Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Solid Conclusions

A comment on my previous post asked what "solid conclusions" I'd come to regarding my 100 DAY experiment.

I like questions. I like to be challenged. So here goes ...

Firstly, I don't really do "solid conclusions". I enjoy ideas, concepts, conversations, discussions. But wrapping them up and coming to conclusions frustrates me. I'm aggravated by people who ask me "So, what are you going to DO?" The trouble is, those people are essential to me and I need them in my life and experience ... as long as they don't expect to be loved and appreciated for it. So the comment about conclusions annoyed me at first, and then provoked me ... and now I'm really glad of it! Fickle, eh?

Secondly, it wasn't a scientific experiment. I deliberately didn't set specific goals or clear parameters. It was more of an intuitive thing. I wanted to change the shape and structure of my life in terms of my location, my work, my relationships. I was feeling stuck and wanted to shake things up to see how they landed. Overall, I think that happened and I'm happy with the outcome, though it hasn't been all that I secretly hoped for.

My aim was "to develop and explore a new plan and framework together with some guiding principles that would influence and determine decisions and actions regarding my future." (I just made that up).

So, having waffled around for a while, here are some specific outcomes from my 100 days.
I moved out of my flat in Cardiff. I was feeling increasingly isolated there and the costs were becoming unmanageable. This was a big thing for me as the flat had been a 'bolt-hole' for me for the last 3 years. Also, I hadn't moved house on my own before. You may recall I blogged about all that.

I wanted a more mobile lifestyle - moving, living and working between South, Mid and North Wales. I wanted to explore whether such a lifestyle was possible, and how it would feel in practice. I didn't intend to put anything permanent in place during that 100 days. From the outset, this mobility proved to be feasable (feasible? - I haven't found the spellcheck on Google Docs yet!) and enjoyable, though often tinged with insecurity and loneliness. However, due to other factors, I haven't been able to sustain this. I intend to get back on track, though, as this was the most successful outcome. The friends I've made and the support I've received has been amazing. It will require money and momentum to do long-term but it's the direction I am taking. I'm bound to get lost along the way - because that's what I do - but I can see where I want to go.

I guess my main disappointment, to be honest, is that some of the relationships haven't yet developed as well as I'd have liked, and some of the collaborations that seemed possible may take a while longer to work out.

Also, working "on-the-go", as it were, has been difficult though I've managed to produce a surprising amount of work! Maybe challenges and constraints are good for me! (I so hope that's not true ...)

In terms of the building blocks for living and working like this, a few are being put in place and I'll blog about them in the future. They involve accomodation and studio space, but the signs are good that things could come into place.

During the 100 days I obviously thought a lot about things. I looked at where I am - physically, emotionally and spiritually - and where I want to get to. I identified fences, or barriers, that I have to overcome and I've begun to work out how to do that. I also realised that I'm now seeing further that I have done for a long time. I used to be able to see clearly but I lost that. It's good to think it may be coming back, albeit in a different context.

I'm writing all this while I'm feeling fairly positive about things - as you can probably tell! There are on-going problems and pressures and I'm leaving out some of the crap. Also, I know it may seem a little vague and inconclusive, but that's partly because I try to avoid identifying specific events, places and people.
On the whole, though, I think it's a fairly reasonable assessment.

I'm glad I did it.

Now I want to to find ways and means of making it happen longer term.

Friday, April 24, 2009

common thread
a similar idea or pattern to a series of events.

A long time ago - when I had a proper job - I worked in a big open-plan office with lots of people.

One day, when I was sitting at my desk, I noticed a thread hanging from my trousers. I pulled it, thinking it would snap off. It didn't so I kept pulling.

Then I noticed a draught around my leg. I looked and saw that the outside seam of my trouser leg had completely come undone and was flapping around loosely, exposing my bare leg.

I was too bemused to be embarrassed.

For a moment or two I couldn't figure out what had happened. Then I realised.

I did the only thing I could think of. I grabbed my stapler. Holding my trouser leg together I shuffled out to the toilets. There I stapled the seam closed and made my way back to my desk ... feeling quite pleased with myself if I'm to be honest. I'd been a twat but got away with it.

I was uncomfortable for the rest of the day, but at least I wasn't exposing myself.

losing the thread
to not be able to understand something because you are not giving it all your attention

It's been a funny old week.

A number of good things have happened, but somehow I found myself getting increasingly disorientated.

I've been losing the thread.

I only realised it this morning when I was writing in my journal.

First I wrote out my feelings. Then I wrote out the facts. But I wrote the facts between the lines of my feelings. Then I wrote what I wanted to happen. Then I wrote what I need to do to make that happen. Everything on the same page, all overlaid and in between.

It became almost illegible (as you can see ... it's OK, I've censored it) but visually it pretty much summed things up. Lots of things going on ... lots of stories being told ... a number of agendas being worked out ... lots of activity ... lots of emotion.

And in and through it all runs the thread of what I'm doing.

hanging by a thread
to be in danger of having something unlucky or bad happen

I used to think it was just bad things that would knock me off course and even prevent me from doing what I want to do. The fact is, however, that a lot of bad things have happened and yet here I am still.

Now I realise that even good things can have the same effect.

I'm not yet strong or secure enough in who I am and what I'm doing that I can just get up every day and automatically get on with it - come rain or shine. I need to remind myself every day and renew my commitment to my agenda.
I do it by relentlessly journalling, making lists, jotting down notes, reflecting, reviewing, sketching, cutting, sticking ... and then going over and over it. I forget so easily and so quickly.

picking up the thread
to try to start something again, especially after problems prevented you from continuing

So I'm back on track ... fences, clouds, landscapes.

There will always be things happening that have to be accomodated, but as long as I can continue to follow the thread, I'll be OK.

My trousers might fall down, but I'll be OK.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Drawing Myself Out

My body has a mind of its own.

Sometimes I'm sitting there, wondering what to do, when I realise I've got my coat on and I'm heading out of the door. It seems I'm going out.

Another time, I will be wondering what to have for supper only to find myself standing in front of an open fridge eating chorizo straight from the packet.

Recently my mind has been going over my 100 Day's experience, trying to make sense of it. But the other day I realised that my body has known for weeks.

For some time I've been going out most days and sketching. I hardly even think about it - I just seem to do it compulsively. Page after page of drawings. And it was only at the weekend that I realised that I've been drawing the same thing over and over again. I looked back through my A6 sketchbook that is always in the car with me. I was curious to see what I'd been up to.


Distant hills and fields, dotted with trees and bushes and criss-crossed with hedges and fences.

I'm beginning to see further.

For a time the only distance I could see - or handle - was from one drink to the next. Then it extended to one day at a time. I'm starting now to imagine what the next couple of years could be like. Although I hadn't realised that until I saw what I had been drawing.

I think that's the biggest result of my 100 Day experiment.

I haven't yet started making mountains out of mashed potato, but it can't be far away.

Friday, April 10, 2009

100 Days

Some time ago, I went through quite a long phase of wanting to be the President Of The United States. Obviously, I shared this ambition with everyone I met. Obviously, too, nearly everyone I met could think of some reason or another why this was never going to happen. Me not being an American was the most popular.

But I wasn't going to be put off so easily. I would argue vigourously against all the so-called objections. My most potent argument was to say "Pah!". This had the effect of generally winding people up and making them think that maybe I was serious. I was.

During that time I read dozens of books about the American Presidency including many on how the White House administration actually operated. I needed to know if I was going to step into the role of Chief Executive. It was then that I came across the concept of the first 100 days of the Presidency being the most crucial in terms of setting out new policy initiatives and establishing a new framework for government.

The first 100 days of any new endeavor is said to be the most critical and vulnerable time of all - whether it's a new business, leadership challenge, start-up initiative, team or special project, a new Presidency ... or just me.

By the way, this phase ended suddenly. I was once again in a 'heated debate' with a small group of people about my seemingly preposterous ambition. One woman - a good friend - sat listening quietly but with a head of steam obviously starting to build. When she could hold in her exasperation no longer, she blurted out "For goodness sake, people, IT'S A METAPHOR!

From then on, I didn't feel the need to make such a song and dance about it.

What it was a metaphor for is another story for another day.

Well, my 100 days are up.

And not just for me:

I didn't actually time my 100 Days to coincide with Barack Obama, though it was a trigger in my thought process.

How's it gone?

It's gone well ... but only half as well as I'd hoped.

I'm spending this Easter weekend reviewing the time and planning what I do next.

My glass is half-full.

I can't remember ... is that a good thing or a bad thing for an optimist?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Head in the clouds

I'm thinking about the "abstract expressionist" element of my paintings. By that I mean the blobby, splatty bits. (Sorry to get technical on ya.)

So far it's been without shape or form ... just a representation of energy.

But I've been thinking for some time that 'it' might have some shape and form ... but how to depict that?

I'm thinking clouds.

I like the way they come and go, move across the sky, change shape, and affect our environment, our lives and our moods.

They are insubstantial and yet elemental (they're made of water, right?)

I like that sometimes they look beautiful ... and sometimes they look menacing.

I like the different shapes they make.

Some people look at them and see pictures in them. I don't do that. If you show me an inkblot I see an inkblot. Same with clouds.
I remember being fascinated by clouds back in school when we learned about them in geography (probably the only thing I was ever fascinated by) and learning the different types: cumulus, stratus, cirrus, nimbus.

(But I draw the line at this:

You can tell what the weather is going to be like according to cloud formations.

Or next door's cat.

Every Saturday morning (when I'm staying at my Dad's), Elwyn from next door comes in and tells us where the cat is. If it's gone upstairs it means it's going to rain.

But I digress.

Did you know (cos I didn't) ...

Clouds are white because they reflect the light of the sun. Light is made up of the colours of the rainbow (the primary ones being red, blue and green) and when you add them all together you get white. Clouds reflect all the colours the exact same amount so they look white. Except when they look grey, obviously. Or pink. But you get the idea.

An important element of my visual language is colour. I use colour to represent different things. Often I use the primary colours to represent light. And then that white light is perfectly broken down into its constituent colours in a rainbow (not sure where I'm going with this except that I did do a picture once that I titled "Richard Of York" because it depicted the colours of the rainbow).


When you see clouds, you know something is coming.

I want to depict theophanic clouds.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Still on the fence

I've made some rough and ready models of the pictures I'll do one day about fences. I've done them on backgrounds of red, green and blue - these being the primary colours of light. The idea is that religion keeps people away from the light. Is that too contrived?
But, for now, I'm going to box up all this preparatory work - photos, sketches, models and writings - until I'm ready to tackle the bigger pictures.

Next, I'm going to be looking more closely at what goes on in the background of my pictures - the area where I try to depict the unseen element. I'm looking at clouds for the underlying shape and form. I've taken lots of photos, though I've been photographing skies for years so I already have plenty of images to work from. I'll post some of them - and the drawings I'm doing - in the next few days.

I also know what I want to do in terms of the religious words, phrases and symbols that will go on the fences. I'm going to take rubbings of plaques and gravestones in churches and cathedrals, then overlay fragments of them onto the fence posts.

This project still has life in it.

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