Onwards, Upwards, Artwards : Not Giving Up


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.


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.

Live Painting At Workplace Trends : Second Hand Daylight

A recurring theme at last week’s Workplace Trends Spring Summit was the importance of natural daylight. It came up time after time during the morning session, and we were fortunate that the conference room at The Royal College of Obstetricians has huge floor to ceiling windows, through which flows a lot of light.

Several people remarked that they thought it odd I had chosen to set myself up as far from the natural light source as was possible. I picked this space to work in, largely because it felt ‘out of the way’, and the irony of the darker corner was not lost on me. This photograph of my temporary studio doesn’t look all that dark – but it gives you a sense of the space I chose.

During the morning I had begun blacking out a canvas which you can see on the left hand side in the above photo. After lunch, I worked on this piece with more intent, applying more paint, scraping and scratching as I went. At some point in the afternoon I decided to have some fun with being in the darker corner, and I took out some gilding paste and gold leaf. I frequently use metal leaf in my work but this was the first time I’d done so live. Gold leaf is thinner than the human breath – and the slightest movement of air causes it to waft uncontrollably. I had a lot of fun relaxing and trying to use the gentlest of draughts to help me move the gold leaf into place.

The reflections from the leaf juxtaposed on the black canvas represent ‘Second Hand Daylight’ and together they are a nod to the darker corner where I chose to work. These two photos are of the work in situ during conference.

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These last two photographs are of the work back at the ranch. Though it may not look like it, I’ve done a lot more work on this piece since the event, adding more and more black to the front and edges of the canvas. I will add a coat of matt varnish soon and the piece will be finished and put up for sale..

Second Hand Daylight

Live Painting at Workplace Trends : Psychological Safety

Last week I was at the Workplace Trends Research Spring Summit. I was there to learn, to do some live painting, and to give a talk on creative practice at work. This is a short blog post about a piece of art I made on the day.

Early on in the presentations, I listened to Nicola Gillen and Charlotte Hermans talking about how AECOM is undertaking new research to investigate predictors of wellbeing and performance in populations of office workers.

AECOM is testing to identify the most influential factors of work (e.g., job design, management, culture) vs. workplace (e.g., quality of work settings, noise, air quality) in predicting physical, mental, social, intellectual, spiritual and material dimensions of wellbeing, performance and satisfaction. Something which caught my attention was Nicola’s observation of the importance of psychological safety. In particular she spoke of the idea of being your ‘whole self’ at work, and how potentially harmful it can be in a workplace where this doesn’t feel possible.

I know from personal experience and from listening to many stories, how tricky it can be in some places to be yourself, to be open and honest about what you see, and how it’s making you think and feel. As I considered how I might get over that sense of reluctance when things are a little unclear, I began to paint. The blurred background indicates uncertainty, things moving at speed, not being quite sure what’s going on. The winged creature indicates a guardian within – open arms encouraging that sense of being sufficiently confident to speak truth to power, to be myself at work. I chose to title the piece ‘Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself Again.’

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Above are photographs of the piece as it was finished and displayed in conference, and a couple of close ups so you can see some of the detail. It took me all morning and some of the lunch break to paint this, each line on the wings is a single free hand brush stroke. Patience was required to complete the piece, and at times during the making, I felt like quitting and starting again on something easier. I’m glad I persisted, people gave me lots of positive feedback on the finished piece and it sits well alongside some of my other recent works.

I’ll share more live painting from the event soon, and some slides and speaker notes too. For now, thank you Nicola for the spark of an idea which brought the art into being.