Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Ethan Murrow

Today is my lucky day. I stumbled across a genius totally by chance.

I was researching Emily Prince, and somewhere gave the name of hyper-realistEd Loftus. I googled him, and under an image search came a beautiful drawing. I clicked on the link, only to find it wasn't Ed Loftus, but a man called Ethan Murrow.

Ethan Murrow, "Off of Gaspé, ready to dive for the elusive whale", graphite on paper 60" x 96", 2007.

Murrow works with his wife, Vita Weinstein. Together they create 'mockumentary' style short films, mainly on the subject of stories of perserverance and obsession- note, Dust Miners, Doomed Explorer, Pinto Brother Pilots. Murrow then draws large scale graphite works from stills of the films.

In exhibition, it would appear that there is a collection of the drawings, projections of the films, and different artefacts relating to the stories.

I don't feel I know enough yet to properly explain the work, but Ethan Murrow's website is


You can watch some of the films there, and there are some great press reviews which explain what Murrow's installations are like.

There is also a good interview with Murrow on some of his influences and his work processes at



Thursday, 22 April 2010


I had a really good tutorial with Amanda today. It was really useful to talk through what I had been thinking about after my research this morning. There are a couple of ways the project could go..

First, my original plan of a simulation-type animation of movement from a photograph

Second, an exploration into the act of drawing repetitively, replicating a replica etc etc- ending with a collection of drawings

Thirdly, whatever else comes from further research.

The main ideas here are photographs as source material, the process of drawing, and of course memory. But interestingly, my own memory whilst drawing is becoming a strong factor.

I now have an even bigger to do list.


These are the drawings from the other day.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Back to School

On monday we went back to Camberwell. Although the day was spent going through assessment criteria which, nethertheless useful, was rather tedious- it was really good to see what everyone else had been up to.

We got put into groups at the end of the day with other people in the group who are doing projects with similar elements. I am in a group with personal narrative as a common theme. Only three of us were present, we thought we should be called 'me myself and I'. Hah. Anyway could be useful sharing information ideas etc etc.

Today I got to work on testing out pencil and watercolour vs ink and watercolour for my animation. In the afternoon Geoff told us all about a really interesting project he did, making a live animation using a magic lantern. He made slides himself, printing drawings onto acetate then fixing the acetate between two thin slides of glass. He paired slides with a flash animation, to make a story about zombies.


That is something interesting he is involved in.

After the presentation I asked Geoff about possible materials for making my animation. We talked about using a lightbox underneath the paper for each frame- he suggested making one from cutting a hole in a table or peice of hardboard- this needs to be investigated.
I got a layout pad and also some opaque tracing paper from the college store so I can try out some different materials to draw on.

Sunday, 18 April 2010


On Friday I had a day so packed full of fun and research.
I began by visiting Jake at the Natural History Museum and he showed me round the museum library! It was amazing. So so many books with beautiful illustrations of birds and animals and body parts.

I found some of Edward Julius Detmold's work in a Christie's catalogue from 1989.

And Archibold Thorburn's work.

And, I really really want this book:

After the library, we then went on to the 'butterfly explorers' new bit, where it's basically a tent like structure filled with live butterflies and plants and flowers. Amazing. You walk through the plastic doors and a huge beautiful butterfly wafts past your face. The only problem was the museum wasn't regulating the people in, although it was ticketed, so it was full of noisy children trying to pick up the butterflies. As a result it looked as though lots of wings were broken and crumpled. This seemed to be a serious error, I hope it gets rectified.

NEXT, we went to the V&A. I 'hadn't been there for a long time that I remember, and was really struck by the sheer amount they have on display. I especially liked Lord Frederic Leighton's 'The Sluggard'.

We then made our way to the Walpole Collection exhibition, and once more were overwhelmed by so many beautiful objects in such a small space. There is such incredible craftmanship there.

After this, we ate lunch outside by the fountains in the sunshine and Jake went back to work. I went on to the Quilts exhibition. It was really interesting, and highly amusing too as a result of the masses of elderly ladies discussing quilting techniques and historical and social changes.

Says one lady in a Sunderland accent, "This is lovely. I like the bobbles on it. " etc etc.

Obviously, quilt making is highly related to recording memories. What I found in the exhibition too was how many people took up quilting as a method for distraction. From Mavis FitzRandolph in 1954, "In spite of her unhappiness she was soon absorbed in the old fascination of 'studying what to put on' and then 'seeing the patterns form under her hand'. 'The quilting saved my mind,' she said. "... To soldiers quilting from military materials- like this quilt from the 1880s, made in India by William Brayley.

Many soldiers were encouraged to quilt whilst in hospital, with awards for the best ones.

Natasha Kerr's work, "At the end of the day", came from finding an old family photograph. In it is her dad, who when fighting in the war hardly ever saw home. So Kerr puts this image on a quilt, an extremely homely object.

What was also striking about the exhibition was the extent to which people recycled materials for quilts. One quilt was made of blackout curtain material.

This very old photo of my patchwork quilt is one that my grandma made. I know for a fact that it is all recyled materials, from my mum and auntie's schooldresses to curtains.

It is pretty late now. I saw lots lots more but will round up related to memory and photos. In the photography section of the V&A I found a peice by Thomas Ruff, "Blue Eyes M.V./B.E; Blue Eyes M.B./B.E.; Blue Eyes L.C./B.E.; Blue Eyes C.F./B.E. "
It was a set of four portraits, but in each one Ruff had edited in the same pair of blue irises. As I quote from the explanation label, " thereby undermining the photograph's truthfullnes as records." I thought that was quite interesting in regards to my work, as I am also changing the truthfullness of the photograph I am working on, but trying to make it more true.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Death of the Author.

Whilst drawing today, I began to notice that my own memories and experiences of my family's faces are influencing my interpretation of drawing my dad as a child. As the drawing progresses, the face fluctuates between me, my sister, my brother, and even my mother's side of the family. As my siblings and I all have a lot of my dad's facial features I wasn't suprised at seeing our faces in his. However, it was when I started seeing my mum's parents and family in the face that I realised this must be my memory influencing my drawing.

Surely this follows Roland Barthes' 'The Death of the Author'? And does this happen with all our drawings and art, or just when it is as visually closely connected as family faces?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

One down, 47 to go.

I have finally finished a drawing. It is the third page, middle on the top row. ( see previous post of photographs.)
Unfortunately, I now can not find my camera or phone lead, or anything else handy that might let me take a photo of it and post said photo. And in the time it would take me to walk to Camberwell to scan it in I could do another drawing. So another day.
Face done right, ear too small.


Today it would seem no pencil is sharp enough, my brain is not clear enough, to be drawing these photographs. It is incredibly frustrating, because I know that I can draw it, with exactly the same tools as I have now. Maybe it is the sunshine outside.

Monday, 12 April 2010

New Source Material

This is the photograph I was talking about. I love the colours, and the perspective, and all the textures.

And this is the set of photographs:

This Week's Major Action Plan.

What I need to acheive this week:

1. Draw out set of photos of dad's face and make practise animation.

2. Continue to practise colour for photo- practise movement of flowers?

3. Try different mediums- will tracing paper/ acetate (watercolour..hmm) work to get light behind animation? Could I scan in my drawings and print them onto acetate?

4. Draw at least one copy of the photo.

Change of Plan.

I haven't felt quite right about my source material of the magic act since thinking about my original proposal. But a stroke of luck occured.

I got home and was looking through all the photos I got from Nanny, then I remembered a photo of my dad as a child that I wanted to show Jake.

I realised that the photo was much more of a representation of what I had first set out to investigate. Because the photos of the magic act were taken by a professional photographer, they just aren't what I was looking for. I think I got carried away by the interesting story and imagery, and lost sight of my original proposal.

I'm really glad I did the research on Ali Bey's act, as it was almost totally untouched and as of yet put out into the public. I definately plan to use it for a large project soon.

The photo of my dad just fits so perfectly. In addition, this week I had planned to make some practise animations- colour, light, facial expressions. I was thinking about what action to take now I changed my source material, and remembered that I had a small book of photos of my dad - you know, taken in a booth where there are lots and lots of tiny photographs, each one different. This was perfect as it meant I had source material for my dad's facial expressions when I try and animate the new photo. It is pure luck, because he is the same age in both the set of photos and the single photo. Perfect.

The library isn't open yet but will head down a bit and scan this all in.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

7th April

On the last day at Nanny's, after writing my last post I reconsidered that all my source material are photos taken professionally, rather than Nanny's personal photos. But because I've been looking at the memories and stories behind the photographs as part of a grand scheme I hadn't paid this too much attention.

However, in my origional proposal I said I'd be looking at individual photos. The trouble is, none were taken. I asked Nanny about her memories surrounding each photograph, but after touring for 5 or 6 years with the same act it's hard for an 82 year old lady to remember events of over 60 years before in specific detail.

I talked to Nanny about this, and we emptied out her cupboards of general photos to try and find some from around the time from ages 17-22ish that she was in the theatre act, but of her at home etc. We couldn't find any, but there are a huge amount of boxes and folders. Next time I'm there we are going to look through properly.

I'm happy with my source material though, and I still think this project is valid as the whole idea behind the final animation is visually exploring the photo-memory translation.

It's interesting, I don't know whether it's because camera's were rarer 60 years ago, but if I was touring with a famous magic act I would be taking my own personal photos. It seems noone did.

It's just lucky we have the photos we do. Hopefully if the Magic Circle finally reply to my request there may be new photos unseen by my nanny or myself.

6th April

Am at Nanny’s again today. It’s a beautiful sunny day but quite windy. Would be a lovely walk on the beach but I’d rather spend my time here with Nanny, and she couldn’t make it down to the beach or walk a long way if I went.

I started practising on drawing in pencil, some fabric flowers nanny has in her conservatory. I haven’t really used pencil in a long time and it’s taking a while to get used to mark making with it again. The drawing looked ok but I think that was more the original composition of the flowers rather than my sweeping success back into the medium. Need to keep all pencils sharp and practise lots. I’ve got so used to working in ink pen that I’ve ignored pencil.

I wrote up some Mumford and Sons interview whilst Nanny had a nap, it transported me right back to a sunny courtyard eating cakes.

Then once Nanny woke up we looked through the photographs I’ve scanned in and Nanny told me what she could remember about each one.

The strange thing, in relation to my project, about looking at the memory around these photographs is that a professional photographer took them, as a pose to someone involved in the image. This then changes the idea of selecting an image. But it is still valid for my project I think, as there is such a wealth of source material that the story behind the origin of the photo is the memory.
These are some drawings I've been working on so far:

5th April 2010

Part of Ali Bey's Act- Okito Boxes.

Today I am at Nanny’s house in Hunstanton. We started work on my research, and did an hour long interview (video recorded-will post when i overcome technology)) starting about the way the act worked, and moving on through what it was like to tour and travel and different stories about life in the theatre.

Speaking to Nanny I realise that her part in the act was as she says more of an ‘endurance’ than choice. At only 17, her dad (David Lemmy) had just expected that she would play a part in the act, so she toured day in day out for over five years.

I spoke to Nanny afterwards and she said that the time in the theatre was just part of her life, something that had happened. I think that the lonliness she experienced played a great part in how she views the time. Nanny takes quite an objective view, saying she learnt lots, met interesting people; but going from expecting to be a nurse to relentlessly touring the country – staying with your father, separate from the other young girls, separate from your friends back home and as a result losing those friends, was very hard. The repeated thing Nanny kept saying was that it was a job- if you think contextually, this was post-war, times were pretty tight. She explained that she met my granddad whilst working as a secretary in the Great Northern Hotel in Peterborough, she was working whilst at home between tours because of the need for money. Even their top-of-the-bill theatre act didn’t pay enough to leave much money spare.

It’s strange to think that behind the supposed glamour of a magician’s act, there was the difficulty of a young girl travelling alone with her father, her mother at home for the need of work, and all the implications that had on having a ‘normal’ life. Nanny said it was probably a naturally assumed path, as during the war she was in a dance group and performed with them, so the theatre was a natural progression, but I don’t think she ever thought she’d be making a living from it. It’s rare in the theatrical world to get such a quick progression form amateur to professional performance. I think this most certainly reflects the vary hard work, imagination, ingenuity and skill put into this act.

To think that David Lemmy totally designed and crafted his entire act and all the equipment is incredible. Nanny says one of his friends was a skilled painted and so painted all the cabinets and boxes etc.
I think it’s interesting to know that this determination to make everything yourself came from when, as a young boy, after first becoming interested in magic David saved up his pocket money for months to buy some magical equipment from a well known suppliers. When it arrived however, the equipment was all shoddy, so he vowed to make his own from then on.
(for full story on starting interest in magic see article- Magic Monthly 1947)

“The First World War was at it’s height, and great efforts were being made to produce funds for forces’ comforts and the like. Tom Lemmy’s oldest boy had been out in France for three years, his daughter’s were supervising labour in munitions factories, and only twelve year old David was left at home. A concert to raise funds was held at the local Co-operative Hall, and to this function Tom took his young son.
The youngster was highly delighted to find that there was a conjuror on the bill, and when the time arrived for an assistant from the audience to ascend the platform, he was excited to see his father hurriedly make his way forward. His excitement turned to embarrassment when he saw a glass of beer being produced from the centre of his strictly teetotal father’s head. This left its mark on the boy’s mind, and when they had returned home, he submitted his father to a close inquisition on whether he had secretly been engaged in liquor traffic.

His father had a sudden inspiration. “If you would really like to know how it was done,” he said, “there is a book in the book-case that will explain it all, and if you are really interested, you may have it to keep.” The book was Hoffman’s ‘Modern Magic’, still highly thought-of among conjurors. It had been purchased for 3d. from a second-hand bookstall 31 years before. David found it out and read it avidly, and thus were the seeds planted which were to grow into a magical career. Twenty-either years were to pass before they came to fruition, and before the David Lemmy of those days was to become the Ali Bey we know today.

The events of those twenty-eight years could (and one day probably will) fill a book. For the present, space will only allow a brief outline of his interesting career. Until he left school at the age of fourteen, David had to content himself constructing his apparatus out of cardboard and paste; his 1 ½ d. a week pocket money would not run to any more. Even a decent pack of cards was out of the question. He started work as an engineer’s pattern maker, and his weekly income rose to the princely sum of three shillings. At last he felt that he could have many of the wonderful articles advertised in the various magical cataloques, and accordingly he sent off, after months of steady saving, a sizeable order to one of the large London houses which in those days offered to provide would-be magicians with apparatus. Alas! Months wasted. Money wasted. The apparatus sent by the supply house (which has since gone out of existence) was shoddy and useless."

Mini questions with Nanny as I was typing:

How did your parents meet?
They met through the Baptist Chapel in Peterborough. They were both members of the band of hope. There was nothing else to do in those days, no television, you made your own interest. And that’s of course when he started all the magic, going out doing all these concerts. As you know it was Jack Bancroft who owned the embassy theatre in Peterborough, he said “you are a fool Dave, you ought to do this professionally”; so he took a year out then, and created the act. Bancroft said if you put the act together and it’s any good I’ll give you your first weeks work. Which he did.

Not only did Jack help him along there, but granddad had to put all the act together, and we had all our rehearsals- we used to rehearse in a church hall, and then Jack let him use the theatre one Saturday to finalise everything.

Were all the main componenets of the act there from the start?
It was devised and put together, and became like a play, if you like.

3.31pm 4th april 2010.

“I know he was very excited when he became an honorary member of the Magic Circle with gold star. That wasn’t awarded very often.”

Recording the interview with Nanny reminded me of Hans Speigelman’s book ‘Maus’, which describes a Jewish family's experiences of the holocaust through the son interviewing his dad. It is presented as a graphic novel, with all Jews as mice, so the mice son and daughter in law, the son visits his mouse dad and interviews him about living through the holocaust, and then within the medium of the graphic novel this expands to visually show the reader the stories.

This made me consider the possibilities of making some sort of book about my Nanny and Great Grandad’s time in the theatre, but then with only six weeks to complete this project, I think I can’t do the source material justice with so little time.

I think this project won’t stop here though- I would like to continue and record all of these memories in an interesting way- either animating the interviews I am doing with my Nanny, or making a graphic novel, I’m not sure. I’d like to combine recording my Nanny as I know her now with her remembering her past- so I can draw the lady I have known my whole life and also the young girl in a magic act. I think either outcome would work well as they are quite flexible.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

A Visit Home

Last weekend I went home to Norfolk and spoke to my Nanny. She gave me a huge pile of photographs and some scrap books with posters, newspaper articles and reviews, telegrams and letters. As a source material this is amazing.
Unfortunately, Camberwell library is closed for two weeks and I haven't had time what with work and interviews to get to Elephant and Castle to go to LCC and scan it all in. I'm going back to Norfolk again tomorrow morning for a week, hopefully will get a chance to record these in some way.

I also emailed the magic circle requesting to look through their archives for information on my great grandad. ALSO, I found a signed photograph of him on ebay and messaged the seller asking if he had an interesting story behind it. Unfortunately no reply there either.

I'm staying with my Nanny for a few days next week. I plan to record our conversations about her memories attached to each photo or peice of epherma- origionally I was going to use my dictaphone but I think a video would be nicer and easier to indentify certain elements when watching back.

I would really like to independantly find some new material which I can present to my Nanny and see what she thinks of it, what memories it triggers. It's very different looking at photographs you have known for 50 years, and sort of built up pre-prepared explanations of, to ones you have never seen before, of yourself.

Over and out.