Onwards, Upwards, Artwards : Not Giving Up

Rejection

Earlier this year, along with thousands of others, I submitted an entry to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Yesterday, March 15th 2018, this happened:

I’m disappointed by the decision. I wouldn’t have submitted the work if I didn’t think it was worthy of inclusion, and it isn’t, and that’s OK. I’m pushing my artistic practice pretty hard right now – making more works live in front of audiences, making larger works, experimenting. To some extent, the goal of submitting to the RA is part of what drives me on. The Gathering remains a piece I am proud of – it was exciting to make, and having it freed up by the RA means I can now offer it elsewhere. This rejection is just another step on the adventure. Congratulations to Anne McCrossan, a lovely friend who did make the short list, I’m delighted for you.

Acceptance

Yesterday morning, I dropped ‘Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself Again’ off at the London headquarters of AECOM, where it will be on display until the end of April.

You can read the background to this piece here, and hopefully you’ll see why this is a great place for this art work to reside for a while. The timing of this particular art drop was a great antidote to the letter I received earlier. Thank you to the people at AECOM who are making this possible.

Not Giving Up

Last night I played at the Project B open mic, hosted by Chloe Ray. I first met Chloe a little over a year ago when we collaborated on a joint art/music project called ‘Not Giving Up’. Not Giving Up is the title of the fourth track on Chloe’s Reprise EP, and it’s the title of this artwork, made to celebrate the 50th consecutive week of the free art project.

Serendipitously, Chloe performed Not Giving Up last night, what a joy it was to hear that song, and reflect on a day of rejection and acceptance. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do.

The Art of Persistence : Not Giving Up

Persistence : Part One

Back in February 2016, the Art for Work’s Sake project was a finalist in the Learning and Performance Institute’s annual awards, innovation category. The entry fell at the final hurdle, and though I was up against some much bigger hitters, at the time I was disappointed to remain a finalist, not a winner. The LPI gave me a piece of glassware to acknowledge the journey – and after putting it back in its box on the evening of the awards, it has remained there. Until today. Today it’s on display in my office.

I realise I let my disappointment cloud how I feel about my work, and for a while, I backed away from the excitement, challenge, and everything which makes me and my work what it is. I guess I lost some confidence, retreated to safer territories. The trouble is I don’t like safe. In my line of work it’s boring, it’s waiting to be told what to do instead of figuring it out, it’s coercive not coactive, and it’s overcrowded. David Henry once shared with me an excellent Tom Fishburne cartoon which sums things up nicely.

With a little help from some friends, I’ve been working my way back out of the herd again. Running workshops, giving short talks at conferences, piloting new ways of working with clients. Each piece of work, building on the last, a blend of care, preparation and the all important improvisation. The willingness to say ‘yes, and…’. The excitement of having a basic script, and being completely open to tearing it up. To go with the flow, to the uncharted territory where the really interesting and useful stuff lies.

This adventure is back on track, and very soon I’ll share details of the first phase of The Art of Innovation, a collaborative and practical adventure blending organisational development, the employee experience, and art. It all kicks off in London and Berlin this summer.

Persistence : Part Two

IMG_3629The middle of March 2017 marked the 50th consecutive week of my free art project. This milestone was celebrated with a joint free art drop made by Chloe Ray and me. Chloe released her latest EP the same week as the art project turned 50, and I made a painting to reflect a song on the EP titled ‘Not Giving Up’. The canvas is 80cm x 30cm and this is the first time I’ve painted at this scale. I’ve been wanting to scale up my work for some time, and having done so once, within 24 hours of painting this piece I did it again.

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This time I painted an abstract of the view over London from the 34th floor of the BT Tower. It’s taken me years to find the confidence to paint and show my work at this scale, I’ve persisted with my work – clearly the time is now right.

Persistence : Part Three

A few weeks ago I was encouraged to apply to Arts Network Sutton for some grant funding to enable me to carry out some workshops, an exhibition, and other free art related activity in the coming year. I’ve just found out the application has been successful. This application wouldn’t have succeeded if I hadn’t stopped thinking about free art, and started making it, all those weeks ago. Looking back – I can see threads of the free art project in my work which snake back way before I started painting and giving art away. I have shifted from persistence of thought, to persistence of action.

I’m good at coming up with ideas, and I used to think I was rubbish at bringing these ideas to fruition. This clearly is not the case. Maybe all I’ve been doing for the past 51 years, is searching for the things which really excite and drive me in the service of myself and others, the ideas which matter, which resonate deeply.

Persistence : Part Four

For too long, I’ve been searching for the next big thing, when the signs are right in front of me. This artistic approach to work is where I am most alive, and where I can be of best use to myself and to you. I think I am the primary audience for this post, so if you’ve read this far, thank you and well done!

More to follow, soon.

Overcoming Doubt : Not Giving Up

Running bore alert!

After Dad’s death in 2012, my body reacted in a profoundly painful way. The doctors diagnosed some kind of arthritis and told me I had to stop running. Like most stupid men I ignored the advice and tried to carry on. The subsequent pain, akin to having a hot knife wiggled around under your kneecaps, forced my hand, and I stopped. I convinced myself I’d never run again.

Over time, the pain abated, I stopped taking prescribed pain relief, and since introducing regular walks at the start of 2015, I’ve slowly felt stronger, and simultaneously tried to accept that these walks take the place of the more vigorous activity which I previously enjoyed. My Fitbit slave ring joyfully announced that I’ve walked over 4,000 miles since the beginning of 2015. I enjoy my walks very much. Somedays walking helps me think, others days I just empty my head and stroll, and sometimes I look for the beauty in the every day things I encounter. There is much to enjoy in walking, and yet as my 51 year old girth continues its slow expansion, I feel I need to do more.

This month, I snuck back into running courtesy of a borrowed pair of Carole’s running shoes. I’m assured that off road is gentler on the knees, so I’ve been running at Roundshaw Downs, an up and down grass course. After finishing the first week I could barely move – no arthritic pain, but instead, a profusion of muscle aches the like of which I’d not previously experienced. Since then, I’m remembering to stretch out the tightness immediately after a run, and I feel much better as a result.

I’ve now completed three parkruns and taken just over two and a half minutes off my times since I started.

Whoop de doo and all that. This is all very well, but what really struck me today as I pushed (puffed!) for the finish line, is the realisation that I’m here, doing it. I’m running again. I had written off the prospect of putting on running shoes ever again, and I was wrong. I could now spend time worrying about how much sooner this return may have occurred had I not been so full of doubt, but instead, I’ll give thanks to the volunteers at Parkrun who make the weekly events possible, and I’ll remember not to be so quick and certain to write myself off in future.