With a certain feeling of symmetry and satisfaction, we end the current Square Peg programme where we began, with portraiture in the community. Jason Wilsher-Mills is a Lincolnshire based artist, who uses technology, namely iPads, to create illustrative portraits, that look beyond the face to reveal dreams and aspirations.
During 2017 Jason has been busy connecting with different communities, across the region and sharing with them during iPad Art Sessions, his approach to capturing a self-portrait. Having seen some of his work they remind me of the illustrations of Nick Sherrat who has worked with Jacqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson.
In this way Jason has worked with groups from Active Day Care Hull Ltd, Case Training, 5 Senses and Men in Sheds to name but just a few. The results of these sessions will form part of a larger exhibition called Unexpected Engagement to begin 12 Jan 2018. These new works will tell the stories hidden within the diversity & disability communities of Hull. I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours with Jason at one of these iPad Art sessions, in early November at Unity in Community, 501 Endike Lane in North Hull.
‘You’re a Painter Jason’
Jason Wilsher-Mills describes the moment where he embarked upon his true path as his Hagrid moment. After years of working as a manager he gave up his job and said to his family, ‘I’m going to be an artist and follow my dream.’ now here he is, sharing that same impulse to create, with so many other people across the country.
Ten of us in the room all different ages, backgrounds, artistic ability… the two younger members of the group are quick to grasp the workings of the iPad others not so. I am pleased to say that everyone without exception was able to join in and take part.
My clunky fingers are not designed for touch screens and I kept finding myself drawing on the wrong bit of the screen, or the wrong screen altogether. There’s a technical bit with different sheets of digital paper that allow you to create the work in layers.
I remember these ‘layers’ from my uni days and I wasn’t able to grasp it then. I found myself getting quite frustrated that I had managed to draw on the original snap of my face. Thankfully Laura who accompanies Jason and acts as an extra pair of hands, is able to quickly right my wrong and set me back on track.
During the session Jason reveals more about the work he has done in the past: he talks about sailing the high seas on Tall Ships with the Jubilee Sailing Trust residency programme; creating an interactive sculpture for the Disability Innovation Summit called BadBoyBilly situated in the Olympic Park; working with global name James Dyson on a new wheelchair design.
Jason doesn’t let his disability get in the way of what he wants to achieve. He explains that he uses the iPad as a tool, to overcome some of the challenges he faces through his disability. The technology, in this case, is a simple App called Brushes and an iPad Pro, which allows him to create pixel perfect portraiture to tell stories and work with people who don’t ordinarily have a voice. Through this work he challenges misconceptions about disability, about communities and creative ability, inspiring participants to believe in themselves a bit more.
‘You get some people who paint their dreams within the portrait, in that way you get a lot of pop stars, footballers saving a goal at city, or people introducing magical figures into their pictures.’
Really the possibilities are as limitless as the creator’s imagination. Our resident photographer (click for more workshop images) Jerome Whittingham sitting beside me, is treating his rather like a photograph [surprise, surprise], so by creating light and shade and textures he is able to bring his little round face to life: he then sticks it on the body of a praying mantis. I am feeling less in control of my image, so I opt for placing myself behind the Judge’s seat at the Old Bailey. You see?
I am very excited and proud to announce my solo show at Artlink Hull, as part of my residency with #squarepegHull #2017Hull.… expect to see Elvis, the X Factor Princess & Mario Lanza and the tale of the unreturned hedge trimmer!
Artist site: Jason Wilsher-Mills