How Do You Measure Value?

Value is an interesting and sometimes tricky thing to play with, I like to approach my work considering what a fair exchange of value for all parties might look like. I was contacted this week about speaking at an event which people pay several hundred £££ to attend. All was going well until I enquired about the available budget to fund speakers. ‘We don’t pay our speakers’, came the reply.

This is not the first time I’ve heard this, so in the absence of money, I ask about ‘a fair exchange of value’ instead, and what the promoter thinks that might look like. In this case, and in nearly all others, this question brings forth a stumbling reply leading quickly to awkward silence. The event promoter cannot come up with an answer. I appreciate I may be putting them on the spot, but if as the event promoter/owner you do not know/cannot articulate what value you can create/cocreate for any/all stakeholders, then in the absence of £££ you’re asking for unpaid volunteers, aren’t you? As a friend in my network says, ‘value is subjective’, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider it – trickier though it may be to manifest it.

How do you measure value?

More on this subject here, courtesy of Mr Godin

Art is Theft

This is the first of two posts about the importance of attribution, acknowledgement and more. This post focuses on art, the next one will focus on work.

‘Art is Theft’ Pablo Picasso

‘Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.’ Jim Jarmusch

‘You don’t sell ideas, ideas are for stealing’. Malcolm McLaren

‘Nothing is original. Steal with pride and acknowledge your inspiration.’ Yours truly, stealing from Pablo Picasso, Jim Jarmusch, Malcolm McLaren, and no doubt, a few others besides.

There’s a widely held notion in the arts world that the theft of ideas is inevitable, and to some extent, even acceptable.

Inspired By

Girl On A BeachI know from my own experience how it feels to be inspired by the work of others. I painted this picture after visiting the Museo Picasso in Malaga, and subsequently, several people have commented that it is Picasso-esque. Although this is an original work, it’s not hard to see where I took my inspiration from, and that taking of inspiration from others, is part of what makes art, art.

Copied From

Here’s another of my sketches. This time, what you can see is a copy of someone else’s work, specifically the pattern on our kitchen curtains. When I blogged this picture on my art website, I made this clear in the accompanying text and linked to the original design.

Curtains Pattern

When you are inspired by something – it can be helpful to acknowledge that inspiration, and when you copy something, I think it really matters to acknowledge the source. There’s a significant difference, isn’t there?

I recently spotted a statement on Facebook about the importance of art. It was on a page run by an artist named Erik Wahl, and the statement seems to be positioned as if it comes direct from him to us. Here is a screenshot of the statement in full.

The purpose of art is not to produce a product. The purpose of art is to produce thinking. The secret is not the mechanics or technical skill that create art - but the process of introspection and different levels of contemplation that generate it. Once you learn to embrace this process, your creative potential is limitless. Artwork should be an active verb (a lens by which to view the world) not a passive noun (a painting that sits dormant in a museum). Creativity lies NOT in the done but in the doing. Art is active and incomplete. Always shifting, always becoming. Art is a sneak peak into the future of potential, of what could be. Not a past result of what has been already done. Art is a process not a product. Art is a human act. Art is Risky. Generous. Courageous. Provocative. You can be perfect, or you can make art. You can keep track of what you will get in return for your effort, or you can make art. You can enjoy the status quo, or you can make art. This is the purpose for why art should not be cut from education.

As I read the statement, it feels odd to me, the flow isn’t quite working. Then I’m sure I begin to recognise in it, parts of other people’s work. For example:

‘Creativity lies not in the done but in the doing.’ This is a quote from the artist Julia Cameron. As an aside, a quick Google search revealed this on The High Road Artist blog from 2011. ‘As Julia Cameron says, “Creativity lies not in the DONE but in the DOING… ” It is ACTIVE and incomplete—always shifting, always becoming.’

‘Art is a process not a product.’ MaryAnn Kohl

‘Art is a human act…You can be perfect or you can make art. You can keep track of what you get in return, or you can make art. You can enjoy the status quo, or you can make art.’ Seth Godin

I may be wrong, I often am, and currently I cannot find any attribution or acknowledgement of the work (and/or influence) of others on or around Erik Wahl’s statement. I suppose there is always a possibility that I’ve simply stumbled upon a series of coincidences, in which case fair play to Erik Wahl, but I’m not sure, and to me his statement would have much more power if he had acknowledged his sources. Currently it feels odd that something which, when I last looked, had been shared over 20,000 times, and liked by over 13,000 people, might not be all that it seems. And that’s OK, because art is theft, right?


A few weeks ago Bernie Mitchell invited me, Colin Newlyn and Anne McCrossan to speak about tribes. I hope Anne, Colin and Bernie will correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s fair to say they view the notion of tribes somewhat differently to me. I’m very uncomfortable with what the notion of a tribe conjures up in my head, and I’m also keen to experiment with things that make me feel uncomfortable so I agreed to give it a go.

Prior to the event I hopped onto Facebook to ask my friends what tribes means to them. Lots of people contributed – and I think it’s worth you taking a quick look  here at what people had to say.

I got it into my head that it might be fun to spark a debate by telling a short poem first. I’d not tried this before, here’s what I wrote and recited:

Tribes – by Doug Shaw

I do not subscribe
To the concept of a tribe
When positioned as division
Is it more about religion
I’m an atheist you see
God has no meaning to me

I do not subscribe
To the concept of a tribe
I just don’t understand
I think I’d rather join a band
A band of brothers, lovers, mothers
No I want to hang with others
A rock band
Punk band
Same old junk band
Sports cars
Cash bars
Trips to Mars

I do not subscribe
To the concept of a tribe
I can make it on my own
At least until my budget’s blown

As far as poetry goes I think you’ll agree Keats et al have very little to worry about, however my approach seemed to work at some level as it got everyone talking.

I feel drawn to community rather than tribe, I think the former is more about where you are as well as who and what you are – and ideally at least, it feels more inclusive to me. We debated this and other points, including whether or not Tribes is just a marketing vehicle for Mr Godin, and whether or not the positive feelings of unity and being part of something together are outweighed by the more negative feelings of defending a patch, stifling different opinions etc. Eventually I departed feeling mostly happy, and willing to take away and ponder newly observed facets of tribes. Absolutes are rarely the answer – mixed feelings are the stuff of life.


In case it helps, here are the notes I made prior to writing the poem and giving the talk:

Seth Godin

All animals are equal, and some animals are more equal than others. Animal Farm.

Mary Parker Follett 1868 1933 – adviser to Theodore Roosevelt, first woman to address London School of Economics.  She believed in the need to integrate the difference without losing it. Power with v power over. Coercive power is the curse of the universe; coactive power, the enrichment and advancement of every human soul.We should never allow ourselves to be bullied by “either-or.” There is often the possibility of something better than either of two given alternatives. Her approach to conflict was to embrace it as a mechanism of diversity. A genuine interweaving or interpenetrating by changing both sides creates new situations.

Fearlessness – love. Fear – tribe

FDR – ‘So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.’

Authority is something to be avoided.

1977 lyrics. Punk – a movement. Came and went. Blitzkrieg Bop

Don’t just question authority – explore the nature of it, what does it mean to be free?

There’s a truth in the attack, and no tenderness or humanity in fanaticism

If this land is your land, and this world is your world, then what the fuck do you need a tribe for?

“And so now I’d like to say – people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. People are running about following their little tracks – I am one of them. But we’ve all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail. People can do anything – this is something that I’m beginning to learn. People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanised. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing. That’s my spiel.”

Joe Strummer – Without People, You’re Nothing


As you can see from the feedback on Facebook – opinions and feelings about tribes are many and divided. I’m tempted to wrap this blog and the Facebook stuff up into a Scribd document and see if that invites any further discussion. Before doing so – if you’ve anything to add on the subject please feel free to join in here. Thanks.