Monday, 25 May 2015

Low Art for High Ideals 2.

Putting my money where my mouth is.

I was asked, quite out of the blue, to produce some art works for the Nolan Gallery. Betty Nolan gave me measurements of the space I could fill and left it to me. I decided that I would produce a series of drawings in pen, ink, pencil and airbrush. The drawings themselves are based on a number of themes and styles found in tattoo and comic book art, specifically science fiction comics published in the United Kingdom in the 1980s.

The Tattoo themes have come from trying to teach myself to tattoo and learn to draw in that style. Tattooing requires a sureness of stroke, confidence and replication and the ability to not worry about inflicting pain on your client. The art style of tattoos is usually defined by clear bold lines, vibrant blended colours and rich black shading. Tattooing is buyer dependent. The client is the person who decides what they want and where. This has a tendency to create a sameness in tattoo designs as various trends are followed and then discarded. For the tattooist it’s a balancing act between giving the client what they want, doing good work that will sell, and forging a creative path that lets them stand out from the crowd.

By learning to tattoo I found I needed to slow down my drawing to a crawl, I needed to be incredibly critical of my work, and I needed to follow rules of drawing and illustration. I also had to learn and apply those rules. I needed to practice and repeat. I have never really done this before. My approach to drawing has been mostly gestural and ‘letting the chips fall where they may.’ Which is fine, if you do life drawing with charcoal or draw for pleasure, but not for creating highly refined pen and ink drawings.  
At one point this year I was about to give up art production and just play video games and my guitar. My painting practice wasn’t getting anywhere, tattooing practice had stalled and I had been refused a number of public exhibitions. But then something fortuitous happened. The author John Birmingham had asked his readers to enter into a fan fiction competition based on his Dave Vs. The Monsters series of books, which had just been published by Random House. I can’t write narrative or dialogue to save myself. So instead I drew some sketches of the monster characters found in his books. Needless to say Mr Birmingham published my drawings on his website in between the fan fiction. He also called me ‘an artist, a real one’. I was very pleased to have an author whose work I regularly buy and read actually call me that. I usually just call myself cubicle schlub or under worked civil servant.

As I said some of these works are based around themes that are used in tattoos. These themes can be found in the koi fish, the crow, the pin up girls, the Día de Muertos motif, Chinese dragons and roses. I have added in things I like into the works as well. My pug dog (Lily Von Puggle) makes an appearance being held by the dragon. The Día de Muertos girl has a moko tattoo on her chin in reference to growing up in New Zealand.


The monsters come from the sketches for John Birmingham’s fan fiction competition. The standing monster is called Trevo’r Thresh and the huge horrific blob is the Low Queen. I based these on the descriptions found in his books. The Low Queen is the wrong size but the right kind of ugly according to John Birmingham.

The Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse, and the pin up girl riding a bomb are an exercise in irony. The Horsewomen are usually depicted in art as either men or ghouls. I chose to put them in as cute female figures to enhance the irony. The girl riding the bomb is just whimsy and a way of creating a complete epic image of a city scape. 

The Exhibition is currently running at Nolan Gallery and Art School

Space 109, Salamanca Arts Centre, 77 Salamanca Place, Hobart Tasmania 7004 Australia 

List of works.
1.    Two Tattoo motifs fight to the death. Crow wins.
2.    Bring your own bomb.
3.    Koi fish
4.    The Low Queen.
5.    Trevo’r Thresh
6.    Día de Muertos with Moko.
7.    Pin up girl on a wall of roses.
8.    Modernism goes to the knacker’s yard.
9.    A Chinese Dragon in the West.
10.  The Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse 

All works are pen, ink and pencil on acid free drawing paper.
Size A3.

1 comment:

  1. Rob! I thought I'd left a comment but it's gawn! Love your art & it was great meeting a kindred spirit. Keep in touch my friend, cheers, O.