Morning Coffee

The past week has been really tiring. Preparing for, and delivering the Art of Resilience took quite a bit out of me, and in addition, work’s been tough this week. We’ve been analysing the fallout of an unexpected, and pretty toxic resignation from a partnership I work with. More of that another time on my other blog.

I arrived at the end of the week feeling drained, yet needing to make art for the free art drop. Inspiration had I none. In conversation with one of my colleagues, I said I needed more coffee, and Jenny suggested that maybe, the coffee pot should be my subject this week.

Bialetti.jpg

I took a few minutes to look at the pot in situ, before bringing it to my desk, and drawing it.

IMG_3478.jpg

I was concentrating on my observation skills – I took my time over the drawing. On reflection – it’s a bit tight. I was trying too hard to capture the detail of the pot, and you can see this in some of the lines – they lack confidence and directness in places. I’ve also drawn the pot taller and narrower than it is. This observation stuff is hard work!

IMG_3481.jpg

I added some silver leaf to give the effect of age, and added in some fineliner to make one or two elements stand out a little more (this photo was taken before the fineliner was applied. This art has since been hidden and found as part of the We Are All Artists free art project.

It’s not my usual style of work – but I like it, I might make another to hang in our kitchen!

 

The Art of Resilience

I stood at the front of the stage, facing bright lights and about 200 people. Alongside stood some of my art.

IMG_3464.jpg

My friend, and conference chair Neil Usher introduced me. He said some lovely things about me, none of which I can remember!

I told the audience how nervous I was feeling. I did this as part of my coping mechanism, and also to explain that we all have a story to tell, and if I can stand there and overcome my nerves, you can choose to do that too.

As a member of the Women’s Equality Party and with it being International Women’s Day, I felt compelled to say something about the speaker line up. I thanked Clare and Flick, the two women presenters among the line up of seventeen people, and encouraged the conference organisers to work harder to provide a more balanced line up in future.

Introductions over, it’s time to get started. I’d been asked to deliver my session in the Pecha Kucha format. 20 slides, each one on screen for just 20 seconds. This is a tough presenting discipline, it requires a lot of planning, and distillation.

Here is the transcript of the talk:

What is resilience? In a search for the meaning of life, I approached Facebook and Twitter, asking, I say resilience, you say…?

I was overwhelmed with responses – almost all of them different. Too many to list and I hope to distil some in the next few minutes.

Writing in the New Yorker, Maria Konnikova says:

‘Whether you can be said to have resilience or not largely depends, on the way your life unfolds. If you are lucky enough to never experience any sort of adversity, we won’t know how resilient you are. It’s only when you’re faced with obstacles, stress, and other environmental threats that resilience, or the lack of it, emerges: Do you succumb or do you surmount?’

I take issue with this either or/binary approach – for me, part of resilience is being open to the possibilities. I use art in my consulting work because it invites inquiry, Its subjective nature helps us let go of our addiction to certainty.

The human brain holds many thoughts – let’s use more of them to nurture ourselves, and each other, in pursuit of better outcomes.

I’m going to briefly touch on my experience of resilience in relation to three important things.

  • Coping with loss
  • Connection and creativity
  • The beauty of impermanence

In 2012 when my Dad died, after the post death rush of the funeral, I tried to get over the loss. The harder I tried the more I failed.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and John Kessler wrote

‘The reality is you will grieve forever. You will not get over the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but, you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.’

Once I grasped this, and it took years to do so, I could then appreciate I am not the same, nor do I want to be.

We need to stop telling each other to get over loss, and encourage healing and rebuilding instead.

Tash Stallard, a dear friend, suggests that when we undertake those simple things which bring us joy – taking a walk, reading, and in my case, painting, we dissolve the need for resilience. There’s real power in this idea. I love Tash and how she thinks.

As my art develops, my need for resilience dissolves. I slowly become more confident, with colour, shape, and texture. I start to experiment with themes, currently I’m exploring a form of elemental art. Connectedness borne of what we come from, and what we need to survive. Each element; earth, water, air, fire, is made tangible in geometric forms, using acrylic paints, gold and silver leaf. I also find the confidence to share different, emerging work with you. I build resilience through experimentation, and the sharing helps strengthen connections.

In April 2016 I began to make art and give it away in my local community of Wallington and Carshalton. So far I’ve made and given away 75 art works. The connections made with my practice, with community are invaluable. The people in my home town know each other better, in part thanks to the art. And it’s not just my immediate community – I’ve left work in Australia and the USA, as well as other parts of the UK too.

I’m starting to approach the community for ideas – what should I paint this week? These exchanges, small though they are, build connectedness, and resilience among us. As my resilience grows around the project, I take on ideas I wouldn’t have dreamt of previously. I’m asked, can you paint a turtle? It would appear the answer is yes.

There’s a lot of love in and around this project.

My third observation is this. There is beauty in impermanence and imperfection, and our resilience helps us see this.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer containing powdered gold. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of the object, rather than something to disguise. Kintsugi pieces are prized precisely because they have been broken. The cracks you see in these pieces represents how the broken lines themselves are so beautiful, and so important, that they are rejoined with gold instead of glue.

In our lives, we often try to repair our broken places with glue. We quietly work to piece our lives back together after life-changing events, hoping that if we do a good enough job, the cracks won’t be readily visible. Sooner or later, we all carry scars, whether they be internal, external, or both. We will all break in different places, and in different ways. To me, resilience means acknowledging the beauty in those breaks, not trying to deny their existence.

But what really matters, as I learned in my search, is what’s important to you. I hope you find more of that here, today.

People responded in a lovely way, both immediately after the talk, and through the rest of the day. Yes it was a nerve racking experience, and I’m glad I did it, and I’m pleased to have been asked.

Follow this link to see the slides I used to accompany the talk.

 

Seven Years

Our local gift shop, Calladoodles, is about to turn seven years old. I enjoy supporting local independent traders, and I have designed and painted some art to help Calladoodles celebrate.

This art is representative of the red envelopes which are often used to contain money, and given as gifts at times of celebration as part of Chinese culture. I have attempted to overlay the Chinese characters for ‘seven years’ in gold leaf. I hope they are at least reasonably accurate.

Calladoodles will be including one of these art works in their celebration treasure hunt next week, and the other will be given away as part of my free art project.

The Art of Resilience : Kintsugi

I’ve agreed to give a short talk on resilience at a conference next week. Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to say yes to something when you don’t think about it first? Gulp! I want to approach the subject using a mixture of art and the experience of myself and others. It is tempting to see resilience as a kind of armour – something off which life’s projectiles can bounce. I prefer to see resilience as something more flexible, adapting to the challenge rather than resisting it. During the talk I will explore grief, vulnerability, wabi sabi and more.

Wabi sabi is a Japanese concept, beauty that is impermanent, imperfect, and incomplete. Wabi sabi has a connection to a practice known as kintsugi, or kintsukuroi, the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The idea being that the cracks are now a part of the imperfect work, not something to be hidden away, or covered.

I am finding the preparation for this talk quite stressful. I am recalling bereavement and other tough times, and I can only stand to absorb so much of this stuff. I needed a release.

I drew a pot – using pencils and a small watercolour brush. I then drew a crack into the pot which I filled with gold.IMG_3405.jpg

IMG_3406.jpgIMG_3415.jpg

I found it hard to know when to stop, not very wabi sabi of me! I’ve settled now – it’s good enough. I can see imperfections, incompletions – so to that extent – the art represents my current work well.I’ve titled the piece, ‘You Broke My Heart. I Tried To Fix It, And You Can Still See The Cracks’, and I will hold onto this piece for the Carshalton Artists Open Studios event this summer, which I am excited to be taking part in. I’ll let you know how the Art of Resilience talk goes soon, too.

 

Free Movement

This is a small series of abstract works, designed to consider movement. The pieces are layered, each layer representing a different element of movement.

I started with wet paper to which I added graded shades of water colour, the idea was to represent the drift and movement from one colour to another.

Once that dried, the next layer arrived as paint splashed from the brush, a much more random movement. Finally I blew some gilding paste across the surface of each piece, then applied some gold leaf. It took more readily in certain areas than others.

One of the finished pieces featured in the ITV News article about my free art project, and was given away near Beddington Park. Another piece has been given away in Wallington and a third has been gifted. There are three post card sized pieces remaining in the series – if you like the look of any of them – drop me a line, they are for sale.

IMG_9701.jpg

IMG_9702.jpg

IMG_9708.jpg

When The Wind Blows

Having made some extra free art earlier in the week, I took my foot off the gas, and forgot I needed to prepare something for this coming weekend. Yesterday afternoon, with not much time left to make the work, I took to Facebook and asked for some inspiration. Ideas came in thick and fast – as Storm Doris blew all around us, in our case literally taking the roof off, well a piece of it anyway!!

IMG_3343.jpg

So it was settled – the theme for this week’s art was to be…wind. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to draw wind – but trust me, it’s not easy. I thought for a while – and here’s what finally emerged from the pencil and the paint brush.

IMG_3341.jpg

I painted onto rough, handmade recycled cotton rag paper – and I like how the texture of the paper adds to the overall effect. This art will be placed somewhere in my local community over the weekend. Finders keepers.

Two Keys : Sutton United

If you have even the vaguest interest in football, you’ll know that Sutton United meet Arsenal in the 5th round of the FA Cup this evening. Sutton United are based a couple of miles from my home, and over the weekend I responded to a suggestion to make an extra free art drop to commemorate the occasion. Inspiration took a while to strike, and as I sat staring at the club crest, it finally hit me.

Suttonunited.png

I chose to reference the two keys and the gold and silver discs on which they are placed.

IMG_3314.jpg

Tools at the ready, I began to draw. Ink and paint flowed, gold and silver leaf was pasted, and here’s where I ended up. As you can see I made two versions of the art work – and these will be placed somewhere in Sutton later today. Finders keepers.