Studio Notes – Planning For 2019

For the first full week of 2019, I’ve been sitting still. It’s been boring.

Thanks to a minor operation in the last week of 2018 I’ve had to basically do nothing but rest, cutting my latest project in half. Up until the last minute I had been developing and testing my first banknote (part of the money project), a double sided, three-colour screen print.

For most of December I worked on the design, created my home screen exposure setup, bought equipment, mixed inks and then made a few colour test runs.

Then I had to stop.

Making the best of it


Whilst I’ve been unable to work on my printmaking, I’ve decided to look at the positives: there are still creative, useful things I can do whilst sitting down. I’ve been doing a few different things:

  • learning how to use GIMP properly
  • creating half-tone images for a group portrait
  • redesigning and producing cover images for my blogs
  • taking stock photos in the studio
  • watching all of the screenprinting videos on YouTube
  • brainstorming business ideas I won’t have time for
  • general plotting

Granted, coming up with new business ideas (screen printing can send you on tangents) is not exactly useful but it helps to keep your brain humming. I’ve got quite a few t-shirt ideas now!

Most of my screen print artwork (well, probably all of it) comes from hand-drawn elements, not computer graphics, but the fact is that some things would be better done using computer programs.

Over the last few days I’ve been able to get my head around GIMP at last – just enough to make it less intimidating and more of a help than a potential hindrance.

Next week?

Hopefully week 2 will see me more mobile but I think it’ll be more of the same: looking on the bright side and getting all the preparation in.

Next week

Studio notes: planning for 2019.

Creating A Blog With A Global Presence

SEO has developed monumentally over the past few years. It is no longer considered to be merely a beneficial practice but more of a necessity for businesses who want to excel in the modern day, and there are lots of different SEO strategies available.

A good SEO plan is one that incorporates an array of different methods. The method you choose depends on the goals you aim to achieve. If you want to attain an international web presence and grow your blog business on a worldwide scale then you need to use global SEO strategies.

Read on to discover SEO methods catered towards creating an international web presence.

Extensive research

Before you begin to implement your SEO methods you need to partake in a huge amount of research. You cannot achieve your worldwide goals without doing the groundwork. After all, every country is different.

The products that appeal the most in the UK won’t necessarily be the most popular products in Australia, for example. You need to unearth the different consumer trends for each country. You need to predict what countries are most likely to provide you with the highest level of traffic and sales. And don’t forget to do research regarding the search engines in different countries. When you think about a search engine your mind instantly casts to Google, however, in other, countries they may be more popular search engines. You need to consider this and divulge as much information as possible about the relevant search engines.

Language

You are probably thinking: “Language? That’s what online translation services are for!” That may be true if you want to find out what a certain phrase means, but when it comes to SEO you need to divert a lot of your attention to language. If you want to embark your brand on an international stage then you will obviously need to advertise yourself and use SEO through using different languages. You need to speak the language of the locals on your blog.

For example, ‘chips’ and ‘fries’ – they both mean the same thing to someone living in the UK. However, in one country they may only use the term ‘fries’ and therefore if you translate ‘chips’ you are not going to get the true local word. This is relevant to a monumental number of words, such as; ‘vacation’ or ‘holiday’, ‘living room’ or ‘lounge’, and ‘couch’ or ‘sofa’. It is imperative you use the words of the locals because these are the words they are going to be using when they search on a search engine. And, if your words are incorrect then no one will see your webpage.

Let people have a choice

And finally, when people enter your website they should be presented with a drop-down menu whereby they can select the language they wish to view the website in. You should never merely assume.

There are lots of blogs where they use technology in order to decipher where the person viewing the website is situated. They then use that knowledge and present the website in the relevant language. For instance, they detect someone is in France and, therefore, the language is automatically French. But there are lots of people who live in different countries and do not use the language of the locals. What happens if the person viewing is an Italian person simply living in France for a year?

You can also use these tools to adjust your adverts accordingly. InboxDollars is a great example of this – advertising this to people in the US is great, but InboxPounds is better for those in the UK.

If you research extensively, use the proper language, and think about the customers’ wants then you can use SEO effectively to reach a global presence.


Studio Notes: Casting A Giant Pewter Coin

Although I haven’t posted any news in a long time, it’s not for lack of news to share; in fact, I’ve been busier than ever in the studio. This project has been fascinating me and making me want to share, but at the same time making me want to hide away until it’s all done and perfect.

Unfortunately, perfection is still quite far off and I’m trying hard to embrace that. So here’s the story of casting a giant pewter coin when you’ve never done any pewter casting before.

Moving from aluminium to pewter

My initial idea was to make an aluminium coin using the lost foam process, as we’d been casting aluminium with our newly made bucket furnace. The problem was getting the foam coin ready in time for when we decided to fire up the foundry… firing it up was time-consuming and required more than one person as well as decent weather, which was definitely a problem.

In short, I got a suggestion from a friend to try pewter instead, and that freed me up to do lots more experiments and work in my kitchen instead of outside.

Making the wax positives

Foam was nowhere near good enough for the level of detail I wanted, and anyway, I was moving to a lower-melt metal, so I started to work with wax to make the initial prototypes that I would then make casts from.

Beeswax was so foreign and fiddly that I just couldn’t stand it. I started experimenting with adding hot melt glue sticks to the mixture, which gave me a more plastic, flexible material. The problem with this was that it was harder to join pieces together.

It feels like a serious injustice to condense it so much here, because I feel as though I spent so much of my life over the last few months fiddling with wax, trying to sculpt the perfect coin.

Silicone casting

One thing I knew I had to do before going all-in with lost wax casting was to get some silicone to make a master mould of my coin. My first problem was that I knew next to nothing about silicone casting.

Cheapo, diy silicone casting – yes, I knew about that – but as I proved in some kitchen experiments, silicone sealant moulds don’t hold up against pewter. On top of that, I broke my first wax coin by pressing the silicone sealant mould onto it. 

I had to get a reliable silicone that could be poured, not pressed. After a bit of research I bought a 1.1kg kit of M4512 RTV shore A 20 condensation cure silicone. And… I had no idea what any of that actually meant.

That silicone was fine for creating the wax versions of my coin, but it was so soft (hence shore A20, the lower number on a hardness scale ending at 100) that it was tough to cast it without the wax deforming the mould. I had to build a case to hold it and stop it bulging in the middle.

Casting a wax coin in shore A20 silicone.
The portrait on this was terrible! But the silicone was so soft that it could easily be pressed in, making the wax too thin.

Lost wax failures

My first attempts were with lost wax casting using plaster of paris as an investment material. This was ok to a certain extent, but I got loads of bubbling and pitting. Whilst it was definitely recognisable as a coin, it wasn’t exactly good enough.

This was why I didn’t want to start the process without having a way to replicate my wax coin. I had to start over with more sprues in my plaster and more ways for my pewter to vent steam without pitting, but it had taken so much time to cast the investment blocks and dry them that I decided I needed to get some high-temperature silicone that I could just cast the metal directly into.

First semi-successful pewter casting, obverse side.

One advantage of not getting a perfect result at this point was that it made me stop and go back to the drawing board and redesign the coin and the way I made the positive. Instead of just using wax, I made my positive up from foamboard for the base and rim and wax for sculpted elements.

This stage – redesigning – did take more time than I wanted it to, but the result was a much better looking coin than I’d started with. If I hadn’t failed at first then I’d have come out with an uglier version, so some comfort there.

High temperature silicone casting

Figuring that I knew a fair bit more about condensation cure silicones and all that, I was a bit more confident about making my second purchase. Unfortunately I couldn’t find MoldMax 60 in the UK and nothing else that I liked at a decent price, but I did find an alternative on eBay – a 1kg kit that mixed at a 50:50 ratio and cost only £26.

1kg sounds like a lot, but… well… it’s not. Fortunately this stuff does the job and copes well with the high temperatures, so I was happy with that.

Although I was on the home straight I still had problems. I was pouring the pewter directly down into my mould, and I was constantly finding surface pitting and burn marks where the pewter had poured in.

Pewter coin cast in high temperature  silicone.

Enlarging the pour spout helped with getting rid of bubbles at the very top, and lots of new, large vents along the sides did help somewhat, but nothing got me the perfect copy of my wax coin. I still had a sculpture that needed lots of grinding, sanding and scraping.

Finishing the sculpture

At this point, a couple of months in, I decided to get some more high temperature silicone and redesign the gate system to minimise burning and pitting when I poured the metal. Before that, though, I wanted to finish the coin as much as I could, and yet again rework the initial wax sculpture to refine elements that still didn’t work.

So here’s the prototype, which features a few elements that weren’t included in the original design, but will be integrated into the final run.

Pewter coin by Lee Devonish. Artist's Proof obverse

Casting a giant pewter coin was definitely more of a challenge than a smaller coin, but because of this project, smaller coins are currently in production as well.

Pewter coin by Lee Devonish. Artist's Proof reverse.

The Moneytree Exhibition

The Moneytree Exhibition

I’ve been so pleased to have been included in The Moneytree exhibition at Hamilton House Gallery in Bristol

The exhibition was brought together by Lara Luna Bartley in collaboration with the CoResist Collective, and features artwork about the financial and banking system.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Lara was kind enough to share some pictures of the exhibition space. Other artists featured are Jane Lawson, Darren Cullen & Mary Millner.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Lara Luna Bartley was the teller at the ‘Bank of CoResist’, printing banknotes which audiences could ‘borrow’ at 0% on a very long term basis, provided they would become a member of the bank for a small fee.

This concept resonates strongly with me, as I consider my money works to be ‘lent’ on a (very) long term basis as well, with the option to exchange.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Mary Millner’s House of (Post)Cards featured postcards of the Shard and other centres of financial power balanced like a house of cards.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Jane Lawson’s 4 metre long digital print How We Got To Where We Are shows the timeline of the global financial system.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Darren Cullen’s Pocket Money Loan Posters are spot on… prompting that uneasy double-take. The state of dysfunction that we’re in when it comes to our use and abuse of credit means that we’re never quite sure what next, new low is possible.

The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

The exhibition marks 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and featured a discussion with economist Tony Greenham entitled “Money, Trust and the Art of Local Banking”.

Promise 12/25. Screen print on Lloyds Bank cheque, 2017. | Screen printed cheque
I’ve decided to make my own money. I’m asking you to trust in me.
For money to exist, there must first be trust.
Money requires relationships, because since money is a measure of exchange, there must be someone else to exchange with. When we hand over money in exchange for something else, we don’t necessarily have to trust the person we’re buying from; instead, the trust lies in the institution behind the money. The more of us who put faith in the institution, the more value the money has.
What if we were to ask others to put their trust directly in us instead? As human beings, our trustworthiness only runs so far… but maybe being honest about that makes us more reliable than banks and governments, that present themselves as being strong and permanent, but still regularly let us down.
My currency art isn’t offered for sale as much as for exchange, if you trust me.
The Moneytree Exhibition, Hamilton House, September 13th -19th 2018

Studio Notes – Acrylic & Charcoal On Canvas

This is a story of experiment and of failure. Oh well!

I don’t paint on canvas. I haven’t done in a long time. The texture of the weave just gets in my way and interrupts the fine detail that I’m trying to achieve. I prefer my surfaces to be smooth and to have texture develop only where I place it, unless I’m painting on a minimally textured watercolour paper – it’s usually the kind of surface that contributes to the feel of the work without sticking its nose in where it isn’t wanted. 

Another material I don’t use much is acrylic paint – it’s never tempted me across from oils or watercolour. However, I have used it in sculpture recently, because of its quick-drying nature and the chance to use it as a 3d material.

Experimenting and letting go

As I had a few pre-stretched canvases that had been given to me years ago, I thought I might as well have a go at using them for experimenting with different media as well as for filling space on my own walls at home. 

Drawing with charcoal on canvas came to mind as progression towards some monochrome paintings I’m thinking of doing.

Body 1 - Charcoal and graphite pencil drawing on canvas

It’s not the first time I’ve used primed canvas as a ground for drawing, as I’d already done a graphite piece.

The weave of the canvas seemed to be an inviting surface for charcoal drawing, so I started by scaling up a smaller sketch by gridding, and then losing patience and jumping straight in. Pushing charcoal and graphite around the canvas with my hands was fun enough, but I just wasn’t feeling happy with the resulting image.

Drawing with charcoal on canvas.

The problem was, once my family had seen it, they loved it. Fair enough – we’re allowed to like different things and different kinds of art; they enjoy stuff that looks like stuff, and that’s mostly what I do, but I need a few more layers that this piece just didn’t have. There just wasn’t enough tonal variety and not enough subtlety.

Just to see what would happen, I worked in some golden-yellow acrylic paint to frame my subject. It was better, but not convincing me that it was good. It had gone towards those ubiquitous superhero canvas pictures – a really dangerous spot to end up in.

Still, it ended up on the wall in our living room, gnawing at my insides.

I left it for a month and eventually tried to bring it back around, but couldn’t.  I just didn’t like it, and I had to start negotiating with the family to replace it with something else.

What was wrong with it?

  • The drawing was off.
  • The composition was poor.
  • The subject’s pose was wrong – not engaging enough.
  • The rendition of the form was too flat.

Basically, it was a rushed experiment and no more.

What it’s taught me is that it’s great to play around and do different things, and it can be very enlightening, but you don’t have to commit to everything you produce. If the work isn’t up to scratch, it’s not up to scratch, and it can exist as an opportunity to learn. I think that I will keep some things in mind, like drawing on canvas and incorporating controlled bursts of colour, but there will also have to be more of my usual, more careful process to make me happy enough to release something into the world.

The experience won’t go to waste – I’ve learned that I love these colours together as well as the nature of the marks.

I’ll keep this canvas and rework it to give back as a finished piece, with the slight trace of the original drawing adding to the story. Once I’m happy with it then I’ll share it here.


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