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Self-portrait workshop at The Passage, London

Many workplaces in the UK like mine offer a “special leave allowance” of up to three working days a year in which staff can undertake volunteer activities. From charity fun-runs to outreach or local community programmes, there are so many ways to support a cause or an organisation that is only asking for a little bit of time, expertise, or just a willing pair of hands. Knowing this, I couldn’t sign up fast enough when a UAL coworker was asking around for people to help with art workshops at The Passage House, a charity whose aim is “help homeless people transform their lives” through a variety of means including homelessness prevention projects, outreach, employment training, advocacy, and more.

a place of hope, aspiration, change, and innovation

The Passage charity based in Westminster offers help to people who are struggling to break the cycle of persistent homelessness on their own. Based on the teachings and ethos of St Vincent De Paul, who, in 1633, co-founded the Daughters of Charity, The Passage’s focus is on

“…action rather than words and in hands-on service to vulnerable people.”

Included in the Passage’s multi-faceted approach is a rich hospitality programme in which clients can participate in a variety of activity groups, including such things as book clubs, concerts/theatre, and art/craft sessions. London-based artist David Tovey supports participants weekly in their creative expression, and last week [1 March 2018] graciously hosted my co-worker Emily and myself for some drop-in art-making with a few of the residents of Passage House in Pimlico.

‘Love Notes To Self’ art workshop at The Passage House, London. Photo credit Kelise Franclemont.

Committed to “action” and “hands-on service”, I proposed to share one of the drawing exercises from my recently completed #365LoveNotesToSelf project and demonstrate how, through a simple act of looking and recording one’s own face in the mirror, anyone at anytime can give themselves the gift of a “Love Note To Self”. At the end of the morning, my hope was that not only would each person have a sketch or two to be proud of, and to have enjoyed making it, my firm wish was also that those around the table with me might have a glimpse of the positive impact I myself experienced over the past year by giving myself the care and attention that I so markedly deserved.

With basic school materials such as graphite pencils, pan watercolour, ink pens and crayons, we had a hand at blind-contour drawing, which really boils down to nothing other than “notice what you notice” and “follow the line”. Before even letting the drawings settle, we attempted to “wreck” them by adding expressive colour and in some cases, brushing water over the whole surface, forcing ink and watercolour to move (but without much control over the matter), which contrary to expectations, really brought out something winsome in each character on the page.

And what a lovely result.

Everyone’s ‘Love Notes To Self’ at The Passage House, London. Photo credit Kelise Franclemont.

This was never really just about drawing, though; from my side, I am so grateful to have had the chance to share a few hours with great people who were so patient and willing to try something new, maybe outside their comfort zone, sharing laughter and stories with me along the way.

A final thought: if your company offers a volunteering allowance, don’t hesitate to find some way to contribute to or serve your community. You may even find that you gain much more than what you give when you give of yourself.


More links and info:

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‘degas dreaming of women in the bath’ (infinite drawing series), 2018, ink, wax crayon, and pencil

as seen in ‘Green Matters’ – a contemporary postcard art show, at Frogmill Papermill, Apsley
4-16 March 2018

degas dreaming of women in the bath” (2018, ink, wax crayon, and Prismacolor pencil on tracing vellum and cartridge paper) is an “infinite drawing” of sorts that can be opened and folded in a variety of ways to get a new and surprising image with each arrangement of the pages. The drawing, on a single sheet of paper is double-sided and can be viewed beneath a semi-transparent paper, and/or folded to present a new perspective sized from A6 up to A3.

A response to the idea of the female nude frequently being the subject of the male gaze, here I’m reclaiming and expressing my own sensuality yet still leaving the way open for the viewer to choose his or her own “gaze” for themselves.


More links and info

Exhibition details: “Green Matters” – a contemporary postcard art show is on at Frogmore Papermill, Peter Ingram Gallery, Fourdrinier Way, Apsley, HP3 9RY from 4th through 16th March 2018. Free entrance; step-free access. 

Open hours:

5th through 16th March 2018

Monday through Friday 11-4PM

PV:

Sunday 4th March 2018 1-3PM

Curated by Clare Timmis

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#365LoveNotesToSelf – a year of self portraits

In a year-long experiment, #365LoveNotesToSelf is a project about finding love by giving oneself the gifts of time and looking deeply, one day at a time. #365LoveNotesToSelf is also part of the “Selfie” exhibition on at Candid Arts Trust, London from 23 February to 4th March 2018.

I am here and now

What started as a last-ditch effort to make myself feel better from encroaching depression, I kept at it for a year and in time, developed a pattern of self-love, perseverance, and mindfulness that continues today. I learned how to give myself a break and be flexible (some days it’s just not possible to stick to the plan so learned to make a new one!) I discovered I do have the determination and stamina for a long project (when in the past, I would often run out of steam half-way through). And even though I had a few days here and there with a low mood, it is with joy and pride when I say I can’t remember the last time I felt depression actually take hold.

It’s been a year and I feel like I’m just at the beginning. Stay tuned!


More links and info about #365LoveNotesToSelf

To read more, click this link to the project page for #365LoveNotesToSelf

Exhibition details:Selfie” is on at Camden Arts Trust, 3 Torrens St, London, EC1V 1NQ from 23 February to 4 March 2018. Hours: 12-6PM daily; free admission. Cafe on site.

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Life drawing lessons with Pentonville players

The following text is a journal from two sessions as a sketch artist observing the rehearsal of the London Shakespeare Workout programme directed by Dr. Bruce Wall, where I aim to capture some of the live performers as they practice their craft in a most unexpected venue in London.

Article originally published on kelise soixante-douze (kelise72.com) – “Life drawing lessons with London Shakespeare Workout in their 20th year – London” – 18 December 2018. Here, I have updated the post with new images.

If you’ve read this one already, scroll down a bit or click 19 January 2018 to jump down the page.


15 December 2017

I arrived to the gate with my pens and sketchbook… waiting to be registered, checked off the list, given a visitor’s pass (to be worn at all times). Anticipating the day and a little bit nervous (I shouldn’t have read those articles the night before; someone died here, not too long ago).

Guided through a maze of corners, past the glittering Christmas tree, narrowly brushing by the incongruous painting which wouldn’t be out of place above a matching sofa …more corridors and locked doors… to room C3, splashed on all walls with the kind of colourful signs reminiscent of primary school, letters 25-cm high cut from cheery flowered paper, spelling out “food poisoning”, “Campylobacter”, “Clostridium perfringens”… A few empty paper cups are accompanied by bits of rubbish, untidy stacks of paper strewn about, mismatched chairs abide patiently in an haphazard circle. It’s pretty much a performance rehearsal space anywhere…

The musicians set up and began to practice, working out some of the more difficult cues. I found a table to lay out my pens, my sketchbook, all of us warming up our instruments…and waiting for

…the actors to arrive.

Four energies burst in all smiles and a handshake, Wayne shining confidence in a dancer’s step; Vlad his spirit gently glowing with firm purpose; Edwin, solemn, kind, a professor, a mentor, someone’s dad perhaps, in another life… Jacob with his whole soul in his eyes, not sad exactly, but something’s there, just behind the dignity and resolve.

Welcome to Pentonville.

Model prison, Pentonville, from The Illustrated London News, 1843. Illustrator unknown.

After polite introductions all around, the actors begin to rehearse their lines of Shakespeare, drinking in stage direction from Dr. Bruce* like eager blooms sipping the rain after a day of too many fiercely rooted under the burning sun…

I tried at first to move my pen in time with the actors and saw many things too important to miss in a downward glance… my pen just stopped and started; it’s impossible to grasp a whole form so I am concerned only with the fleeting gesture of lines, a posture, and I focus on the between-moments

…self to character to self again.

Three more actors arrive, two whose names I can’t quite hear over the musicians testing the newest phrase, the first tall and well-met with the easy smile full of welcome, the second whose spirit, unlike the others, is a carefully guarded mask.

Still I’m not convinced by the tough-guy-i-don’t-care exterior, who pretends to be here for a change of pace – I can feel the gusto with which he gathers his why-not in a fist to shout in chorus “I’m free!” …and Daniel, a spark about to ignite… and I saw it happen when he became an old man, palsied and stumbling, unable to speak…around him courage swelled and defied all weakness, to help him raise his hand, grasping an imaginary torch that we all could see. And he is a hero.

Kelise Franclemont, ‘Daniel’, study from London Shakespeare Workout, 19 December 2017, at HMP Pentonville, London.

I am surprised when the guys crowded around my table at the end, to check out my drawings, hoping to see themselves maybe… and I wish that I’d been able to capture more between my eyes, fugitive moments, and my pen, to portray each of the men before me: Wayne, Vlad, Edwin, Jacob, “all smiles”, the one I don’t know quite yet, and Daniel.

Each of them proud, confident, strong… powerful and vulnerable and brave…warm, open, funny, creative… and beautiful.

Daniel, shyly bold, asked me to draw him… not of vanity I felt, but of a desire to be viewed under a different light… I am humbled by his confidence in me, and I don’t know what to say, except that I’ll try. I’ll do my best.

Kelise Franclemont, ‘Daniel’, study from London Shakespeare Workout, 15 December 2017, at HMP Pentonville, London.

On the tube journey home, I was afraid that my memory would fail me, even as I hurriedly corrected lines, filled in spaces, and scribbled notes…

My thoughts race to a pause…

These men…it’s not pity I feel for them….I don’t know what they’ve done to be locked up…it’s not my business, and I find I’m not even curious…

My job here today was not to know such things anyway, but to look and to really see.

Thanks to these seven inmates, actors, people for showing me the place you happen to be in now does not have to define you, your present, nor even your future.

Who do you want to be, you can be; now that is the question.

Kelise Franclemont, ‘Daniel as Mohammed Ali takes the torch’, study from London Shakespeare Workout, 15 December 2017, at HMP Pentonville, London.

19 January 2018

There are no musicians today to accompany the scenes; it’s just myself and Bruce from the outside on the return to Pentonville. I’ve also recovered somewhat from my nerves; though I’m still not 100% used to the idea of being in a place with no way out for any length of time, at least I know what to expect here: register, visitor’s pass (to worn at all times), narrow corridors and plenty of corners, no Christmas tree this time, and more locked unlocked locked again gates.

Bruce and I both warm up, he with his script, I with my sketches, as we wait for the men to suddenly pour in all at once to C3, the same room as before.

Like my last visit, I am greeted warmly by familiar and friendly faces, with a few new ones, and am glad I had, in the weeks previous, attempted to sketch outline portraits from memory; all the guys seemed pleased to have been remembered even imperfectly (although there was some comedic debate as to whether or not I had gone too far with the lace collars and “men in tights” costume ideas borrowed from the 16th century).

Knowing the impossibility of describing anyone in hastily scribbled ink, always moving, pacing, gesticulating, I chose pencil instead to observe the actors sitting away from centre stage, still for moments at a time, heads bowed, awaiting cues, or mouthing their lines.

Kelise Franclemont, ‘Wayne and Jacob’ (l-r), study from London Shakespeare Workout, 19 January 2018, at HMP Pentonville, London.

I couldn’t guess why the mood today was one of familiar ease (after all, most men had been an artist’s subject many times before), yet still detectable was a faint thrum of tension. Later, this undercurrent of nervous energy is explained when I am astonished to learn that the actors were due to perform their piece for an audience in a few days’ time – with only the equivalent of about a week of rehearsals over the same number of lines for which outside companies would possibly take months.

Kelise Franclemont, ‘Leroy’, study from London Shakespeare Workout, 19 January 2018, at HMP Pentonville, London.

Back in my sketchbook, Daniel is my momentary subject, yet I can not quite get his likeness; he seems so youthful, hardly containing an excess of energy as he recites his lines, yet on my paper is inscribed a soul that has weathered more years than would be admitted by his actual age.

Abruptly, it’s a good thing that our time has just run out, as the portrait version of Daniel is rapidly approaching octogenarian. It’s as if my eyes and my pencil obdurately insist on seeing different things.

Giving up for now, I pack up my supplies and it’s back through umpteen gates (locked unlocked locked again), more corners and corridors, the visitor’s pass is returned, and I am glad to join the city air and waning sunshine again.

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365 days of Love Notes from myself to me

<< Back to Archives << [] >> Part 1: Love Notes from myself to me >>


It’s that time of year again and maybe it’s the weather… but I’m sure I’m not alone when I say, I am in a deep blue funk. So for Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to give myself a little gift: an envelope of time that contains a kind of “love note to me”, by which I will remind myself daily of what love looks like – by gazing in a mirror and drawing what I see.

For in order to really see, one must spend time really looking.

I’ve chosen to create self-portraits (instead of, say, making selfies on my iPhone) because in these creative sessions, I must take the time to really look in order to draw what’s looking back at me…and maybe, after 365 of these love notes in a row, it will become easier day-by-day to see through any of the dark days, with positivity, confidence, and joy.

In today’s image, I see quirky, bright, and fun-loving; now, I don’t know what other forms my selfie-portraits will take over the rest of the year, but in words of one of my heroes, RuPaul, here’s what I do know for sure:

“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Kelise Franclemont, 'Loves Notes to Yourself - 14 February 2017', 2017, paper collage. Image courtesy the artist.
Kelise Franclemont, ‘Loves Notes to Yourself – 14 February 2017’, 2017, paper collage. Image courtesy the artist.

<< Back to Archives << [] >> Part 1: Love Notes from myself to me >>

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Quick figure studies, 2016, ink on paper

In order to give myself a brief respite from technology, I recently spent some time in my studio exploring movement and light with some quick figure drawings in ink on paper.

(My scanner turned everything bright turquoise, which I tried to colour-correct but in reality, these are really be more of an ultramarine blue…)

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‘Automatic Running (drawings between my feet and my smartphone)’, 2016, digital drawings (slideshow)

At first glance, this is simply a different way of drawing, in which I am performing the act of drawing, but not making the marks with my hands, but rather with my feet. I.e, By carrying a smartphone whilst exercising, through use of an app called Nike+Running, I create a recording of the activity – the route, the distance run, and the time elapsed from start to finish. Thus, the running activity is recorded as a line drawing superimposed over the satellite imagery of the location.

I made the gesture, the movement with my body, and Nike+Running software made the mark.

At another level, these drawings question the agency and intention: who really is the author here?

Automatic_Running_drawings_2015-03-27_21-1km_lg

These abstract images are also about recording and memory in that, much like marks on paper, these digital drawings are the only record of my having been there at that moment, in that place. But wait… current technology and insta-culture allows another means to state “I was Here”… through a smart phone and social media.

Symbols begin to emerge from abstract shapes, asserting themselves with hashtags…suggesting a deeper meaning, they try to become something more than just the length of a line… a starting point, an ending point, a shape, an object, an animal…


More links and information

 

Have a look at the digital slideshow of the Instagram drawings on Vimeo [6:19 minutes, looped] – as displayed on an iPhone 6/6s

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‘Memoirs of a stone (part 1 – the flight from Hyrcania)’, 2015, installation and found items, in ‘Housed’ at Chelsea College of Arts, London

17 Chelsea MA students (12 MA Fine Art, 5 MA Curating & Collections) enter into a week-long cooperative exhibition in which the curators, who see the show for the first time mid-week, will reconsider curation and transform the space. The project is an experiment which aims to “…challenge the ‘occupancy’ inside the regimented frameworks” such as may be found in the academic or gallery setting. From 7-10 April 2015 at Chelsea College of Arts.

Read more about ‘Housed’ on kelise72.com

Re-examining the relation between artist and curator

The basis of Housed: was about the relation (some might say “hierarchy”?) between artist and curator, firstly in a gallery/exhibition setting, secondly in academia. In the first half of the week, the dozen artists installed the show, collaboratively of course, installing their work with consideration for the siting as well as “conversations” between the nearby pieces.

Learn more about the project and how it evolved on the ‘Housed’ blog

My proposed work, ‘memoirs of a stone (Part I – The flight from Hyrcania)’ was an installation of drawings on paper, a short looping film with sound, and several found objects, most importantly, a small piece of red shale about 1 cm big.

In the first part of week, a writing desk was situated in the doorway, a small intimate space which may inspire quiet reflection as the viewer may pause and read or handle the drawings. Further along in the exhibition in the next room, one might come across the small red stone on a black velvet jewel block, positioned on the floor.

Mid-way through the week, the curators came into the project with a fresh perspective to re-hang the work, possibly creating new conversations and altering the “flow” of the exhibition overall.

‘Memoirs of a stone’ was relocated to another room entirely, which somehow “opened up” the work in a positive way. The little stone, placed next to Paul Abbott’s work (the video/busts on plinths – left image) somehow crystallised for both works the reference to Greco-Roman era, with busts on plinths and the Roman-era mosaic tile. Then the writing desk, even though in a more open space, still allowed for intimacy placed in the corner, adjacent to a large airy window.

For many of the artists, the re-curation improved the flow and openness for the exhibition overall, and opened up each work to have more “breathing space”, a marked positive change. If nothing else, the project allowed for a different way to see and experience the works in this very successful week.

Read more about Housed:

Chelsea_UAL_logo

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Underground gallery becomes a dream vault – ‘Live in your Dreams’ at The Crypt, St Pancras, London

Group exhibition in which I participated, Februrary 2014. The work that was shown in ‘Live in your Dreams!’ was a performance and installation entitled, ‘limn reveries’.

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‘limn reveries’, 2014, drawing/performance/installation

in Live in your dreams! exhibit at The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras

Kelise Franclemont, drawings from 'limn reveries', 2013. Image courtesy the artist.
Kelise Franclemont, drawings from ‘limn reveries’, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

From 26 February through 2 March 2014, I’ll be doing a drawing/performance piece called “limn reveries”, in a group exhibition “Live in your Dreams!” at The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras Church, Euston, London. The exhibition is curated by Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro, whose research and interests are focused on curation as well as making his own work related to art and science.

“limn reveries”

Which is just an old fashioned way of saying, I’m recording dreams… Basically, what I’ll be doing is attempting to achieve a quasi-meditative state under which I’ll conduct “automatic” (or subconscious) drawing. The thinking behind the exercise is to listen to meditation sound tracks, whereby I can  “open up” my subconscious and access the rich imagery there, and then record or draw what I see.

Or click the link to see a short film documentation of the performance/installation on opening night (26 Feb 2014). 

Some of the drawings from the performance and installation:

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More links and information

Kelise Franclemont, in ‘Limn Reveries’, 2014, performance and installation, in ‘Live in your Dreams!’ at Crypt Gallery, St. Pancras, London. Photo credit: Thomas Butler.