Thursday, September 30, 2010

October is around the corner

I'm about to enter my tenth month in the UK.

When I came over in January I had a pretty solid idea of what I was going to do. I would get a part-time job in an art shop, or some other art related place, whilst focusing on my art and blogging. I was going to get some stuff edited and possibly look into publication.

Some of my plan has stayed the same. This is probably because the essence of it was to expand my skills, shake up my world and find as many new things as possible.

The aspect of London as lesson plan hadn't occurred to me but has worked out quite well. In addition to the self-directed art history, feminist and geography studies, I am now stepping back into the classroom. I've not been in the classroom since graduating from High School in 2003. Even my time at the Youth Animation Project was very un-school-like.

I have registered myself for a course at Chelsea College, where I will learn the basics of Illustrator, In Design and Photoshop. I start next week and I'm actually feeling pretty excited about it. I didn't intend to look into this side of my creative skills but I like the idea of being able to do more marketable creative work to pay for the self-expressive stuff and to see how skills with computer graphic design can help with some other projects and ideas bouncing in my head.

It is interesting to me that this temping business I managed to pick-up has inadvertently led to a lot of this creative exploration. Obviously the art shop idea didn't pan out and to be honest, I couldn't be happier. I'm appreciated for my administrative skills but getting a lot of encouragement to keep my creativity going. It's going to be interesting to see where it leads in the next few months and in the mean time, it's a significant enough pay cheque that I can cover the cost of this course on top of all those basic nitty-gritty things.

I really didn't imagine this was where I'd be in October when I arrived in January. I do love that unpredictability of life. If it was predictable it would be boring and there'd be no room for growth.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shiny, shiny, shiny

Oh, so much news to report! But where do I begin?

I think I'd like to start with this marvellous item that I have just now collected from the post office. I have two fantastic leather bound journals that have the incredible bonus feature of having removable pages. This means I can send them off to Miss Green and have them rebound and returned with fresh pages. The problem it presents is how to store the now unbound pages from the last year of journaling? Apparently in a simple but elegant paper binding.

Interestingly enough I started writing in this journal just about now last year. It's fun to reflect on what's written in the pages, given how very much my life has changed since then.

Oh and how my life does continue to change. Like right now, at this very moment, I am writing on my very own Mac. The day has finally arrived! I have an apple computer. Quite frankly, I'm chuffed to bits. In a weeks time I will be starting a graphic design course at Chelsea College. This lovely piece of technology will be the start of much inspiration, exploration and creativity.


Friday, September 24, 2010


My computer woes are at an end! Thanks to a very dear friend (I certainly seem to write about dear friends a lot. I feel very lucky to have so many.) I have procured a used Mac. My girlfriend has a lovely new Mac Book Pro which she's named Lowly, after the worm from Richard Scarry books. Naming the computer was my suggestion as I have this thing about naming inanimate objects.

(My phone is Queenie and my iPod is Boon.)

No way was my new computer going to miss out on this personification and so Sheffield it is! It just seems the obvious choice, really. I won't go into that here though.

I will go into the set-up of Sheffield, however. Thing is, I haven't yet. I'm still bumbling around with my (unnamed) pink PC which has caused me grand frustration and angst over the last four months. The reason for this postponement is simple. I haven't had the time I'd like to set-up Sheffield properly. I'm a patient person and I believe that rushing something can lead to more upset than it's worth. When I first got my now loathed pink computer I set about transferring all the files from my old desktop with the help of a data stick. It was a slow-going business and one I conducted whilst trying to watch a program on television. As a result I managed to completely delete a large chunk of very important files which have never been recovered. It was a valuable lesson and not one I wish to repeat, which I guess means I learned something.

So I wait until the right time to sit down with Sheffield, an external hard drive, and the pink monstrosity. I will transfer all those photos of my art, all my manuscripts and all my music. I will savour the moment when it's finished and I make the first blog entry on a keyboard where all the keys work.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

A manuscript

I have written five books, none of them yet published. Most of them I completed several years ago and up until now they have been saved in files on my computers, shuffled from system to system, occasionally tweaked but generally left unappreciated, unedited and unfulfilled. I don't believe a book is truly fulfilled until it is bound and held in the hands of a Reader, someone who enjoys exploring the written word.

I have begun to ease these manuscripts from their hiding places, at first sharing a chapter here and there by reading them aloud to my partner, and then slowly sending snippets to friends. One of my very dear friends offered to take an entire manuscript recently. This was an offer that had been made before by other people interested in my work. Occasionally I have sent a manuscript to someone to read and edit, but I know quite well the commitment they are extending to me and I'm not surprised when, in a few months time, the manuscript is returned untouched. Editing is a daunting task and largely the reason why my five completed novels and dozens of short stories have remained hidden from the public eye. I dislike editing my own work as it seems like a task so overwhelming that I don't know where or how to begin. Of course I've also been told a writer should never edit their own work.

Well, someone asked and I offered so another manuscript was sent. And for the first time ever I have received it back, read through twice (I am told) and edited thoroughly.

I am absolutely stunned and utterly pleased with this development. I haven't had a chance to look it over and to be honest, I'm sort of savouring the anticipation. I plan to make time for it, a window of space enjoyed with a cup of tea and perhaps a lovely feline friend. I will curl up and read my own words and read the words of someone I admire, having looked over the very same pages and offered their reflections, ideas and critiques.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not quite finished yet...

I've been very productive this month. Finishing The Moon has really fuelled me forward and I've already started sketching out two more cards. I also dove straight into painting The Hermit and the card I'm now nearly finished:

The Tower

This card is one that makes me uncomfortable. I've only ever had it in one spread and it was confusing at the time but made perfect sense a few months later.

The Tower is about false heights. It's gaining a place by deception or building a foundation from nothing more than straw and thinking that will hold you in place. It's the moment when the foundation begins to crumble, knocking you from that tower, that place where you thought you had everything worked out. Below you however, all the materials you used were cheap, weak and inevitably going to collapse.

As I've spent a lot of time looking at this deck from a Buddhist perspective and as I began painting this oft dreaded card, I've tried to think about it differently. It could be said that it signifies a loss of ego. It's letting go of all those words or objects that we use to convince ourselves we're someone great and facing up to the fact that we're all on the same playing field.

It can also be about dismantling the walls or barriers we put up thinking we could paint every relationship, every job, every experience with the same brush.

I'm still thinking about it a lot, although the card is nearly done. I've com to realise that it's only a scary card to get because it's a far more forceful representation of the need to change. It's the change that happens when our actions are causing harm to ourselves and others. It's about waking up to the ever shifting ideas that shape us as people. Holding onto something, no matter how much it might have made sense at the time, can do more damage than good. When we are resistant to change we do nothing to slow it down. If anything, it hits us that much more full-on, forcing our hand and forcing the idea that groundlessness isn't actually such a scary place to live.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Upon completing The Hermit I decided he needed an honoured spot upon my wall. Wall space is limited so I've had to start storing some of my completed works at the end of my bed. Choosing which card to add to those no longer on display wasn't too difficult. As much as I love what I created with The Devil, it has been up for ages. I took The Devil down, shifted the Love card to that spot and placed The Hermit where Love had been above my bed. Stepping back to admire my handy-work I suddenly noticed something about the four cards I have chosen to keep up on my walls.
Tarot cards are intertwined with astrology and you may have noticed they all have symbols next to their titles. Each symbol is somehow representative of the cards meaning and usually one or both of them will be a star-sign.

The Moon is Pisces, The Hermit is Virgo, Love is Gemini and The Hierophant is Taurus. To put it another way, my mum was born in early March, my dad in early September, my brother in late May and myself in early May.

Family has always been very important to me and I don't believe that this display was accidental. I find it fascinating that my four most favourite cards at the moment represent four important people in my life (And yes, I am the most important person in my life, as you should be in yours.) and that each card is actually a pretty good representation of the role they play in it.

The Moon is about dreams, potential, magic and inspiration. It often represents a writer or storyteller. My mum has always encouraged my creativity and admired my writing and I have always loved her ability to tell a story.

The Hermit is about self reflection and introspection. Through my dad I have learned that it is better to listen than to speak without thinking.

Love is about loving yourself, loving what you do and loving those around you. I don't think I have a better example of unconditional love than the feeling of respect, admiration and pride I get when I think about my brother.

And finally, The Hierophant. This card is about wisdom. When someone says I'm wise because I share a thought or idea I read or heard that just seems to make sense, I feel a bit funny. I didn't say it or write it or teach it, I just processed it and decided it made sense. It might not one day and something else might make sense. I don't think this is the measure of wisdom. I was musing on this one day last week and I consider the teachings of Aristotle, Buddha or Maslow to be no different than Newton 'discovering' gravity. Gravity was always there, he just paid attention. Self actualisation isn't a new concept and nothing I say hasn't been said before and won't be said again. For me, I like to think wisdom is about knowing yourself and being aware.

I'm happy to say that I have no idea who I am most days and I sometimes think that I only get more confused and less certain with time and experience. I'm happy to say it because I know I'm not the only one and I know I have a really good team backing me up, even if they are 4,000 miles away.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Hermit

I like surveying my followers and fans for input as to which tarot card they'd like to see me do next. Often it boils down to what I have an idea for in my head. Ultimately I go with what seems to be telling me it needs doing next. In this case I offered up the option of the card I chose or The Sun. This was met with the wise request for me to share more about the spirit of each card.

I wrote a response to this on Facebook and I don't think I need to add much to it:

The Hermit is about isolation, self reflection and withdrawal. It's about the wisdom we get when we spend time with ourselves and it usually represents the need to pay attention to what our isolation is telling us.
It is not representative of a chosen withdrawal from the world, but it's saying, "Take this as an opportunity, learn from it and then you may re-enter the world with new wisdom."
It can also be representative of a confidant, like a therapist or trustworthy friend.

I knew I wanted to have an intense and rich sky but I didn't realise the direction this choice would take me. It was easy to create the barren landscape on which The Hermit walks with a sky lit by a a rapidly setting sun. I'm immensely proud of my clouds and the expanse they give a rather small piece of sky. The glow of the lantern actually came to me after I ran out of the brown I'd mixed on my pallet, which I'd been using to fill in the path. The base of the path was yellow ochre and it stopped short of the raccoon's legs, right where the glow of the lantern would naturally be. I suspect this painting would have lacked the depth of shadow it has if not for that. I realised that the glow would be quite easy to do and any past intimidation I've felt about painting light into something dissipated.
I finished the painting in far fewer days than most of my cards take. I think this was because the canvas was always left off with an idea hanging, like when I write and I finish a sentence with a lead into the next to keep inspiration flowing.

...and once again I've done a card that depicts where I feel I am and what I feel I'm contemplating currently. London is full of people and I think loneliness is amplified when you're surrounded by so many strangers. I didn't expect to feel so isolated when I came over here. I make friends easily. When I went to Australia, when I attended conferences as a youth, when I went to Palm Springs, I have always managed to meet and greet and get to know a lot of very lovely people. I have been meeting people but the connections are few and far between and it seems like the moment I meet someone it will be weeks or even a month before either of us can manage to get together again.
This isolation and loneliness seems to be a well understood bi-product of a city the size of London. There are hundreds of things to see and do. There seems to be no end to the museums, galleries and performances. There also seems to be no end to the crowds, which is probably why most people who live here just want to go home after a day's work. When the tube or a bus is the quickest way to get around and the average journey is an hour, I can't blame people for not wanting to come out more often. I've felt the resistance at the idea of traveling if only because it's a two way journey and I'll have to factor in getting home at the end of the day.
So for now, I'm more alone than I'd like to be but, as with all things, there's a lesson to be learned in this.
I have six cards left to paint: The Tower, The Sun, The Chariot, The Wheel of Fourtune, Justice and Judgement.
Please let me know with a comment which one you'd most like to see next.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Two blog entries in one day?!?

Trust me, these are worth the double-blog posting.
So, traditionally I have worn a pair of self-painted rainbow sneakers. When I got this latest blank white pair I was eager to do the same thing, but something made me hesitate. I wanted these to be a display of my talent whilst also being something fun and very 'me'.
I mulled a few ideas over, letting them sit and sending some on their way and bringing some up again for closer examination. There was one idea that kept surfacing. It involved texture, patterns, but also the use of the rainbow.

And so I have made another pair of rainbow shoes:

Red Brick, Oranges, Yellow Puzzle Pieces, Green Leaf, Blue Water and Purple Silk.

A Self Portrait in Abstract

"Wisdom is not about how many experiences we have...
Wisdom is not about how many years we have lived...
It is about how many lessons we have learned"

'A Self Portrait in Abstract'

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Just a taste

I really am just avoiding my hopeless computer most of the time, which is why this entry is so short. I just wanted to share a taste of what I've begun doing to my shoes...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Diana Athill

I'm really not good at taking breaks. I don't believe in napping since a nap usually means I won't be able to sleep at the days end. Procrastination makes me feel uncomfortable to the point of physical distress. I sometimes get into the habit of eating my lunch at me desk.

On Friday the fact that I carry a heavy bag and don't stretch my neck and arm muscles caught up with me. My shoulder seized up as a muscle began to spasm painfully. I went to a clinic and was told exactly what I knew would have to be done:

Take painkillers, put heat on it and above all, get a lot of rest.

You'd think this occurring on a Friday would be ideal, as the weekend was stretched before me and rest is what weekends are all about.

But my weekends are when I work on my art, when I throw myself into my chosen career and when I do what I really want, not just what pays the bills. Being told to 'rest' just equals 'Don't work' and 'don't work' equates to 'Neglect what you truly love doing.'

Normally I'd say it can't be done,but it had to be. So I've not really painted much this weekend. I did a little bit of dabbling here and there, but mostly I lay on the sofa and watched television. To give me the idea that my time was not being wasted I did my best to watch those fabulous programmes the Brits make that entertain and educate. I feel it all worked out in the end because I watched a show on Diana Athill, editor and author and all around Mighty Woman. She's spry as anything for someone in her nineties. Her nature and commentary were entertaining, delightful and quite inspiring. I'm eager to get a copy of her novel about growing old titled 'Somewhere Towards the End'.

Proof that you can feel accomplished even when you're lying down.Although, if I'm honest, I still feel a bit lazy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Moon

The 18th card in the deck, The Moon represents both imagination and dreams. It can be a warning about living in a fantasy or it can be a sign of creativity.

Artists and writers usually get this card. It's about the inner workings of the mind, the other realities that we find through the power of our imagination.

It can also be very dark, almost sinister. It's a representation of escapism fueled by mind altering substances. It's the darker thoughts that weave stories and wreak havoc on our emotions.
It can also represent the end of a journey, but not one between physical locations. This can mark the completion of writing a novel or the finishing touches on a sculpture. It's the an idea come to fruition.

I chose a unicorn because, to me, The Star and The Moon cards feel like sister cards. They go hand-in-hand and I chose a dragon to represent The Star. I don't think there's anything foolish about believing in these lovely creatures and as The Moon represents a dream world and the imagination, it seemed the right fit.

I don't know exactly why I chose to have a black unicorn. A white one just didn't feel right. I'd look at my sketch and I couldn't see a white unicorn as my end result. Any other colours would be a bit too 'my little pony' and I wanted this to be intense.

I'm really utterly chuffed with the result. I'm extremely proud of my moon. I love the depth of the brick pillars on either side of the unicorn. The unicorn itself is just as I'd imagined it.
I'll be getting this card, along with The Devil and Love imaged at the end of the month. In the mean time, originals of all my paintings and prints of several of my previously completed tarot cards are available through my website.