A little something for Mental Health Awareness Week
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week – and the theme this year is ‘Kindness’. I’m currently supporting a local heritage project called The Locals Diaries, which is encouraging people to journal their thoughts and feelings during these unusual times. Part of this support is a series of creative ‘how to’ videos, designed to give people something artistic to do, and to consider applying the creative process to their own journalling. If you’re interested, you can check out the videos here on the Sutton Council Youtube channel. Two have been published so far, and there’s one coming out this week focusing on kindness and poetry.
In addition to this work – I’ve been continuing my free art drops, albeit online, and I’m doing some creative practice linked to kindness through my work at GameShift.
I wanted to do something else to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, so this morning, I made a series of ten small artworks – simple designs painted onto 100% cotton rag paper.
These mini art drops will be placed in our neighbourhood over the next few days, when I’m out and about taking exercise. There will be no photos, no clues, but if you happen to spot one of these when you’re out and about – please take it if you like it. If you’re doing anything in support of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, I’d love to hear about it.
Update: I hid two of the mini hearts on May 18th – and later that evening someone contacted me to say they found one, while they were out walking their dog. That was a kind thing to do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I used to write, a lot. Back in 2012/2013 I was blogging 3 or 4 times a week on here, and writing frequent guest posts in various other places too. My written output has steadily declined since then. I’ve only written 10 posts in the last six months, and several of those have been written primarily to show new and emerging art.
I feel rusty, yet for some time there’s been a loop playing in the back of my mind, telling me to return to writing. I feel a need to stretch this form of creativity again, but a decline in my mental health over the past couple of years in particular, has helped make it all too easy to ignore. I might write on the theme of doubt, depression and burnout once I get into my stride, but for now…
Thanks to the support of family and friends, and regular counselling, I feel ready to go again. I put this note on Twitter a few days ago:
I am going to write a series of ‘active’ pieces about work. Each piece will have an ‘ing’ title, for example: Giving. Asking. Making. Facilitating. Connecting. This will be a way for me to restart the writing process, and get back into a habit of sharing stuff. I am currently struggling to commit – I think I need to embody the Consulting Artist tag more wholeheartedly, and this feels like a good way to get better at that.
So here it is, the introduction to a new body of work, this series of active posts. In itself it’s not much, and yet it feels important to me, the right way to (re)start. More to follow…soon.