Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Butterfly: A Prism Arts Studio Arts Exhibition at Penrith Library

Following on from their very successful Gallery Trail at Tullie House my Studio Arts group at Prism Arts have been creating work around the theme of butterflies. We've been encouraging the participants to start developing their own practice and follow their particular interests within the visual arts whilst still working as part of a group. As part of supporting them to develop their personal practices we've been looking at the whole business of being an artist; from generating ideas, researching and developing those ideas through to making work and exhibiting.

Sketching from collections

Developing ideas

Developing characters

Alongside encouraging the participants to develop their own styles and ways of working I like to include regular skills workshops to offer new opportunities and possibilities for the participants. For example, on this project I ran a sketchbook making session as I think sketchbooks are a really useful and important tool and can also be works of art in themselves. This workshop led to two of the participants creating hand made books for the exhibition. Running workshops like this is also a good chance for myself and the other professional artists who work on the project to brush up our skills, share favourite techniques and sometimes try something new.

Composition workshop using photocopies

Sketchbook workshop

Sketchbook workshop

Part of our research for this project was visiting the Butterfly and Moth collection at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery and a trip to Cumbria Wildlife Trust's Eycott Hill nature Reserve. This provided an opportunity to get some in depth knowledge of our subject and provided some good drawing opportunities. In my personal practice everything starts with drawing and it's something we encourage our participants to do as well. Drawing is a really useful tool for recording, generating and exploring ideas as well as a means of creation in itself.




One of the things I love about working in participatory arts is everyone's different approaches. I find it endlessly fascinating that from the same starting points and with the same resources each individual will create something totally different. It's also interesting seeing peoples differing approaches; some people have an idea and jump straight in without any apparent planning whilst others like to make meticulous plans and try out every possible permutation before fixing on an idea. Each approach has it's benefits and we try and encourage an approach that balances both extremes. Spontaneity is good but so is planning and experimentation!




Over the course of the project each of the participants developed their pieces in their own ways. I then spent a very warm morning at Penrith Library installing the work. This part is always quite stressful as you never quite know how it's going to go and whether all the pieces will work together. I'm really pleased with how the exhibition has come together, despite being so different I think the individual pieces work well together as a whole and as I was installing lots of people commented on how interesting and cheerful the work is.

Detail of handmade book: Butterfly Story

Detail of Imperial Tiger Scroll

Detail of The Butterfly

All the staff at the library have been really helpful and supportive (and make an excellent cup of tea) and I think it's really good for Studio Arts to have their work on show in different places as it helps us challenge people's preconceptions about what they can do and raises awareness of their work. It also fits in well with Penrith Library's Summer Reading challenge; this year's theme is Animal Agents so it's a win win! The work will be on show until 12th September so if you're in Penrith please do pop in and have a look.

Detail of Butterfly

Detail of Butterflies in the Breeze