SEVEN get a commission – a collaborative artwork

So, this December the intrepid Kerry Doyland, from Two Tree Gallery, a small space run by a group of Leigh artists, met a woman who wanted a piece of art reimagined. That’s a task for SEVEN Kerry told her. And, that’s how we got our first commission…

Old for new

Our mission – should we choose to accept it – was to rework a piece of art which had been bought in memory of a relative. A kind of collage-inspired work, with a vintage feel, the image featured lots of delicate heart-shapes in very muted tones.

The original piece of work

With that in mind, every SEVEN member was given a section of the original work. Now all we had to do was:

  • Respond to the original artwork in our own unique ways, working on small individual canvases.

The unifying threads were:

  • The heart detail – which the client was keen to retain
  • The colour palette of black, white, grey, yellow and gold

Once completed the small canvases would be framed together to form a complete piece.

Our collaborative creation

And the results were kinda interesting. Amanda told us her figurative take was inspired by the opening credits of her current fave show Vikings – what else!? While Helen looked to some of her enduring themes, like hands and gloves for inspiration:

“It seemed pretty apt to me, evoking ideas of nostalgia and connection,” she said.

Completed commission piece

SEVEN’s work usually centres around the creative process, so it was a real challenge to get together and create a finished piece. The result was something unique and completely unexpected. Is this the start of something new for SEVEN? Will we be taking more commissions in the future? We’ll see…

Why today’s creatives should steal from art history

This art year SEVEN threw out the idea of a unifying theme for our Leigh Art Trail sketchbooks. For 2019 we’d make art books and take inspiration from an artist or art movement we loved.


So far, so interesting. But isn’t that kinda stealing?

Steal like an artist

Have you ever read the Austin Kleon book Steal Like an Artist? If you’re interested in stretching your creative muscles this short book is for you. As Kleon writes:

Every artist gets asked the question:

“Where do you get your ideas from?”

The honest artist answers,”I steal them.”

But shouldn’t art be original?

Well, good luck if you think you can come up with something original in a vacuum. Kleon goes on to say:

What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.

The key is to start now

Don’t get tempted to wait for the muse to strike you with that lightning bolt of inspiration. It’s not going to happen. Stuff happens when you start doing.

As Austin Kleon shares:

“If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I started “being creative,” well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are.”

Remember the Laughing Gnome?

So discovering our own groove is a key reason to look back at the art that inspires us. Even an artistic original like David Bowie took a while to find the kind of music and performing style which suited him.

Before he became the Bowie we know and love he had some famous flops like The Laughing Gnome which was inspired by his then hero Anthony Newley (co-writer of the film score for 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). But Bowie had to do that to discover who he really was.

Keen to explore your creative roots? Austin Kleon advises looking to your own art family tree.

Find out more about Austin Kleon.

In the meantime SEVEN will see where this exploration of our own art family trees takes us…

Half-term Disco Doodling for the Big Draw

If you thought October was all about Halloween or the clocks going back then you’d be wrong. It’s also the month of The Big Draw, a festival which aims to promote:

“visual literacy and the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning, expression and invention.”

Big Draw Festival – SEVEN invitation

Which is why SEVEN found ourselves dancing and doodling with kids and their families at Leigh Community Centre one Friday afternoon during the half term break.

  • Go to the bottom of this post to check out our top tip for doodling alone too!

What is Disco Doodling?

SEVEN believe everyone is creative, we just need to be given the opportunity to explore in a fun and supportive atmosphere. Cue: music.

If you check out artists like Piet Mondrian of Broadway Boogie Woogie fame or James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Nocturnes you’ll see that art and music have long inspired each other.

But for our workshop, we simply asked kids and their families to:

Come draw to the beat of a funky soundtrack and create a giant doodle.”

What happened next?

SEVEN provided a huge roll of paper, an assortment of art materials, and, of course, the music.  While local kids and their families drew anything their imagination – inspired by the music – might conjure.

A simple premise, drawing in this way gets some really interesting results. From the relaxed style to the collaborative nature of working onto one large sheet of paper, drawing to music is an easy and accessible creative technique.

Big Draw Disco Doodle

Do it yourself

What’s more, you don’t have to disco doodle in a group. You can just as easily doodle to music alone.

Simply line up a few of your favourite tracks (think variety: upbeat, melancholy, playful, serious, exotic, old, new, etc) and start playing around on a single sheet of paper or even in your art journal – SEVEN have found pastels are a great medium for doing just this. Happy doodling!

Back to sketchbook school – SEVEN gets a makeover

September marked a new term and some new approaches for SEVEN Collective. Following the Leigh and Southend Art Trails we had a think. Was our sketchbook collective going the way we wanted? Some people reckoned not…

Plus, check out our mind-bending idea-generating tip at the end of this post – it’s pretty out there, see what you make of it!

Gelli printing session at Leigh Community Centre

Time to bin the concertina?

One key area of contention were the sketchbooks themselves. While we were all committed to the journal format, someone asked:

Do the journals have to be concertina in format?”

Then we got on a roll…

Do the books have to be A5?

Why not smaller?

Or bigger?

Then we got really daring…

Couldn’t we just do something altogether different?

New themes

Like what?” some of us said.

Like, choose our own theme under a kind of umbrella heading…

Yes! We could each work with a different colour!

Err, no. What if you got lumped with putrid pink or blah brown?

They had a point.

So we considered taking a favourite book as a starting point. It seemed to go down well. Nods and murmurs of approval all round. Then a small voice confessed:

Words just don’t inspire me.

Hey ho. Back to the drawing board, then…

By jove, I’ve got it! How about a favourite artist or art movement?

YES!” *Whoops and air punches*

And, so it was agreed. Our Leigh Art Trail creative journals for 2019 would be based on the umbrella theme of an artist or art movement, but it was up to us to choose exactly who we’d like to explore…

New journals

No people, we couldn’t let it go at that. Now we might as well go the whole nine yards.  While we were branching out on themes, couldn’t we just, like, make our own books from scratch?

Yep, that’s right. Make our own unique journals. From. Scratch. What could possibly go wrong?! Watch this space…

New ideas

And, to get us into the back-to-sketchbook-school swing we decided to play around with some idea-generating prompts courtesy of musician Brian Eno.

Eno’s Oblique Strategies were introduced to us by artist Heidi Wigmore when we attended her creative journaling classes back in the day. Now, we were turning to them as a suitably mind-blowing way to get our SEVEN creative juices flowing for the new project ahead.

Check out the Oblique Strategies generator for gems like: ‘Mechanicalize something idiosyncratic’

I know! Right!?

Just where will all these new ideas take SEVEN, our creative journals, and you?

Installation at the Station goes on a mini tour to sunny Southend

Southend Art Trail 2018 at the Royal Hotel

Hot on the heels of the Leigh Art Trail, we decided to take the plunge and show our large-scale, timetable-inspired images, from Installation at the Station, at the Southend Art Trail too.

In contrast to Leigh’s more arty, community vibe, the Southend Art Trail seemed a bit more impersonal. Whereas artists are often encouraged to hang out at their LAT venues, the Southend Trail didn’t really demand that – after all the work was on show for a whole month. But ultimately all this left us with some questions…

About Southend Art Trail

Southend Art Trail is a free event that provides a democratic platform for local artists, using the High Street to exhibit their work. …From artists who have never shown before to seasoned exhibitors, around 40 artists will be displaying amazing artwork in town centre businesses. – Visit Southend

The Royal Hotel

Exhibition at the Royal Hotel

Our venue was the plush Royal Hotel, overlooking the Estuary, the pier and Adventure Island. In contrast to the tall, white walls of the waiting room the hotel walls here were packed with vintage-inspired, quirky prints.

Our exhibition pieces blended in with the existing artwork on the walls

Fortunately for us, SEVEN’s eclectic style and the wide range of themes already featured on the walls of the restaurant and bar, meant that after some careful scouting we were able to find the perfect place in which to showcase each piece.

Final Destination?

As tempting as it might have been to hang around the Royal Hotel bar, those who tried it didn’t find it all that fruitful. So unfortunately, we didn’t get to find out what people thought about our timetable-themed show. Which left us wondering.

Royal Hotel bar area

Did Southend Art Trail visitors find us without a trail sign to help them? Once, inside did people even know the difference between our SEVEN creations and the pub images? Did it matter? Who knows!? But one of Kerry’s pieces went walkies, so someone surely liked them…