Tuesday, 7 March 2017

What do we want? When do we want it?

I went to a lecture by Chris Packham, naturalist, television presenter and visiting lecturer at the University of Lincoln.
He said that when you graduate, you are at the pinnacle of your field, the trick is, to keep going with that afterwards.
He went at his chosen career at a slightly unusual angle.

And afterwards, I thought about this. 
If I was paid according to my Artists' Day Rate since I graduated from University - my University degree being enough to confer my status as an an artist worthy of an income, never mind the work I was at that time trying to continue with, then the total amount I should've been paid is approximately £124,800 over the past 8 years.

Not whatever it is that the DWP say "the law states you need to live on" plus the odd occasional extra payment and arts council grant rejections / cuts.
I hope that when the Tories go, I get all the money I'm owed back so I can buy a proper house.

And if I'm forced to rely on benefits - which I'd rather not - then "what the law states you need to live on" is an illegally low amount, and if the DWP try to take it away without notice, I'm calling the police.

Universal Basic Income.
The arts world seems to be a big supporter of this concept, and I agree with it. But I would still rather be paid at my Artists' Day Rate for my work, not the rate of benefits, or UBI.

UBI would be better than the current welfare system of failing to recognise graduate fine artists as working, and forcing us to take on other jobs that less qualified people or robots could be doing instead, or working minimum wage jobs to keep the DWP from our door, but it isn't as good as just paying artists to do what we do, at the rate we have worked out we should be earning for ourselves.

My zero hours contract job.

This week, I will have to take time out from Peace Painting or any art practice to go and do work in a zero hours contract job.
When I took it on, I was totally disillusioned by the art world and its failures.
I was looking for a part time job, for two days per week, that would pay me well enough not to have to rely on benefits.

This work was suggested as something I could do.
In reality, I'm lucky if I get 2 days work per month.
It isn't enough to stop me relying on benefits, and I'm still looking for that kind of work.
Ideally, if I were to do 2 days Peace Painting workshops per week, doing the work that I spent 3 years at University training to do, and all the experience I've gained since, paid at my Artists' Day Rate, then I would be able to do that and still have time for my own practice.

Carer's Allowance

I have absolutely no intention to give up my work as an artist and claim Carer's Allowance. 
It is too low an income to live on, and it wasn't my career choice.
I do not expect some Nurse Ratched type person to declare that I don't care for my son, or be persecuted or punished any more by the lack of social care, lack of respite, and general neglect of either myself or my son's needs.

Carer's Allowance should be covered by UBI or paid according to the wage of the profession a Carer has been forced to give up due to a family member becoming ill.
Or it should be paid in addition to an existing wage to cover the cost of taking time out for caring responsibilities. 
Either way, it should not be a replacement for other income that has been stolen or taken away because of the criteria for Carer's Allowance.
Carers should not be financially abused or neglected in that way.

I am posting these thoughts because the current government have not asked me whatI think, or what I want, they just keep imposing austerity upon me and others against our wishes, and I wanted to make it very clear what we want. And we want it backdating to the time that all of this was stolen from us. Our rights, our livelihoods - we want it all back now.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Peace Painting - #O

The second Peace Painting is inspired by thoughts that emerged from the Peace Painting workshops at Priory Witham Academy.
Concepts of trees, wish trees combine with images of doves - most people when they think of peace, just paint a dove, but I witnessed an entire murmuration of starlings recently, so the idea of the tree as a dovecote became the basic concept for this work.



The composition takes the form of a snow globe, with the tree as the land and the sea of the world populated by the flock of white peace doves.
On top of the earth sits Bana Alabed, feeding the doves with stardust, as every girl's wish for peace and world peace.

detail - Bana Alabed sits atop the world feeding stardust to peace doves
It's still a work in progress. 

copyright Helen Dearnley Fine Art 2017



This Woman's Work

This week I will be having my time taken up / wasted / abused by unpaid responsibilities as a carer.
Following last years' ESA kerfuffle, we worked out that my son should be entitled to PIP to support his anxiety and depression. 
It has taken some time to sort out my own finances owing to the fact that I mostly exist on Working Tax Credits, which are never enough to quite cover all my expenses. The workshops I did covered some outstanding debts - the cost of moving to Lincoln as a single parent to do my degree in the first place - that has finally been paid off, along with my ever-increasing overdraft.
It could've been paid off last year if Portrait of Ian Duncan Smith With Bandaged Nose had sold, but apparently not.

So now we're preparing to apply for PIP, and we have the form ready, I was advised by Citizen's Advice, that they can help with filling out the form.
I managed to get an appointment with them, but it's a very inconvenient one.
Firstly, suffering with depression, my son has mostly been sleeping in until teatime most days.
The appointment is for 10.15a.m.
Secondly, this is within my work hours, and as my artists' day rate is approximately £60 per hour, or approximately £300 per day, wand it's likely to be 2 hours long, that's £120 the CAB or the DWP are not paying me for that time. 
I'm paid £92 per week in WTC.
When I did the Peace Painting workshop, I was paid £150 for 1 hour.

I have been trying to have someone else fill out the form, as I'm not paid enough to do it, and it isn't my job to fill out forms all day long, but they are trying to trick me into doing it for free. They do this by not by not paying me for my time. I still had to attend the appointment, so even if I sit there for an hour doing nothing, that's still my time that is not doing other work or being paid for, except for benefits, and when you're sat waiting for a while, you start to think about this, and you realise that if you make art and expect to be paid for it, you're treated like a mental patient. If you're a mental patient and make art, then you'd probably be classed as "working" and therefore not entitled to ESA etc, or you are being expected to make work for benefits, which you shouldn't be doing, otherwise you'd be paid a proper wage, and it's effectively slavery.

Compare and contrast.
It is not voluntary work, because I do not choose to do it for free. If I had a choice, I would be paid according to my artists' day rate for my time.

Tempted to invoice the DWP.

Worse than that, this is another problem we have to face

Things I'm not applying for 2.

I've received an invitation to submit work for this year's IMH exhibition, but I will not be producing or submitting anything for it without payment. I learned that lesson, and am not repeating the mistake again.
It brings out the Nurse Ratched in me, and that's not a good thing.....!


Let's break down this "opportunity".

Postcard shows seem to be a popular way for arts orgs to circumvent paying artists at all, and excuse not doing so by exhibiting outside gallery spaces "to raise money for a cause".
There is no evidence to suggest that any of the costs are passed back to the artists participating, who apparently are so kind to donate work to be exhibited. 
Kindness and praise does not pay bills, as I've discovered. What does pay bills, is weirdly, artists being paid for work.

The opportunity offers "in-kind support" and "expenses".
I assume that would mean train travel to London, perhaps materials costs?
Printing of postcards.
But if artists are carers, and they aren't being paid, in any case, that's a direct violation of Article 27 of the Human Rights Act.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Peace Painting - #SaveAleppo

During the workshops at Priory Witham Academy back in December, I became interested in Bana Alabed, and her tweets from besieged Aleppo, and at that time, she was tweeting that Aleppo was being bombed, her house had been bombed, and they were seeking refuge.
So I wanted to paint Bana; here, I have looked at images from her twitter feed, I particularly liked the image of her making a heart with her hands, and looking happy after she was escorted to safety, and is safe in Turkey with her mother. 

Behind her happy self, is the tweet from the time of the bombings, where she's covered in dust, looks tired and weary, and tweets that she has seen death.
I included a printout of another tweet with an image of her house bombed to rubble, where she'd recently received a copy of Harry Potter to read from J.K. Rowling.
The tweet is linked from a website that seems to think Bana's twitter is a fake account and is child exploitation.
I have another image of a faked injured child that is a very interesting image to consider working with.


The image cropped out her feet, so although I imagine she is probably wearing trainers and socks, I have painted her with bare feet. 
Her shoes will be at the bottom, along with some susuwatari, later on.

The images of Aleppo in ruins from which Bana appears to rise out of, like a child from an M83 video, or a character from Stranger Things, are a composite image. The upturned tank has been painted into another scene, and the rubble will become populated by susuwatari, which can only be seen by children, and the dome from a mosque or other building will become a dovecote.

With Instagram filter
In my research, I've been thinking a lot about the painting that Archie conceived of - with words of peace in a tree, and I thought he could make the words into leaves, but I've since realised that he wanted them to go on the trunk, like when lovers carve names into tree trunks.
I went to the park, and couldn't find a single tree with a carving in the trunk, but I did have some old birch bark in my studio that I'd collected, so I made a peace heart.


Concepts are forming about how I can equate Peace Painting with my own practice and my own research. 
I've been sketching flocks of doves, so these will become another work.


On Valentines Day, this murmuration of starlings flew over my house, so a flock of white doves is a concept for another peace painting.


In the courtyard gallery, I spoke to Christopher Wiles about a similar project he's doing.












Art & Design Conference 2017

It's a new year, so I hope everyone has been celebrating the emerging peace in Aleppo, and hoping for a resolution of conflict in Syria, which isn't helped by terrorist attacks in Turkey.

Details of my trip to Norway are on the Peace Painting website here.

This month, I was invited to the Art & Design Conference, which I initially thought would be a paid talk about Peace Painting at The Collection Museum and Art Gallery.

The week of the event, this became a workshop - for teachers attending. I'm used to running workshops for children, so this was going to be a new challenge.

This was good for teachers to learn what children experience and gain from Peace Painting workshops, and it's interesting to see how they all responded differently to the theme, but with only an hour, there wasn't much time to really explore ideas about peace in any greater detail.












It was a fun event, with an informative talk by Lesley Butterworth of NSEAD, and lunch of course provided :-)

Monday, 19 December 2016

Peace Painting at Priory Witham Academy

From "Fighting Walls" exhibition at New Art Exchange, Nottingham
 Saturday 10th December was a trip to Nottingham, and a visit to New Art Exchange and the "Fighting Walls" exhibition.
Banksy - style imagery by artists working in Iran and Egypt.


From "Fighting Walls" exhibition at New Art Exchange, Nottingham

From "Fighting Walls" exhibition at New Art Exchange, Nottingham

From "Fighting Walls" exhibition at New Art Exchange, Nottingham
Monday 12th - Tuesday 13th were the first two days of Peace Painting at Priory Witham Academy, with Year 3.
After an initial introduction about Peace Painting, I didn't want to influence their thoughts with any reference images, I spoke about Peace Painting, and invited the children to think about their own ideas about peace.
Some of these were monsters doing dancing, wrestling (Internet meme John Cener), and devilish images. Which are fine, as long as the kids think about how to resolve any conflict that may arise from such ideas.

Existing artwork at Priory Witham Academy
I have reflected on this period, and decided to source images relating to peace and conflict, to ask the children to choose which are peace and which are not peaceful for future workshops. I'd like to see them progress beyond obvious images such as hearts, rainbows and flowers to develop some interesting paintings.

White dove on a banner
 Sketching ideas on paper gave the children a chance to brainstorm their ideas, and then choose specific aspects for their painting.
Good ideas were a peace tree with words relating to peace written on the trunk, such as "agreement", "treaty", "friendship", "love" etc.
Other good ideas were a fairground ferris wheel, which developed into balloons with messages of peace being sent around the world, however, this became Oakley's fairground painting.


Unicef quotes at Priory Witham Academy
On Tuesday evening, after arriving home after a day of Peace Painting, news of the terrible situation in Aleppo was both terrible and confusing as to what was really happening. Thinking about peace, and doodling a sketch of Bana Alabed.


Bana Alabed in Aleppo from Twitter, with quotes 
Friday 16th the best ideas were chosen for a selection of Peace Paintings.

Autumn's Peace Garden
Autumn had a strong idea and drawings for a Peace garden, then spent so long mixing various colours that she took ages to finish her peace garden painting.


Peace Mermaid

Saraa's Peace Tree with hearts and stars
Oakley developed his idea of a ferris wheel and fairground theme to include balloons with words on the theme of peace, however, the balloons are less obvious in his finished painting.


Oakley's Fairground
Esmerelda had the same idea as her friend to start with - both did rainbows with a waterfall underneath, but Esmerelda's developed into a rainbow river with two swans.
Esmerelda's rainbow river with swans

Amy's heart with hands and stars
I have since reflected on the weeks' Peace Painting workshops, and have thought about how I can improve on them for the next sessions, depending on the age group I'll work with and the time we have.

I dreamt that whilst working on this, Magne Furuholmen came along to work with us, which was nice, and would be nice in reality, if he isn't too busy. He did only speak briefly before being engaged in conversation about music with a manager - type guy that was with him.

The Peace Painting project will be launched properly at the Art & Design Conference at The Collection on 10th February 2017.

Wishing you all peace at Christmas and a peaceful New Year!!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Peace Painting workshops in Lincoln

A meeting with Paradigm Arts has been very positive, and I will be working with them again to develop the Peace Painting project following on from my previous after schools comics workshops last year for my Illustration practice.

Next week, I'm running 3 days' Peace Painting workshops at Witham St. Hugh's school, with groups of Year 4 children, working with and funded by Paradigm Arts.

In February I will be taking part in an annual Art & Design Conference, which will launch the Peace painting project within a network of over 50 schools within the Midlands area, so this will be delivered in a wide area.

The Peace painting project is an ambitious and exciting project, and with this initial match funding, along with the research trip, it is planned to work on a funding application with support next spring / summer for the next academic year.