Blog

Rust Never Sleeps: A Renaissance

The challenges and joys of restarting

After a pause which began in February 2020, Art In The Sun restarted last night. There have been plenty of times in that pause where I thought the art would never come back – and right now, I must want to pay thanks to the good people at The Sun for their gentle, repeated encouragement. Thank you.

The day started with a rush of nerves, and doubt. What if I have forgotten how to do this (at no point did I stop to ponder what ‘this’ might actually be). I pottered around at home – putting off going to the studio to prepare.

I eventually headed to the studio to get ready – opting to go a little out of my way to queue for petrol – whoever thought that would be preferable to doing the work? At the studio I packed the kit, unpacked the kit, faffed about, repacked the kit, worked on a piece of art, wandered in the woods, unpacked the kit, repacked it, went home, realised I’d forgotten stuff, went back, repacked, and came home.

Early evening arrives, Carole is home from work and I confessed my nerves to her. Calmly – Carole spoke with me about those first day back at school feelings she experiences at the start of each and every term. They happen, you do the work, they pass. I headed off to work – a little reassured but honestly -still not 100% convinced.

Setting things up before people arrived – I still feel a bit scratchy, uncertain about what to do. Then guests start to appear – familiar faces and new ones. Conversation beings to flow, and from that, come pencil marks, ink, paint, rollers, mess, laughter – and we’re there. Doing the work.

Some of the results were expected, some not so. Some we liked, others, not so much. We had a good time, and in so doing, I remembered that curiosity and experimentation sit right at at the heart of Art In The Sun. Someone who hadn’t joined us previously said they did so because of the offer to try new and different things. How lovely. We parted in good spirits – looking forward to next time. Thank you to everyone who joined in.

I guess that if you are super confident, these feelings I’ve described won’t mean much to you – but I now realise they are simply (and importantly) part of the process. We took a long break and now we’re back. Doing the work enables the confidence to return. Rust never sleeps.

The Joy of Writing About Walking To Work

A cocreated poetry experiment

Two farthings, one polished, the other naturally tarnished

I recently facilitated a creative practice session for the GameShift community, titled The Art of Poetry : For Better or Verse. Most of my creative practice is visual and I thought it might be fun to gently challenge myself and the community to play with something I know little about. We had about 90 minutes together, and I had nothing more than the vaguest idea of how the session might take shape. My vague idea was shaped and refined through discussion with my colleagues, and we talked, drew, and composed – building poems by first making lists and doodles. I may write up the whole experience as it offered lots of learning and laughter and more. For now though, here’s my poem, written with my colleagues, and tweaked in the studio after we finished the session.

Walking to Work

A farthing’s charm
Recently rubbed bright and gleaming
Over days, months, weeks, years
Time patinates everything

The well-worn tracks
Telegraph the sound of seasons
The chiffchaff and dunnock
Chatter as they fly

Over farmland, parkland, woodland
Approaching the studio door
Behind the flaky paint
To the work beyond
To the work beyond

Doug Shaw 2021

Footnotes:

A charm is the collective noun for a group of goldfinches. I nearly always see a charm on my walk to work, and I often hear the wren calling too.

One of the tracks I walk along to get to work is named Telegraph Track.

Studio Time : The New World of Work

Why stay at home when you can go to work?

Don’t panic – I’m not about to join the burgeoning ranks of scribblers currently pontificating on hybrid working, remote working, flexible working, and all that jazz. For now, I’m focussing on something much more out of vogue, the art of actually going to work to do your work.

As of June 1st 2021, I became the latest tenant at Oaks Park Studios, Carshalton. After carrying out most of my creative practice over the past decade on the kitchen table, on my desk, and with my eight legged coworkers in the spider filled garden shed, this is big news for me, and I expected it to be tiny news for anyone else. I was wrong about that.

Inside the studio

After sharing a photo of my new working space on Instagram and Twitter last week, I’ve had loads of encouragement from people. There’s something lovely about knowing people are interested in your work. As a freelancer I feel that particularly keenly, and I’m grateful to everyone who has been in touch.

So why – when we are still in the grip of a global pandemic, would I choose to invest in a workplace, (particularly one with such basic facilities – I’m assured winter time with no heating is fun) when seemingly all around me, people appear to be abandoning theirs? Four things heavily influenced my decision.

Community

I’ll be working among a community of artists. This will be a new experience for me, and as someone who holds community at the heart of his practice, I am excited to see how these new exposures affect me and my work.

Proximity

The studio can be reached on foot. Crossing farm tracks and parklands, it is approximately one and a half miles away from our home. A lot of my work is influenced by wandering and wondering through local nature, and being able to travel to and from work on foot will doubtless play into how my work develops.

Space

For the first time in my artistic adventures, I have space to play. That canvas you can see on the easel in the above photo, measures 1m x 70cm. It felt huge at home, too big to work on in my little office, and it took up too much room in the kitchen. Now, as you can see, it looks tiny. Very simply, this bigger space gives me opportunities to take on bigger experiments. As an added bonus – I am creating space at home as I move my stuff into the new working space.

Percolation

One of the challenges in doing this kind of work from home, is the constant need to be tidying things away. I can’t leave work ‘in place’ as that place is nearly always needed for us to cook, eat, and live in. I’m really curious to learn how my work evolves when I can work on it day in day out, leaving it in place for as long as is needed.

What now? In the words of David Hockney, it’s time to Shut Up And Paint. More to follow…

Yours truly – ready to go to work