Minden Calling : European Adventures

A few weeks ago I wrote about the free art project extending into Europe. Since then, I’ve accepted a kind invitation to show some of my art at an exhibition in Minden, Germany.

Minden is one of the towns twinned with our borough, and next March there will be an arts festival to celebrate Minden’s 40th anniversary of town twinning. I’m choosing to show some works from my I Guardian series, which is an exploration of mental health and the human condition. Earlier today I sent off my submission to the exhibition catalogue. This is a first for me, and I can’t quite believe it’s happening. I’m excited and grateful, and a great reminder to me of the importance of some of what I learn through my free art project, namely:

Be curious. Start something. Keep going.

In case you are interested, here are the works I’ll be showing next March. I use the words ‘I’ll be showing’ quite intentionally, because I’ll be at the exhibition when it opens.

Waiting To Hold You. This piece represents forgiveness.
Halo Effect. This piece represents inner peace.
I Believe In You Believe In Me. This piece represents trust.

Live Painting at Workplace Trends : Psychological Safety

Last week I was at the Workplace Trends Research Spring Summit. I was there to learn, to do some live painting, and to give a talk on creative practice at work. This is a short blog post about a piece of art I made on the day.

Early on in the presentations, I listened to Nicola Gillen and Charlotte Hermans talking about how AECOM is undertaking new research to investigate predictors of wellbeing and performance in populations of office workers.

AECOM is testing to identify the most influential factors of work (e.g., job design, management, culture) vs. workplace (e.g., quality of work settings, noise, air quality) in predicting physical, mental, social, intellectual, spiritual and material dimensions of wellbeing, performance and satisfaction. Something which caught my attention was Nicola’s observation of the importance of psychological safety. In particular she spoke of the idea of being your ‘whole self’ at work, and how potentially harmful it can be in a workplace where this doesn’t feel possible.

I know from personal experience and from listening to many stories, how tricky it can be in some places to be yourself, to be open and honest about what you see, and how it’s making you think and feel. As I considered how I might get over that sense of reluctance when things are a little unclear, I began to paint. The blurred background indicates uncertainty, things moving at speed, not being quite sure what’s going on. 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 chose to title the piece ‘Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself Again.’

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Above are photographs of the piece as it was finished and displayed in conference, and a couple of close ups so you can see some of the detail. It took me all morning and some of the lunch break to paint this, each line on the wings is a single free hand brush stroke. Patience was required to complete the piece, and at times during the making, I felt like quitting and starting again on something easier. I’m glad I persisted, people gave me lots of positive feedback on the finished piece and it sits well alongside some of my other recent works.

I’ll share more live painting from the event soon, and some slides and speaker notes too. For now, thank you Nicola for the spark of an idea which brought the art into being.