Doing your own illustrations; is it as dangerous as performing your own brain surgery?

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This Gun Shot Andy Warhol

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I saw this Andy Warhol creation at Tate Liverpool recently. I liked it even without knowing anything about it but what I didn’t realise was that the gun depicted is very similar to the one used, on June 3 1968, to shoot him. On June 3, 1968, radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas shot Warhol at his studio.

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The woman who shot him was Valerie Solanas who had been a known figure on the scene having written the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, a feminist tract that advocated the elimination of men (sounds like good, frothy, holiday reading). At 2:00 pm that day she apparently went up into his studio looking for Warhol. She rode the lift up and down until Warhol finally appeared. They entered the studio together. The phone rang; Warhol answered. While he was on the phone, Solanas fired at him three times. She missed twice, but the third shot went through both lungs, spleen, stomach, liver, and esophagus. She then shot art critic Mario Amaya in the hip. She tried to shoot Fred Hughes, Warhol’s manager, in the head but her gun jammed. Hughes asked her to leave, which she did. Warhol was taken to hospital where he underwent a five-hour operation.

Amaya received only minor injuries but Warhol was seriously wounded and barely survived. Surgeons opened his chest and massaged his heart to help stimulate its movement. He suffered physical effects for the rest of his life, including being required to wear a surgical corset. The shooting had a major effect on Warhol’s life and art and lead to death being a theme for much of his subsequent work.

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Above, Warhol shows the wounds caused by the shooting. The actual moment-by-moment experience of being shot must also have been a life-changing, work-changing experience. The shooting was very real but to him felt unreal. I’ve had moments in my life where certain things (usually events which are shocking or upsetting in some way) happen and it’s like time slows down; the whole thing’s like a dream. Like when you’re in a car accident or somthing similar and you feel like you’re watching it happen in a film? Real things can feel unreal (as with the shooting) and unreal things can feel real (as with images of iconic celebrities).

“Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there—I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television—you don’t feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television.” 

ANDY WARHOL

HOW TO GET POWER!

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I took these photographs of Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. It gulps down 195 million litres of water every day from the River Mersey. As a kid I always thought that the vast chimneys were pumping out poison which would inevitably kill us all. In fact they pump out only steam. In 1984 one of the eight chimneys collapsed due to high winds apparently, but was rebuilt. Why was I not notified?!!

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Routine Questions

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How important is routine to you? I’ve got some time off work at the moment and I’m using it to think about maybe changing some routines that I’ve been following slavishly for years now. I saw a thing on TV about the Scottish Labour Leader Jim Murphy and he was saying that he goes running from 12 midnight till 2am every night! He said it was the only time he could fit it in and he found it theraputic, trundling along with Johnny Cash blaring through his earphones. Can you imagine the motivation it must take to get your tracksuit on at midnight?! I struggled to go running for half an hour at 8pm!! But maybe, once a routine is established it actually takes less motivation because you’re not viewing that action as a decision to be made but just accepting it as what inevitably happens.

That’s why I asked about the importance of routine at the start. Maybe establishing strong routines might be a way for me to sidestep my terrible lack of motivation to do… well anything really. With a routine, you don’t say to yourself ‘shall I go for a run?’; you just go for a run without debate.

I’m reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey and I’ve learned that film maker David Lynch had a strict daily routine of eating at ‘Bob’s Big Boy’ (what?!!) I’ve got to go there!) at 2.30pm and drinking 7 cups of coffee before writing down ideas on napkins. In his thirties, author George Orwell would wake at 7am, open up the book shop in which he worked at 8.45am, write for four hours before returning to the shop and working there until 6.30pm. Artist Jackson Pollock would have breakfast at 1pm, then paint in his barn until 5pm when he would have a beer and walk to the beach with fellow painter Lee Krasner. It seems as though, regardless of what the routine consists of, creativity and productivity are boosted through the establishment of routine.

So routine is good. Great. I have a routine so I’m off the starting block. However, maybe there’s a down side to all this structure. Firstly, if your routine doesn’t leave time to do the things which are important to you then it’s probably going to work against, rather than for, you. I’m finding currently that I’m fulfilling work and family commitments but I’m not building in time to do writing. Also, I’m wasting valuable time watching bad TV or going on the net. I have to change this.

Secondly, if your routine is too rigid, too well-established, too old… then it may actually decrease creativity and productivity because it’s making you bored! Certain parts of my routine are well and truly fixed and can’t be changed such as time spent at my day job. Other parts I wouldn’t want to change such as time spent with my family. But the rest of it (and that’s a surprisingly large chunk) can be tinkered with.

Personally, I find this kind of stuff difficult. I find it very hard to change old routines and even harder to establish new ones. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to establish a routine for my running. I did have a good routine for writing but even that has gone a bit haywire recently. Also, there’s lots of other things I want to do more of such as photography, blogging, videos, painting, drawing and others. I want to do healthy things too like get eight hours sleep a night instead of my typical five. During my time off I’ve got to make a big effort to get a new routine ready to start when I go back to work. Unfortunately, I do have a tendency to slide towards laziness, mindless TV watching, alcohol drinking and basic slobbing around. This can change. This will change. If Jim Murphy can go running at midnight every night then I can change a couple of little habits. Can’t I? Can I?

Dead Leg

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This week I saw this (above). It’s not some horrific DIY accident, it’s actually a sculpture by Robert Gober on display in the Tate Gallery in Liverpool. It’s a cast of the artist’s own leg, embedded with human hairs and dressed with a man’s shoe, sock, and trouser-leg. The hairs on the leg are so realistic it’s eerie.

The body fragment is meant to speak of absence, detachment and loss. The leg is installed as if emerging from the gallery wall, portraying an uneasy balance between interior and exterior. Apparently, Gober’s disembodied limbs and appendages imply a psychological fracture.

His work is related to domestic and familiar objects such as doors, sinks, and body parts, and has themes of nature, religion, and politics. The sculptures are meticulously hand-crafted, even when they appear to just be a recreation of a common sink. He has also made photographs, prints, and drawings. I read somewhere that the leg is difficult and unsettling because it’s difficult to figure out whether the object as alive or dead.

Me with a Liver Bird

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Those iconic birds on top of the Liver Building on Liverpool’s waterfront look quite small from ground level. I climbed onto the roof to find out exactly what size they really are. It was a tricky climb; my suction boots were certainly put to the test. So now we all know how big the Liver Birds are compared to me. Wait, though…. You don’t know how big I am!