I volunteered at a local school careers fair on Valentine’s Day this week. I felt a little out of place at first, among the banks, airlines, engineering companies and more, but as I set out my stall, I appreciated I had something useful to offer, and relaxed. I took along some of my art, and some work made by clients and various community groups, and spoke with kids at the school about aspects of running your own business.
In between the conversations, I sketched out a few mini guardians. I enjoy making and I thought it might be useful for others to see the process of me making too.
As I was making, some very sad news was unfolding. I found out after the careers fair ended, that our dear friend Cate had died suddenly, unexpectedly. I’ve known Cate for years, and though others know her better, she’s always been a lovely friend, lively, kind, and equally, fierce when needed. I saw her many times on her adventures to the UK and when I was fortunate to travel to Melbourne, she and I met up for a lovely evening of conversation, laughs and a glass or two of good white wine.
Cate was also a supporter of my work, and on that trip to Australia I hand delivered a Winged Heart print to her. I’m going to hide a Winged Heart and two of the miniature guardian figures together for this week’s art drop. The print recognises Cate’s friendship and support, and the guardians represent her and her lovely son, who we are thinking of and sending best wishes to right now.
An evolution. Good work often reveals itself slowly.
On the 2nd January 2018 I painted this ghostly winged figure. I had recently finished reading Skellig, by David Almond. Keira recommended the book to me, and one of the characters is a mysterious winged creature, so I think that’s partly where the inspiration for this art came from. The book and its sequel, My Name Is Mina, are both excellent reads.
This painting quickly sold and was shortly followed by another in a similar vein. The second piece, much larger than the first, didn’t work, or at least that is what I initially thought. I played with it a little more, and liked it a little less, but it led me to produce this:
Which in turn, led me to produce more…
The greeny blue one on the left and the red spattered one on the right were both hidden as part of the free art project, and I made the orange piece in the centre during an LnDcowork at Herman Miller’s showroom, where it was subsequently bought by a lovely friend. The two gold pieces are available to purchase, so if either or both takes your fancy, please let me know.
A small but important modification then occurred, after Carole suggested to me the figures would look better without feet. I followed her advice and another free art drop piece came into being. Unusually – I was in the vicinity when this piece was found. Someone pulled up in their car and dashed to grab the art. They were in such a hurry to find it, they’d not put any shoes on before leaving the house. A shoeless person found the footless angel.
I liked this modification, and returned to the larger purple and blue canvas, overpainted it, and began to work again. A new figure emerged…
I love this piece of work, I think it’s one of the best things I’ve painted to date. It has just returned from the framers and is ready, as one of three pieces which will be shown in March 2019 at an exhibition in Minden Germany.
All of this work emerged in a period of a few weeks. It was feeling good to make, and I still wasn’t really sure why I was enjoying the work so much, or why I felt so strongly compelled to keep going.
In March 2018 I attended Workplace Trends, both to live paint at the event, and give a talk on why creative practice at work matters. As I put together my pop up art studio at the back of the room, I listened to Nicola Gillen speak about psychological safety at work. I wrote about how Nicola’s talk inspired me here, and I started to paint the design you see below as a result of what I was hearing. The winged creature indicates a guardian within – open arms encouraging that sense of being sufficiently confident to speak truth to power, to be ‘myself’ at work.
I painted a lot that day, and the piece inspired by Nicola subsequently went on loan to the London offices of AECOM, where it spent a few months in reception, before being sold.
I am continuing to work with these winged creatures, which are evolving to represent aspects of mental health, taking responsibility, and wellbeing. The circular centre piece below is titled ‘Waiting To Hold You’ and is also heading to Germany soon. In addition, I’ve made several smaller sketches, and will continue to develop the project, titled ‘I Guardian’ for as long as it interests me.
Some of the many things I am learning from this project include:
Inspiration can come from anywhere
Trust your instinct…Back yourself
At a time when people seem to crave things, faster, now, even sooner than now, I wonder: How often do you give yourself time to start, dip in and out, and keep returning to an exploration like this when at work? Good work often reveals itself slowly.
I made this sketch on the morning of Saturday 9th February 2019. The wind was blowing outside and I was listening to this engrossing TEDxTalk. The soundtrack of weather and the talk combined into this version of When The Wind Blows – painted onto a piece of lavender coloured mount board. I really enjoyed making the art and I hid it in the history section of Wallington Library later that day.
It’s now Sunday morning – and the wind has died down, but my enjoyment of the art work has not. One of the best things about the free art project, is the ongoing learning I experience about how to let go. I could have easily kept or sold this piece, I love it, but I didn’t make it for me, I made it to hide. I placed it in the local library, never to be seen by me again.
Learning to let go is one of the main reasons I started this project back in 2016. I’m still learning, and at times, it still hurts. And that’s OK. Equally I am hugely appreciative of the local community, the people who engage with the project, play the game, find the art. Without them….who knows, maybe I wouldn’t be letting go any more?
A friend has just sent me a link to this rather lovely poem titled ‘In Blackwater Woods‘, by Mary Oliver. It seems to resonate well with this art and the blog post too. Thanks Nigel.