Camden Arts Centre

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As I read about the exhibitions they have at this moment my expectation was to find a very modern venue, perhaps like a small Tate Gallery, since the artists they are hosting in this moment are known by their contemporary work. Instead I found a gallery with an air of “welcoming community” place. The day outside was cold. So the warm of the place and the light of the sun coming through the windows invited to relax and enjoy the cafeteria, the exhibitions and the bookshop with wonderful art books. They also have a garden with access through the cafeteria. Recently I learned a Japanese word to describe the light filtered through the leaves of the trees: Komorebi. If I could I would have named today the light coming through the windows in the Camden Arts Centre with a special name too, a name for a peaceful building inviting to wave trough the interiors and the thoughts and visions of its art. Immerse in these thoughts and wandering about in the building I found a wall with the history which I thought is beautiful because all started more than a century ago as a library in 1887. It was first called Central Public Library and the building was designed by Arnold S. Tayler. Later, in 1964 closed and all the books were transferred to the new library in Swiss Cottage. In 1965 reopened again as Hampstead Arts Centre at the initiative of the Hampstead Artist’ Council. Enrolments begin for classes in painting, life drawing, pottery and basic design. In 1966 exhibitions program inaugurated and in 1967 the name changed to Camden Arts Centre, as we know it now.

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In this moment the exhibitors are Rose English and Florian Roithmayr.

Camden Arts Centre

 

Rose English has installations in two big dark rooms in which she shows works about acrobatic equilibrium with its fragility and strength. For this she uses acrobatic objects made of glass like diabolos, wands, spiral twisted chalices, bowls and dishes. These objects are displayed on a table in one of the rooms. In the same room are three big screen showing a documentary of rehearsals and workshops for Lost in Music with the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. The room is big and dark and these are the two elements of the room: the table and the screens. The next room is completely dark. A4 sheets with drawings and notes are pinned on the wall all around the room. A light bulb from the ceiling is illuminating the different sets of three paper sheets and that is the only thing you can clearly see in the room. But in the darkness you can intuit for its shadows some tables and chairs as if it was, maybe, an old classic café. The insinuation plays a great role in this room. Beautiful, and also a bit disturbing, sound of glass, harp and a mix of opera is spinning around the room in this darkness. Looking at the papers on the wall I see words like “nervous energy, weeping glass, rare air, elaborate bravura, broken glass used as music, voice-light-glass-image-word-opera”.

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When I left Rose English exhibition’s rooms I heard voices of people coming from “The Drawing Room”. This is a space for making and discuss contemporary art. Inspired by the exhibition they offer courses, workshops and projects for people of all ages. It can be book free of charge for schools and community groups.

Last but not least I visited Florian Roithmayr installations. The pieces are made of concrete, wood and clay. He seems to be concerned about modelling the materials beyond the physical expectations with meticulous attention to detail. Carefully balancing tensions and pressures in the sculptures.

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Joe Cruz

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Yesterday, finally, we had in our Hot House talk an illustrator instead of a graphic designer as it has been happening since these talks started. As we are students in our last year and potential workers in the industry of arts Joe Cruz gave us advices based in his own experience in finding work after university. Joe was determined to be a freelance illustrator. He looked for opportunities and tried different things yet he ended up having to sign on in the job centre, where he felt they couldn’t help very much to achieve his dream of working as an illustrator. After a while he got a part time job as an invigilator in a gallery for two years. He finds that this was very fortunate because it gave him time to do things related to his own practice as well as being closed to arts. Also he could read in his work hours in the gallery! Meanwhile he kept looking for opportunities for his own work as an illustrator and researching and gathering images in a file from other artists. He makes a point here on trying to keep looking and researching at other artists after leaving university.

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Also he advised us about the importance of being closed to other artists. Joining a studio abled him to discuss ideas and he wouldn’t feel isolated in his practice after the intensive years of university. His first project was Celebrity Culture about fashion which is an area he is very interested on. Actually for his FMP he made an illustrated introduction of the fashion industry for young children. He finds a very useful way of getting work to search into the design websites where he sends his work through the links he finds in these webs. So far it has worked really well for him. He cautioned us about the agencies and companies trying to get advantage of internships and students work for free. When he likes a magazine he tries to get in touch with them, if possible to have a coffee, and brings a project for them. Last September he had his first solo exhibition in the Book Club. This exhibition was funded by the university he works now for.

About his art work is strong and beautiful. With little components in the images, usually very saturated strokes of pastel colours on top of black and white images. He doesn’t like screen printing because is messy and difficult so he developed his own printing way which is an idea that I have been thinking about lately.

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Placement

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This placement has been a little of a mess until I recently got it right… hopefully.

Since I wanted to learn how to work with mosaics I first tried to arrange my work experience with Stephen Wright in October. This is an amazing artist who I admire his work and the way he made his own gallery “The House of Dreams”, open only some days per year or under email request. I was really disappointed when he replied my email with a negative answer. He said he wouldn’t know what to do with the help of someone. I then wrote to other artists (Laura Carlin, Arran Alberidge in Penguin, Stephen Ellcock, …) and realized that the same problem would happen to most of them. That is what happens with most of independent artists, and I think that this is one of the important reason why they are independent: so they can do things without counting in anyone, when and how they want and like. Then I talked to Vahid Sabbaghian, who also works with mosaics. He was happy and willing to help me in this placement. I don’t really like the style of his work but I thought I would be able to learn techniques and also from the way he sells his work. So we planned a starting date on the 28th of December. To my surprise, when I went to his place he didn’t have anything ready to start. He moved recently and had no studio in his house so we couldn’t do anything! Instead he was asking me to bring a friend and have a party. I talked to him about his work, took some notes and left his house without studio with a real feeling of “now what?!”

So I made a portfolio, business card, presentation letter and when to my favourite places in London: Gosh, The House of Illustration, Eritharmon, The Oriental Bookshop, The Illustration Cupboard, Orbital, Association of Illustration…. And sent emails also to different places. Finally, I had answer from two of the best places I could get: The House of Illustration and The Illustration Cupboard. I ended choosing The House of Illustration because they run a program working with children, families and schools. This is the path I want to follow for my future as an illustrator. It is also something I have some similar experience from many years ago in Spain although not in illustration but with painting.

I already have three dates arranged for the 11th, the 17th, and 19th of February and the next dates will be soon placed. They will be one or two days per week until the 60 hours are complete.

I did not expect to have this placement and it’s much better that what I had planned because I will be working with what I most like: illustration with people as a way of making this world a better place to be.

Signage

Yesterday we had a presentation in our signage work. That took us the entire morning and part of the afternoon. It was interesting to see what kind of signs each one of us search with the same brief and how differently we develop ideas. Our tutor gave us good insights in response to our work and the presentation and critic passed by very pleasantly.

We went to collect signals, posters, graffitis etc in our local universe for this presentation. Then we show and reflecyed on them. This are some examples of my choosen images collected fdrom the street.

I selected those becouse of the semiotic message:

20151028_154310  This one, although we don’t know its message we read “Good Luck”

20151028_154344   As for this one bring us to the idea of England and the queen.

 

Business Card

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One of the fields I’d love to work with are the children’s illustration book. So I thought my personal card should show this kind of drawing. I made different designs and then chose two of them. In one of them I am seeing through a window doing my drawing and in the other one I am floating in an almond shell as this is my second name (Almendra).

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The back of the card is all irregular and text is hand drawing. I think this card shows my visual identity.

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Logo

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I have had this logo for about four years now. I realised then that I need it for my ceramics and it can be found at the base of many of my handmade pots.

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I had also used it for some of my drawings. The logo is composed by and “A” for Almendra and an “I” for Iris. I sometimes use an oval around the logo inspired by the Japanese signatures style. All the ends of my initials are finished with spirals as this is one of my very often used strokes in my illustrations.

Colour Palette

 

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When trying to choose a colour palette to represent me I started to pick one colour after another until I realized that I was taking all the colours from my watercolour box. Then I thought it’ll be more efficient if I can just pick the whole box with the mixing tray showing the “real” colours I use. So here it is. I have this colour box now for 27 years. And I use it, actually, I use very much, but my tendency to paint miniatures allows me to use really tiny amounts of colours.

Editions Fanzine

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When the editions brief was given I thought of different ideas. I wanted to interact with spaces such as galleries or coffeshops and people. Yet, I am aware of my shy nature and I thought it might be too much to ask myself when we didn’t have too much time to end this project to get ready for such challenge.

So trying to be practical I thought I would do something that I could learn from it and use it later on, when our brief would be finish. I decided to answer a very regular question I get when meeting new people in London: what I am doing here? And since the theme is “My Local University” I had to be more specific, what was I doing at London Metropolitan University and how did I ever end here? To do this in an illustrated way I need it not only a story but the illustrations. I was excited to create a visual narrative, so much that I ended doing far more drawings than I could ever use in a story. At first we discussed in our tutorials with all the class what would be the best way to do the drawings. Emily insisted me in using the sketchbook drawings because of their freshness and loose stroke. Yet I was sure I could do better with ink, watercolours maybe? I ended using black ink just to simplify. Yet it wasn’t so simple. To do a flow of drawings I ended repeating until I was happy with each one of them. As for the narrative it started with a long detailed story, almost like a diary. So I summarised it until it was a short story. I didn’t forget the great rule of the narrative process: introduction, body and conclusion with a little of suspense between pages. All together the zine has twenty drawings and twelve handmade text pages.

 

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Jay, from Nous Vous, brought a wonderful collection of fanzines which I really treasure it in our studio and they would give me the answer for the layout of my story: a fanzine. I thought it would be a good idea to make a small fanzine so I can spread it easily as if it was personal card whenever I get the question “what are you doing here?” Small size has always been my size for illustration. After two years working at university in a minimum size of A3 I was pleased to have freedom in this.

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Also the fact that size is small means I can do it at home with my printer and that would result cheaper. I like to think that in the future, when I will not be at university I can use my own resources to produce my own things. A normal printer would have to be my ally.  In the process of the making I have faced some problems such as the pixilation of the drawings. So we went through all the process that this could have make it. Paal helped me to take my pictures to Adobe Illustrator. The result in Illustrator came terrible. I never liked this program since it makes drawings really “plastic”, non-natural. Then Emily taught me how to “properly” scan with a good quality scan and how to save it. She told me to save my very detail images in Tiff because it saves images with the maximum quality possible. This was something important to know. Yet my zine was still coming out very pixelated. Finally, the Nous-Vous guys told me how to export it in In-Design: I need it to use a High Quality for print tool that is hidden.

Then it was the presentation. I printed them in different colours and because of the size and the colours they had a playful looking, almost like a candy thing from a kiosk. I put them inside of an empty transparent box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. The guys from Nous-Vous criticised this and asked me to do a better presentation. I suggested to do in ceramics and they liked the idea. But then I thought once more about it and realized that ceramic is something heavy, earthly, and this was not really for the kind of zine I was doing. I needed something more playful and light. I made a purple box inspired in the containers of the children’s sweets. It has a little note with a drawing of my self and the name: Mini Fanzine by Iris Almendra and the price.

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To price them I would try to make them as cheap as possible just to cover the cost and of course forget about making profit of it!! Very often in arts people don’t get reattribute for their time. You work for the love of your art and that’s how I think you can find in the way the opportunities to make a living from your own art; by showing that you are committed to it. £2.50 seemed to me the minimum for a 32 pages’ zines, although very small (A6). This would cover the paper, the ink for the printer and the travel expenses when taking it to the shops to sell. Yet, I went to a fanzine fair and I realized the prices of zines were even cheaper!! As I said before, people in arts often work for the love of art!

I went to Gosh to leave them there but they didn’t even want to see them. They said they had too many of them to sell and they need space. I insisted they were very small, A6, and they told me to return at the end of February when they had sold some of what they have. Then I went to Orbital and they said they can only accept five. So there they are. I need to go back and see if they have been sold. And this is the story of my mini fanzine for now.

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