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…

LAT 2018 – sketchbooks, secret auctions & giant timetables

LAT 2018 exhibition at Planet Leasing

One of the great things about being part of a creative group, like SEVEN, is sharing the very different artworks we each create, despite beginning with similar materials or themes. Which is why, for Leigh Art Trail 2018 we found ourselves in the waiting room at Leigh-on-Sea railway station grappling with vintage timetables and command strips…

Installation at the Station

Installation at Leigh-on-Sea station

Yep, in addition to our usual sketchbook work, for LAT 2018 we also created large-scale images using vintage train timetables as our prompt.

Dubbed the Installation at Leigh Station (Amanda thought of that!) the exhibition explored how a single creative starting point could develop into seven unique and unexpected destinations.

Each one of us took two timetables – arrival and departure – and did our individual thing. From Kerry’s fun and frivolous Ladies in Waiting to Juliet’s evacuee-inspired pieces, the results couldn’t have been more diverse.

A real departure from our book format, the large-scale poster-style images we created for the waiting room were mounted around the tall, white space, allowing visitors to view the resulting images in an altogether different way.

Exploring Estuarine

Concertina sketchbook – LAT 2018

In contrast, our creative sketchbook show at Planet Leasing kept to the A5 concertina style, which meant Trailers could get up close and have a good look at our explorations.

Estuarine: a word which sums up the ever shifting nature of the local coastline, part sea, part river, part land.

SEVEN Take On the Secret Auction

Secret Auction bid cards

In other news, SEVEN’s reputation for getting stuff done saw us get a bit more involved behind the scenes at Leigh Art Trail. This year, in addition to our creative sketchbooks and the Installation at the Station, we also helped organise the Secret Auction.

As a non-profit organisation Leigh Art Trail largely relies on members fees, commissions and proceeds from events like the Secret Auction to raise money and ensure the event happens. And that’s without even mentioning all the volunteers who donate their time (and much more) to the Trail – which just goes to show the power of groups, eh!?

Preview evening invitation – Leigh Art Trail 2018

SEVEN is having a preview evening on Friday 8 June from 6pm-8pm at Venue 49.  We’d like to invite you to join us and take a look through our books, which this year have an estuarine theme.

There will be a selection of venues also open on the evening, so you can meet other artists and enjoy a mini preview trail with a few drinks and nibbles.