Graphic Grey

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Materials and Making Workshop Published on Design Wales Forum

In September of this year I was asked to run some workshops for post-grad Architecture students at Cardiff University.

These workshops were to encourage the students to spend some time engaged in hands-on creative activities, as an antidote to all the time they spend working on computer screens. It was also about translating 3 dimensions into 2D and then back again into 3D.

This was an interactive programme about handling materials and losing inhibitions. It consisted of drawing and 3D making using a variety of materials and methods. The aim was to free students up to use materials and processes intuitively without thinking too much. Students can become precious and perfectionist and perhaps have a fear of experimentation and of getting things 'wrong'. So I devised exercises to force the students to work quickly and with unusual materials which perhaps didn't behave in the ways they anticipated...

You can read more about this project on the Design Wales Forum blog here.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Arts and Science in Education: Talk Science Seminar at London Science Museum

I was invited by the Science Museum to give a talk on my arts-science crossover projects to a selection of scientists, museum educators and teachers. Well I gave my talk yesterday at the Talk Science seminar, and thought I'd give you a flavour of it here... 

I’m a fine artist, primarily a painter, and I’m also an arts educator working with schools, communities and running corporate training for businesses such as  

My interest in science has grown from my painting practice where I became fascinated by working with transparent glazes. Over the years this evolved into experimenting with resins, and this year, I received an Arts Council grant to run a science-art crossover project to explore the potential of industrial resins as painting materials. This culminated when I found a industrial polymer chemist willing to assist me; he would come to my studio and I would learn the procedural rules from him, and then proceed to ignore them as I was keen to explore artistic potential discovered through accidents.

Frequently my experiments would fail dismally, but at last I was able to create a body of work to exhibit at Llantarnam Grange. This exhibition received the highest number of visitors at the venue for 5 years, proving just how popular such science-art collaborative projects are. Plus I participated in a live internet discussion with the polymer chemist, live radio and gave a number of talks about the work. The whole project opened my eyes to the potential of science within arts and made me see how effective the arts are to opening the door to science access for all.

So this is one of the reasons why I began to look at science through my arts education workshops.

I'm going to give you an example of one such project working with National Museum Wales, Cardiff. The project was called 'Just Bling?'; the brief was to design a workshop programme to introduce participants to the museum and it's collections, and to the theme of 'bling'. What is 'bling'? Is everything in the musem 'bling'? Why? Participants would then be asked to create their own visual response for exhibition at the end of the project.

Participating groups were young people aged from 10-16, mostly from ethnic minority backgrounds, and young Muslim mothers.

My initial challenge was to get participants comfortable with the idea of visiting the museum, engaging with the collections, and spending time within the museum environment. To facilitate this I organised a series of tours around various collections run by expert museum staff.

The collections I selected for each group to look at contained common ideas in order to guide the group’s making activities in a rough direction. Although the making was child/participant-led, I was keen to encourage an overall theme to make the project and final exhibition cohesive. So for the first tour I arranged for a visit to the Natural History collection to look at beetles and insects, and learn about their protective colourful shells, and also the colours and camouflage of sea-life. This also included a specimen- handling session. The same group’s second tour was around the Tudor Portrait collection, specifically looking at the costumes worn, their symbolism and meaning, and linking these back to what we had already seen in the natural world (protection, camouflage, attraction, warning, status).
Following each tour I held a short taster session within the museum where participants could try their hand at learning an art/craft skill linked to what they had seen in the museum that day. These were aimed at encouraging the participants to attend further sessions, and also teaching them a technique which they could use later on in the project.
Creative making sessions took place in both the museum and community venues. My role was not to direct the participants in what to make, but rather to provide the practical skills and knowledge to help them turn their ideas and sketches into reality. And they made some amazing work!
The young people ended up creating a collection of wearable art pieces inspired by their Natural History and Tudor Portraits tours. This included Tudor-style armour camouflaged to look like a beetle’s shell, wire and netting butterfly wings, and a skirt made from netting (similar to a Tudor neck ruff), shaped like a jellyfish, and covered with ‘eye’ spots such as fish and insects use to scare off predators.
The outcome of the project was that all artefacts made were exhibited in the National Museum alongside the pieces from the museum collections which had provided the inspiration, and the participants own written interpretation of the project.
We held an exhibition opening party for the community groups, and the show was also open to the public, providing the participants with validation for their work.
Feedback was excellent, with many participants continuing to visit the museum long after the project had finished. This includes those who had never set foot inside the museum prior to 'Just Bling?', so the goal of using the arts to widen museum access was more than achieved.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Battersea Affordable Art Fair

Had a great time at Battersea Affordable Art Fair last weekend, showing work through Panter and Hall gallery. The fair was buzzing, and felt so,so positive with sales being made all round. Thanks so much to Matthew and Tiffany for making it all possible for me.

Whilst in London I also popped in to Liberty to see my scarf design for Richard Weston on sale.


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Ali Baba and the Container of Curiosities

When I was little I used to love the tale from the One Thousand and One Nights about Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Ali Baba and his brother were the sons of a poor woodcutter. One day Ali Baba is at work collecting firewood in the forest, and he overheasr a group of forty thieves visiting their treasure store. The treasure is in a cave, the mouth of which is sealed by magic. It opens on the words "open sesame" and seals itself on the words "Close Sesame". When the thieves are gone, Ali Baba enters the cave himself, and takes some of the treasure home.

I always hoped that if I spoke the same magical words and closed my eyes, somewhere some secret doors would open to reveal a cave of wonder. A place filled with sparkling jewels, silks and riches. But (surprisingly!) it never happened.

However, last week I came as close as possible to finally seeing such a place for myself. I was one of the lucky, privileged few to be invited to the preview of Richard Weston's Container of Curiosities in Cardiff. Housed in a shipping container (very apt- who can tell what wonders that container may have once transported?), Richard's idea grew from the Renaissance Cabinet of Curiosities. Wikipedia describes this as:

" encyclopedic collection of types of objects whose categorial boundaries were yet to be defined... Modern terminology would categorise the objects as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics (including cabinet paintings) and antiquities. ...[The Cabinet of Curiosities] was regarded as a microcosm or theatre of the world, and a memory theatre... [It] conveyed symbolically the patron's control of the world through it's indoor, microscopic reproduction."

This, indeed, sums up Richard's Container. It's truly magical, containing a plethora of his inspirational objects; from fossils to rock crystals; from flying fish to bangles; from umbrellas to paintings. Indeed a microcosm of Richard's world. Furnishings and artefacts are all inspired by the macro images of rocks, fossils and minerals for which Richard is so well known, combining to form a cave-like place of wonder; a showcase for Richard's inspiration and designs.

The floor is carpeted by a silken river, rushing around 'rock' cushions, the 'waves' taken from the forms found in close-up images of crystals. One wall is filled with glowing light boxes, encasing a collection of jewel-like crystals and rocks: Richard's muses. Beneath, there are drawers filled with further marvellous objects to delight the viewer, and overhead hangs a mineral sky, populated by multicoloured flying fish.

And... (a shameless bit of self-promotion here!) at the far end, the viewer's eye is drawn to my portrait of Richard, painted upon one of his unique printed silk fabrics (as featured in this photo). Such a pleasure for me to see my work presented in these unique and illustrious surroundings!

Now, step a little nearer... The exquisite, intricate qualities of natural objects become extraordinary when viewed up close. Fissures and patterns is in rocks become landscapes... 

Copyright Weston Earth Images

Dendrites become trees...
Copyright Weston Earth Images

I have recently been introduced to the photos of Orest Macina, and these too capture the magic of the natural world in macro. Familiar forms become unrecognisable and abstract when seen out of context and on a different scale; magnified they take on a whole new magnificence.

Orest Macina
Advances in technology have certainly helped us to appreciate these beauties, but artists have been inspired by microcosms for longer than we may imagine. For example, the 19th Century German biologist, naturalist and artist Ernst Haeckel described and published artwork of over 100 detailed, multicoloured illustrations of animals and sea creatures, drawn in the most incredible detail.

Ernst Haeckel
It's amazing what can be discovered when you take the time to truly look at something instead of the cursory glances we usually rely on to take in our surroundings. I think that what I've learnt is that as an artist I don't need to look very far for boundless sources of inspiration. Richard Weston has pursued his passion to the nth degree and created an experience of wonder; a unique vision such as I had only dreamed of as a child, and that is what I love (for in my own practice I strive to create aesthetically beautiful objects that have never been made, or even imagined before).

The Container of Curiosities opened its doors for the first time to the great and the good of Cardiff... namely a lucky class from Albany Road Primary School...

Admission is by invitation only, or the magic words... (open sesame)...

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Progress of a Painting

I work in layers... here's how a painting progresses and develops during its life.

The portrait is one commissioned by Richard Weston and painted upon one of his silk fabrics.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Portrait Commission for Richard Weston

I was honoured to receive a portrait commission from the great professor himself, Richard Weston.

It's painted on some of his mineral-printed silk to dramatic effect. Very pleased with the result.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Beautiful Butterflies

Hand painted on Richard Weston's silk scarves for Liberty.

Exhibitions Opening This Week

Gallery in the Square, Usk

Come along to see some new figurative work this Friday 3rd Aug between 6-9pm.
Gallery in the Square, The Old Chapel, Twyn Square, Usk.
Exhibition runs until 8th September 2012.

Vale of Glamorgan National Eisteddfod

I will be showing with project/ten and Fibre Art Wales, 4-11 August 2012.
National Eisteddfod, The Old Airfield, Llandow, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan CF71 7PB.

Friday, 20 July 2012

New Works on Paper for the Eisteddfod

Between Words
Charcoal, Pigment and Fibre Glass Fibres in Flexible Resin

Cadmium 2
Graphite and Resin on Silicone Paper
Off-White Mount; Unframed
Violet 2
Graphite and Resin on Silicone Paper
Off-White Mount; Unframed

Resin Scarf for Liberty, London

If you've been reading my Tweets, you may have heard that a scan taken from one of my resin pieces has been chosen by the fashion house Liberty as a design for a silk scarf. I have been working with Richard Weston who already produces the most beautiful designs for Liberty scarves, all based on scans taken from mineral rocks such as quartz and fluorite, but this foray into the world of man-made materials is something new.

Copyright Weston Earth Images Ltd
What's amazing though is the similarity between the patterns found in natural materials, and the patterns in man-made (resin) when viewed up close. Take a look at the pictures of my scarf and see for yourself.

The scarf will be on sale soon at the Liberty store on Regent Street, London and also online.
Resin Scarf
Copyright Weston Earth Images Ltd

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Resin Work for Mission Gallery

Mission Gallery and Jamie Hill have partnered to provide an opportunity for the professional development of individuals looking for curatorial experience. My resin work has been selected for exhibition in July to be presented at Jamie Hill Salon, Swansea Marina.
Flexible Resin, Varnish and Pigment on Vintage Fabric
Please take a look at the exhibition catalogue featuring my work plus the work of the other exhibiting artists: Catherine Brown, Ceri Evans and Deirdre Finnerty.

Graphite and Resin on Silicone Paper

Graphite and Resin on Silicone Paper

Tuesday, 19 June 2012 Birthday Commission

Two hundred portraits unveiled in's 10th Anniversary Commission!

The new artwork to celebrate's 10th birthday by artist Ruth McLees was unveiled in the National Museum Wales at a lavish birthday party.

Commissioned by Cardiff- based price comparison experts, the 4ft x 6ft painting portrays all of the company's 168 current staff and imagery from ads from the past 10 years. Arranged in a grid, the faces are painted in McLees' trademark tonal style upon a blue textile to match's corporate colours. From a distance the canvas appears to be pixelated with varying shades of blue, but upon coming closer the individual faces with intricately painted features are revealed.

Ruth McLees said, “It was an honour to be asked to paint a commission to celebrate the success of this Cardiff-based company. It was also an enormous challenge: I am used to painting portrait commissions, but never before have I painted so many faces in just one artwork. I can’t wait to see the expressions of the staff when it’s unveiled and they spot their own immortalized face!”

Andrew Viazzani, Head of HR at said, “We were thrilled to be working with an artist of Ruth's calibre, and were over the moon with her finished picture.  It perfectly encapsulates the family feeling of into a stunning piece of art. It portrays all the people that make our business such a great success."

The staff search for their portraits on the artwork

 The painting is now on permanent display in's new offices in Cardiff City Centre.

Each member of staff was also given a beautiful framed print of the painting as a momento of the occasion.

Corporate artworks can be commisioned to suit any business or occasion. Please contact Ruth for further details.