Steadfast : A Portrait

Along with colleagues, I’ve been helping to soak up a stressful situation at work lately. It’s been hard – trying to look out for one another and look out for myself too. Over the weekend I ran, gave away some art, and spent some lovely time with family too, yet in the background, the stress remained.

On Saturday night, still looking for a release, I opened a few tubes of paint and using only my fingers, I painted a portrait. Portraiture is alien to me, as is not using a brush, and I felt I struggled to make an image.


Unhappy with what I’d made, I nevertheless left the portrait to dry overnight.

On Sunday I felt no happier with the work in its original form, and I returned to it. After a few more fingerfuls of paint, here’s where I got to.


I shared this image on Facebook and was a little surprised by the favourable responses. I had been looking to paint a distressed face – what I see is something more stern, more resolute. Although I felt a little happier with this adapted version, I was still mindful to overpaint this canvas.

The day went on. I slowly relaxed, and as I did – I felt closer to the image on the canvas. By Sunday evening I had decided that this canvas should not be overpainted.

This last photo shows the canvas framed by shadow in the Monday morning sunlight. In this photo you can really see the scars in the face, which are a coincidence left behind from a previous painting onto which I painted this one.



I mentioned the portrait is painted over another image. I thought you might be interested to see what lies beneath…


Elements of this earlier work were initially inspired by a visit several years ago to the Picasso Museum in Malaga. A friend remarked, ‘the [earlier] painting had me thinking about how Picasso and others around the turn of the 20th century were inspired by African artefacts and masks. Maybe they were meant to be together…?’


On Mondays for the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring one of the ideas from Series one of Stop Doing Dumb Things. If you’d like to get your hands on the full set of Stop Doing Dumb Things cards, click here for more details.

Have Lunch Away From Your Desk

As if sitting in front of a screen for hours at a time wasn’t enough – lunch time comes and what do you do? Head out to the nearest sandwich shop, grab something uninspiring to eat, and….take it back to your desk! Research from the BBC in the UK and Right Management in the USA has shown that nearly two thirds of people eat at their desk every day and many feel guilty for leaving their desk for a lunch hour. The research in the USA also links lunching at your desk to higher stress levels and a reduced ability to be creative.

There’s more information and research out there than you can shake a stick at, including this great read by Kerstin Sailer that shows people are more effective in their work when they take regular breaks, but we resolutely choose to sacrifice this golden opportunity to break bread together and share a conversation, in favour of being a desk slave or trying to impress the boss with our frantic schedule. The word company comes from the Latin language, and it means ‘to break bread together’.

A friend of mine in the military tells me that having a meal in the army mess and sitting alone, let alone at your desk, is not an option. When it’s time to eat, people come together to share a meal, to share companionship, and to share conversations and ideas.

Here in London it’s a beautiful sunny warm Autumn Monday, so if you can, take advantage of the weather, go and sit in the park and enjoy your lunch. Whaterver you decide, please, please, don’t do this. Thanks to Mervyn Dinnen for spotting this lunchtime travesty.