Assignment four, A Calendar, the submission

Cover option 1

Cover option 1

Cover option 2

Cover option 2

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

Inside image

After some deliberation (and more to come) here are the final images for the calendar, assignment four. I still have to decide which cover photo to use, I had initially decided on the hands but had, in my mind, the arms reaching up – which would have been fine for a portrait format – so I started to work a new version. I shall discuss all the images as part of the submission.


I was asked by Artscape to document the Measurers project which started in September and ended late December, this body of work will also inform assignment five, but I chose to select some of the work for a calendar. The assignment brief suggests researching a company and creating a ‘product’ that I can relate to. I discussed this with my tutor and jointly we agreed that I would try and create a calendar that would help to raise awareness of the ‘Echoes Group’, a project that is supported by Artscape – which is itself a charitable organisation providing arts-based therapy and support within the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trusts where I have a contract as a volunteer.

The project that I have been working on with the Group revolves, amongst other things, around the schoolchildren and ‘Users’ of the Echoes Group creating models of inventors who have developed things that each artist would like, supplementing these creations with Haiku verses that broadened the depth of the artworks which ended up in an exhibition at the Oxford University History of Science Museum in Broad Street, Oxford and open to public view. The project was supported in the main by BBC’s Children in Need. I think it was a great project both in terms of outcome for the participants old and young and from my perspective as a burgeoning artist in the community.

Aesthetics etc.

Overall the tones selected for all the images are warm, I deliberately chose to keep the image tones warm and as light as possible, this was difficult on occasions as the available light in the Fusion Arts centre was sometimes quite low – although that helped with providing softer light, the film speed was generally close to or higher than iso1000 with apertures typically around f5.6 or wider. I used only two lenses and one camera for consistency and over the three months probably more than a thousand images (I was aware that I would need images for the next assignment as well!).

Artscape has no logo, it is a small entity and operates only locally, having no great world domination plans, so the typescript choice stems from wanting to provide clear and unambiguous messaging. Fusion Arts and Children in Need logos were taken from their respective web domains – these decisions are similar for option two as well.

I chose texts from various sources to accompany the images and hopefully to both inform and engage, the text colours were taken from the images, I appreciate that this is a risky strategy as the viewer might connote other meanings from the apparent randomness of the colours, however I am hoping that they might be viewed as being sympathetic to the image content and more so if the textual colourings had an anchor in the image.

Cover option 1:

This shot emanates from a desire to try a convey some depth to the work being created. It is a close up of some painting that one of the users was undertaking (a picture of Isembard Brunel) to be used on a print, so the ink was quite thickly applied, I wanted to depict the depth of the ink as a layer in how this image was being created. The focus of the image is I feel on the ink though it is obvious that it is part of a wider image and I want the viewer to inspect the image enabling the text to be considered as part of that viewing.

Cover option 2:

Initially these arms were held at forty five degrees and I ‘saw’ them depicted in an aspirational perspective upright, sublimating the artwork and tool along with it. However the editing process had the perspective in landscape and the only way to incorporate the image is to flip and rotate to this perspective. It is maybe because I had the image fixed as upright that I am unsure of this choice – I will ‘sit on it’ for a short while before deciding which cover shot to use. If I had the ability to have a back cover then I think it would definitely make the cut.

Inside image 1:

Both of these two images suggest engagement. The left hand shot expressed a nurturing sentiment, the artist was shredding paper to make a ‘nest’ and gladly posed for this shot which I envisaged would suggest a caring subtext. The opposite image has a mix of youth and age, old and new and whilst the boy is facing away it is to older people and I think there is a comforting feel about his pose, helped by the ‘jaunty’ feather behind his ear. Feathers were used as markers and writing tools in the craft processes which again pulls some seams together in my view.

Inside image 2:

The boy on the left of the image is masked by his own hands, this provides two functions, firstly to anonymise the artist – important even though the necessary forms for consent have been signed and my Barring Service Check (formerly CRB) have been awarded earlier in the year. The secondary and perhaps more important purpose of the pose is to point to the work, to show the focus of the artist on the work, the narrow depth of field helps to accentuate this. The accompanying image, whilst toning well with also denotes growth and development. This model (of an island of dreams) was made by another user of the Group, but it’s accent on nurture again helps to promote the notion of investment in people.

Inside image 3:

The young girl is depicted happy and content in her creative self, her pleasant disposition is important to the character of the calendar and the image from the University Museum of the History of Science was chosen to suggest both the precision of engineering – hence underlying the measurers concept which was part of the project, but also the sense of two things coming together.

Inside image 4:

Two images from the printing section of the project. The one on the left is an oblique shot of some trees, I purposely made this picture to emphasise the notion of growth, trees are often used for this graphic purpose. It was curious that the artist decided not to create a print positive but to paint with the inks directly onto the final paper, a very positive and determined move on his part. The other image is about joy. The joy of creation and about about the joy of informing. The users were often asked to describe the work they were creating and this artist had been trying to print multi-layered images, and whilst I think he was very successful he wasn’t too impressed by his results. The image ‘roll’ towards one another which also helps the eye.

Inside image 5:

Isenbard Brunel again, with some plans tucked under his arm, cropped and marching out of the frame on some purposeful mission to meet the foursome on the other image. This other image is about inclusion, old and young and in between all working together on the project; there maybe a suggestion that the group is discussing Mr. Brunel, I am unconcerned about that (they weren’t in fact, they were discussing a Dutch painting), but their concentration  and engagement is I think, palpable and depicts the Group’s value to the community very well.

Inside image 6:

Again, another image about nurture and care. The mushroom has been created by one of the users – it was titled a “magic mushroom” and if you managed to sit under it you could wish for better things. The background is a book of Haiku poems that was brought by the lead artist as inspiration and the organic feel of the out of focus cover seems to harmonise quite well. The opposite picture seems to echo the mushroom’s pose quite well I think and they seem to blend quite well in a nurturing and caring atmosphere.


I have really enjoyed my work at the Echoes Group, I had wondered whether I would still be involved post the summer break, but I’m very glad to have been asked to continue with them and, I hope, for the foreseeable future. Advertising is a notion that is fully immersed in the world of commerce, something I know an awful lot about from my career, about how to ‘shift’ people around, to nudge, move or push them into places they either didn’t know about or were decidedly against. Commerce and business isn’t a gentle place. I have been in many meetings where the decisions to implement plans to ‘deliver’ stuff to a market have been backed up with the marketing department’s input, story boarding, ad’ stories, targets etc. It may have been a cottage industry in the ‘Mad-men’ days, today it is an industrial process along with many other processes which are measured in margin gain or loss, cost loadings and direct overhead (that’s workers in ordinary speech) impact (that’s redundancies in ordinary speech). Advertising is just another another process to be reviewed on it’s effectiveness in one board (bored) meeting after another that I’ve attended over many years and it was from that that I wanted to travel as far away from as I could. The tactical marketing department’s function is no worse than any other in business it’s just that I have no desire to re-connect with that function nor to it’s concomitant associates in industry or commerce. I hope to continue my work with the Echoes group and I hope to broaden the scope of my interest within the broader spectrum of Artscape involvements.

As to this project I hope I have achieved the outcomes I set out to deliver. I wanted to depict an aspect of the NHS that many might not be aware of, the integration of people’s that many might fear to be at large in the community – those with mental health problems and children with learning difficulties being represented as more than capable individuals. The ‘loony-bin’ is now, largely through cost reasons, a thing of the past, but people with mental health issues are, in an time when life expectancies are lengthening, on the increase. Integration is how society is being informed these individuals are to be dealt with and I wanted to show, in these few images, that these people have a value, have a place and have a contribution to make. I was pleased to see that BBC Children in need had funded this cross population project, three inner city schools (all from deprived areas in Oxford) and the Echoes Group being brought together with the purpose of creating something new was something I hope I have depicted. The concept of exhibiting user/artist and a piece of work on each sheet helped that process in my view. I tried not to portray any of the creators in a helpless or forlorn way, these people were bright, intelligent and focussed on producing work to their best ability and I didn’t want to let them down, which to me was the overriding objective with my capability of achieving the brief secondary to that task.

I know I could have projected a sadder, lost, hopeless set of images, I inadvertently made a few – which I think has been a good learning exercise – along the way, so I am aware that the underlying narrative is as malleable as the narrator decides and my bias, my convictions underscore the story I have decided to tell, so if I was to improve it would be to amplify the connotative strength of the imagery, which I am also aware is a dangerous device. Maybe a greater sense of detachment, less involvement might improve the documentary value of the piece, but this was a calendar to promote awareness? Or to be more professional about it, as my previous tutor on this course might have suggested – get in quick, get deep and get the the job done. A professional.

A note to end with. It has been agreed to exhibit this work at the Fusion Arts Centre and then afterwards at the permanent artspace at the Warneford Hospital (where I have some previous work on show). I am slightly troubled by this, not overly so, but by agreeing to participate with my work I wonder if any notoriety I may gain from having my work of them on a gallery wall will, to a certain extent, exploit the users. It is something to ponder over.

It is finished now except for the printing, proofing, one decision on the cover and shipping off to my tutor


4 thoughts on “Assignment four, A Calendar, the submission

  1. John,

    I think this is an outstanding end product to the project, at least as far as it is an end from the OCA perspective anyway – it creates a real feeling of hope. I’m glad that you are able to continue. It would be interesting to see what you created for the inadvertent sad/lost/hopeless images?

    The cover shot for me has to be the first – it captured my attention as its not immediately clear what it is, and you have the text to lead the viewer anyway. The second image is obviously (to me) saying ‘this is about art’ with the clay, pencil and drawing but I thought worked less well as a cover. It will be interesting to see what you end up with.

    As a GWR steam fan I’m always pleased to see Isambard Brunel crop up and I especially like the way the figure with the plans connects with the group on the right.

    • You are very kind Dave, and thanks for the comments. I’m glad you sensed some optimism here, I always feel somewhat inspired after each meeting – learning from both the visiting artist and the users.
      I’ll perhaps bring the ‘other’ images to a TV meeting in the future – I can’t make the next one.

  2. It’s a wonderful completion for this particular project itself and what comes through to me strongly is the care you’ve taken. I don’t think that a greater sense of detachment would improve the documentary value if you take the point of view that documentary is rarely impartial. You have chosen to focus on the hope that still can remain and that sufferers are still people with abilities, hopes and dreams. Of course you could have shown the negative side and, like Dave, I would have been interested to see those shots.
    I actually prefer Cover version 2 because, to me it fits with hope, purpose and the colour tones of the other images. The henna (?) tattoo really captured my attention and, if it was going to be an actual calendar for sale, it would draw me towards it.
    I was very interested to read your reflections on marketing. Yes – I know that you have strong views about this but, on the other hand, your experience has been used towards very positive aims so why not make use of it in this much more humanistic sense.

  3. Thanks Catherine for taking the time to comment. As I replied to Dave I may bring out some other images to depict another perspective.
    Helen’s tattoo is permanent, not a ‘henna’, I think she would be pleased with your reaction; interesting that you chose a different cover shot to Dave. As for marketing I’m not overly concerned as very few people will ever see the work.

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