The Art of Getting to Know Each Other Better

A case study about using creative practice to build trust, and explore new ways of working together.

Productive, successful teams recognise the importance of relationships, not just with clients and customers, but with each other too. Redevco is a retail real estate investment management company, and their London team recently hired me to explore a creative way of getting to know each other better.

When doing something differently, the environment we work in is really important. Encouragement beats competition, process beats outcome, and a willingness to give new things a try, is vital. At its heart, art is simply mark making, something we all do all of the time, whether through doodling in the margins during a meeting, or writing the weekly shopping list. To this extent, art can be demystified, and we can agree that we are all artists. The session begins by setting the scene, including a brief introduction to the tools and materials we will use, before starting work.

As time passes, the work grows, overlaps and reshapes. People ask questions, talk about their experiences of creating something new, and keep going. Eventually we arrive at a single co-created piece.

Working together

We shift to individual work – abstracting using new materials and tools, hardly a paint brush in sight. We keep focusing on the process and make. The session concludes with people sharing some good conversations, and good work.

Brushless abstracts

Afterwards, the folks at Redevco said:

‘Doug came to our office to run an experimental art session with the aim of trying something new, having fun and getting to know each other better.

We started the session working together to produce a monochrome piece. Although daunted by the large piece of blank paper and hesitant to begin with, we soon got stuck in and it didn’t take long before our independent drawings morphed into a collaborative piece (which we aim to proudly display in the office). It was a really great way to start off the session, it loosened us up and got us working as a team. We then experimented using mixed media to create individual pieces, this enabled us to get really creative and meant we could leave the session with a piece of our own.

Doug was really engaging and passionate throughout, which helped put everyone at ease. It was great to see the transformation in my colleagues from start to finish; although apprehensive about their artistic skills in the beginning, with Doug’s encouragement we all finished the session eager to paint more! It was the hot topic in the office the following day, with everyone discussing their work.

Would definitely recommend and book again, Doug fulfilled our brief and then some….’

My experience as an organisational development consultant and artist gives me a unique perspective on how we can use art and creativity to help us think and do things differently, as individuals, as teams, and beyond. I’d love to help you explore this too.

Destroy to Create : The original collaborative work, cut and mounted as 15 new pieces of art.

Lifted

What happens when you surround yourself with talented people working in an encouraging environment?

Something like this:

A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled Identity – an exercise in patience, about my work for a forthcoming exhibition. I continued the theme of identity as I worked, and as you can see, the art is now finished and it has been handed in to the curators.

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of working alongside a group of talented people. Seeing other people produce really good work has motivated me to push myself and be more adventurous, and the fact that people in the group have been so encouraging has been really helpful.

My adventures with stencils and spray paint began a little over a year ago, when I made a few designs to celebrate Record Store Day.

Record Store Day 2018

These initial works are pretty naive, made using very simple cuts, and erratic spray work. Even so – I like them, they represent the beginning of what has become my vinyl junkie project, something I enjoy very much. Although I still consider myself a novice when it comes to stencil art, it’s good to be able to look back over a period of time and see how my practice is developing. Cataloguing and showing your work is a very important part of working practice for me.

I can’t wait to see all the work under one roof, it’ll be quite a show. I’ll share more information on that once arrangements are finalised. For now though, I simply want to acknowledge the power of working in a talented group where encouragement and cooperation is high, competition is not emphasised, and when requested, advice is freely offered.

In my consulting experience – organisations frequently express a desire to collaborate across teams and departments, yet the way things are structured – reward, appraisals, hierarchy etc – often mitigates against this. I realise this group of artists I’m currently with are only loosely connected, but I wonder what the world of learning and development can learn from us, and how we work with each other?

Art Is Community : Community Is Art

A creative collaboration

The last couple of weekends have been hectic, and good fun. As well as celebrating the third anniversary of the free art project, I’ve been helping to celebrate the launch of some excellent new music, produced by some good friends in the band ELTEL.

I first became aware of their album launch way back in the Autumn of 2018, when the band kindly approached me and asked if I’d make some art for the front and back cover of the album. I had previously sent one of the band members a card which I’d adapted to reflect the ELTEL black and white striped style, and we further adapted that design for the front cover.

While preparing to make the art, I spent time reading through lyrics, and listening to a couple of early track recordings. There are a few food references in the words, so for the back cover, I designed the piece on the right, titled ‘The Last Thing On The Table’. These two 12″ square canvases were handed over to the band in November 2018 and I’ve been sworn to secrecy about their existence, until now.

There were three album launch events over the past two weekends, and I made it to two of them, at The Lamb in Surbiton, and at The Brook in Wallington. As well as getting to hear all the new music live, I also saw a piece of my art blown up onto a 6 foot square banner. On both nights, I was also given the unexpected and unscripted pleasure of introducing the band and the excellent Dirty Carols who accompanied them.

The gig at The Brook was really special, a sold out intimate venue, packed with great music and lovely people. I felt really privileged to see my work on show, and to be able to introduce excellent musicians to an excellent audience. We gathered together for a photo afterwards, and the bands put their producer Andy Brook, and me, front and centre. What a lovely thing to do. Thank you for including me, and thanks also, for trusting me, what a powerful thing to do.

The new album contains ten wonderfully crafted, quirky, beautiful tunes. You can download and listen to it here. It’s excellent.

Art is community : Community is art <3