bit strange having to do little bits and then stop to let them alter cameras etc.  I'd been a slightly bit nervous at first but that soon passed and was thoroughly enjoying the experience! The crew were all sound and very positive, giving me compliments about how it looked as we went along. 

I think maybe in a normal circumstance of listening to a song over and over, you could get fed up of hearing it, but this wasn't the case here.  You''l have to listen and watch the video yourselves (those who are reading this!) but I personally think it's a great track and it pulled me into its sound being in that space and situation.  I was bobbing my head throughout and had a very positive feeling inside me.

 I can only hope the other artists and dancers had the same great experience on their days of filming.  I'm sure they did though.  Their finished pieces look amazing in the video.  As I don't know them to speak to and I wasn't there to take any photos of them, this blog feels a little self indulgent but it IS my own personal blog I guess! hahah!
  I used mostly spray paint for the piece I created, making big shapes of colour based on where the music took me in my head.  However,  I'm more proficient with paint pens so I wanted to use those on top of the shapes to add the detail, letting the camera man follow my big sweeping lines. 
That was funny actually, I remember him saying behind me as he filmed a particularly long line, 'Oh you're making me work for this one!' haha!

The crew were very pleased with the finished piece and the whole experience, as was I.  As an artist, always critical of my own work, I looked at the piece and thought, it's not my best or favourite piece I've ever done, but as I mentioned, it was more about allowing the music to dictate how I worked on this particular project and the experience as a whole was like nothing I'd ever been through before.
I'd almost forgot at the end that I was getting paid as well! hahah!
  Daisy drove me back to the station after and we said our goodbyes.  An awesome day if somewhat exhausting, but very thankful for being asked to take part.  Massive thanks to Nate, Daisy and the crew of Chief Productions for being super cool and so professional and of course to Baaba Maal for making such an amazing piece of music.  The video looks awesome, but judge for yourselves. click the link below.  Thank you for reading.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Hawes Side Academy Picasso Wall Mural

 For the past few weeks I've been working on my biggest art project to date.  A well paid job which, now it has been completed, will leave me financially secure for a little while, allow me to relax a bit and get on with personal projects and do things that I wouldn't normally have time to do if I was scrabbling for work to pay the bills! I'm not a money person, I just want to draw, paint, create and spend time with good people and live a happy life, so being given an opportunity like this is golden to me. It can be tough sometimes trying to make ends meet as an artist!
  So this project, initially began back in August when I was contacted by Wendy Barnes, the art teacher at Hawes Side Academy, which is only 20 minutes walk down the road from my house!
  We met up at the school before the kids came back in September, along with headmaster Mike Shepherd and discussed what they wanted me to do. 

They have a 164 foot 'wall', made from wooden panels, which separates the playground from a building site which is actually where the new school is being built as I write this.  The existing school will eventually be knocked down in around a years time, so they wanted a mural painting on the wall, something bright and colourful that the children can appreciate as they play in the yard.  The idea was, using pastel drawings the children did in class based on Picasso's work, make a new design that looks almost like the children have done it themselves!

Now at first I thought, 'hmm, this isn't what I was expecting!'.  Having to paint it like a child could be very difficult, especially using spray paint which I've only been using properly for a few years and still have a lot to learn about.  Also, in my own work, I like to be very neat and tidy and when using spray paint, I tend to mask off straight edges and make big shapes and it can be time consuming, but I thought, oh well I like a challenge and with a nice chunk of funding money being offered, I couldn't afford not to try!

 So I agreed to the project and on the 8th September, I went into the school and with Wendy introducing me, I did an assembly for the children, showing them examples of some of the work I've done over the years.  Now if like me, as an artist, you've ever doubted yourself and questioned whether what you do is any good, I tell you now, children will make you forget about all of that!
As I clicked through the images of my work on the projector screen, they were 'wowing' and cheering, even started clapping. it was quite overwhelming at times! When I left the school that day, I went away feeling very positive about the project. 

  Over the next week or so, I made stencil templates on the computer for the words that were going to be included in the mural (Community, Learning, Creativity, Harmony and Hawes Side Academy), I collected up hundreds of drawings from the children and went through them all at home to pick the ones I would use in the final design and by the 22nd September, I was given full use of the art room at the school to sit in and create the final design, made from the 12 drawings I'd chosen. (the wall is 41 panels wide, each panel is 7 foot tall and 4 foot wide, but I was only painting on 26 of them, 104 foot of mural!) I also used the room to cut the stencils which I'd had printed at Granthams.

Once I had the final design mapped out, I had to colour match the spray paint I was going to need using the colour chart on the Graff City website.  Wendy asked that it be as true as possible to the pastel colours the children had used in their drawings. Then it was time to order the paint.  I met with Chris Strange, the business manager for the school and put the order in, which arrived at the school the next day (25th September)

I know a lot of artists and friends will agree with me on this, it's almost like Christmas morning when a big paint order arrives! haha! And this was a nice order of paint, spray caps and new mask. A treat to open!

It was actually good fun trying to create the final design using the same pastels the kids had used in their drawings.  A little bit messier than I would normally be comfortable with, but I just went with it and tried to free myself from my usual OCD tendencies!
  I hung the design up on the washing line in the art room and had Wendy and Mike take a look. they were very pleased with it and it was time to start the mural itself on the 29th September. (there had been some waiting involved anyway as the contractors on the site said the boards needed strengthening before i painted them, so I'd been getting on with other work in between designing the mural)

As I said before, I would normally use spray paint in my own work in a more controlled way, masking off and filling big shapes of colour and possibly adding details in freehand with Posca paint pens, so when I began painting this thing, I was a bit twitchy about going at it so freely! 
Wendy assured me not to worry about making mistakes, about lines being neat and even about over spray or colours merging together. Just think like a child and crack on! (now this is quite a task in itself really, as little kids can't hold and spray with a can at the same time, as I discovered back in the days of Baseline studio when Catch22 brought his boys in and let them have a go)
But as I got into it, it became easier and a lot more fun to do! 

One tiny gripe I could have was that the height and position of the wall meant I was always working in shadow and trying to take photos of it as I went along, the sun was facing me from over the wall as I faced it! Not a major problem, but when spraying in big areas of colour, I sometimes couldn't see until afterwards that I'd left streaks in places. (As I mentioned earlier though, I still have a lot to learn about using spray paint, including filling areas neatly, so I put some of it down to that fact and not just that I was working in shadow! plus, it didn't REALLY matter that much as I was painting it like a child! haha! Another reason why this was a good project for me to do.  I was able to almost practise and experiment as I went along and then either leave it or go over it. )

Due to the nature of spray paint being very harmful, I couldn't have the children being around whilst I painted the mural and the teachers were all very accommodating in taking the children out at break times to other parts of the yard round the corners away from the wall. At 12.30 every day they had lunch and came out into the yard though and that's when I'd stop for an hour. The children were so positive about the project and I had many a comment said to me as I was finishing for lunch.
They'd say hello to me in the corridor waving 'Hi David' and telling me that I was doing a good job and that it was looking fabulous or awesome! haha! One little lad came out into the yard one day and saw me and shouted 'face painter' haha! Kids are funny! 

By the 2nd October I was more than half way done.  I wasn't working on it at weekends so had time to rest and I have problems with my back anyway so I needed to take it easy. The weather has been great these past few weeks, but there were a couple of rainy days that I couldn't work on. 

I'd actually made another drawing from my final design that incorporated the words into the mural a little better and helped me space the 12 images out over the 26 panels.  Just realised I didn't take a photo of that drawing to include in this write up.  When it came to actually painting the design onto the wall, I also realised that due to the size of the panels, the design changed again during the process and some of the faces had to be wider or smaller that the ones I'd drawn.  Also, as well as the 12 drawings that I used, Wendy had given me some paintings that the key stage one children had done of Blackpool land marks like the Tower and the Big One and images of beach balls and buckets and spades that they wanted including in it as well. 

 On the 8th October I'd painted all the artwork on and it was time to get the stencils out and paint them in. Teaching assistant Matt Smith gave me a hand taping them all on and I got the thing finished just as the parents started arriving to pick up their kids.

It's been a great experience working on the project and even though it's not a true representation of my own work, I'm still quite proud to have completed it.  Picasso has always been one of my favourite artists growing up and to have been chosen to come in and recreate some of his work in this way is a good thing.  Big thanks to Wendy and Mike for getting me involved, all the staff for their patience and accommodating me while I worked and especially to all the children who were so receptive to the project, I've come away feeling very positive about it.

Nice little bonus in that there was a good chunk of unused paint left afterwards that they let me keep, so that will go to good use in my own work! Also, Wendy mentioned getting the newspaper people in to cover it so watch this space for that! 
Thanks for reading