Art is not a thing, it is a way.

Portside Studio sign

By the shipping basin in Portslade there is an old boat yard whose entrance is covered in murals. This is Making It Out whose tagline is ‘Creative alternatives to repeat offending’.

The team at Making It Out design and make furniture, installations and a range of artefacts from small scale pieces to large public art installations. The difference between MIO and a regular studio is that MIO focuses on supporting people who have come from the prison system or are at risk of offending. It is a space where participants can access job opportunities and learn skills in a creative and supportive environment.

On our most recent visit we spent time in the Art Room, a space tucked away in the back, stacked to the ceiling with artworks of all types. The Art Room is a creative hub that actively encourages artistic exploration, focusing on the creative release that comes from experimenting. A place where participants can socialise and learn from each other.

Sean, who started out as a participant with MIO, is now Artistic Development Coordinator of the project and makes his own work at the studio. Sean explained that through ‘creating such allegorical works at the Making It Out studio, whilst also guiding others in their creativity, I hope to bring a realisation of the cathartic and self awareness that any participant can delve into, on any level’.

There is a playful, experimental element to spending time in the Art Room and the first thing Sean hopes for above everything else is ‘the discovery a client might have of the fun of playing and experimenting with artistic methods and materials’.

Al, a participant who was completely new to painting, showed us a vibrant landscape that he had been working on. He said ‘I have learnt to paint by being in the art room with Sean and it is all about having the freedom to explore.There is no right or wrong; if we get anything wrong, we can start again. Sean just gives us the space to get on and if we need help, we can ask for support. That’s where the growth is.’

Sean’s ‘’Razor wire in the blood’ – is a ceramic piece started during his time in prison. We also loved his ‘Lockdown Self-Portrait’ – 30 individual paintings made over 30 different days. The most recent of his works, ‘The 4 Truths – Social, Personal, Universal and Human’, is a series of colourful sculptures exploring the issues of our time through Sean’s lens.

Sean describes this work as a ‘4 piece sculpture representing my views of 4 types of truth. Different coloured clay creatures represented humanity. This work is part of a trilogy that began with ‘Forgiveness’, a series of paintings from 2020 but developed a couple of years earlier. The third artwork was a painting about the positive/negative aspects of ‘Guilt’.

Ty, who had first picked up a pencil and discovered his rare talent in prison, is also continuing his artistic development with MIO. The walls were lined with huge pop art like paintings of famous icons such as Amy Winehouse and members of Oasis and a large scale , detailed self portrait in pencil.

A painting of a face on canvas
A piece of art with dinosaurs

When we asked Ty about this work he said: ‘ I did my self portrait for a competition. I had only been drawing like this for about 2 years. I had never done any art until 2 years ago. I had done some detailed portraits of famous people before but this is my first self-portrait. I found doing it very challenging as it is hard looking at your own face for long periods of time, but at the same time it seemed to come together quite quickly. I added the Mod badge as that shows my interest and it gave the portrait a splash of colour.’

Outsider artists have always offered fresh insight into real life. They create such important documentation of the realities of life, beyond the normal conventions of the art world. It’s amazing to see the creators and the artists of MIO continue this tradition. We are all hoping for an exhibition of these works someday soon!

See an article about our last visit to Making It Out here >

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