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.
In the Autumn of 2018, Jo Slater, who owns The Sun pub in Carshalton, approached me after I donated an art work to a charity raffle in the pub, and kindly offered some space for us to make art. Art In The Sun duly began in January of this year. A weekly gathering of curious adventurers, an experiment in experimental art.
Each session features an idea, maybe a theme, an offer of new tools, materials, techniques – just enough structure, and no more. People get to work, talking, sharing ideas, experimenting. I’m on hand if needed, but the process is largely about discovery.
Some weeks a hush falls over the group as the concentration levels rise, some weeks there’s loads of chat and laughter. We’ve been fortunate to have ELTEL perform with us a few times, and we’ve tried numerous techniques out since we started. Mark making, printing, stencil cutting, masking and layering, brushless work, tile painting, collaborative and solo works. The group takes it all on – confident in the emerging process. Plenty of our work ends up in the bin, and that’s OK.
A while back I suggested the idea of an exhibition – a chance to show our work to a wider audience. I recall the idea being received a little hesitantly, so we left it to percolate. Time passes, experiments continue, the idea is remembered again, and here we are, it’s exhibition day.
I’m off to The Sun. My role today is that of curator, and general setter upper. I’m proud of this lovely group of people and everything they have achieved so far, and I hope that today, I do their work justice for them. I have much to do, so I’ll wish you well and leave you with a hint of what is yet to come.
Developing artistic practices to respond to business challenges
I recently spent time talking with Ross Dickie and James McLuckie from Good Practice, about working with uncertainty. The conversation will be released on their podcast soon. Even though uncertainty is all around us all the time, the very nature of it means we tend to shy away from working with it, often preferring to seek to exercise control instead (which bizarrely, often seems to lead to even more of the stuff).
One of the questions James raised in our conversation was how can we help people move past that reluctance? It’s a good question, and I was reminded of some work done by Stephanie Barnes and Age of Artists, who developed a framework to help make it easier to engage with uncertainty. I’ve drawn a version* of it here:
Stephanie wrote a really useful piece on how to engage with and explore this framework, and has kindly agreed to me reproducing her work here.
“The framework works from the outside in towards the middle, using artistic practices and attitudes to offer alternative responses to business challenges. In the model, the organisational situation appears on the left-hand side, while the artistic practices and attitudes are on the right. Possible transformational activities connect the two sides and allow the artistic activities to act upon the situations on the left side.
such as dealing with a market, that are complex, changing quickly, uncertain,
or volatile are all considered. The traditional response in these situations
might be to try to simplify things, in the case of complexity; slow them down,
in the case of acceleration; control them, when they are uncertain; or approach
them with resistance in the case of volatility. However, by using artistic
practices and attitudes in a transformational approach, we can move our organisations
to a place which can provide a more balanced, engaged result. We can have
diversity instead of simplicity; a sense of purpose instead of deceleration;
autonomy in the place of control; and elasticity rather than numerous rules and
exceptions, in the case of volatility.
a creative mindset, and applying artistic practices to an organisational
situation, we start by identifying the business problem we are trying to solve,
then decide which practice we want to start with: perceiving, reflecting, creating,
or performing. We can start with any of the activities and move through the
others as part of the process of arriving at the response/resolution of the
at a resolution, it often helps if we adopt artistic attitudes, like curiosity
(asking why five times, or challenging assumptions), being passionate about
what we are working on, being confident there is a solution, and being
resilient enough to bounce back when we experience failures or set-backs. The
persistence which develops through these activities is often key to finding a
Artists across all genres display a particular artistic
attitude, that is increasingly and highly relevant in other disciplines as
well. This attitude often consists of:
Curiosity. A general readiness to perceive, receive and to learn. Position. Holding a personal belief that is articulated with integrity. Passion. Pursuing what matters with initiative, determination, courage and persistence. Resilience. Appreciating uncertainty, flexible towards change, robust in conflict and crisis. Transcendence. Ability to surpass limitations of ego and self-interest in order to create something new.
Curiosity, position, passion, resilience, and transcendence
often characterise artists – and these things are clearly not exclusive to
them. Everyone can develop several or all of these features since they will
emerge through the ongoing artistic practices in which a person engages over
Artistic Practice is a non-linear, iterative process that consists
of recurring creative patterns that can be observed across most or all art
genres and that are applicable to other disciplines. This process includes:
Going through this process will enable people to eventually build and extend generic skills in addition to their core expertise.
Acquiring perception skills. Gaining mindfulness and understanding. Learning problem solving, design and collaborative creation. Understanding how to create awareness, stimulate emotion, and evoke meaning.
Artistic attitude and artistic process amplify each other. An artistic attitude enables experiencing the artistic process more profoundly and as a result leads to higher competence levels. Going through the artistic process can change your attitude.”
There are other artistic ways to embrace uncertainty too, including the excellent draw for the bin method, and for those who like a little more structure, at least at the start of the exploration, I think that what Stephanie and Age of Artists have come up with, is very useful.
*Since I drew the sketch, a new version of the framework has emerged, helping to demonstrate the changeable nature of work. In addition, Age of Artists have published a book, Creative Company (currently available in German – English translation expected later in 2019), which describes some of their research in greater detail.