This year I decided to get get involved with art workshops with different groups of people. I participated with the artist Wendy Daws in a workshop funded by Pathways to Inclusion for autistic people and those with learning disabilities.

Pathways workshop

I was working with Michael who is visually impaired.  Despite his visual impairment he is a talented artist with a flair for handling materials in a sensitive and uninhibited way.  He produces ‘naïve’ style, ‘outsider’ looking work, seemingly produced through an indifference to outcomes (or a fearless give-it-a-go approach) allowing his joy in both materials and process to have full sway. His sketch book is bursting with drawings including self portraits, animals, pints of beer and plates of grilled food. Those are the pictures I remember the most.

Working together over several weeks, we used his sketch book material to generate some 2D and 3D pieces.


I mixed some colours and he painted.  I occasionally guided his hand, where he couldn’t see the edges/borders of the paper for example.  In the painting below we cut up a tracing of one of his portrait sketches into jigsaw like pieces, jumbled up the shapes and re-arranged them on a fresh piece of paper to produce an abstracted image;  like a broken mirror version of the portrait. Then Michael drew round the shapes in black marker pen and built up the colour on the face and background:

Self Portrait

He later entered his portrait into a competition with MCCH and won first prize:

The end of the project  was marked by an exhibition held at the Tourist Information Centre, Rochester.

Pathways Project Exhibition

After the project was over Wendy invited me to participate in another workshop with Kent Association for the Blind. As part of this project an exhibition of group members’ and volunteers’ work was held at Rochester Cathedral.

Eyes Wide Open Preview

Michael also got involved with the ‘Eyes Wide Open’ project. Working with another helper this time, he drew this portrait in pastels for the exhibition:

Pastel portrait by Michael Cowe

In hindsight it seems that the experience of working with Michael inspired the piece that I made for this exhibition – it continues in the vein of cut out assembled shapes and the use of black lines for emphasis:

Collage entitled "Meaning of Life"

I asked Rochester Cathedral visitors over the course of an afternoon to consider ‘the meaning of life’ and summarise using one word on a small triangle. I filled a larger triangle with their responses.

Colour charts from various wall paint companies were used to create the small triangles. The names of the colours are still present revealing their source as colour charts. When considering the meaning of life I wanted a reference to domesticity, everyday life and ordinary surroundings to remain present; the grand idea juxtaposed with the familiar.

When considering the Meaning of Life, the triangle was selected as a spiritually significant and potent symbol that represents the Trinity for example. The concept of filling a large triangle with smaller ones is about the parts to the whole; the microcosm to the macrocosm.

Some of the smaller triangles are empty, others contain a word; the thought of an individual presented with the question ‘what is the meaning of life.’ Collectively, their ideas cluster to form a pattern within the whole.

I designed the final piece to cascade like shards of coloured glass in a stained glass window, but the icon is removed and replaced with a collective abstraction or communal narrative.

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