Shop Signs & Photos During The ‘Zombie Apocalypse’

During the summer I finally got two volunteering jobs to keep me occupied. One was at the Hidden Gardens behind the Tramway Gallery, the other was at the newly opened Oxfam Bookshop at Royal Exchange Square. The Tramway ran a Biodiversity Photographic Competition where the winner had the opportunity to show their photography skills on special postcards. Surprisingly, two out of my six entries were chosen, one even making it onto the promotional cover.

The first photo deals with the theme of being ‘environmentally friendly’. The Tramway was, as the name suggests, a former tram depot. The rails on the factory floor and the industrial chimney outside in the gardens are a reminder of its past. In the foreground is a ginkgo tree, considered to be a living fossil because it is the only example of a prehistoric tree still existing in the world. The composition combines the two symbols of the Tramway to show how they co-exist today.

The second one chosen was ‘water’. Ironically, there isn’t much water in the bird bath itself but the light reflecting off the bowl gives the impression of cool tranquility.

During my time at Oxfam, filming for the upcoming movie ‘World War Z’ was taking place in George Square. I never took any pictures of the actual film set but it was just smashed yellow cabs, American street signs and SWAT Team vans. It was rather unusual to see helicopters flying low with heavy duty cameras or the jeeps fitted with huge boom arms. Of course, before the FX people turned up Glasgow was already a zombie wasteland. Ha ha.


Anyway, because of my art background, Oxfam’s manager, Gillian, asked me to help design the sign for the front of the shop. Something ‘ye olde’. I added a vintage pointing hand which compliments the font quite well. I didn’t paint it, but whoever did did a great job of adding a shadow effect to the lettering. That, along with the Tramway photos, will be good additions to my portfolio. Although I anticipate that when I go back to Royal Exchange Square it will have been painted over. Or defiled by the living dead…



McCay, Street Art & Riots: A Second London Trip Pt. 2

Here’s the second part on my London trip, this time I’ll talk about my new found muse: STREET ART.

My dad told me on his last uni visit that he saw a lot of interesting pieces on Brick Lane and that whole Whitechapel area. Most of it we found by accident, you just turn a corner and you’re confronted by an immense ibis bird sprayed on the side of a four storey building!


The artist in question is ROA from Ghent, Belgium. His work involves animals painted straight onto walls in black and white. I found a very interesting video online showing his work process. The outline is sprayed first, then the white undercoat and finally the details with black spray can. All freehand! Roa considers ‘animals’ as an open theme where a story can be created and the large scale of the pieces can surprise and entertain passers-by, “I don’t want it all to be doom and gloom. It’s a celebration of the animal world. The city is a playground where I’m free to experiment, like a 3D sketchbook.”

One of my favourite street artists is Vhils from Lisbon, Portugal. Rather than using paint, he chisels and scratches into billboards where the overlaying of paper creates a thick layer to work on. His distinctive portraits communicate the idea of forgotten historical figures and moments of nostalgia. I took the inspiration for my Christmas self portrait from Vhils’ way of depicting faces.


C215, from Paris France, also does expressive portraits all signed off with his distinctive logo. Most of them are in very hard to find spots, like in derelict doorways, and also in unconventional spots, like on the side of post boxes and fire hydrants.

By contrast, sometimes simplicity is even more effective. London based street artist Stik sprays rudimentary figures on shop shutters and walls but they still communicate effective human emotion.

So why do I like Street Art? Most of the appeal comes from the fact that there is nothing like this in Scotland! You can really feel the creative aura in Brick Lane, it feels really inspiring. It’s almost like another stage of visual communication, you really want to know who the artist is and exactly what they’re trying to tell us through paint and paper. Thanks to the internet I was able to find out the names of most of the artists I saw and discover how far reaching some of their work is. Roa, for example, had an exhibition in White Walls, San Francisco. I won’t be spray painting a wall any time soon but I will definitely be incorporating the aesthetics of Vhils and C215 into my drawings in the near future.

I was so enamoured by the creativity and look of London street art that I thought, “Someday I would love to live here”. The weekend we were up, however, was when the riots broke out so I might give that plan a few years! In truth there wasn’t much evidence of rioting where we were- just an increased number of police cars. I’ll leave you with some music by Dubstep/Garage producer Burial which, by focussing on ambience and vocal samples, captures the atmosphere of London at night.

McCay, Street Art & Riots: A Second London Trip Pt. 1

It doesn’t matter how long you spend in London, you never get everything done that you want to do. With the uni trip it was mostly galleries- the Tates Modern and Britain, National Gallery etc. So when I found out about the ‘Watch Me Move’ exhibition at the Barbican Gallery it was the perfect excuse to go back with my dad and uncle.

Winsor McCay (1869-1934) used the term ‘watch me move’ in his first animated feature, ‘Little Nemo Moving Comics’ (1911). The characters from McCay’s masterful comic strip came to life onscreen during his vaudeville performances.  Also featured was McCay’s most famous animation, ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ (1914), widely acknowledged as featuring the first animated character with a  distinctive personality. A great influence on Disney later on.  In the exhibition it was somewhat eclipsed by footage from ‘Jurassic Park’ which was a shame. Other highlights included Tim Burton’s ‘Vincent’ (which my uncle really liked) and Chuck Jones’ ‘Duck Amuck’ which features Daffy Duck being tormented by an offscreen animator, later revealed to be Bugs Bunny (“You’re dethpicable!”) They don’t make ’em like they used to. Here’s the URL to the exhibition…

What I like the most about McCay was the fact that he was proficient in a number of fields- from editorial cartoons, to circus posters and his animations and weekly comic strips. His comics, in particular, were rendered in an enchanting Art Noveau style and were written on the nature of dreams. This gave an infinite number of writing possibilities as opposed to some of his peers. One strip, ‘Krazy Kat’ by George Herriman, just featured a mouse throwing a brick at a cat every week. Great. The only problem I have with ‘Little Nemo’ et al. is that the dialogue is very archaic and clunky but, then again, it was only 1911. It still stands up today as a unique entity in the comic world.