Part 9a - Aberdeen and the Art Community

So for anyone following or just glancing over the previous blog posts you'll see that its chronicled the journey and will soon be up to date! 

But for now i thought it was worth doing a wee post to add to the discussion on Art in the city. So here goes.

As some of you might know i attended an event the other night called Art Hive - this is a forum for creatives of all levels to exchange ideas, inspire each other and provide support. I did a wee presentation on Doric Skateboards focusing on how it came to be and what i felt my place was in the creative world. Its great to be involved and see the discussions happening in our City. One question that was asked was:

Is Art the New Oil? 

Its not a question with an easy answer and its a question that goes off on tangents. The last few years in Aberdeen have been well documented in terms of the negative impact the Oil/Gas Industry has had but alongside that decline we've seen a real surge in the arts and culture of the city.

As expressed by Rachael Cloughton in this article (

"In 2013 Aberdeen failed in its bid to become UK City of Culture 2017. The judges told the council their plans lacked 'a coherent vision' or a 'wow factor'. It was, according to council leaders, a 'wake up call'."

And wake up it did. Now some of these things may already have been on the agenda and some weren't but its been the cumulative effect of these things that has invigorated our city:

  • Look Again - celebrating the best in visual art and design.
  • NuArt - spectacular and returning next year and beyond. I've never seen such diverse crowds walking around Aberdeens streets. 
  • Spectra -  stunning event and returning in 2018 to celebrate young people.
  • The Anatomy Rooms - a beautiful venue that provides a creative hub.
  • Seventeen - another creative hub that hosts Make and events such at Art Hive.
  • Creative Learning - ACC team coordinates classes and events all over the city with accessible and varied topics.
  • Painted Doors - a fantastic project that saw doors in Aberdeen painted by selected artists to bring some life to the streets.
  • Revamp of the Art Gallery - looking forward to this. Bit by bit we can see the revamp.
  • Revamp of the Music Hall - like the one below, may have caused concern amongst some but this should be great for the city.
  • Marishcall Square development - now this one has caused a stir. But at this point we have no choice but to go with it and see how it pans out. Better than we had before? I think it will be. As good as we wanted it to be? Perhaps not.
  • Union Terrace Gardens development - hopefully this should be the happy medium that will keep people happy and provide a space for all.
  • Aberdeen Football Club - i'm adding this to the list as the general feel good of the teams efforts has infiltrated the city again and even inspired a fantastic art project that saw AFC players past and present replicated on the streets of Aberdeen.

Now this is just the ones i could think of off the top of my head. There are more, loads more. Aberdeen has success stories that don't revolve around Oil and Gas. The more thats celebrated and discussed the more the people of the city will feel empowered to take part and chase dreams. 

So is Art the new Oil? 

Its certainly more sustainable.

But the more relevant question could be:

Can Art be the new anything in Aberdeen. I think the answers obvious. 

Part 8 - The Great Unknown

So once all the dust has settled and you've sold a few things to friends and family you start to get that fear. 

Who the hell is going to buy my stuff? Then something amazing happens. A complete stranger buys something..!

Its a deeply satisfying moment. You can tell yourself that this is a project that its all about your own means to expression and an output for your art but really deep down we all want some form of validation. But just like criticism i don't take compliments too seriously. 

And its with that that i start to think about the next graphics. I love the Annie image. But i need to start get going with something new. It won't be long until the graphic becomes tired. 

In the meantime i source a few new shapes to do some more refined Annie Street Dreams decks. Changes the size of the wording  and re-aligned it slightly. Looking good! Each time i screen i learn something new - its not always a pleasant lesson! But the more i go the more confident i become. 

Next time in the Doric Blog....whats a Bon Accord???


Part 7 - Friends and Family

Anyone who has started a business can testify to the importance of friends and family. When you launch they are firmly behind you - they'll be the ones sharing FB posts and buying up T-Shirts and other merchandise.

Often that leaves you with a pang of guilt - are they just buying stuff just to be nice? Or do they just want to show some support and encouragement? Maybe they actually like the stuff??

I imagine its a combination of all of that. And that's fantastic! The first days and weeks of launching are fraught with self doubt and over analysis. I liken the support to them cheering you on at a fun run - we all know i'm no Olympic champ but they'd cheer me on anyways. Not that i'd ever run - running is for 2 things, being chased or chasing. 2 things i hope i don't have to do anytime soon. Anyway, where was i?

So once the excitement of that first week dies down you get the fear. Where is the next sale going to come from? 

I can't over emphasise the excitement of a new order coming in. This goes ten fold when its a complete stranger. Someone has found you, somehow, and has parted with their hard earned cash. 

So the first month you get a pass - the second month and beyond? Anyone's guess.

Part 6 - Aprils Fool Day

Where was I?

Oh aye, it was around February and things are heating up! 

The great thing about the skateboarding community is that on the whole its pretty supportive. It seems to have a large proportion of creative types - whether that's music, some form of visual art or design. So during the months of trial and error i've let a few folk see the logo and designs and shared the general ethos of Doric Skateboards (a celebration of the language and culture of the NE of Scotland and a nod to the architecture that gave skaters the streets and obstacles the platform to express themselves). The response was good - i'm not the type who'll take criticism or compliments too seriously. Doric Skateboards wasn't going to be a company created by committee but i know when to take advice and when to have the courage of my convictions. 

Around this time i decided to contact the local paper to help generate a bit of publicity. Essentially i wrote the article and provided some example pics. This was supposed to be followed up with a wee chat and actual pics but to my horror they printed it anyways. The pic wasn't great and it added a wee bit of pressure but after the dust settled i was happy enough - a full page advert for free.

Things were hotting up - a longtime well known skater, Zee Yule, who has his own Zine had contacted me asking if i wanted to be featured in a future issue alongside other Scottish Skate brands. Yes. Yes please. And did i want to sponsor the Scottish skate comp War of the Thistles. Yes. Yes please. The comp was April 1st. So i had to launch by then.

And i did. We did. March 31st Doric Skateboards went "live" on the website, FB and IG. 

Seems like a long time ago now. ; )

Part 7 - Order. Coming soon.


Part 5 - Muscle Memory and Experimentation

So its post Christmas and the New Year has been and gone. I'm months passed my original launch date but that is ok.

No pressure. Just crack on and get going. I vaguely state Q1 2017 as the date to go!

Tee shirts are done, Stickers are done. I really need to get some decks to sell.

And so i approach the printing rig and materials with a little trepidation. Lets get this done. All the decks now have logos printed topside and under. Just the Annie image to do now. 

I've reduced the size to help cope with the concave and the size of my squeegee.

First attempt. Not perfect. Not really bad though. I wipe off and do it again.  

Looks good! 

Ok, target for today is 5. Lets do 5. 

I keep going. I end up at 20+! 

At some point over this journey i am remembering the pressure to press with, the speed to go, the angle of the squeegee and there is something like instinct telling me when its going to work and when i need to clean out the screen and start afresh.

This. Is. Good.

I can start to plan. 

Join me in the next episode - Part 6 - Aprils Fool Day


Part 4 - Drawing Board

So its back to the drawing board. 

The images i'm using are ok. But ok isn't good enough. They need revised. The printing rig is a real problem though. The deck won't stay in place as i apply pressure and print. This movement causes mistakes. Frustration is setting in.

One solution. Take everything apart and start again.

So that's what i did. I sketched out a new design and re-used all the wood with a few new additions.

Rig all sorted. Screens re-done with the Annie Lennox image in half tone (or lots of dots as i called it!). Now i'm ready to go.

Ink? Check.

Squeegee? Check.

Screens? Check.

Blank Deck in rig - secure? Check.

Let's go.

Dear God - its still not working. 

So here i am - its approaching Christmas 2016 and i've missed my initial launch of November. I've been back to the drawing board already and it looks like i'm going back again..

My partner (such a sterile word eh? Lets say Girlfriend!) Nicola helps with focusing my perspective. Walk away and go back the next day. 

And then i have a night. A night that inspires you and pushes you on. 

I start with the logo on the topside. Its not been happening but i experiment, mostly with the amount of ink, pressure i apply and the angle of the squeegee, and at some point i get it right. And i get it right again. And again. Before i know it i have 20+ decks all printed with the top logo! 

The frustration i've felt at this point isn't a commercial/money based one. I'm not interested in being the next Stacey Peralta. The frustration and pressure is all purely self inflicted and based on my own expectations. Lessons learned at this point:

  • Its great to have standards but don't be too disappointed when you fall short - just crack on and keep going;
  • Don't let pressure dictate. This is supposed to be fun and feed the creative side of me.
  • Throw out the schedule. Oddly my day job involved being a planner. Schedules are my bread and butter - but sometimes you just can't plan everything out. 

Reference Donald Rumsfelds famous quote (although this quote has many origins):

"there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know"

Unknown unknowns. Damn them. But sometimes this can lead to positive outcomes.

Join me in Part 5 - Muscle Memory and Experimentation, coming later this week!


Part 3 - Don't Fear Mistakes

To get the timeline correct lets imagine its around September time. 

So the Logo is complete! My brother has done a cracking job. Its clean, symmetrical and like all good logos contains some hidden/clever stuff! 

The first graphic is all good too - a line drawing image I've done of Aberdeen's Annie Lennox - strap line, Street Dreams. A wee play on the Sweet Dreams song referring to the street element of skating.

Down to Peacocks and off i go emulsioning my screens (freshly purchased online) and exposing them to burn the images on ready for screening onto my decks. 

Prior to this i've been squirrelling away in our loft - or Studio as i like to call it when i feel a bit pretentious. I've taken some scrap wood and bought some screen hinges and am setting about making a rig that will hold a deck in place and allow me to place the screen over the top and then go about printing. I've even got some old carpet to help make it safe for the precious decks.

So, screens are done (James has shadowed me thankfully!) and now i have a rig to place a deck and hold the screen. 

I have ink. I have squeegees. What could go wrong?

Well to be honest, nothing dramatic on the first go. I get the logo on the topside (albeit a wee bit squint) and then set about getting the main graphic on. 

On it goes.

Looks ok. 

Add some colour.

Still looks ok, hey this is easy!

Add some more colour.

Not too sure that works but its ok. This is just a test. Although in my naivety i haven't considered that i would be using up decks as practice. My ignorance told me that i would print it first time bang on. 

How wrong i was.

So the next night i pick up Deck no.2 and set about printing.

Nothing goes right. And i mean nothing.

Ink smudges, or doesn't come through the screen. The deck moves around on the jig making it impossible to print on. 

Its at this moment that i have a minor panic attack/meltdown and realise that if the loft, sorry Studio, had a window then there is a good chance that a large amount of skateboards and printing stuff would have been launched out of it. Might not have even opened the window.

So its around then that i am coming to terms with the idea that you can' be afraid to make mistakes. Its ok to do that. Its how you learn. I'm not a perfectionist by any means but i needed to rid myself of the idea that i would be knocking out decks for sale by November. 

So now its back to the drawing (skate) boards. 

Join me for Part 4 - Re-design & Breathe, next week!