Tag Archives: arts and health

MY INVISIBLE MUSIC CAREER PT 7: SKIN

SKIN album cover © 2017 Bradfield Dumpleton

New Skin – Bradfield Dumpleton 2017 (Mya Moe ukulele, electric guitars, cello bass, keyboard, cajon, dun dun, lizard sticks, shaker, Tibetan bell, agogo bell)

NB: For various reasons, I don’t have the resources to produce CDs, perform my music live or have any kind of promotion.  I’ve been making my own music for four decades, not as a career, but because it’s intrinsic to who I am.  If you like what you hear on this blog, buy the album on Bandcamp and listen to my other diverse recordings of original music: https://bradfielddumpleton.bandcamp.com/.

Shedding skin has always been an apt analogy for transformation throughout my life, winding snakewise through the years as I peel back the layers of my psyche and deepen my understanding of this strange experience I call ‘me’.  Certainly as apt as the map that reads my personality as Year of the Snake.  This new collection of music began, unconsciously, with the need to shed yet another layer, and so the themes of SKIN emerged.

This album is a step away from ukulele as the focus, and back to my percussion & rhythm roots.  Seven tracks are brand new, four are earlier unreleased recordings, and five are new works created from earlier rhythm recordings.  As I deepened into its process, I found myself on an inner anthropological / archaeological exploration of my creative past, transforming old into new forms, in order to invoke the fresh skin (more on this later).

As usual, because I wouldn’t get this music done otherwise, I’ve played all the instruments on the album.  I added FX to some of the instruments, and a bit of digital snip-and-tuck in some parts, but all the sounds happened organically in my loungeroom (generally with great urgency before the kids got home from school!). The instruments on SKIN are: Dun dun, djembe, kpanlogo, cajon, jungle kit, tambour, agogo bell, log drum, darabuka, talking drum, kashishi, gourd shaker, lagerfone, lizard sticks, balafon, tibetan bells, cello bass, ukuleles (acoustic & electrified), electric guitar, balalaika, electric plank slide, kemenche, 12-string mandolin, saz, strumstick, jawharp, keyboards & vocals.

 

I know I’m just a white honky and my skills are feeble, but I have always loved the rhythms of Africa, and by obvious extension Brazil & Cuba, so my meagre offerings here come from a place of sincere respect & celebration.   For instance, South African urban styles like Afrobeat, highlife and the Soweto sound, have variously inspired tracks like New Skin and Stripes An Spots (imagine zebras & giraffes strolling shantytown streets in their best fancy outfits ….skins people wear to identify themselves):

Stripes An Spots – Bradfield Dumpleton 2017 (Acoustic & electrified Bruko uke, electric guitar, cello bass, djembe, kick drum, cajon)

The awesome & legendary ELECTRIC PLANK, made by Lotus (age 11)

I have always been drawn to raw hand-made instruments improvised from recycled and minimal materials, and the attitude that you can find music in anything that resonates, and this is the spirit that often drives my musical process.  I use whatever instruments are at hand, and often make “traditional” sounds in non-traditional ways.  This time I’ve treated the uke sound to give it a sharper quality on some tracks, and likewise the (usually) Russian balalaika features, as its thin treble attack is so similar to a lot of African improvised instruments.  In the opening track I Say You Say I just wanted to capture the raw driving energy of improvised village instruments created as rhythm machines.  It features balalaika, the electric plank, and a very delapidated old 12-string mandolin:

I Say You Say –  Bradfield Dumpleton 2017 (Kick drum, tambour, agogo bell, log drum, 12-string mandolin, electric plank slide, balalaika, vocs)

On other tracks, such as New Skin and The Long Walk And What We Found, I’ve taken more care (including hours of painstaking editing) to create a smoother AfroJazz-tinged sound and a more conversational dynamic between the instruments:

The Long Walk And What We Found – Bradfield Dumpleton 2017 (Bruko uke, cello bass, electric guitar, kick drum, cajon, piano, egg shaker, kpanlogo, djembe, talking drum)

The plaintively hypnotic desert blues stylings of North Africa can be heard in tracks such as Crocodile Awhile:

Crocodile Awhile – Bradfield Dumpleton 2017 (Bruko uke , tremolo guitar, electric plank slide, cello bass, kemenche, kick drum, tambour, lagerfone, kpanlogo, djembe)

 

Rhythm Collision performing Welcome, written by Bradfield Dumpleton © 2006.  Video © Nic & Fiona Meredith 2011.

Many of the tracks grew from previous recordings I made years ago of Afro & Latin-inspired drum compositions I created while teaching percussion & leading two community drumming groups in Cygnet, Tasmania, from 2007 – 2011: Rhythm Collision (all-kids group) and the Drummin’ Mummas (all-women group).  For SKIN, I dug these drums-only recordings out of my archive and added other instruments over them, making new skins for the old skins, as with this AfroCuban-flavoured piece The Hyena:

The Hyena – Bradfield Dumpleton 2017 (Electric guitars, cello bass, jungle kit (dun dun, kpanlogo, djembe), agogo bell, lizard sticks, tambour).  Original drum rhythm composed in 2008 & recorded in 2010.

SOME PERSONAL MYTHOLOGY BEHIND THIS PROJECT:

Drawings & paintings © Bradfield Dumpleton

2016 was a really difficult year emotionally and psychologically, for myself, my partner Heidi and our immediate family.  It was a year of relentless external forces grinding at our lives, one problem after another with no time to catch breath, restore our energy reserves or integrate the huge impacts these events were having on us.  It felt like trial by fire – Heidi & I were running on adrenaline much of the time, emotionally & psychologically exhausted, always bracing for the next “attack”.  Our relationships were tested to the edges as were our creative problem-solving skills.  Yet as we hammered & burned our way through each layer of intensity, we also felt indestructible faith in our ability to keep going.  Tempered steel, I think is the term.

Shaman Rebirth 1 © Bradfield Dumpleton 1992

Usually I don’t bother celebrating the “new year” – a miserable experience at 14 provided the early epiphany that it’s just another day – so I’ve always viewed the notion of a “new year” as merely a psychological coping mechanism humans have developed to convince themselves their lives will magically become different overnight.  In the case of this new year though, I clearly needed said coping mechanism, because I wanted to bludgeon 2016 to death, incinerate its mangled corpse in an unholy inferno and bury any ashen remains deeply and permanently out of mind.  I needed a sense of change, of newness to look towards, I needed a ritual…..it was time to shed skin.

I’d been revisiting some early Fela Kuti afrobeat albums, with his utterly irresistible grooves and messages of defiance in the face of oppressive forces.  The legacy & influence of African rhythm has been at the core of my love of music since I was a child, and after the deliberately loose and shambolic sounds of the PIGBOX recordings, I felt I wanted to create something smoother on the ears and more groove-based.  I had a simple uke riff gestating in my head all summer, and finally in Jan 2017 snatched some time to explore it in a recording.  The result was the track New Skin, and it became a statement to myself that I was leaving the previous year behind and deliberately entering a new phase.

Recording New Skin opened me up to keyboards, an instrument I can’t play & never imagined I would want to.  My 6-yr old stepson Leo has an old Yamaha PSR74 he likes to derange occasionally, so I mucked around and discovered I could find a few simple blues organ cliches that fitted the pseudo-Afrobeat style of the track.

Tomb (detail) © Bradfield Dumpleton 2009, guache on canson paper

New Skin also reconnected me with my passion for African-styled grooves, and a stylistic theme for an album emerged.  I already had a few Afro-influenced pieces floating around, one-off recordings that had never really had a “home”, so I began digging out some old ideas from the archives.  The first choice was easy & close at hand: Transmogrification Blues from 2015 is a snakey funk-of-a-thing that grew out of a desert-blues riff I found on fellow musical explorationist Ross Douglas’ saz.  Not only did its title declare the theme, but this piece had also inspired me to start using my daughter’s cello as a bass, as well as the Electric Plank she created when she was 11 for the gritty slide guitar parts, and marked a new phase in my home recording adventures.

Transmogrification Blues – Bradfield Dumpleton 2015. (Saz, cello, shaker, dundun, cajon, electric plank slide)

Coincidentally (really?),  I had also unpacked the big old ZOOM MRS-1608 multitrack digital recording desk I used to record on before I switched to laptop.  There’s over a decade’s worth of recordings there, and I’d been putting off the process of manually transferring all the data to disc for future editing on laptop.  Anyway, that’s when I discovered a bunch of recordings that didn’t sound half-bad & were from my more “tribal” years, so fitted the musical theme I had in mind, as well as the themes of ritual, invocation & personal transformation through deliberate creative intent.

Shaman © Bradfield Dumpleton 1992

It was exciting & inspirational to revisit these artefacts of  my creative past, to review one’s early art with the benefit of personal insight and greater technical skill.  I reconnected with my personal mythologies of the time, the shamanic self I’d been initiated into during the 90s and expressed outwardly, before depression moved in and I needed those skills for deeper psychological work.

I’d bought the ZOOM recording desk through a Festivals Australia grant in 2004, as I was directing the Bruny Island Kids Artzone Festival at the time and needed recording equipment to prepare Dancing The Bruny SeeDragon, a community dance/song/drumming performance event featured at the festival.  One of the first recordings I made on the ZOOM desk was Sula Sula, a kind of African lullaby that opened the performance, a song of the sea & an invocation to the spirit of the SeeDragon.  Here’s a pic of the glorious Bruny SeeDragon (designed by myself & the students of Bruny PS) as it danced its way down to Adventure Bay Beach at the performance finale:

The recording is unchanged on SKIN, except for adding an extra vocal harmony part & a recording of the waves out the front of our house.

Sula Sula – Bradfield Dumpleton 2004  (Rhythm loop, waves, vocals).  Adapted from original recording made in 2004 for the Bruny Island community arts project Dancing The Bruny SeeDragon.

 

Back in Melbourne during the New Age 90s, preceding my move to Tassie, I was deeply immersed in personal transformation, exploring psychology through shamanic practice & creatively through my art & music.  This was when I attended two separate intensives of the TA KE TI NA  rhythm process facilitated by its originator, master drummer & shaman Reinhard Flatischler. This kicked open my journey into rhythm & percussion as a neurological experience, and its historical uses in trance states & community ritual. During this time I composed & performed a series of community singing events called Living Mandalas, layered rhythmic chants & synchronised movement that groups of people could experience together as a collective pulse.  Hoom Sha was one of these compositions, and for SKIN I’ve used some atmospheric uke & keyboard FX to give it a more hypnotic texture.

Hoom Sha (Healer’s Chant) – Bradfield Dumpleton 2017 (Dun dun, kashishi, djembe, cello bass, vocs, Cordoba ukulele, keyboards).  Original drum rhythm composed in 2008 & recorded in 2010.

Two other recordings are in their original form: The Sun Is My Orange Juice!,  was a sparkly little noodle on a delightful 3-stringed instrument I used to own called a strumstick, accompanied by balafon.  Feather was originally composed in 2009 then recorded as a 10 minute version in 2015 as the soundtrack for a short film documenting the thINK Drawing Festival I ran in Kingston, Tas that year.  I’ve trimmed it into a shorter version for the album.

The last 2 tracks on the album, Cowherd and Junglebrain, were also chronologically the last pieces I worked on – I thought I’d completed the selection but these two ideas kept asserting themselves.  Cowherd was a very spontaneous collage, a soundscape that grew from a random kalimba loop my younger son Fen & I made once with a borrowed loop pedal.  I pinched a bit of the electric plank slide from Crocodile Awhile and when I added FX it began to sound like the cows that moo from across the river here.  A bit of modified vocal pinched from Hoom Sha seemed to complete the atmosphere.  Junglebrain was once a signature drumming piece I performed with Rhythm Collision & other groups I taught, and was one of the earlier rhythm recordings I unearthed.  For this version I fiddled with FX on the drums to give them a different edge & added some cranky synth bass on the keyboard, then iced the concoction with an old file of spacey electronic texture my oldest son Cooper Bowman had created one visit.  It was Coop’s birthday when I edited Junglebrain and he was in my thoughts as I worked, so weaving some of him into the mix was an expression of love & remembering his birth.   Coop creates electronic music & one of his projects, Roman Nails, has a kind of minimalist techno aesthetic that organically inspired the blunt minimalism of the Junglebrain mix. The result was quite different from the rest of the album, a kind of lo-fi tribal banger.

 

Creating my album art is as important to me as making the music, an integral dimension of the recording’s personality.  In keeping with my archaeological process of cannibalising my creative past,  I turned to my stash of textural photos & scans of my “cave art” from the 90s.

I started with an old photo of crocodile skin I’d taken at Melbourne zoo, and tried to reference the look of old vinyl album covers from Africa in the 70s.  Of course my online research led me down a deliciously slippery slope of ethnomusical discovery into the historical roots of urban African dance music.  My music collection has now swelled like the belly of an African Python after swallowing an antelope.

Cockroach Man (detail) © Bradfield Dumpleton 1993, guache on paper

My “cave art” in the 90s was a series of drawings, paintings & sculptures through which I explored my psyche using mythology & symbol, both personal and universal.  The process of creating these works was intentionally transformative, a kind of biofeedback for my psychology, a tool for peeling back the layers of self, so of course it felt appropriate to include some of these images in the album art.  They help me remember the intuitive & primal, the raw & ancient in my consciousness.

The final element of the cover art process was looking at “skin” more literally, as a physical surface, the outer layer of things in nature, as texture and erosion.  As with my inner inspections, in photography I’ve always been drawn to detail, the remarkable & beautiful patterns in surfaces when taken out of context and abstracted, so again I raided my stash & assembled some favourites.  At my age, thoughts of mortality and the weathering of the self are ever-present, and sifting through these photos was also a sifting of these thoughts.

Texture photos © Bradfield Dumpleton

My creative processes are always inseparable from every other aspect of my life, each feeds the other, even the most mundane “commercial” jobs involve relationships, interactions and cause for reflection.  Making this album has been an incredibly rich personal walkabout into my creative history, my Dreaming, and into the vast collective Dreaming of African music, and ultimately the process has led me back to the beauty of life.  Which was really the intention I set for myself at the start of all this.  Destination, no map.

This entire experience has been all the richer and more quietly profound thanks to my incredible partner Heidi, who has supported this process from the start, allowing it full breathing space, understanding the importance of the walkabout, the mapless surrender, knowing how necessary these freefalls into the unknown are for my well-being.  I often struggle with feeling that my need to create is an indulgence & a luxury, especially within a relationship.  No-one else has ever so wholeheartedly recognised, trusted & so generously encouraged me in my creative process.  Heidi, and the many small stories of our life together, are woven delicately through this whole document, with love.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY INVISIBLE MUSIC CAREER PT 6: PIGBOX & Co.

PrintTHE PIG HAS LANDED!!

Gimme Dat – Bradfield Dumpleton 2016. Resonator ukulele (acoustic & amplified), cello bass, jungle kit (kids kick drum, brushes, lid gong) from the album PIGthe-bowlerBOX & Co. Vol 1

As mentioned in MY INVISIBLE MUSIC CAREER PT 5, somewhere around 2011 I bought a Nashville metal-bodied resonator uke.  I named it PIGBOX because it was an unrefined, klunky and decidedly cranky instrument.  Disgruntled.  Cantankerous.

It immediately drew out more dissonance in my playing, some harsher rhythms, gutterblues and dirty bits.  A repertoire gradually emerged, PIGBOX music, over several years, some ideas had legs AND bodies, some were just a few bones rattling for attention, all were in a chronic state of coitus interuptus as life kept getting in the way.

Here’s an early PIGBOX composition from 2012:

For a long time I knew I wanted to record this PIGBOX music with a deliberately raw aesthetic that would be in keeping with the instrument.  I wanted to bang things, be sloppy, fall apart just enough, uncare just enough.  I wanted it to sound like a drunk wedding band at a hillbilly funeral, like a wombat grunting through the floorboards, like real folk music made by lazy-eyed imperfectionists.  Here’s how The Tangled Truth now sounds on the album:

The Tangled Truth – Bradfield Dumpleton 2012. Resonator ukulele, cello bass, tremolo electric guitar, jungle kit (kids kick drum, brushes, snare), balafon from the album PIGBOX & Co. Vol 1

family-studio-shot-bw

Family shot in the studio, clockwise from left: Bruko the soprano uke, cello bass, PIGBOX, Elekta the tremolo guitar, busted snare, rubberband bass, Devil Guitars mini-amp, the Electric Plank & Squier the other slightly-less-mini amp.

electric-plank

The Electric Plank, made by daughter Lotus Dumpleton at age 11, for slide or bow

Earlier this year I had a rare window of opportunity (ie no work, no money, no reason to go out), so I locked out the world &  locked me in for a couple of weeks of creative derangement.  I found noises on my instruments that would offend the musical, I found noises around the house, I plugged planks of wood and other objects into amplifiers just to see what wouldn’t happen.  I played cello, balalaika, mandolin, kemenche, guitar, electric plank, a bass drum I found at Cygnet tip.  Many of them I played in ways they oughtn’t be played.  Every track though began with PIGBOX front & centre, either acoustic or electrified – he was the linchpin, the hub of all hub-bub.

Not all the music is as harsh as it might seem, I also found moments of unexpected lyricism and beauty in drifty improvisations like this one:

Wonderwing – Bradfield Dumpleton 2015. Resonator ukulele, cello bass, tremolo electric guitar, jungle kit (dundun, brushes, snare), talking drum from the album PIGBOX & Co. Vol 2

lid-gongMany of these instruments I don’t know how to play, but as I pieced the recordings together I just wanted to see what I could DISCOVER, because that’s really what excites me about the creative process. For instance, I was delighted to discover that the Turkish kemenche (fiddle), at the mercy of my bow anti-technique, actually sounds like a muted trumpet on the track Killing A Jazz Purist (PIGBOX Vol 2).

As much as I appreciate other people’s care & attention in music, I personally find rehearsing and perfecting stifling.  I needed PIGBOX to release me from that, I needed this process to be IMMEDIATE.  It really had nothing to do with the destination.   Apart from the central parts played on PIGBOX the Uke, most of what’s on these recordings is improvised in one or two takes, and I wouldn’t know how to repeat any of it.

Christmas Blues – Bradfield Dumpleton 2012. Resonator ukulele, cello bass, mandolin, jungle kit (dundun, brushes, snare) from the album PIGBOX & Co. Vol 2

bootSo now I’ve purged the Pig, and there are two albums of sounds, 29 tracks in total.  It’s a document of a process.  It’s something I needed to do for my mental health, my creative well-being & to replenish my sense of self by disengaging from the mundane world that confuses & eats at me.  Probably I was having fun.  I only did it for me, I don’t have the temperament or time to perform it or market it, but it’s on my Bandcamp site. You’ll find the link at the bottom of this page.

Raised By Hippies – Bradfield Dumpleton 2012. Resonator ukulele, electric tremolo guitar, cello bass, mandolin, jungle kit (kids kick drum, brushes, snare, lid gong) from the album PIGBOX & Co. Vol 1reso-uke-feet-1

There will be obvious comparisons to the honourable Mr Waits, but my references are actually from other shadows in time (as are his) – the Howling Wolf & the Muddy Water days of raw blues recording, the rust on the strings, the grunt in the boot, the bang of a box….the John Lee Beefheart ragged rhythm hooks zigzagging back to Alan Lomax and his acoustical microphonics expeditions, folkalising in some ramshackle mountain hut in Tasmania’s Deep South.

Gimme Dat!

Down South – Bradfield Dumpleton 2016. Resonator ukulele, tremolo acoustic guitar, cello bass, acoustic slide guitar, jungle kit (kids kick drum, brushes, snare, lid gong), Rusty Gate Gospel Singers from the album PIGBOX & Co. Vol 2

You can listen and download any of my albums at bradfielddumpleton.bandcamp.com.

If you prefer something more refined, played with more care & gentler on the ear, I recommend my previous acoustic outings on uke & guitar, as pictured below and available on Bandcamp.

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ILLUSTRATION – KNOX CITY COUNCIL

PrintCommunity arts, health & well-being and education seem to be where I gravitate in my creative work.  Over the last 20 years I’ve often been engaged by councils, usually via their Community Arts or Community Development teams, to facilitate workshops, youth or community arts projects, or provide illustration such as promotional art, logo design & educational material.

In Tasmania, I’ve collaborated with at various times with Huon, Hobart, Kingborough, South Midlands & Glenorchy Councils since moving here in 2001.  As with teachers, I have great respect for the dedicated individuals who work at the forefront of community development.  They are often very caring, creative (and resourceful!) people who genuinely want to enable positive opportunities for their communities, despite the bureaucratic restraints of the system they work within.

From 2007 – 2016 I enjoyed a longstanding working relationship with Knox City Council’s community arts team, providing the branding for the annual Knox Arts Festival, illustration for various community education resources, and artwork for what became an award-winning public transport advocacy campaign.

KNOX COMMUNITY ARTS FESTIVAL (2007 – 2013)knox-2010-detail

I was first engaged by Knox in 2007 via Anthony McInneny, who I’d previously worked with on a Youth Arts project for Glen Eira Council.  I was asked to create a bold, colourful and slightly Seuss-ish look for the Knox Arts Festival marketing, and for the next 7 years this style continued as the festival brand.  Each year’s festival had a different theme that tied together community, diversity, environment and the arts.  My illustrations were used across all advertising materials, posters, postcards, programs, on canvas banners and even on aprons, T-shirts etc.  I also ran continuous cartooning workshops in Ferntree Gully library over the festival weekend.  There was something deliciously subversive about being almost completely anonymous at the event, surrounded by my artwork trumpeting itself all over the festival on banners, signage, and the like.

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KNOX WASTE EDUCATION PROGRAMPrint

In 2009, as part of Knox’s Waste Education program into the community and primary schools, I was asked to design a family of characters respresenting the 3 different household bins used in the Shire – ie household waste, recycling and green waste.  The Bin Family were used as mascots across various print media and on the Council’s website, and I also designed a deck of playing cards based on the ‘Happy Families’ card game of old, except the families were representing different categories of rubbish eg the Can family, the Bottle family, the Hard Waste family and so on.  The cards could be downloaded from the Council website, printed and stuck on cardboard, for school students to play with.

In fact the cards were a favourite with my own kids for many years.  They’re not on the Knox website anymore, but you can download the whole deck here (If you glue them onto fairly thick cardboard, the cards will last years – ours are still going!)

‘WHO’S ON BOARD’ PUBLIC TRANSPORT CAMPAIGN

i-want-youIn 2010, Knox Council’s communications team devised and delivered a public transport advocacy campaign titled ‘Who’s on Board?’, aimed at getting firm government commitments to better public transport in Melbourne’s east in the lead up to the 2011 State election.

Knox Council briefed me to design a central “mascot” character and a selection of supporting images around which all the marketing would be built.  The campaign was a huge success. It generated enormous community interest and media coverage and would go on to win the Best Communication Award at the 2012 Government Communications Australia awards.

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In the award submission prepared in support of ‘Who’s on Board?’ (download here), you can see some of the far-reaching applications of the mascot (named Barney Boardman in a Knox schools competition).  I was surprised to note that while the document acknowledges that their decision to use cartoons was integral in their marketing strategy (as a way of engaging the community in a potentially dry campaign), nowhere in the document am I credited as the artist.  There is a passing mention of the artwork being created “in-house”, which is incorrect: Council out-sourced the art to a professional illustrator (me) who lives interstate and was probably a cheaper option than local illustrators.  Sadly this reflects common attitudes about freelance cartoon illustration – that in being “merely” functional, it’s not a particularly valued artform or skill, and the artist’s contribution is expected to remain anonymous unless of course you generate some kind of celebrity for yourself…an option I’ve always found unappealing as I’m really not of a chestbeating temperament.

ROAD SAFETY BOOKLETknox-road-safety-4-detail

I like commercial illustration jobs that involve some element of education, that require a clarity of line in order to communicate an immediate message, in a style that is perhaps innocuous but warm enough for people to connect with the content.  As an artist who is no stranger to creative complexity, I relish bringing deliberate economy to this style of cartoon drawing, making every small symbol or cliche matter, a hand, a glance in a particular direction, the space between two lines, finding balance with minimal expression.

This particular brief, a booklet on Road Safety for families dropping off / picking up their kids from school,  was all the more satisfying because it was about keeping kids safe – something I feel very passionate about.

Professionally, I was challenged by the fact that in the 80s another cartoonist had already illustrated essentially the same booklet, which Knox Council had supplied me & were really just asking me to copy and “update” his work.  I felt a moral tangle – solidarity with the previous cartoonist, compassion and yet guilt at my own betrayal, concerns about copyright, my desperate need to pay bills and my disgust at it all being reduced to money and survival.  As I applied my own skills to the job, I wondered a lot about the other cartoonist and his life, and this added a whole other depth to my process.

Well, someone has to care about these things, at least momentarily, because generally most people don’t….

Once again, despite my signature on all the drawings and the fact that the booklet is comprised entirely of nothing but artwork, there was no creative credit for myself or the previous artist –  “produced by the Local Laws Department, Knox Council”.  Perhaps I am a Department of Laws unto myself?

You can download the booklet here if you wish to share it with your school.  Personally I think the booklet is a fantastic idea and relevant to the safety of all our young kids.

RESIDENTS RATES BROCHURE

Earlier this year, Knox produced a brochure for residents of the Shire, outlining a breakdown of  where spending of rates was occurring.  I provided an assortment of generic images that were then placed in the brochure.  Knox got the design idea from another council’s rates brochure, but I do think they did a better job on the design of this one, much warmer and user-friendly.

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SIDEWALK MOBILITY POSTCARDS

My last job for the Knox team was this series of illustrations which became postcards delivered to Knox residents.  The drawings basically depict before / after scenarios reminding residents to keep their gardens off the sidewalks so that people in wheelchairs, scooters, walking frames, strollers etc can enjoy a more pleasant mobile experience as they traverse the suburban thoroughfares.

 

 

Visual Scribe @ Relationships Australia (TAS) Conference, Hobart

RELTAS 12

OCT 26 / 27 2015 Visual Scribe @ Relationships Australia (TAS) Conference, Hobart

In Oct 2015, Relationships Australia Tas employed me as a “visual mapper”, illustrating in realtime the core themes and ideas that emerged from their annual 2-Day conference of 150 employees from around the state.  I stood at the back of the room, listening, observing, interpreting & translating into symbolic images & key words.  At the end of each day, participants used the visual map to reflect on their conference experience and reinforce their understanding of the conference themes.

RELTAS 11It was great to be part of such a strong gathering of people sharing the common aim of helping other people – social well-being, communication, social education. I had done some live “visual mapping” at a 2-hr Death Café event earlier in the year, but having two whole days onsite allowed me time to really immerse myself in the process & develop the ideas in my drawings a bit more thoroughly.

The conference theme was “One Team”, looking at ways of unifying the diverse skills of everyone within the organization, from admin to management.

RELTAS 8Guest speakers were Saroo Brierley, with his remarkable story about reuniting with his lost family in India, and Alisa Camplin with her motivational experience of winning gold at the Winter Olympics against all odds.  Both described two very different ways of setting oneself a seemingly impossible goal, and seeing it to completion.

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This job was a rich & challenging experience, both personally & creatively – not only did I need to sharpen my creative thinking skills on the fly to make my drawings concise & communicative, I felt I was able to draw deeply on many other personal skills and insights. My own lived experiences around mental illness, relationships and family breakdown, emotional communication and psychological transformation, all gave me a better understanding of the context & enabled a more authentic creative process.

 

 

Visual Scribe @ Calvary Palliative Care schools pilot program 2016

SESSION 3

PALLIATIVE CARE COURSE FOR SCHOOLS (Pilot Program), CALVARY HOSPITAL, TERM 1 2016

Following my experience as visual scribe at Calvary Hospital’s Death Café in 2015, one of the organisers Belinda Clarke approached me about being involved in an innovative pilot program she had devised in partnership with Calvary Hospital & two Hobart high schools.

A group of Yr 12 girls who were considering a career in nursing, were to attend six weekly sessions at Calvary’s palliative care unit, in which they would learn about various aspects of palliative care and begin to have more open conversations about death, dying, and ultimately, life.

image002Each week there were presentations by various health care professionals in the field, discussing topics such as medical & holistic supports for the dying, ethics, grief, care in the wider community. The students also spent time with a patient at the unit who was undergoing treatment, and who shared her views on life and facing death. The students kept creative journals throughout the course and used these to produce a creative response to their experience, in the form of visual art or writing. Each session was filmed & edited by HypeTV into a DVD overview of the pilot program to present to other schools.

Once again, my role was to attend some of these sessions as a live “visual scribe”, listening to the presenters and distilling their information into simple expressive drawings for student reflection.  As the course had never been tried before, Belinda had no expectation of outcome, and we were all very much in the unknown with the process – a place I always feel is creatively exciting!

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It was fantastic to be part of this innovative learning process, to support this important work and to again consider my own mortality more deeply. It was particularly powerful for the students, some of whom were directly dealing with death in their own families, and they embraced the challenge with great maturity and insight.

You can read and view the students’ creative responses, as well as see video diaries of the sessions, at Belinda’s blog here: http://exploringdeathhobart.blogspot.com.au/

Here is the completed 13-minute documentary of the project, produced by Hype TV:

Death Cafe: Visual Scribing @ Calvary Hospital 2015

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DEATH CAFE, CALVARY HOSPITAL, JULY 4 2015

In 2015 I was invited to provide live cartoon “scribing” at a Calvary Hospital event in Hobart. It was a 2-hour “Death Café”, in which the general public were invited to meet and have open conversations about death and dying – not a grief group, but a safe space in which to normalise the usually-taboo subject.

death cafe 4More than 1000 pop-up Death Cafes have been organised by communities & health organisations around the world since 2004. Swiss sociologist / anthropologist Bernard Crettaz held the first Death Café after recognising the need to break the culture of secrecy around death & dying.

At the Calvary event, participants sat around the room in small groups, and my role was to move around the room, listening in on the various conversations and extrapolating the main themes, which I then tried to distill into images & words on two whiteboards.

This was both a creative and personal challenge. Leading up to the event, it made me think about my own mortality more, and practical aspects of death such as preparing a will, and it prompted some challenging conversations with my two adolescent children and my partner. Naturally we avoid speaking about our death with people we love because it touches on deep feelings of sadness & loss, but open conversations can help us feel more prepared for that loss when it happens, and potentially help us appreciate the time we do have with each other more fully.

death cafe 3Creatively, while I have decades of experience drawing spontaneously with groups in new situations, I had never tried live “visual scribing” before, and I was nervous about whether I could deliver something meaningful in a brief 2 hours.

In the end, it was a gently powerful experience for everyone, and the conversations ranged from attitudes about suicide, to feeling more alive in the face of death, to the commercialization of death, to the dangers of shielding children from death, and beyond. It was both fascinating and a privilege to be allowed to listen in on people’s stories, and many people found that my drawings helped them reflect more deeply, and even created connections across the room between separate conversations.

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The Death Cafe team: Aneeta Oakley, Sarah De Jonge, Cath Schlyder, Belinda Clarke & Santa Claus

 

KIDS LIKE US – vital work for (twice) exceptional kids

KLU GALA INVITE

APR SUN 19 – KIDS LIKE US (Sandringham)

On Sunday April 19 I’ll have the pleasure of continuing some drawing exploration with a small but highly-creative & enthusiastic group of young people from Kids Like Us.  This will be our third gathering, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where the journey takes us this time.

Kids Like Us Australia are a small and passionate team of people working to help children who are “twice exceptional” – kids who have highly specialised gifts but also live with challenges such as dyslexia, autism, aspergers, ADHD, anxiety & depression.  These kids process the world in remarkable & highly creative ways, but are often misunderstood in mainstream education.

This year I am excited to be running some workshops using the thINK drawing process with some of the more visually-oriented KLUA students.

I have also been designing some illustrations for KLUA, including the ubiquitous Bowler Hat, who is to represent their Ambassador program.

If you’d like to attend their Annual Gala Fundraising event in May, or would like to support the vital work KLUA are doing, please contact them!

 

Hobart, September 3, 4 & 6 2013 – Friends School, Yr 7s

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September 3, 4 & 6, 2013

Four years ago, the Friends School (Secondary Campus) in Hobart approached me about running my Creative Communication cartoon workshops with their Year 7s, as part of their Connections program.  Over three days I worked with all the Year 7 home groups, a different group each day, and about 50 students in each group.  What was especially wonderful was that I was given a WHOLE DAY with each group – sheer luxury!  This meant there was plenty of time to run a very comprehensive program, covering facial expressions & body language, as well as many extension exercises such as applying the techniques to comic strips and a simple animation.

Since that first mini-residency, Friends have invited me back each year to work with the Yr 7s, and this year was my fourth visit.  I have always been very impressed with the students here, they have always seemed very switched on, engaged & responsive, and often very confident in their thinking, but nothing prepared me for the amazing response from this year’s group.

The majority of the students were highly creative & skilled in their interpretations of the cartoons I drew with them, spontaneously adapting the ideas to their own characters, and embellishing their drawings with colour and all kinds of fantastic details.  I was stunned at how creative this whole group were, and it was incredibly inspiring!  I’ll let the drawings speak for themselves – I just love how distinct the styles are.  Thanks once again to Friends for inviting me back, and to the teachers for their fantastic support.

FACIAL EXPRESSIONS

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COMIC STRIP

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BODY LANGUAGE – THE WHISPERING SCENARIO

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BODY LANGUAGE – THE LAUGHING SCENARIO

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And we even had time for some random requests as a bit of fun to finish the day – depressed pandas, sad elephants, creepy fat guys, goofy unicorns, just the usual…….(!)

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Launceston, August 6 2013 – Scotch Oakburn College

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August 6 2013

I always welcome the opportunity to travel a bit in Tassie & visit schools a bit further afield, it rekindles my sense of adventure and reminds me how much stunning country there is to appreciate in this state.  And it’s always a pleasure to return to a school I’ve visited before, I like the sense of continuity.  In this case, I got both – I had been invited back to Scotch Oakburn College by Jan Petterwood, to work with the Grade 5/6 students as I did last year.  The focus was the Creative Communication program, working with two large groups for half a day each.  The kids were fantastic, really receptive, attentive and enthusiastic, and really responsive to the workshop content.  They had already been exploring cartoon art with their teachers, so they were well-primed by the time I got there.

Thanks to the teachers for all your help taking photos & for making me so welcome, and thanks to the kids for your enthusiastic attention!

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Cygnet Early Childhood Artist-In-Residence, July 2013

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July 22 – 30, 2013

Hot on the heels of July’s school holiday workshops, I hurtle headlong into a week-long Artist Residency!  Last year the unstoppable Mirjam Holthuis from Cygnet Community Childrens Centre (CCCC) was successful in securing a grant to employ three local artists from the Cygnet area, including myself.  Each of the artists were asked to offer creative experiences to the kindergarten students at the three local Primary Schools – St James, Cygnet Primary & Peregrine Community School, plus some younger children from the CCCC.

I have been living in the Cygnet (TAS) area since 2007, and have worked with Cygnet PS and Peregrine on many occasions, teaching both cartoon drawing & percussion.  It was Cygnet PS music teacher, the remarkable Katherine Fairs-Morris, who first prompted  me to teach percussion on a regular basis, which led to me directing two successful Cygnet community drumming groups for 4 years.

So when Mirjam invited me to submit a proposal for the residency, I jumped at the chance to re-engage with my local school communities.  With the project aimed at mostly 5 yr olds, I decided to offer a smorgasboard of creative experiences over 3 x one-hour sessions with each kinder group.

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Session 1 was an interactive rhythm / percussion prgne drums 3experience, in which I introduced the kidlets to an array of (mostly African) drums: djembe, dundun, talking drum, darbukka, cajon (& balafon), plus a selection of miscellaneous tribal percussion toys including agogo bells, seed shakers, shekere, woodblocks, tibetan bells and more.  We talked about how each instrument has a different voice, how they resonate to create sound, and a little about where each instrument originated, and the various materials they’re made from.  The kids of course were busting to make some noise, so I followed this up with some interactive rhythm games – exploring vocal sounds & rhythms, and co-ordinating hand-clapping & foot-stomping rhythms.  Then we translated these simple rhythms to the instruments themselves, and I was amazed at how well the kids held it together – no mean feat for that age!  We had a ball and made a truly joyous racket!

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cyg mus 1Session 2 was more of a listening experience –  I introduced the kidlets to some of the stringed instruments I play: a European mandolin, a Russian balalaika, and three different varieties of ukulele, including a metal resonator uke.  I talked a little about each instrument’s origin, about how sound resonates in the sound box, and the unique voice of each instrument (picture of appreciative audience at right).

I demonstrated a few exotic styles of instrumental music from around the world, and played a few silly kids songs that I wrote for my own kids years ago.  The kids were hilarious & such a delight as they joined in!  Here’s one of them:

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The Cygnet Primary kids followed up this session with DIY instruments using papier mache & rubber bands.  And the Peregrine School kids reflected on their session by creating drawings of the instruments I had played, which they then compiled into a book and presented to me as a thank you gift.  Thanks guys!

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Session 3 was a cartoon drawing workshop – a simplified version of the facial expressions workshop I use in the Creative Communication program.  Again I was surprised at how well the kids interpreted my suggestions, as guided drawing is often too challenging for this age.  We drew (and pulled!) some expressive faces and discussed a few different emotions as we drew them together.

Some feedback from Cygnet Primary teacher Judi Rhodes:  “During the cartooning workshop the children stayed focused and on task for at least an hour which is a very long time for 4 year olds! They loved drawing the faces with different emotions. Lots of parents have commented on the detailed and quirky drawing that their children have produced…they simply can’t believe that their children have done them!!”

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Judi’s kids compiled their face drawings into personal books for further reflection in class.  They looked fantastic!

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The last session for the residency was with the Cygnet kinders and we finished off on a relaxed note, with me drawing a few cartoon requests – in this pic they asked for an octopus, and then kids took turns in suggesting what each tentacle was holding!

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For many years my work in schools has been mostly focused on middle to upper primary & secondary ages, so it was really refreshing to return to this age group and PLAY – thanks so much to Mirjam Holthuis and the Cygnet Community Childrens Centre for enabling me to participate in this residency, to the fantastic and dedicated staff at Peregrine, St James & Cygnet schools (and the CCCC!) for all your help & enthusiasm, and of course to all the gorgeous preps and kinders who were such a delight to work with!

 

Melbourne June 2013 – Wesley College

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Mon June 17 – Fri June 21, 2013

In 2001, Wesley College approached me to design a cartooning workshop program addressing bullying, for inclusion in a Yr 7 Resilience Program the college was piloting, and which incorporated many other materials such as drama, video, discussion, writing etc.  When Wesley approached me with the commission I had just completed my year-long residency at Pembroke Primary under the mentorship of Kate Perkins (see Yarra Rd PS post), in which Kate & I had used cartooning throughout the school community to address various aspects of emotional communication.

And for the last 12 years since, the Glen Waverley campus of Wesley College have very generously invited me back as Cartoonist-In-Residence, to run the Creative Communication program with the entire Yr 7 contingent each year.  For a whole week, I take the 6 Home groups for 2 sessions of around an hour each, drawing facial expressions, body language, and discussing ideas about respect, bullying, stereotypes etc.  This year, Yr 7 Leader Penny Mudge worked her magic on the timetabling so that every group got an extra third session – more time to play, and to extend on some of the usual skills I teach in these sessions.  In the first session, as usual, we covered facial expressions, but when it came to the second session (drawing scenarios demonstrating body language) the students creativity really began to shine through.  Here are some of the fantastic results:

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In all these examples, we drew everyday scenarios that the kids could relate to.  I always deliberately leave out any details that identify the gender of the characters, so that the students can explore stereotypical thinking, and how the nuances of the story can change depending on what gender is allocated to each characters.  It’s always fascinating to see how the students respond to stereotypes like “Boys don’t cry”, “Girls don’t bully boys”, “boys don’t comfort each other” etc.  After discussing these ideas based on the genderless characters we’ve drawn, the students can then assign the characters whatever gender they want on their own drawing.

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In the extra third sessions, we looked at a simple comic strip format, to tell a story between two characters entirely through their facial expressions, without text.  The students are encouraged to think about interpersonal dynamics, sequential story-telling, and how life can offer unexpected outcomes depending on how we respond in the moment!

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WES 10Thanks again Wesley College for having me back all these years!  Thanks also to Penny for doing such a fantastic job of co-ordinating a tricky timetable, and to the awesome Yr 7 students who are always a pleasure to work with!  You guys rock!

Melbourne June 2013 – Rowville Secondary College

RWVLLE 2AThurs June 13 & Fri June 14, 2013

Another really rewarding 2-day visit to Rowville Secondary, one of my favourite schools to visit (yes, I know, I’m not supposed to have favourites!).  This is the fourth year running that I’ve been invited to run the Creative Communication workshops there, thanks to the wonderful leader of the Arts Faculty, Robyn Geake.  Each year that I’ve been to Rowville, I’ve worked mostly with a select group of Yr 7 (RIA) students who specialise in various areas of the arts.  We were very fortunate to be timetabled a 4-period block (almost a full day!), which gives us plenty of time to relax into the content – ie emotional communication through drawing facial expressions & body language.  One thing I especially enjoy about the RIA groups is that all the students are already creatively switched-on, that is, I can speak to them directly as artist to artist, in a more creative language.  What’s also interesting is that only a small portion of the group are ever visual arts – mostly they are drama / dance / music focused, drawing is still generally a challenge for most of them.  But thinking laterally, creatively, emotionally, spatially, is very natural to them.  I love being able to convey to them the connections between disciplines – how dance is a kind of linemaking in space through movement, or how injecting expression & personality into a cartoon character is just like embodying a character as an actor.  Eg:RWVLLE 3A

Thanks to Robyn Geake and Rowville Secondary for inviting me back again, and thanks to the wonderful, responsive students there!

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Melbourne June 2013 – Yarra Rd PS

YRPS 1Tues June 11 2013 – Landed in Melbourne from Tasmania on the ferry first thing in the morning (boat-lagged!) for a two-week teaching binge, and headed straight over to Yarra Rd Primary School in Nth Croydon to spend a fantastic day catching up again with Grades 3 – 6.  But first….

Rewind to March of this year:  principal Kate Perkins (dear friend & significant teaching mentor to me back in the 90s) asked me to do a week-long Artist In Residence at Yarra Rd PS, running the Creative Communication workshops from Kinders to 6.  The week was a fantastic success on many levels – apart from being loads of fun, the kids surprised us all with the amount of latent creative talent that suddenly had a forum for expression (given that the school has been largely – and successfully – sports-focused for many years). Kids were running up to me in the playground, eager to show me sketchbooks bursting with the most wonderful drawings.  It was quite an honour!

These sorts of residencies are always a wonderful opportunity for me to also become a part of the school community, the kids get to know me better, and working across all grades helps plant the seeds of a drawing culture within the school.  Not only are kids inspired to share their drawing skills within their grade, but siblings can share the experience as well.  When I first collaborated with Kate in the 90s, she was principal of Pembroke Primary in Mooroolbark (VIC) and she had the same vision of a drawing culture within that school – Kate is passionate about Creativity in Education, and its important links with personal development & well-being.  Kids need creativity!

During this year’s March residency I also ran some lunchtime “masterclasses” for a few small groups of select students, and began some collaborative work with Shirley Robertson, the school’s Student Welfare co-ordinator, to develop some cartoon art that will complement some resources Shirley’s developing about emotional communication & well-being in the school.

This has so far included a series of “Faces” cards, 12 cartoon faces expressing various emotions, which are used with the younger grades to gauge how the kids are feeling from day to day – a kind of open-ended emotional check-in, where the kids can choose a card that represents their current state.  An example:

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I’ve also designed a logo for their schoolwide “Mateship Program”, encouraging students to look out for each other, and we’re developing other resources looking at personal space & boundaries.

YPRS matesship logoAnyway, back to Tuesday’s visit:  as soon as I arrived, students greeted me with “Hello Bradfield!” – it was such a lovely feeling to be remembered!  I had Grades 5/6 first up, and we extended on the previous workshops with looking at sequential cartoon art (comic strip) as a way of communicating a simple story without any text ie two characters interacting, and telling their story through their facial expressions.  The kids were fantastic, and we rounded off the sessions with my (almost) famous flipbook technique (more on that elsewhere!).  The rest of the day was with the 3/4s, and we extended on the March workshops, looking at a few simple techniques for getting distance, backgrounds & perspective into a comic strip (see photos below).   I was very impressed with how well the students grasped the concepts and their enthusiasm was incredibly rewarding!

All of which tied in perfectly with the day’s timetabled visual literacy units (an unscheduled synchronicity)!

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