Going forward

It seems strange to look forward when this project has not been realised but it has certainly generated a lot of ideas.

Firstly, I have realised that maybe a ‘brain’ project might not be the most lucrative idea. Looking at the other projects, the most successful to date has been the Gromit’s Grand Appeal in Bristol raising over £2.3 million. I think this is partly due to Gromit being a very loveable character and the involvement of a lot of well-known celebrities – they certainly had the mix right.

Although for this project I wanted the obvious connection between the brain and mental health and the fact it was primarily a project to provide a therapeutic opportunity, while raising awareness. The next project I have in mind would concentrate particularly on mental health issues in children and young people.

I didn’t think that children got depressed until it happened to my daughter who was turning 8 years old. The main thing I remember from the experience was the emotional ‘crutch’ that she had, which was her polar bear – Snowy. I think by doing a public art project of a children’s bear would be very appealing. Also the dragon sculptures that are being produced for Taunton at the moment are very much smaller than the original dragons and my first impression when I saw them, was “can I take one home?” It will definitely add to the desirability when it comes to auction, if these children’s bears were not too big.

Also I would like to think that I would gain a valuable understanding of different mental health issues, from meeting people who have had these experiences. With this new understanding I would like to look at the possibility of providing an ‘experience’ in an art gallery environment, in a similar way as Yoko Ono did with her glass maze, but using augmented reality. It is not something I know very much about at the moment but would love to explore the possibilities further.

Project Review

I have found this project very satisfying. It has grown and grown, but with that it has produced challenges, which I have enjoyed.

I decided to look at raising awareness of mental health issues through a public art project. Initially I had wanted to create a maze in the shape of a brain, which would represent those times when sometimes we feel a little ‘lost’. The more I looked at mazes and labyrinths the more I wanted to explore an interactive and/or sensory experience. Although I had lots of ideas that would explore this, I was concerned about the logistics of such a project, especially with the concerns regarding vandalism. Also the fact that it was based in the park wasn’t really bringing the awareness to the City centre as I would like.

I then decided that I would like to explore a project similar to the SuperDragons in Newport, Swans in Wells and Gromits in Bristol.

I contacted Wild in Art who were responsible for these projects but they were not very helpful and after contacting them on a number of occasions, I realised that they were not going to help me.

In the meantime I contacted MIND Cymru who were very helpful and advised me on what would be acceptable in a project such as this. They also said that although there was strict protocol in organising events like this, they had people who would welcome being involved.

I also contacted Newport City Council as they had hosted the Super Dragon project in 2010 and 2012. I met with a very helpful lady who gave me a wealth of information. This actually made me realise the magnitude of a project such as this. However it did not put me off!

During the conversation with my contact at Newport City Council she told me that on the second project they used a local artist to produce the dragons.

I also spoke to the manager of Sainsbury’s Newport, (as I used to work there) and he was able to explain that the store can apply to head office for money to sponsor local community events. This would also be the same for the supermarkets in the Cardiff area.

Very recently I was able to meet with the commercial artist responsible for the SuperDragons in 2012, in Newport. It was a very informative meeting, as he is currently working on a dragon project for Taunton, which is due to be launched in the next few weeks. I was able to meet him at his studio and see the process he was using to produce the dragons. However he was very informed about projects such as this and I feel that if I took on this project, he would be a real asset on the team, as he was able to advise on much more than just the production of the sculptures.

I am not as far forward with this project as I would have hoped but there is so much to learn. I had hoped to have a fully prepared proposal to submit for assessment but this was not possible to date. There is so much to consider with all the health and safety guidelines, searches for locations for the art, so they do not impinge on gas and electric supplies etc. Also that access is not restricted when delivering and collecting the sculptures, not to mention all the risk assessments that need to be completed. Consideration also has to be given to who has responsibility for maintenance and repair of the sculptures.

I have learned so much from this project it has been enlightening.

“Waste not, want not”

A saying that my mother always quoted, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the waste wood after the laser cut. I decided to stick it into my sketchbook as a record, but it was too big. So I decided to mount it on a piece of dark green mount board, as a contrast. I liked how it looked so decided to frame it and was thrilled with the result.

I think I would do the same every time with a laser cut as the result is really striking.


I made a Marquette in paper mache to represent a brain sculpture that could be part of my public art project.
The sculptures would actually be produced in fibreglass but this was done as a representation of an idea. My inspiration came from a BBC news article on their website that suggested ‘green spaces have a lasting positive effect on well-being’. I love the park and whether it is walking, cycling or relaxing, it really lifts my mood.
I used a balloon and newspaper to form the structure of the brain, mounted onto a piece of hardboard. Unfortunately the weight of the paper mache meant the structure dipped too low. However when it was dry I used a sharp blade to cut the main structure from the base and tipped it backwards to the correct position and paper mached it into place.

When it was dry I painted it all over in ‘Sand’ acrylic and when this was dry I mixed white with the Sand colour, which I used to highlight the main areas. I wanted to make a connection with my brain and the park life I love. When walking in Cardiff the other day I couldn’t help but notice the daisies in the grassed areas and realised that this was synonymous with the park.

I added green areas into the brain that contained grass and daises to represent the park, painted the base grass green and added two sign posts. Although these were inspired by the ‘Keep off the Grass’ signs we often see in the UK, I wanted to include the signs that were in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney Australia. They actually said ‘ Please walk on the grass’ and ‘ Hug the trees’ – exactly the sort of park I love!

Experimental Piece 2

Again I wanted to experiment with the maze design, but this time as a laser cut from ply board.
I then made a shallow box from pine and MDF, which allowed the laser cut image to sit recessed into the top of the box.

My plan was to grow cress through the gaps in the design, to create my very own living maze. However as ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’ …. it didn’t work! I had problems with the cress seeds germinating properly, so I reverted to Plan B and bought pre-grown cress from the supermarket. I cut them into strips keeping the roots intact and thread it through the gaps. However this still did not work, as the cress was very long and the heads wilted over and there was cress EVERYWHERE!

I did have reservations when I saw the laser cut as the design is quite fine and close together, however I think it still might work if the cress was young and just poking through the gaps. I will try again but disappointingly not in time for assessment!

Experimental Piece 1

I decided to produce a nail and thread picture to display my brain design for a maze. I used a piece of MDF about 600 x 600 mm and painted it in black acrylic paint. When it was dry I attached my design, printed on a large piece of printer paper, to the board with masking tape. I then hammered in panel pins following the lines on the design. This took quite a while and a few hundred pins!! When it was completed I tried to remove the paper…….. not the best idea I have ever had!! The paper is very good quality, the pins are closely spaced and I struggled for days to remove all the paper.

Note to self: Only hammer in a few nails and just mark out the outline with an indentation from the nail, remove paper and then hammer in the rest.

I wound the metallic thread around the nails in sections. This worked quite well but sometimes I would drop the thread under tension and it unravel which was quite frustrating.
Although I had a few issues in making this piece, I am quite pleased with the result. However I would like to experiment further with winding the thread as I think there are different permutations that would give different results. Ultimately I would like to produce a giant thread picture that you could walk through.

Field Presentation and Formative Assessment

Ian had prepared a PowerPoint Presentation using information that the three of us had provided. I gave Ian the artist research information on The Boyle Family and Slinkachu, including some images of their work.

Also I gave him my ideas for taking the project forward if we had more time, which would have been to see the idea for a gallery exhibition realised.

‘I would have liked an area as you entered the gallery to show the routes that we walked, with photographs and scale maps of the routes we took.
Then as you walk through the gallery you would see the central point in the middle of the gallery floor, which represents Howards Gardens (our starting point). On the floor we would have used red tape to represent the routes we walked, moving out from the centre to three of the walls. On these walls we would have a number of boards, created from photographs, illustrations and textures to represent things of interest that we observed as we walked (see our prototype). In addition to the boards on the wall it would be good to see small installations, which hide ‘little secrets’ and the viewer is drawn in to look more closely.
On the fourth wall I would have liked to have seen an experiment of actual site specific representations, mixed with quirky fictional scenes. For example, a mock-up of a drain cover on the floor. However when you peer inside you would see a 3D illustrated shark swimming in the water’.

We had discussed beforehand what order we would have our input into the presentation and although we were a little nervous, it seemed to flow quite well.

I really enjoyed today as it was a great opportunity to see the outcomes of the other groups. There were lots of good ideas and I also enjoyed seeing the methods some of the groups had adopted.

One group in particular had printed images on fabric, which is something I would like to consider for use in my own work in the future.

Although there were many other ideas that I liked my favourite was by the smallest group, which was just two guys. They were looking at the ‘hidden’ technology that we all take for granted. They stripped out an old TV set and built a ‘city’ using coloured LED’s inside where the screen would have been. It was a unique idea that they realised very well.

Field Finished Boards

Final Group Meeting

I met Mylo and Ian this morning and we went to the Maker’s Studio to assemble the boards.

Ian had decided not to use any of his photographs in the final piece, so his eight panels were all sketches from his sketchbook.

I had my four textured panels and four black and white photographs.

Mylo had decided that he wanted to use photographs from his Berlin trip, which he had printed out much smaller than the agreed 8” x 8” on paper.
I expressed my concerns that the project was intended to be the results of our walk in Cardiff and so he really needed to use photos he took in Cardiff, but he was insistent that he wanted to use the Berlin shots. Ian felt the same as me but we had to respect his wishes, but Ian asked him to reprint the photos in the correct size, which he did.

We laid all our panels out and experimented with the layout until we were all happy and then we used PVA glue for the photos, sketches and my textured panels, but Prit stick for Mylo’s photos. (I have had trouble in the past with PVA glue soaking through printer paper and affecting the colour of the photo.)

Mock Field Presentation

Very nervous today, as I would have been happier if I had been able to have a run through with Ian and Mylo about what we are going to say at the mock presentation, but they seem much more laid back about it than me.

In lieu of a practice with the group I have made sure that I have prepared myself as much as possible. I took my sketchbook as I have experimental pieces in there, which should give them an idea of the panels that I will create for the final piece.

As it turned out it was more of a discussion with the tutors about what we intend to for the presentation for the formative assessment.

Ray and James seem quite happy about our project but they asked us to consider where we would like to see the project go, if we had more time to work on it.

Practical Day

We have agreed to have eight panels each that measure 8 x 8 inches. For ease of developing we have agreed to have our black and white photos developed as 10” x 8” and cut down to the chosen size.

Today I de-saturated my four chosen photos to black and white, in Microsoft Picture Manager and saved them to my jump drive. I then took them to Tesco and had them developed.

I also went to B&Q and bought a large piece of hardboard which I cut in half to give us two identical sized panels, to mount our work on.

I also decided what photos (that I had taken on my walk), that I would produce as four textured panels, making sure they were also the correct size.

I have arranged to meet Mylo and Ian next week on the 14th March, to assemble the boards, so I have to ensure my panels are finished by then.