Somebody That I Used To Know

Ideas reignited through reciprocal joy

Last week I came across half a dozen spare Draw For The Bin cards.

I was about to put them in recycling but thought of a better use for them. I let folks in my network know I had the cards, and offered to doodle on them for anyone who wanted one. Six people quickly accepted the offer, and I began to draw, seeking to make each card relevant to the recipient in some way.

The cards duly went in the post, and I’ve had some lovely feedback from the recipients. We all lived happily ever after. The end. Not quite…

I really enjoyed doing this. It wasn’t particularly time consuming, but the whole thing – asking – drawing – sending, and then getting feedback, was a joyful experience. I used to do this kind of thing quite often. When I visited exhibitions, conferences, other gatherings, I’d frequently buy and make small things I could post to people. Some of these things had a use, and some, like these cards, just felt like the right thing to do.

I can’t recall exactly when I drifted out of this habit, but rekindling it last week has reminded me of the joy it brings. As far as this element of my practice goes, I want to be the somebody that I used to know. Watch this space…

Is This It?

Lead with what you love now, as there may not be a tomorrow.

It’s November 2018. A big company wants to experiment with communities of practice and other community aspects of learning and development. A good friend and I have just been asked to help out on the project. Initial signs are positive. Lots of enthusiasm, some clear, seemingly manageable deadlines, and an openness to new ideas. We agree to initial requests for us to respond quickly, and develop and propose a cocreated consultative approach to the work. The quick turnaround is noted by the client, who, upon receiving the proposal on 27 November 2018, promises to ‘revert this morning with any questions.’ Since then – despite several gentle reminders from us, we’ve heard nothing. It also took 70 days to get paid for the initial work we did.

It’s November 2018. An associate and I have just been booked to cocreate some art work and visual minutes at a conference in March 2019. We subsequently exchange regular correspondence with the client about the event. On 30 January 2019, the client changes their mind, apologises for messing us around, and says they no longer want us to do the work. There is currently a reluctance to pay our cancellation fee.

Time and effort has been spent securing this work, planning, helping to deliver, and managing our part in it. The unceremonious way in which work sometimes unravels, is depressing. I wasted time at the start of February 2019 worrying about the effects of such evaporation, and wondering if there are ways to get these things back on track.

It’s 11 February 2019. I run an art class for a group of older people. It’s a satisfying challenge, we have fun together, talking and trying out new things.

It’s 12 February 2019. I sell some art, and I facilitate an evening art workshop in a local pub. The work is full of enthusiasm, experimentation, and joy.

It’s 13 February 2019. I’m at Martin Couzins’s Bar Camp, and I’m live painting. I’m meeting good people, stretching my creative muscles, making art, and more.

It’s 14 February 2019. I’m volunteering at a careers fair, talking to school kids about why art matters, about doing things differently, and what it feels like to run your own business. Unbeknownst to me at the time, news is reaching people of the death of our good friend Cate. I meet a friend for lunch, we share an excellent conversation and he buys some art from me.

It’s 15 February 2019. Fridays start with counselling, a fabulous unhurried opportunity to talk. I prepare this week’s free art drop, a tribute to Cate.

It’s 18 February 2019. I sell some art, and prepare some art for shipping to an exhibition in Germany. I have a commission enquiry to deal with.

It’s 19 February 2019. I meet with someone who runs an interesting community space. We talk about art, and how it makes us think and feel, and reach an in principle agreement to pilot some community art sessions.

I am reflecting on recent events, and it is dawning on me that in recent days I invested time and effort in work that brings joy to me and others. I also learned of Cate’s death, sudden and unexpected. These things ground us. Too often I chase the seductive enthusiasm for new ideas in corporate land, only to find that enthusiasm is rarely followed by action. Perhaps Cate is teaching me that I need to lead with the art now, as there may not be a tomorrow.

Is this it?


As If To Fly

Martin and Mark

A post about being in a hole, and finding a way out.

Suddenly I stop
But I know it’s too late
I’m lost in a forest
All alone – Robert Smith

The impulse is pure
Sometimes our circuits get shorted
By external interference
Signals get crossed
And the balance distorted
By internal incoherence – Neil Peart

Change is the only constant – A. Smartarse

Sometimes, work sucks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fortunate compared to many people, but sometimes, work sucks. Projects get deferred, postponed, parked and abandoned. Plans made carefully over time, can drift apart in seconds. We all now how that feels. It’s quite common for things to shift, and it’s thankfully less common for so many things to slip at once. Right now, I find myself in the middle of a lot of this stuff. A few short  weeks ago I felt like I was on solid ground, currently it feels more like quicksand. I’m not complaining – just noting this is how it is some times, and it gets me down. I’m only human.


I caught up with Martin Couzins earlier in the week. Martin is a great guy and we had a lovely, lively conversation. We spoke about all things good and bad, challenging and frustrating, uplifting and depressing. We spoke frankly and honestly. Martin is a great listener, generous in spirit and also with his time. We parted company after a little over 90 minutes, with me in a very different place to when I arrived. Thank you Martin, you are a good friend and I needed to see you more than I realised. My work doesn’t suck so bad.


As I walked to the tube station to start my journey back to the office, I passed by a guy and his dog, sitting on the pavement near Gloucester Road tube. I saw some sketches at his feet. I stopped to admire the artwork, sat on the pavement with the guy, and we started to talk. Mark is homeless, he’s been on the streets for three years. When he found himself homeless, he couldn’t bring himself to beg, and he didn’t want to start drinking, so he decided to make art instead.

Family Tree

As you can see, he’s quite the artist, though he assured me that when he started drawing three years ago, ‘it was all stick men’. I showed him some of my pictures, and he showed me more of his. Two artists (and a dog) sitting together on the pavement outside Gloucester Road tube. I gave Mark a few water colour pencils – treasured possessions of mine, time to pass them on. He offered me the picture of his which I had been admiring, I took it and insisted on paying for it. I tucked £10 under his pencil tin, and he put it away. ‘There are a lot of people on the streets who will have that away if I leave it in sight’. We talked a while longer about our art as our work, and parted company. Thank you Mark, for helping me reconnect to my work and realising, it doesn’t suck so bad.

So what?

Things go wrong all the time. When this happens, I have a tendency to keep things bottled up. This is partly because I’m an optimist first and foremost, and partly because I feel a sense of pressure to comply with a culture of ‘Everything is Awesome’, which often pervades my social networks.

The truth is, you cannot know joy without despair, happy without sad. Life is a wonderfully mixed bag, and to deny this, is unhelpful, even dangerous.

Conversations with good people are a great way to put things in perspective and move on. My day concluded with me finishing a key part of an important project. Thank you Martin and Mark.