• Winter

    John Seabright says that he was inspired by David Hockney when he did this winter landscape which features on the January 2013 pages of the One Calendar.

    ‘My main interest in my art work is the way that the light plays upon the landscape and the seascape," says John who was , photographed at The Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Fields Art Works exhibition on December 11.

    "I’m also very fond of seascape paintings and I like to paint really large paintings not tiny ones.’ ‘For the background for this painting I did a fare bit of blending the paint so as to get that really lovely pinky purpley bluey atmosphere in the distance. But it’s quite an unusual painting if you look at it because it draws your eye down this path and if you look at it they are just lines really, they don’t look like trees at all really except in the foreground of the painting.’

    John, who was born in London and grew up in Warwickshire, says he has been painting for 18 years. ‘I live in a hostel for homeless people – it’s called St Mungo’s Harrow Road. I’ve been there about six years now.’

    He used to work for Social Services but when he was working he didn’t have much time to paint. He says that some of this painting was done at Connections, where he has painted with the art group for five years, the rest was done at his home in Paddington. At Connections, he says ‘you are working with other artists and they give you ideas too. We all encourage each other as.’

    His art has been in the homeless art magazine Homeless Diamonds and three years ago one was hung in the Museum of London.

    From each £9.99 One Calendar sold, £4.50 goes to art groups for art supplies, £1.20 has gone to the artists featured in the calendar, £3.50 goes to printing and 80 pence to production. 1,000 calendars were printed in this inaugural year.

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  • Curry's Sunflowers (September 2013)

    Cornelius ‘Curry’ O'Shea epitomises the ethos behind Cafe Art - to recognise the talent of people affected by homelessness, and to share and celebrate it with as many people as possible.

    Curry enjoyed an exhibition launch featuring his painting Sunflowers at Oliver's Village Cafe in Belsize Park just two weeks before he passed away in April. Born in 1958 in Cork, Ireland, Curry was a St Mungo’s resident for many years and was an active contributor to Homeless Diamonds, an arts magazine published by people living or working in St Mungo’s hostels, as well as recording his music at St Mungo's Endell Street Studios.

    His works were large scale, finely detailed paintings and drawings, often taken from well-known masters, says Jen Burnham from Homeless Diamonds. ‘While Curry’s art practice - painting, drawing, singing or playing music - was always on a grand scale, he was a modest, quiet person who communicated softly with few words – a gentle presence which we will miss very much.’

    For many years Curry was alienated from his family due to mental illness says his sister who lives in Ireland. However, ‘now his artworks and original music are set to become the focus of a new annual fundraising event for mental health charities. The Cornelius ('Curry') O'Shea Sunflowers Project for Mental Health will be launched in Ireland on his birthday in 2013 - April 28th - and it is hoped it will become a fundraising and awareness event for institutions both in the UK and Ireland.’

    Curry’s family donated back the £100 awarded to him for his painting being used in the 2013 Café Art calendar.

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  • The Arts Show

    The second blog in a series which will preview the artists in the One Calendar.

    This picture, which artist Tuesday Greenidge calls The Arts Show and is the April 2013 image in the calendar, was made by photocopying part of a larger piece and then adding the colours.

    It was used on a poster to advertise an exhibition for 240 Project, the community centre Tuesday goes to on Ladbroke Grove. ‘It’s kind of like sculptures,’ she says, adding ‘It’s got a café vibe... they’re all just like sketches to remember the proportions of a body because I’ve studied art so I’m always trying to work at getting some [practice].”

    Tuesday, who studied fine art at Kensington and Chelsea Adult Education College five years ago, has done many art courses including the Prince of Wales Drawing School that was paid for as a gift by her an ex-art tutor at Project.

    She grew up in a convent in Broadstairs but has lived in London for 20 years, and now lives in Notting Hill. I’ve always said that “I’ve never been homeless, I’ve been houseless”, because I was taught that wherever your heart is, is your home. ‘I’ve lived in actually 33 homes. That’s from being born. Different care homes, different hostels, different hotels.’

    She has a daughter and four grandchildren. ‘I do art as a therapy, to keep me well. The creativity keeps me well because I’ve got quite a lot of issues around – difficult issues, you know, crises. My daughter’s in a long term illness with a dual addiction of crack and heroin.’ Despite all her past experiences Tuesday says her current place feels like home. ‘It’s a stable place.’

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  • Breaking rules

    ‘I’m self-taught’, says the artist called Tagzee who I met in the courtyard of the British Library on a cold November morning.

    'Ten years ago I got a canvas and acrylics off a friend and just thought “I’ll have a go”… and when I started making a painting I loved it to bits. The next day I went out and I bought more and more. I was drinking at that time’ he says, adding that he has now stopped. ‘I couldn’t [drink any more]. When I was drunk I couldn’t get that feeling so I stopped drinking and it just went from there!’

    We had only been talking a few minutes when I suggested we break the rules and leave out Tagzee’s photo from his page in the calendar. The idea is for the public to get to know the artists affected by homelessness, read their story and read about their artwork as they describe it. But how can you do that when the artist works under a nom-de-plume and doesn’t want to be photographed? ‘Tagzee’, he says, ‘is my art name. It’s like what Banksy does. I’m a bit mysterious.’ He suggests that he can put on a balaclava for the calendar photo but I decline, thinking that it might remind people of a time in London when a photo like that would have meant that he represented the IRA.

    Tagzee’s whole approach to his art is about breaking rules. He says he wanted to do something different after seeing what other people did on the internet. This painting, which features alongside 11 other artworks from artists affected by homelessness in the One Calendar, was created with a plasterer’s trowel being swiped across with the colours on it. He says the painting itself took something like “point-something of a second to make”. Tagzee says that he bought the canvas and materials for this and 19 other paintings he created at the same time after he won £500 on the lottery.

    YouTube

    Like many of his art pieces, including a style of painting he calls Puddle Art, he has videoed the process of this painting, posting it on YouTube. After the art is completed, the story doesn’t end there. Most of the 20 paintings in this series were dropped around London ‘for people to find,’ including Camden Market and the Tate Gallery toilets. A message on the back encourages the finder to go online and see the making of the painting and he enjoys reading comments from the public under the YouTube videos. ‘One of the comments is really good. It said that “My dad found this at the Tate gallery and it looks lovely – it’s got a nice home now and it’s on my wall.”’

    Tagzee is 56 and 'came down from Scotland 30 odd years ago' but has always sofa surfed with friends or family. ‘I used to drink a lot but when I go into art I stopped cause I couldn’t drink and do art. I gave up the can for canvas.’ He initially went to the Crisis art class a year ago to meet other artists. Now Crisis are helping him find a permanent place to live. He says that painting has been good to him in other ways too - since discovering it 10 years ago he has given up drinking, saying he ‘gave up the can for canvas.’

    Canvas and acrylics are not his only medium. ‘I’ve got my stuff I do on cardboard that looks like metal, and I’ve got the Puddle Art which nobody else has done, explaining how he discovered the process by accident: “I do Puddle Art at famous places where I get a blank canvas, I pour some graphite and water on the round, rub the canvas in it and turn it, take a picture and then from that stain I turn it into a picture. It’s called ‘puddle art of famous places’. I accidentally dropped a piece in a puddle, took it home, put it on the radiator, and when it dried all these animals appeared! And then I was thinking about street art and I thought ‘wow, I could do this!’ So I made a video, put it on YouTube and people loved it!’ His first puddle artwork, the one he discovered by accident was outside 10 Downing Street and the second was outside the Tate Gallery .

    Tagzee, who sells his paintings on E-Bay, says now his prefered medium cardboard and metal. “I sell my stuff to help charities. For Crisis and stuff like that. I give 50 percent to charity”

    Paul Ryan

    paul [at] cafeart.org.uk

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  • Connecting communities though coffee and art

    One. I can mean many things, from 'one step forward', 'united as one' 'one for all and all for one". It is also the name of our 2013 calendar, featuring 12 artists affected by homelessness from 12 London homeless organisations, together in one beautiful publication, united as one.

    Before I write about One calendar, being launched at a café in Islington on December 6, I would like to start with a bit about where it all began, with Cafe Art.

    I first heard about Michael Wong in August. I was being interviewed for a volunteering position for St Mungo’s, explaining the Hope in Shadows calendar project I had managed in Vancouver for six years. St Mungo's head of communications, Judith Higgin, suggested I sounded so passionate about it that had I thought about doing something similar in London? She also suggested that I might like to meet Michael Wong who she explained had just helped get together a lot of London homeless charities’ art groups together in an exhibition called Without Walls.

    I met Michael a few days later in one of the cafes hanging Café Art paintings near Tottenham Court Road and he explained the story behind Café Art. Michael is very humble and does not like the idea of being in the spotlight. However, I believe that people need to know a bit about him, as he’s the reason for Café Art taking off so quickly, by personally connecting hundreds of people from the art groups, the cafes and the general public.

    A Londoner of Malaysian origin, Michael’s lived here since he arrived to go to secondary school in the late 1970s, and like many people he has made London his home.

    Why Café Art?

    It began over a cup of coffee, in a café, says Michael. He had signed up as a volunteer with St Mungo's with the intention of starting a 'healthy lifestyle' activity to encourage hostel residents to take up swimming, cycling and running. Instead, he had a call for this first session to help out in a hostel that was short on volunteers. In his exercise gear, he felt that he was 'all dressed up with no where to go', as it turned out to be an arts and craft session. And, he exclaims, 'I can't even draw!' He returned to the art class the next week and the following week, and continued to do so ever since. He had been amazed to see the incredible paintings and drawings produced. He said he got pure joy from seeing the artwork, but it was mostly put away after each session and he wished that more people had the opportunity to see the amazing art.

    ‘What about cafes?’, he thought. It would enable the art to be hung all year round, helping the artists, the cafes and the general public who could view and purchase the pictures. While many of the charities hold annual art exhibitions, there was no ongoing exhibition of art by people affected by homelessness, until Café Art filled that gap in the market.

    While the idea is a huge success, with many charities and cafes signing up and thousands of pounds worth of art sold (which goes directly to the artists), it does take a lot of legwork. Michael regularly hits the pavement to visit as many art groups for people affected by homelessness and as many cafes as he can find and there are now more than a dozen art groups and more than 20 independent cafes all over London. Michael also managed to upload as much art as he could to cafeart.org.uk.

    All pieces of art are for sale with the purchaser’s encouraged to meet the artists, and 100% of the agreed price going to the artist.

    The number of paintings hung varies in each café, from an entire café where every wall is covered, to a couple of pieces fitted in between other art. Michael can often be seen travelling around on the underground with a large black artist’s portfolio filled with framed pieces (The frames are now kindly donated by Ikea). He fits his 100% voluntary Café Art work into his regular schedule working in the pharmaceutical industry. He finds new cafes by just wandering around different parts of London and asking the owners. Most of them are close to Northern Line tube stations he explains because that’s his tube line.

    But his greatest joy in this very simple initiative is the boost in self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth it brings to all these artists when they know that their talent & creativity are being shared, celebrated and enjoyed by many more people. They now know that they are not alone in their path to recovery but that sometimes, total strangers are, in fact, friends.

    One calendar

    One calendar has been published to raise money for the many art group who run the art classes. If it is successful it will help us look into establishing a more permanent organisaton to support Cafe Art, which until recently was all the work of Michael Wong.

    The symbolism behind the calendar is that it unites many homelessness organisations together as the 12 artists featured come from at least 12 different art groups, although several go to more than one group. The name 'One calendar' represents many different uses of the words 'one' and can symbolise 'united as one', 'one community', and 'one step forward'.

    The design of the calendar was by Carter Wong Design, who donated their time and labour free of charge.

    Why have a calendar? The idea behind Café Art’s One calendar comes from where I worked in Vancouver from 2005 until earlier this year. The Vancouver calendar, Hope in Shadows, is based on a photography contest held every year in one of the poorest communities in Canada, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The Vancouver calendar was a huge success, earning thousands of dollars for the social advocacy non-profit Pivot Legal Society and also for vendors of the calendar, many of whom were homeless. Hope in Shadows is mainly sold on the streets, like the Big Issue is here in London, whereas One calendar is starting with sales at events run by other charities and in participating cafes. While there is currently no plan to start up a vendor programme for street sales, we will be trialling a programme whereby the artists can sell the calendar if they want to.

    The One calendar has also emulated one of the strongest parts of Hope in Shadows in that it focuses on not only the artwork, but the artist’s stories. The idea is to connect the artist with the reader in a way that promotes understanding and empathy.

    One calendar’s goals are to raise money that can be used to buy art materials or other supplies to support the art groups where the artists come from. Of course the calendar will also be available online.

    Paul Ryan paul [at] cafeart.org.uk

    Please come and meet us at the official launch of Cafe Art's One calendar on Thursday 6 December at Daily Grind cafe, 54 Duncan Street, London (two minutes walk from Angel Station), 6pm - 7:30pm.

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