Tuesday, 23 March 2021

March 2021

 A Brave New World

Installation view of the 'Garfield Weston' gallery,
 MK Calling 2020, with the vitrine my art was displayed in (right)
Picture credit: MK Gallery. 

Contemporary Drama

MK Calling 2020 is the longest-running exhibition I've been in so far. This group exhibition, at MK Gallery, opened in February 2020, temporarily closed for lockdown late in March and finally re-opened with an extension until November 2020. In all that time, I managed just two visits in person, as I've being at home every since the first lockdown. 

Of course, like many other people, I was hoping the COVID-19 pandemic would be over quickly and wondering when, or if, we would get back to 'normal' life. Initially I was optimistic that I'd catch up with my reading, make art, maybe start designing an online arts course. The reality was that my productivity ground to a halt. Instead of breaking new ground online, my broadband struggled as everyone around me logged on at home. Eventually my creative outlook re-emerged to focus on drawing nearer to home, as I've done in the past.

Installation view during MK Calling 2020,
including the vitrine with my art display
Picture credit: MK Gallery. 

Creating New Pathways

However, I was heartened to see lots of other people launch online art clubs and events, making the most of people's extra spare time as they worked from home and spent less time travelling. The availability of events, using Zoom and other online resources, has hopefully squashed a lot of arguments against flexible access, where travelling distance, time and costs have meant that some events have been inaccessible to many. The ability to screen and record events for sharing online, engage with communities via social media, run live interactive events on various platforms and even set up 'stalls' and promote work in international online events, mean that a lot of invisible access barriers have been flattened in the last year. If the arts want to support diversity, then this is one step closer to equal access for all.

In 2021, the availability of vaccinations and the natural optimism of Spring, is bringing hope to everyone. Whilst there is a temptation to simply return fixed locations to share art from, I'm hoping that some of the more distance-learning methods of sharing the arts will be here to stay. Here's to a more fluid and flexible access path to arts and crafts in the future.

Artists are always innovating and a more accessible approach to participatory arts and associated funding could be the start of a more connected era in the arts. If our brave new world has learnt some useful tricks from this pandemic, maybe some long-lasting benefit will have come out of it after all.

Installation view of my artwork 
 in the vitrine display of MK Calling 2020.
Picture credit: MK Galley / S. Raymond

Thursday, 13 February 2020

MK Calling 2020

The MK Calling 2020 show, opens this weekend at MK Gallery​, with over 130 amazing artists. This exhibition includes two framed drawings of community events and four of my sketchbooks. The sketches on show cover the period from roughly mid-2017 to the present, many featuring scenes in Milton Keynes. These look at public and community spaces, and how they are used. More recently I have started to focus on how these spaces are used to provide peer support.

Saturday 15 February- Sunday 17 May 2020


Gallery blurb:

Featuring over 130 artists across five world class gallery spaces, MK Calling is MK Gallery’s first open call submission exhibition in the majorly developed and extended building that reopened in March 2019. The exhibition will showcase a range of established and up and coming artists, very much celebrating what is happening today in contemporary art.

MK Calling will be showcasing the most dynamic work being made today including work by Royal Academicians, and alumni of The British Art Show, John Moores Painting Prize and New Contemporaries.

The show features numerous pieces that address and challenge many contemporary issues such as the environment and the political climate, as well as a number of playful and performance works. With the exhibition taking place in the new town of Milton Keynes and with a third of artists local to the area, a lot of the work also looks at cities and architecture.


Ikran Abdille | Miraj Ahmed | Saint Akua | Giuseppe Alfano & Roisin Callaghan | Chris Alton | Bronya Arcsizewska | Artist I. Relevant | Astrid Baerndal | Bill Balaskas | Bianca Barandun | Pietro Bardini | Charlie Barkus | Namen Basil | Anna Berry | Daniel Blumberg | Boyd & Evans | Eleanor Breeze | Melanie Bush | Lil Cahill | Nathan Caldecott | Ciara Callaghan | Phil Carney | Priya Chohan-Padia | Sarawut Chutiwongpeti | Jonny Clapham | Dovile Dagiene-Doda | Shona Davies | Dave Monaghan & Jon Klein | Charlie Denning | Edward Durdey | Lee Farmer | French & Mottershead | Doug Foster | Archie Franks | Abi Freckleton | Emi Fujisawa | John Garrad | GLRGNYNK | Fiona Grady | Garth Gratrix | Thomas Gray | Lucy Gregory | Habib Hajallie | Emily Hawes | Aaron Head | Rebecca Herbert | Fabienne Hess | Dave Hilliard | Len Hollman | Gareth Horner | Will Hurt | Dawn Iles | Hannah Jean Moulds | Permindar Kaur | Judy Kendrick-Simonsen | Neil Kilby | Adam King | Jane King | Kyle Kirkpatrick | Anna Lann & Jonathan Tritcher | Penthouss | Karolina Lebek | Fei Li | Dasha Loyko | Andrew Macdermott | Henrietta MacPhee | Rachel Magdeburg | Nick Malone | Morag McInnes | Sean Michael Pearce | Verity Millest | Elisabeth Molin | Callum Monteith | Stuart Moore | Nazanin Moradi | Adam Neal | Raymond O'Daly | Kate Parrott | Jam Patel | Sharda Patel | Marion Piper | Lisa-Marie Price | Jonathan Purnell | Paul B Rainey | Suzanna Raymond | Thom Rees | Dorothea Reid | Yande Ren | Graeme Roach | Dave Ronalds | Linnet Panashe Rubaya | Rekha Sameer | Mark Scammell | Abbie Schug | Christina Shelagh Mongelli | Martyn Simpson | Cecilia Sjoholm | Rebecca Smart | Ritu Sood | Stephanie Spindler | Bob Spriggs | Johanna Tagada Hoffbeck | James Tebbutt | Tracing the Pathway | Sebastian Thomas | James Owen Thomas | Elizabeth Tomos | Roxy Topia & Paddy Gould | Anna Townley | Dina Tses | Anna Turner | Miles Umney | Guillaume Vandame | Wai Wai Pang | Vilas | Elizabeth Walker | Lufeianna Wang | Sally Waterman | Emma Wilde | Mark Wilsher | Arianne Wilson | Iain Woods | Josh Wright | Rachel Wright | Cherilyn Yeates | Henry Yeomans

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Sketchy Plans 2019

My first sketching event was outside the newly refurbished MK Gallery

A Short History of Drawing Around Milton Keynes

It turns out that 2019 became the year I started running events for a Milton Keynes sketch group. This is a Facebook group that I initially took over from local artist Dave Hilliard, who had run a few events before I showed up. As another local group had ground to a halt after three events, I knew that if I wanted to see more events in the area I had better start running them myself. So I took the opportunity to try and create my first local arts programme for sketching in urban spaces.

My intention was to run a few events using my community engagement experience. I was also aiming to shed more light on the benefits of urban sketching, activities that were proven in more established groups in Bedford, Northampton, London and other areas. Taking a  few pointers from Dave, who had been part of the Northampton group, we made a start around the time that the refurbished Milton Keynes Gallery was due to re-launch.

Our first event took place in Margaret Powell Square, which sits just outside MK Theatre and the art gallery. Our second event was inside the galleries, taking advantage of the first exhibition called "Lie Of the Land", which seemed quite appropriate for an urban landscape sketch group.. In August we made it to our landmark fifth event. This means that I have now run more urban sketching events in MK than any other local organiser. I've taken a short break, to attend to other matters, but I hope to get back to scheduling more local events soon.

A Day Trip to Regents Park

To make sure I understood the basic model for sketching events, I joined the Urban Sketchers London group in July for an all-day sketch trip around Regents Park. This was a fun, informative event and I even got one of their badges! Their 'Draw London' event ran from 11:00 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon. These sketch gatherings were run as free events with no booking required.

As I arrived in Regents Park a little late, due to misjudging how long it'd take me to get to the start point, I was worried I'd miss the group. However, the group leader had stayed by the inner circle gates long past the start time to direct latecomers. As a bonus, I also ended up meeting local contact Sophie, who had started the Bedford urban sketchers group, and she gave me a few pointers. We formed a small group with a guy visiting from Hamburg and London member Elvin, who knew the group leader.

Our group went looking for a spot to sketch from and ended up diving into the Benugo cafe when it started to rain. We had two other sketchers join us at our table. As I wanted to know why everyone was there and what kind of sketchers they were, I was keen to chat to everyone. In the end we learnt a lot about each other while were sketching. After lunch, when we relocated to the next meeting point, I had a similar experience seated next to another sketcher on a bench facing a fountain.

Sitting in a central public space also turned out to be a good way to meet up with people you know, as I spotted graphic novel legends Paul Gravett and Peter from Comica London and Escape books taking a stroll around the Triton Fountain. We had a bit of a catch-up chat before they continued on their way.

In the end I stayed for the whole thing, including sketchbook throw-downs and group photos. From my point of view the event was a success, as I found out that my events are run in a similar format to that of a more established group. I also found out a lot about how and why these groups are run and what else may work for drawing sessions in my own area.

It turned out, from speaking to others with more experience, that becoming an official urban sketchers group is something that'll have to wait until we have more active members. Otherwise, we seem to be doing fine, albeit with less strict guidelines about what members post to the MK group. I look forward to hopefully enticing more people out of their homes with a sketchbook to explore their local area.


Drawing Around Milton Keynes (Facebook)
Urban Sketchers London chapter