Intervention: Animation Idea

An animation idea. I have photographed and recorded the changing faces of the post tops for many years and, I admit, I am struggling to find a suitable way of presenting these portraits to illustrate their change over time.  So, as well as presenting collected images of individual post tops (shown here) I am now working on an animated series of images.

I start with a view of the sea splashing against the groyne (and my boots). It will be interesting to see where this goes, but, at the moment, I am enjoying exploring the process.



Faceless Portraits: Seeming Restriction and Random Compromise

Faceless Portraits now looks at another role – another narrative that is an integrated part of my life. The digital head remains the same but a different camouflage image is imposed. This is Seeming Restriction (FP02)

Each Faceless Portrait is a separate book in a series – a new narrative as I examine this individual’s life and my sense of self. 

In Random Compromise (FP06), I enclosed the head in a virtual `glass case’. To encase something in a glass is to present the contained object as precious and so requiring protection. It presents a physical barrier to full access at the cost of a visual one. It suggests a perceived value but this is redundant in a digital environment where there is no physical access. In the digital world, this encasement is purely a narrative device.

Interestingly, as I am the subject of this representation, placing the head in a glass box induced an unexpected sense of claustrophobia.

Intervention: Exploring Light in Digital 3D

I extended my exploration of Blender to translate into 3D elements a post from Groyne 55. I used the top and side of a single post to create a simple, abstract, 3D model. This was not an attempt at accurate physical observation but an abstraction to project a sense of its three-dimensionality. To accentuate this aspect of abstraction the textures are were wrapped around a disc, a lozenge shape, and placed on the top of the post. I now had a simple 3D object.

Using Blender I lit the 3D object to create a `spectral’ lighting effect, reminiscent of moisture or dust in the atmosphere. I extended the effect to the area surrounding the object.

I used this model to generate some high-resolution 2D images; “photographing” the digital 3D environment.

These images were used as the foundation for some mezzo-tint mono-prints. I then photographed the prints and recombined them digitally with elements of the 3D render.


This cyclical iteration between physical and digital media, between representation and abstraction has at its core a single question; what is real?

Lost in Execution: Nexilis

Nexilis is the Latin word for woven together or intertwined. In this series `nexilis’ refers to the visual weaving of physical watercolour strips with the digital strips; the intertwining of physical and digital media. The weaving of the physical and the digital is a theme that runs throughout my work. 

Nexilis describes the process of working from physical watercolour through to the manipulation of the physical as digital objects, finally returning to and integrating the physical with the digital. The watercolour elements of the piece are painted, then torn into strips. The watercolour strips are photographed and manipulated into digital objects. The digital objects are used as the foundation of a series of abstract images.




Nexilis P1120417

Shown above, the underlying image is an A2 digital print overlaid with physical strips of water-coloured paper. These are the strips originally photographed and used to generate the image upon which they are now placed.

In the next image, I explore the effect of desaturation by reducing the colour palette. I apply filters to make it less paint-like and more photographic. The circular exploration of pattern and chaos continues.

Nexilis P1120417oilPaintmute


I am interested in the idea of reflection and this is present in both the way I think and the way I work. I have a cyclical approach; focusing on something and then leave it, return later, expand upon it, and then move on, a process that may continue indefinitely. The blend of chaos and pattern attempts to describe a search for balance.

Lost in Execution: Tangential

Tangential begins with the idea of a tangent and its relationship to a circle. This leads to thoughts of balance and chaos; `going off on a tangent’. I let my ideas explore a tangent’s relationship to a circle – a point of focus – while moving towards or away from the circle. Multiple tangents cluster around and create alternative definitions of the idea held at the centre; its relationship continues.

Tangential: 2cSpiralDev02a

Tangential: 2cSpiralDev02bdetail













Where is the balance between pattern and chaos? In the images above elements of the pattern are created by a series of tangents on a curve. I am interested in the idea of reflection and this is present in both the way I think and the way I work. I have a cyclical approach. I often focus on something and then leave it, returning later, expand upon it, and then move on, a process that may continue indefinitely. In this series of images, te blend of chaos and pattern attempts to identify and describe this search for balance.

Tangential 2cSpiralDev02c

Tangential 2cSpiralDev02cdetail

The tangents on a curve relate to a central idea. The detail maintains the sense of chaos and pattern in balance despite revealing some elements of the overlying pattern. I moved away from the photographic quality of the strips by using filters to de-emphasise the watercolour.

Desaturation moves away from the original wide colour palette of the watercolour strips while applying a similar filter style. Each of these images is tangents in their relationship to the original image.



Responsive Line: #portraitNovember

#portraitNovember on Twitter, and I share a series of faceless portraits and ask what is a portrait? Does the face have to be included to produce a portrait of a person? Or can collections of objects present an aspect of likeness? 

The objective was to achieve the likeness of a person, a sense not of what a person looks like but a sense of who the person is, using objects that form part of their everyday lives. As such it is also an exploration of metaphor as each object is a descriptive metaphor for an aspect of the individual’s life.

It is useful to consider four categories of metaphor:

Universal metaphor is in principle understandable by any other person, regardless of culture. These tend to be things that have clear, body related, functions.

Cultural metaphors make up the majority but require the audience is of the same culture, or has understanding of that culture, to communicate.

Sub-cultural often relates to specific skills related groups and interestingly can sometimes cross cultural boundaries.

Personal metaphors are those meanings we attach to objects on the basis of personal experience.

A true sense of a person, an informative likeness, is created by the selection of appropriate objects as metaphors. The effectiveness of the metaphor depends upon which category they are in, and the degree to which the audience are part of that category.

My personal view is that the face is like a product brand and only represents us in as much as it allows others to associate particular skills, qualities and attributes with that particular brand (face).

Inside looking out
I collect, make, do and see.
My face is not me.


My faceless portraits form part of:

Alternative Viewpoints, Towner Gallery, Eastbourne
Saturday 3 December at 4.00pm. Free.

Blue Monkey Network artists Cliff Crawford and Jan Turner respond to the `One Day Something Happens’ exhibition at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne. The session will take place in the gallery space and offers a participatory experience in a fast-paced workshop exploring ideas and thoughts relating to the exhibition. What creates the likeness of a person in a portrait? Consider the objects that dress the image: faceless portraits.


Lost In Execution: Binary Centre 02

Binary Centre explores shifts in perception. I transfer the physical media of watercolour strips to digital media and manipulate it to produce the illusion of circles and spirals with more than one centre.

These are the base images that I overlay and manipulate to explore digitally the theme of Binary Centre.

Binary Centre - Base Image01Binary Centre - Base Image02Binary Centre - Base Image03









Base Image01 The original digital image shows the strips of colour overlapped around a central point which somewhere in the timeline moves to create two distinct centres – partial illusion of ellipses.

Base Image02 The strips are interwoven digitally but echo the original image.

Base Image03 A version of the double curve that was initially produced on paper but showing a digital weave. Proportionally correct to the original paper strips and while digitally manipulated, taking into account and understanding of the limitations of physical manipulation.

Binary Centre - Pattern Hints in Chaos Swathes

Binary Centre – Pattern Hints in Chaos Swathes


Pattern Hints in Chaos Swathes

I digitally overlay and rotate the pattern by hand and eye, seeking symmetry while avoiding perfection. I look to project concepts of symmetry interrupted by elements of chaos. The underlying structure offers a sense of balance between chaos and pattern, but with neither dominant. I also adjust the colour using saturation, colour shifts and tints.

I use the strengths of the computer as a tool to explore different elements of the image, but I use it in a `hand-made’ way, seeking a balance between the physical and the digital.







Binary Centre - Life's Golden Section

Life’s Golden Section

This is a close up from the previous image. As you move to the centre you see the full colour of the original image with no saturation. You can see that the circle is not smooth; you see the structure and rotation of the elements of the image and you can sense the conflict between balance and chaos. There is a lack of the precision that is usually associated with computers; you see the hand-made element and approaches within a digital environment which feel inherently paradoxical.

Binary Centre - Built By Hand Holding Numbers

Built by Hand Holding Numbers


Built by Hand, Holding Numbers

I like the chaotic movement of the previous image but here I look again at the underlying structure.  

I weave together the initial patterns then use a combination of horizontal translation and scaling so that the image gives a sense of movement and recession.

This is done manually to avoid that perfection of the number so easy to slip into with computers.








Binary Centre - Reason's Edge Revealed

Reason’s Edge Revealed


Reason’s Edge Revealed


In this detail from the previous image, you see that the left and right-hand side of the image have similarities but not perfect symmetry. You can see differences in the way the images are woven and the manner in which it recedes. The same elements are there but it is not mathematically precise: it is digital but hand-made.









Binary Centre - Laid By Man and Nature's Whim

Laid by Man and Nature’s Whim


Laid by Man and Nature’s Whim


A busy image. Two overlapping figures of eight (like Venn Diagrams) with a circular centre that suggests symmetry. The illusion of symmetry grows with distance but breaks down on close observation.










Binary Centre - Broken Line Forests

Broken Line Forests


Broken Line Forests

 I like taking sections from the larger images where you can see the physical qualities of the watercolour strips.  They remind me of driftwood locked together on the seashore.  This image opens lots of associations for me – the circle I associate with the sun and church `rose windows’.


Binary Centre - Eye Seeks Out Reason

Eye Seeks Out Reason


Eye Seeks Out Reason


Chaos, pattern and symmetry enclosed in a regular circle to provide a sense of restraint and balance. At this stage, I look to reinstate the balance, emphasise the rotation of the piece, and the circular quality of the gap in the middle built of irregular straight lines. The scale changes our perception of the image.

I have reinstated the symmetry but ask why is it symmetrical?




Created by hand
Objects become metaphors
Links are forged by thought

Lost in Execution started with a drawn plan. Plans are a definition of a process; a structure that you work through. If working with a plan or a defined process what you end up with is often more complex and, in unpredictable ways, may be different from the original ideas. It is this translation, the movement between what is planned and what is finally achieved that I find interesting.

Each medium whether physical or digital imposes its own structure and pushes the work in its own direction, You are constantly either going with the flow or fighting to push it elsewhere.  It would be easier and faster to use the digital facilities available to rotate, duplicate and shift the elements of the picture but there is a balance to be achieved between the digital and the physical and I want the hand and mind of the artist to be central in my work.

Intervention: Seeds and Plant Debris

Shingle is constantly moving. On the eastern Channel coasts, this movement – called longshore drift – is generally eastwards. However, some parts of the shingle beach beyond the inter-tidal zone can become fairly stable, and areas may develop where plants grow. These shingle plants have adapted to cope with little fresh water and few nutrients, fierce winds and the salt spray of the wind and waves.

These pioneer communities consist of individual plants, widely spaced. They typically consist of sea kale, yellow horned poppy and sea pea. By autumn the remaining vegetation is very sparse and are patches of plant debris.

As part of my long-term interest in the groyne fields of Bexhill beach, I recently spent the day with an Art and Environment Study Group on a roaming workshop, led by artist Sean Roy Parker. We cycled and stopped to sketch the vegetation that grows above the high water mark on the coastline between Bexhill and Bulverhythe Fishing Yard.

I collected samples of seeds and brown, desiccated plant stems that I photographed and sketched. When I returned to the studio I photographed them again and then digitally draughted the resulting images combining my sketches with the digital photographs.

I shared my illustration of the shingle vegetation on Twitter using #intervention. However, the identification of what I collected proved more difficult. I may need to do some research…

Lost in Execution: Binary Centre 01

Binary Centre explores working with an initial watercolour piece and manipulating that initial piece through the digital to form a circle.  The idea, which initially I thought of as `Bi-Centre’ having 2 centres, developed into the idea of binary as I explore the perception of multiple centres. A single binary digit gives the possibility of two values (0 or 1 ) with each-each additional digit the number of values doubles (2, 4, 8, 16…) it felt to me like this is what was happening.  The Haiku are not explanations of the image but hints at some of the thoughts behind their production.

The Complex Resolves to One

Binary Centre: The Complex Resolves to OneThe circle contains spiral elements. A strip crosses the image horizontally, creating a barrier between the viewer and the circular image. The background is digitally created as a watercolour wash from photographs of the original strips of torn paper (see my previous Blog Lost in Execution: Binary Centre – Process). Photographs of the torn, coloured, paper strips are digitally manipulated by hand to create the circular image. In the foreground, there is a digital image of a strip of torn paper, covered by a green gradated wash.

The band across the front of the image and the wash in the background give a greater sense of depth.

In this series, I play with multiple centres on the Z-axis. If you look from a specific point the image retains the same XY-axis but presents the impression of disappearing into the background. It is also a record of a process over time as it moves into the distance. The concept of time is related to plans and processes; plans are predictions forward in time while a process is something that happens over time.  This is something that I explore in much of my work.


 Seen From A Distance

Binary Centre: Seen From A DistanceThe background is a tonal grey translation of the wash used in The Complex Resolves to One with the colour digitally stripped away. Elements of the receding line are also translated into monochrome.

There is a tradition in English watercolour of aerial perspective which is the changing of colour as it moves into the distance. In this case the change is a jump to neutral monochrome.









With Effort One Can Be Seen

Binary Centre: With Effort One Can Be SeenA vertical blue strip travels down the centre of the image. The circular image now has an overlay with two distinct centres, both of which are hidden by the blue strip. Straight lines begin by resolving around a centre point in the lower half but then seem to shift and resolve around a second centre point which is higher. The main image has been reduced to a monochrome with hints of green and red

Even within abstract work, I play with multiple illusions; the illusion of depth, of paper strips and of circles in an image made up of straight lines.








Models Reveal Part

Binary Centre: Models Reveal PartTwo strips cross the image. The background shows all the original torn strips that were used to create the physical watercolor piece, laid across and down the page.













Seeking One Centre

Binary Centre: Seeking One CentreThe foreground elements of a vertical and horizontal sloping cross create a barrier pushing the viewer back from the central element.

The background tonal colours have changed.  To achieve this I selected certain colours from within the image and `shifted’ them muting the blues towards the monochrome and increasing the colour saturation of the reds.










Suddenly Beyond

Binary Centre: Suddenly BeyondThis image removes the visual barrier and lets you enter the image. The reds have been enhanced and the circular image now jumps to the foreground and attempts to leave the page.

Change is constant; the change during the process of creating an image and the change between creating one image and another. It can purely be perceptual change, for example a shift in awareness caused by revisiting the image.









A Rhythm Lost Creates Noise

Binary Centre: A Rhythm Lost Creates NoiseThe final image of this series is much simpler as only echoes or shadows of the original complex circle-spiral remain. The two centre points are a vertical reflection. The four strips of colour that cross the image show three in front of the image while the top strip appears to go behind the shadow of the circular image.



Lost in Execution: Rail Tracks

Rail Tracks started with an exploration using Biro and simple paper and card stencils. The work was responsive, rapid, gestural mark making; while at some level considering things that leave tracks.

Interactions create patterns of interference, transferring material between the ideas and objects.

I spent my early years in a village that was split in two by the ghost of a railway, killed by the `Beeching Axe’. I remember the iron rails tracking through the village and across the tarmac road.

A thick, charcoal-black line littered with wood chocks marked the scar left when the iron tracks were removed. I never heard the sharp sound of iron wheels on iron track in the village yet this is the soundtrack of my childhood memories.

Using Lego train wheels and an ink pad, I track parallel lines across paper. Using paper stencils I interfere with these tracks; they pass over stencil leaving no mark on the paper.

Passing sharp plastic wheels over soft paper I hear the sound of iron wheels on iron tracks. Such is the nature of play and the transfer of one idea to another.

The digital transformation of these marks into circles and spirals felt right. I go round in circles, in spirals, examining and re-examining an idea, but also I see the iron wheels of the trains following tracks from my childhood across the world I explore.

You can now view and buy work from Lost in Execution by Cliff Crawford on
Saatchi Art