Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Project Artist at the John Gray Centre, Haddington

When the John Gray Centre invited me to join them as a Project Artist for six months I readily accepted, eager to discover a new source of inspiration for my work and take the opportunity to dive into some new research. As an Illustrator based next door in Edinburgh for the last few years, I knew only a little about the county of East Lothian, however after only a few hours with the team of archivists at the Centre I had discovered a wealth of stories, characters and history.

Over the next few months I will work closely with the team to explore the museum and archive collections and create a series of illustrations and sculptural artworks that begin to bring the collections to life. Alongside this I will lead some creative workshops at the Centre that are also rooted in the collection. Throughout the project we plan to have a few studio days at the Centre where visitors can ‘meet the artist’, find out more about the project and see me at work. My creative practice has always been inspired by travel, stories and places, so I look forward to travelling around East Lothian drawing and hearing many more stories from the archivists.

One of the first artifacts the team showed me inspired the first piece of creative work for the project. Lindsey introduced me to the fascinating Haddington Criminal Register. A beautiful object in itself, the handwritten ledger documents the exploits of criminals in Haddington between around 1894 and 1901. It details the offender, offence, time, place and the punishment given; however interestingly it also offers a detailed physical description of each individual, obviously no mug shots were available back then. In addition to a few comedy errors in judgment, the ledger reveals some very young criminals, repeat offenders, the mischiefs of those from a much higher class and also surprisingly very little pattern or regularity to the punishments given.
In response to this interesting book I have decided to create a series of short cartoons illustrating the crimes and characters described, capturing their humour and hopefully some poignancy too. So in addition to a monthly Blog post about my latest finds in the collection and the development of the project, a new cartoon will be released on the John Gray Centre Blog each week so keep an eye out! 
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