Abstract Life: surreal situations

Fifteen years ago I was stumbling around in a particularly dark place: my mind.
I was referred to the mental health charity ‘Rethink’ by one of my care team.

I went along but found I was unable to interact in any way with the support staff there. Tim had been assigned to act as my Key Worker; he told me later that he knew mine was going to be a difficult case. I hardly responded to his questions and rocked myself calm. Fortunately for me Tim knew ‘people’, and seemed to know instinctively how to be with me.

This ‘Rethink’ was based in a Print Shop and Tim was the top graphic designer. Somehow he found out that I could use a computer and that I was interested in art. With no more than a few words passing between us he sat me at a computer and gave me a Photoshop Elements tutorial book.

Eventually I opened the book and began to flick through. It was enough to grab my attention. Hour after hour (when I was there) I worked through each tutorial. I made notes and brought in photographs to work on. By now I was well and truly hooked. I have always been fascinated by surreal art; now I could make my own.

The picture at the top of the post is one I created about six years ago. Moving into a Victorian school it seemed fitting.
I wanted to share how I set about creating surreal images like this one.

  • First stage: a common enough public sign got me thinking; it is an absurd notion that children cannot play in an open space and I wanted to abstract that absurdity
  • Second stage: plan how to turn the rule on its head by representing children playing a ball game with the sign
  • Third stage: source an image of children throwing a ball and creating a ‘negative’, perhaps ethereal, image
  • Fourth stage: manipulate the image of the sign, making it appear to float
  • Fifth stage: set the images of children and sign against a background of hazy rainbow sky where childhood never ends

I’d love to hear about different ways of manipulating photographs, or from anyone who enjoys surreal art. Or maybe you hate the very notion of ‘playing’ with images? Or can’t stand surrealism? Whatever your take, please share your thoughts.