With the start of Autumn, Southsea has seen the opening of a new creative space: Play Dead, that is part tattoo studio and part creative/gallery space. We caught up with the Play Dead crew to find out what’s going on down on Highland Road:
How did the idea for Play Dead come about?
We (Samo and Lex) first discussed the idea of Play Dead back in 2014. That’s when the search for a suitable property began and our plans for exactly what we wanted to set up started taking shape. We knew we wanted a more evolved conceptual tattoo studio, but as we are both involved in the street art scene it made sense to incorporate our love of that, and make our space a little more unique. Our mix of tastes and passions for things like fine art, character based art, vintage, music, and all things strange and wonderful have also helped to mould the look and style of what was to become Play Dead: a fine art/street art gallery, and custom tattoo studio.
What’s the team behind Play Dead? How did everyone get involved?
Whilst Samo and Lex remain at the core of Play Dead, we have carefully chosen a team of artists who are already well established in their own right. We’re very fortunate that the guys on our ‘wish list’ agreed to join us and we all get on like one big Play Dead Family:
Lex (Lex Luthor, LexLX, LexArt) : Doodler, Illustrator, Street Artist, Designer and Creative at All Caps and Supervillain. As the only member of the team who doesn’t tattoo, Lex is responsible for the look and style of the Play Dead name, and its continuous development. Check Lex on Instagram: @lexart.
Samo : Creative artist whose work encompasses painting, street art, sculpture and conceptual tattoo art. Samo uses watercolour, brush strokes, and geometry in a lot of her work. She enjoys the challenge of developing her freehand style from the page to the skin and using the body as a canvas. Check Samo on Instagram: @samotattoos.
Sam Hugh : A creative tattooer with a more traditional edge. Bold lines, heavy black and bright colours. Old school tuff stickers and tatty bangers for outlaws and reprobates. Check Sam on Instagram: @acidbathvampire.
Lou Lapin : Play Dead’s Tattoo Apprentice. With no higher education and being a single parent at a young age Lou has worked incredibly hard to forge a creative career. She started out as a toymaker and illustrator and now channels this into tattooing. Influenced by artists like Tove Jansson (creator of the Moomins) and Scandinavian folk tales her work is always sweet with a melancholic edge. Check Lou on Instagram: @lapin_lou.
What do you think Play Dead brings to the city?
We aim to be a creative space and street art hub, with a slightly darker edge. A unique combination of tattoo studio and gallery space, we are a home for creative artists to exhibit their work, buy materials or just hang out. Play Dead is somewhere that is ever evolving and offering something different to the norm.
Thoughts on the city’s street art scene at the moment?
We love how the street art scene in Portsmouth has grown over the past decade or so. From projects organised by the Portsmouth Creative Movement to art events at The Teatray, Coastguard Gallery, and Southsea Skatepark. Portsmouth is developing into a city that embraces creativity and street art. We’re very proud to be a part of this exciting movement. We believe that the Portsmouth street art scene is attracting tourists and art lovers from afar and firmly putting Portsmouth on the map.
Huge respect to all those involved in making Portsmouth and Southsea a more creative and visually exciting environment. Artists such as: Fark, My Dog Sighs, M-One, Midge, Mimic, Dharma, Morf, Higher, Monk, Leila, Mr Kemp, Berk and Los Dave have been committed to pushing the local street art scene further and attracting other renowned artists to the area. We look forward to working with these guys more in the future, on many exciting projects to come.
What sort of exhibitions do you have planned for the future?
Next for us is an exciting show by local artist My Dog Sighs, entitled: Quiet Little Voices. This will open on Friday 13th November (7pm) and is planned to run until early December. We’re really looking forward to seeing his new work for this. As well as the art on the walls, there’ll be My Dog Sighs tshirts, prints and a few other surprises.
We’re very interested in offering a different kind of art show – unique to each artist. So they are invited to take over the gallery space and use it however they wish. We’re on hand to support their ideas and realise their vision.
After the My Dog Sighs show, we have an exhibition of work from the talented stencil artist M-One. And in 2016, we have a range of artists lined-up, from street art to fine art, illustration and tattooing.
Also on the weekend of November 13th, 14th and 15th we have the talented tattoo artist Funns at Play Dead for a guest spot. Check him out on instagram; @funns
How’s life in PO4? Highland Road is a little off the beaten track to the more established traditionally thought of creative parts of the city, what are its advantages?
Yeah, it’s great. We love it here. We like being different and standing out from our surroundings. Plus, the space, the frontage, and the area was exactly what we were looking for. We like to think that people don’t mind taking an extra five minutes walk from Albert Road to pop along and come see us.
What are your plans for the future of Play Dead?
Our plans are to continue producing high quality and unique tattoos, to help showcase creative talent, not just from street art but a whole variation of art forms. We will collaborate with other creative groups and individuals. We would also like to continue developing and building the Play Dead name, through clothing designs, events, workshops, and whatever else we might think of. We will continue to keep offering the people of Portsmouth a little something different – a little darker. It’s exciting times for us.
Follow Play Dead on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates @playdeadstudio.
Continuing our long running series Created Local that looks at different creative people who call Southsea and Portsmouth home (we’ve featured over 100) this time we catch up with local photographer Paul Watt.
How did you get in to photography originally?
Like most people I’ve always enjoyed snapping away with various point and shoot cameras but It wasn’t until two years ago that it became a hobby in itself. I bought a Canon 35mm slr and lens from ebay for about a tenner and I discovered that I really enjoyed the whole experience of specifically going out to take photographs. I suffer quite badly from anxiety but I feel a lot calmer when I’m behind a lens. I think that reflects in my images. Corny but true!
What’s your usual camera gear set up?
I generally shoot on a Canon 1200D with the 18-55mm kit lens. I use a tripod that I bought from the Southsea carboot sale and a generic wired shutter release. I also have a few sets of Neutral Density filters (both screw in type and square).
I’m really impressed with this DSLR, it’s the entry level model but so long as you accept it’s limitations (weather sealing would be nice!) you can get some good results with it.
There’s always going to be an outlay with photography but I believe you don’t have to spend thousands of pounds to take a decent photo. It’s the photographer not the camera that takes the picture.
For editing my images I use Photoshop and Lightroom.
You shot a lot of monochrome images, what do you like about b&w?
I think b&w photos seem to convey more emotion than a full colour shot, with a few obvious exceptions like sunrise’s and sunsets.
Odd things begin to happen in a b&w photograph, especially with long exposures, where you can get an image that’s both calming and dynamic all at once. Funnily I think a black and white image looks warmer than a full colour image on a sunny day.
This photo is a good example of that. The sun was too high in the sky really but it just seems to work in b&w.
Paul Watt – Boats in Motion.
You take some fantastic long exposure images during the day, can you talk us through how you go about one of these shots?
Thanks! The first thing I look for is the sun. If it’s a bright day, the biggest problem I have is light spots and lens flare. I don’t like to use a lens hood because I find it very limiting if I want my lens at its widest. I’ve been known to open the shutter and stand to one side of the camera to block the sun. Maybe not the most technical approach but it works for me.
My biggest tip is to use the mirror lock function and a piece of low-tack painters masking tape over the view finder. I ruined many a photo with light leaks before I figured that one out!
With this photo (man fishing) I was on the lovely walkway along Old Portsmouth with the lens angled down enough to avoid the lens flare.
I took a photo without any filters first to capture the fisherman sharply then very carefully attached a ND10 and a ND6 filter so I could really slow down the exposure and smooth out the water. Because I hadn’t changed my composition at all it was fairly straightforward to blend the images together in photoshop and create the finished result.
Paul Watt – Man Fishing.
What are your favourite locations in Portsmouth to shoot? Favourite time of year/day?
There’s so many to choose from! My favourite has to be the coast around the Fort Cumberland area/Langstone harbour. I much prefer shooting at dawn, it’s not much fun in the middle of summer when dawn is around 5am but it’s really worth it.
The light is amazing at that time of day, plus aside from a few joggers and dog walkers I generally have the beach to myself. Even If I don’t get a good image, I’ve spent the morning on the beach. Not a bad way to start your day!
Autumn has always been my favourite season, it’s just such a mellow time of year.
I live on Albert Road which in itself is pretty photogenic (even without it’s more colourful residents!)
What makes Portsmouth a good city for photographers do you think?
The sheer variety of things to take photos of. It’s more than possible to take landscapes in the morning on the beach, Street and urban photography in the afternoon then shoot a gig in the evening. It’s just such a varied, interesting and diverse city.
I don’t have a car so living in Portsmouth where there’s tonnes of decent locations within walking distance is pretty awesome for me.
Paul Watt – Old Posts Older Sea.
What photographers inspire you?
There’s an amazing photographer called Paul Sanders. His portfolio is full of stunning long exposure photography and he’s a nice guy to boot. I spend a lot of time looking at his (and others) photo’s trying to figure out how they did it then apply those techniques to my own photography.
I also like a guy called Thomas Heaton. He does a lot of wild camping in the Peak District and gets some amazing photos.
Thanks Paul! You can see more of Paul’s photos below and see lots more of Paul’s awesome photography at:
I think the first time I saw the illustration based prints and jewellery by Mica Peet was at a market a couple of years ago, or more. I really liked the mix of geometry and UK wildlife and bought a print and some other gifts and have been keeping an eye on all the new work on Mica’s Instagram and Etsy. It has been great to see this local university graduate and creative build an awesome design based business in Southsea.
“My design philosophy consists of juxtaposing my love of the beautiful natural world with an edgier, modern and idiosyncratic design aesthetic. My main focus is on how I can be innovative yet commercial with the strong use of my quirky illustrative style and how these translate into print designs to adorn the body and home”. – Mica
Check some of the latest prints and jewellery below and be sure to hit up the MicaPeet Etsy where you can buy these items and support a local creative.
At the turn of this new year a new Southsea based clothing company Death Marks launched with their first drop of garments ranging from beanies through to tees, hoodies and coach jackets. We caught up with owners Sian & Iiona to find out more.
How did Death Marks begin and what are your backgrounds?
Death Marks UK started when Iiona looked through Sian’s sketch book and saw the R.I.P Rabbit design. Sian said how she would love to take her sketches and make a clothing line as it was a dream of hers. Iiona has always had a passion for graphic design and wanted to support her partner Sian and experiment her skills in different medias.
Sian studied graphics design at Portsmouth college and had 2 years experience working for a design agency called Design Image as a website coder.
Iiona had studied graphics from GCSEs to A-level and now works as a multimedia designer creating animations, illustrations and interactive content.
Who creates your artwork and what inspires your designs?
All our designs are created in-house. Sian comes up with the designs and draws them up rough. Then either one of us will digitalise the design and after Iiona goes through each design so that it is perfected and final. Iiona will take the design and create and animation to help tell the story behind it.
We are inspired by the tattoo industry, alternative music scene and other clothing lines such as Drop Dead clothing, Doomsday and Honour Over Glory.
What do you have planned for the label in the coming months?
Over the coming months we have south coast events planned in Portsmouth and Southampton. We have a gig at the Edge of the Wedge in April that we are working with Eyeless Promotions, another independent company who have also just started up this year. In May we have a festival in Southampton called Messtival where we will have a stall, in June we are releasing our summer range. Currently we are organising an event with Southsea Skatepark in the summer with Archie Cole, a world champion scooter rider.
Check the photos below of the current Death Marks range, you can find out more and buy items from the Death Marks website at:
Check Death Marks on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too.
Photographer Chris Brunnen is a local professional photographer who works commercially under CJB Photography and provides a wide range of photography services, including something a little different, Chris specialises in aerial photography. We spoke to Chris to find out more about how he got in to photography and in to this particular specialist field:
Hi Chris, how did you first get interested in photography?
I was introduced to photography when I was about 12 by Neil, my friend and neighbour. He was a few years older than me and was taking lessons at his school when he came home one day with an envelope of black & white prints he’d made and it completely amazed me. I couldn’t comprehend how it was done, I thought the process had to be done in a factory or by a huge company, I had no idea this was something that could be done at home in a darkened room. From that day, I remember the feeling so well, I was hooked, I wanted a camera. I begged my parents but they weren’t about to buy me an expensive piece of kit at that age so they gave me an old Box Brownie. Yes really, that was my first camera! Fortunately Neil’s mum worked in a chemist and knew how to load the camera but he would take the films to school to process them. We would set up scenes in the garden and photograph them, we even re-created the moon landing with Acton Man.
A few years later photography became an option in art lessons at my school and I started using the school’s 35mm cameras and lenses. I learned to process and print them myself and went on to take ‘O’ & ‘A’ Level exams, that introduced me to the practical, theory and history sides of the subject. I also studied art, technical drawing, physics and chemistry, all essential subjects in this field of work.
I went on to study Graphic Design at Art College. I’d originally intended to study Fine Art but I had a falling out with one of the lecturers on the pre-degree course…so I went to Graphics, a department next door to the photographic department where I ended up spending most of my time. The training as a designer I found very useful in photography, composition and layout are similar skills, again very useful background work to becoming a photographer. I find many people get too hung up on the camera, expecting to get great results from buying a big expensive piece of kit, they won’t, any more than buying a Stradivarius will make you a concert violinist. It takes more than that.
What got you in to taking aerial photos?
My first job was at a design & photography firm, I was behind a drawing board one day, behind the camera the next. As that firm grew I found I was spending more time taking photographs than designing and eventually left, with their backing, to set up my own photographic business, CJB Photography, in much bigger premises with a huge studio. Studio work has always been the main stay of my business but aerial photography is my USP.
What was your first experience of taking photos from the air?
A designer client of mine was working for IBM and needed aerial shots of their site at Havant and asked if I could do it…. I said yes. Fortunately they had a significant budget for the job so I hired a helicopter and off I went. While I was up I took a few other shots around Portsmouth and later showed them off to my clients. They met with a great deal of interest and since then, 1987, I’ve been flying virtually every month.
Rare colour aerial photo of Portsdown Park.
Can you describe your go-to camera kit for aerial photography? Any specialist equipment?
With aerial photography it’s all about resolution, the higher the better. Remember the first time you went on Google Earth, I’m betting you went straight to your house and zoomed in as close as you can. Aerial photos are the same and unique in the way they are viewed, make a big print and people just want to get closer, you don’t view portraits or landscapes like that, you’d step back to admire it. With that in mind I use a high res Canon with a wide ranging zoom and image stabiliser, your average DSLR isn’t going to cut it.
Southsea Show from some years ago.
On an aerial shoot are you able to take photos for yourself in the time in the air?
Most of my work is on commission but I do take advantage of my time in the air to build up my Aerial Photo Library, to be found on my web site, where there are now thousands of images for sale.
Any near misses?
The pilots and helicopters I use are all on an Air Operators Certificate for commercial flying and as such subject to strict maintenance schedules and safety regulations so ‘near misses’ don’t happen but I was in a heli with engine failure once, just as we were coming in to land at the airfield so the pilot set it down on the end of the runway, could’ve been worse I guess. Funny thing is, this wasn’t a working flight, I was being taken out to dinner at a hotel by the operator with their other regular clients. All a bit embarrassing for them really.
Close up view of the Spinnaker Tower.
What sort of clients do you work with and where do your photos end up being used/shown?
I’ve been involved with some amazing projects. The construction of McLaren’s HQ at Woking, St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton and recently the Thames Gateway Project. Most other jobs are more mundane but it still gets me up in a helicopter on a regular basis.
Which do you prefer, helicopter or aeroplane?
I don’t use fixed wing, although cheaper, they have wheels and wing struts that obscure the view and are much more unstable. There are some companies that use them but they really are inferior, sorry about the cliché but you get what you pay for.
You can see lots more of Chris’ photography on his website and Facebook page, which he often updates with aerial photos challenging people to guess the location. All photos with this interview are copyright of Chris Brunnen and used with kind permission.
North End from the air.
Low tide in Langstone Harbour.
Personally, there is something really special about sketching, creating a personal interpretation of a place, a location or even a person through pencil, pen or even on a tablet. The lines flow through a quick look of the eye, straight to the paper, with a real sense of what the artist is perceiving, channelled thought their unique creativity and for many artists done almost instinctually, without being bogged down with second guessing and over thinking. Add to this flourishes of colour with washes of watercolour paint, giving a sense of light and perspective you have an image that captures the location and the moment all through the particular eye of the artist.
The local area has a strong lineage sketch and watercolour artists, over the years including the likes of Gosport’s highly regarded Martin Snape, the very popular nautical scenes of William Edward Atkins and in recent years the striking work of students and locals such as the Portsmouth Scrolls of Arran Mackintosh and the many different sights of Portsmouth captured over recent years by the talented Deane Clark.
Now joining this long and talented list of sketch and watercolour artists is Chris Webb, who’s wide and varied work includes a rather wonderful collection of Portsmouth sketches, awash with colour. I first became aware of Chris’ work very recently with a scene of the old Savoy building on Southsea Seafront but have really enjoyed seeing the previous and new work on Chris’ Urbansketcher Facebook page.
Chris’s work is created either on location or inspired through vintage photographs and Portsmouth itself looks to be a constant inspiration. Many of the original ink and watercolour works are available for sale. Chris updates his Facebook page constantly with works from his sketchbook and much more, be sure to give it a Like, look through the many great pieces of work and get in touch directly if you are interested in buying.
Below are a few of my favourite recent works:
Sam Brandon is a 23 year old local illustrator who grew up in Spain and recently last year came to live in the UK, in Southsea, for the first time. Sam currently works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer with ideas to try to help promote local business, community and culture. Most of Sam’s artwork is completely hand drawn, using a pencil for sketching and then fine line pens or Posca pens for inking and colouring. Serious skills!
You can see some examples of Sam’s work below, including his ‘Keep Southsea Weird’ artwork and you can see more at the following:
My instagram: @skever
My twitter: @SamuelBrandon
Chloe Hood is a Portsmouth born and bred punk girl who recently finished her degree at the University of Portsmouth in Fashion and Textiles with first class honours, specialising in digitally printed textiles, jersey garments and pattern cutting. Chloe gets most of her inspiration for her textile design from urban sports especially roller derby, skateboarding and BMX. More than just an inspiration, Chloe is also currently a member of the Portsmouth Roller Wenches Fresh Meat, getting involved with Roller Derby. The Roller Wenches and the friends she has met through them have been a huge support throughout her course, graduation and the launch of Hoodlum Fang.
Chloe creates leggings, skirts, shorts, sports dresses and tees, each piece is handmade with love by Chloe personally in her little studio in her home in Portsmouth. All the companies she works with to create these pieces are UK based too. It is awesome to see someone create a brand that is utilising new technology with digital textile printing and making more than the basic garments like t-shirts.
Hoodlum Fang is currently available through an online shop, but Chloe is on the look out for shops that would like to stock the garments, and also selling at local Roller Derby bouts.
Hoodlum Fang is having a 30% flash sale starting today and going through to Sunday 5pm in celebration of getting to 300 likes on the Hoodlum Fang Facebook page.
To check the full range and buy Hoodlum Fang visit:
(Photo by Dominic Smith)
(Photo by Dominic Smith)
(Photo by Dominic Smith)
(Photo by Justyna Kloch)
Dan Choppen is a local photographer and filmmaker from Havant who spends much of his time exploring around Portsmouth with his camera and getting involved up front capturing local bands hard at work too. Below are a few of Dan’s images, be sure to keep an eye on Dan’s blog to see more:
Dan Pease is a talented young local designer, illustrator and filmmaker and a final year student at the University of Portsmouth. We asked Dan a few questions about his work:
What brought you to Portsmouth originally?
I never knew much about Portsmouth until I came and actually lived in the city. It was one of my choices for uni as I thought it offered a good course. I had a look around before arriving for my first year and it seemed so alien and scary but after living here nearly 3 years I don’t see it as anything less than home.
How has your work developed in the last 3 years?
I have never had a set way of working, I think that is part of what the course offers, the chance for you to really understand how you work and the style in which you work. I have used a lot more software over the past few years for designing t-shirts and creating logo’s. But I still love going back to paper and just drawing. The resources at Uni are massive, so I have done everything from etching to welding, but right now my style could be rendered to any request.
You have worked closely with clothing brands, who have you worked with and how have you developed your designs to suit their brand identities?
I have done a lot of work with clothing brands. Me and my house mate started out own company which is called Idols and Anchors. We decided to do it last year and it was really fun so a lot of the digital designs that I do are for that. My other house mate recently started a brand called Co-Conspiritors and I did the first design for that which was fun and something new as he wanted it in a completely different style. So naturally I had to change my normal way of working and work to how he wanted the design.
What personal projects have you been working on?
Personal projects are such a big part of 3rd year at Uni. I have been doing live projects, some of these include a mural at the Southsea Coffee Co, an Armed Forces brief portraying being away from home and designing logos for another Uni project. I also enjoy filming in my spare time so I film a few of the locals at Southsea Skatepark and make them edits.
What inspires you locally and further afield?
A lot of artists inspire me but also things that are less obvious like a normal situation but with characters and different mediums. I love watching a really well filmed and edited video, but I also love seeing a really amazing piece of artwork. My Bike has always been something which inspired me and probably led to me having an interest in filming and editing. So the BMX scene in Portsmouth is huge and that gives me a lot of motivation to get out and film but seeing other artists artwork has to be the best for wanting to create. Feeding off all the other practitioners in the world is the best motivation there is.
What do you aim to do once you graduate?
After Graduation is a big question at the moment, my dream would be to work in London and live in Brighton. I just don’t want the last 3 years to go towards nothing and waste what I have learnt and accomplished within them. Possibly working in Portsmouth if the right job came up but to be honest its not something I have given a lot of thought towards at the moment.
Visit Dan’s Facebook Page to see more of his work.