Tell Me Something Good

Choosing to focus on what’s going well

I got badly let down by a client last week, had the rug pulled on an exciting gig that’s been in the diary since last November. I’m also wrestling with the unresponsive accounts payable department from hell with another client. These things have thrown me off track in recent days. The challenges aren’t simply going to evaporate, and having reflected on the first month of 2019 – there are some really good things going on too. For now, I’m choosing to focus on them.

Art In The Sun

2019 kicked off with a new community art class designed to introduce people to new skills in a highly experimental way. So far we’ve tackled mark making, colour theory, abstraction, presentation, salt glazed paint, and illustration. The shape of the group ebbs and flows each week, and what has remained constant so far is a willingness to experiment, and encourage.

Making Art

I’ve made and sold two A4 sketches in the last month. I also completed a commission for a client in Texas, shipped some prints, and have received two new vinyl junkie commissions. In the next two weeks I will complete my submission to the Royal Academy summer exhibition.

Developing My Practice

Since offering to help with LnDcowork in London I’ve helped successfully co hosted the first session of 2019, and the second one, at a new venue, is in the pipeline for February.

Milton Keynes Gallery has received my application for one of their Associate Artist posts.

Arts Network Sutton has received my application for a grant to help celebrate the forthcoming third anniversary of the free art project.

Early signs of a mystery pig related project are showing promise…

I’m pleased I decided to write this. It doesn’t make the daily grind of freelancing go away, and it does remind me there are plenty of good things happening too.

What’s going well for you?

Practicing : Part One

Is the work ever done?

A friend of mine got in touch last week to let me know they love my Twitter bio. Currently it reads…

Artist and consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

I thanked my friend, and noted it’s taken me ten years to write those two short sentences (good work reveals itself slowly). I can’t remember exactly what previous iterations of my Twitter bio look like, and I do know there have been several. Things change.

For a few years I wrote my bio as a credo, ‘a statement of beliefs which guide someone’s actions’. I forget the exact details of it now, but it included things like: productive beats busy, we are all artists, and something about conversations… Trust me it made more sense at the time, and when it came to the attention of a certain researcher whose work I admire, I readily admit I was pleased.

I became very attached to the credo, sticking with it for a long time, changing very little, if anything about it. Yet all the time, my work shifted and moved, because I kept practicing.

Part of the challenge that comes with labels, is knowing when to use them and when to change them. In the last couple of years I’d become stuck in lots of ways, before coming to a decision to be more intentional about letting my consulting and artistic practices overlap and inform one another. In truth that’s been happening for a while, but I’d felt reluctant to to acknowledge this publicly. Last year, Richard Martin suggested I bring my art and my consulting web sites together, which I did. Combining these two things felt odd for a while, as I suppose does anything new, yet I resisted the temptation to unwind and separate things again, and now, it just feels right. For the time being, my Twitter bio is spot on.

Meg, thank you for your note last week. I am pleased you noticed, and I wonder how long it’ll be before another change…Is the work ever done?

Part Two of ‘Practicing’ will be about how a small experiment in January 2018 is growing into one of my most important bodies of work.

Moving

A story about trying something new, getting stuck, and moving on again.

“Nothing happens until something moves” Albert Einstein.

In April 2018 I made my first tentative steps into stencil cutting and spray painting. I used Record Store Day as the spark to cut and spray some simple lettering designs onto old LP records. The response to these initial pieces was positive, so I kept making, and the vinyl junkie project was born.

Record Store Day 2018. The Happy Talk art is sprayed on to a copy of South Pacific.

I began to develop my own lettering styles and experiment with different paint effects, and then I received my first vinyl junkie commission. I was learning lots about how painful on the fingers stencil cutting is, and how fiddly spray paint can sometimes be. I was enjoying the project, things were going well.

Developing the project
My first vinyl junkie commission

A couple of months later, while showing my work at the 2018 Carshalton Artists Open Studios, I received some unsolicited feedback on the vinyl junkie project. ‘It’s a bit A-level, a bit student. These aren’t very good, I think you should stop doing them’.

One of the things I experienced when I was at my lowest with stress and burnout, was a tendency to focus on the negative, and I took this feedback to heart. The open studios event was a success, but in the aftermath, I put the vinyl to one side, and stopped making. Every day I walked past a small stack of vinyl leaning in the studio doorway, and every day I did nothing about it. The vinyl shifted from something I really enjoyed using, to becoming an obstacle around which I skirted every time I passed through the doorway.

This went on for a while, until one day I accidentally kicked the pile, and some of the vinyl scattered on the floor. I restacked the pieces and carried on. Two days later, during my weekly counselling, I talked about this story, and concluded it was time to either restart the vinyl junkie project, or put it away and move on.

“Nothing happens until something moves” Albert Einstein

I decided to go again, and almost immediately after making the decision, a commission enquiry arrived, and that enquiry turned into this.

I was asked by some good friends to make something with a nod to the city of Cleveland where they live. I experimented with a few stencil cuts before settling on the one you see here, laid onto a starry night sky background. The piece on the right was a surprise thank you for my friends, incorporating letters of their names into a heart shape. Shortly after making these, I was approached by someone wanting a black cat vinyl. This black cat commission marked my first move into multi layered stencil cutting, and I am continuing to develop my practice with more layers, and different paint effects.

I’ve learned a few things from this experience:

  • Whilst I can’t stop unsolicited feedback – I don’t have to pay it any attention.
  • When giving feedback, I should ask if it is wanted first.
  • Getting stuck isn’t great, but it happens. When it does, remember that nothing happens until something moves.
  • Show your work.
  • Keep experimenting.

What’s next for the vinyl junkie project? I don’t know, and I am open to commission enquiries so if you have any ideas, drop me a line and let’s talk.