ę September 2008 | Main | November 2008 Ľ

October 31, 2008

in the beginning...

This is where it started, this latest dance film,


doodled ideas in a note book left to ferment for a while


Posted by john at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2008


This, apparently, is the one thousandth post I've written on these Unstuck Diaries.


Posted by john at 06:21 PM | Comments (0)

Wig Test

Trying out some wigs and lighting for the dance film,



wig and string, wig and rafia, wig with dead flowers

oh, and we all had to have a go, obviously...



Posted by john at 01:36 PM | Comments (4)

October 29, 2008

Trouble with teaspoons

Now it might not be the same for everyone, but I feel the bowl of a spoon is a thing of beauty. Or, at least, I should say, the bowl of a spoon is mostly a thing of beauty.

For in the bowl of a spoon can be seen a reflection of the Economics of Design, that is: the more you pay the better things tend to look. Again this is not always the case, itís clearly possible to spend a small fortune on something that looks, to you, distinctly unpleasant.


On the left is a teaspoon of pleasing aspect, made in Sheffield, with a bit of weight behind it, some might say a classic. Next to it is a teaspoon made in Solingen [which is German for Sheffield] again, weighty and of not unpleasant proportions.

Then we get the Ikea special, made in China, and somehow lacking flare, although it feels solid. Finally, on the right, the Wilkinson budget teaspoon, costing about 20p, weighing nothing, feeling horrid, looking grim and generally not the sort of tool you want to be using to get at your boiled egg on a frosty morning.

Time was, teaspoons, like everything else, were made by craftsmen, with individuality and care. So much richness is lost to us by the automation of the manufacturing process, and the economies of scale.

Posted by john at 11:24 AM | Comments (1)

October 27, 2008

Still Stuck Storyboarding

As with so many things you need a good few buckets of preparation, whilst, at the same time leaving enough spaces for the light to shine through.



Posted by john at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2008

Dryads and Naiads

The story emerges, like a Naiad rising from a weed-choked pond clutching at an innocent Dryad holed up in a hollow tree on the muddy bank.



Third auditions today, decisions tomorrow - always difficult.

The story begins to take shape, an odd shape, but a shape none-the-less.

More on this later...

Posted by john at 09:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2008

Art Students

Art Students in the Land of the Free, 1939 America, rocking the culture of anarchy.


You can feel the seething political rebelliousness bubbling away just below the surface, the fervent anti-establishment resentments. Ok, well anyway - I like the guyís trousers.

thanks Shorpy

Posted by john at 08:06 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2008

How To Shoot In A Desk






with all this:


Posted by john at 08:53 AM | Comments (1)

October 20, 2008

Things you only know after the event

When creating something I inevitably, and not unreasonably, start with nothing Ė a blank panel, a blank sheet of paper, a blank tape.


I have a feeling for what I want to do, an urge, an itch perhaps. An idea Iíve been scratching at for a while. Something that has been bubbling away on the back burner of my mind for many months. I know where I want to go [mostly].

What I donít know is how Iím going to get there, how Iím going to achieve the results or at least how Iím going to assuage the urge. There are conventions that enable you to get going, admittedly, but itís a difficult business.


An idea isnít created whole, it doesnít come flat pack either. The piece isnít conceived in its entirety and then brought forth through what ever medium seems most appropriate, at least it isnít in my case, I canít, obviously, speak for others.

Itís all a bit creep-and-go. Sneak around a lot, do a bit, think about it, do a bit more, check it, look at it, do a bit, measure it, squint at it, go shopping, come back, look at it again. All the time making creative and critical judgements, weighing it up against the initial idea, trying to assess whether it does the job, whether it cuts the mustard, whether it communicates the emotion, whether it scratches that particular itch.

When this process has gone on longer than is reasonably comfortable and things are rapidly approaching the end, I have an unhealthy attachment to the project. The more work I put in the more reluctant I am the change things. I feel Iíve got thus far by the skin of my teeth and any fiddling at this stage would upset an already fragile state sending the whole thing into chaos and mediocrity.

This attachment makes me blind to the reality of the piece, I can no longer see it. I am too close to it. I am the last person who should be making creative decisions at this stage. Itís only later, many months later, that I begin to see the piece in a more objective way, but by then itís usually too late to do anything about it.

Sometimes the reality of the piece hits with a sickening thud, other times it can be quite uplifting. The frustrating thing being that itís so hard to tell when youíre doing it, when you are still in a position to lessen the potential sickening thud.

Posted by john at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2008


First auditions today, for the new dance film


photo: Katrin Freitag

Posted by john at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2008

arms folded this time


Posted by john at 05:50 PM | Comments (0)

This torso thing

I've had a thing for this certain torso gesture ever since working with a wonderful dancer called Ali, in London last century.


Iíve drawn and painted the twisting turning torso, one arm extended, one arm flexed, with the fingers under the influence of the superbly named Flexor Digitorum Profundus.






UPDATE: here's one of the first large drawings I did, in 1986, using graphite in those days, it has the beginnings of the twisted torso gesture


Posted by john at 09:12 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2008

Walk like an Egytian

Working on the torsos film I remember a couple of mixed media pieces I did a few years ago:


Walk like and Egyptian I, ink and water colour, 220mm x 360mm


Walk like and Egyptian II, ink and water colour, 220mm x 360mm

Iíve been working on walking figures for years, tricky business because walking is all about being out of balance [then regaining balance before lurching off out of balance again and so progressing forward]. So paintings of figures basically out of balance look odd.

Posted by john at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2008

Odd Corners of the Studio, No.17



Posted by john at 07:18 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2008

Shelf City, West Yorkshire

Once more I find myself gluing wood


with a view to building these, next week


in the office re-fit I'm working on.

Work on the office pre-fabrication was temporarily halted last week, as I had to make a short film about violins, for Artfoms, Education Leeds Ltd.



The hats were in the air again.

Posted by john at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2008

Charlotte, dancer


Charlotte Talbot, oil on panel, 280mm x 195mm

In the same studio where I painted the twins, Tom and Alex, I worked with Charlotte Talbot, then a Principle Dancer with the Northern Ballet Theatre, on a long series entitled, not unreasonably, Dancers. Iíve posted drawings of her here before.

Posted by john at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2008

The Importance of Paper

ďHa!Ē people said, ďHa! computers will do away with the need for paper and the trees of the world will live happy lives and produce lots of little trees.Ē

But this was not to be. Computers, as we know, use more paper than before. Or rather Ė along the lines of it ainít guns what kill people itís bullets Ė itís the printer that uses the paper like it was going out of fashion.

I try to print as little as possible, and only when absolutely necessary. It is absolutely necessary with a script, to print it out towards the end, because no amount of scrolling can beat laying the pages out on a long table and actually looking at he shape of the piece.

Paperís important for editing a film too, indeed the first stage is oft referred to as a Paper Edit, as opposed to the Saturn V rocket, for instance, where the first stage is referred to as the S-1C.


Using typed transcripts of the interviews, shot lists, sequence lists and half a dozen scraps where I write itinerant timecodes and notes to remind myself of changes required, I build the film.


detail of sequence shot list used to create 22 seconds of the film I'm working on.

Posted by john at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2008

The inevitability of Twins

Many years ago, in a different studio, in a different town, I lived next door to identical twins, Tom and Alex [or was it Alex and Tom].

Itís never easy living next to identical twins, the scope for faux pas is almost limitless. However in this case things were made a good deal easier by one of them sporting his hair in long dreadlocks and the other a crew cut. Luckily for me the longer named twin had the longer hair. So Tom was Tom and Alex was Alex and all was well in the world.

Until Alex cut his dreadlocks and they both had a No.1. Ha ha, hee hee and ho ho ho.

At the time I was beginning to start to paint portraits and what better challenge thought I than to paint identical twins and see if their mother could tell which is which.

I drew them and measured them and photographed them and began to discern the differences. Alex was slightly rounder in the face than Tom.

Tom and Alex Parkinson, charcoal on paper, 520mm x 780mm

During the sittings the boys were fascinated to know what the differences were. It wasnít easy to have them both sitting at the same time as the pose required that they stare each other in the face for hours on end. Never easy with a sibling, still less I suspect with your twin.

Tom and Alex Parkinson, oil on panel, 620mm x 1220mm

On their own they were competitive. I was using up some Prussian Blue on a background wash which Alex particularly liked. ďIíll give you a fiverĒ he said, talking about the background for his brotherís half of the panel, ďif you paint his pink.Ē

You can still just see it written across the top of the painting.

Posted by john at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2008

Of strong cameras and prone models

In the first studio, on the gloss red floor, lay Sue Flynn.

On a chair, on a table, stood the photographer Ė me in this instance.

The set up wasnít as steady as it could have been and the phrase Health & Safety had yet to reach the point where it challenged creativity. Looking through the viewfinder of the camera, vertically down onto the prostrate Sue, didnít help my balance either.


The camera was fixed to a strap on my wrist Ė or at least I thought it was, for during a serious sideways shift of my centre of gravity and an attempt on my part to maintain my balance and not join Sue unnecessarily quickly, the camera fell.

Fortunately it didnít land on Sue, instead it hit the edge of the table, springing the back open, and proceeded onwards to the floor.

I jumped down, closed the back and it snapped shut with a reassuring click. I looked over the camera for any other breakages.

Now they made cameras out of brass in those days [as well as other metals and glass obviously] and Nikon were renown for sturdy cameras. [Though not as sturdy as Zenit, who made their cameras out of old Russian tanks.] The camera was, to all appearance fine apart from a large dint in the base plate. I wound the film on a couple of frames and carried on shooting.


The processed film had a couple of spoilt frames but no more, and I carried on using the camera until a couple of years ago when I got the D200. I suspect if I dropped said D200 onto the corner of a table from 2 metres if wouldnít fare so well.

Posted by john at 12:00 PM | Comments (1)