I’m going to start writing blogs periodically about the types of art I produce. I guess there are 3 main areas to my art: Photography, Sculpture, and Dioramas. Making a sweeping statement here, but I’m pretty sure the majority of people have a good idea what photography and sculpture are, so I think I will revisit them later this year. Dioramas, on the other hand, may not resonate with everyone, so I feel that this is an ideal place to explain what they are, and the magic behind them.
First up, let us see what the definition of a diorama is:
‘a model representing a scene with three-dimensional figures, in either miniature or large scale museum exhibit’
The origin of the word is French 19th Century: ‘dia’ meaning through, on the pattern of ‘panorama’
You may have seen in a museum large-scale battlefields or castles modelling a snapshot of life from that period of time. Dioramas reproduce a scene of fact, fiction or fantasy, through the eyes of the storyteller. Large or small, dioramas communicate with greater detail: the life-like 3D models take less effort to digest mentally and require less creative thought than a painting or photograph to process, therefore making it the most informative still-life caption art there is. The level of detail in each piece is the decision of the story-teller; what level of detail to include, or how much should be left up to the consumer’s interpretation? I think it is these questions that determine the difference between a museum diorama model and diorama art. Let's look a bit closer at the two alternatives:
The factual nature of a museum artefact would require exceptional levels of detail and accuracy in the construction of the piece. For instance, a battlefield that demonstrates warfare from years gone by can be recreated with exceptional precision. Even a soundtrack of battle can be played to help enhance the story. Depicting a specific moment like this returns facts to the consumer, leaving little to interpretation. You could also put trainsets into this factual category of the diorama. Many enthusiasts create amazingly detailed scenes of rail travel, from all ages, bringing to life the miniature transport system. A beautifully crafted station, with people on the platforms, will no doubt increase the realism and therefore enjoyment of anyone who ‘plays’ with a model railway.
Moving on to the abstract, creative story-telling version of dioramas, the place where I find my love for the miniature world. Through this medium of art, I can produce a single scene of anything I wish; and this can actually be a draw-back. Without a focus, the message can be lost, and the story of the diorama will unravel. I have taken up the idea of recreating well-known sayings in a frozen moment, which is where I can build scenes within the scene; sub-plots and other micro-stories. All creating fascination and intrigue; exactly what I used to feel when I was growing up as a young girl in my own little worlds.
I will blog throughout the weeks to come about my process of creating a new diorama, so you can really understand my approach to these wonderful frozen stories!
I'm the sort of person that's much happier working for myself. After a short period of thinking that I had been rash as I now didn't have a job, I realised that one must be true to one's self and I had made the right decision to leave a bad and unreasonable situation. So with a bunch of odd jobs to help pay the bills, including learning various new skills (such as how to restore furniture, which I may talk about later this year), I decided that people were what I wanted to photograph, where a lot of my interest had started.
I will not lie to you, this was a lot of hard graft! I managed to get myself work shooting model portfolios, actors casting pictures, theatre work, music publicity and live music. Wow, how much fun is live music! This is my second love and there was nothing better to get the endorphins and adrenalin going than being down in the pits photographing some of the greatest bands and musicians. It's also worth pointing out that hardly any women were photographing live music so I loved the fact that I had to push my way through to the front of all these big burly press men - they didn't believe in being polite to a woman!!
By now a lot of my personal work had taken a much darker turn, which was the beginning of the true expression of what was going on inside of me.
It took me a long time to come to terms with the loss of my mother and I'm still working on that today. The other factor that influenced my work at this time reflects the five years of working inequality. The behaviour I had to absorb towards me from a lot of men quite frankly would cause a storm today; blatant sexual discrimination of the highest order which should have resulted in big trouble for their treatment of a female worker amongst them. I kept telling myself that I had achieved something; I had to be strong to get the job I wanted despite all the negativity and lack of help from people around me. And yes I had up to a point, but the positive energy it took from me had not made me happy and was replaced by dark feelings and negativity about myself.
This wasn't all doom and gloom as I soon realised that tapping into this 'dark energy' could be used for positive work! I was enjoying the fact that I could express freely what I felt inside, and it was influencing new work I was involved with. This included creating masks, theatrical setups with people, people in the shadows, broken down buildings, and even self-portraits! The freedom I had working freelance gave me more confidence and space to just go out there and do it!
Talk to most photographers and they will have there own take on the start of mainstream digital photography. For a while, I had been battling with the pixel age! It was the thing to do but I love real film and printing in a darkroom. I was beginning to lose my passion in my commercial work as there I had to be digital to fit with client's requirements and so once again I felt as if my grip on my freedom was going. I hope we don't lose this process of photography. I guess there are comparisons to music in a way; the digital age is so instant and convenient, yet nothing can replace the experience of playing vinyl records.
Once I started to lose the passion I knew what I had to do - get out! I gave up the commercial work and decided that finally, I would just concentrate on the art I really wanted to do: strip everything back and translate my innermost thoughts, feelings and visions into artworks. To start with I just spent some time photographing however and wherever I wanted to, and although that did include people, much more came out of that. I realised that I didn't just have to put people in the frame, I now wanted to put what I see in the frame.
I interpret and process so many things when I look at something; it could be just the interior of a washing machine yet I will emphasise the amazing geometric patterns I see there. I have always loved geometric abstraction and a lot of my work is just that, and with it, I'm trying to prove that a simple everyday item or scene can have so much else to it! With more time available now I got back to building things and started making small sculptures and dioramas in boxes. Its great fun imagining or recreating a scene. What I found intriguing is translating a well known saying into a miniature 3D diorama! Having to make tiny things with detail and finding things to make them with is great fun. This is something I will spend some time on over the coming months discussing, and hopefully encourage some of you to have a go yourself.
So I finally found my way forward! It took a while to get my head around making a living from this but its the best thing I have done so far. I started out with a lot of art fairs around the country and have now moved on to more online galleries like www.saatchiart.com/lindachapman and www.artfinder.com/linda-chapman#/. It's the start of so much more, so many ideas, plus so many lovely people that buy and say such good things about your work fuels the passion further. What's not to like!
Hope you will stick around for the journey too!
When it came to leaving school, my parents weren't able to afford to send me to university and as it happens that was no bad thing. Still determined to make it in the world of photography, several people in the industry told me that it would be far more useful to work in a studio and get the experience. So, this was what I set out to achieve!
At last, I could get out into the world and immerse my self in my favourite subject and hopefully get paid for it! At this time I was rarely seen without a camera and one of my favourite things was to “patrol” the streets like my hero Cartier-Bresson. I took hundreds of pictures, mainly in black and white and, most of the time, develop and print them myself.
My hunt for the dream job wasn't going so well. Interview after interview would produce the same results: 'you're a girl, this isn't the job for you'! Once again, people wanted to make me feel like I was making the wrong choices, yet I was determined not to be beaten. I continued applying and got another interview at a big studio in London by Royal appointment covering fine art. I was impressed they were using serious equipment, large format cameras used to photograph the Queen's pictures at the auction house. This was great; I would get to see some amazing art at the same time! So I decided to go in there with the mindset I wasn't taking no for an answer!
After the usual debate about this opportunity is not really the right job for me, and it would be very heavy equipment to carry around and other people couldn't help me, I just said “well if you don't give me a job how could you possibly know if I can do it or not. I have never asked anyone to help me before and I am not about to start now so I'll be fine in doing and lifting whatever it takes!”
The boss looked somewhat surprised and hesitated and said: "well OK we could give you a trial for 3 months."
That three-month trial turned into five years at that studio working with a team of 25 men! I gained a lot of experience and visited some great places photographing many beautiful works of art.
However, having a passion for something and taking minimal pay whilst desperately trying to make ends meet, can make or break you. I admit I lost my way a bit during that time, although I took part in many fantastic exhibitions including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Barbican and a number of other well-known galleries around the country. My enthusiasm waned, especially as my mother passed away very suddenly soon after I took the job when I was only 19. In a way, the job kept me going in a subject that had partly died within me as my creativity took a nosedive for some while. The straw that broke the camel's back came when the boss's son joined the company. I was working on autopilot at this point as I knew the role inside out and could do it competently. A smack in the face was when the golden boy was given a higher role than me, even though he had very little knowledge and experience. I seemed to get asked more and more to do menial tasks when one day was ordered to go type something, to which I replied 'I can't type'! This seemed to shock him somewhat and he responded in this archaic manner:
"but you are a girl, of course, you can type!"
Just a few weeks later I woke up one morning and said to myself "that is it, its over!"
‘No matter how much you want something, no matter how big your passion is, it can still be a very complicated journey figuring out who you are and where to find it.’
Over the next few weeks, I am going to tell you the story so far from how I have reached a place that nurtures my passion, my creativity and my thinking. I'm sure many of you have been there and will recognise a number of situations. I also think sharing fertilises positivity so come along and enjoy the ride.
Let me start where we should really, at the beginning. I am an only child; hated this at the start, love it now! Everything life offered was so simple, and without any siblings that wanted attention or to argue with it provided me with a springboard into my own independence that sent me into the world of fantasy, creativity, exploration and managing my own space!
I will be the first to admit it was an isolated world. As I was an only child, my mother was overprotective and preferred me to be at home with her. At four years old I was desperate for some companionship. After ages of pleading I was finally allowed a dog; at last, I had a partner in crime! Don't get me wrong, my parents loved me very much and spent a lot of time doing practical things with me where I quickly learned skills to create and make, hence my love for finding things to build with now. It taught me maturity and how to behave properly as an adult, but sadly I lacked interaction with other children. This was all too apparent when I started school as I had no idea how to communicate with them, isolating me from social aspects in class. This became a very depressing time for me so I just hid away at home and sought solace from my imagination.
In my early years, my grandmother used to tell me a lot of stories. I loved this escape it gave me; the poetic insight into other worlds where my real life worries didn't exist. This is about the time when I began to think about my 'other worlds' and wondered if I could create them myself. I started by developing characters that looked different to us and only had thumbs on their hands, limiting the things they could do with them! I recited these stories to the adults in my life and based them on all the things I thought went on in the world. I imagined how places looked and drew pictures, painted and built things. Then the detail of the characters increased and I loved watching people and drawing their faces, it was much more comfortable than interacting and easier! Without fully understanding it, I was forming my artistic expression. I didn't have other like-minded children to interact with but I was beginning to enjoy all my discoveries and became very busy discussing with my dog all the things I would do, it was a secret so who better to tell!
As time went on I felt more confident when expressing myself in school. Regularly I was reprimanded for wasting time, to do as I was told and stop illustrating your exercise books; its bad behaviour! Being creative was my protective wall around me from all the negative people, actions and situations that I didn't understand. Without it, I felt I would shut down. One shining light from school came from art class. There was one teacher that I will never forget at that time; his response to the nine-year-old showing her piece of work was “blimey that's amazing” then he looked embarrassed for his phraseology! It made me smile and feel good, I can't remember many other times like that, oh except when my headmistress came to see my parents and said she had never met such an obstinate child …..I couldn't stop smiling at that one! Still enjoy it now and I haven't changed!
Determined to keep getting back up and do my thing, I discovered photography at about 10 and my parents gave me a small plastic camera. Capturing moments appealed to me and how you capture that moment when you are looking into the viewfinder makes all the difference. I felt it was more what I see, not so much what was actually there. Soon after my hero became the famous and amazing photographer Henri Cartier- Bresson, the holder of the phrase ''The decisive moment” Oh what an eye that man had!! In my mind, he was either telepathic or sat in places for days waiting for that moment!
So for a few years I was having fun with photography, became friends with someone else interested in it and we joined the school photography club. By about 15 we started having some careers advice groups and in my first one, I said I wanted to be a photographer when I left school. The teacher looked at me and smiled, then said: “but what do you want to do as a serious job”? I sighed and said something along the lines of “ like me, I don't see many photographers smiling, that's a serious job in my books! I was told off and made to go away and think seriously about my career! Obviously, on the next occasion, I said I had thought VERY seriously about it….......and I am going to be a photographer!
I happily sit or stand here in my workshop I call 'my little world' making art and generally giving my creativity a good workout. Throughout that time, many people keep telling me that I should do a blog and let them experience this artistic sanctuary; even I keep telling me I should do a blog!
So today's the day! No more procrastinating; in the middle of lots of work to finish before a holiday in three days' time, two dogs trying to sit on my lap, the builders crashing around downstairs and two phones ringing, I shall begin!
Maybe this is why I do what I do! To escape, to block out all the other things I don’t want to deal with right now. Instead, I'll create abstract photographs where ordinary things become something else, sculptures with hidden meanings and my dioramas, where anything can happen: a scene from real life, a fantasy, a fairytale or simply a story. All done in miniature, thoughts and actions frozen, a 3D creation to watch anytime.
In a similar way to when I was a child, wandering around the house looking for materials to build things, I do so now in a more extensive way. The search is an adventure within itself, forever looking for odd bits and pieces or something discarded, something weird and wacky to make something out of it. I am always amazed at the things people no longer use or want, or see no beauty in anymore.
Anyway, time is cracking on, and I've plenty to do! I hope you will join me on this journey in the coming weeks for a different side of life as we explore new worlds.