Dean Leivers Dean Leivers


April 12th, 2024

An image spread from a recent shoot for Attenborough Arts SENsory Atelier project at Ash Field School in Leicester. This was a wonderful workshop to observe, seeing how simple objects/props and movement could be utilised to create an engaging and immersive session for the participants.

Huge thanks to Bob at Attenborough Arts for the commission.

January 28th, 2024

Images from a recent shoot with Leicester based band ‘Pretty Dirty Rats’ as they recorded their first EP.

January 9th, 2024
May 16th, 2023

As we gear up to visit our next school we’re spending a bit of time looking back and reflecting on our first residency at St Luke’s C of E Primary School in Glossop.

‘Looking In, Looking Out’

April 18th, 2023

‘Looking In, Looking Out’ is a participatory project of artist residencies teaching analogue photography & poetry on 9 school sites, using environmental-stimuli & based in a transparent dome. An innovation for students & residents with low cultural capital, interweaving science, art history, social science, literature & art. It’s a development of the first project (Dependent Origination Funded by Arts Council England) this project is an innovation that bridges formal wellbeing tools (mindfulness) with creative practice, led by two professional Artists; Akshay Sharma (AKA Mr Shay) and myself.

The project used different creative practices to enable students to explore and experience the strength within each one of them. It introduces and spotlights the importance of Recognising (what’s inside and outside ourselves), Recording (mentally or physically taking note) and Responding (taking action).

The workshops will be following the themes of:

- ‘Environmental observation’ (paying close attention to the visual landscape). This then leads into a photographic workshop with Dean using the analogue historical cyanotype process to create images using handmade treated paper, natural found objects and sunlight.

- ‘Environmental listening’ (paying close attention to the soundscape). This leads into a creative writing session with Shay, using sounds from the vicinity as a stimulus for writing poetry, with potential to practice performing it too.

Each participant will create one cyanotype image each and, either an individual poem or a collaborative group poem (dependent on age/ability of year group).

The countdown is now on as we land in our first partner school in just under two weeks time. More updates will follow as we work with the schools but for a more visual overview of the project see the video below.

Project Updates

April 13th, 2023

The last six months have been busy with project work and various commissions the most exciting however was my work on the ‘Creative Communities’ project which was generously funded by The Mighty Creatives. This project was an opportunity to build on the foundations laid in my Arts Council England funded ‘Dependent Origination’ Project.

This form of the project is an innovation that bridges formal wellbeing tools (mindfulness) with creative practice, led by myself and poet/musician Akshay Sharma (AKA Mr Shay). We worked with all 360 students at Folville Junior School in Leicester (12 classes, years 3-6), the vast majority of which met at least one of the funders priority characteristics.

The project used different creative practices to enable students to explore and experience the strength within each one of them. It introduces and spotlights the importance of Recognising (what’s inside and outside of ourselves), Recording (mentally or physically taking note) and Responding (taking action).

Six classes in years 5 and 6 took part in 1 hour weekly mindfulness sessions following the .breathe curriculum (Developed by the Mindfulness in Schools project) over 4 weeks, integrating artistic processes and tools throughout in the form of drop in lunch time art workshops. These sessions were designed to be spaces where participants could “get away” from the busyness of the school day and take some quiet time for themselves to make art work (in this case illustrations) simply for the joy of creating a small piece of work.

We also worked with six classes in years 3 and 4 who took part in 30 minute weekly mindfulness sessions following the Paws B curriculum (also developed by the Mindfulness in Schools Project) over 12 weeks. They also had access to a half a day workshop in a transparent dome on the school grounds experiencing artist-led sessions which built on the ‘recognise, record, respond’ methodology.

Sessions in the dome were made up of two parts:

-‘Environmental observation’ (paying close attention to the visual landscape) leading to a photographic workshop with photographic artist Dean Leivers using the analogue historical cyanotype process to create images using handmade treated paper, natural found objects and sunlight

-‘Environmental listening’ (paying close attention to the soundscape) leading into a creative writing session with creative writer and performer Akshay Sharma, using sounds from the vicinity as a stimulus for writing poetry.

The project also invited parents, carers, and neighbours to the school to see the children’s artwork and poetry on display in an after school sharing event which attracted over 200 visitors. A book was also created to act as a lasting memento for the school to house in its library for current and future staff and students to view and enjoy. A digital version of that booklet can be viewed online here.

The most rewarding highlights of this work have been seeing the pupils sharing their work (Cyanotypes and poems) with staff and parents/carers in the community sharing. Hearing them explain to parents the process and what they did during the workshops was wonderful and to witness parents actively engaging with not just their own child’s work but the work of other children was really pleasing. Getting to run a variety of my mindfulness curriculums with a range of ages has also given me a great insight into the ways that I can further integrate this into my art workshop delivery too, in order to create a workshop offer that covers all of the facets of my career and life interests and drawing from all of the skills I have to offer others.

The huge success from this project though has been the chance to use it as match funded activity to secure further funding from Arts Council England so that myself and Akshay can further develop the workshops and tour the project in eight schools located in Leicestershire and Derbyshire starting in early May. There’ll be more updates on the progress of that project over the next few months.

Project Sharing and Community Workshops

October 14th, 2021

The final part of my ‘Dependent Origination’ project has come to pass, culminating in a series of family workshops in the local community and a project sharing for the public and project partners to attend. It felt like a bit of a relief to get the workshops off the ground after cancellations earlier in the year due to Covid related hurdles. It’s really shown me how much of a minefield promoting an event can be, with most of the bookings being made in the week leading up to the day after a final push on social media to try and get people involved. This was after a large print run of flyers was delivered to partner schools and local venues to try and draw in a different audience to the original schools workshops. These flyers were aimed at year groups and venues that had no involvement in the initial stages of the project (Approximately 300-400 young people) but in the end drew a very small amount of interest. Turning to local Facebook groups seemed on this occasion to be the way to go with most of the workshop slots being fully booked for the day. It felt worth while to be delivering to new people that hadn’t experienced the process and the project before and also as the space was set up for the project sharing too, they had a chance to get an understanding of the project as a whole before getting the opportunity to make their own cyanotype print.


Feedback from participants was largely positive too which was wonderful to hear. The major feelings about what could have been better during the sessions were related to the weather as we had a lot of heavy rain and cloud cover which did mean that the prints weren’t as strong as we would have liked even though we did get results. The most interesting piece of feedback related to the mix of ages within one of the groups and how I might be able to better tailor the sessions for a mixture of the very young to the older end of the spectrum as was the case in one of the groups. A difficult one to figure out I think but certainly something to work with in any future workshops. Some more feedback I received following the workshops:

“Very informative and amazing results. What a good project.”
“Great introduction to a new craft. I’m inspired to go away and explore further. A very enjoyable hour, thank you.”
“The pictures and process were really cool! I really enjoyed it.”


The project sharing took place the day after the workshops and allowed people a chance to see the work I and the associate artists had produced, get a look at the dome up close and watch a documentary video made by Rendah Films (below) that detailed the whole project and the ideas behind it.


The following weekend saw me set up at Active Arts Family Art Day which was hosted at the local secondary school. This felt like a good event to attend as Active Arts generously contributed financially to my first partner school to help with their payment for the project. The secondary school is also a new delivery location for me and could open up the opportunity to work with more people new to my workshops. I saw pretty low numbers for this workshop as it wasn’t an event you had to book for but it was a great test bed for running the workshop on a “walk up” basis, rather than having people book a time slot to take part. So in that sense it felt like a success and the people that did visit my stand on the day walked away very happy with their prints, that was certainly helped by the much better weather than the previous weekend!

Continuing Work with Associate Artists

September 6th, 2021

Recently I continued my work alongside associate artist Julia Claridge who had gathered various fabric samples for us to work with to see how they would take to the cyanotype process. These ranged from very thin, almost transparent cottons to thick heavier weight fabrics. Julia had already had ideas about which might work best and had pre cut some samples for us too set to work on. This time round I brought a hairdryer with me too in order to speed up the drying process.


Working with the fabric is a far different beast when it comes to applying the chemicals. As you would expect it soaks into the fabric far more quickly than paper and will hold a larger volume of liquid too so the drying time increases.

We set to work coating the different samples and laid out some very basic compositions using a range of found objects, Julia’s daughter even got in on the act as she was in the last few days of her summer holidays!


We found that certain fabrics did indeed work better than others and some of those that didn’t produce good results were quite surprising. Julia had assumed and quite rightly, that the heavier the weight of the fabric the better the chemical would hold and produce a more pleasing blue in the print. Though in the case of the faux suede this didn’t ring true and the reason was down to the percentage of cotton in the fabric. In the end the better results were to be found on the heavier fabrics with the highest percentage of cotton in this case a cotton voile and also basic dressmaking calico that we used in previous experiments.





Whether or not a fabric piece makes it’s way successfully to a final piece in my own project work remains to be seen. Fabric is a little more difficult to work with than paper and takes far longer to properly dry, drawing out the process. The ideas I’d had of multi layering different circular patterns on large pieces of fabric would also increase the amount of variables that could potentially go wrong. Bearing this in mind, to start with I’ll create much smaller pieces before scaling up for a larger work using the fabric I eventually purchased from Julia.

Associate Artist Session Reflections

July 1st, 2021

One strand of my project has been to collaborate with associate artists in order to discuss approaches to their own practice, look at ways that they might use the cyanotype process and to get a general idea of how they promote and sell their own work and make a living from their art practice. One of those artists is Leicestershire based Meg Bonser. Meg is an artist that works within multiple disciplines but with a lot of her work based around painting and collage to create images of natural forms. It was mainly this approach of collaging that I was interested in bringing to the Cyanotype process, or in the very least seeing how that might inspire me into new directions or ways of working on my own images.


I started by detailing the cyanotype process to Meg so that she could experiment with a few test images. I then showed her my current work in progress and we discussed my current approaches and ways that I create the work. Our conversations threw up some interesting ideas. Meg talked about the ways in which I might be able to “collage” various components of the images to create a final piece. This really requires me to see the images as three dimensional when I’m actually creating the two dimensional final print. We experimented with a couple of ways that this could be achieved, namely layering up objects at different heights or sandwiching objects under layers of glass or transparent materials. This gave differing shades of blue in the resulting test prints. It also set me thinking about how three dimensional structures placed on the treated paper could become part of the final piece, acting as a sculptural element that possibly sits along side the print. This shading could also be gradually moved across the image through the movement of the sun if the exposures were to take place over a set period of time.



I also got a chance to quiz Meg on the ways that she promotes, distributes and sells her own work. I’d mainly thought about approaching sales through an online method but Meg made me realise that a more local approach might be best for my work, finding independent galleries and shops that would be willing to stock prints or potentially books (depending on how my personal work pans out in the future) rather than trying to push things online. When tasked with thinking about it I would largely be promoting to friends and family online due to the type of online following I have, so looking at ways to put my work in front of strangers was a valuable insight and one that I’ll investigate in future.

So overall the meet ups with Meg have left me with a few things to ponder on whilst continuing to play around with ideas for my own practice, and they also left me with a lovely piece of cyanotype work made by Meg herself!


Delivery at the Final Partner School

June 24th, 2021

My final partner school was a bit of a change of scene, moving out of the “shire” and more towards inner city Leicester which led to some interesting reflections. By this point I feel that the set up and layout of the dome and outdoor classroom space is spot on. After my first two residencies I made the decision to spend some of my contingency budget on a market stall style gazebo, which proved to be very useful in some particularly awful spells of wet weather that we experienced on the Friday of my week at the school!



I found the students I worked with at this school particularly enthusiastic and hands on within the workshops, discussions with the head teacher revealed that as a school they don’t have many opportunities like this come their way and due to the area in which the school is situated a lot of the pupils wouldn’t get opportunities like this outside of school either. He said that they are always very appreciative of anything “outside of the norm” as this lack of experience is felt quite keenly. Aside from another set of brilliant pieces of work made by each of the groups I worked with I had one very significant outcome from one of the sessions.


Up to this point I’ve tailored all of the sessions to suit the differing ages I’ve worked with, choosing to focus on the historical and contextual aspects of the process (and the process as a whole) with the older groups, whilst considering the process an artist goes through to create work through storytelling with the younger groups. For the storytelling aspect of the sessions I’ve been reading the groups a book from my childhood.


‘Jason’s Birthday Present’ is one of my earliest childhood memories of someone using a camera (besides my dad) and is a wonderful tale of trial and error featuring Jason, a boy who lives in the West Indies, who receives an instant camera for his birthday and who works hard to practice the art of taking photographs. I like the message that the book presents, that not giving up and practice is important if we want to get good results. This is how I link the message in the book to art practice, especially the Cyanotype method as at first it’s very much about trial and error. It’s also a good link into talking to the groups about the images that they make with me, in that it’s ok if they don’t turn out the way they might have planned as art practice is just as much about the journey as it is about the finished piece.

When I planned these workshops way back near the beginning of the project I wanted to make sure that I chose relevant examples of key figures that developed and used the Cyanotype process. I wanted to make sure that I made the point that photography was a largely male pursuit following it’s invention. So whilst I had to talk about Sir John Hershel as he developed the Cyanotype process I made sure to show examples of Anna Atkins work too, to ensure that the groups realised that there were some women making photographic work (and also conducting valuable scientific studies!). Other than this I have to admit I’d not thought too much more about representation, only really to think that I needed a more contemporary example of an artist using Cyanotypes in their practice to show the groups.


I have long been an admirer of the work of Joy Gregory and took her book ‘Objects of Beauty’ with me on workshops to show examples of her work to the participants. It was during a session with a group at Folville school that the notion of representation in art really hit home. I showed a group Joy’s cyanotype work but also showed them some of her other photographic projects contained in the book, particularly the ‘Autoportrait’ series. One boy in the group remarked “wait, her skin is the same shade as mine!” and then proceeded to grin throughout the rest of the workshop. It made me realise that it’s all well and good me sitting with groups of children, thinking that I’m inspiring them, talking to them about how wonderful a career as an artist and as a photographer can be, but if I’m the touch point for that idea and the person doesn’t feel that their life and experiences are reflected in what I’m presenting to them will they ever feel truly inspired? Will they ever feel that art is for them?


I often think back to my early days trying to find my way in to photography and feeling that I’d not really truly found artists that “spoke” to me and my upbringing. At university I struggled a lot with “imposter syndrome”, not really feeling like I deserved to be there because I was just some working class lad from an ex-industrial town, what did I know about art? especially next to a large percentage of my peers who were from more affluent backgrounds. I distinctly remember my first year tutor Stephen showing us the work of Chris Killip and whilst it didn’t make me want to make work like him, it changed something within making me realise that art is for everyone. It made me realise that there were people who came from towns like mine who carried on regardless because art gave them a way to make sense of the world around them. I need to remember that experience, how it felt and hold on to the thought that the experiences and cultural upbringings of others are different to my own and they too need as many examples as I can find of artists that can potentially speak to them.

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